Joey Negro & Sean P Talk


You could argue in the internet age, there's no need for such a thing as your traditional compilation. Spotify, Youtube playlists and the like mean you don't need to go buying collections of old records on a single unsightly plastic disc right? Wrong. Selectors and diggers are now more important than ever. They're what give us direction in this endless mire of the online world. I sometimes wake up in the morning and ask myself "Do I even like music anymore?," such is the availability and exposure to it these days. The thing is, you still need a filter to digest the good from the… well the just plain grey or average. It's why you turned to selectors in the first place and Joey Negro and Sean P are two of these selectors.

Responsible for the much sought after  'Disco (Not Disco)' compilations – before disco and Italo was cool again kids – 'Destination Boogie', 'Soul of Disco' and the like Joey Negro and Sean P aren't shy of a carefully crafted obscurities collection. Their Supafunkanova – the second of which is just about to drop – focuses on, as the name implies on the funkier end of the 70’s & 80’s, showcasing some of the bumpier grooves recorded in the disco era. Hard to believe but contained within, are some still hard to find gems and ones that aren't so rare but genuinely merit being re-issued. This Magnum Force track being a current R$N favourite.

With all that in mind Mr John McCready sat down with Joey and Sean to chat funk, obscurity, the digital world and more…

Funk seems to have been used to describe many different kinds of music. what does it mean here?

Joey Negro – I guess "funky" is a word now used to describe all sorts of things from the the interior of a bar to a pair of shoes but initially I associated funk with the mid 70s output of artists like Kool & the Gang, BT Express and of course James Brown and his many spin off acts. the idea of these Superfunkanova comps is funk released in the disco 12 era, so late 70's/early 80s 12" funk rather than the earlier scratchy 45 style associated with rare groove era

Its obscurity and collectability can eclipse even that of northern soul at times. what are the real super big money tunes?

Joey – Often someone will discover a new killer obscurity like StephenEncinas "Disco Illusion” last year, that’s when something will suddenly become The record all the collectors prepared to pay big money want and price will rocket. The Sparke album is a super rare piece than many want and few have which I’ve seen copies recently sell on ebay for 4 figues. Though at the same time i'll be browsing on ebay and listen to clips of some of these 45s selling for £2000 and think “if this was on an Aurra or Gladys Knight LP it would be worth £2”. A lot of it is down to people wanting something rare and exclusive.

Sean – I've just finished remastering a 1981 12" by Martin L. Dumas, Jr. for imminent re-issue. It currently has a 4-digit price tag. Bloody good record, though!  

I know you are both inclusive too. so what are the things collectors are buzzed up by this collection can get for small change?

S – More than you'd think. Magnum Force sold well here, so it's always around. The J.S. Theracon 12", with the same track on both sides, is a cheapie – though the version with 'Shake Like T. Mofo' on the flip is considerably more valuable.  Most of the records on this set aren't super rare or expensive. That's not the focus of the compilation.

JN – I actually think there’s a few of the records on SUPAFUNKANOVA which are pretty rare but they aren’t all super sought after and therefore mega valuable. when selecting a track for a compilation the number 1 criteria for us is does it sound any good and merit re issuing. i might check on discogs if its been on another comp recently and see the value but the recent italian house album on ZR contained many records that are worth less than £5. I think when buying a comp, even if you have a few of the records its about the whole package and sometimes getting a clean copy of something that's now up in the loft.

How did you get into seriously collecting and appreciating music?

JN – My mum and dad always played a lot of music in the house, everything from New Orleans jazz to the jesus chirst superstar soundtrack. I started buying chart music as a kid, got a guitar etc,  moving onto chart disco music when i got a little older. then one evening  when i was bed ridden with flu discovered one of radio Luxembourg’s many disco chart show’s. i guess after that i was spending all my money on new disco/funk/boogie albums and 12's whilst also scouring the local second hand stores/markets for older music by similar artists. however, i’ve never really been an out an out soul boy or music snob. many of my friends and both my brothers were into rock or alternative type stuff, so i got to hear lot of music which i’m glad about

S – I was always into records and even pre-school, would play my dad's records at home. It steadily escalated to buying records and eventually hoarding them.  

Any tips for new collectors loving this music in an expensive, confusing online jungle?

S – If you're going straight in for the high-grade records without any background knowledge or experience, you'll just be preyed on by sharks. And rightly so. Anyone who's interested in music for its own sake will find there's plenty of good stuff out there which is untrendy and affordable. There are many records which were very collectable 15, 20, 30 years ago which are ignored. Their quality or relevance have not diminished, just their profile amongst record collectors.   

