Lex Cameron

Omar just rang me up and said, “Leon needs a band, can you sort it out for him?”… I spoke to Leon on the phone, a beautiful man, absolutely one of the sweetest people you’ll ever meet. He’s the first person’s that I’ve ever worked with that has said to me I want you to perform one of your own tunes before I come on stage. No one has ever said that to me before.
Lex Cameron

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Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde

Lex Cameron may on the surface be unfamiliar to all but the more astute music aficionados. Most would probably remember him from recordings he made in the early 90s under his previous moniker “Lennox”, most notably the double-A side “Don’t Go”/”Free”; two slices of sensual and conscious UK Soul respectively.

In recent times Lex can be found in the guise of Musical Director, vocalist/composer and keyboard player for none other than Mr Omar Lye-Fook on the tour circuit, as well as preparing subtly in the background for his own solo comeback. Michael “The Dood” Edwards tracked down the elusive Mr Cameron a few weeks after he had performed his duties as Musical Director for one Mr Leon Ware during two nights of quality old school Soul at Ronnie Scott’s in London.

The Dood: Lex Cameron, it’s a pleasure to meet you and great to link up.

Lex Cameron: Pleasure to meet you too.

The Dood: The first time you entered most people’s consciousness was via the double a side, sought after “Don’t Go” and “Free” in the early 90s. What is the background to those tracks?

Lex Cameron: I was part of the duo called, “Cairo” and we’d had a couple of deals, we had signed to Champion (Record Label) and we did some stuff with Rob Davis actually – he did that tune “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head,” for Kylie Minogue. We were putting an album together and then we started to part ways and I joined “Roachford,” because it was 1989 and all that was beginning to kick off. So I started touring with them.

The Dood: In what capacity?

Lex Cameron: As a keyboard player and singer. Meanwhile our (Cairo’s) label had set up this deal in America with Reggie Lucas to produce the album. Reggie Lucas is from “Mtume” and he also wrote “The Close I Get to You” for Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway. And he used to play guitar with Miles Davis.

The Dood: So he’s got a CV and a half?

Lex Cameron: Exactly! So I went to America to work with Reggie to finish the material, and then when I came back, that version of “Don’t Go” is the one that Reggie sort of put the final mix on.

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Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde

The Dood: All written and produced by you?

Lex Cameron: Yeah, all tracks were written and produced by me and Thomas and ready mixed it. And then I wanted to record something else to edify Nelson Mandela, so that’s what “Free” was all about.

The Dood: Okay!

Lex Cameron: So I went into the studio with a friend of mine, Wayne Brown and we did that.

The Dood: Where was it recorded?

Lex Cameron: The Strong Room’s in Old Street. The label (Champion) wanted the duo, but they were left with me as a solo artist. So they left it to me to try and push the album myself. They were a bit hands-off with it, because they wanted the whole boy band duo thing. So that’s when I went to the studio and did “Free” and said, “Look I’m gonna put this on the Street.” So they let me do that. And it started off really well. As far as everyone else was concerned it was an independent thing, but it was actually the record label WEA who pressed it up.

The Dood: They were quite a big name at that time?

Lex Cameron: Yeah! “Beggars Banquet” basically we were on WEA, so that’s who I was with. As it was all coming to an end as it were, they let me have that single and I put it out and it was played on the radio. My proudest moment was when there was a radio vote between my song “Free”, MC Hammer and Maxi Priest and “Free” won! So that was on my proudest moments.

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Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde

The Dood: And why the name Lennox at that time?

Lex Cameron: That’s my full name, Lex Cameron. I just took the ‘n’ and ‘o’ out.

The Dood: Where did it actually start for you musically, growing up wise? Were your parents musicians?

Lex Cameron: I used to hear a lot of Reggae and Ska and New Orleans Jazz. I’d hear Louis Jordan, The Beatles, everything! So I was very sensitive to music. I would hear it and I would feel it and see colours and stuff like that. So it’s very much in my body, my being. I found that by the age of seven or eight, when I was at primary school that something was different. They had like a xylophone or a glockenspiel, and I could hear this song/record in my head that my dad used to play; and I was hitting the glockenspiel exactly right without even having played it before. My ear was telling me it was about this far away between the notes. (Lex holds his hands 8 inches apart) Then I realised that this was really weird – how could I do that? My hands knew that the notes were just so far away.

I will also realise that If I heard a song on the radio and I started singing it back, it would only sound right if I sang it in exactly the right key. So I had perfect pitch, even though I didn’t realise that at the time. Not everyone can recall a tune in exactly the key that it’s supposed to be in… So there were these little signs.

The Dood: Did your parents put you through lessons after that?

Lex Cameron: No, I was self taught all the way through. At my primary school they didn’t have proper musical equipment, just the standard stuff. Then at my secondary school I think I had two music rooms, but they weren’t giving me what I wanted.

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Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde

The Dood: It’s like the Michael Jackson situation; you could feel the music inside you but you couldn’t express it via the restrictive formulaic techniques?

