'80s - Yazz (2010)
'The Only Way Is (Still) Up ... Above Us!'
Yazz, (born Yasmin Evans, in Shepherd's Bush, London) is a British pop singer, who remains best known for her successful 1988 dance track, 'The Only Way Is Up.' Although, in truth, some of her records were credited to Yazz and the Plastic Population and Coldcut.
Indeed, her first real break in 1988 was with the hit single ‘Doctorin’ the House’, together with the band, Coldcut - with whom she also recorded the aforementioned hit single, ‘The Only Way is Up.’ This song maintained the No.1 chart-hit position in the UK for 6 weeks, in release with the album ‘Wanted’.
It was then in 1996 that Yazz became a Christian, and her search had finally found its answer in the face of love, Jesus Christ. She later met and married her wonderful husband and moved to be with him in Spain, where she and her family attend a small, but growing Baptist church - Calahonda.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with Yazz about her days on the UK chart show, Top Of The Pops (TOTP), about the USA's confusion over her (as Yazz) and Alison Moyet - 'Alf' from Yazoo (as Yaz), and about her new found faith.
Taking it from the top, and at Holland Park School (UK) you excelled at sports. Had you continued on in that vein, could you see yourself as a top athlete today? "I would love to have been an athlete. Actually as I see it, I am! Try being a mother, wife, sister and singer!"
Indeed, before your major pop successes, you scored a number of club hits after recording with the group, Biz, in 1983. What can you remember about those days in Biz - and can any of the music be found on the web these days? "Now you have done your research well! I confess I do not remember having had any successful records with The Biz. However, I learnt an incredible amount about my craft through those early years. We would hike our way up and down the club circuits carrying in our cases what were to become the essentials of living on the road - depending on the category of the tour (clubs or stadiums!)"
"With the Biz circuit I remember we all took a clean sheet and light-bulbs!!!!! After the first BnB´s delightful nobblets on the sheets (those fuzzy risen type furry balls that cover the sheets due to over extent of washing use!) yugh! We learnt that the cheap places to stay in always seemed to have light-bulbs that exploded upon switching on!"
"We laughed our way though hecklers and scoffers and decided drinking before a gig was a disastrous way to gain courage! However, after the gig it helped soothe the damaged ego. We learnt managers are crooks (mostly) and no one wants to pay you. And we learnt how much we loved music enough to suffer it!"
Your first commercial success came in 1988 when you supplied the vocals on Coldcut's 'Doctorin' the House' single. And then, with people starting to know your name, came the release of your debut single, 'The Only Way Is Up' that very same year. Spending five weeks at #1 on the UK singles chart, eventually becoming the biggest selling UK single of the year, were you knocked sideways by the onslaught of media attention - or were you prepared for it? "NO ONE IS PREPARED FOR FAME !! Just look at any famous person at any point in any era! Just read the newspapers ! Go to any rehab clinic what do you see?"
"Friend, I, like most artists, love the creative process of preparing a work in your craft. However, that is demolished with recognition and fame over time. Artists are soft, indulgent, insecure people mostly and manipulated easily. You can become defined by the outside world within minutes of watching a commercial, reading a magazine, etc. I was defined
by the publics opinion of my work , my style, my comments (lol!). No one is prepared for fame, because I believe we weren´t designed to be defined by anything but whom God made us to be - made in His image for His glory."
"So, therefore if you aren´t connected to God then your connected to something else that is your God! Could be money, sex, drugs, fame, status power etc. Ask yourself - what or who defines you!?"
"I believe we were created to worship and adore God first and foremost and so, of course when you take your life off that you gotta go to worship something or someone else. That's when it gets all screwed, because weren´t built to take being worshipped only God can!! Yeaaaa!"
Following your debut album's release, which also went Top 10, you then chose to sporadically release your singles - one during 1990 and not releasing another until 1992. Indeed, your last Top 20 single was 1990's 'Treat Me Good, which hit the UK Top 20. Why the foot off the gas, so to speak with regard the singles, when back in those days, being in the singles chart was where you had to be each week? "It was during those years that I was divorcing and it was hell on earth. I was not thinking about my career, I was struggling to breath! ʻTreat Me Goodʼ was a lyrical example of the context of where I was - pregnant (in the video), trying to smile, but wondering how on earth I was going to get
through the next day."
"Eventually I had a nervous breakdown after the amazing birth of my precious, precious daughter. Without that event however, I would not have turned my eyes upward and I would not be in the fantastic position I am today. SAVED!"
Your 2008 album, Running Back to You, charts your spiritual journey and your new-found Christian faith. Now based in Spain, and an active member of the Calahonda Baptist Church, please tell us more about your life these days - and how it differs from the Yazz of the '80s/'90s "Through the release of this new album I have arrived to journey a path that I
would never have been able to journey on had I not encountered a relationship with
Jesus Christ. Why, you ask? Because in surrendering to one´s faith you surrender (I
trust) to what your God leads you toward with excitement and security, acceptance and
"Those 3 qualities did not measure in my other life! Now, what I am
allowed to do for God makes eternal consequences for lives - that is profound! It also
takes what you have recorded before and makes it more significant to lives."
"Last year, I
visited a Prison in Northern Ireland, a maximum security Prison. Would I even of
considered that in my old selfish heart had I not been changed by Gods extraordinary
love for me. I confess to you that I do not think so! Now, instead I saw at that Prison
hardened hearts ruined, wounded and smashed by sin and suffering, sit weeping before
my eyes as I talk about my journey and finding favor and grace before a just and loving
God. It was nothing of me it was simply something that I would call supernatural
happening. Things like that do not occur in the natural world, it is only above and
beyond that can change a man or women finished by life to be changed in such a way
that they become almost unrecognizable by the love and grace of God."
