John Rocca, a dance music performer, remixer and record producer. During the early 1980s, he formed, played with, wrote for, produced and managed his first musical band, Freeez, with success. His first self-funded and self-released effort was “Keep in Touch”, a #1 song in the UK Blues & Soul Magazine Dance Charts and #49 in the United Kingdom Gallup charts – partly by sales from the back of a van. His next effort, “Southern Freeez” by Freeez – now considered a jazz funk classic – was not only a UK Blues & Soul Dance Chart #1 but a popular music chart success in various other countries in Europe, scoring the United Kingdom Gallup Charts at #8.

During 1983, one of the first records to use digital sampling – “IOU” by Freeez – featured John’s falsetto voice and became one of the major dance successes of the 1980s electro music style. It scored number one in dance charts in Europe and the U.S. Billboard Hot Dance Music/Club Play and had popular music chart success across the world spending three weeks at #2 in the United Kingdom Gallup Charts.

As a solo artist, John Rocca scored #1 yet again, this time with “I Want It To Be Real.” It went #1 on the U.S. Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart during 1984. After these and various other successes, John engineered, produced and mixed for various other artists, as well as recording by his own name and several other pseudo names.

John Rocca retired from the music business during 1993. His last recording, by the pseudonym Midi Rain, John wrote and played all of the instruments. He also recorded, engineered, produced, and mixed all of the songs. Midi Rain scored the Billboard US Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart with the album “Shine”, which scored number one during 1993.

John Rocca, one of the pioneers of Dance music!

GO BANG! Magazine: You’re born and raised in London, United Kingdom. How did you get started in dance music?

John Rocca: It was 1974, and I was probably not yet 14 years old when my life was CHANGED FOREVER… Not just by Bruce Lee, but by one particular record. One day when I was in a youth club near my school, a track came on with a sound like nothing I’d ever heard before. It was just a groove. No verse, no chorus, no mid 8 of any significance, just that amazing groove. It was “Wicky Wacky” by the Fatback Band. I found out what it was and went in search of more, digging out tiny specialist record shops all over London and soon found gems like James Brown’s “Papa Don’t Take No Mess” and The Beginning of the End with “Funky Nassau.” Let’s face it. There was no turning back after those tracks reached deep into my little growing bones.

GO BANG! Magazine: The United States became aware of you and your songs in the 80’s with your group Freeez, with songs like “I.O.U.” on the club dancefloors and commercially on radio. How did you feel when Americans embraced you?

John Rocca: I first came to the US in 1982 to find a producer to help us do the second Freeez album that would go on to become IOU. It was all an amazing adventure, especially NYC, early 80s, which was a concrete jungle of skyscrapers to a young English boy. Music and recording technology was changing, and that change brought Freeez into the realms of drum machines like the 808 and the early sampler technology.

I have always loved technology so I embraced that change rather than staying in the style we had started. It was of course very flattering to see the success of IOU when we returned to New York and other US cities during the summer of 1983 when the record was a bit hit. Back then however, just our English accent was already a passport to new friends.

GO BANG! Magazine: As a solo artist, you received even more play with your hit “I Want It To Be Real.” You’ve always utilized a different and unique sound, using the vocoder and your falsetto voice. Did you know, when recording songs, that they would be iconic staples on the dancefloor?

John Rocca: I have mostly tried (though not always succeed) to do something different each time I make music and ‘I Want It To Be Real” was exactly that. It was everything I’d learned from NYC electro, adding in any other new technologies, as things were moving fast, as well as it being written back in London. Injecting something else from myself and the UK technology had now brought me to the point where I could convey a lot more of my ideas into my tracks. This was in contrast to working with a whole band. That also brought some difference to the music, retaining more of myself (though still partnered with Andy Stennett of Freeez to convert those ideas, as well as add his own).

It’s not that I knew what I was doing in terms of creating something new, but I’m often experimenting with something, embracing something else, and if I like how it sounds, then I keep it, as simple as that. It just worked out well on some occasions (and, not so well on others).

GO BANG! Magazine: You’ve also performed under the name Midi Rain. What would you say is the difference musically, between John Rocca and Midi Rain?

John Rocca: Midi Rain was the first time I was able to do all the music myself. Computers and digital technology now meant I didn’t need a real musician to help me play the music because the computer could do that for me, or at least, it could correct my poorly played ideas into a basic version of what was in my head. Midi Rain was therefore pure John Rocca for the first time. I wrote every song and was the sole performer of all instruments on every track. Of course, with that in mind it was bound to be different to anything I’d done before hand and at the very least, some sort of progression of the sound I had been getting closer and closer to. The sound was also limited by my musical ability so my sound changed because of that too.

