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Interview: Bob Harding from King Spinna Records

Interview: Bob Harding from King Spinna Records

Interview: Bob Harding from King Spinna Records

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"We don't want to be exactly like Blood and Fire. It's about music we think is worth putting out there, reissue or not"

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King Spinna

Bob Harding tells the King Spinna story

Bob Harding and Dom Sotgiu – formerly at the now folded Blood and Fire label – have started a new label – King Spinna. The label launched in mid September with its first release Dub Will Change Your Mind by Bunny Lee & The Agrovators. United Reggae got a chat with Bob Harding about the music business and why King Spinna will succeed when others don’t.

Blood and Fire was a British reggae record label known for its great releases and attention to detail in design, packing and liner notes. With Blood and Fire you could usually buy the album regardless the artist or producer. It was just that good.

But in 2007 Blood and Fire went out of business. Unfortunate management decisions along with a challenging music industry were two issues that could be blamed.

King Spinna has a wider remit

Now, four years later, Bob Harding – co-founder and formerly Managing Director at Blood and Fire – has along with his former assistant Dom Sotgiu established the King Spinna label. It’s a business similar to Blood and Fire, but with a wider scope.

King SpinnaThe label name comes from a tune by Hortense Ellis, and was suggested by Bunny Lee.

“King Spinna is not strictly a reissue label. We would like to do some new material as well. Like from veteran Jamaican deejays, or maybe Horace Andy. I mean how much stuff is left out there to reissue? Most is probably pretty average,” says Bob Harding on the phone from his home where he also has his office, and adds:

“We don’t want to be exactly like Blood and Fire. It’s about music we think is worth putting out there, reissue or not.”

Blood and Fire starts

Along with Steve Barrow, Mick Hucknall, Elliot Rashman and Andy Dodd he formed Blood and Fire in 1993 with the objective of reissuing reggae with the integrity of jazz reissues. Initially only on CD.

“Blood and Fire started from a conversation in 1992 or 1993. Mick Hucknall thought that there weren’t any decent reggae reissues on CD. No good standard. So we started to reissue on CD,” says Bob, and continues:

“I was around from the beginning. We went to Jamaica in 1993 and that trip wasn’t particularly successful. We were supposed to meet Bunny Lee and he would have done all the introductions, but he was still in London,” he laughs.

“Insane to start a traditional label”

King SpinnaEarlier this year United Reggae interviewed veteran label owner and producer Adrian Sherwood. According to him, running a label is thankless and you have to be insane to start a label today. Bob is familiar with such views, and explains how it all started.

“Blood and Fire finished in July or August 2007. Since then I’ve applied for hundreds of jobs, but didn’t get any. I couldn’t find work. The music business is the only thing I know,” he explains, and continues:

“You have to be insane to start a traditional label. But we have no office. I work from home. We don’t have much overhead and very limited funds and take one step at a time. Neither I nor Dom have taken any money out of the business.”

“Dis rare”

He makes it clear that there will probably not be any other releases from King Spinna this year. But the initial release Dub Will Change Your Mind has had a pretty good response so far according to Bob, even though it hasn’t been a straight road.

Bunny Lee - Dub Will Change Your Mind“We’ve had problems with our first release. The pressing plant was terrible and we had to move to a different one. It’s a bit unfortunate since it’s been on order.”

'Dub Will Change Your Mind' contains extremely rare productions from Bunny Lee, and he didn’t almost recognize them himself. In October last year Bunny Lee said “Where you get dis? Dis rare”.

“It’s a funny story,” says Bob, and continues:

“I got a friend who runs an online second hand record store, and I would help him list a bunch of records on Discogs. I listened to some of the discs and thought ‘I don’t think people know about these ’. So I transferred them to my computer, and last year I met Bunny Lee in London and got an agreement with him.”

Several ideas for the future

Even though King Spinna has no set plans for the future, Bob has lots of ideas. He reveals that he’s thinking about a live album with U Roy and having a sound system going.

“The Blood and Fire sound system did three shows with U Roy in Japan in 2006, and would be a good release. But we have to have clearances from all the copyright owners. Bunny Lee won’t be a problem and neither will Niney. But it’ll take a while,” explains Bob, and adds:

“U Roy wants us to do it, but it’s difficult to get all the clearances.”

The King Spinna sound – operated by Dom who also ran the Blood and Fire sound system – was booked to perform at a festival in the UK in May, but it had to be cancelled due to bad weather. Bob explains that he would like the sound system to perform along with veteran Jamaican artists such as Ranking Joe or Horace Andy.

“We don’t have anything set yet and the sound system is waiting to take off.”

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