Josh Milan plans on bringing the soul sound back into music with his artists on Honey Comb Music.
“My artists will be partners in my record company,” said Milan, 41, who hails from Brooklyn, N.Y., but lives in the Poconos. “They will be involved in all aspects of the business. In this business, what you don’t know, they won’t tell you, so shame on the artist for not knowing. But I won’t do that to my artists.”
Milan says Honeycomb will be a place where his artists can truly express themselves and showcase their talent. Milan currently has eight artists on his record label.
My heart is in the ’70s when you didn’t have to be as gorgeous to make it. As long as the music is soulful, I’m into it. I’m not interested in lying to people. I don’t want to change people. People need to accept each other for what they are.”
Milan was bitten by the music bug at the age of 11 when he began playing piano at his church. There he met longtime friends Kevin Hedge and Chris Herbert. The group began singing and one of the members recorded the group and sent the recording to a record company. The group Blaze was born shortly after.
Blaze was signed to Motown Records in 1989. They released their first LP, “25 Years Later” in 1990.
The group worked with such musical heavyweights as Diana Ross, and Aretha Franklin. Blaze scored its biggest writing hit with the song “Hideaway,” performed by De’lacy. The song reached the Top Ten on the UK charts. Herbert left the group in 1991 and Milan stepped in to handle singing duties of Blaze. The group released three more albums, compilations and countless singles. Its most recent album was “Found Love” in 2005.
Despite the success of “Hideaway,” Blaze never achieved commercial success in the United States.
“In the underground world we never lost our connection with the fans. We never fell off the mountain,” Milan said. “But when we were signed to Motown, Boyz II Men and New Jack Swing thing came and hip-hop hit and that was the end of the commercial success of Blaze,” Milan said. “We didn’t talk about naked women. We talked about the love of God and loving each other and at that time it wasn’t a popular message. I guess we were a little too wholesome.”
Suddenly Blaze went from superstar to pauper.
“It was a reality check. I realized I was not a superstar even though I met celebrities and ate with them, but Motown didn’t want to be bothered. It was hurtful to us. It was like we were not good enough,” Milan recalled.
Instead of wallowing in self-pity, Milan started Honey Comb Music in 2009.
“The only hard part of starting the record label was the learning curve that I had to face. As artists we love to go into the studio and lay down a track, but picking up a book and reading about something is hard for us,” he said.
The first release from Honey Comb Music will be a compilation CD set to drop this month. The first single features ChinahBlac, an artist who has toured with Erykah Badu and Jill Scott. Her voice can only be compared to Chaka Kahn.
Milan will release his own solo project in early 2011.
“I’d like to remind people that there are options out there and there are some really talented people out there,” Milan said.