When “Shine” was a US Dance #1 in 1993, it seemed like a good time to retire from music. I had already started at University to learn all about computer and digital technology in more of a global sense and not just related to music. Keep in mind, that by the mid 90’s, we had begun the era of the “Mobile Phone” as GSM was rolled out across the world. It was a massively exciting time and continued to be over the coming years as the next step was the evolution of the smart phone, social media and the connected mobile internet world we all live in today.

GO BANG! Magazine: You retired from music in the early 90’s after you recorded “Shine.” But there is now a brand new version of your first big UK hit from 1980 aptly called “Southern Freeez 20+20”. It’s a smoother and cooler version of the original track. Has that inspired you to come out of retirement and go back into the studio or produce new talent?

John Rocca: To be honest, I had no idea it had been 40 years since the original “Southern Freeez” but when the record company contacted me regarding its anniversary it seemed like it would be fun to take some musical ideas I had written over the past few years and blend them into a mix of the 80s UK Jazz Funk scene and the scene today. Doing a cover version of my own song was a bit weird to start with and not something I would normally be keen on, but somehow it happened and I enjoyed the boundaries and as well breaking them a little. There’s even a touch of House in there too.

GO BANG! Magazine: What are you up to now after moving from the UK to Malaysia?

John Rocca: I came to Malaysia around 20 years ago with a UK technology start-up that I had been working with all over the world, and I somehow settled.

GO BANG! Magazine: You have legions of fans all over the world that love your music and have great memories of dancing to your songs. What message would you like to say to them, and even more specifically, to your American fans?

John Rocca: That’s probably the most difficult question. Thank you… most of all. I am very, grateful, flattered and humbled by their support.

GO BANG! Magazine: Everyone wants to leave a positive legacy. What do you want the world to remember most about you as your legacy?

John Rocca: That’s not something I think about really.

GO BANG! Magazine: The COVID-19 pandemic has caught the world off guard. How are you dealing with it?

John Rocca: For me personally it has been fine. I am a fairly solitary person who is happy to be around those few special people who are close to me. What I worry about is for the people of the world as a whole. I’m referring to everyone who’ll find life even more difficult, over the coming years. What I hope is that Covid-19 can also help bring change in the many ways the world needs.

GO BANG! Magazine: On May 25, 2020, George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, was killed in Minneapolis, Minnesota, during an arrest for allegedly using a counterfeit bill. Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, knelt on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes while Floyd was handcuffed and lying face down, begging for his life and repeatedly saying “I Can’t Breathe.” This incident has caused civil unrest and massive protests across the world. How do you feel about this unfortunate situation and call for police reform due to the horrible treatment of minorities by the police?

John Rocca: I stand in absolute solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. The world today remains a terrible indictment of the resistance to change by the establishment – the stock markets, corporations, conglomerates and now tech giants who control governments. These are all an extension of the capitalist colonial past that continues to syphon wealth from those without the power to resist.

The majority of humanity care deeply about each other. The question I aim at the minority in power is one that Marvin Gaye asked so beautifully half a century ago in his timeless song “Save The Children; “ “Who really cares?” In the lifetime, that has passed me since that song was written, so little has really changed. Without real action from the reluctant few at the top, and equality right now for everyone else, we are left facing the same recurring question of how to force change upon the stagnant status quo that the elite cling on to so desperately. It is and remains this tiny moralistic minority who encourage the so called “racial divide” of what in reality is a single race of human beings. They hamper, stifle and strangle change at best and murder change at worst. All in order to feed their constant, insatiable but wholly pointless greed and in doing so, pervert our so called modern freedom and democracy.

YOU CAN FOLLOW JOHN ROCCA ON ALL SOCIAL MEDIA FORMATS

SONG LINKS:

“IOU”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o2vb9zlEzmk
“I Want It To Be Real”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJdofyzcXdo
“Move”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zenMMFJwO54
“Once Upon A Time”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3bpJ7XJh748
(Midi Rain) “Shine” (Pierre’s Chicago House Mix): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I6JX6UpZIpk
“Southern Freeez 20+20”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-QIp4O1gRUE




Pierre A. Evans is a freelance writer of Entertainment, Music, Art, Culture, Fashion and Current Events, and previously for SoulTrain.com, NDigo.com, ChicagoDefender.com, EmpireRadioMagazine.com, and UrbanMuseMag.com, an author, singer/songwriter, actor, model, poet, dancer, and DJ. He is also the owner of Pinnacle Entertainment Productions. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and on Instagram

1 thought on “Music: JOHN ROCCA (Dance/EDM)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>