Tag Archives: Frenchie

Crucial as usual from Frenchie

In November 2010 Maximum Sound producer and owner Frenchie launched a new label called Calabash for roots and steppers, a different branch compared to his usual output.

Its first four first 10”s were lethal remixes of Jah Mason, Alborosie, Luciano and Yami Bolo conducted by Russ Disciples.

Another four 10”s were put out recently. This time it’s Russ Disciples together with Dougie Wardrop that have given Frenchie’s Dunza 2010, The Session and Matches Lane riddims the steppers treatment.

The riddims comes with dub versions and are of course heavy as lead with pulsating bass lines and nightmare-infused echoes and effects.

The 10”s are released as limited edition so be quick and grab your copy, because these are on fire.

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The mechanics of the new record industry

The music business is changing fast and as a label you need to be on your toes to reach the customers and make them pay for songs and albums. Reggaemani has dug deep into the mechanics of the reggae music industry and found some interesting things when interviewing Olivier Chastan, Frenchie and Adrian Sherwood.

The music business has had many rough years, and the reggae industry is no exception.

The list of small, independent labels that have folded contains well-known brands such as Blood and Fire and Makasound. Both were praised and loved by music aficionados and record collectors all over the world. But unfortunately, they didn’t make it.

Greensleeves saved
Legendary label Greensleeves was also on the verge of bankruptcy when reggae giant VP stepped in and acquired it in 2008.

Olivier Chastan is President of Greensleeves and Vice President of VP International

“Greensleeves was in really bad shape and was fast running out of cash,” says Olivier Chastan, President of Greensleeves and Vice President of VP International, and continues:

“It was our biggest competitor, and it made sense to acquire them. Greensleeves was a large music publisher and had hit songs by Shaggy and Sean Paul in their catalogue. They also had a better presence in Europe than we did.”

Olivier Chastan has been at VP since 2005 and knows reggae and the music industry.

“Now the label is doing well. We’ve fixed the financial side. The music publishing is very active with artists such as Etana and Busy Signal,” explains Olivier Chastan.

Fewer record stores and declining sales
Even though Greensleeves’ financial issues are straightened out, there are things in the music business to be concerned about – fewer record stores and declining sales are two key issues.

Adrian Sherwood – founder of several labels, producer and musician – says that running a label is thankless.

Adrian Sherwood is a veteran in the music business

“I mean, you cannot win. You have to maintain visibility and do the best you can,” he believes, and gives an example of why it is so hard today:

“There are not many record shops around anymore, which does not make it easier. Few today actually sell physical records.”

For many years the revenues from record sales have been declining, even though statistics from Nielsen SoundScan show a 1 percent increase in overall album sales in the U.S. for the first half-year 2011.

This does not, however, mean that the rise in units sold will translate into revenue growth.

Recipe for success
For Olivier Chastan the recipe for success is simple, and contains three main ingredients – good control of your finances, embracing new promotional tools and having hit songs.

“You need to keep your costs down and find new platforms. There’s not a platform we don’t touch. Piracy is not a big deal. It’s been going on since 2000 and you have to accept it. We take down illegal links from blogs and such, but don’t spend our day on it,” explains Olivier Chastan, and continues:

“In the U.S. sales of CD and digital download is about 50-50. In Europe it’s much lower. The only difference with digital is that you have no returns. Otherwise, it’s the same job  – you still have to do your artwork and mastering. iTunes is just like any other store for me. The real change is in digital promotion, with the declining power of TV and radio. How do you reach your customers today? No one has understood how to do it perfectly yet.”

“Move with what is going on”
New promotional tools are something Frenchie, producer at Maximum Sound, also has started to look further into. This year the label has begun using Twitter and YouTube. But an even bigger change is putting out their catalogue on iTunes.

“We have to move with what is going on. The 7 inch and CD sales are in decline. The licensing of tracks to other labels as well. So we have to try something else, as the digital format is the one of the future. If we want to keep on putting out music we have to go in that direction and embrace new formats to release our music,” explains Frenchie, and continues:

“You have to take the rough with the smooth. It’s too early to tell, but business wise it is definitely not what it was. Only time will tell if we will still be doing this in ten years.”

