A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to interview Mohammed George, formerly known Gus from the Eastenders TV soap opera, and Dax O’Callaghan, one-fifth of the Euro boy band Lexington Bridge about their collaboration on the funky and uplifting track 'Broken' (2009). With Dax singing a haunting hook and Mohammed spitting some poignant bars, it has been getting “ridiculous reactions” from people who love the message within the single.
I could hear the collective “what?” as you read Mohammed George spits bars, but he does. Also, currently a successful DJ on the club circuits here and abroad, he has been a lot busier than you may have thought.
Meeting them at a Mayfair hotel, the collaboration initially does not seem to fit – ex-Eastenders star with the gruff London accent and the boy band member. It’s like the Queen giving you a history of the beginnings of jungle music - you just don’t expect it.
But their mutual friendship was the foundation states Dax: “It is weird to explain in tangible terms really. I had not heard that much about Mo’s story because I was away with the group in Europe. But when I eventually found out properly and being his friend, I understood the feeling more of what he went through.
“Trying to prove yourself against something that is a lot bigger and you feel like giving up, and so it kind of inspired me. And so I wrote the song and Mo got it and he dropped some verses on it.”
In 2006 Mohammed was arrested for allegedly beating up his girlfriend. The allegations were unfounded, but the media circus had the story and proceeded to tear Mo apart. His subsequent suspension from the show by higher management proved to be the proverbial nail. “As far as I was concerned, I felt that it was a bit harsh to suspend me, because other people have been in predicaments and they continued working. But I expect it is just one of those things,” reflects Mohammed.
He eventually did return to Eastenders, but with his character already playing only a small part in the soap, Mohammed eventually felt that he had to call an end to his career on the show.
“I had not been happy for a good few years in truth, because I am the sort of person that wants to perform. I want to be used and my character was not really getting much stories and even people who play certain characters in Eastenders who had been there for years were like: ‘I thought you would have left a long time ago’,” continues Mohammed. “As a performer, I want to be challenged and that was not happening and so I had a meeting with them and we reached a mutual agreement.”
Admittedly, like most people, I had presumed he had disappeared into obscurity after the soap. But during the twilight of his career at the soap, his love of music was rekindled.
“Music is definitely something I always wanted to do,” enthuses the actor and budding singer. “In between my times on the set of Eastenders, I would be in my dressing room just writing lyrics. Because I come from a musical background, having worked on a pirate station just before Eastenders. So music was always going to be something that I would be coming back to. I was never going to be in Eastenders forever.”
The friendship between Dax and Mo is clear, as compliments, regarding each other fly about like confetti at a wedding. The ‘Broken’ single is meant to be an “inspirational” track for all of those going through hard battles. For Mo, who eventually won £75,000 from The Sun in his libel case, the track written and produced by Dax, was the perfect single to portray the turbulent last two and a half years for him.
“It is just the message for people not to give up. I think that is very important,” he says. “From my predicament, people were like: ‘Mo, this is costing you a lot of money’. I had put my house up, basically everything. If I had lost, I would have lost everything - three quarters of a million.
“As an artist or a performer, it helps if you have an outlet. So when I heard the song, I remember saying to Dax, just email all the words. So when I heard all the words about pain, tragedy and being broken, I just wrote about all my pain and agony, and how I came out of it. But all people can relate to the track. Me,
personally however, I did not give up, and so that is what I wanted to say to others in the track.”
With that message in mind, the track as been taken on to spearhead for the Ben Kinsella Trust, which was set up by fellow Eastenders star Brooke Kinsella, whose brother was stabbed to death.
For Dax, the other aim of the track is clear: “We hope that track will give hope to families affected by the violence on the UK streets.”
With the single out now (on download only) and plans for a video to accompany the single in progress, the uplifting single represents the beginning of his musical career and he has some big plans. “I would love to put an album together,” continues Mohammed. “I have been writing for so long that I have got a lot of material, and so that is really something I am looking to do. I definitely want to work with Dax on other projects”.
With notable friends in the music and collaborations with the successful Asher D in the pipeline, the future, as Orange may say, looks bright.
“We recorded a song, me, Ashley, Neutrino, my friend Gerry Don and Steve about school days, because we were all in the same class. So that is another track in the pipeline,” reveals Mohammed.
And what about his acting career I hear you ask? “I am doing a film with this guy Jason Burke, a new director. It is a romantic comedy and it has a good cast.”
With all the troubles that his fame caused him, he would be forgiven for shying away from the spotlight. But he reminds me very quickly why he got in the game: “Me personally, I just want people to hear what I can do really, and I am sure that is the same for Dax. We went to the Silvia Young School together and I never got into performing because I wanted to be rich or famous. I got into it because I am a performer.”