Makin’ it Funky
This may well be the feel-good article of the year. A story of triumph (not the band), sacrifice, overseas travel, and people helping people. Well… it WILL make you feel good if you check out the music… and a guy DID fly from France to New York, and I’ll bet somewhere along the way they helped each other. Alright … no messin’… brace yourself for one of the most kick-ass labels on the scene today.
We rewind to Paris in the late ’80s, where Phillipe Lehman and a friend decided to compile some of their old, obscure funk 45’s for an LP to promote an upcoming party. The response was overwhelming, and the guys figured they may be on to something. They realized there was a void when it came to acquiring some bass-slappin’ goodness, so the only logical choice would be to start a record label — and they did.
Pure Records was created to keep funk afloat, releasing classic and rare reissues, plus the ever-popular compilation. As Pure Records gained momentum, the attention began to shift to production. Phillipe assembled a group of musicians for an upcoming compilation, which proved successful, and Pure Productions was born. However, after a couple of releases, Phillipe found a void in producing the funky sound he craved, so in 1995, he left France for the Big Apple in search of a “brand new bag.”
NYU student, Pure Records customer, and soon-to-be partner Gabriel Roth had heard through the grapevine that Phillipe was in the city, and set out to arrange a meeting. They got together for lunch and decided check out a friends’ studio for a quick jam. “We knew things were coming together when we started in on Sissy Train, explains Gabriel. “Phillipe and I just had a vision for the same style and sound — hot and nasty, ’70s funk in the James Brown tradition.” Both Phillipe and Gabriel give their props to JB as the root of all things funky. “Everything since James (Brown) has been merely a variation of what he laid down in the old days. We are simply expanding on the jam.”
As their friendship developed, so did the desire to collaborate. The duo began producing tracks in a basement studio. And slowly but surely, a funk network was being laid — musicians young and old were recruited, either directly or by word of mouth to become part of this loose collective. In 1997, Desco became a full-blown project. In this short time, their reach has extended to recordings of funk legend Lee Fields, boogaloo master Sugarman, and the soulful Sharon Jones, to name a few. Yet, behind the music, you will find a chemistry between Lehman and Roth whose end result is rump-shaking good! Phillipe has the sound and feel for what classic funk should be. His extensive record collection and years with Pure saw to that. Gabriel applies his NYU music theory and engineering to translate Phillipe’s “vision” to the various musicians on a given project. By incorporating numerous musicians within their “stable,” team Desco has the ability to assemble a group based on a particular sound they want to achieve. Roth contends that often poses a challenge from a production standpoint, but the results have been successful. For example, The Revenge of Mr. Mopoji was released as a soundtrack to a fictitious Kung Fu movie. The production, sound, and packaging were so authentic, even bonafide funk collectors were fooled, thus proving Desco’s dedication to and reproduction of that which is funky.
Desco keeps it real with limited pressings of 7″ vinyl, 12″ LPs of all their releases, and over the last year, CDs. Roth says they intend on releasing a compilation of tracks from the 45s once a year. Also on tap is their most ambitious project to date, a new Lee Fields album, due in January. To get a taste of what you’ve been missing, there is a promotional Lee Fields 45 for the asking — just write ’em! If you have a band that is F-U-N-K to the core, Desco would like to hear from you. They are on the lookout for established bands that got the goods!
Simply put, you OWE it to yourself — -fill that funkless void that so desperately needs grooving. Jump on the Nighttrain and take it to the Bridge! Desco is on board to funk you into the next millennium. Desco Records, 440 West 41st Street, New York, NY 10036, (212) 924-2298