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The Crazy Frenchman and Kool Groove records

September 20, 2013

I’ve had a bit more time to do some digging this week, so to follow on from the post about Pal Joey, here’s a bit about the guy that gave him his first break on Kool Groove recordsReynald “The Crazy Frenchman” Deschamps!  Despite Reynald’s reputation for being a bit out there, it’s not been easy to find out much about him – for a long time I could only find a few bits of info on Discogs and this 2004 post on the DJ History forum.  I knew of a few of his tracks from the early to mid 90s, but apart from Jazz It Up, released under his CFM Band moniker, I have to admit nothing much particularly grabbed my attention

Then, while looking for Pal Joey records, I noticed his name kept coming up again and again and thought I should dig a bit deeper – for a start, just how French and how Crazy are we talking?!

As it turns out, Reynald is pretty damn French.  I finally came across an in depth 2006 interview with the man himself by a French music journalist Romain Grosman, and with the help of google translate and my own woefully underused GCSE in Fron-says, I reaslised I’d hit the jackpot!

Reynald’s journey to the centre of New York’s early house scene had started decades earlier in France, as he began DJing in 1971 at suitably exotic sounding Paris discotheques by the names Régiskaia and club d’O.  His love of Soul and Funk soon developed with the sounds of Philadelphia into Disco and by 1975, he was in New York making connections with the city’s biggest record distributer, Record Shack – importing direct to his Paris record shop “Music Pop Import”.

Soon he’d be buying more disco than most of the shops in New York and in 1979, he was asked by legendary disco impresario Henry Stone to move permanently to New York to work for distributor and label Record Heaven.  Throughout the 80s, Reynald worked for a number of different New York distribution companies (including SAM records, who’s owner Sam Weiss would eventually set up Nervous Records with his son Michael), until, in 1987, he decided to go it alone.

Let me attempt to allow Reynald finish the story himself, via some Google translating of Romain Grosman’s interview – pardon my French!

Reynald: In 1987-88, I formed my own distribution company MTI (which included labels Kool Groove Records, REY-D and later USA (United Sound of America …. corny) and signed an exclusive distribution contract with the Apexton label group that included Underworld* records (Frankie Bones etc.).  I founded my company with the financial help of producer Larry Joseph (producer of Rock the House on Tommy Boy [BD: Raze – Jack The Groove anyone…?]), who I met at a Tommy Boy party I was invited to by Tom Silverman … My office was on the first floor of the legendary Power Play recording studio – the headquarters of Patrick Adams …

Then I met and worked with Rob Bass, Richie Weeks (Weeks and Co) and I produced several records with Vince Montana (vibes and chief arranger of MFSB and Salsoul Orchestra). I also released a single for Instant Funk with Salsoul’s Glenn LaRusso….

So I produced and composed more than sixty EPs, singles and five albums, some with Pal Joey (SOHO “Hot Music” in late 1988, which sold more than 200,000 copies), then, in 1989 (still with Pal Joey) Earth People, “Reach up to Mars” and “Dance” on Underworld Records which became a House Music classic, selling 80,000.

At this time Frankie Knuckles regularly phoned me from Chicago to distribute Gerkin records locally (in New York). He was the DJ at the legendary Warehouse club, where house music was born. I found myself suddenly propelled into the House market … my favorite producer at the time was Larry Heard of Chicago, who recorded under the name “Mr. Fingers”.

Romain: You eventually become a songwriter?

Reynald: Yes, I started to produce and write music in 1990, releasing music on my label Apexton and its sub-labels.  My first production was “Jazz It Up” on Underworld … In England, they signed the track to Fourth & Broadway (Island records) with an advance of $ 18,000 for just a mix of the title. They also released it on the first Rebirth of Cool acid jazz CD …The “ACID JAZZ” movement started about that time in England and the USA. The first (US) label to follow the style was Instinct Records which was owned by Jarred Hoffman. Before opening his own label, he was a critic for a music magazine – he knew my music and so he signed me for three albums under the name CFM Band. Ironically, Jarred has started his label in his apartment in 14th Street in New York. At the time, for the record, he shared his apartment with a then unknown young musician called MOBY ..

* Just a note – in the original interview, Underworld records is (incorrectly as far as I’m aware) referred to as Underground records.  The sales figures attributed to Hot Music and Dance don’t look right to me either, not sure how to go about checking them…  Anyway, the more I dig the more I’ve found of Reynald’s music that I really like – more digging to be done I think.  In the meantime, here’s another cracker

Postscript: In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m a massive geek for all this – that final sentence practically made me jump out my seat when I read it.  The earlier stuff confirms that the guys making my favourite New York house music in the late 80s were a tight group – every producer I’ve written about so far (bar, significantly, Terre Thaemlitz) has a close connection to either the Apexton or Northcott label groups.  And one thing Apexton and Northcott also have in common is Tommy Musto – his fingerprints are all over both sets of labels from the mid 80s to the early 90s.

What I really loved about the interview with Reynald though was that last sentence – it wrapped up this part of the story perfectly for me.  It instantly reminded me of what I’d read about Moby and the Go EP in Terre Thaemlitz’s RBMA interview; about what was, to him, both the pinnacle of the New York Deep House era and also perhaps the beginning of it’s end.  It tied everyone I’ve written about together, if not historically then at least within my own voyage of discovery to date.  Gotta love it when these things happen:

RBMA: This is Moby’s “Time Signature”, it’s from the compilation…

Terre Thaemlitz: No, no, no, it is better to say it is from the first edition of the Go EP [BD update: Terre is actutally referring here to the Mobility EP, which was released on the aforementioned Jarred Hoffman’s Instinct Records]. There was a lot of different things to talk about from this EP, actually. For me, this is the first edition of the Go EP by Moby, the pinnacle of New York deep house at the time, and also this really interesting moment where right after that, you had this series of remix EPs. One was like this Twin Peaks sound remix thing and other ones were more techno and stuff. Those remixes I really had zero interest in, but this first EP, I guess this is about ‘92, that was when from this EP to the remixes the moment where house and techno became consolidated as genres in New York.

From → Artists, Labels

3 Comments
  1. Reblogged this on Grassroots – Housin' Since '92 and commented:
    Came across this site, a great source of info on early House. Well worth a check.

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