Dance Without A Reason

For the record.
This is the story behind 'Dance Without A Reason' by Lempo & Roland Clark. I went through three studios, literally. One track, not an album, took four years to get right. It’s been a labour of love, but one I am immensely proud of. It has taken a longtime due to other commitments such as family and day-job, I know we could have arrived here quicker if I had sacrificed more time and budget on the project sooner. Regardless of that, here we are... you can use all the clich├ęs, it's a milestone, a career highlight and all that jazz. The reality is this could well be the best work i've ever done, and that is not my ego talking, that is me acknowledging the greatness within the team involved on the project.

In the Summer of 2016, I spent some of the Ibiza season in the company of Roland Clark and our then shared manager, my good friend, Stu Smith. I was a long-term admirer of Roland’s work, notably his writing for Armand Van Helden and features on Fatboy Slim records, he's a brilliant writer and I'm sure many would agree he doesn't receive the recognition he deserves for his contribution to the industry. Roland had an idea for a song about the Ibiza Season and how much we miss it when it’s over. Stu was pushing for us to work together on this with me producing and Roland on vocals, but more of a falsetto delivery like his earlier Jesus Jackson and South Street Player records. The seeds were planted, and we began collaborating on the working title ‘One Season’ when we returned home to opposite sides of the Atlantic.

Courthouse [First Draft]
Roland recorded the ‘One Season’ vocal stateside in Atlanta and sent them to Stu and me, back in the UK. I was overwhelmingly happy with the a ccapella when it arrived, I began working straight away on the arrangement, building up a loop with some disco house percussion, a chopped up organ sample as a groove and a roughly programmed bass-line. In October 2016 I booked Courthouse Studio situated in The Old Granada Studios in Manchester. It was a relatively new studio run by sound engineer, Jon Craig who me and Stu had been friends with for a number of years. We also hired session musician, Alex Barron, on Jon's recommendation - to play some keys on the track. The first task on my to do list was warping the vocals as Roland had recorded them at 127bpm which was slightly faster than I wanted - I was confident the slower tempo would be better suited, so proceeded with re-timing the chorus to 125bpm to sit on my arrangement. 

corrected my out of key bass-line and replayed the organ parts so we had full control over them in the arrangement. Then we went to work on writing the lead which thanks to Alex's exceptional ear for a melody, instantly glued itself to the chorus - that was seemingly the easy bit, choosing a sound was the hard part. After a lot of trial and error I said "let's try some brass synths", Jon suggested Kontakt Session Horns which gives you control over a versatile synthetic brass section, this worked really well... we were all nodding along and smiling as the track was beginning to take shape. I remember Alex and myself getting a bit overexcited about the strings section, thankfully Jon and Stu were on-hand to remind us we were on the clock. A couple of Boots meal deals later... we had reached the end of two very long days in the studio, we had the basics laid-out and i think all four of us knew there was something special about this record. Even though it was still in its infancy, I sent the first draft to Roland and he was happy with the direction. Due to my busy schedule, the record got parked for a few months while I worked out the best way to move forward.

Oscillate [Version Two]
In December 2016 I decided to try Oscillate Studios in Cheshire via studio engineer, Chris Hughes, I didn’t know Chris at the time but had been recommended the studio via several colleagues. Stu and Alex both met me there with the intention of picking up where we had left off. During this session I was pushing it even more into the South Street Player territory as Stu had originally intended for this collaboration. What was becoming more evident, was that this was not just another house record, this was a song that could cross over into the mainstream.

At this stage I renamed the track ‘Dance Without A Reason’ not only because it felt like a stronger title but it was becoming the standout lyric. This session was going slow, I was really struggling to get it sounding like a polished demo, it wasn't down to the studio or Chris, far from it. The issue was me beginning to feel a bit out of my depth, there was now too much going on in the track. I had switched out the kick-drum for something with a bit more impact and also added a Kalimba hook which in hindsight was a poor decision as it was making the mix too congested. 

After two sessions at Oscillate, i requested a mix and master from Chris Hughes. Both Stu and i were torn on the version two demo, but my eagerness forced us to take a punt on submitting the track exclusively to Strictly Rhythm. It was my goal to place this release on the legendary New York imprint, my bucket list label. I knew that Roland's involvement guaranteed the record would be played but looking back, it was too soon - I jumped the gun. Despite some positive feedback, the label A&R, Phil Cheeseman decided to pass. So once again, the record went back in the vault. To add insult to injury, Stu, who was now no-longer managing Roland, decided it was time for a career change. Even though we were parting company on a professional level, he made me promise that we would see this song released. 
SupaEarth [Final Master]
Fast forward to April 2017 when I played what I knew was still a work in progress for my good friend, musician and producer, Chris Robinson while at his studio, SupaEarth in Knutsford. Chris has an impressive musical CV, with credits under his belt for the likes of Beyonce, Estelle & Teedra Moses. He expressed to me: "This is the one, but we need to take the track back to it's foundations and re-build". I had already accepted this job couldn’t be done alone, the level of musicality required was beyond my abilities and I'm ok with that. After-all, no man is an Island, right?!!