That hit song
The third ingredient is often the base for labels, producers, writers and artists around the globe – that one hit song or hit album.

“We need a massive, massive hit,” says Olivier Chastan, and continues:

“The scene is stagnant and making music for a core Jamaican market that is smaller and smaller every day. Why try to imitate T-Pain or whatever else is the flavor of the moment?”

Frenchie fills in:

“The industry is going through changes as more and more people just do things themselves and are going directly to iTunes to release their music and are not depending on bigger record labels to market their stuff. It’s a new strategy for a lot of small producers and artists. Only time will tell if it is a sound one.”

A shake-up is needed
VP had a smash hit last year with Gyptian’s crossover tune Hold Yuh, which peaked at number 77 on Billboard’s Hot 100. But Olivier Chastan believes that more needs to be done.

“The reggae business needs a shake-up,” he stresses, and continues:

“It’s too much RnB and hip-hop. There is no sense of direction. There are still producers that are doing the Jamaican-Jamaican sound. But where is it supposed to go next?” he asks, and concludes:

“Interest in reggae music outside of Jamaica has declined. It’s low temperature.”

Follow your vision
Adrian Sherwood’s recipe for success, on the other hand, is to not be reliant on hit songs.

“Labels that are doing well do not rely on hit records. Just look at Rough Trade and Island. They had to sell to stay in business. You have to follow your vision and have courage,” says Adrian Sherwood.

But he is on the same track as Olivier Chastan on financials, and illustrates his point with an example.

Pressure Sounds is not doing lots of stuff, but they have low overheads. It is basically only Pete Holdsworth. You have to be a specialist. That is the way of surviving,” Adrian Sherwood believes, and adds:

“It is almost impossible. Today it has to be part of something bigger, like merchandise, clothing and stuff. You have to be insane to start a label today. Just look at the business model. No one would start a label today,” he concludes.

Careful of the money you spend
Keeping track of costs is essential to Frenchie as well.

“You have to be careful of the money you spend on a project as it is very easy not to make it back. And you also have to understand the different markets in reggae today, what sort of music sells on mp3 or CD format and what sells on vinyl. A lot of labels and production houses have gone into management and are doing more and more live sound system shows with artists as well. We are thinking of going in that direction too,” says Frenchie, and stresses:

“Be critical with yourself and what you do. Don’t take what you do or yourself too seriously.”

“The problem is not in the music”
The decline in sales of CDs is also something VP and other labels need to cope with.

“The decline of CDs is going to accelerate, but CD will always be there. Vinyl sales are way up, but from a very small starting point. It’s not going to do anything for the industry as a whole. I mean if it’s growing from two to four, it’s a 100 percent increase. It’s great for music fans and a great format, but people are not going to run out and by turntables again,” says Olivier Chastan, and continues:

“The problem is not in the music. It’s about managing decline. CDs are still about 40 percent of our total revenue. But we have to embrace digital. If somebody starts a new platform tomorrow – we’re there.”

And that seems like a well-thought strategy since sales of digital tracks and digital albums rose 11 and 19 percent respectively in the first six months of 2011 according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Key issues ahead
Olivier Chastan points out two key issues in the coming year.

“To keep promoting and to diversify,” he says.

Frenchie will focus on downloads and maybe launch a live road show or a sound system.

Adrian Sherwood earlier pointed to the fact that a label today needs to be a part of something bigger, and VP is going in that direction. The label now has a clothing line, booking agency, concert promotion and publishing.

Olivier Chastan explains the development.

“You need to be able to manage multiple activities and to think outside the box,” he says, and adds:

“The Jerk Festival that we just put together in New York is a good example. It was not a big stretch from our booking and promotional activites,” he explains, and concludes:

“You can’t stay static. Sales are not going to improve in the next two years. Die or move. Pick your choice.”


