Born as Sonia Clarke in North London’s Crouch End, England on June 21st, 1968 and also raised there. Sonique’s formative years were infused with the sounds of her mums’s record collection. Every Sunday the house would be filled with the sounds of Marvin Gaye, Roberta Flack, Gladys Knight, Otis Redding and Denice Williams. “That was the day for loud music, cleaning and nice-smelling food being cooked”, she recalls fondly. However, it was her own discovery that was most meaningful. “Music is something you’re born with,” says Sonique. “I’ve always had this thing in me. The first record I bought was Donna Summer’s «I Feel Love», and that was the beginning of my life and my musical experience. It reached a part of me other things didn’t reach. I had known then that this is the music I like and I never left” she recalls. But had things been different one defining day during Sonique’s teenage years, we may never have heard her own music at all. From the age of six, little Sonia had serious designs on the world of professional athletics. Still in possession of a superfit physique, Sonique explains: “I dreamed of being the world’s best pentathlete. Trained every single day. I guess I was pretty obsessed.” But, at the age of 15, all that came to an abrupt halt: “I came second in a race”, she says matter-of-factly. “Wasn’t used to losing.” Which pretty much sums up Sonique’s life philosophy: Be the best or don’t bother. With her music career, she’s certainly put that theory into practice.
At the age of 17, a youth-worker told Sonique she had a beautiful voice, it was natural to apply her characteristic. A few months later, circumstances conspired against her and she wound up homeless, surviving on crisps and sleeping on mates’ floors and – when those ran out – the streets. “That made me realise life wasn’t a joke – I could have died on the street.” She figured it was time to take things more seriously and, with Fari disbanded, promptly went about getting herself a record deal.
FIRST EXPERIENCES AS A RECORDING ARTISTE
Sonique’s career as a recording artist began when she was signed to cooltempodetermination to making music instead. She had joined a reggae band called Fari which did more than hone her singing skills. “I thought they’d already have some tunes for me to sing”, Sonique laughs at the memory, “but, when I turned up the first day, the rest of the band were like, ‘So – brought some songs?’ They hadn’t written a note between them!” Cue a crash course for Sonique in song-writing. The band was also what kept her going through what was to turn into one of the toughest periods of Sonique’s life. Her mum had just returned to her native Trinidad to re-marry. Being the eldest of three with no father figure around, Sonique thought she’d already learned to look after herself and insisted on staying behind. Records while still a teenager, resulting in an immediate club hit with «Let Me Hold You». The record entered the top 25 in the UK dance charts without any promotion. It was Ernie McKone, an old school-friend with connections to the music industry, who offered to write with her this song. Later, on Bass-O-Matic’s debut album Sonique earned a credit for the track «Zombie Mantra». She began writing more songs and was put in touch with Tim Simenon (Bomb The Bass). They recorded some tracks together but, before they could even be released, his mate, a certain Mark Moore, poached her for his own project. However, it was both as the singer and a songwriter for Mark Moore’s S’Express that Sonique first entered the limelight, featuring on the minor hits «Nothing to lose» and «Find ’em, Fool ’em, Forget ’em» in 1990 and 1992, respectively. “S..Express needed a singer and a songwriter, so I was asked to collaborate on the album «Intercourse», and I created my own style and identity,” she says. “I didn’t realize what was happening, but I was proving myself. S’Express taught me I could command a stage and from Mark I really learned how to write – he’s a very clever songwriter.” But, after finishing this project, Sonique decided to go it alone. “I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do, I just knew I wanted people to look at me, listen to me, feel me, relate to what I was doing – every- thing.” It was Mark Moore who gave her the first turntables and a mixer too.
STARTING A DJ CAREER
“It was about taking control of my life. A lot people wanted me to sing for them but I wanted to do my own thing and when I saw Mark DJ-ing, I thought it looked so cool and decided, ‘I want some of that.’ And you know what? I was dreadful!” But, in true Sonique style, that was no deterrent. With the same determination and precision that she applied to earlier achievements as an athlete, Sonique trained to be a DJ for a full three years at home before stepping out in 1994. “I’d seen him do it so I knew it was physically possible”, she grins. “I knew I had to be really good as soon as I started. I am a woman, and I felt people were waiting to laugh at a woman who made mistakes. They wanted to see what I’d do next. Then I broke all records for the rate of success as a DJ. I was pulling in the crowd, making everybody dance. The party would turn into something else.” To get work in the highly competitive DJ world, she’d tell bookers about her singing ability. Singing and DJ-ing and being a woman was quite a sensation at the time. “I knew once they’d heard and seen me, they’d want more.” And she was right. Sonique has since made her mark as a DJ, partly helped by her unique improvised singing over her own uptempo House sets at clubs such as Cream in Liverpool, Gatecrasher in Sheffield, and Manumission in Ibiza (where she was a resident DJ from 1997 – 1999), but also in Germany, USA, Singapore, Hongkong, Jamaica, Australia, Italy and Norway. This connection with global music fans strengthened her own understanding of what people like and how it affects them. “In England the pop records start at the clubs,” she explains. “You hear the mix in the clubs first. Being a DJ helps me to see what people want when they go out partying.” Sonique’s unique skills are spellbound on a number of UK compilations, including “Introspective of House”, “Third Dimension” (both 1997), “Fantazia British Anthems & Summertime” (1998) and the Serious/Virgin release entitled “Serious Sounds of Sonique” (February 2000). The latest pearl in this chain is the double CD “DJ Sonique – Club Mix” (out since July 9, 2001). Sonique provided half-an-hour hot mixes on Pete Tong’s show on BBC Radio One. She has had the “Full Frontal” show on KISS FM and Skyline Radio London broadcasted live DJ and vocal sets of Sonique.
THE HIT RECORDS
In the meantime Sonique enjoyed two club and dance music chart hits with “I Put A Spell On You” and “It Feels So Good” on Manifesto Records. “Spell ” was originally released in the UK in June 1998 and peaked at 36 in the official single charts while “It Feels So Good”, charted in December the same year, climbed up to 24. The track has grown to a mainstream hit in the US, breaking into the national Top 10, and belatedly gave her a UK chart-topper in May 2000. On its first week of release it sold 195,000 copies, compared with the 32,000 total of the first time around. Across the pond in the US a club DJ in Tampa, Florida began spinning her song from an import 12″ before several other clubs in the US joined in. This led to explosive requests for the song at radio and retail, so Republic Records jumped in and signed Sonique right away. Pushed by the tremendous success of this single she finished her debut solo album “Hear my cry” in 2000, which spawned the next single release “Sky” – another excellent example of Sonique’s talent for writing crowd-pleasing anthems. The record debuted at its peak at 2 in the UK single charts in September, followed by the re-release of “I Put A Spell On You” which peaked at 8 in November 2000. “Hear my cry” went on to become the UK’s 42nd best selling album in 2000 – while the single “It Feels So Good” became the 3rd best seller in 2000. “Sky” and “I Put A Spell On You” became 70th respectively 179th best seller in the UK the same year. Her debut album has now sold over half a million albums in the UK alone. Furthermore Sonique was recognised by the Guinness Book Of Records as the first female solo artist to be 1 for 3 consecutive weeks – the first in 22 years since Kate Bush’s “Wuthering Heights” in 1978. With these successful single releases and a UK top ten album in her hand, Sonique topped other respectable nominees like Dido, Jamelia, PJ Harvey and Sade at the Brit Awards 2001 to win the honour as Best British Female Solo Artist.