Jazzman is coming on really strong now, but has it ever been different? They've treated us to lots of great 7"s that helped us discover the hidden treasures of the 60's en 70's. Hans talks to Gerald, the man behind the Jazzman label, about the rare, the rarer and the rarest.
When was Jazzman Records founded?
Gerald: '1998 was the first Jazzman 7” release, although I’d been dealing records for many years before that.'
How many people ran the office back then, how many run it today?
G: 'Still only me, though some people work part time to help out.'
When did the different labels come into play?
G: 'FUNK45 started a few years later to concentrate solely on reissuing the world’s rarest funk 45s. The Stark Reality label started about the same time to release music made by artists who had been inspired by listening to proper good old stuff, not the shite that most musicians have been fed all their lives. No wonder so much music is rubbish these days.'
Is there a real-life Jazzman Records store as well? Or merely internet nowadays?
G: 'We used to have a store in Camden for several years, but we’re just online
What do you think initiated the whole revival of this funk-45 craze? Ten years ago you could go digging in Texas, while now it’s full of collectors?
G: 'Keb Darge started it all, he heard the records played that fell into the ‘rare groove’ category and thought ‘hold on a sec, that’s not rare and could do a LOT better than that’. Coming from a Northern background he had access to so many more records than you and I could, so he took the chance and played those records all over the world which turned a lot of people on. Collectors and DJs who are also popular figures, like DJ Shadow, are also very influential. '
How important was the emergency of the Internet?
G: 'Important enough for me to close my shop and work solely with the internet. I am not the only one, record shops all over the world are doing the same, all going online. It makes so much sense.'
Doesn’t it hold a certain paradox that in full digital era with podcasts etc. at the mean time the music is released on an old, outdated, format?
G: 'That’s like saying books and magazines are outdated cos everything you need to read is online. People like tangible things, things they can handle and possess and touch. As long as that is the case CDs and records will always be around. I see no value in music that is downloaded, and certainly no long term value, but records/cds have an inherent value.'
How do the collector market respond to the reissues? Don’t they sometimes despise you for releasing their so sought after Holy Grail?
G: 'Yes but I don’t care. I paid the artist for permission, it’s legal so what is the problem. They still have the record, it’s still as rare as it always was, so what is the worry. Does the owner of the Mona Lisa worry because 1000s of people have copies of it on their wall/calendar/postcard?'
What about clearing all the tracks? How long does it take?
G: 'Anything from 5 minutes to 5 years. It all depends how long it takes to find the copyright owner, and then make a deal with them. Mostly it takes a few months.'
I read Malcom Catto plays a big role on hunting down the original artists? Could you give some more info on him please? Who else?
G: 'Malcolm is a very talented drummer who was collecting funk 45s when Keb Darge was still wearing baggy trousers and spinning around the dancefloor to Northern soul records. He’s absorbed the drums of countless funk 45s into his own technique and I’d say he was the finest funk drummer in the world today. Having said that he is a very self-effacing person, despite having played drums for DJ Shadow etc. Anyway he has great knowledge on funk 45s, and he spends a lot of time on my behalf tracking down the artists who made them.'
What’s the deal (copyrights etc) with the original artists? How are the reactions when you visit them with final copies?
G: 'They can be anything from ‘oh, how much do we PAY you to reissue our records?’ to ‘look we want $10,000 upfront or no deal’. They are mostly individuals with little knowledge of how the business works, and those that do usually got shafted back in the day and they can be quite suspicious. It can take quite some time to finalise a deal.'
I recall from an interview with Miles Cleret that thanks to his reissues, and the fact that these traditional artists gained some fresh attention made the local youth look back to those days and resulted in the more traditional music being played again alongside modern music. Do you have similar stories? See the same thing happening?
G: 'Quite the opposite, if anything they don’t care about the ‘old’ stuff and are more interested in asking us if we want to release their new gospel CD.'