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Killer compilation from Maximum Sound

UK-based label Maximum Sound, lead by producer Frenchie, went digital last week. The first step was to offer the back catalogue on iTunes, and the other day saw the release of the iTunes exclusive compilation Maximum Sound 2011.

This set assembles 18 dancehall and one drop tunes from 2009 to 2011. And as usual with Maximum Sound there are no fillers here, only killers from the crème de la crème of Jamaican singers and deejays.

I mean, you hardly go wrong with Sizzla, Bounty Killer, Mr. Vegas, Tarrus Riley and Alborosie on well-produced and inspired riddims such as Praise Jahovia (a relick of the Billie Jean aka Get A Lick riddim), Ghetto State (which incorporates elements from Half Pint’s One Big Ghetto) or the most recent addition, Fairground.

Maximum Sound 2011 collects several tunes previously only available as 7” or 12”, but it also includes exclusive titles, such as Who You Love from Ce’Cile.

This compilation is without a doubt an essential purchase that will enhance any record collection.

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Maximum Sound steps into the digital age with a bang

UK-based label Maximum Sound, lead by producer Frenchie, steps into the digital age and releases an exclusive iTunes compilation titled Maximum Sound 2011.

The new compilation holds 17 killer tunes from artists such as Sizzla, Tarrus Riley and Busy Signal on a variety of different dancehall and one drop riddims, including Skateland Killer, Ghetto State and Praise Jahovia.

Several of the tunes haven’t been available on digital platforms until now, which makes it an essential purchase for non-vinyl buyers. Keep an eye out on August 21st,when it hits the streets.

Maximum Sound has also fortunately enough decided to release their new Fairground riddim as well as the back catalogue on iTunes. And this is a real treat. If you don’t own riddims such as I Know My Herbs, Jah Powers and Blackboard already you should definitely head over to iTunes.

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New riddim from Maximum Sound

The always reliable producer Frenchie has dropped another great riddim, this one is called Fairground, and is a nice piece of energetic modern roots reggae.

It’s voiced by I-Octane, Konshens, Luciano and Fantan Mojah, and is now available as 7” in all good record stores. In late July it will also be made available as digital download on iTunes.

Maximum Sound has had some great releases in 2011. In April the label dropped the acclaimed riddims Sound Exterminata, Ghetto State, with elements from Half Pint’s One Big Ghetto, and Skateland Killer, based on Eek-A-Mouse’s Star, Daily News and Gleaner.

If you’re curious on how Fairground riddim sounds you can visit Maximum Sound’s new YouTube channel here and listen to the megamix, which also includes cuts from Chris Martin, Cecile and Zinc Fence featuring Stylo G.


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The vibrating French reggae scene

France has established itself as one of the leading reggae countries. Producers such as Special Delivery, Irie Ites and Frenchie have put the country on the map and new producers and labels are popping up like mushrooms, both in France and in the French West Indies.

Reggae has been in Europe almost since the music’s inception in Jamaica some 50 years ago.

Britain was – and maybe still is – the leading European country for reggae music due to the large Jamaican population and that the island up until 1962 was a British colony. With many immigrants from the Caribbean, especially Jamaica, it was natural that the UK took reggae seriously.

But recently something has happened. According to me, the baton has been handed over to France. Or at least partly.

Serge Gainsbourg was a reggae pioneer
National idol Serge Gainsbourg is probably not widely known for his reggae productions. But he was a reggae pioneer and has meant a great deal to reggae in France, mainly for the general public.

In 1979 he dropped Aux armes et cætera, an album that partly meant a bigger breakthrough for reggae in the country. The album was recorded in Jamaica with musicians such as Sly Dunbar, Robbie Shakespeare and The I Threes. But what got the most attention was the title track, a sarcastic reggae version of the French national anthem La Marseillaise.

Serge Gainsbourg is probably not widely known to the reggae audience though.

Started with sound systems
Frenchie – French producer from Maximum Sound and nowadays based in London – says that the reggae scene in France really exploded in the mid 90’s. According to him, reggae has been in France since the beginning of the 80’s.

