Behind the groove. The life & times of Deephouse House & Techno music
 

Getting behind the groove with . . .

Russ Dewbury

 

PT2 "Jazz is the teacher, funk is the preacher..."

 
 
 
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Part 2/3

PT2: Artist & label management, compilations, music production, the Mitchell & Dewbury Band + much much more...


Author: Alex Rose

Russ Dewbury & Alex Rose

Russ Dewbury & Alex Rose

PREAMBLE: With more than 30 Years of service to the music industry and still with skin in the game, Russ Dewbury is held in high regard as a key influencer and shaper of the UK's independent music scene over the last 30 years. Russ's accolades include conforming to an ongoing international DJ schedule, label owner/manager, artist manager, seasoned compilation compiler, producer, festival organiser, radio broadcaster... oh, and founder/promoter of one of the longest running club nights on the planet...  Suffice to say then, that when I got the chance to spend some time with the man himself, we had a little bit to talk about. . .  

Photography: hayleyrosephotography.co.uk

 
 
 

 

BTG: So in PART 1, we talked in depth about the early Jazz Rooms and Jazz Bop days, but let’s get into talking about some of your contributions through artist and label management, compilations and making your own original material as Mitchell & Dewbury band, tell us a bit about that time?

RD: So Baz (fe jazz) and Gilles (Peterson) had set up BGP Records, which was owned by Ace Records and through Baz I got to know the Ace crew well.It was around this time when Baz (fe Jazz) (my business partner all through those

days) found religion and had a complete change of direction with his life, right as we were hitting the peak of what we had done with the Jazz Bop, he was gone which meant I was kind of on my own running all of what we had created together. Subsequently, because of the success we were having with Brighton Jazz Bop at that time, BGP asked me to run the label, which was absolutely amazing, we had access to an incredible music catalogue for re issuing.

BTG: BGP was a strictly re issue label right?

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RD: Yep that's right, they had access to Prestige Records, Milestone, Fantasy, and a whole bunch of others, Ace Records was run by Roger Armstrong and  Ted Carroll 2 legends of the UK music scene  and I learned a lot from those guys. My brief with BGP was to find old music and re issue it, which I loved, what was interesting at the time was that a lot of the acts I was bringing into the UK around then had been on labels like Prestige, so I was able to re issue an album for them, like for example a Melvin Sparks or a Bernard Purdie or Pucho and the Latin Soul Brothers album and then bring them over, which was a fabulous position to be in. Terry Callier was a great example of this. We re issued New Folk Sound his album from 1968 and brought him over, it worked so well I actually put together an all star band of artists I'd worked with on BGP and we toured Europe for 2 weeks! It was the "Make Way for the Originals" tour of 1994 and it was an unforgettable experience. The band included Idris Muhammad, Pucho, Reuben Wilson, Johnny Lytle, Melvin Sparks and others.

I financed the whole thing myself and we took a tour bus and went round Europe, it was like the Spinal Tap of the black music scene! Such a shame we didn't take a camera crew.

 
 
 
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"I wanted him to call it the ‘Norman Cook’ remix, but he'd called it the "Fatboy Slim" remix. So I was like … oh God no, no one's ever heard of Fatboy Slim!  "

- Russ Dewbury

 
 
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. . . One of the artists I reissued material from was Jean Jacques Perrey, famously the pioneer of the MOOG Synthesizer , great electronic artist held in high esteem. He had an album called Moog Indigo, which had a track on it called E.V.A, it was some cool, early synth track. Lucozade picked up on it and wanted to use it on their television adverts.

So we thought, oh wow this could be something cool, and so I spoke with one of my old time contacts Norman Cook (Fatboy Slim) who I knew well at the time, as I had this idea, basically, why don't we have a double sided release, remix one side original the other?



