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Label Liaison: Kalita – Interview with Chris Webb

Great records can come and go without much notice. They’ll sit in dusty crates, dark basements, and wait for the right listener to get lucky enough to throw them on the turntable.

Kalita is a London based label that specializes in polishing up those forgotten records and breathing new life into them. Kalita is the result of some unique artists – and some particularly interesting records – finding themselves revived and in the hands of music lovers around the world. From disco hits to reggae, soul and boogie jams, Kalita is reissuing forgotten gems the right way.

We were able to chat with Chris Webb, Kalita’s founder, to talk about the roots of the label, what makes a record worthy of being reissued, how reissuing affects the prices of rare vinyl and the future of Kalita.

Can you tell us about your background and upbringing? How did it lead to Kalita getting started?

My interest in dance music began during my undergraduate degree at the University of Bristol, UK. Bristol has a fantastically vibrant music scene with tons of great record shops, and I fell in love with black music, in particular disco and boogie. My interest increasingly grew over the three years that I lived in Bristol, after which I then moved to London to study for a postgraduate degree. Soon after arriving, I began to work at the brilliant Love Vinyl record store in Hoxton almost every weekend, where I was able to learn from the four owners who were all extremely knowledgeable in their field. At the same time, I also realised that I also wanted to run my own business, and starting the record label seemed like a natural progression and fusing of my interests.

What’s your process for finding the records that you want to reissue? Are there certain checkpoints that a record, an artist or even a story must have to make you want to press it?

If it makes me want to dance then it’s a worthy contender. But of course, there has to be a market demand or the opportunity to create demand, so obscurity also helps to gain interest. And if I’m able to find out an interesting story about the record by talking to the artist or rightsholder (and there ALWAYS is a story!) which I can share, then that’s the icing on the cake!

Can you tell us about your most recent reissue – the re-release of Michael Paul’s 1984 reggae boogie single ‘Reggae Music’?

Michael Paul’s ‘Reggae Music’ had been on the want list to re-release for a long while. It’s a fantastic example of crossover music, where reggae has been fused perfectly with synths to a glorious boogie result. Luckily I was able to track down the rightsholder and we went from there! We just hope that everyone enjoys the music as much as us!

Does repressing rare vinyl decrease the value of the original pressings? Is part of your mission with Kalita to solve some of the high price disparities for rare records on sites like Discogs?

Sometimes it can, but other times it can do the opposite, actually raising prices due to increased interest in the reissued record. My mission with Kalita isn’t really related to solving high prices, it’s just about getting great, lost music back out there to be heard and do it properly and officially.

What are the Kalita milestones or projects that you are most proud of?

I’m proud of everything we’ve released, however, it’s always nice to get music out there that has never been heard before. Therefore, the release of Emerson’s 1988 unreleased album ‘If You Need Me, Call Me’ was a great personal win. I’d always been a massive fan of his 7” single ‘Sending All My Love Out’ and the words ‘From the LP ‘If You Need Me, Call Me’ felt almost taunting – where was this album, and why did it never come out? Luckily we were able to get in touch with Emerson and his wife/label partner Leora and fix that wrong, getting this fantastic album out into the wild 40 years after its recording.

I’ve noticed more reissuing labels popping up and sharing some awesome hidden gems. What do you think the state of the repressing business will be like 5 or 10 years from now?

Yep, the reissue world is getting busier and busier! I honestly don’t know what it’ll look like, but I’m looking forward to finding out. I think genre focuses might alter slightly, and also a lot of larger labels are now releasing new music too to help diversify, which is great. Sometimes you get to a stage where you think everything has been discovered, but then along comes a new record that hardly anyone knew about and the search is on once again!

What other reissuing labels do you admire?

Strut, Soundway, Analog Africa are a few of my favourite labels. They don’t just release great music but also tell the story behind the music, which is equally important.

The story of Rudy Mills and Muchos Plus for the Nassau’s Discos record was really interesting (and it’s one of my favourites on the label). Can you tell us how you were able to track Rudy down and start that project?

Yes, that’s a great record! It was a joy to be able to work with Rudy and finally get that one out back into the world. Rudy runs an occasional radio station in New Orleans, and I also knew that he leads a band himself. With that info, a bit of google delving was enough to be able to get a contact for a lead, which after a bit more searching got us in contact with Rudy.

If you could reissue any record in the world, what would it be?

One great record I’d love to reissue is Oneness’ ‘Watching You’. But after so many attempts, all of the leads go to dead ends, sadly. Hopefully, someone will be successful one day!

Any new projects coming up in the near future for Kalita?

So many. It’s going to be a hectic next couple of years, that’s for sure. Lots of great reggae boogie, US soul, boogie and Ghanaian burger highlife (including compilations!) to come, so watch this space!

Check out Kalita’s discography

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Label Liaison: Neroli – Interview with Volcov

20 years is a long time in electronic music. Artists, labels, even genres, have come and gone in those past two decades – yet a core group of essential contributors continue to bring quality music to the fore.

