Heal Yourself and Move: Chicago Generations: Tevo Howard

November 16, 2009

"Passion Sound (Inner Beauty)" by Tevo Howard was released in September, and I slept on it. But as my buddy Jan recently told me, "Nothing comes to a sleeper but a dream." Truth. Thankfully, Tevo's tracks are melancholy throwdowns, not lullabies. I love long, melodic (slightly italo/WBMX style) house songs, and "Passion Sound" is an example of the ideal: driving rhythms, arpeggio bass, and those beautiful pianos everywhere.

Tevo's label, Beautiful Granville, has released a ton of heat, including Tevo's productions featuring his own father, Rick "Poppa" Howard, a Chicago blues singer. The Chicago kaleidoscope of dance music and its wild array of influences certainly rubbed off on the younger Howard, who says in one of his bios online that at 14 (around 1986-87) he found himself "at Gramaphone and Wax Trax picking up current day gems with my lunch money. It became one record a day."

Old school Chicago (and specifically, old school Chicago radio) is so fun to think about. By all accounts, WBMX was one of the greatest, most genre-blending radio stations of all time, and if you need proof, you can check out the mighty archive at deephousepage.com, filled to the brim with mixes by a ton of Chicago legends, just doing their job at the radio station. This Farley mix from 1984 is inspirational. My friends and I used to crank this and the other BMX mixes so hard in 2004 or so, after we discovered the site. I don't even love all the tracks, but you can hear in their combination that a palette for "house" was being developed.

Anyway, on to the interview. I expected Tevo to be a young producer, when I first heard his music. Don't really know why.

One of my favorite songs to play out is "Old Skool" by Scoot Grooves, and "Passion" gives me that same feeling, the piano especially reminds me. I have to imagine Scott is influential to you, but I might be wrong... Who are some of your influences? And when did you start producing?
Andrew, thanks for the kind words. Very appreciated. Oddly enough, some of my influences are new wave bands like New Order that did an array of styles that were sometimes played as house, even, on WBMX, like their track, “Confusion” that people used to break to. I still play some of their tracks when I play out. Funny is that I have been a musician off and on my whole life, but that I only started producing in 2005 when my mentor Lionel Melgar showed me what a MIDI file was.

What other producers/DJs are you feeling right now?
Melvin Oliphant (Traxx), Kate Simko, and Kieth Worthy are my three tops right now.

What's next for Beautiful Granville?
Beautiful Granville Records will definitely be taking things in stride. I have a European tour coming in February or March of 2010, and I would like to lay the label low-key during that time (few releases if any). However, our 9th release is definitely an everyday house banger in our opinion. But, we have not stood down on a release date for that item yet.

"Everyday House Music" is another of Tevo's gems

What's next for you personally? New releases?
Right now I am hoping to get my two novellas edited and ready to be on the market. Although I did seven years writing literature and have written a few books, I am realizing that it can still be a challenge when releasing your first items into a market that one has not yet explored.

What are the names of the books?
To Have and To Hold Night and Day. And The Way She Was Then. They both involve love with a twisted ending.

What's the deal with Rick (Poppa) Howard? Is that your father? If so, what's it like making house music with your father? Was he involved in the scene in the ’80s/’90s, or did you get him into it? Or does your dad just know how to rock a house vocal from living in Chicago?
Rick Poppa Howard is my dad. Some people have gathered that we are brothers, and I’m sure that he may be flattered by that, but I absolutely want to be clear in noting that this is a father/son duo. I personally didn’t teach him anything, and in fact things are quite the opposite, he teaches me a ton about music in a very effective way. I feel as though it would be a lifetime of study to ever begin to approach his level of musicianship. His first instrument would be drum kit, and officially Rick Howard is well respected here in Chicago among the Blues community. As my dad is a defined Chicago blues artist, I can honestly say, that I gave him tracks to do vocals over, and that he simply proceeded in annihilating them with great vocal textures. Till this day, I believe he would not know a lot of names of house vocalists, but he knows me well enough to know exactly how to sing over one of my tracks.

This song is insane. I can totally hear the New Order in there.

Posted: November 16, 2009
Heal Yourself and Move: Chicago Generations: Tevo Howard