After his memorable Top 5 (that was real rare stuff!), our friend Julien from Digger’s Digest is back to chat with us about his label (Digger’s Digest) and his numerous compilation projects with french labels Born Bad and Heavenly Sweetness! Fresh and not always politically correct, we did not expect less from our fellow digger!
When did you start digging records?
It started with Purple Rain on 7 inch by Prince when I was 8, then I discovered Yo MTV rap and asked my father to offer me the ‘3 Feet High and Rising’ De La Soul cassette when I was 11. I then stole Rap and Grunge CD’s at my local supermarket at 14 and spent a short period in jail ! At 17 I sold my indie pop rock CD’s and Hip-hop K7 collections to buy hip-hop 12 inches and seriously started looking for samples and rarities in every style around, that was in my 20’s.
What LP’s did you buy at first? Do you still listen to them?
I have sold most of my personal records but I constantly tend to buy them back! I would say A Tribe Called Quest ‘Midnight Marauders’ I bought when I was 16. I have discovered many others records thanks to hip-hop music ! Also The Donald Byrd album ‘New Perspective’ on Blue Note, i kept borrowing from my older brother who had good musical taste in the past!
Do you have a particular style or favorite period?
Not really, I’m mainly collecting jazz and music from the West Indies from every period but like many other kids i started discovering black music (soul/funk) through hip-hop samples. I think it gave me a wider taste but I loved many styles so I couldn’t stay stuck in the 70’s. I love post punk, electronic avant garde music, weirdo concept albums, soundtracks, deviant 7 inches! I also try to listen to what’s new, and since there is so much music released today, it would be a shame to be only focused on the past!
Are you still diggin’, buying vinyl, visiting record shops?
Yes but not in the same way as 10 years ago, when I was digging everyday! Now it’s a bit different, the digging game has constantly changed over the last 10 years, prices have exploded but I still try to go everywhere to buy records, for my on-line shop and for my personal collection.
What was your first release on Digger’s Diggest? Why did you decide to start a label?
My first release (in co-production with Frenchattack) was ‘Rupture : Israel Suite’, the ultra rare vocal funky pop jazz album by jazz drummer Sylvain Krief (known as Airto Fogo). This record was first discovered by Gwen Jamois (Iueke) but Gwen kept it secret! Record detective Thomas Pasquet finally found out the name of this killer record that has gained cult status! As far as I remember when I finished school I always wanted to start a label, but after a short brief experience in a major company I decided to do something else! But I’ve always had the idea in mind. Now 20 years later I think that when you are a passionate collector/dealer, reissuing records is the logical next step. See how many private collectors/record stores start a label.
What could be your editorial/aesthetic line?
It is definitely around jazz but has to be a record with a singular aesthetic, jazz tinged with a particular sound like modern Gwo Ka and Fusion for Edmony Krater, Vocal Funky Jazz for ‘Israel Suite’ or African / Arabic / Mediterranean influences on Cossi Anatz, our next release. I release records i particularly love, that have something different. It’s not only the music, the story of the men behind the records is also very important to me. I could not reissue a record if the musician behind is a complete asshole! It’s all about human relationships.
What could be the label’s leitmotif?
I try to release music that I love, that is still unknown to the general public, and deserves a bigger audience or simply an audience!
What is the Digger’s Diggest LP you are prouder?
I don’t know … maybe the Edmony Krater album, as I discovered the record by myself in my local flea market, 11 years ago, I particularly like it, and when I met Edmony we really got along, we had the same vision of music! Also because Edmony is now touring again with a band playing live his ‘Tijan Pou Vélo’ for a younger generation. He is still really active, composing and recording new music for 2017!
I’m also happy with Israel Suite ‘Rupture’ release as it became the anthem for every Gilles Peterson DJ set in 2015: «Amis à bientôt, ici la vie est bonnnnnnneeee … shalom!»
Did you have any reference labels?
Of course I’m a fan of numerous labels like all the big american labels ! I love the identity they gave to music business in the 50’s/60’s/70’s. I would say Atlantic, Motown, Stax, Strata East and El Saturn. In France I love the catalogues and identity of Barclay / Riviera / Odeon / Ducretet Thomson or Emi/Pathé ! Also Debs, Aux Ondes, 3A Production and Hit Parade for the French caribbean music !
You work mainly with two other labels. Why this choice?
It is more a matter of encounters than a choice, I met JB & Franck around 11 years ago at the same time while looking for records. I was surprised they knew about my website !
We talked about the projects we had. JB borrowed some records from me for some of his projects. The collaboration between Born Bad Rec and DD really started with the discovery of the famous ‘Mariage Collectif’ unreleased album, which I had no idea how to release it. JB came and told me he really wanted to do it and offered me a super fair deal !
And how do you divide your collaborations between Born Bad Records and Heavenly Sweetness?
I would say with Franck (HS) it is more about Deep Jazz, Caribbean Jazz, Rare grooves and now Boogie, Zouk and Electronic. My expertise with Born Bad is more around late 60’s / 70’s french sounds (Marriage Collectif and Mobilisation Générale).
You released Digital Zandoli on K7. Just for fun or is there a real business for this kind of support?
Both! I did it because I didn’t want it to be a simple mix lost in the soundcloud and mix cloudcharts! I wanted my friends that still have a tape player in their cars to listen to it ! It is also a tribute to the hip-hop mixtape culture I was into in the mid 90’s (Tony Touch / Cut Killer / Stretch Armstrong / DJ Revolution…). It was also a real promo tool for the official project we released on Heavenly Sweetness. Not a real business because we made only 50 copies of the first mix and 75 copies of the 2nd. Sold out quickly!
