We continue our monthly illumination of the world’s best vinyl labels with quintessential New York imprint Golf Channel Recordings. Dedicated to developing relationships with artists who share a distinct vision for modern boogie and house that knows its history, Phil South invites us behind the scenes at Golf Channel HQ.
Who are the faces behind the label?
Africaine 808, Spike, DJ Nature, Chris “The Sexican” Munoz, Justin Vandervolgen, Modes & Severson, Mind Fair / The Central Executives, Payfone, Autarkic, Gala Drop, Cherry Garcia, The Rhythm Odyssey & Dr Dunks, Jaime Read, Waldemar Schwartz, Apiento & Co, The Loose Control Band, New York Endless, LGK…
When and why did you setup the label?
2007, because I wanted to do something like Whatever We Want, my friend Carlos’s label which I greatly admired. We were doing a party together called No Ordinary Monkey which gave me access to a lot of talented people making great music. I always wanted the feel of a real roster of artists rather than the traditional deejay label that releases one track by this producer, remixed by the other producer, etc etc. I like LP’s!
Where does the name come from?
My friend Dan Woodford came up with it. He read an article on the Wu Tang Clan where the writer visited them in their house on Staten Island and one of them, I think it was the GZA maybe, was just glued to the Golf Channel. As a young person from England growing up pre-cable I couldn’t believe that a) there was a golf channel and that b) the GZA would be watching it.
It has come to mean how I channel my golf… My dad was and my mum is still a very keen golfer. Whole tracts of time are taken up by this crazy hobby. Sounds familiar…
How many releases have you put out?
50-ish I think… maybe 60?
What is the role of vinyl for your label?
The main thing really for me. I do digital but it’s really not my thing, it doesn’t feel permanent. Useful for the USB and traveling though, and a reality of modern music like it or not. But artwork and wax will always be number one!
Could you pick the 5 records you've released that most represent what the label is about?
This was a big one for me. It’s a retrospective best of Spike, a solo singer / songwriter from Holland. He self released 4 LP’s in the ’80s which sank without trace until Abel Nagengast of Red Light Records fame found one while digging. He managed to track down the man himself and helped him sell some of his back stock which I bought copies of. He put me in touch with Spike. I flew to Holland to meet him and to ask if I could access his master tapes.
Spike’s story is that he liked me because my socks had holes in them and that sealed the deal! He let me have the tapes and we remastered 25 or so tracks. It was very hard to edit down to the 16 that ended up on the LP. In the end I had to avoid some of the shorter, more sketch-like pieces to maintain a nice flow as you listen to the record. Too many one or two minute pieces in a row is just not a satisfying experience as a listener. I’m very proud of the way it runs together now, I think it’s an absolute classic LP that you can listen to over and over again, each listen will reveal something new.
We also got the stems to a bunch of the tracks and have a remix LP coming out early next year. Several of the tracks that didn’t make it on to the LPs are on B sides of 12’s that we put out. ‘Magic Table’ was remixed by Thomas Bullock and ‘New Germany’ was remixed by DJ Nature and they both had great B sides. There is one final 12 due before the remix LP, Justin Vandervolgen’s remix of Chris “The Sexican” Munoz’s take on ‘Sometimes’ which also has 5 additional tracks on it. The remix LP is all new material. Gotta get them all to complete the set!
My friend Alex Voices introduced me to Dirk and Hans who comprise Africaine 808. I was already a fan from their releases on their own label, Vulkandance, and the record that came out on Will’s label, WT Records – “Tummy Tummy”. He thought this particular track and the guys in general would be a good fit for the label and he was very right – thank you Alex! This tune was just next level to me. The groove, the melody, just so infectious and happy, I can listen to it over and over again, it’s a timeless piece of music that will be played in discos for years to come I think.
This led on to another single ‘Rhythm Is All You Can Dance’ which is coming out soon complete with a HUGE remix from an of the moment Jan Schulte under his Wolf Muller guise, and an LP that will drop early 2016 also which will BLOW MINDS, it’s amazing, I’m very excited to be putting that one out.
My first full length LP so will always hold a special place in my heart. I love to work with Milo, he’s a very talented guy and so pure in intent, very humble, mellow, and has so much integrity. Always forward looking, as can be evidenced when you hear him deejay, he’s one of the true greats. People often talk about how deejays get better with age, I think there are actually not that many examples of this – people that haven’t sold out or tried to reinvent themselves by second guessing a youth trend and co opting it – but Milo is one. His productions have a unique sound and feel that have won him fans around the world. It’s deep deep music with roots in the grand tradition of black music and I’m so happy I can contribute to that in some way.