“The journey of the French reggae scene is interesting as it started really with the sound system movement and the toasters/deejays in the mid 80’s more on a ragga tip. Now it has gone very rootsy with a lot of reggae groups doing very well,” explains Frenchie, and continues:

“The first French reggae records I remember were Pablo Master’s En a en i en o, Mikey Mossman’s La Cocaine and Pupa Leslie with Ausswiss.”

Back then only a few labels were putting out Jamaican music and Blue Moon Records used to license material from Greensleeves in the late 80’s.

Regulations changed the game
But something changed. And it was due to new governmental regulations according to Frenchie.

“In the mid 90’s the government introduced quotas in France which obliged radio and TV to play 70 per cent French speaking music. That revolutionized the reggae scene as it was the gateway for record companies to sign all the DJ’s and singers who were on the sound system circuit,” says Frenchie.

Since then much has happened. Particularly in terms of producers and labels. These are the words of Pierre Bost, co-founder of Special Delivery Music.

“The French reggae scene is not really that big. There are several great producers, but less successful artists, in international terms. Local singers are not that recognized internationally and the producers are therefore mostly interested in Jamaican and other European artists,” he says.

Vibrating scene
The French scene differs from the rest of Europe. For example, many of the artists sing in French instead of English with a patois accent.

“France has probably the largest local scene in Europe and we were early with our own reggae artists such as Tonton David, Raggasonic and Pierpoljak,” says Sir Joe, founder of label and sound system Heartical.

Sir Joe points out that France, in addition to the UK, has been the best in European reggae since the late 70’s.

“The first sound system shows in France took place in 1979 with Lone Ranger on the mic. But it took another ten years before the sound system culture reached the rest of Europe. Since the 70’s we have also had regular yearly tours including artists like U Roy, Gladiators or Israel Vibration. There are many veterans who visit France,” says Sir Joe.

Sir Joe highlights the country’s demographics as a key reason behind the reggae interest.

“France has the largest African population in Europe and also a huge quantity of immigrants coming from the French West Indies and overseas territories. It is no surprise that reggae has been popular here for so long,” explains Sir Joe.

New found interest
In recent years the popularity of reggae has spread in France, notes both Pierre Bost and Frenchie.

“Since the mid-90’s, interest has spread from French Africans to the white audience. There is now a very mixed audience,” says Pierre Bost.

Frenchie says that that he started to see a lot of French labels producing Jamaican artists around the year 2000, and the whole European production thing outside of the UK really started from Germany with Pow Pow and Germaican records.

“I think a lot of people were doing specials for their sounds in France and from then started to produce records with the knowledge they learned from producing artists on dub plates,” explains Frenchie, and continues:

“Reggae has always been strong in France, especially roots music. Europe is one of the biggest markets for reggae and there is a void in the business today, as Jamaica is not producing the kind of reggae Europeans like so they have taken matters in there own hands and are producing what they love. And are doing well with it.”

Production crew Irie Ites also believes that the French people are mainly interested in roots, and that the scene has gained a lot from producers visiting Jamaica.

“Now that the French producers know the music business and the reggae scene most of them go to Jamaica regularly and learn a lot. Jamaica represents the roots, the essence of this music. It also gives a lot of inspiration when you are there,” says Jericho from Irie Ites.

Bashment gaining interest
The interest in different genres differs between audiences, according to Pierre Bost. One drop is the biggest, but dancehall and Jamaican bashment is on the rampage.

Frenchie has also noticed this segmentation, and says:

“There is a clear division in the market in France. The French West Indian population from Guadeloupe and Martinique really like dancehall and French people like roots music more.”

Pierre Bost fills in:

“The West Indian audience is mostly interested in hard dancehall. But there are not many French producers making this type of reggae today,”

“We mainly do one drop since it’s doesn’t feel like a fad. That music will stand the test of time.”


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Three new riddims from Frenchie

Master producer Frenchie has been a bit quiet for a while. Late last year he dropped a bunch of steppers tunes produced by Russ Disciples on his new imprint Calabash.

But now he is back with a bang. Three new riddims and one single are set for release next week. And as these are Frenchie productions you can count on some huge artists.

