Robert Owens Night-Time Stories

Robert Owens Night-Time Stories
For those of you who’ve tapped into house music via DFA or Ed Banger, get ready to deal with the source. Robert Owens is one of the most influential male vocalists of the last 25 years. Much more than a male diva, his iconic post-disco delivery comes from a gospel phrasing and intensity, but combined with intimacy, vulnerability and dignity. He more than mastered the dialogue between power and emotion in his work with Fingers Inc. in the ’80s, and has always broadened his horizons in dance music while retaining his essential appeal as someone who can take a groove to the peak of the night and deep into the early morning. Night-Time Stories, his first album in ten years, finds him paired with both established and up-and-coming producers. The collaborations are never less than satisfying and are frequently inspired. Unlike so much neo-house music, the drum sounds aren’t murderously aggressive. The sonics are powerful and polished, but the songs themselves are excellent. Even at his corniest — I personally don’t want to know what he does in his bath — you’re drawn in. This is an album that will get you moving immediately.

These songs are very well written — these aren’t hastily constructed grooves. Are good, meaningful lyrics and song structures a priority for you?
Definitely. It’s important to tell a story, to apply what you think people might be dealing with in their lives. Not just [what’s going on with] me but travelling to Third World countries, seeing the vibe between rich and poor. I write about a lot of personal experiences, it’s important. It’s good to put it out there that you’re concerned about your fellow man, their livelihood.

After more than 20 years of making music for clubs, what inspires you most?
People. The public is my lifeline, musically. Almost every week I fly in and out of some country, so I’m lucky I’m constantly meeting people and evolving with the industry. The response you get from a lot of young people, seeing people go through a lot of their emotions through this music, I still sense that when I travel.

Do you think there’s a revival of the kind of house music you made famous?
That would be wonderful if that’s actually happening! For a long time, it’s been a minimal-led thing, instrumental heaven happening. But as a vocalist, I want the whole vocal thing to come back! (Compost)