Interview with a hitmaker

I have a celebrity in my family. He helped create a hit dance single in the 90’s, arguably the peak of dance music. The name of the song is ‘Stay In Love’, and the person who helped to make it is in my family, my uncle, George Boulahanis. This is an interview I conducted with him, hope you enjoy:

How did you get into music?

MTV was the catalyst for my music career. To be exact, Headbanger’s Ball that aired every Saturday night in the mid-eighties. That led to my love of the guitar. From this point, I borrowed a guitar from a good friend of mine at the time, and began my musical journey, taking lessons weekly with a famous jazz guitarist that played with the Everly Brothers.

Nice. I know that you played the guitar, because you bought me my first guitar haha. Who were your biggest influences on the guitar?

I would have to say my biggest influences would have to be Jake E. Lee, Gary Moore, Brad Gillis from Night Ranger, and John Sykes.

It’s safe to say you were into classic hair metal.

Eh, that’s not really classic hair metal though.

What would you consider it then?

Just plain old great guitar playing.

Well I can’t argue with that. I know you played in a band, could you elaborate on that?

Through the end of high school, and after we graduated, we basically had a heavy metal band that used to practice in a storage facility, and basically never made it out of there.

I know there were a lot of metal bands in the Tampa area, and there still is, even though it evolved. What do you think in general of the Tampa music scene?

Tampa Bay was always the metal capitol, and was a launching pad for many death metal bands. As of now, I really don’t see much going on in the music scene, as far as hard rock, unless it’s a cover band.

I would have to disagree with you there.

Could you please stick to asking the questions. That’s the problem with the younger generation, you always play a bunch know-it-alls. Remember, my songs were on rotation across the country. Nowadays, you post yours on YouTube to get fifteen followers. What else do you want to know.

Jeez, calm down, you’re hurting my feelings. Let’s talk about how you were on rotation across the country. When did this transition from guitar music to dance music take place?

Well it started in 1994, me and a couple buddies were playing in a traditional Greek band, and decided to expand our music style by implementing dance beats with Greek music. We recorded an 11-song album, in which one of the songs was called ‘Stay In Love’, an R’n’B ballad. We hired a local jazz singer, with a work-for-hire agreement to record the tracks.

What was her name?

I’d rather not say.

Why not?

She didn’t matter much and had a big head on her shoulders at the time, and caused us trouble at the time with the record label.

What was the record label?

Columbia/Sony. We were slated to be released a week before Billy Joel’s release at the time.

That’s a big deal. Before we get any further, I want to ask about the creative process. How did the songs, specifically ‘Stay In Love’, come into fruition?

A lot of the tracks were created down in my basement on two cheap Yamaha keyboards and a few loop CD’s from Big Fish audio. I had a computer, 356-megabyte, running Cubase. I would record the drum loops first, and then start trying varying bass riffs, first whistling the melody line’s to see if they worked. Then we used to lay down the keyboard pads, drum rolls, cymbal crashes, etc. After that, we would cut the vocals at a local studio in town.

Do you remember which studio?

It was called Chill Studio, in Spring Hill. Not sure if it’s open anymore.

Explain to me how this music creation eventually led to a national dance hit?

Before the track broke, we were pushing it about a year-and-a-half, by going to radio stations, bribing DJ’s on radio mix shows, and club performance. I recall one time, walking into a popular radio station in Miami, and the program director listened to it, stood up, and threw the CD right back to me, and proceeded to tell me it was garbage. This same program director, four months later, had it on full rotation. But as he threw me out of the radio station the first time, he thanked me for the basket of food we brought him. Haha. I’ll never forget seeing him for the second time, “now they’re making you play it, aren’t they?”.

Miami is a big dance music scene, even today. What was it like back then?

It was crazy. Three major radio stations playing dance and hip-hop, the club scene was out of control. We did multiple performances down there at different locations. I’ll never forget the first time we played in the Winter Music Dance Conference at Fontainebleau. That day, we knew we were going places. Right after the performance, we went to the Sony Red party. We go through there, chaos everywhere, music everywhere, everything high end, it looks like someone’s penthouse, it was just glass, wide open. That night, there was an amazing performance from Daft Punk; I hung out with Daft Punk afterwords.

You can’t buy experiences like that. 

No you can’t. We lived it, if only for a short time. We climbed the charts. At this point we had rotation in multiple dance markets across the country: Power 96 Miami, 93.3 Tampa, Z100 New York, and many more. It was a whole different ball game.

Amazing. 

Yeah. To sum it up, it was a good ride. Sold lots of CD’s, but unfortunately like many businesses, pride and greed got in the way, which eventually let to the breakup of the company. But I wouldn’t change this life experience for anything.

Thank you for talking with me. This was a very interesting and informative interview.

You’re welcome. My pleasure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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