For this next instalment of Digging Deeper we had the privilege of speaking to Miche and Frederika, the team behind the exciting new label - Discs of Fun and Love. Already friends of Mr Bongo initially through their connection with the Spiritland venues we regularly work with, the two releases the label have put out so far proved an instant hit with the team at Bongo HQ, as well as with our customers. They got the balance just right - a very tasteful selection, beautifully packaged, and sounding fantastic. It's such a pleasure when people who live and breathe music get projects like this off the ground, and we are very much looking forward to hearing what they have forthcoming on the label.
Please tell us about your musical background?
Miche: I was first shown how to use turntables aged 14 through some friends of my Dad who showed me the music of Kerri Chandler, Jovonn, Mike Huckaby and others. After a little time learning to beatmatch I started a radio show on a local internet radio station in my hometown of Bournemouth. My shows would usually consist of 8/10 Kerri Chandler tunes and then maybe a few other tracks, I didn’t really branch further out than that! The scene has always been pretty healthy down there despite no real venue for young people to cut their teeth and if it wasn’t for a select few people showing me the ropes, I don’t think i would have been able to discover and immerse myself in this music. Later, I played in bands during my late teens, we had a post rock/shoegaze project called Near Light which I was really proud of. My friend Matt is an incredible composer and writer of music and I produced and mixed all the records, so it was a pretty good system we had going on. Moving away from that project aged around 20, I started focusing on finding and collecting records and have been pretty relentless digging since. Currently you can find me at either of the Spiritland venues, Supermax in Kings Cross or Merchants Tavern in Shoreditch curating the programming of all the wonderful selectors at those venues. I also get to test all the systems which is a great job.
Frederika: I’ve always been into music ever since I can remember. I used to walk around the house aged 4 listening to my mum’s walkman and then as I grew up I was always with my headphones on and parents, teachers and later friends were so annoyed with me about that. But I didn’t start collecting records until I arrived in the UK to study in 2013 when I bought my first two records - “Illmatic” by Nas and “What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye. Having been a music fan from an early age you can say I’ve been through almost all music genre phases even though I’ve always been just a listener and never mastered playing an instrument unfortunately.
Who are the team behind Discs of Fun and Love?
M: Myself and Frederika run the label and deal with all the reissues. We first met through a mutual friend in early 2019 and quickly discovered that we were into the same music and records. These records are obscure and hard to discover, so to find someone my age digging the same stuff was great. A few months later I pitched this label idea I had to her and it’s worked out since then! We also have a family of killer selectors who come and play at our parties with us and their input and support is really important to us.
What made you want to start your own label?
M: I remember discovering the Rochelle Raboüin record before I had moved to London and thought “I could share this!”. It was a record that I hadn’t seen much fuss about, or heard many people playing it outside of the rare soul scene. I thought the Rochelle Raboüin record was important for our first release as it shows our intent to reissue fresh discoveries and not just look at classic records that have been around in circles and scenes prominently in the past 20/30 years. The Sweet Mixture record we released second has clearly had a demand for an affordable reissue for years and is a phenomenal record, but I wanted us to be brave with our initial release and set that as a key part of our ethos. Rochelle’s record is just a feel good disco bomb, I feel it really speaks for me, for us as label owners and as music lovers in general.
F: Getting in touch with the artists is also a great part of it. You get to meet the people behind the songs we’ve been worshipping so it’s a bit like meeting your heroes which is very exciting!
Where does the label name come from?
M: Frederika discovered the Sweet Mixture record before me and we always spoke about reissuing it from when we started working together, I can’t remember where I first heard it but the track “House of Fun and Love” is one of the most glorious records I have ever listened to. It was certainly something we wanted to put down as a marker for our sound and also a record that people had been wanting to own without the ridiculous price tag. There’s even a facebook post from Freddie a few years ago praying to the “Reissue Gods” to release it for her, which is pretty funny.
What is the musical direction for the label?
M: Great music that needs to be shared! So far we have kept within the boundaries of stuff that we play at our parties but there are different sounds to come for sure. Our output at the moment is one release every few months and we are looking to build on this without any dip in quality. Let’s just say the list of stuff we are currently working on is extensive.
F: Yeah, anything that Miche and I have in our collections that we think needs a reissue and also songs by artists we want to connect with!
Both the Rochelle Rabouin & Sweet Mixture originals would be considered rarities, is this an important factor in choosing what you reissue?
M: Not at all, but I think if something’s fairly available it doesn’t really need us to do a reissue. There’s plenty of odd obscurities and rarities to share and our output has always been records that we believe haven’t been shared much before and might have slipped by most people. It’s not a game of being highly priced or super rare for us: the Sweet Mixture original sells for big money but in comparison original copies of the Rochelle Raboüin or Mandisa records won’t cost you much more than £100.
Are your releases things that have been on your radar for some time, or are you selecting them as you get access to catalogues?
