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Raiders Of The Lost Archives Part 1: Iroko Records

Raiders Of The Lost Archives Part 1: Iroko Records

Raiders Of The Lost Archives Part 1: Iroko Records

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"One word. ROOTS"


Every record has a story. And every reissue has 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 plentiful rare repress imprints that have been flourishing all over the roots map in the past years. In today’s installment, Iroko’s French producer Hervé Brizec explains how people with the first name “Noel” played a crucial role in Iroko’s history… and why you shouldn’t always believe what’s written on records’ labels!

Iroko Records

What made you want to start a reissue label ?

I bought the Noel Ellis album when Light In The Attic repressed it, some time in 2008. I really loved it and bought one hundred copies from them in order to help promote it, here in France. It did very well so I started talking with them about a license for the European market. That’s how the adventure started.

What was your first release and why this tune in particular ?

I had found a name, Burning Bush, and got in touch with Jerry Brown. He was the producer of the Noel Ellis album and we agreed on releasing the best tracks of the album “To Haile Selassie” plus another track from a 12”, Reach My Destiny.

Why did you choose Iroko as a name?

I have a friend, Nicodrum, who builds Nyabinghi drums and he uses iroko wood. I liked the name and I liked what the tree looked like-majestic African tree. I thought this was it!

What would be your top 3 most sucessful tunes so far ?

Iroko - Noel EllisThe Silvertones Let Us Give Jah Praise was sold out in two weeks. I repressed it a few weeks ago in limited quantity. The two others are Milton Henry Rastaman In Zion and Sowell Radics Fight Fight Fight. The latest one, Negro's Unite is an exclusivity to my website, meaning: no distribution to shops. It should be the next one on the list.

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

I am still looking for some producers or I am still trying to solve some issues to be able to sign contracts and it’s been going on for quite a while…

Any funny or crazy story on one of these treasure hunts ?

A few years ago, I was at the home of Ras Abubakar with Junior Dan and his wife, Russ Disciples and Kerhu Jahman (Jonah Dan). I had a couple of records, and I played Noel Tempo Run Run Run on a Temptation label 7- inch. Junior Dan asked me what was this tune, I told him its title and he replied, “I am the co-producer of that one!” That’s how I got in touch with Noel Bailey (a.k.a. Noel Tempo or Sowell Radics). I reissued two 12-inches after that discussion.

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

I love music and it’s always interesting to discuss with people who make it. If I had one producer to mention here, I will say Roberto Sanchez. Roberto is one of the best producers for roots music today. He is a talented musician, he plays almost everything. He’s very kind, has a lot of knowledge and he likes to share it. I can say he’s my brethren! He introduced me to Linval Thompson. Roberto is currently working with a lot of other producers, from Europe but as well from Jamaica.

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

One word. ROOTS. Incidentaly, I just started with my friend Ras Abubakar, a new label, named Léritaj, dedicated to African heritage within the diaspora. We released our first project a few months ago – a reissue of the "Bèlènou" double LP from 1983, traditional music from Martinique with a lot of influences. That is rootsy with lot of percussions. This label will suit Nyabinghi projects, too. We both love different styles of music. But Iroko records is dedicated to roots reggae.

Iroko - Ras Abukabar

Do you always work from original master tapes?

No. I don’t think that it will improve drastically audio quality. Choosing the best cutting house and pressing plant are more important in my opinion.

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

I got some unreleased tunes from producers and I got tapes from Summer Records a while ago. It was interesting to listen to them but I haven’t released any.

Did you ever have bad surprises ? For instance paying somebody that wasn’t the rightful owner of the tune by mistake?

No, but I cross fingers as this can happen. For instance it is not because it is written on original record, "produced by someone" that this is true! If you are collecting roots 70s music, I am sure that you have records that were already pirated back in the days. That’s part of the reggae’s story.

What’s the most stressful part of doing this?

Sometimes when I am at home and look at the room where I store records, I ask myself how I’m going to get rid of all these boxes! It is long time process.

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

I think that this is related to the fact that there is more and more sound system in Europe. People have now access to internet so it’s easier to discover old tunes and it is easier to get in touch with producers.

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

No, I’d like to but it is not the case so far. I am on welfare (named RSA in France) and I grow vegetables in my garden…

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