Gagging for those new remixes of Annie Lennox or Deborah Cox or Monica?
J Records’ Hosh Gureli is theman who makes them all possible.
by Matt Kalkhoff

Tucked away in a cozy, dimly lit office nestled within the contemporary confines of J Records’ swanky Fifth Avenue headquarters sits a man whose name you might not recognize. That is, of course, unless you’re intimately involved in the music business or happen to be a devoted dance music aficionado.

His employer calls him Vice President of A&R, GlobalDance.net once ranked him as the #1 most influential person in U.S. dance music (alongside his former Arista Records colleague Danny Coniglio), and artists like Christina Aguilera, Annie Lennox and Deborah Cox rely on him to take their records to the top of Billboard’s dance charts. His name is Hosh Gureli, and you can thank him for helping keep dance music relevant in America. Some might even call him dance music’s messiah.

Born and raised in Middletown, New York, Gureli earned his first paycheck as a clerk at Record World when he was 16. While later working post-college in Boston at a “stupid job putting pieces into computer chip boards,” Gureli kept his sanity by DJing one night a week. Once he built up his weekly DJ gigs -- which included a coveted residency at the Metro (now Avalon) -- Gureli shed the computer geek thing and quickly became the hottest commodity on Boston’s burgeoning club scene. Not believing at the time that a DJ could sustain a lucrative career (who did in the early 80s?), he moved to San Francisco where he landed a high-profile five-year stint as KMEL’s music director.

“I feel comfortable saying that I kind of brought house music to San Francisco,” boasts Gureli, referring to his impact on radio and in the club scene via his live sets at the Bay Area’s largest gay dance venue, Colossus (now 1015 Folsom). Despite his professional success, though, Gureli was homesick. “I felt that I really made a nice impact on San Francisco, and I had the best time,” he recalls. “But I grew up in the New York area, so I wanted to return home.”

Back in New York, It was ultimately Arista Records guru Clive Davis (now of J Records/RCA Music Group) who recruited him into A&R in 1993, right at the beginning of Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” madness -- an artist with whom he would later forge a mutually beneficial bond.

“My love of dance music just naturally [led] me to start doing dance mixes,” Gureli remembers of his early days in A&R. “I did things differently than other labels [at the time]. I looked at each remix as a regular production, and just got in there with different talents and all my energy trying to make a hit record.”
His efforts paid off. When Gureli hired Chris Cox and Barry Harris of Thunderpuss to remix “It’s Not Right, But It’s Okay” in 1999, not only did he launch their careers into the stratosphere, but he also helped Houston score one of the biggest dance records of her career. (He later brought in Junior Vasquez to restyle another of her powerhouse anthems, “I Learned From the Best.”) And then there’s the diva’s surprise performance at the 1998 Pier Dance on Gay Pride Weekend which Gureli coordinated (and still refers to as “one of the highlights of my life”)?

Speaking of divas, Gureli used to fly back to New York every couple months while living in San Francisco specifically to attend Vasquez’s legendary parties at Sound Factory. When the infamous DJ approached him one night at Miami’s Warsaw Ballroom to ask about doing an Annie Lennox remix, Gureli considered it an honor. “No More I Love You’s” resulted from the encounter, and a long-standing (albeit at times turbulent) relationship was born. “He’s definitely the toughest critic,” Vasquez reveals. “Sometimes he drives me crazy flip-flopping with all sorts of comments and ‘recalls,’ but he’s definitely the best in his league.”

Deborah Cox agrees (at least about the last part), adding that Gureli’s “incredible instincts for the feel of a record” and his “connection to the pulse of the music” are key to his numerous accomplishments. “It really is nice working with someone who is open to new ideas and setting trends,” says mother-to-be Cox. “We’ve had incredible success together in dance music, and I know I couldn’t have done it without his help.”
Gureli enjoys a very close relationship with Cox that -- thanks to remixes he’s commissioned from Hex Hector, Vasquez, Hani, Johnny Vicious and others -- has so far yielded seven #1 Billboard dance hits. Gureli’s also spearheading a Deborah Cox remix album that will feature fresh interpretations of all her hits continuously mixed in reverse chronological order (beginning with her latest, a cover of Phil Collins’ “Something Happened on the Way to Heaven”). Al B. Rich (aka WKTU’s “DJ Riddler”) has been recruited to mix the CD, which is slated for release on July 22nd.

In addition to the Deborah Cox remix project, Gureli is still basking in the glory of Peter Rauhofer’s destined-to-be-classic version of Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful.” He’s also scored well with promotional remixes for Deborah Cox’s “Play Your Part” and Scumfrog’s retooling of Monica’s “So Gone,” both of which are in the Top 5 on this week’s Billboard Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart. Gureli also just gave the green light on Norty Cotto’s new remix of Lisa Stansfield’s “Been Around the World” and Heather Headley’s “I Wish I Wasn’t” maxi-single.

The ambitious A&R exec is also quite pleased that the version of Annie Lennox’s new single, “Pavement Cracks,” that he did with Mac Quayle is going straight to Top 40. But he’s even more excited that QED’s cover of Def Leppard’s “Love Bites” has moved into power rotation on Miami’s Party 93.1 WPYM. After all, QED is one of Gureli’s discoveries, and this record is the first release on his own label, Siren Entertainment, a side venture he is pursuing with his employer’s blessing.

If Hosh Gureli’s track record and current releases were the sole indicators, one might think that the U.S. dance music industry is thriving. But the truth is that the genre has always struggled to some degree for acceptance in America. And technology continues to far outpace the industry’s response to it. Yet Gureli is optimistic.

“We’re going through some rough times right now,” he admits. “You can’t stop technology. You’ve just got to figure out a way to profit from it. We’ve got to stick together. And don’t just look at dance music as a small, narrow category. Look at the big picture. I really believe dance music has a good future.”

© 2003 Matt Kalkhoff
June 27, 2003 (Gay Pride) issue of Next magazine