Dialogue Inc Exclusive Interview with Joe Davis head of Far Out Records London
For almost 2 decades now London's Far Out Recordings has steadily cultivated the rich musical heritage of Brazil, unearthing rare treasures & bringing them to a wider audience around the world. They have furthered the recording careers of seminal Brazilian musicians, most notable Marcos Valle, Azymuth, & Joyce but their artist roster expands much wider than this. Incorporating modern day productions and musical styles into its repertoire Far Out has played a heavy part in reshaping the classic sounds of samba, bossa nova, & batucada adding their own unique chapter to Brazil's already extensive musical catalog.
Dialogue Inc had the pleasure of conducting a mini interview with Far Out founder Joe Davis so we could dive a little deeper into Far Outs inception, its mantra, & how its keeping up with the quickly changing & turbulent world of Music in the new millennium. The world of dance music has changed dramatically since Far Out got its start in 1991. Over the years Far Out has flirted heavily with the West London dance scene incorporating broken beat, nujazz & the like into its Brazilian template. In the late 90's and early 00's it rode high on the huge resurgence of brazilian culture & music working its way into downtempo, drum & bass, and discerning dance music etc. With some of these musical trends on the wane (in the last year we've seen the final days of the Co.Op party, Straight No Chaser, Goya, and to a large extent 12" vinyl sales in general) Dialogue Inc inquired about this long and bumpy ride: how Far Out got its start, where it sees itself going in 2008, and some highlights in between.
Joe Davis: "The whole idea of Far Out Recordings was to present Brazilian music, the music I personally love, to new audiences outside of Brazil. I started in the business as a DJ and I became quite instrumental in then the UK jazz dance scene (before acid jazz), as the man playing special Brazilian tunes and providing them to the other dj's on the scene. These I had purchased as I made the move to start taking regular trips to Brazil, beginning as early as 1986. As our scene grew into a global scene, I found myself travelling all over the world and DJing and supplying great DJs with rare grooves from Brazil. This was a crucial A&R exercise for me: I was responsible for finding tracks that could be played in clubs. This went on for many years in between me flopping in and out of university and having other jobs, mainly around the music business, doing studio work and of course djing."
"I started the label with Ollie Buckwell who owned Dorado in 1991. After releasing a few house tunes it became clear to me that I had to get away from this and concentrate on reforming the label with a much stronger musical edge. I therefore started to research a bit more the possibilities of bringing back some of the artists I adored and producing new records with them. At this time in Brazil music was going through this whole commercial revolution and some of the greatest artists had found themselves out of the loop there. Outside Brazil and in the UK myself and friends like Gilles Peterson, United Future Organization, Patrick Forge, Nicola Conte and many others were banging out 60s and 70s samba tinged groves in clubs. This became a huge part of the growing London Jazz Dance scene. We had been through all the categories of American black music by the early 90s, from B Bop, to Boogaloo to Rare Grooves funk to Fusion and Brazilin tracks just became a whole new part of that scene that gave it a freshness. Giles Peterson and Patrick Froge were the guys pushing the whole thing as they had a voice on BBC Radio One London, Jazz FM, and Kiss FM. It was a great scene and the coolest scene to be part of. I was also deep into new forms of electronic music like rave and house music as well and indeed Hip Hop. I was extremely young, so all my schoolmates were going out to completely different places and I would hang out with them in between DJing and going out on my scene."
"So all this history was part of the make up of the label and, going back to your question, as I had chosen tracks from old Lps to play out in clubs, the idea was to integrate dance music and other forms and styalise productions for the European market and that has become the idea of Far Out recordings. We did not have the massive exposure to world music as we have now, there were few people and places to even buy American music let alone, African, Brazilian, and Latin music. It was completely different to today. We are so exposed to anything in music and it is great as it makes my job as a producer so much easier."
"Moving on to today, we have established ourselves well and built a great fan base for the label and I have always put the artists on the label first and sacrificed my own career as a DJ and doing my own tunes . As the whole world music scene has grown we have become an important part of that evolution. Luckily we are in a good shape to keep moving forward as a label. We have managed to manoeuvre in the best possible way. I think we were one of the first labels to have a good download presence, many Brazilian labels still have not started to do that and we are always active in looking at new ways at selling our products and marketing the label and artists with limited resources. It comes down to good management, effort, and especially the music and production. Keep things exciting and you will always find an audience, that’s what I have learned to believe in. This helps in our bid for survival whilst the things you have mentioned have come to a sad end."
Dialogue Inc: Lets focus now on the sunnier Brazil. I'm sure this is a question you're asked over & over again, but I feel its central to the Far Out story - can you expand on how Far Out came together, how you're love affair with Brazilian music & culture took root?
