Connections are key for bands and no one knows that better than Milwaukee's own Codebreaker, which has a number of great collaborations to its credit.
The latest, a remix of "Troubled Water" by legendary deep soul diva Sybil -- her self-titled 1989 disc with covers of "Walk On By" and "Don't Make Me Over" was one of my favorites that year -- is the result of a connection made by happenstance.
The tune -- produced by New York's Matthias Heilbronn -- was recorded for Deep Sugar/Strictly Rhythm. Deep Sugar is a label run by another acclaimed dance music diva of that era, Baltimore's Ultra Nate'.
"I've never met Sybil," says Codebreaker's Steven Hawley. "I met Ultra Nate' in D.C. when I was booked to DJ with her at U Street Music Hall. The promoter, Ultra and myself all had dinner beforehand. (We) ended up getting on pretty well and she asked me to send her some more material.
"Shortly after that she asked if we'd be interested in remixing Sybil's latest release."
And, another forward step in Codebreaker's ever-evolving career was forged. Hawley says that Sybil did not come to Milwaukee for the remix, which is one of three on the release. The others are by Frankie Knuckles and DJ Spen.
"Ultra sent Sybil's parts to us via the Internet and we did our thing," says Hawley. "Working with dance music legends like Ultra and Sybil are tremendous honors, obviously, and being on the same release as Frankie Knuckles is also a thrill.
"Our approach to the original was quite different than the others on the release. (We) really wanted to tap into the raw, classic house/soul vibes of the late '80s/early '90s, while bringing our own modern trademarks to it all."
"Troubled Water" is an uptempo synth funk workout with a four-on-the-floor house beat and is just the kind of tune that could get Codebreaker wider exposure on the international club scene.
And, regardless, says Hawley, the experience was a satisfying one.
"It was an honor to be asked by one house music legend to remix another."
"Troubled Water" is available worldwide through Deep Sugar/Strictly Rhythm Records via Beatport, iTunes & Traxsource. But you can hear it right now via Codebreaker's Soundcloud.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.