Musical Processes: In Talks With Russell Paine (Super Disco Edits)

Tuff Love Soul Club lead man, Liam Flanders, sat down with Russell Paine, head of the renowned Super Disco Edits to talk release processes and what’s next for the record label…

These days we’re spoiled with access to music and thus the wealth of our musical knowledge has spread like wild-fire. You can walk down any street in any city and the average kid, who might once have been restricted to spoon-fed radio Top 40’s and NOW compilations, has an in-depth, multi-genre knowledge-bank. An understanding for music that is built up on the back of access to the internet and a millennial’s disposition for consumption.

This acquisition of knowledge and increased consumption has led hordes of people into the depths of genre back-catalogues. This largely record-based scene has encouraged more and more avid music listeners to follow the vinyl en masse trends that aficionados have stood by for many years. The more vinyl the merrier. Rafts and rafts of records are changing hands every second of every day all over the world. Often the rarest records are the most highly coveted, the hardest to find are the crown-jewels of many a record collection. Some people are not content with hard to find. Some seek out the locked-away, yet to see the light of day, written off and canned records.

Russell Paine, head of Super Disco Edits is one of these record evangelists. Gilles Peterson coined the catchphrase ‘searching for the perfect beat’. Russell is certainly living up to this with Super Disco Edits, continuously seeking out fantastic unreleased music and putting it out for collectors over the world to enjoy. Liam Flanders caught up with the man himself to find out how his passion for records came about ahead of his appearance at Tuff Love Soul Club…

How do you go about discovering unreleased music? 

Well my thought process really is simple. I try to chase music from groups and artists whose particular sound excites me.  Initially I did this because records were so bloody expensive and it seemed my best bet at owning any was tracking down an artist, label or group. When I had a fair bit of success doing this with records like Sage – ‘I’m Alive’, ‘Wee – Try Me’ and Fabulous Playmates – ‘Don’t Turn Your Back On Loving’, I just took it to the next stage and started asking them about any other material from those same sessions.

How do you go about tracking down the owner of the music?

Back in the early days I wasn’t on Facebook. So tracking down an artist or label owner was really either phoning a hell of a lot of people in the state the record was made, and hoping I got lucky. A lot of time I just used to search the churches for pastors and everything. After their careers had ended, a lot of the soul folk became men of the church. I guess they could still sing and play to an audience of some type. Finding the owner of the music can always be tricky. Of course if the label is independent, normally they funded the project themselves. So inevitably wouldn’t have to answer to anyone.  If they didn’t own the label it could be a bit more tricky. But to be honest most musicians were so ripped-off during the 60’s and 70’s, I’m sure they wouldn’t even care anymore.

Do you have to contact the publisher and record label? What if the record label doesn’t exist anymore?

It’s a bit of a minefield if I’m honest. At the end of the day if I have done a contract with a person who says they own the music; who am I to argue! I find most of the people I contact get attorneys involved and go over any contracts. Getting sued seems to be much bigger business in the States than over here in the UK. Normally it’s the writer who owns the music. We are talking about releasing music over 35-40 years old. As in most cases; documents and publishing documentation seems to have got lost along the way.

I haven’t encountered any problems as yet.

Who do you usually have to pay? Is it possible to get away with paying nobody?

Of course, its very very easy not to pay anybody. Hundreds of people are doing it with bootlegs, dodgy reissues, releasing music from one off acetates. Even some of the biggest names of the soul scene are pulling people’s pants down! That’s not what I’m about. I love getting the music from artists, who are legends to me and you, but in real life are often not as flush as you would think. And putting some green into their pockets is really rewarding.

Have you ever had issues with people ‘coming out of the closet’ and asking to be paid retrospectively?

Not at the moment. The label has been going around 3 or 4 years. To this date, I don’t need to look over my back. Most artists I pay up front; working pretty closely with them. I’m not a take the product and run person. I like keep it nice and fun and teamwork’ish together.