. . .  And so I said, would you do a remix for me? So he said yeah, of course I would do a remix. So anyway some months later, the remix came through, and I liked it, and I wanted him to call it the Norman Cook remix, but he'd called it the "Fatboy Slim" remix. So I was like, ‘Fatboy Slim‘… oh God no, no one's ever heard Fatboy Slim, they won't realise it's him!... I think it must have been one of his first mixes, can you believe that now? So we released it, we got it into the charts and it went in to the Top 20!

BTG: Wow, incredible stuff. Along with this, you mentioned to me previously about the early days of getting to know people like Carl Cox in Brighton. Tell us a little bit about that?

RD: Well '87, the first year that I came to Brighton, Norman Cook at that time was working at Rounder Records. So I used to see him up there and got to know him quite well. And yes another friend at the time was Carl Cox. I got quite friendly with Carl and used to spend a lot of time with him mainly eating roast dinners haha. He'd started off as a Jazz funk DJ and he's always been into jazz so he came to a few of my events actually. I had a quite a nice link with him. In 1989 just as he's about to launch his career in terms of production, he said me, "Do you know what sampler is?" I was like, "Not really" …So he says, it's fantastic you know, you take a loop and you slice it, this that and the other. and he says why don't you bring some tunes around to my house and check it out.

At that time he had a little flat by Brighton station. So I took a bag of tunes round including Fela Kuti, Pharoah Sanders and a few other tunes from that time, and we cut them up and looped them and mix them with some beats. It was like, 1989. Which was quite early on in the electronic music scene. We never did anything with them actually, it never really progressed, mostly because his career was literally just about to take off. By the end of '89 maybe the start of '90 he was off, busy under his own name.

BTG: You gotta find those tapes! I wanna hear those tapes!

RD: I know! Funny enough I spoke to him last year, he lives close to Melbourne in Australia, and he said he still has the tapes!

 
 
 
 
 
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" Africa Funk ended up selling around a 100,000 copies! It was the first true reissue African funk compilation, aimed at the club crowd "

- Russ Dewbury

 
 
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BTG: That incredible, let's get those tapes!  Okay so let's move on a little bit Tell us a little bit about your own New Jazz Spectrum, Club Africa and other complications Series you were involved with, and of course The Mitchell and Dewbury Band,tell us a bit about that?

RD: Well pre being really involved in BGP Records properly I used to do Sleeve notes for compilations Gilles and Baz were doing and then that led on to me putting compilations together with music drawn from their catalogues.

And I found I was really good at it. I had a series called New Jazz Spectrum which was successful, I did selective reissues, we reissued lots of rare funk things, and soul things and folk things like Terry Callier, And I had a good flair for compilation albums, and that led on to being at BGP for three years.

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Then I started a label with my friend Jake Behnan called Counterpoint Records, and had complete freedom then. Before, when I worked for Ace I had to select from a series of labels. Running your own label, we could do whatever we wanted to. So I started to put compilations together for Counterpoint under the name Jazz Bizniz. and again it was really successful, and that led on to me being approached by Quinton Scott of Harmless Records. I was playing at the Jazz café at the time, this was '97, '98, and I was playing a lot of African Funk music, not because it was African funk music, but because it was good funk music. He wanted to represent that sound through a compilation and we did it with "Africa Funk" the first compilation of its kind.

Then I started a label with my friend Jake Behnan called Counterpoint Records, and had complete freedom then. Before, when I worked for Ace I had to select from a series of labels. Running your own label, we could do whatever we wanted to. So I started to put compilations together for Counterpoint under the name Jazz Bizniz. and again it was really successful, and that led on to me being approached by Quinton Scott of Harmless Records. I was playing at the Jazz café at the time, this was '97, '98, and I was playing a lot of African Funk music, not because it was African funk music, but because it was good funk music. He wanted to represent that sound through a compilation and we did it with "Africa Funk" the first compilation of its kind.

Compiling the album was fun. I had enough tracks to do it and was really digging things like Oneness of JuJu, Mombassa, Tony Allen and loads more. So I put together the album for him and it turned out to be a massively successful compilation.