There’s a second volume on K7. Will you do it on LP soon?
On both mixtapes, Volume 1 and 2, the track-listings are completely different from the LP & CD released on Heavenly Sweetness. There are almost 30 tracks on each tape from very obscure records. I put the 1st side of each tape on soundcloud for free streaming. If you want the tracklist and the B side you need to buy the cassette! Plus it is a real mixtape with edited parts, scratches, sequenced tracks. By releasing this mixtape it was more a way to prepare the audience to Zouk and Caribbean Electronic Music, a genre they might not know!
You issue original LPs, but also compilations. Are these two different approaches? Do you feel you are touching the same audience?
For my projects I’m only doing 500 copies which are distributed in selected stores across Europe. So of course the audience is smaller ! For the compilations, the labels I’m working with release them on LP/CD and digital/streaming so of course it now touches a worldwide audience ! Also for the compilations we try to tell a story to the listener. It is very important that a compilation is not just a sum of good tracks pressed on a record but, for example, a showcase of how a musical style is created…
You attach big importance to liner notes, information. Is this what makes the difference between the many compilations on the market today?
A compilation without liners notes is pretty useless! For the same reasons as before. Anyway when you ask for the rights for some tracks, you can always find some information.
When we know the cost of advances on royalties, is it increasingly difficult to make compilations?
Ask my producers! But yes you have to spend a nice amount of money to get some licences. Sometimes it is very easy because the artist is really happy that his project gets a new life. But yes it is more expensive to release compilations with severals labels and artists than doing a simple fac simile reissue or label compilation.
You are about to reissue a record by trumpet player Michel Marre : Cossi Anatz. Why such a choice? And can you think of any similar projects for the future?
Yes! My friend mister Flash showed me this record 15 years ago and I always loved the music, the cover and the whole concept of Jazz mixed with Occitan southern culture, afro and arabic sounds, and I felt that it would be logic to release this record after Edmony Krater as it is a kind of jazz that people don’t really listen to because they simply don’t have access to it. Cossi Anatz drummer René Nan played with Marius Cultier in the early 70’s, Michel Marre played in the Tusques’ Intercommunal Free Dance Orchestra. So it was logic to me that this record would fit in the catalog I’m trying to build. The OG copies are now ultra expensive (300 € and more) so it is a good thing to make it available again. And yes, I have the Georges Edouard Nouel ‘Chodo’ LP that we have just signed.
Most of Digger’s Digest releases are jazz or french west-indies LP’s. Any particular reasons?
Yes I really want to defend our legacy! The leitmotiv would be more music from anywhere but produced in France. I mean the question of France or not is not relevant to me since the music we have reissued has influences from everywhere Middle East, North Africa, Africa, West Indies, the US. I have an easier access to obscure french records than any others countries. And to say the truth I think we are pretty lucky in France considering the vast production… Jazz, it is simply because this is the basis of everything I’m listening to today!
Nowadays, there are many LP labels who follow this model, I mean more quality even if it’s more expensive… but at same time, there is also another «new» LP market, with major companies coming back and other labels, who prefer to sell cheaper. Is it the (re)creation of two camps for the LP?
Majors companies were late in this reissue fever, they have now understood they could exploit their vast catalog trying desperately to relaunch vinyl as a mass market thing but I think it’s an economic bubble. You see the same big selling pop rock records in the past reissued at huge quantities. Result is the pressing delivery schedule are very long for most of the small labels. Also on the small labels everything is reissued, there are the good ones and the unrelevant ones in my opinion. Once a record is hyped by the right person, you can be sure it will be reissued within a few months.
Digger’s Digest reissue LP’s are limited editions, is it due to the market size or a real policy to keep them rare?
I would say for both reasons. For ‘Israel Suite’, my 1st release, i would never have thought it would be so looked after. I.S was the 1st release I produced so I wanted to limit the risks by pressing only 500. Also this record was only known by an handful of collectors and only heard as limited audience since we have compiled it on ‘Freedom Jazz France’. I also think it’s useless to release in one run 1000 copies of a record that is look after by just 10 people.
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?
I think we’ve already reached this point! For example see what a so-called official label like PMG is doing on the market, cheap mastering, pressing and covers, no infos, a batch of 20 records in one shot on the market. They might make some money now but I bet it won’t last. I don’t even want to talk about the bootleggers… Meanwhile it always exists. Buyers and collectors are overwhelmed by new reissue labels, and also fed up with cheap quality. My goal when I do a reissue is to go further, try to tell the story of the record, with its context, maybe more photographic material, bring testimony from the past. I don’t reissue a record because it’s worth a 3 digit numbers.
What are your other next releases?
Reissues of Cossi Anatz / José Manclière / Georges Edouard Nouel on Digger’s Digest.
‘Disk La Rayé’ a West Indies Boogaloo Compilation with Born Bad
‘Digital Zandoli Part 2’, with Nico Skliris, and ‘Kouté Jazz Part 2’ with Heavenly Sweetness.
I’m also launching a brand new project/label outside of DD with a friend but this will be a big surprise soon hopefully!
What is the LP you dream of issuing/reissuing?
I don’t know I think It would be more producing than issuing, maybe a crazy hybrid record that gathers all the sound influences I like ! Jazz, Afro, West Indies, Brazil, Latin, Electronic Synthetic music and a bit of Soul and Funk ! If you have any suggestion, please send me your demo!