Lex Cameron: That’s right, I needed to express it the way I was feeling it. So what I used to do was get the teacher to lock me inside the music room at break time. So rather than disturb all the other children I was locked in; and I would sit there with the piano and get to understand it myself. Later on I did all my research for theory etc, but initially everything I learned was on my own.

The Dood: From the outside it looks like he disappeared completely off the radar since the 90s. So what happened in the interim period?

Lex Cameron: What happened was, after I put “Free” and “Don’t Go” out, I went to America, California to be precise. My girlfriend at the time who was a model lived in California. And while I was with Roachford in ‘89 on tour, because they were signed to CBS, I met The Jacksons – the brothers. I remained in contact with their assistant at the time, her name was Janice. So when I went back to LA I said to Janice that I would like to play the brothers some of my stuff. They were fans of Roachford! The Jacksons were fans of Roachford. So they said Jackie the older brother would love to hear my stuff, could you come to this address.

So she gives me this address and I get in the cab and I said to the cab driver can you take me to this address in California. And he said to me, “Who do you know down there?” And I said, “Well, just some friends.”He said to me, “That’s a seriously rich neighbourhood!” I get there and there’s this big black guy at the gate, I had to say my name, the cab driver leaves and the security guy let me in. I’m actually outside The Jacksons house! And I was like, “Whaaat!” At that time The Jacksons and Stevie Wonder were it for me!

The Dood: So how old where you at this time?

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Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde

Lex Cameron: I was twenty-three. That was insane. So i’m in the house with Jackie in the recording studio and we were just hanging. There we spoke about him doing some work with me and maybe managing… So I came back to England and I’m speaking on the phone with Jackie backwards and forwards; and he said maybe we should do a publishing/management thing. So his lawyers started talking to my lawyers and it goes on forever! It was a massive thing and it turned out that the deal wasn’t actually that great (for them), because I wasn’t a big star or anything like that. They wanted power of attorney etc. My lawyer was trying to get rid of it and their lawyer wanted it.

The Dood: So the artists wanted it but the lawyers blew things out of proportion?

Lex Cameron: Yeah! Yeah! It just turned into this big mess and it didn’t actually work out – which is a bit of a shame, but I could never give power of attorney away. I spoke to Reggie Lucas about it and he and my lawyer said I would regret it. Then I went to New York and walked fifty-two blocks delivering my tape up and down to every record label I could find, and I got offered a deal with Capitol Records. A lady called Tita Gray was the A&R at Capitol Records at that time. Whilst she was hooking me up with the big American artist she got fired; so that deal fell apart. And at that point I was tired. I had been batted around and I needed to enjoy myself for a minute.

I came back to London and the first call I got was to sing live with Chic i.e Nile Rodgers and Co on the Jonathan Ross show. It was the only time I ever got to sing live with Chic so I was made up about that. Then all these other things came in, I started doing lots of TV with Shanai Twain, Michael Bolton, Barry White and Jocelyn Brown and all these pop acts…To be honest I really enjoyed myself, because I do like the variety.

The Dood: It keeps it fresh?

Lex Cameron: It does keep it fresh. And I’ve made albums with other people such as Vibraphonic and Donna Gardier from Raw Stylus. I also produced Donna’s last album. I was also gigging and singing around Europe and the world, just really really enjoying myself.

The Dood: Did you play on Roachford’s “Cuddly Toy” track?

Lex Cameron: that was the tour that I did, because he had made the album before he met me. I met the bass player at a jam session. But I’m on the second album.

The Dood: So where did Mr Omar Lye-fook fit in?

Lex Cameron: Around the time of Chic in the early 90s, that’s when Omar came in.

The Dood: So this is around the time and he was on Talking Loud. How did you actually look up with him then?

Next Cameron: It was via the drummer Frank Tonto actually. He called me as he was the MD at the time. One of Frank’s best mates Joe, the keyboard player’s mother had just died, so Joe couldn’t do it and Frank called me. Then I did that for couple of years.

The Dood: What was the first project you did with Omar?

Lex Cameron: The first project with Omar was a tour basically. Then we got together to write a piece of music for this publishing company. They had a video of Brian Lara the Trinidadian cricketer who had just broken the world record and they needed a piece of music for it. So me and Omar went into the studio and did a piece of music for it! We did a song called “It Takes Time”. At the end of 1992 we parted ways because Joe (the original keyboard player) came back. And that’s when I started doing all that other stuff I mentioned earlier. In and around that time I also did another album on Deep Records, which was on my own label. It was entitled “Deeper Than That”. I did it with a guy called Errol Henry.

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Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde

The Dood: Errol Henry! I interviewed him back in the day, who was the owner of Intimate Records, with artists such as The Jones Girls, Anthony Drakes and Chris Ballin. Also known as Errol “clean hands” Henry. Do you know what he’s doing now?

Lex Cameron: He’s a Pastor. Anyway the heard the stuff and he really wanted to put it out, so we did that. And then I moved on to doing the Jazz Cafe and a couple of other gigs with him before going on to write some new stuff. The track “Don’t Make Me Beg” was a part of that.

The Dood: Yes, you performed that track at the start of the Leon Ware gig at Ronnie Scott’s last week. I believe it was Omar that introduced you to Mr Ware?