"But I rant on, sorry. I am a completely different woman to the eighties young woman! That is just one of the
OK, I was watching the video for 'The Only Way Is Up' on YouTube today and it seemed you were having a lot of fun making it. What do you remember of that day back then, was it as much fun as it looked, and who's choice was it to put you in this oh-so-tight cycle shorts?! "Mmmmm, those awful shorts! I think I looked like a horse jockey! Sadly, I think I
choose 'em! Now don´t you laugh, let's go look inside your wardrobe of the late eighties! This song was sent to me by a foremost D.J at the time working for Kiss FM - Dr Bob Jones. He forwarded it onto Coldcut stating this was a fantastic record for Yazz to record. It
was a northern soul monster in the UK and its bpm was possibly half the tempo we used,
sung by an american soul singer. I listened to it and bulked!"
"I remember saying to the boys ʻI can´t sing that, I´m not a soul singer!' They laughed and
said it's ok, we´ll 120 bpm it, change the key, do this and that - and so the journey began!
I like the song, it was infectious and hope-filled in its lyrical context, but I was scared to try
to sing it at the time !"
" I think the key to its success was the uplifting lyric coupled with the
driving strength of that gorgeous bass line energetically moving it along plus, the style of
house music being so alive and pulsating in that era. It was cutting edge music mixed with
a real song not a chorus line etc. It was a very well crafted song indeed and remains a
classic because of it. After we had placed those lifted horns onto it it blew you away. However, when we finished it at 4 am in the morning exhausted we did not think it was a
hit - just a cool tune!"
"We loved the creative process of starting tracks and building them
and the whole activity and operation of seeing something begin right through to the end. I
still just LOVE THAT - thats what excites me!"
Ok, just to confuse matters, back in the '80s/'90s, and being that you went under the name Yazz, the British band Yazoo were known over here in the US simply as Yaz! So, from your side of things, if there were ever any discussions about you journeying to the US to tour, did you ever get mistaken (name wise, not looks, of course!) by fans or media as the 'other' Yaz?! And, perhaps, vice-versa (if you ever spoke to Alison Moyet)?! "I was mistaken for Alison Moyet all the time in the states! Oh well!"
Fun Five - OK, it's now time to fire off some quick questions - to allow those that think they know Yazz to perhaps think again!
a) Can you remember your very first TOTP appearance? What song/year was it and at what level of nervousness were you at that whole day? "Not sure of the year, '88 perhaps, but I shall never forget my first appearance on Top Of The Pops. I sang 'Doctoring The House' and my knees connected together the entire time! I nearly threw
up before and did afterward!"
b) Is there one of your songs that you look back on and would today change the title to, or a line/lyric from it - and if so, which one, and why?! "I made a fantastic album called The Natural Life. It is stunning and probably one of my
favs. Recorded at Bob Marleys studio in Jamaica, produced and with guest vocals by UB40 it is
great! It never came out. One day it will and I know that people will love it. Call East West
Records or Polydor for info."
c) Do you have a recurring nightmare or dream - and if so, how does it usually end? "I don´t have any recurring dreams. I have occasional nightmares, but I don´t have hang-ups about it."
d) What is your sweetest, guiltiest pleasure (food wise!) late at night? "At the moment I find the deepest delight in a night with treasured friends - a bottle of
Rose Mateous, various tapas to pick and choose from with pita bread, and some smooth jazz like Chet Baker or Casting Crowns - a piece of heaven."
e) If you could meet any deceased celebrity, who would it be - and what would be the first question you would ask them? "I look forward to heaven. I want to talk to all my favorite celebs - Jesus, Moses, Paul,
John , Esther, etc. I should like to talk with Steve McQueen who found Jesus right at the
end of his career. Thank God ... Michalangelo ... Lilias Trotter ... Georgia O'Keefe ... C.S. Lewis, and so, so many more."
Can we expect a new Yazz pop album soon? And, if so, and as we're not called Exclusive Magazine for nothing, have you a working title for it, perhaps? "I am currently writing a book so not recording. It is stunning - it is a book inspired by
my prison visits and called ʻa beautiful thought.ʼ It is a compilation of ordinary women
whose lives are made extraordinary by an extraordinary God."
"I hope it to be an
inspirational read about unsung heroes, but I believe it is a fantastic resource for
churches, prisons, mental institutions, hospitals, schools as well, of course, as the
commercial retail industry. It will greatly speak to the hopeless - the weak, struggling,
the youth with no faith in anything, etc."
And will the USA ever get to see Yazz over here? There's the Here & Now, Rewind, and Regeneration tours, but we never get to see you named on the bill for the American side of things. "I would love to come to America, but doors haven´t opened so far. I am to go to
Canada next year so getting closer. I´ll keep you posted!"
Lastly, and throwing you a journalistic curve ball, Exclusive Magazine loves Penguins (the flightless bird, not the chocolate bar!) ... do you? "It's funny because my Musical MD´s wife absolutely loves penguins and I sent her a
gorgeous long dressing gown that was covered in penguins last year! I don´t really
mind them at all, but I have perchance for elephants mostly. Which is a shame as you can´t domesticate them, can you!!! Check out this site for extraordinary photos of animals: www.nickbrandt.com"
Thank you for your time spent with me today, and we here at ExclusiveMagazine.com wish you all the best for the future: "I pray for you and your work at Exclusive - I thank you personally for respectfully allowing me to speak my heart - God Bless you :) YAZZ X"
Interviewed by: Russell A. Trunk