BBE Music interview

BBE Music’s Peter Adarkwah and Lee Bright:

What is the origin of the name BBE and what is the idea behind the label?

(Lee) BBE started out as a club promotions operation (check the bbe15 facebook  page for some mad early flyers… with Ben and Pete the founders … it was as much a statement of the finances as a favourite track at the time … Barely Breaking Even by The Universal Robot Band with the earth trembling vocals of Leroy Burgess – which you can find on Dimitri from Paris’ ‘Disco Forever’..  after growing a following in the clubs it was suggested that why didn’t we put some of the music that people loved so much in the clubs … onto record and the label was born… it grew from there with a D.IY/can do attitude. There was never a business plan …. if there had a been … we most likely would not be here today

You are currently celebrating with a 15th Anniversary album. Tell us more about how album was conceived and how the music was chosen?

(Lee) Seemed a shame not to book mark 15 years,  previously we’d worked with Mixcloud to engage the true fans of the label – asking them to put together a mix of their favorite BBE tunes – the quality was high but Chris Read’s won the day… it seemed the best sense to have a fan compile and mix the album … and once we put the idea to him – he ran with the baton … put some licensing constraints aside and came up with a retro- spective of the last 15 years – way past impossible to cover all the artists and releases … he has done a fantastic job

BBE has worked with many different artists and DJ’s over the past decade. Any particular favourites and standout releases from that time?

(Peter)1. Roy Ayers – Virgin Ubiquity.

Roy has also been a massive favourite of mine. During the recording of Marley Marleys Beat Generation Album – We were looking to do a cover version and I suggested a Roy Ayers track. I knew I could get hold of him either via the Jazz Cafe in London where he has a yearly residency or quicker still through Masters at Work who featured him on their Nuyorican Soul Project. I got his number called him and he came and recorded vibes over his track Hummin’ (originally from his first Polydor album). During the session I asked him if he had any unreleased material and he said yes so we got talking and agreed an advance. As it turned out Roy’s deal with Polydor was a producer deal so whatever didn’t make his albums was his own material. Roy had all the 2 inch tapes in his house and in storage in Harlem. We found a studio to do the transfers and 4 months later Virgin Ubiquity was released. I suggested the title to Roy and got my designer at the time Tom MacCallion to do the cover from a picture of a young Roy and tried to create an iconic image for the art.

2. Foreign Exchange – Connected.

In the late ‘90s a lot was happening so we set up a US office. Eddie Bezalel was our man on the ground and he brought the project to BBE. As an exercise of a classic story of PR the record ticked the boxes of the day. A record made over the internet between a producer in Holland and an MC is North Carolina. The press lapped it up.

3. J Dilla – Shining/Welcome To Detroit.

In or around 1999, Kenny Dope introduced me to Jay Dee as he was then known. I went to meet him at a Slum Village gig in London, talked to him and his manager. The conversation carried on after the gig at the hotel and a deal was thrashed out. 4 months later the record was delivered. In the interim I visited Dilla in Detroit – I suggested the Think Twice cover with the hope of getting Erykah Badu on vocals but couldn’t afford her in the end. I saw a Detroit sign and suggested the album title and that stuck – We shot the cover picture on the second trip at Chocolate City – Dilla’s fave strip joint at the time. The Shining – We were going to call the record Welcome to LA as Dilla had Re-located at the time. Long Overdue follow up which unfortunately came as Dilla’s health situation worsened. My dad was diagnosed with lupus in 1989 so I was all too familiar to the agony Dilla was in. When I saw him a few months before the end I was so distraught and it brought up stuff I had suppressed about my dad’s situation for years. ‘Til now I still haven’t been able to listen to the record in its entirety.

4. Pete Rock – PeteStrumentals.

I met Pete in London when he was promoting Soul Survivor via my old mate Jamie Topham who was running BMG’s club promotions at the time. I introduced myself to Pete and suggested the idea of an album to him. Subsequently when I started hanging out with Marley Marl I would meet Pete at his house during the recordings of their Future Flava’s radio show at Marleys house. Eventually Pete’s deal ended and he delivered the album which was a collage of unreleased material and some newly recorded beats.

5. Will.I.Am <> – Lost Change

Will and his manager at the time had seen adverts in Source Magazine for the Beat Gen series and Will had just finished working on an album for a Levi’s ad campaign. Lost Change was the soundtrack. Black Eyed Peas were in Holland and they flew over to London for a day to discuss the album. At the time my apartment was being treated for subsidence and the place was a complete building site. We sat on the couch listening to music in the middle of builders shoveling tons of concrete through the living room to support the building from the rear. Great album and so different from where he is now musically but unfortunately its release date was 9/11 and it got lost in the mayhem of that unfortunate date.

How do you feel about the Vinyl vs. Digital debate – how would you say the styles of music that BBE represents have evolved over time?

(Lee) Too easy to become misty eyed over vinyl… it holds a special place in my heart and there will always be a special place for what is left off my 7” & 12”. Digital is just another format which has allowed the technology gurus to help us sell more music… I hope vinyl remains , but I think these days for the most part it’s the collectors who are buying it, though are I have to say I live with 2 latter teenagers who are mad on vinyl … and that gives me piece of mind.

What can we look forward to from the label in 2012?

(Peter) My thinking is that Africa is the future. With that I don’t want to focus purely on music, for people to understand the music they need to understand the past – culturally and then the vast diversity. Its not a country and the products of the various tribes differ significantly.I’m more interested in doing photographic exhibitions and the amazing lifestyles of the indigenous people. I have a lot to learn about the whole continent, the effects of colonialism old and new.

(Lee) There is some incredible music due out in 2012 and I can only mention a fraction of it here , Julien Dyne’s new album Glimpse , Al Kent’s Disco Demand’s , Johnny D’s Disco Demands, Sandy Barbers deluxe ‘The Best Is Yet to Come’, Boddhi Satva’s ‘Invocation’. I’m deeply passionate about what I do, and hope I can continue to do it for as long as there are enough people around who share some of that passion.

Best of Disco Demands compiled by Al Kent from BBE Music on Vimeo.

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