JN – I think records are actually pretty cheap now. Many times recently I’ve been in second shops flicking through the racks and thought, "wow there’s some really good stuff here at a friendly price" but i’ve got or had it all already. i guess when you're starting you don’t have any MFSB, Chic or George Duke LPs. those sort of major label releases were pressed in large quantities and generally sold fairly well when new. Some of them might have been harder to find in the pre-internet, rare groove era but they are never going to be super sought after now as there is plenty of copies in circulation. However, those are often really good albums full of great tracks. So buy cheap stuff, take a hunch and make it fun and don’t assume that valuable rare indie 12” on ebay is better than a common album you’re fed up with seeing the cover of in bargain bins.

What new areas are you interested in collecting and exploring?

JN – I think Discogs has opened up collecting in a different way. You can look at your favourite producer, song writer or record label and see their entire discography, well almost. For example I recently bought a 7” by UK dance troupe Hot Gossip that was written and produced by Patrick Adams and Stan Lucas. There’s no way I would have discovered that in a normal record shop as it wouldn’t have been in the sections I looked in. And even if it was, I wouldn’t have read the label copy. On the other hand if you find something that's not even on Discogs then you know it really is obscure. Also i’ve started to be more drawn to the Doobies style of soft rock/blue eyed soul, though I’ve not got that seriously into collecting obscure versions of that sound.

S – Working in record shops with rock fans has always been interesting and I've had my ears opened to lots of music which I would never have heard otherwise, so that's an ongoing process which is always full of unexpected turns. Some surprisingly funky and jazzy tracks have come my way as a result.  

Though serious diggers you both make a point of sharing music. Not all collectors do. What's important about letting people hear hard won and exclusive finds?

JN – I was never secretive about music, even with the stuff I didn’t have yet but wanted. these days i think the kudos is in being the first person to comp, edit or sample something, rather than having a wicked collection hidden away that only you listen to.

S – It's fun putting things out which others may not have heard, or maybe know but have trouble tracking down and if I'm honest, there's a modicum of egotism involved. These days, through the internet and the proliferation of blogs and sites like YouTube, the role of the compiler is diminishing as most casual or hardcore collectors can share their acquisitions online in an instant. Everyone's exposure level and knowledge differs, so it's common to see a fuss being made of records which are common to you, but not to a less experienced individual, or someone whose territory is so different to yours that such items are pretty obscure to them. By the same token, even the most knowledgeable collectors cannot know everything, so there are always surprises in store. I'm amazed at some of the records that are out there and there are still artists I've known for over 30 years whose previously hidden histories are only just emerging. 

What is the mindset of the true collector?

S – That depends. A collector is a scalp-hunter, by nature – they want trophies. The best way to be is just a collector of music, regardless of format or rarity – and not worry about all the accoutrements. Collectors like myself have a niche, something which switches them on when they hear or see it. And there has to be a train-spotting element, I'm afraid – you need to be deep into it to be serious and to that end, you must know the small print. For instance, being able to spot bootlegs, reissues or alternative pressings or versions at a glance puts you at an advantage in collectorsville. 

What's your take on the resurgence of interest in vinyl?

S – I'm in two minds about it. Records have been around for over a century, so they're not about to disappear anytime soon – you can't erase that much history overnight. There are absolutely millions of records around, it's just a supply-and-demand issue with selected titles, which makes some people panic. The current interest seems to be a mixture of nostalgia, genuine curiosity from a few born in the CD age and misinformation about the pros and cons of analogue over digital. Record labels, some who certainly should know better, are charging a premium for average pressings of average masters. A so-called audiophile 180g LP purporting to be the best way to hear music is more likely to be mastered and cut from a commercially available 16-bit CD as source than it is from the original tapes, but too many purists are sucked up in the belief that vinyl – any vinyl – is superior to digital and will argue that it's 'warmer', or whatever. Every day, in our shops, we have people taking photographs of the interiors, exteriors and invariably, of their buddies posing, pretending to thumb the racks. They seldom purposefully browse, let alone buy anything, but go home and tell their friends how they visited a vinyl record shop and here's the proof. Vinyl holds zero interest for these people, it's just a prop or an item of curio. They probably have a reel-to-reel in their lounges and an 8-track in their cars that actually only plays mp3s. 

JN – Sean is obviously on the front line when it comes to the retail side of things, with regards to djing i think playing vinyl is an attempt by the young underground purists to separate themselves from the masses of wannabe djs using mp3s on traktor/serato etc. i hear you won’t get taken seriously if you turn up to dj at the panorama bar with a usb stick, which seems ridiculous to me. yes, djing on vinyl is certainly more difficult and does involve a slightly different skill set purely in terms of the physical act but just just because your playing records doesn’ t make you any better in my book. its what’s coming out the speakers thats important. also there’s so much music around now thats not on vinyl, if you’re only playing vinyl then you’re restricted to only spinning the stuff thats been released on wax. that might be ok for a 90s night but not for new music – and even then, i was never keen on taking my more valuable records to a night club 🙂

Supafunkanova Vol 2 is out now.

Joey Negro plays Mode in London on Friday 17th April.