If Dane Bowers sounds sure of himself, he has every right to. He's already established himself as potent musical force, having written and fronted True Stepper's brace of Top Five hits, Buggin' and Out Of Your Mind, which featured Spice Girl Victoria Beckham.
Classic R&B-flavoured song-writing twinned with fierce underground garage production, the tracks are merely a warm up for Dane's much anticipated solo album, due next year. "People are probably expecting it to be garage," says Dane, "but the sound is, basically, R&B pop." Of the highest order, obviously, with the likes of Dallas Austin (TLC, Madonna) Harvey Mason (protege of super producer Rodney Jerkins), Wyclef Jean and Jerry "Wonder" Duplessis (The Fugees, Whitney Houston, Destiny's Child) all chipping in. Then there's the track, "Maybe I Should" Bowers has co-written for US diva Faith Evans, for next year's blockbuster adaptation of Helen Fielding's novel "Bridget Jones" Diary.
All of which suggests the arrival of a significant talent, although not an entirely new one. Until this summer Dane anchored the hugely successful, and influential, R&B quartet Another Level. Britain might currently be in the grip of an R&B explosion but it was Another Level who helped pave the way, with seven top ten singles in two years, including 1998's number one "Freak Me" and a platinum selling, self-titled debut album. 1999's gold-selling Nexus followed, along with BRIT award nominations and the opening slot on Janet Jackson's European tour. Mixing R&B swagger with pop suss, Another Level were, as their achievements indicate, a sensation.
"R&B is massive in Britain now, but at the time we were the only ones doing that," he says. "It wasn't down to us alone, but we helped open the door." It couldn't last of course, with the band eventually dissolving over several months. "It was naturally too hard, to suddenly go from a four piece to just the two of us." So now there's just him. Why does Dane think he's the only one of the group still striving? "I want it more," he says.
Born and raised in Croydon, Dane describes his younger self as, "A bit of a show off, the joker of the class." The desire to be centre of attention was furthered by teenage spells as a DJ, including precocious, playing weekend slots at Streatham Ice Rink. "Ten pounds an hour," he says, laughing at the memory. "When you're 14, 15, that's bloody good money." His soul DJ father inspired Dane's antics.
"He had decks up in the loft so I got my own set," he says. "I even had the lights and the little smoke machines. I was a mobile DJ basically. Did I play any weddings? (laughs) No, not weddings. Actually they're really difficult to do. You've got absolutely every type of person there, so it's a nightmare to know what to play.
" As far as singing is concerned, Dane trained his vocal chords by accompanying the Stevie Wonder and Al Green records in his father's collection.
"I couldn't sing as high as either of them back then, but I'd try," he says "I still test myself by singing along with stuff, actually. I remember a few years ago, when Joe's "All The Things Your Man Won't Do" came out, I'd try to match the high notes on that, 'cos they're really high. I tried it again a few months ago and I can get there now. And go higher."
More than anything, the success of Buggin' and Out Of Your Mind proved Dane's worth as a songwriter. The latter however, was something else, a thrilling collision of song, underground dance beats and premier league pop flash courtesy of guest vocalist Victoria Beckham.
"That song was about putting those extremes together," he says. "I wanted to prove that I've got talent and, with True Steppers and Victoria, we could put a pop artist on an underground song. And we did it." Inevitably high profile, the track and its ensuing success help give Dane back his taste for the pop life, boosted by stints presenting both SH TV and Select on Sky, the latter attracting its biggest ever viewing figures with Dane at the helm. But mostly, he's continued to write hard ever since, knuckling down in anticipation of that solo debut.