From Lyon to Paris, producer Pascal Rioux Aka Charles Maurice has been busy the last 20 years producing and reissuing quality music from deep house to disco, nu reggae to AOR, modern soul or French boogie! Time to go back to the complete story…
When did you start digging records?
As I am an “old-young” man born in 67, I started to buy records when I was 12-13 years old, around 1979, just like a lot of young kids. At that time, the difference compared to now was the format and I was also buying quite a lot of 7inches, most of them being commercial/mainstream Funk and Disco airing on radios before FM showed up in the 80’s.
What LPs did you buy at first? Do you still listen to them?
I remember my first 7inch was “Knock On Wood” by Amii Stewart! I can’t listen to that anymore, even drunk at a wedding. But I still have some records from that time, 70% were cheap commercial stuff, but some are good commercial music like “Take It To The Top”, “Ladies Night”, “Celebration” by Kool & the Gang, or bands like Earth Wind And Fire, George Duke or Gino Soccio. That early 80’s Disco-Funk sound was clearly commercial, everybody around me was listening to these stuff, however there were a lot of people more on the Rock side, with some stuff I liked by the way, but I was more naturally attracted by Dance music.
Do you have a particular style or favorite period?
My favorite period in term of production is the 70’s, when analog sounds reach the perfection not only in the US but also in Brazil, Europe and all parts of the world. I like early 80’s too, but only productions sounding and clearly infused with that 70’s touch.
The 90’s were also important for me, as it’s the period where, with Teddy Gilles, we started a record label call Disques Rotax in Lyon, getting involved in House production process! Both of us had our own home-studio then, and I did several 12inch on Rotax, but also some for Guidance Recordings (US), and 2 albums in 1999 and 2000 with Mr Day for Glasgow Underground (UK). 17 years later, I’m still working with Eric (Mr Day)! At that time, I was DJing pretty often, playing mostly Disco, House and Hip-Hop, but also some Brazilian productions (I discovered Brazilian music thru Patrick Forge and Gilles Peterson in 92-93) and Jazz-Funk. So I really start to collect records more seriously at that period.
Are you still digging, buying vinyl, visiting record shops?
Yes I’m buying records all the time, mostly second-hand records, but not only! In stores and also more and more through internet for stuff that are hard to find in some repertoire like Brazilian, AOR and some other rarities.
What was your first release on Favorite?
First Favorite Recordings release was a 12inch by Lee McDonald in 2005-2006. When I was producing music in the 90’s, we did a cover of a Lee MCDonald’s song called “Gotta Get Home” on our second album with Mr Day. I was a big fan of Lee McDonald’s album at that time, and I was buying a lot of this kind of Mellow Soul. Then I had the chance to get in contact with Ron Foster (who was playing keys in Ecstasy, Passion & Pain), the producer of Lee McDonald’s Sweet Magic album. So I went to meet him in Philadelphia in 2004, at a Soul music convention where I spent two days. He introduced me to some of his friends like Barbara Mason, Gene Chandler, Mandrill or The Escorts! Those are amazing ‘souvenirs’ and still in my mind like if it was yesterday.
During the weekend we had a long conversation and I asked him if he still had the stems of the Sweet Magic songs. The story started when he answered yes for the songs “We’ve Only Just Begun” and “I’ll Do Anything For You”. Thus the first release on Favorite was a single reissue of “We’ve Only Just Begun” with an exclusive extended version and a remix by TM Juke. That was in late 2005.
What could be your editorial/esthetic line?
My editorial line is very simple; there is no calculation, only music gives me the impulsion to do something. As long as I love the music, I’m keen to engage things and produce or release it. With that process, some of the records are selling well and some are not selling that much… But I’m always very proud of each release. So, music comes first of course, but sound quality is also very important to me. I give a lot of attention to drums recordings for example, and all the steps to the final mix. My goal is always to reach the sound quality of records I love. When vinyl was the only format, the “savoir-faire” and quality of the sound engineers reached the top! It’s quite hard nowadays to have that quality, but a few passionate (maybe a bit crazy) guys on this planet are working towards that. It’s the same when it comes to reissues. Unfortunately most of the time, the master owners we contact don’t have the tapes anymore. I’m also trying to bring the best from ripping the original vinyl copies with HI-FI high-end equipment, then doing mastering and cutting at the Carvery (UK) with Frank Merrit. He is really doing a great job in restoration, mastering and cutting.
What could be the label’s leitmotif?
Same thing I guess, the label’s leitmotif is quality music and great sound!
What is the Favorite LP you are prouder of?
All of them of course! More seriously, maybe some a bit less, but for the large majority I feel deeply proud and I’m even prouder to be friends with these talented guys, including some I’ve been working closely with for a long time now.
Did you have any references labels?
Clearly yes, but it would be difficult to name only a few as most of them are again from the 70’s. Quality at that time was the most important thing and many labels had their own studios and sound engineer, in order to do it better and faster. To maintain that cadence and that quality, you better have people knowing what they do. If you check musicians from many classics albums in that golden period (60’s, 70’s, early 80’s), they were often the same because they had to record an album fast and right… there was no possible digital recall or correction. So when the engineer pressed rec on the tape recorder, musicians had to be tight and together from the start to the end. To record each parts of a song on tapes, it takes you 2-3 hours a day just for the tape recorder logistic, so for producers, having the best musicians around was the best way to go fast in the recording process and to save money on studio costs. I’m also highly impressed and fascinated by most of the labels active at that time.
You’re working a lot since the beginning of the label with French producer Bruno ‘Patchwork’ Hovart (under his various names Voilaa, The Dynamics, …). What the next step?
