1. Why do they call you Jeff The Fish?
They call me Jeff the Fish because I was a fishmonger for 17 years at Billingsgate Market. When I was younger, the scene that I moved around it had a couple of Jeff’s, you know what I mean? I was Jeff, the Fish, and there was Jeff the whatever and It kind of stuck from there really. I discovered that more people knew me by Jeff, the Fish than my real name. That’s the straight forward simple answer.
2. How did you start in the musical journey and in particular as a record label producer?
I and music is a long story because I am 53 and have been doing this for about 30 odd years. But I started off as a guitar player in various bands. I started writing material for bands and stuff like that and rapidly became the band manager. At the same time, we got into dealing with records companies, and we were part of a bidding war. That actually fell flat on its face partially because a lot of the band did not want to commit to long term music contracts. I decided to pick up the pieces after all the work we had done rather than flush it all down the toilet. I very naively start a record label and put the music out myself. My approach to music was from a slightly different angle from the way that I had approached it before. Not that I didn't like the music that I had done before. I was always bending towards whatever the current fashions were and that kind of stuff. It had always been jazzy, but I covered a hell of a lot of bases, starting with rock jazz. Rock funk might be a better way to put it. Then we did hip-hop, trip-hop, drum and bass and acid-jazz. There has always been a jazzy angle in there. When I came back, I decided to make music the way I wanted to do, without bending to any commercial angles. That’s when I started DJing much more. So now I DJ a lot and have stopped playing in groups for the time being. Now there is the record label and now my radio show. I really love the radio thing.
3. I have seen some reference to the Staubgold Record Label in Germany. What is the connection?
Ultimately, they’re the parent record label. I’ve been playing that music over Europe for the last couple of years. When I come across a tune, a digital tune that I really like or I think wow! I should be playing that, I cut a dub-pate. It’s cheaper to cut a 12-inch album than single. And after a couple of years of doing this, I was pulling them out and thinking this is crazy. These are really good compilations. They’re really good compilations with great music. This should come out in this form (vinyl). I poked around a couple of record labels to see if anyone was interested in that idea and ultimately Staubgold contacted me. They’re a label based in Berlin, but as it happens, the owner lives in Perpignan, the same town as me in France.
4. Why Jazz?
I’m a very forward-looking person. I’m not a great nostalgist. And also, I’m really into jazz. I’m really into jazz dance and the jazz dance scene. But I’m not like everyone else. I can’t lay claim to having been at ‘Crackers’ [night club] . You know what I mean? I did go to the ‘Wag’. I went to Dingwells once. But I really came into the equation more with acid-jazz. I knew Eddie Piller when we were younger. I have that more future outlook to Jazz. Obviously, Acid Jazz is now a thing of the past, but I still have that positive approach towards it. I think it is great to look back on the past and a lot of the tracks on this album sound like tracks from the past. I’m not so future looking that I think we should be doing some kind of dubstep jazz or something. Although if ever something came along that was right I, would do it. I’m keen to just keep it going with a more contemporary feel. Ultimately, this thing, if it's going to keep going, needs to get to younger people. And when I say younger people, I not necessarily saying 16-year olds, but you know, people who are going to pick the ball up and do something with it.
5. How did you select and get the artist to agree to this inaugural project, as there are some A-Listers - Bill Laurence form Snarky Puppy and Hermeto Pascoal & Grupo, and not all have released their tracks on vinyl?
I simply asked them (laughs). Well no, I had to do it all by email. I spent a lot of time tracking them down and finding out who I had to speak to. But then I guess it refers to what I was talking about earlier, the honesty of it. I just contacted people and honestly put it to them what I wanted to do, and I really liked their music, and I really liked to put it on this compilation, would they be up for it? I’ve never done a compilation before in my life where I’ve had to license music off other people. So, this it’s very much a baptism of fire, and for some reason, everything I do in life seems to be like that (laughs). I thought somebody’s going to help me with this idea, but in the end, nobody helped me, and I had to end up figuring out how to do it myself. That’s the story of my life. That one!
6. What is the most challenging aspect of being a label owner and what is the most rewarding?
The most rewarding is to have the record in your hand when it first comes out. I think that's to achieve it to that level. The most demanding part is, it is really hard work. It takes up all your time, and I think people build up wrong impressions sometimes about people that run record labels or whatever. They must be some kind of wheeler-dealer types, which isn't really the case. And really at my stage and where I am, I’m just putting music out that I really want to put out. And again, it’s like the radio and all the things I do, I am just living out the dream of what I really wanted to do. What I’ve always wanted to be. I've never lost sight, despite some dodgy parts of life or crisis or whatever. I’m really lucky I never lost sight of that dream. In fact, it's stronger than I am to be honest. There have been times when I have tried to put the dream aside and gone right, we got to stop this. We got to do something sensible. You know be a normal person.? You know, I just can't.
