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BIOGRAPHYKEVIN HEDGE / JOSH MILAN B L A Z E BIOGRAPHY
Blazing the past, present and future
Blaze are one of those rare artist in this business whose' music is truly timeless. You can play their remix of Cold Cut feat. Lisa Stansfields' pop dance hit "People Hold On" today and it still sounds as fresh as it did 16 years ago, or their own "Can't Win for Losing", and you'll find lyrics that are forever relevant. Their catalogue sports over hundred sixty published works. Making it the largest produced by any single entity in the genre. As artist and business men they have done almost every facet of the music business. From producing to performing to managing to owning and promoting clubs to distributing music, not many can come close to the artistry and business of Blaze.Josh Milan, Kevin Hedge and Chris Herbert started writing music together in 1984. Kevin and Chris were childhood friends and Josh was a member of the church Chris attended. Chris was a vocalist who wanted to record, Josh was a natural musician who played with the church choir and Kevin was a DJ who spun locally at parties around their native Newark, N.J. The three decided to form a production team after Chris introduced Josh nd Kevin and encouraged them to became a recording group. "I don't really remember when we agreed on the name." says Hedge. "It was probably an unconscious effort get close to the idea of Earth, Wind and Fire.In the begging the three would meet in Kevinís' bedroom for writing sessions. That is where they laid the foundation for what they are now most respected, great spiritually uplifting songs. "Songs have always been our main production focus." Josh explains "It is the lyrics and melodies of our musical heroes that have influenced us the most." Blaze
has influences that run from Stevie Wonder to James Taylor to John Coltrane and beyond. But it is the deeply soulful melodies, their blend of Afro, Jazz, Soul and Gospel added with, the positive world view in their lyrics, that makes most compare them to the legend of Earth, Wind & Fire.Before it was called house it was called club music" Kevin says. "It was the music that our older siblings danced to in the clubs." Clubs like Zanzibar and the Paradise Garage where pounding the New York metro area with a special brand of disco. This music was a little deeper and more edgy than the disco that was pronounced dead in '79. It was more electronic and fundamentally R&B based. Superstar DJs like Larry Levan and Tony Humphries entertained thousands of party goers weekly, spinning this heavy NY sound. From the late seventies to the late eighties this was the music that ruled the clubs and even more important, the airwaves.The trio started to develop demo recordings in the style of the dayís popular club music. With "DJ" Kevin at the controls, Josh "the piano man" on the synthesizer and the "lead vocal" stylings of Chris, they turned out song after song for other artist and producers to record. Some
included "This Time" by Colonel Abrams knock off Hunter Hayes, "One"Man" by Chanelle and "Reachin' " by Phase II. The three ultimately signed their first record deal with the newly formed Quark records in '85, producing three major club hits of the time; "Whatcha Gonna Do", "If You Should Need A Friend" and "Can't Win For Losing".
