Each month, we are focusing on a record label founded by an active digger. This month, Hisham Mayet, co-founder and co-owner of Sublime Frequencies, a label which, since 2003, has been documenting many obscure scenes, from eastern psyche pop to sahel post folk, from ancient to more futuristic.
When did you start digging records?
Early 80’s, in my early teens.
What LPs did you buy at first?
I was buying punk and post punk LPs. Some early hardcore singles, stuff on SST (Meat Puppets, Minutemen, Black Flag, UK shit, early Cure, Joy Division, New Order, Mekons, Gang of Four, Wire…).
Do you still listen to them?
Not so much, but I still have most of it.
Do you have any particular style or favorite period?
I don’t have a particular style that I collect. I’m into so many styles and genres. I collect Calypso, Free Jazz, ethnographic records, international sounds from around the globe from the mid-50s to the mid 70s, late 60’s psych from around the world and 60’s/70’s Italian/Euro soundtracks and library LPs… The list is endless. My collection is staggering in its diversity.
Why Sublime Frequencies ?
I think it perfectly captures the mission of the label.
What was your first issue?
We released five titles at once. Three albums (‘Folk And Pop Sounds Of Sumatra Volume 1’, ‘Radio Java’, ‘Night Recordings From Bali’) and two DVDs (Nat Pwe: Burma’s Carnival Of Spirit Soul, by Alan & Richard Bishop, Jemaa El Fna: Morocco’s Rendez-vous Of The Dead by myself).
Were you at the beginning of story, with Alan Bishop ? How and when did you meet him ?
Yes, I approached Alan about the idea to start an ethnographic style label. When we discussed it further, we launched Sublime Frequencies officially in 2003. But, we had already been discussing and collecting for many years prior. I was a fanatical fan of Sun City Girls (Alan’s along with brother Richard and Charles Gocher’s unclassifiable musical universe for some 30 years)… We started communicating with some regularity in the mid-90’s.
What could be the editorial/esthetic line of the label ?
We release things we’re passionate about. We all have our own particular aesthetic and the collective is diversified enough to make it interesting moving forward.
What could be your leitmotif for the label?
I think our mission statement sums it up pretty well. « Sublime Frequencies is a collective of explorers dedicated to acquiring and exposing obscure sights and sounds from modern and traditional urban and rural frontiers via film and video, field recordings, radio and short wave transmissions, international folk and pop music, sound anomalies, and other forms of human and natural expression not documented sufficiently through all channels of academic research, the modern recording industry, media, or corporate foundations. »
How do you decide on the choice of reissues or new releases? Is it a team decision?
Alan and I often discuss and have a final say on what is released. We both have very similar tastes so there really is a unified vision moving forward.
Are you only focused on oriental/arabic music? or is it more complex ?
If you look at our discography, you’ll see that we are well beyond « oriental/arabic music ». We have outside of SF released (Alan with Abduction/Myself with Outernational/Assophon) over 100 other releases outside of SF. So, we – me as Alan – are not confined to certain geographic regions.
How did you discover musicians like Group Doueh ? Rumors? Listening to a tape?
All the rumors are true. I landed in a house in Dakhla un-annoucned and a cassette and boombox later, history was made.
Were you surprised by the success story of Dabke groover Omar Souleymane?
Yes we were. So much so that we decided he was too big for us.
Are you still digging, buying vinyl, visiting record shops?
Yep. Still digging. I’m writing from Trinidad now and just spent a day digging in a storage space. I was just in Paris and digging at Superfly. I know Paulo, Manu and Nico and have been shopping there over the years…
What is the best deal/business : to make reissue or to produce new records?
Are they two different jobs?
It can be. Re-issues sometimes deal with dead artists or defunct labels and their archives. Sometimes, there is a lot of missing informations when you are dealing with obscure material from a forgotten location. Lots of archeology in that process. Contemporary artists require a different approach and the variable can be much different. There is touring and new material and a host of logistics involved.
There are more and more reissues of old LPs. Do you think that the LP reissue market could ever reach saturation point?
I think there is a saturation point, but it is always exciting to see what coming out via the mafia of reissue labels. The production values are amazing as well. I don’t know as a collector, it is an exciting time. But then again as a collector it is always exciting!
What are your next releases ?
We are excited about the debut LP of Baba Commandant and the Mandingo Band and releasing Thai Pop Spectacular for the first time on vinyl.
What is the LP you dream of reissuing?
An 8 LPs boxset of Ennio Morricone conducting a pygmy orchestra playing free jazz.
Ni Ni Win Shwe
My Darlings Love Arrow