7. One track, in particular, Le Four De Saint Jacques by The Art Example of Canigo was recorded especially for this album, right? Tell me about it and is there any more in the pipeline?
Le Four De Saint Jacques is actually the name of a street. And I should probably illustrate it a bit better. In Perpignan, the town where I live, we have the biggest gypsy community in France, and when I say gypsy, you need to get the context right. They’re not travellers like you get in the UK. They are very much a fixed community. They have been there hundreds of years. And they are the people who play the guitars and sing a bit like the Gypsy Kings. A friend of mine has a studio on the rooftop of this house in the ghetto on the street called Le Four De Saint Jacques. So, it’s very much a noisy, a busy kind of place. In the summer it’s boiling hot. It gets really hot here, so we recorded it in 40-degree heat. There’s a mixture of people from Barcelona, which is not far away from us. It’s a Catalan group, and they play great jazz. They are really good musicians. I suggested to them that we should record something for the album that went along the same kind of trip as the rest of the songs on the album. It’s obviously a dance-oriented album. Be it a jazz album, it’s very much aimed at getting people dancing. I wanted to get them to record something along that kind of way. I ended up writing the song with them, and we went into the studio where I recorded and produced it alongside a chap called David Cooke. We’re hoping to do much more of that in the future. We want to get artist here, record them and get it out as well. But of course, it is baby steps and all that. You know? Long term, long term. We have massive plans for what we want to do, but obviously, you need to get started.
8. What is your favourite track on this album and why?
That's a difficult question because I love them all to bits, but I have to be honest and say the favourite track on the album is the one that I did (laughs). But hey, I got to be honest. I could lie and say something else. I also connected with the other tracks, and they all mean something to me because I played them all in various environments and had reactions to them and everything else. But of course, the one that I did, the whole experience of writing it from scratch, recording it in a really interesting place and all of that story that goes with it. Obviously, whenever I hear that track the process of putting it together comes into my mind which gives it some bonus points, I guess. I can safely say there isn't a single track on there that I don't like. Why would I record a track I didn't like?
9. Other than jazz, I know you love your hip-hop. What’s your take on jazz-fused with other genres?
I love it [jazz] to bits. That’s been massive, and that's what I’m about, and I am keen to get people to listen to jazz as I did. I’ve done a million different flavours of jazz over my career. Well ultimately because I’m an Acid Jazzer rather than a Jazzer. I hate the word Acid Jazz, and I wish I could think of a better way of putting it. But what I’m all about really is getting people to hear jazz in the first place the way I did. I mean I didn't grow up as a kid listening to jazz. I discovered jazz by going to nightclubs and hearing it in that environment and hear people start to play it on the radio with all the greats. And what I want to do is that! I want to get people to listen to jazz as much as possible, but the way to do that, in my opinion, is somehow is to mix it with flavours that perhaps people are already listening to. It will allow them to make the next step in discovering the new flavour in the music. If you listen to my radio show, it’s a broad show. It covers soul music. It covers hip-hop. It covers African, Latin, Jazz and all sorts of things.
10: Are there any plans to bring any of the artists to the UK or on tour in general?
I would absolutely love to do that, but I think we are a little way off it now, purely because of financial constraints. The thing is going to have to grow a little bit further before we are able to do that. But I would love to do that. I would absolutely love to do that. If It ever becomes possible, I will be on it immediately. It is a massive undertaking. It’s harder to do things I find in the UK than in Europe. It’s another thing that’s quite interesting. It’s also very hard in the UK to get people to support your thing because the UK is usually unaware of it. But it [UK] is very lucky that the choice available for people on what you can do and where you can go , who you can see is phenomenal.( I got to be careful, I don't want to offend anyone) There is also the UK culture who are generally well educated when it comes to music than people in Europe , being at the sharp end of amazing musical discoveries and broadcasting and all the rest. This does exist in other places. So, in one way it is wonderful that there are a rich culture and a huge amount of choice with everything going for it.
And finally - can you tell the readers one thing about yourself that would surprise us?
I am a harmonica player and a guitar. God this is difficult. What would surprise readers is that we have this [label] running out of a small village in the south of France.
You can catch Jeff the Fish with his regular podcast on Mixcloud.
Modern Jazz Dance Classics Volume 1 is available across many platforms including Bandcamp.