I was already spending a lot of time helping Chris on design/marketing work for his Ruff Diamond and SupaEarth brands. He offered to come onboard as co-producer to help me fulfil the records potential - I didn't need asking twice... I ripped his hand off! His first concern was the horns, he felt they would instantly lift the track if played live, but the lack of an available budget for such luxuries left us in need of an alternative solution. Chris suggested using re-tuned horn samples - couldn’t hurt to give it a go, so we made it happen. We decided to invite Alex and Stu along to a session at SupaEarth - the lads were suitably impressed with our progress. We were cooking on gas, or more to the point, late nights and Chinese takeouts - it was really coming together. We replaced the Kalimba with live guitar parts which Chris put down to give it that Nile Rodgers vibe. He also did additional synth work on the organ and bass-line. The track was breathing a lot more and was musically on-point. Virtually everything was exactly how I wanted… apart from the horns! Although the re-tuned samples were a big improvement, Chris was right, we were never going to hit 100% unless they were live.

Once the track was mixed-down again, this time by Chris Robinson at SupaEarth, I submitted to Strictly Rhythm for a second attempt in August 2018. This time It was successful, 'WOOP, WOOP' and Phil offered a deal to sign the record with an advance that would cover recording the horns live. Unfortunately for me, the agreement I had in place with Roland meant he would receive the advance. So, as agreed, I waved my cut in order to get the deal done, Phil was happy for the horns to remain as they were. My dream of releasing a Strictly Rhythm record was still alive. Or was it?!! Six months had passed, and we still didn’t have a release date, I decided to contact Phil again. It turned out that the label had undergone a takeover from BMG. All releases were on hold until this was concluded, although I was assured our master was included in the sale and would be released in due course. With time on my side I made a second request for a budget that would cover a horns session. 

Eventually after over a year of back and forth, in December 2019 additional funds were sanctioned by BMG for the horns to be performed live. We chose to go with Dominic Glover due to the strong relationship he has with Chris. I had worked on some of Dom’s parts previously when remixing one of Ruff Diamond's projects and was well aware of Dom’s involvement on brass arrangements for the likes of Groove Armada, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds and Gorillaz. Once we received the horns back from Dom, it was like dropping the final piece into a 200 piece jigsaw! The parts were golden, Dom really smashed it out of the park. Chris mixed the track for a final time and we got the green light from Strictly on the new pre-master. The cherry on top would come in April 2020 when Phil had the release mastered by Walter Coelho, who works on getting the best from productions for artists such as Above & Beyond, Daft Punk and Deadmau5.

Ultimate respect and credit where it's due.
‘Dance Without A Reason’ was finally released on 12th June 2020, virtually four years to the day since we were in Ibiza together. Thank you to everyone who played a part in this project, big or small, their contributions have helped to bring the vision to life. My former manager, Stu Smith for putting me and Roland together to begin with and for constantly encouraging us to finish this record. Strictly Rhythm A&R, Phil Cheeseman for believing in the project and seeing the release over the finish line through the BMG takeover. Roland Clark for choosing to work with me on what I believe is one of his finest vocal performances. Chris Hughes and Jon Craig for their input in the early sessions. Musicians, Alex Baron (Keys), Dominic Glover (Horns) and a very special thanks to Chris Robinson aka Ruff Diamond for nurturing me through this entire process. His co-production, synth work, beautiful guitar session and world-class mix-down have elevated this project beyond what i could ever have imagined, I would not be in this position without his skills and guidance.

I know it won't be a magical story to most, but it is to me. That's how it was done, who did it, where and when. It’s been a massive exercise in patience, one that started with a huge helping of naivety on my part, but in the end, by surrounding myself with the right people, accepting my limitations and taking onboard expert advice - I unlocked the mindset to deliver the best record I can. Although it has been a long wait, the timing is oddly appropriate, a feel good anthem just when the world needs it most.

Now, go forth and dance without a reason.
Lempo x


Dance Without A Reason by Lempo & Roland Clark.
Written by Roland Clark, Mike McGuinness.
Produced by Chris Robinson, Mike McGuinness, Roland Clark.
Vocal performed by Roland Clark.
Musicians: Chris Robinson (Guitar, Synths), Dom Glover (Horns), Alex Barron (Keys).
Studio engineers: Jon Craig, Chris Hughes.
Mixed by Chris Robinson.

Mastered by Walter Coelho.
P 2019 Strictly Rhythm Records, Inc
C 2019 Strictly Rhythm Records, Inc