Each month, we are focusing on a record label founded by an active digger. We are starting with Fred Thomas, the man behind Sam Records.
When did you start digging records?
I don’t really consider myself as a “digger” but I have been buying records ever since the mid 80’s.
Do you have a particular style or favourite period ? And why?
I don’t have a particular style. I listen to different types of music, mainly from the 1950’s to the 1970’s … My father used to listen to classical, pop or rock every sunday morning. So I grew up listening to The Rolling Stones, The Clash, Madness, Hendrix, Floyd, Bob Marley, Gainsbourg, Hubert-Felix Thiefaine, JS Bach, Mozart…I also listened to punk, new-wave, “industrial” music from Belgium, The Netherlands and Germany and later to funk and soul. I discovered jazz about twenty years ago and i liked it. Today, I listen to this particular genre the most.
After your first reissue, “Peace Treaty” by the saxophonist Nathan Davis in 2006, what prompted you to creating the label?
In 2006, after meeting with Nathan Davis, I decided to release one of his first recordings, from 1965. As I’m also very interested in photography, I decided to look for the original sleeve photographer, Jean-Pierre Leloir, to try and obtain a photo print and agree on a deal with him. I also decided to search for the owner of the master tapes to find an agreement with him. Five years after the Nathan Davis reissue, I decide to create Sam Records to continue doing the same type if work with other titles. I’m not really familiar with the music industry but it was clear for me I had to try and make the best reissues possible: find the master tapes, the original photography, the original LP to have all the required information and of course a proper licence. I like vinyl, the cover, the artefact and of course the different approach to listening to music that it represents compared to CD or MP3.
Why Sam Records?
It is really simple: Sam is the name of my son and I also found it easy to remember and pronounce.
What is the editorial/esthetic line? How do you decide on the choice of reissues?
I choose titles according to two criteria: the love I have for those particular musicians and the level of rarity of the records. Today, I only reissue jazz records but there are other style that also interest me especially some pop or rock titles.
“Less Is More” could be your leitmotif. Why did you chose to restart from original tapes and original pictures?
Less Is More is of course my leitmotif. I chose to restart from originals tapes and pictures for a matter of quality. It’s not the easiest way, especially when the photographer has already passed away and photos are lost. It’s a detective job : to be as close as possible to the original records; from the sound to the artwork. I prefer quality over quantity.
Do you believe that the high difficulty of this search could be a strength for your label?
Yes, I guess quality is one of the strengths of my label. But with a little bit more contacts in the music business the world over, it could become less difficult to pursue the Sam Records story.
Have you receive many negative answers on some of the LPs you were trying to reissue?
Not yet. But I’m still waiting for some answers from music companies… Sometimes it takes a long time!
There is more and more reissues of old LPs. Do you think that the LP reissue market could ever reach saturation point?
If a record is good, it can be reissued. The problem is that too many poor reissues at the same time may kill the good ones. And I’m not sure about the quality I see in stores for most of them. It costs money to make really nice reissues. There is more and more reissues of old LPs, especially in jazz, because most jazz records from the 1950’s and 1960’s have fallen into public domain and some european companies don’t pay anything. They remove the original logo and use a CD for the music: it’s just a 150g or 180g CD !
What are your next releases?
Two Donald Byrd records recorded in Paris in 1958 for Brunswick label and a Chet Baker EP from 1956 from the Barclay catalogue. They will be available in October.
What is the LP you dream of reissuing?
There are many, but Sam is a small company, so I prefer to remain silent on the subject.
Sahib Shihab “Sentiments” (1971, reissue in 2014 by seriE.WOC)
Curtis Amy “Katanga” (1963, reissue by Heavenly Sweetness in 2010)
Batsumi “Batsumi” (1974, reissue by Matsuli Music in 2011)