Lex Cameron: Back in the day when Omar and Leon got together for the tune “Outside” they had remained friends since then. Omar just rang me up and said, “Leon needs a band, can you sort out for him?” Omar trusts me and it’s basically Omar’s band. I spoke to Leon on the phone, a beautiful man, absolutely one of the sweetest people you’ll ever meet. He’s the first person’s that I’ve ever worked with that has said to me I want you to perform one of your own tunes before I come on stage. No one has ever said that to me before.

The Dood: That says a lot about the class of the man.

Lex Cameron: He’s always looking for talent. He asked me, “Do you write? Do you do your own thing? I’d love to hear it if you do?” So I got the band together and did all the arrangements first and then I thought you know what, he’s probably serious, so let me just send it to him… So I sent it to him and he sent me back in this e-mail. He seemed to be blown away! He said “You’re a bad mutha…!” (Laughs)

The Dood: The few times I was fortunate enough to talk with him he did highlight that there not enough young singer songwriter’s coming to the fore today.

Lex Cameron: He likes to work with them as well. He sent me some stuff of his own as well to see what I can do with it. I was thinking Leon Ware sent me one of his songs to see what I can do it, you know what I mean! (Laughs in disbelief) So was a real honour, a real massive honour to actually get to do it and to start performing again.

The Dood: Well I must say it was a first-class performance you gave at Ronnie Scott’s.

Lex Cameron: Thank you.

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Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde

The Dood: Also Leon’s performance during the evening was sublime.

Lex Cameron: Well actually, when we got to Amsterdam, he was like another person. It was literally like he was the old Leon Ware, I was very impressed. He’s seventy-four and he smokes still, so I don’t know how he does it!

The Dood: So what can we expect now in the future from Mr Lex Cameron?

Lex Cameron: Funnily enough last year (2013) I made a decision the going get the stuff back out again. So it’s like the universe sale if you are serious we’re to give you a little hand and they sent Leon along. And Leon’s just been singing the praises, because we went Jazz FM and he was telling them as well. I contacted a couple of DJs to start with at Solar Radio and Colourful Radio and they’ve playing the track on their shows. So i’m still yet to do the push, just a couple of people that I know to get airplay and get the feedback and it’s been really good. So I’m going to run ahead with that and the EP and i’ve got so much more stuff.

The Dood: Excellent! We at UK Vibe look forward to promoting that and bigging it up. There’re many other UK artists out there banging the door who are yet to receive the exposure.

Lex Cameron: There’s a lot of talent here… I mean the industry is so different now; it’s so-so different. The boys with the big machines, the record labels can’t get it out; the distributors are all over the place. It’s just kind of died a death really, because it’s all digital and people aren’t buying it as much. Omar still performs live, and playing live with him I get to sell CDs. Because playing live is it! If you can play live, if you can still cut it live that’s the final way to really make sure you’ve got yourself an audience; because they come and see you then say I love that, I’m interested in that. And that’s where I’m actually selling my EP’s – it’s not even officially released, but I’m still selling them, because people are seeing it. And that’s the thing, that’s what’s left! I like that because it means that you have to be able to cut it.

The Dood: Your inspirations vocally and keyboard?

Lex Cameron: It would definitely be Michael (Jackson) and Stevie (Wonder) I love Earth, Wind and Fire for the production and arrangements and quality. And in the reggae side the band has got to be Bob Marley and the Wailers, because that band ticks all the boxes. It spreads wider than that, but that would be the core I would say.

The Dood: You’ve been in and around the industry for about thirty years now, what advice did you give the young Lex Cameron’s male or female who want to progress in the industry?

Lex Cameron: I would say make sure you’re in it because you love it, make sure you love the music, make sure you’re not in it just because you want to be rich; because that will die a death on you. The minute you come up against some hard times you’ll say I’m sorry I’ve had enough of this. And that’s not how you succeed, you need to love what you’re doing, you’ve got to be committed to it. Young people probably wouldn’t know him, Ray Parker Jr? He recorded “Jack and Jill” and things like that.

The Dood: Indeed, as well as “I Don’t Think That Man Sleep Alone.” However I believe the masses will remember him from the theme tune to all Ghostbusters.

Lex Cameron: There is a gig we did once and he was there and he was talking to us about his career and he’d actually retired and had been looking after his parents. Then he got a call from a record label saying can he come over to Boston because there’s the young group who want to record one of your songs, “Mr Telephone Man” – The band being New Edition. And then while he was there, they said look there’s this movie and they need a little piece of music. So he knocked up this little piece of music. They said can you extend it, so he goes back and extends it, “Ghostbusters” the biggest he ever did in about half an hour. And he said to me never give up you don’t know when your opportunity is coming. Keep going and love what you’re doing.

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Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde

The Dood: One of my favourite definitions is “luck is when opportunity and preparedness meet.”

Lex Cameron: Exactly!

The Dood: Bless you and thank you for the insight.

Lex Cameron: Thank you

Michael J Edwards

Essential Website: https://myspace.com/lexmusicmaker
YouTube Channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/lexmd22

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