JASMINE WITH FORMER DAMAGE LEAD VOCALLIST-COREE RICHARDS
It must be tough being a leading act that paves the way for others, who year’s later profit from the ground work you’ve put in. Over the years the debate in music about whether old skool acts can be recompensed at all for their graft laying the path for their future successors has raged on. DJ Kool Herc and his early hip-hop peers often end up poor, ill and destitute whilst their newer counterparts like Jay Z, Lil Wayne and 50 Cent are rolling in the cash.
Similarly UK acts like Omar, Eternal and many more a couple of decades ago fought the system for years only to have minimal household fame.
Today when I see JLS taking over the world I’m proud and happy for them. Their parallel act back in the day could’ve been a number of bands like MN8, Another Level, Ultimate Kaos and more, but the one at the forefront could be seen as Damage. With their hits ‘Wonderful Tonight’ and ‘Ghetto Romance’, the band worked hard in the nineties with minimal success, as the UK charts weren’t as urban-music-friendly as they are now.
This week I caught up with Damages former lead vocalist Coree Richards. His story is incredible, full of highs and lows, pain and pride.
Coree revealed that up until 10 years ago the band were still performing to pay their bills and nothing more-the pleasure had gone from their group relationship.
He had shared his feelings with the band about wanting to occasionally do solo songs as well as remain with the band, as he wanted to be more individual and do his own thing. Many acts at the time did the same; for example boy band Boyzones Ronan Keating, take that’s Robbie Williams, Blue’s Duncun, Another Levels Wayne Williams and more. Apparently the group were extremely unhappy about this and forced Coree to choose between a solo career or them. After a while of painful deliberating Coree chose a solo path.
Coree revealed pained ‘’ the guys all stopped speaking to me after that, my communication with the boys went to zero. I was so depressed I went to Thailand initially to party and to distance myself from everyone. The main objective was to go find myself. The last few months living out there i stayed at a Buddhist retreat. This helped me experience real life without being in a fake bubble. It was hard. I had so many initial fears “what will I do next’.
Coree felt like timing had been against him ‘’ I had turned down a lot of solo deal offers and lost opportunities whilst within the band and now that it had taken me so long to decide I had lost my momentum so I partied and wasted my time literally getting wasted-’ I do look back and wish my timing had been better’.
I myself recall this time. I recall the London music scene whispering about how Coree had lost his way and found solace in drugs and alcohol. Coree nodded ‘’I eventually found my love for music again. I taught local kids to sing at local schools in Harrow near where I live-I still teach them, it helps me give back to the community’’
A while after this Coree bought himself a mac computer and started to learn how to produce for himself but found that many of his peers had turned against him. ‘’Certain producers that used to work with the band that Damage had given their first breaks to were either not returning my calls or trying to charge me sums that were out of my range!’’.
Other industry brands were seemingly blackballing him too. He added ‘’Damage used to be the ChoiceFM babies but now DJ’s like Jenny Francis wouldn’t even get back to me!’’
(Damage member Andre’s dad Daddy Ernie was a ChoiceFM presenter at the time so things there were probably always going to be frosty)
Things were to get colder for Coree. He remembered the last time he saw his one time fellow band members ‘’there was a Ghetto Romance party arranged in Muswell Hill. A past Damage outer team staff member had invited me to come along and try and be cordial to the boys, I turned up and security wouldn’t let me in. Eventually I was inside and all the band was really throwing me negative vibes and screwfacing me. I had gone on a peaceful vibe but Andre (who seemed the worse for wear-maybe with alcohol was quite aggressive’’.
(I could relate very well to what Coree was revealing to me here. I myself had been on the ugly end of Andre’s ego when I was the head of production at MTV BASE a few years back. MTV BASE and CHOICEFM had a joint float at Notting Hill Carnival. On the Sunday we were happy for all to join the float, as we weren’t working. But on the Monday we had a full float of staff and music acts and the float was dangerously over health and safety regulation numbers. We were told only working staff could remain on the float. Andre had a major problem with this and months later at DJ Swings death anniversary party thought it appropriate to drunkenly scream at me and aggressively tell me why deserved to be on that float cos his dad was once a part of ChoiceFM (LOL) and he had thought we were family! I had attempted to explain that it wasn’t personal and that business had to come first. He didn’t get that then so Corees story didn’t surprise me at all. It was shocking mostly as once upon a time Andre had the reputation of being the most friendly and cordial of the group).
Coree continued ‘’it was Very hurtful. They turned their back on me. They were my brothers. I was in a very troubled space. They told me that I now was risky to the bands reputation as they often worked with disadvantaged young Kids and that my troubles would reflect badly on them. They didn’t see the irony of the fact that they were turning their backs on a close one time family member who needed them the most at this point in his life’’.
Coree feels there was added pressure due to band member Jades relationship with Spice Girl Emma Bunton. He feels that ‘’Andre and Damage hang onto Jade, and the domino affect from there continues’’.