What format do you usually get the music in? Are there any steps you need to take to make it accessible?

First port of call is seeing if there are any reels available from the studio sessions. This means we can get the best possible take on the music. It also determined whether we can get the individual stems to allow   us the chance to mix it down again. We did this with both Willie Tee tracks and you can tell the difference. It means we have the licence to beef up the drums or make that guitar or bassline a little more predominant in the mix.

After this we may get either an AIFF file or a Wav. Me and my engineer have a lot of software and tools at our disposal. We can do some great stuff to poor files that came from bad tape transfers. Anything other than these formats are pretty pants to be honest.

Once you have a piece that you have identified to work on and you have a deal with the necessary people, how do you go about processing the music and getting it ready to release?

I have a listen and if I feel the track could use some extra loving, I give it to my engineer, Matt Fletcher. He is super dope, and lives just around the corner from me. He has been in the music industry both as a producer  and musician. He knows exactly what I need and we work together as a team on the music.

So, he gets the files and with the computer plug-ins we go about getting the track ready…

We start off by getting rid of any unwanted tape hiss, and do some stereo imaging to get the track sitting nicely on the speaker. Often some parts need some gentle EQ. Once this process has been done, I send the track off to Simon Davies who used to work for The Exchange in Camden. He brings the track up in his editing suite and cuts it straight to the lacquers.  This is the master they will work from at the pressing plant. I like to do this rather than the plant creating the process. It means I’m getting a more personal touch done on the recording.

Simon understands what I need from the recording.

What’s the biggest challenge you encounter along the way?

There is no real big challenge. I guess the challenges differ really. Sometimes it’s convincing an artist or label that they should work with you. You have to understand some of these people have been on the wrong end of deal after deal after deal, where managers and owners have back stabbed and robbed them of earnings on a regular basis. They tend not to trust a lot of people. Other than that, I think I have been pretty lucky. I’m in it for the long haul, and I know that getting a good reputation can be a long, slow process. Fortunately, I’m very young!!

How much more unreleased soul music do you think is languishing out there in the archives waiting to be unleashed?

I’d say it’s endless.  We haven’t even begun to scrape the surface; when you think how large the States, Canada and the UK are.  There are millions of groups who performed, went to the studio, cut a few songs but never got a deal. We have a group coming out soon on our Kinsman label, called Mother Braintree. They are from Cleveland, Ohio. They were performing around 1973/74 and did a studio session.  This never came out.  But it is now…crazy stuff.

What’s your favorite project to date?

I would have to say working with Leroy Hutson on the Arnold Blair music. To be part of something like that, something that’s going to go down as a classic is really special. Arnold Blair’s ‘Trying To Get Next To You’ has been one of the biggest two-step songs going since the early 1980’s. It’s cherished and loved by one and all. And to think after all these years there was actually another two songs from that session and an alternate take of ‘Trying To Get Next To You’ is nothing short of incredible. It’s also propelled the label to people and places I think may not have heard of us, which can only be good for the next batch of artists.

What’s next for Super Disco Edits?

Oh, I’m really excited about 2017. I have unissued music coming out of my rather large protruding lug ols! Here is a run down:

SDE 23 Willie Tee ‘Don’t Get Caught ‘ Flambeaux

SDE 24 The New Jersey Connection feat Cynthia Wilson ‘Red Light, Green Light’ Soulnival

SDE 25 Bell Telephunk ‘Love Vibration’ Kinsman

SDE 26 Arnold Blair ‘Trying To Get Next To You (ALTERNATE)/Is it a real love’ Triumph

SDE 27 Mother Braintree ‘Sailing/Let Me Lay Beside You’ Kinsman

Plus a few others that I don’t want to mention at the moment…So it’s all looking good for this year. As they say…”When the fun stops…stop!”

You can catch Russell Paine spinning vinyl for Tuff Love Soul Club at Buyers Club on Sunday 30th of April between 7-2.