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We released it 1998 and did a fantastic launch party at Notting Hill Arts club, attended by Tony Allen himself who'd come over from Paris to check it out. Africa Funk ended up selling a hundred thousand copies! It was the first true reissued African funk music compilation, aimed at the club crowd. The whole Afro scene really developed from there and took off. In those days African funk music, was, really not that well known.

So i'd done really well with with the Jazz Bizniz, New Jazz Spectrum, and I did a whole series of compilations for Quinton on Strut recordings under the African music banner. Club Africa was one of the first Strut releases!

BTG: Yes it was, the first Strut compilation. Yeah it was the first Strut compilation. I know Stut recently featured as a label focus on Gilles Peterson Six music show and they were talking of it on there. It wasn't aware until I heard that that it was actually the first thing they released on Strut. Fantastic album!

RD: Some of those compilations were so successful that I was able to put together a DJ tour off the back of them. With the Club Africa one, I organised a whole US tour including Canada for 9 days which was great!

There after I continued putting compilations together for Strut and for Counterpoint. I ended up putting together around 30 compilations.. the latest one being Jazz Rooms retrospective that I put together on Mr Bongo, so I think i'm due to do another one soon.

 
 
 
 
 
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" . . . so we started putting tracks together, and before we knew it we had an albums worth of ‘Mitchell & Dewbury’ stuff! "

- Russ Dewbury

 
 
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BTG:  So lets dive a bit into your own productions, tell us a bit about the Mitchell and Dewbury band?

RD: So a producer  called Ben Mitchell who was making latin house music under the alias Mr Hermano, used to come down the the Jazz Rooms a lot and one time he says to me, have you ever produced any music?' and I was like no.. I'd gotten close a few times, Phil Asher and I almost had the beginnings of something going productions wise but never really quite got it off to a start, but other than that i'd never really done anything serious.

So Ben says, “I have a studio down in the Old Steine, why don't you come down, bring some records and we'll see if we can do something”. A short time later I went down to the studio and we really gelled quickly, so we started putting tracks together, and before we knew it we had an albums worth of ‘Mitchell & Dewbury’ stuff!

BTG: Beyond the Rains?

RD: Yes, that’s it. So we had this album and we shopped it around various labels before it ended up being released on Mumo Records which was owned by Jazz FM, and again I got a huge amount of DJ work off the back of it!

We got booked to play the opening party of the Venice film festival in 2001, that gig came through Martyn Ware of  Heaven 17, he was living in Venice and loved the album which was great!

That album led on to a series of remixes including Roy Budd, Terry Callier and Hipnosis.

BTG: and I recall there was a Drumagik remix of Beyond the Rains which was pretty amazing too right!?

RD: Yes well I knew  Drumagik from Sao Paulo, Brasil as they'd come and DJ'd for me at the Jazz Rooms, and we asked them to do a remix. When they sent the DAT through to us I remember playing it in the studio at Mr Bongo and we were like . Oh my god! This is just amazing!. I mean I just played it immediately in the clubs and it just went off! I still play it now as it's such a classic tune but back then hearing it for the first time it was just like wahhh!

So yea good times. Not long after though Ben moved to France and bought himself a run down Chateau to renovate and so we stopped making music around that time I guess. But I would like to consider getting back in the studio some time. I recall around that time, the market started to get really flooded with loads of electronic music, it was crazy, as a radio DJ I was being sent insane amounts of music, weekly. I'd go down the the post of to collect and come out with a stack of records like every week!

But the thing is, with so much music being produced it became really difficult to get paid. and it's still the same now, it's only really the live gigs that make any money, you spend 11 months, 5 days a week making the album and it's hard to get paid! But all that said, I would love to get back in the studio some time and get back into making some more music! . .


Check out Russ's Totally radio show for some serious audio vitamins...


Check back soon for the final 3rd installment of Russ story . . .

as we dig into exploits down under and his latest ongoing sell out party, Soulful Strut!

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