For the last two decades, Italian label Neroli has been largely been operating under the radar, yet a dig through the label’s back catalogue reveals a world-class selection of house music spanning releases from Theo Parrish, Titonton Duvante, Patrice Scott, Lars Bartkuhn, Dego and Kaidi Tatham, and Fred P.

We caught up with Neroli label boss, Enrico Crivellaro (aka Volcov), over email for a chat on the past, present, and future of Neroli.

volcov neroli

Can you tell us about the beginning of Neroli? What inspired you to start the label? Who’s on the label team, and what do they do?

Neroli started in 2000 as a side project to what I was doing with Archive records. It started as something a bit more tracky and leading towards house, but eventually across the years became more musical and eclectic. There’s never been any staff, is basically just me. Also a non-continuous operation…slowing down from 2006 to 2010…but then picking up in pace with 38 releases out of 53 done in the last 10 years…

How did your experience running Archive help you start Neroli? For a number of years these two labels coexisted, what was it like running two labels at once and how did you keep their musical identity separate?

Archive started around 1998 and that was funded with Frank Siccardi and with the backbone and help from DiPiù, an Italian publisher. I was doing all the A&R but not following a lot of other important aspects which I then started learning while working with Frank, Pierangelo Mauri from DiPiu’ and also our distributor Goya [thanks to Mike & Spencer].

So those experiences were precious when I started Neroli a couple of years later. Yeah, the 2 labels coexisted for a while, Archive being, in general, more abstract or especially fully developing album projects by Domu, As One and the late Phil Asher [RIP] in particularly. Neroli at the beginning was mainly trying to convince broken beat producers to give me some house tunes ahaha

Listen to Volcov’s Neroli-focused mix for Carhartt Work In Progress series.

What are the biggest challenges you’ve had running the label? Have the difficult events of COVID affected how you run the label?

There have been quite a few events across the years like changes of distributors for various reasons or slowing down the pace of releases due to the market situations for example but I gotta say you always have to be flexible and adjust. COVID has affected all artists and also labels on many levels, I am lucky that since my current distributor & pressing plant is based here in Verona [Mother Tongue] I can at least have more trust and control over many phases of the physical release process.

Since platforms like Bandcamp have made it easier for artists to self-publish, what role do you think labels play in the music industry?

I have always been a fan of artists self-releasing their music and running their label in a DIY style, I have Omar S on top of my mind here but there are loads of examples. I think Bandcamp is great and gives a great opportunity to artists and labels but at the same times there a lot of other levels to take into accountability. For example, all this online shopping is great but the real experience of buying records in a store or been given tips while digging in the flesh is pretty priceless, and the memories attached to certain records bought in a certain moment while with friends cannot be compared to ‘that time Fed-Ex rang the door to deliver that parcel’. Hopefully, we’ll get back to this already in 2021!

Also, I think both the artists and the buyers get a kick from certain combinations…for example, a release from a certain artist on that particular label [which has a certain history, catalogue, etc] can be very exciting, more than if it was on his own one, so to get back to your question I think labels with a certain history and curation still have something to say…

Neroli put out the epic First Circle compilation for your 50th release, with a focus on beatless music. This isn’t a style that we generally associate with Neroli so what was the thinking behind this? Some of the artists on the release are not really known for beatless styles so how did you decide on who would appear?

Well, The First Circle album is a project where the melody has been put in the forefront… I always wanted to do a record like this with a lot of emphasis on the musical textures and a certain sense of intimacy and beauty rather than a focus on the rhythmic aspects. Those who know me well know how much I love records with warm pads and melodies.

I tried to assemble the kind of record I would have imagined to buy at Fat Cat in ’96 but with my 2020 ear. The choice of artists wasn’t really too difficult, some were already known for delivering these type of songs, or at least in my book, and others I knew they had that type of sensibility to understand the spirit of the album. The idea was to have something to listen to from beginning to the end without skipping the needle…

In your opinion, what is one tip that an aspiring producer needs to know that could help them get signed to a label?

Not sure this is a tip to get signed, but I think a good tip is to make tons of songs, and not finish 2-3 and start proposing them to labels….but really do the work, make many tracks and choose the best ones to propose only when it feels like you are 100% comfortable with them.

You recently put out some brilliant Theo Parrish remixes of Love To The World – how did these come about?

Very naturally – I’ve known Theo since the late 90s and over the years we did already a couple of other projects for Archive records. He was really into the original song and on the 12’ he gave it his own unique twist and trademark. Really an unmistakable sound…extremely happy about this!!

What’s coming up next for Neroli?

We have an ep by The Abstract Eye [aka GB or Gifted & Blessed] an artist I always admired and that I chased pretty much for the last 5/6 years after a brief meeting in Berlin in 2013.

Which record do you wish you’d signed?

Lil Louis – Two Sides To Every Story

Who would play (DJs, bands, and artists) at your ultimate club night, and where would it be?

Ah, that’s too much…maybe 2000Black [ft Kaidi Tatham and JAB] playing live…Theo Parrish and Sadar Bahar + Lee Collins djing? Too difficult though, many great artists to mention and invite…

 

Now check out Neroli’s outstanding discography