Coree revealed the way that he learned that he had been chucked out of the reformed group was shocking and unprofessional ‘’The band wrote a letter to our fans in 2010 to tell fans they’d asked Coree to leave. This was not what Coree wants. This is for 4 of us not the total 5’’. They did all this without even having the decency and manners to first tell Coree. Impressive.
Coree shrugs his shoulders ‘’ its all good though, I’ve moved on. Though it would be good to hear them all do new music. I’ve had meetings with mutual mates who had blacklisted me. Promoters often think all 5 members are turning up at performances. Often their shows see posters that are promoted as a 5 piece act even though I’m no longer part of the band’.
Coree continued to set up his own production company ‘’Black Swan Entertainment’’ and is currently working with a few producers like the UK’s Smujji who had a hit with FYA called “Must be love”
Other people he’s working with include afrobeats style producer Af3ka (Antoine Stone).
On his new material he has attempted a few new styles but stayed close to bands style cos of course he was the original main vocalist. So inevitably much of his material sounds like classic Damage material, which the fans love.
He’s currently made around 60 tracks for his solo album ‘’Damaged but not broken’’. The tracks are mostly Up-tempo. ‘‘There’s often a Dance remix for the fans that are now on that vibe. I’ve moved with the times. I have Dubstep mixes. Some soulful. But I’ve really concentrated on the lyrical content, not loads of monotonous repetition but a telling of whole stories’’.
Coree revealed a couple of the hardest tracks to make were based on personal experiences . One tracks titled “A fathers word” for his 2-year-old son. He revealed that he’s been fighting to see son for the last 2 years.
Another track-the title track “Damaged but not broken”- is about being in the band, having success and then the fame leaving you in the shadows.
Coree has felt a deep pain from abandonment and loss of his one time band of brothers but he remains open, honest and positive about his experience ‘’ I’ve made great tracks so I know they’ll push themselves through. There are a few new acts I like Jessie J, Beverly Knight and Emile Sande-they stand out to me, but I don’t wanna jump on the bandwagon and collaborate with lots of new acts. I wanna steer clear of being like everyone else. I want to fly the flag for UK soul again. I’d love to write JLS a song. There’s so much autotune around these days I keep asking myself ‘where’s the R&B?’’ Acts like Chris brown and usher are all selling their souls with their style now. It’s so Hard to get on radio stations now. Djs can’t play what they want anymore with playlists being forced upon them. I’ve been lucky with Radio1Xtra supporting me with my single ‘’Body Talk’’ which will be released in the New Year –it’s a sexy song, just what you’d expect from me LOL. The videos coming soon too. I reached out to director Max from Max and Dania who used to work with us in the past but…yeah you guessed it-he wouldn’t return my call. I don’t like to bug anyone so I’m directing and editing it myself’’.
Corees can-do attitude will surely persevere. He agrees ‘’ Doing music and being great at it is my way of dealing with my struggles. my fans keep me motivated when they communicate with me on corree_damage. This is the great times. Being a father affects my music cos its more serious now. I know I Must make more of a business with it and I want to give back to the youth and help the new generation’’.
And with that Coree smiled like a man finally at peace with himself and his life and went off to prepare for his impending trip to perform out in Dubai!. follow coree at @COREE_DAMAGE.
Finally a big Congrats to my one time dance partner Jonzi D for being awarded a Children In Need award of funding of £63,000 for his brand Breakin’ Convention for Hip Hop Hospital, a project delivering a programme of hip hop related activity to children’s hospital wards across the country. The Hip Hop Hospital sees Breakin’ Convention Artistic Director Jonzi D and artists from the company’s education team visit children’s hospitals across the UK to bring interactive workshops in rap, music, dance and graffiti to hospital bedsides and social areas.
David Ramsden, Chief Executive of BBC Children in Need, said: “We are delighted to be supporting Breakin’ Convention, which is one of hundreds of projects we support that help children and young people across the UK. We can only do this due to the incredible generosity of our supporters and they should all be really proud.”
Hip Hop Hospital, which began in 2009 with an inaugural programme at Great Ormond Street, offers a combination of group work and one-to-one sessions with the industry leading artists Breakin’ Convention provides. Young patients learn many of the key skills involved in hip hop culture, from how to sketch graffiti and spray paint, to writing raps, recording tracks and making beats. They also learn elements of filming and photography, as well as discovering more about hip hop history
Each of the workshops are filmed and documented as a short film incorporating the children’s music and raps as soundtracks, their art work as visuals, and recording the interaction between the patients and the artists for the children to keep after the project.
Jonzi D, said: “Hip Hop Hospital brings young people engagement and excitement into an environment that is otherwise seen as an unpleasant place to be, particularly for long term patients.”
One week, 2 amazing men who have beaten the odds to a victorious finish.