Label Feature: Digikiller
- Date published
The Brooklyn based label Digikiller Records (short DKR) shoot for the moon when it started the mission to repress essential Reggae music of yesteryear. The goal of the unique company is simple and pure: in the age of digital music where the unlimited frequencies of music get compressed into the MP3 format they do high quality repressings of rare killer tunes in order to give all Reggae lovers the full experience of original bass driven riddims. No bootlegs, no bad new artwork, no dreadful noisy or warped pressings – only high-quality material that move your hips straight away. Carhartt Radio is proud to present a boonoonoonous show by the Reggae aficionados from New York that will make your summer even hotter then it hopefully is. Due the case that Digikiller founder Rob Buschgans aka DJ Distort and his partner in crime Ian Clark aka DJ Wicz think that music got to speak for itself they rarely give interviews. We feel blessed that they talked with us about their mission and their passion for Reggae music.
You come from New York - can you tell us a little bit about the Reggae scene of your hometown.
DKR: There is a large Caribbean population here that has been a vibrant part of New York City for a long time. We have a particularly soft spot for the music our label has reissued that was made in New York. The 80’s in particular were an interesting time for New-York-produced Reggae, featuring many small labels like Chopper, 14 Karat, Jah Life putting out innovative tunes.
Do you throw your own parties in New York?
DKR: We tend to focus on our releases and on finding interesting old music. Four or five times a year we throw big parties for friends, but the music ranges across Soul, Rap, Latin, Brazillian and Reggae, as the crowd wants to dance and have a good time. Pure Reggae parties are great fun for us, but a bit difficult to promote to the larger public in New York.
What was your biggest hit so far?
DKR: Our biggest seller was Getho Struggle - Philip Myers (Junior Militant/DKR). Demand was high due to the notoriety of the record which had been bubbling up recently (it was included on one of our mix cd's and a Firehouse - Denmark -mix at the same time). Great tune.
How do you select the records you re-release?
DKR: We started re-releasing the music we really loved that was out of print. We continue to do so to this day, and are getting to reissue the back-catalogs of some producers (Channel One, Tasha) that for whatever reason have been overlooked by others.
Is there any Reggae record you wanted to re-release and you couldn’t?
DKR: This happens from time to time, due to the complexity involved in a) finding the original music in the most high-quality format possible b) tracking down the rights-holders and c) several other possible complications, such as an unauthorized/bootlet release coming on the market and hurting demand for example.
What does a perfect Reggae or Dancehall tune need in your eyes?
DKR: We like what many other serious Reggae fans tend to like, a heavy rhythm and a great vocal. It’s very difficult to put into words the feel of a tune. A great song can have crystal clear production values or can be made in a tiny room on a tape machine, it’s hard to distill it to a uniform set of qualities.
Do you regular fly to Jamaica to dig for old treasures?
DKR: We go to Jamaica to get in touch with producers and artists in order to find music we are interested in. We have also traveled to Canada, Miami, and found plenty of people here in New York. We are always looking for old records regardless, but this is just one way to know about an out-of-print release.
What is the best about re-releasing music on the so called old medium vinyl?
DKR: Vinyl is exactly that, a medium for the music. It is the preferred medium for us (and many others) since it reproduces the sound faithfully. Also unlike a sound file on a computer, it is a tangible object with artwork that you can hold in your hand.
How do you get in touch with studios/labels/producers/artists whose records you want to re-release? How are their reactions?
DKR: Reactions vary, but have been overwhelmingly positive. In some cases we have reached out to people who have not been in the business for a long time so usually they are happy that the music they worked on say 30 years ago still has an audience and an interest. We have also released music by people still working in the business, a few of whom had initial reluctance to take on additional projects. Once they see some success however they have continued to work with us.
What do you like and dislike about the contemporary Dancehall and Reggae?
DKR: There is still a lot of good music being made in Dancehall, there are so many talented people who are hungry to make hits. A lot of the new music isn’t released on vinyl (though some still is, it is now typically pressed in small runs in Europe and Japan). In recent years dancehall production has naturally started to sound closer to US Hip Hop production and vice versa to a certain extent. Therefore there is perhaps less of a distinctive sound in some of the music played on the radio.
And at last: what is the best of being part of the Digikiller tribe?
DKR: We enjoy travelling to find new people and projects, there’s always something exciting on the horizon. But really our main satisfaction comes from releasing great music that has either been very difficult to find or entirely unavailable.