Yes indeed and I think Bruno (Mr President, The Dynamics, Uptown Funk Empire, Voilaaa, Patchworks and many more…) is amongst the best producers from our generation in this kind of music. He plays almost every instrument and he produces fast and great, as he has his own studio, he can work whenever he wants. I sincerely hope that he will get an acknowledgment equal to his talent one day. There is not so many true producers like him nowadays.
Recently you re-released some AOR LP’s and compilations! what will be the next releases in that particular style?
Yes, I’m a huge fan of this style of music and period! We started the AOR Global Sounds series in 2015 and the third volume is coming out in a few weeks. The direction is still the same, 14 rare and obscure tracks influenced by the AOR and West Coast movement with a Disco and Soul flavor. Many of these great gems were produced through the USA, often by artists with a very short career. And it also includes some stunning tracks from Brazil, Sweden and Canada.
Otherwise, a new artist has been signed on Favorite under the name of Al Sunny, with a first album coming out in May. It’s clearly oriented in the same AOR/West Coast direction. I’ve met Al Sunny thanks to Florian Pellissier and I was immediately seduced by his voice and compositions. I think we’ve done a great job in recording and producing the album. It’s been mixed at studio “Question De Son” on an early 80’s SSL 4000. I’m pretty happy with the sound for a first album and hopefully people will feel the same…
Also in that direction and coming out this year is the third album of Lucas Arruda. The album is almost mixed and we also did it at “Question De Son”. Drums and others instruments have been recorded in Rio, by a guy who used to work with Lincoln Olivetti. To me, Lucas is a genius! He composes, plays and performs like very few musicians are able to do nowadays. You have to stay tuned on this album, it’s gonna be really massive!! I’m so proud to have this talented guy in our family.
Do you plan to extend you ‘boogie’ compilations to other countries (we’ve seen Brazil, France, West-Indies)?
There is no new country planned for now, but I intend to release ‘French Disco Boogie Sounds Vol.3’ in 2018 and I’d love to do another one on Brazil. I have already the track-listing in mind and I could think of many other volumes, but it’s a nightmare for the clearance. Anyway we have many other reissue projects in the pipes…
You are still releasing 12’’, is the market still big on that format, usually only bought by DJ’s ?
Yes DJ’s mostly, but anyway most of our records are sold to DJ’s, 12inch or LP. The single format is clearly not selling as it used to, following the explosion of digital and Serato. But when you have a great track and a dancefloor killer, there is still a market for it. Besides I think a new generation of DJ’s is getting back to vinyl format. Recently we’ve experienced some nice sales with 12inches and I hope it will continue…
Nowadays, there are many LP labels who follow this model, I mean more quality even if it’s more expensive… but in same time, there are also another « new » LP market, with major companies come-back and other labels, who prefer to sell cheaper. Is it the (re)creation of two camps for the LP?
Indeed, quality costs more, especially when you do it the right way, with official licenses, real treatment, quality mastering and proper packaging. These kinds of expenses have to be impacted on the price. Major companies don’t have those expenses, as they don’t have to license the music, they still have mastering and artwork, etc… So of course they are able to sell records cheaper. But I don’t see the point to reissue a classic album when you can get the original copy in great condition for the same price. So it’s not the same target. They are selling their reissues in chain stores, we are selling ours in independent record stores. DJ’s and collectors don’t go to chain stores anymore and that’s a good thing.
There are more and more reissues of old LP’s, and more and more record labels (major or indie) now release their new artists on LP, or EP. Do you think that the LP reissue market could ever reach saturation point?
No I don’t think so, as long as people buy turntables, they will need to put something on it. What I expect from them is to be addicted to vinyl format, which is the case most of the time when you realize that the sound is much better. Besides there is a kind of ritual with vinyl and it participates to the addiction. We are in a niche, but when the quality is here, it’s clearly possible to reach a few thousands of listeners and buyers. Independent record stores usually have good taste, so they need and keep on buying good quality music. The only marketing working in that niche is the quality, so a good LP will always sell.
What are your other next releases?
Additionally to AOR Global Sounds Vol.3 and Al Sunny, which I mentioned earlier, we’ll release the first album of Joao Selva. Joao is a native from Brazil who’s now based in Lyon and has been involved in various projects. He and Patchworks have quickly met and connect through their passion for music and they then produced a great album together. The album is titled ‘Natureza’ and it’s a trip, with influences of Jorge Ben and Caetano Veloso Tropicalism period, the intoxicating Funk of Tim Maia, and the social poetry of Vinicius de Moraes.
We’ll also reissue a rare self-titled album by Arian from the 80’s. He’s from Serbia and recorded this LP in New-York. It includes a track called “Your Love Makes Me A Winner”, which I love for a while.
There should also be a first single release from Lucas Arruda next album, and, just a few days ago, we’ve released the second album by Voilaaa, titled Des Promesses. Voilaaa is the Afro side of Bruno “Patchworks” Hovart and, as I said earlier, everything Bruno’s touching is gold!!
And however it will not be released before the summer, I’m also very excited about the new and third album by Andre Solomko for Favorite. He’s currently recording and mixing it and all the demos were just great!! It’s been now more than 4 years since we’ve started our collaboration with Andre and I’m genuinely honored to have him in our roster. His writing and composing skills are amazing and he’s also a real kind of geek when it comes to engineering (he’s an engineer himself), even building his own preamp and microphones. He grown up in Russia and has been fed during all his life with the analog production paths. I think he’s not able to produce and imagine his music another way.
What is the LP you dream of issuing/reissuing?
My dream is more into issuing great original music and trying to approach the quality sound of the golden analog years. Favorite will keep on going in that direction, aiming to do better and better with our own music. Reissue is cool, but you don’t own it and you cannot build something strong that will cross decades. I hope people will consider some of our own productions as classics in the future. It would be the best reward I can think of.