LARRY HEARD with ROLAND DESCHAMPS , DALE ARSENAULT and VICTOR at Una Mas (422 Adelaide West), Friday (September 12). $15. www.larryheard.com Rating: NNNNN
Calling up Larry Heard (aka Mr. Fingers) for an interview is a nerve-racking experience. For one thing, the man is considered an icon and pioneer of deep soulful house music, so everything you want to ask him about he's already answered dozens of times over the past 20 years.
There was also a period when he regularly turned down interview requests after getting frustrated about being misquoted and misrepresented.
He's much nicer and friendlier now.
"I haven't read my own press for a while, because of all the inaccuracies. To me, music is leisure, not work. You shouldn't have to read a book to understand and enjoy the music - your ears should be able to tell you everything you need to know about an album," he explains from Chicago.
Heard left Chicago years ago to live and work in Memphis, doing sound for television, and for a time many thought he had retired from underground dance music.
"The key word about the whole retirement business was gossip. That's all it was. I felt I needed to take a break, but I've still been putting out music this whole time.
"We live in this information age, but so much information doesn't get out there. I was in Europe a little while ago, and this guy comes up to me telling me he's my biggest fan and he wants to know when I'll be putting out some new music, when I'd just released a full album a couple months ago."
The album is called Where Life Begins, and it carries on that trademark Mr. Fingers sound of ambient, R&B-influenced deep house music. It's mellow and watery-sounding and features vocals more prominently than some of his other recent work. Although it sounds more adult than his classic anthems like Can You Feel It (often cited as one of the best house songs ever, and still a standard at any deep party), that unmistakable melancholy yearning is still at the centre of his work.
Heard was one of the American artists who got snatched up by major labels in the first round of dance music hype in the early 90s, but he quickly discovered that the short attention span of corporations was incompatible with his vision, and has been working independently since 1994.
As a DJ, his professional career is still quite young, although he's been spinning for himself at a casual level since the early 80s.
"For a long time I declined any offers to DJ, because I was trying to keep the focus on my own music. A few years back, Theo Parrish and Brett Dancer convinced me to do a gig with them, and I had a lot of fun, so I'm doing it a lot more now."
Last time he played Toronto, the weather conspired against Heard and he ruined much of his record collection trying to play in the rain while puddles collected on the decks and equipment. This time, the only rain should be the condensation from the ceiling once things heat up.