Earlier this week as she prepped for her Wednesday night appearance at the Clevelander's House You! party, Crossfade and fierce deep house diva Ultra Naté discussed Winter Music Conference and the ongoing evolution of house. And now she's back for another gig and another discussion.
Today at noon, Ms. Naté will join Frankie Knuckles, Quentin Harris, Hector Romero, and others for David Morales's Resurrection album preview party at the Shelborne Beach Resort's pool. To prepare, we talked about the nature of divadom, her new album Hero Worship, and the future.
Crossfade: Is mystique especially valuable to your specific message, because that message is often broad. For example, you say, "You're free to do what you want." It's not always so autobiographical.
Ultra Naté: I like just a tinge of anonymity, and there is an appeal to there being mystique around an artist. People don't know what Sade is cooking for dinner, or that she's boarding a plane to Paris. What you do know is that she's an amazing artist. And when she comes out every eight to 10 years, it's stunning. Knowing nothing about her isn't affecting her record sales.
And is mystique an integral part of -- dare I say the word -- divadom? What makes a diva in this day and age?
Ha, the old diva question. That's definitely a combination of things. To me, and to most people, the usage of the word "diva" means respect. Or it can mean asshole. But looking at it from a respect place, it's a matter of a person, primarily a female, who has a strong personality that comes through their music, the image they present, their whole aura -- it's a total package. It's someone who is creating music or art that moves people, that resonates with them, that has a strong sense of self. A woman who makes things happen, is strong, commanding -- that's what makes a diva.
Are there enough of those personalities emerging out there, ones that don't cross the line into egotism?
Well, organic personalities or manufactured? There's a lot of manufactured ones. But organic ... I don't think so.
With your current projects, where do you want to position them? And where do you want to be positioned with them?
I've been doing several styles recently. I did a single, "Give It To You," which is more in the realm of traditional deep house -- great string arrangements, very musical, and an interesting concept lyrically -- and that was more for the deep kids. While my new single "Turn It Up" is more of a disco-pop record, getting great response from DJs around the globe, and for me it's more of a Donna Summer "I Feel Love" kind of feel-good record.
The first priority is to come up with a good song. That is often what's lacking in every genre, and especially dance music. Anybody can write a bullshit beat and tell people to throw their hands up in the air while they sing and dance till the dawn comes. But they aren't trying to dig deeper to make something that lasts longer than a Tic Tac. I try to make records that are successful now, but could also be heard in 10 years and be considered a great record.
Who do you have hooked up for future collaborations? And is there anyone you're hoping to run into?
Ultimately, I want to work with Stargate. But it hasn't happened yet, so I'm throwing out the white light to bring that to my universe. Also, Basement Jaxx ... I've been a big fan for many, many years. And Cee-Lo Green, which may seen really left, but I think we'd do something amazing.
For my next album, Hero Worship, I've collaborated with David Morales and Todd Terry. I did some work with Chris Willis and the NERVO girls, who are really great and co-wrote "When Love Takes Over," Davie Guetta's big hit with Kelly Rowland.
How would you describe the new release?
This album is definitely a lighter, brighter, more fresh sound than my last record(s), Grime, Silk & Thunder and Alchemy: G.S.T. Reloaded, which were intentionally darker. I think that because of what's happening on a global scale with political unrest and financial crisis, everything is shifting, and people need a light to hold on to, to find something and someone to be inspired by. And that's your job as an artist, to make that human connection with people.
I think Hero Worship is a great representation of dance music. And sonically it's something people will appreciate at this moment in time, because it's very fresh and fun, and people need a little bit of fun right now. I mean, speaking of Cee-Lo, why would a song like "Forget You" be so huge, except that it's so crazy, so fun, so left. I think people really need that now. They're grasping for something to inspire them.
What do you look forward to most when going out to perform your material?
I just love the raw energy of the crowd, the spontaneity when you're on stage, and seeing people have a great time -- whether I'm DJing, singing, just being the promoter of the party. That's awesome. The greatest job in the world.
And you never get tired of performing "the hit"?
Oh, are you crazy, that's sacrilegious. I love it, because I don't have to do much work when we get to that song. The people are waiting for it. I give them the meaty part of the vocals. But when the chorus hits, they take it over and I'm just there to look at it.
I think it's so obnoxious and disrespectful to try and avoid what is obviously what your fans want. I understand not wanting to be defined by one record, as if you never did anything before or after. But that's just a matter of still making great music. It's important to have a body of work. And because that's what I've got, I don't feel solely defined by the song "Free." For example, "Found a Cure" was just as big a record as "Free" if you want to talk commercial sales. And it's a great song. But the one that sticks out to people is "Free," as it has an emotional connection to a lot of people, and that's something you should be grateful for.
Where do you see yourself heading in the future?
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I don't know, and I don't want to know. That kind of takes the fun out of it. Isn't the whole [point] trying to remain creative while you work it out? When you stop having that sinking feeling in your gut when you wonder if something is going to work, you have lost the plot. You might as well be dead.
-- Tony Ware
Ultra Naté with Frankie Knuckles, Quentin Harris, Hector Romero, and more as part of David Morales's Resurrection album preview party. Thursday, March 10. Shelborne Beach Resort's pool, 1801 Collins Ave., Miami Beach. The party starts at noon and tickets cost $30 via wantickets.com. Call 305-531-1271 or visit shelborne.com.