Joe Davis: "As I mentioned previously, in the UK we had a massive black music scene and in the 70s and 80s. We had many stations and legendary DJs playing releases from the USA from the Jazz, Funk and Soul genres. There were many American releases of Brazilian artists like our own Azymuth, Airto and Flora Purim, Marcos Valle and others and these releases fit well along side Side Effect, Donald Byrd, Earth Wind and Fire and all the disco stuff that was being played. Actually in the UK many DJs in clubs would mix Jazz tracks with Disco and Funk, so I already had these tunes around in my head. My brother collected funk and soul records and gave me his records and I continued the collection when I was still in school. It was through American Black music that I became so into the Brazilian strand and began my research and work. When I left school in the mod 80s, the scene for dance music, inbedded in the 70s, was going through a weird time. In the UK, the first generation of dance music DJs found it really hard to accept all the changes in production and the development of drum machines so many got out of the scene (and to this day don’t play records from after 1982). There was a whole new bunch of DJs emerging. The ones playing the current releases (breakbeat, electro) and then many who had grown up listening to soul and funk in the 70s and early 80s. DJs went deep into the history of black music, like Norman J, responsible for the whole Rare Groove scene in London and Gilles P and Paul Murphy developing the whole jazz dance sound from the mid 80s to the 90s. I became instantly attached to the whole Brazilian music thing through this, tracks these guys were playing and had discovered."
"I used to watch football matches in the world cup and was mad about playing football, I loved the samba beat battering out of the Brazilian crowd and I saw the sexy girls in the crowds and I loved the Samba beat so I had to go to Brazil, which I did at the age of 17. Another thing was the players. It was amazing to see so many players who all looked like they could come from different countries in harmony playing killer football. This was really exciting for me as I don’t know if you know, for Asian and black kids, it was fucking tough growing up in the suburbs of England the 70s and 80s. Actually it was music that brought a lot of cultures together. I went, and as an Asian from the UK, it felt like a second home. I loved everything abou the country, the people were so nice to me, the food, beaches, ladies, the music, records, the history and the difference of the states, it is very interesting as a country for Europeans. That was it and it has remained part of me and my life 187 journeys down the line."
Dialogue Inc: Lastly lets focus on label specifics. Given the nature of my first question can you talk about whats on the horizon for Far Out in the remaining months of 2008 & the beginning of 2009? New albums, 12"s, label endeavors, artists, remixers?
Joe Davis: "We have some new 12"s and are looking for new waves and angles on electronic sounds, as there are some really exciting things coming out at the moment. We are about to release the new Sabrina Malheiros CD which is sounding really great and we have a 12” coming featuring Sofrito, Paradiso, Felix remixes and more remixes to come by Kraak and Smaak, IG Culture, Venom, Nicola Conte and more.
Here are the new releases and plans:
Far Out Bossa Nova
Far Out boasts a catalogue which has been developed with artists who can only be described as some of ‘Bossa Nova’s greats’. To coincide with the celebrations of 50 years since Bossa Nova’s inception: ‘Far Out Bossa Nova’, is a comprehensive collection of the best Bossa Nova style releases from Far Out over the last 15 years. This album has been compiled by label founder and Brazilian music enthusiast Joe Davis and features tracks from Bossa Nova’s prominent artists such as Marcos Valle, Joyce, and Roberto Menescal as well as Victor Assis Brasil. Included are tracks by legends Marcos Valle, Joyce, Roberto Menescal and up and coming singers Sabrina Malheiros and Clara Moreno.
The mighty Azymuth make their individual stamp in 2008 with a brand new studio album which acts as a follow up to ‘Brazilian Soul’ released in 2004. This brilliant new project displays the bands timeless ability to push the boundaries of jazz infused electronic music. With their distinctive version of Herbie Hancock’s jazz classic ‘Butterfly’ alongside a pioneering selection of new tracks, this album will appeal not only to the hardcore Azymuth fanbase but also to new fans of jazz and electronic music.
A new direction for the output on Far out Recordings. The debut CD from Copacabana’s hot 6 piece rock-psych-jazz fusion collective Binario, can only be described as ‘out there’ - where samplers, amplified guitars and 2 drum kits collide to produce an epic sound of fresh and freaky rock-funk, live. Imagine if Hermeto Pascoal, jammed with David Axlerod & Liquid Liquid and were produced by David Holmes, and you’re on the right track. Two singles and some TV synchs along the line, this band are destined for some excitement and a bumpy ride. A must for fans of psychedelic soul and jazz rock.
2009 Planned Releases tbc - More to follow
Nicola Conte presents Viagem Vol 2
Alex Malheiros and Banda Utopia
Gilles Peterson in Brazil
Jose Roberto Bertrami and his Modern Sound
Marcos Valle – new CD Recording
Clara Moreno sings Clara Nunes