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Raiders Of The Lost Archives Part 2: Digikiller Records

Raiders Of The Lost Archives Part 2: Digikiller Records

Raiders Of The Lost Archives Part 2: Digikiller Records

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"Trust me, we have tons of music yet to release"

Sampler

Every record has a story-and every reissue an even better one… Especially if said record was until its rebirth long-forgotten, or obscure, or highly sought after. Welcome to the “Raiders of the Lost Archives,” a series of behind-the-scenes interviews with today’s repress imprints that have been flourishing all over the roots map in the past years. In today’s installment, Brooklyn-based RB from DKR explains how "Your Girl’s Best Lover records" is still sitting on a goldmine –even 123 tunes deep into the reissue game!  

Digikiller Records

When did you start the label ?

2006, but our first release didn't come out until 2009... typical reggae timeline.

Is it DKR, Digikiller, or Deeper Knowledge records by the way ?  

"Digikiller" is actually kind of a goof... people who know me know that my favorite adjective for anything good is "killer", so from birth I been calling good records "killer." We started saying "digi killer" as kind of a goof on record sellers and the phrases they make up  to hype up records. We didn't really have a name for the thing and I didn't want to call it any cliched reggae phrase or name it after any song i liked or whatever, it was too easy to do that...

So we just called it Digikiller because it was fun(ny) and we were saying it a lot at the time, and also because the first bunch of records we had lined up to release (Philip Myers, Crat, Leggo) were all digital tunes.

After a little while we just called it "DKR" all the time, and then when we started putting out roots tunes, it seemed funny to print "Digikiller" on them. That's when I thought of the idea of DKR also as "Deeper Knowledge Records", which to me means that these kind of reissues are promoting a deeper knowledge of this music by reissuing stuff that's every bit as good as the canonized classics, but just not as well known due to its long unavailability.

Trevor ByfiledLike, let someone buy Clive Matthews or Trevor Byfield tunes and hear that they're every bit as good as some well known Dennis or Gregory or whatever from the same time, you know? To me that's Deeper Knowledge. Some of our "fans" (note the quotes) think we are just bigging up ourselves with the name -but if that was the case we'd have just called it "Your Girl's Best Lover Records." 

Why did you want to start a reissue label ?

I thought it was kind of sad and wack that reggae (unlike many other genres) didn't have enough or even many at all specialized reissue labels doing reissues of rare and obscure singles. Basic Replay and Archive Recordings were doing it, and I loved both of them, but they weren't very prolific and there were certain things about how they did it that I didn't like. 

Our first releases were two 12"s on the Crat label, with songs by White Mice, Nitty Gritty (RIP) and Pad Anthony. These particular tunes came out because we had a project with Crat in the pipeline for a long time but it was taking a while, and then it kind of got derailed and changed by other things, some of which people can probably figure out. Finally when it was able to happen, these songs were what we had left that we wanted to release.

Can you tell the story of that first tune ?

The story is not all that interesting really. A friend of mine knew Crat and through that link I got in touch with him about the idea. He was interested and it went from there. It didn't take too long to find him. The reggae business (back then and more so now) is a small one and everyone knows everyone, kinda.

What would be your most sucessful tunes so far ?

I guess the answer depends on how you measure success, but I'll assume you mean the most perennially popular. So in that case, Philip Myers’ Getho Struggle, the Freddie McKay/Naggo Morris 12", and the McWoner's Nuh Fire It/Higher Region 10". All total smokers.

Do you always work from tapes ?

Whenever possible. But unfortunately there is an extreme yet ill-informed and/or wholly mis-informed obsession among some reggae fans with the notion of "master tapes." I won't get into a long diatribe about why that is but what it comes down to is that the master tape issue is unfortunate for everyone involved each in their own way - for the fans who mostly don't understand what they're obsessing about, labels who want to put out the best sounding records they can, and producers who threw away, lost, destroyed or wiped over some/any/all of their tapes long ago, but still want to have sell-able records out there and don't understand how they've now made that very hard. It's a complicated issue that has to be placed within a larger context of things that are very specific to Jamaican music to really be understood.

Does it happen that you find more gems on tapes than you came looking for?

Yes, we've found tons of awesome material sitting on tape unreleased. We've released a bunch of them already with many many more to come. No empty promise there, trust me, we have TONS of music yet to release.

Did you ever have bad surprises ?

Bad surprises, yes. Dispute about ownership of a tune? No. But again, there's a lot of different personalities at play and everyone sees things their own way, and that includes "history" and many different versions of it. So think about that and you can probably figure out that there will be some surprises now and then.

What was the hardest effort to track down an original singer/producer ?

Well, there is still a small list of guys to find who were on my original list when I started to put this business together almost 7 years ago, and they are still "missing." So all of them on that list are the hardest so far.

Who would be a couple of the producers that you built the most solid relationship with ?

Digikiller - Channel OneWell, every interaction and experience with producers is different, they're all different people. But just to be specific about one, Channel 1 are like family to me, and I respect and admire them infinitely. They made a lot of what I consider to be among the greatest music ever made, so they have always and will always be special to me.

Do you have sort of a preset style of tunes you want to put out ?

No. I just put out music that I like and that I think others will like too. We're not trying to fly out any flop tunes just because I might like it, know what I mean?

What would be some of the funniest or most random situations that you’ve found yourself in, from doing the label ?

Meeting people's families is always a little funny. A producer or artist is also always someone's father/brother/husband/etc. So often times you meet people's families and they think it's kind of funny that people are interested in or know about some obscure music that this person made a long time ago. But it's also always nice to be able to show them that the music has reached all over the world and is very much still enjoyed by many people all over the place...

What’s the most stressful part of doing this ?

Managing often unrealistic expectations - those of the producers, the fans, and sometimes my own.

Why do you think the past years have birthed so many small but deadly reissue labels ?

I would like to think that with regards to recently, it's because we have helped set an example that this kind of thing can be done if you're willing to do the work, and that this music and the people who made it are accessible, regular people, not some mythical beings. I would hope that this idea/example has energized people to want to do it in their own way, so they start their own thing. This is mostly what inspired me to start - liking other people's work but wanting to do it my own way. 

Can you make a living off having this kind of business ? What do you do on the side for a living, if not ?

Depends how you define a 'living.' Some people think we are over here lighting cigars with $100 bills, all from selling reggae vinyl in 2013. If only that was the case. The truth is, we are only only lighting them with $50 bills. like most respectable dudes I hustle hard to make a living, records and music are a part of it but at the end of the day we just do whatever we gotta do to stay up. Life is short and you can't take money with you when it's over. there's my wisdom. thanks for the interview, I hope it inspires someone reading it to just do something like this for themselves if they can. Respect and thanks to everyone who supports this, we out here and we're not stopping, tunes like dirt are on deck, music for years. Print all that shit.

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Posted by Sure killer the digi's and knowledge on 03.05.2013
Pricks

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