M: We have a list of things we want to work on, usually these are records we have picked up and have played or will play at our parties, in our DJ sets and on radio shows. There are a few bits on catalogues which we have access to but usually share the licences with other friends if they aren’t fully our sound: for example a friend is about to release another record with Rochelle Raboüin singing backing vocals on, It’s a good record but not something that we would necessarily choose to play in our sets.
Acquiring the rights to reissue can be quite the challenge, how are you finding things so far?
M: It’s been a great challenge, there have been quite a few leads that have gone cold for sure but we usually have two or three conversations going on at the same time. Sometimes it can take a few months to get a reply but things have always been positive when we are in touch with the licence owner. We make sure to talk to our artists and their families regularly after the record is released. Listening to their stories and having their input and advice is what really helps us grow as a label.
F: I’d say finding the artist or a connection is the most difficult but also the best thing in the process and my internet stalking skills are finally being put to good use!
You must hear some inspiring sets during your work at the Spiritland group of venues - does this influence what you want to reissue?
M: Spiritland has been great to me and I’m eternally grateful to my friends who I work with. The ability to be creative and be given so much responsibility is something special. Of course these spaces have influenced me with our label because I get to discover so much music every day. On a weekly basis i’m getting to listen to amazing selectors from friends like Mark GV Taylor and George Arthur, your very own Gary Johnson and Gareth Stevens, Mafalda, Matthew Halsall, Ece Duzgit, WOLF, Colin Curtis, Dr Bob Jones and a whole load more people who inspire me as a label owner, record collector, DJ and person. The list would be massive if I kept listing the people who’ve inspired me there.
You were off to a great start with your Rochelle Rabouin release - were you surprised by it’s success?
M: I always thought the release would do well but it was amazing to hear people like Gilles and Hunee give their feedback on it and play it, it’s something that not many people knew and that makes it a very personal experience for us. It’s also really rewarding to see so many people sharing photos and videos of them playing our music.
F: Yes, what Miche said! It was so nice to hear all the support and positive reviews we received, people were very sweet!
What is it about 7” records that ticks your boxes, and will the label be a 7” only label?
M: 7’s were a great way to start, there’s no hiding on a 7! The records need to be punchy with only two tracks and those tracks need to be killer, not filler! In the near future there will be a few more 7’s to come, the company sleeve idea we designed is something we want to continue with for the next few records at least. So far we have only released 7’s that were originally released in that format, but there’s a few albums we are currently looking to take a pair of tracks from and release on a 7 for the first time. I’m sure there will be 12’s and maybe LP’s one day… who knows?
You had both of the label’s releases remastered by the Carvery - how important is this stage in the process to you?
M: It’s an essential part in our process alongside the sleeves and artwork. For some of these records it’s impossible to find the master tapes, so a remaster from someone as talented as Frank can really make the difference and add life to something that might not have even been mastered correctly in the first place.
What forthcoming releases can we expect from Discs of Fun and Love?
M: Next out will be Mandisa “Summer Love” and “Love’s Dream” in early July, obscure hard-to-genre-define grooves written by the legendary Prince Billy Mahdi Wright, the tracks are two vocal versions of tracks from his hyper-rare “You Got Dat Wright” LP. Tiiiiip!
Mr Bongo were also very lucky to pose a few questions to Rochelle Raboüin, who was the artist featured on the first Discs of Fun and Love release.
Please tell us a little about your musical background?
Dad was a classically trained jazz musician. He played trombone as well as piano and guitar. My first recording was in a Coney Island record booth and the song was 'I Should Have Known Better' by the Beatles. I started playing trumpet in 5th grade and stayed in the school band throughout high-school. I also played in an R&,B/Funk/Soul band as a vocalist for 4 years, worked a folk music gig as a vocalist/ guitarist, and performed in USO shows. I went on tour with an R&B band for 8 years, traveling to Canada, Mexico and USA. I stopped touring about 1981 and got boring real jobs for a while. But I kept gigging and landed a 2 year jazz vocal scholarship.
From 1998 to present I became a teaching artist working in schools, colleges, libraries, shopping malls. All gigs stopped March 13, 2020.
What was the reaction to ‘This Is My Year’ on it’s original release?
For the original release of ‘This Is My Year’ the reception was great. That is when the tour throughout Canada started. It started getting air play. Unfortunately due to mismanagement of the project everything fell through. No one made money EXCEPT the crooks!!!
How do feel about the renewed interest in this song?
It is such a fun and positive song. We need it right now!!!
Did you know it was a sought after record?
That is great news.
What do you think about it being reissued and to reissues in general?
Actually this is fine with me. We need to bring that FUN-KY BEAT back!!!
Any message you would like to send to your fans out there reading this?
Thanks for enjoying the music and purchasing the record. MUSIC IS POWERFUL… IT TRULY IS THE UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE....
Many thanks to Miche, Frederika and Rochelle for taking the time to answer our questions.
You can buy Discs of Fun and Love releases from us here.