Has it happen that other labels were after recordings from the same artist/label as well? How does it work out then?
'Yes that is always a problem, so we try and keep in touch with other labels so that we don’t tread on each others’ toes.'
How do you explain the rather high price per seven inch? Is it a way to keep them limited and simply ask what the market can bear? Production costs for 7" are cheaper, but anyhow their price doensn't end up much under a twelve inch' price, which includes more music, artwork, etc..
'Prices for the 7"s take into account the high costs involved in researching the artists and copyright owners. Finding the artists in the USA often takes years, and the costs finding them is considerable!'
Where do jazzman records get pressed? I mean, you hear these stories about record pressing plants that do no longer invest and go bust. Do these stories hold a certain truth?
'We get our 45s pressed in Nashville USA.'
Talking urban legends, what is the craziest crate-digging related (false) story you heard?
'There are plenty of people with big egos and small record collections who claim this and claim that, things like ‘oh, years ago I had a box of those £1000 45s and sold them all for £4 each’, or ‘yes I have a copy of that £2000 45, it’s not here at home with all my other records, it’s in my storage unit’ type lies, but the best TRUE story is Jan from the Poets of Rhythm, who in 1990 found a box of Salt 45s (worth over £1000 each), and bought just 2 for $15 each from a store in New Orleans. When he realised what a big record it was he went back to the store for more, but they had all gone. Nobody knows where they went – probably all under water now.'
Do the CD’s get picked up heavily as well? Or does the jazzman public mainly remain vinyl adepts?
'I think they are a bit of both, CDs are convenient for the car or for home, but for DJing you can’t beat 7”s.'
Aren’t you afraid that after fifty releases you’ve covered all the rarities and that there’s an end on the tunnel. Or the danger to revert to the same type of music or the same scene that’s get over-profiled?
'I’ll just reissue the ones I did years ago and start all over again. Seriously, there are 1000s more to do.'
What’s the idea behind Stark Reality and the new recordings? Isn’t it too wide-ranging in combination with the re-issues and webshop?
'Kind of in that I don’t have enough time to dedicate to that label, and new stuff does demand a lot of time.'
How did DGZ & Baijka end up at Jazzman?
'I heard a cdr they’d recorded a few years back and contacted Max (the drummer with Poets of Rhythm) and asked him if I could release it. It took a year or so to get it organized, but it’s worth it.'
Tittyshakers! Damn.. I burst out in laughter hearing the name for the first time. When did you get into it? What’s the deal?
'I’ve been collecting them for ages now, it’s the music you hear on those ‘las Vegas Grind’ comps. I think Bones coined the term, that’s where I first heard it anyway. Typical thing for someone like him to come up with.'
The upcoming jazzman releases are pretty varied.. there’s texas funk, there’s northern soul, there’s boogaloo, british jazz/funk.. It must involve quite some managing to work on all these projects more or less at the same time?
'Despite the variation in styles it all fits one category – obscure yet fckin good music from the golden era of good music, the 60s & 70s.'
How important is deejaying for you?
'It’s the only time I get to hear my records loud and there’s nothing better than hearing music loud with a beer in your hand. Reaction of the audience is also important so I can see if I still have good taste!'
Which release got pick up better than you ever might have expected?
'Despite Nina Simone being a major star, I still never expected so many people to want the ‘Mosquitos Tweeter’ 7” we did. I always hope for the lesser-known artists to break through into something big, it might yet happen.'
Looking back over the years, which release was the hardest to realise?
'The ones from the major labels are always hard because 7”s are so small scale they usually can’t be bothered, which is understandable when you’re a huge company with major stars on your books to deal with. It took us years before they would even listen to what we wanted to do.'
The 'The World's Rarest Funk 45s' compilation presented by Quantic is now for sale at http://www.jazzmanrecords.co.uk
. Also definitely check the recent Bajka and Das Goldenes Zeitalter 12"s, 'cause those are awesome!