There are may from the catalogue I could mention but I’m gonna go with this one, just because it’s so good. The title track is an epic widescreen psychedelic piece evoking the dank dark heart of the rainforest and its secret places. ‘Feathers like Fingetips’ continues in the same vein but adds a happy happy bossa guitar that is the closest I’ve come to one of my favourite records of all time, Mandy Smith’s I Just Can’t Wait. Lengthy B side ‘Sol Floresta’ is like pouring honey in your ears. My friend Jason Kincade said it best “I just want to take a bath in it” 🙂
OK I know I’m doing more than 5 records here but this bad boy needs an honorary mention. Not least because it completely flummoxed my regular audience, but mainly because I just LOVE the fuck you-ness of it. It takes influences from drum and bass, industrial music, On-U sound and the dub tradition, punk and techno and comes up with a genuine monster of a tune that clocks in around 150bpm with enough attitude and swagger to stop a truck. The Loose Control Band are DJ Spun, San Francisco’s favourite anarchist rave pagan and veteran producer Jonah Sharp, expatriated Englishman and fellow SF hero (also known as Space Time Continuum and half of Raegenz with Move D). They are a proper live band and have a vision for taking it on the road, LP’s, the lot, so it’s exciting to work with these guys. Their previous release was a hot one too – two deep house burners and a mental electro break track, and I love how this is a complete left turn from that.
Also features some amazing art work by Steve Nishimoto who designed their logo. We wanted to do something that screamed PUNK, but modern, not pastiche, so wanted to think of something disturbing and arresting hence the terror threat vibe.
Mangiami was a small restaurant in the Lower East Side on Stanton St which was run by kindred spirit and great friend Gianfranco. The host to end all hosts, this guy. Together with unofficial music co-director and promoter Jason Kincade, the two of them made it so that the place saw everyone and anyone connected with our dance music world grace its turntables. Sessions were twice weekly on Mondays and Wednesdays after work and well into the night, and occasionally in the basement at the weekend.
It literally was place you could walk into at any time and strike up a conversation with a new or old friend, hear great music, and just feel at home. The compilation to honour it was Gianfranco’s idea and I loved it, even more so when I heard his selections… very much in the vein of classy, deeper Italian house music. I could hear a theme and a vision behind it which embodied the spirit of that place.
The gatefold LP has pictures of most of the luminaries and layabouts that frequented the place, and comes with a free download of the amazing mix of the tunes done by the legend that is Tony Humphries. He is a friend of Gianfranco’s and actually asked to play there one Monday night at 7pm for the regular Monday session. The CD is the Tony mix with download of the individual tracks if you so require for deejaying and what not. So you get everything with one purchase. Thats important to me with LPs.
When you're not putting out 12"s, there's a strong visual aesthetic to the label too. What informs this?
Working with great designers like Adrian Fillary, Steve Nishimoto or Misha from PAM helps a lot. Artists generally decide the cover image and I insist on a certain format for the rest… The font, logo, labels and spine.
I like how there is latitude and variety on the front but a certain cohesiveness. I love good artwork! Special thanks to those who have labored in the shadows doing layout – Doug Lee and Andrew Potter. Doug also designed the logo… I think he drew the mountains in about 10 seconds. I just wanted mountains. I love mountains!
While everything you put out is contemporary, there's a strong sense of the artist being aware of musical heritage, whether afro-beat, disco, boogie etc.. What is it that defines the Golf Channel sound for you?
Living in the US and being a fan of dance music you feel a strong connection to musical heritage. If you go the Loft there are all the original old heads there and it’s very clear that the music these guys were dancing to 40 years ago has a modern counterpart.
With that in mind, how do you select the artists you release and work with?
Anything I like! As along as they are down for some kind of long term commitment. One off projects seem to me a waste of time.
Photo: Pernille Loof
Could you tell us some labels you admire and why?
Music from Memory – these guys are just the masters at finding old records. Same for Invisible Cities. And Dark Entries, Sex Tags, Fit, FXHE, Antinote, Going Good, Unthank, Berceuse Heroique, Psychostasia, Rush Hour, Clone, Be With, Aficianado, the Emotional labels (Rescue, Response etc), Ene, Animals Dancing, Rhythm Section, Ruf Kutz, Adult Contemporary, International Feel, Athens of the North, Themes For Great Cities, Public Possession, Interzona 13, Good Timin’, Mood Hut, PPU, Hell Yeah, LIES, Running Back, Mondo, Internasjonal, Noise In My Head, Second Circle, Parkway, Ze, Soundway, Minimal Wave, Sofrito, Superior Elevation, Em, Minimal Wave, Sound Signature.
I’m probably missing loads. I really admire labels that actually have some integrity AND make it as a business….XL, Domino, RVNG… These guys give me hope.
What's the hardest thing about running a label?
Making fuck all money. That fucking sucks. It’s hard work doing this and its a very valuable thing I do, and all record labels and artists in general. People should get PAID. It’s a mess. And now CD players with wifi and streaming – it’s over! Goodbye! People will be sorry in future years.
What's in the pipeline for the rest of 2015?
Africaine 808 – ‘Rhythm Is All You Can Dance’ EP
Autarkik – ‘Goodbye to Mrs Blank’ EP
The Central Executives – ‘Wicker Man Dance’ / ‘Wazoo’
Payfone – ‘Quarantine’ / ‘Padre, Pray For Us’
Jaime Read – ‘On The Beaches’ EP
Balearic Gabba Sound System EP
Modes & Severson – ‘Midnight Exotics’ / ‘Dangerous Desire’
Spike – ‘Sometimes (Justin Vandervolgen remix of Sexican Version)’
Various Artists – Mangiami “La Compilation”
Gala Drop – Nova