Photo by Xavier Popy
Each month, we are focusing on a record label founded by an active digger. This month, Bernard Ducayron from Le Souffle Continu, record shop and label, talked about his passion: music, from noisy impro to acoustic electro.
When did you start digging records?
My brother gave me Led Zeppelin’s “In Through The Outdoor” as a christmas present when I was thirteen, that was a shock ! I started digging / buying at sixteen.
What LP’s did you buy at first? Do you still listen to them?
As a kid, I was really into the hard rock/heavy metal scene, there was this NWOBHM (new wave of british heavy metal) thing at the time, I remember buying early Iron Maiden singles at Prisunic, then discovered Jukebox record store where you could find Kerrang magazine the bible for any heavy metal kid and all those crazy priced imports ! in the mid-eighties, Jukebox opened a second store dedicated to the more psyche / garage / acid sounds ; that’s the place where I discovered and dived into The Stooges, Velvet, the Real Kids, early Spacemen 3 stuff… the Stooges “Fun House” & MC5 opened the free jazz “Autobahn”, Sun Ra, Coltrane, Sanders, Ayler, I had to sell most of my heavy metal records then to get some money to buy second hand records. I still listen to most of these records.
Do you have a particular style or favorite period?
I don’t have a particular style, I mean when you grow up with music you get more and more open minded, I can listen to Eric B & Rakim, Peter Brötzmann, Black Sabbath, Funkadelic, Faust or Throbbing Gristle with the same pleasure!
Are you still digging, buying vinyl, visiting record shops?
I am still visiting record shops of course when I’m travelling and as a record dealer there’s something very special, a real pleasure in buying a record in another record store, but that becomes very rare as I don’t have much free time left.
Why did you choose this name, Souffle Continu, for your Record Shop and now for your label ?
Souffle Continu is the french word for circular breathing, a technique used by the Aborigines when playing the didjeridoo and some fantastic free jazz blowers like Evan Parker ; there’s also a meaning of resistance towards the decline of the record industry, we started the shop in 2008, we keep on breathing, fighting the good fight…
Until two years, you were more focused on CD, with only a few LP’s. Why did you decide to switch for only, more or less, vinyls?
We started eight years ago with 70% of CD because many of our customers at that time that were between 40 and 60 years old switched to CD in the mid-90’s and sold their entire vinyl collection! Most of them didn’t want to go back to vinyl. But the ever better evolving quality of downloads is slowly killing the CD format. You can easily resell your CD’s, or give it or even throw it so what’s the point of buying a CD when you can go for high quality downloads? As well, CD have never replaced the feeling of the vinyl, the sound, the artwork even the gesture of changing the side. All this leads to more and more vinyl production, and many new records are only available on vinyl format, so customers are naturally returning to the vinyl format because true lovers do not download!
You released at first 3 Heldon 45’s on Souffle Continu Records. Why this choice?
Richard Pinhas is a key figure in the french electronic underground and we’ve been friends for a long time. He had already signed reissues contracts on Heldon LP’s with Wah Wah & Superior Viaduct when we started the label and we loved those singles, they were unavailable for years so we thought we could start the label with this cool 7’’ format ; we did 700 of each and these are almost sold out now.
Sarcelles, c’est l’avenir
After a year and half, you have added ten references. Why this urgency? To build a real catalog? And who are your buyers?
We have been thinking and working on the label way before its effective start last year, so we had more than ten titles signed at the very beginning, and yes we want to build a real catalog, it’s easier to work with foreign distributors when you have upcoming titles announced. We have buyers from all around the world, a big part in the US, England, Germany, Benelux, Scandinavia and Japan ; sadly french customers only represent 10% of the sales even if at this point we have only reissued french artists!
What could be your editorial/esthetic line?
Our esthetic follows our tastes which ranges from free jazz to improv’, cosmic prog to kraut, industrial to electro acoustic.
How do you decide on the choice of reissues?
At this point we’ve been reissuing much needed and wanted records made by friends and artists connected with our activities as a record shop ; the rarity of a record is definitely a decisive point of choice but of course it comes after the music interest which is very decisive.
You released few great references (as Bernard Vitet ‘La Guepe’ or Red Noise LP) from Futura, the cult label of Gérard Terrones. How do you work with him for the reissue’s choices ? What could be the next LP’s?
Gérard is really connected to our activities, however is a tough guy that doesn’t want to look at the past ! We suggested him to go for the Red and Son reissue series on vinyl almost five years ago, but he never believed that could work even if the counterfeists on some of these recordings exists ; finally after years of discussions he allowed us to do the job ! We suggested a list of titles and he came back with what he felt was ok ; for some reason he didn’t allow the Theatre du Chêne Noir “Aurora” or “Perception” for exemple. The next LP’s in the Futura series are Triode, Horde Catalytique Pour La Fin & Travelling.
Each LP comes in an edition of 500 for the standard version and 200 for the limited version. Why did this double issue? And don’t you believe you could put on a market more than only 700 copys?
We made 1000 of the first three LP’s, Red Noise, Mahogany Brain & Semool, 700 black and 300 colored and we still have some stock on these, not that much but we thought the interest would be bigger. Then we did 1000 for the two Heldon live recordings, those are now sold out but they were launched for Record Store Day which make sells easier, so we’ve made 700 of the two latest ; maybe we were a bit shy as Tacet is almost sold out now in 6 weeks time. We will adjust the quantities depending of each release in the future.
You organize monthly, even more, meetings & events with musicians (signatures…). This aspect, I mean live music, seems to be important for yours aesthetics views. Do you believe a part of the music you like are strongly connected to live (think about free for instance)?
When we started the shop’s adventure more than seven years ago, we wanted a lively place, not just a new record store ; as said before our activities are strongly connected with musicians and producers. I remember how happy we were to welcome Pauline Oliveros for an instore 9 months after the grand opening of the store. We’ve had Archie Shepp, Jean-Jacques Birgé, Saul Williams, Serge Teyssot-Gay, Joelle Leandre, Jac Berrocal, Michel Bulteau, Jacques Coursil to name a few. One of the highlights was Simon Finn playing in front of 15 people like if he was in front of a sold out crowded venue and François Bayle for his 80th birthday explaining how he wrote some of his musical pieces and the birth of the GRM, that was fantastic! And yes Free is definitely a live music.
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?
The reissue market is getting really crazy but there are so many needed reissues you know! People cannot go for 500 € originals and the reissues comes for 20/25€. The pollution comes from majors now, who the hell needs the complete Van Halen recordings boxsets or Edith Piaf ! The prices are going pretty crazy too since the dollar / euro rates are almost even, new records are definitely too expensive.
Baader Meinhof Blues
Have you received many negative answers on some of the LPs, artists, unreleased tapes, you were trying to reissue?
No, not yet in our short lived experience as a label!
What are your next releases ?
Next we have Triode, Travelling & Horde Catalytique Pour La Fin due mid-January 2016.
What is the LP you dream of reissuing?
I don’t have a holy grail as I’m not a completist, but I’d be really happy to reissue some of the works of Kevin Martin with his past projects as God, Ice or Techno Animal ! He is definitely one of the best musician/producer of the last decades in my opinion.