Interview: Karime Kendra
Date: December 2000
Location: The Pharmarcy, Notting Hill Gate, London
Words / interview: Des Berry
Photo: Dan King
2012: Setting the scene . I thought I would add a few more things from the “archives”. So here is the first of a few old bits. I really cannot remember anything about this interview other then it was at The Pharmarcy.
You might have seen her name and heard her voice alongside many a tune or read about her recent work with Red Snapper, but there is more to Karime Kendra then just another collaborator. Wrestling, strip joints and Roni Size puking in a bucket are just a few of the secrets to tell about this diva in waiting.
We’re in The Pharmacy, Damian Hirst’s restaurant in Notting Hill. There are no dead sheep hanging around, don’t worry. In fact its pretty dead and an ideal place to start spreading those secrets. The only trouble is every person coming in seems to be an old friend of Karime’s. “I actually used to work in here, but I had to stop. If I worked here I couldn’t party here.” Priorities, I like it.
Coming from LA five years ago after getting a deal with Talkin’ Loud, people kept calling her to fly over to the UK and work on various projects. Finally it made sense to settle in London. With subsequent changes at the label Karime fell victim to the usual release date stalling. But with fresh label backing and ideas we’re about ready to hear a new solo LP.
“I’ve been involved with so many projects.” Damn right. Everyone from the likes of Outside, Unsung Heroes, Landslide and Nigo have been touched by the hand of Kendra. However don’t go thinking that Karime is just another session singer.
“After the success of a track I did with DJ Die in ’97 everyone expects me to be drum ‘n’ bass diva. Even though I could have been financially better off I didn’t want to be another session singer. With the people I work with there is a mutual respect of each others previous work.”
“On the new Red Snapper LP there are two songs I co-wrote. One is the ‘Rough & The Quick’ and the other is ‘Shellpack'(?) Both are very different songs with the ‘Rough & the Quick’ being about sex.”
Right. “Yeah the lyrics go like this.. ‘Come on my tongue – lick my clit – rub a little bit of your spit – thats it’…the chorus, ‘I want the kind of night that I read about – you know the ones you find on the top shelf.’
With valentines day around the corner its definitely a song for the more romantics of people out there, then? Eat ya heart out 2 Live Crew!
Believe it or not Karime was an introvert as a kid. Growing up in a family where the mother was a successful Northern Soul singer and the father a producer, Karime’s voice was seen as squeaky and the least expected to follow the musical path.
“My break came when my agent heard me singing when I was wrestling”. What alongside the likes of Big Daddy, Giant Haystacks and some Saturday afternoon World of Sport tag team special?
“It was on American TV, but it was a show called Powerful Women of wrestling. No mud or anything like that. There were always the really cute looking girls. That was me! We were the smaller ones, quite sexy. Then there were big burly manly women like Matilda the Hun who at 6ft tall would eat raw meat. My name was Destiny. Initially I was a bad girl, but I turned against my tag team partner ‘Hot Rod Andy’ and became a good girl, a heroine.”
“I used to do the moves where you would jump on their shoulders and they would get pissed off so they fall backwards and drop you down. My left rib still clicks due to an injury and I’ve scratches under my eye.”
“I had an agent who said why don’t you do that, get used to doing auditions. I was athletic. I thought hell that would be cool. Make a grand a week. Get on TV. Do my thing. I’m gonna be a star anyway. So this could be the way. When you’re an entertainer you cut your teeth on whatever. I then sang one day and my boss heard me singing in the ring. After that I did backing vocals on a Herb Albert LP and then I really got a taste for it.”
So do any of the moves ever come in handy?
“When Ed (of Scenario Records and Karime’s man) is annoying me, we move the tables away, take off our rings and watches and I say, Ed, I’m gonna kick you ass.”
Even with the work coming in back in those early days in the UK Karime still had to fall back on other skills between studio time.
“I worked as a waitress at the Windmill club in Piccadilly, London. A strip joint. I was in there for 2 nights as a waitress, but I decided it was not the place for me. Like, I’ve seen strippers, but these women, fingers going everywhere and I’m like whoa. I realised I couldn’t get a tip. Because why give me a tip, while the girls are giving up the whole beaver show!”
Karime’s musical influences come from her family background, a love of female vocalists like Gladys Knight, Roberta Flak, Chrissie Hynde and Mary J Blige. Writers like Elton John and entertainers like Madonna and Michael Jackson.
“When I’m on stage I’m an entertainer. With the Red Snapper shows the front person needs to be full on.”
Recent sell out performances with the band will back that statement up.
“It was really wicked on stage. When the first stabs of the Rough & The Quick came on in Holland, I made a little joke about the women telling me that the men hadn’t been doing it right there. They hadn’t been satisfying them in bed. And the men cried “No its not true!’ and I replied, ‘well if it wasn’t true i wouldn’t have had to write this song’. They knew the song and started screaming. It was just the best time.”
Okay, so finally what’s all this about sickboy Roni?
“Well I’m old mates with Roni Size, Die & Krust and we (Red Snapper) were playing alongside them. It was also Roni & Die’s birthdays. So that night we just parted so hard. We were drinking champagne and smoking before the show. So then we both go and rock our crowd. They were nervous because I was there, but I was nervous because they were there. You can perform to thousands of people, but when you’ve got friends and family there its worse.
It was a great show and then we just partied! Champagne, blunts, tequila. Then Roni got so fucked he was puking in a bucket. He had to be carried out to the bus! First it was cool, Roni puked a bit and then suddenly he’s sitting on the floor. Luckily I turned my head and I see him about to heave again, getting him a bucket just in time.”
Sounds like a top night. True rock ‘n’ roll excess, but one you might want kept secret maybe? At least for Roni’s sake.
“Please put that in, but say Karime loves you Roni and Die. Happy Birthday, belated, but I had to tell that story cause it fuckin’ happened!! Roni puking in a bucket! Ha, Ha!”
Originally published in Breakin’ Point 05.02 March 2001