The Blaze sound caught the ear of then Motown Vice-president of A&R Timmy Regisford, who immediately put them to work on numerus Motown projects. "These guys were making productions that was raw enough to move the club, but they always kept the integrity of the songs." Regisford on Blaze. By now, the Blaze sound was capturing the spirit of dancers in the clubs and the hearts of radio listeners in NY. With so many original productions receiving commercial success, the team was in high demand as remix producers and overdub musicians for other remixers. As remixers Blaze have work on Diana Ross, Aretha Franklin, Macy Gray, Jamiriqui, Lisa Stansfield, Babyface and countless others. As overdub musicians they have worked with DJ/producers David Morales, Frankie Knuckles, Timmy Regisford, Masters at Work and many others. It was at this point Timmy Regisford decided it was time to take it to the next level, he invited Kevin, Chris and Josh to record a full length album for the soul music icon Motown. "25 Years Later" Blazes' first long player was critically acclaimed upon its' initial release in '91 and has since went on to become one of house musics' classic albums. "This was the first time we had the time and the budget to experiment, with sounds, equipment, and live instruments." Kevin notes "This project allowed us to try out the song writing and production styles of our musical heroes." When listening to "25 Years Later" you can hear all of Blazes' influences as well as their signature soulful house sound. Josh reflects "We really didn't know what we were
doing. We just tried to emulate the productions of artist like Donnie Hathaway, Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield and many others, who created the soul music of the seventies." What's most impressive about this work is, they wrote into the lyrics and the interludes a concept, an over riding theme, the story of a slain civil rights leader who was to be the reincarnate of Malcom XAfter touring with band and playing places like Wembley arena, most of the Caribbean islands and major cities in the U.S. . Blaze returned home to start businesses that included; real estate, car services, retail stores and nightlife(Kevin and Josh co-owned and promoted the Club Shelter in NYC). During this time Chris decided to continue his career
in the now popular hip hop R&B music genre, leaving Josh and Kevin to further their careers by writing and producing for other artist and vocalists. "We took this time to reflect on where we had been and what we had done, but moreover where we were going." says Milan. "It was during this period we(now only Josh and Kevin) began to find other voices." Kevin quips. " We really crafted some of the production and writing tricks we are known for today, during that time.Hedge and Milan went on to produce three more albums under the Blaze banner : "Basic Blaze" on Slip-n
Slide/UK, "Natural Blaze : the James Toney Jr. Project" on Life Line/Japan and "Spiritually Speaking" on Slip-n-Slide/UK . Also you will find many compilation albums comprising some of Blazes' greatest hits, a few are : "6 Hubert St." on Avex/Japan, "Pure Blaze" on Easy Street/US, "Blaze Productions" on
Playhouse/Germany and "Spiritually Speaking then and now" West End/US. In '95 Blaze
scored their biggest writing success with a song called "Hideaway" performed by De'lacy. The song went into the top ten on the UK charts and was added to a vast array compilations, racking up sales in the millions. Josh and Kevin also penned charts hits for Amira "Desire" and themselves with the no# 1 dance hit "Breathe". This helps to maintains the duo as one of the most sought after writing, production and remix teams in the business. Kevin and Josh are now finally after many, many years of requests, starting to play and perform their brand of house music live as DJs, musicians and vocalists. "When we do the DJ gigs, we like to add something special to it." Josh tells us "We try to give our fans a full experience. While Kevin spins I add live instrumentation and vocals over the records. We even do a mini performance of some of the more popular Blaze songs.". Kevin says "I have always been a DJ and love that I can spin records to entertain people.". To see Blaze live is truly a unique experience. No other DJ can come to you as artist, performing live the hits you know them for as well as rocking the party with the hippest soulful sounds. "You get the full package, a DJ and a PA." explains Iko a Japanese promoter.Today Blaze are involved in various other productions and businesses. Currently the two have partnered with the "God Father of Disco" Mel Cheren to relaunch his seminal dance imprint West End records. "I feel Kevin and Joshs' music is the perfect match for West Ends' legacy. They produce danceable R&B songs. Not only are they great artist but also good businessmen." Cheren proudly announces. "Our goal is to do what the label has always done. Release great music that will stand the test of time." says Kevin who serves as president. Musically the group have collaborated with super DJ/Producer Louie Vega( one half of the production team Masters at Work) to assist him with the production of his own solo debut long player "Elements Of Life". Vega quotes "Blaze are
pioneers in our house music community. I've been lucky enough to watch them become masters as songwriters, producers and artists. I was honoured to work with them on the songs "Elements Of Life" and "Brand New Day". In retrospect, I learned a valuable musical lesson from my experiences with Blaze. There were more emotions inside of me that needed to be expressed, but it couldn't grow without the fostering I received from so many people, beginning with Blaze.After 19 years on the scene Milan and Hedge are still producing relevant hits today as they did back in '85. "We see ourselves as tools being used by the universe helping to bring lyrical messages and melodies to the world." Kevin explains "Music is communication. Ideas come to us from the spirit of creation.". Blaze recently released their very first mix compilation on West End entitled "Found Love" feat. the hit single title track "Found Love" by Blaze. A song dedicated to the truest kind of love, the love of self. Josh spells out "You can only share love if you have it and it all starts with loving yourself.