Sound Exterminata is a dancehall riddim voiced by the likes of Mr. Vegas and Burro Banton, while Skateland Killer is roots with cuts from Tarrus Riley and Frenchie’s long-time friend Captain Sinbad among others.

Ghetto State is a hip-hop tinged one drop and offers artists such as Sizzla and Bounty Killer.

Frenchie has also produced Unity from Swedish dancehall talent Million Stylez.

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Reggaemani’s best compilations in 2010

Compilations can often be a bit dull and it’s tough not to wander away in the jungle of new compilations introduced on iTunes every week. This is probably one of the reasons why I think 2010 hasn’t been a great year for new compilations. It has just been too many with too poor quality.

But there are still compilations that are very well crafted and well compiled. The new Dennis Brown Anthology and Absolutely The Uniques just to name two.

But in my list of the best compilations in 2010, I’ve only selected various artists’ albums and eliminated those that are dedicated to just one artist or group. I’ve also excluded riddim compilations to narrow it down even further.

Below are the three compilations that I’ve enjoyed the most in 2010.

3. Various – Dancehall 2 – The Rise of Jamaican Dancehall Culture
The second edition in the Soul Jazz Records “Dancehall” series featuring some great dancehall moments with wicked artists such as Yellowman, Johnny Osbourne and Lone Ranger. An absolutely essential guide that features both classic tunes as well as rarer ones.

2. Various – Digital Acoustics
Gathers some of the best tunes from producer Curtis Lynch. Includes several relicks, but also some own material. A great introduction to this master producer and his hefty sounds.

1. Various – Bobo Revolution 2
Includes 21 cuts on nine well crafted riddims produced by mastermind Frenchie. Artists ranging from chanters to sweeter voices such as Peetah Morgan. No fillers, only killers.

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Luciano strikes twice in 2010

Luciano recently dropped his second album in 2010 and I must admit that I was a bit skeptical about Write My Name when I first read about it. Why? Luciano has put out too many mediocre albums in recent years. In my view the Frenchie produced set United States of Africa – released in July – was his first great album since Serious Times that dropped in 2004.

So I naturally thought that Write My Name would be a huge disappointment. But I was mistaken. Seriously mistaken. Because Write My Name is a great album. Maybe not as great as United States of Africa, but definitely one of Luciano’s better albums in the 21st century.

Write My Name is produced by Rawle Collins and was recorded in Atlanta, U.S. All compositions are fresh and written by Luciano himself. This is makes this set a bit different from the Frenchie album, which included some previously released tunes co-written by others.

Album starter Taking Off sets the pace. Its slow, almost musical, beginning is just a chimaera. After 20 seconds its driving chorus is in full swing and Luciano certainly shows who’s the man.

From there on it’s a very pleasant journey with some great one drop riddims, nyabinghi flavor and 70’s soul. Check Miles Away with its sneaking beat and sensual groove.

The one thing this album lacks though is some horns. Now these arrangements are handled by keyboard which is not nearly as good as the original thing.

Luciano has once again proven that he is a force to be reckoned with in reggae music.


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New label from Frenchie

One of the greatest producers of contemporary reggae music – Frenchie – has set up a new label for roots and steppers. The new imprint is named Calabash and will only put out 10 inches.

The first four releases are lethal remixes of Jah Mason, Alborosie, Luciano and Yami Bolo produced by Russ Disciples. Frenchie himself sat in the executive chair.

− I tried to give him [Russ D] some guidance on how I wanted the riddim to sound. He is one of the best UK steppers musicians/producers today and as I’ve known his brother Lol Bell-Brown for years we made the link, writes Frenchie in an e-mail to Reggaemani, and continues:

− I’ve always thought that a lot of those UK roots productions had great riddims, but the vocals are sometimes not quite up to the standard of the music.

The first four releases are limited to 700 copies each. There will be more releases next year, mainly remixed by Russ D and some other producers in the same genre.

− I might do some myself as well, but it’s a different branch basically from my Maximum Sound imprint.


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