Friday, November 12, 2010

Interview: Mark Bell - Shaboom Records

Whether it's a sign my of age, or just being lucky enough to have been around when deep house really exploded in the UK I'm pleased to be able to count many of those formative labels as good friends today. Some, like Shaboom, we're part of the very early days of untitledmusic and like many of us took at little break in the mid 90's as being a grown up became a must. But like Paperecordings and Toko of late, Shaboom returned to digital retailers in late 2008 giving many old fans and new ones a chance to hear classics from the vault. The last year or so has really seen the renaissance of the UK's deep house founders and I'm very excited to say Shaboom are leading the charge with new takes on old tunes and new projects, the latest of which can be heard on UM60 this week!

For those of you who are thinking "Who's Shaboom?", let's start with a little history...

Shaboom Records was born in 1996 and named in honour of Blackpool’s seedy underground acid house club. Mark 'Blakkat' Bell (not to be confused with Mark Bell of LFO) Doc Martin, Majik Johnson, and Ben Davis (Paperecordings) were the founding fathers back then. All of the label’s early releases were produced in Mark Bell’s Studio Safe Productions complex and collaborators included the likes of house music icons Marshall Jefferson, Felix Da Housecat, DJ Sneak, Farley “Jackmaster” Funk, Marshall Jefferson, David Morales, Rae & Christian, Fred Everything, Crazy Penis, Norman Cook... in fact, anyone else visiting the UK from Chicago in the early 90’s was found on Shaboom soon after it seemed.

Latest tracks by Shaboom Recordings

Over the past 12 years, Shaboom Records created several limited edition and promo-only vinyl releases that fans still clamor for and still trade on the second-hand record market for big money. Releases like UBU’s ‘Pixels’, Shaboom’s ‘Sweet Sensation’, Blakkat’s ‘Full Circle’ and Eddie Amador’s ‘Holy Spirit’ established Shaboom as one of the hottest and most consistent quality dance music imprints in the UK. In late 2008 previous releases, plenty of unreleased and all new remixes of 'classics' were made available exclusively on Beatport.

So, when I got a chance to ask label founder, producer, DJ, the man behind Blakkat and these days US resident Mark Bell a few questions I jumped at the chance.


Shaboom’s discography was a who’s who of the industry, but then there was a long silence. What’s the story?

"To be honest I really needed a break from it all. In 2002 I produced, mixed and remixed 300 tracks that were all released on vinyl. I worked so much in the studio and spent the remainder of my time running the labels and touring, I now believe I had a longing for a little bit of normality. I met and fell in love with a wonderful young lady in New York and decided to up sticks and move to the USA. Within 6 months of arriving in America, I’d closed down my UK office and started to restructure my business. I’m very happy that I took the decision to start over because I have the same enthusiasm that I had as a teenager about the music I make and new things that I hear."

How have you found the differences between the UK and US scenes?

"I would have to say that a great party with a good DJ playing hot records on a dope sound system with an electrifying atmosphere could happen anywhere.That said to try and answer the question more specifically, the underground scene in the USA is what it’s all about for me, in my opinion it’s the best there is. I’m not a big fan of the huge rave type events in North America or the big clubs, but they do try and bring all the hype names for what it’s worth, but I do have to say that I love the lesser-known dj’s, which keep this music alive just for the love of it. In the UK I think the big events are really good, I always have fun when I go as a punter and love to perform at them. My memories of UK underground parties from the early 90’s are of very dodgy gangster types running the security and the promoters getting locked up for breaking the law, although there are great parties that happen all over the UK in the larger clubs that I’ve had many a good time at."


What’s in store for the new and old fans out there?

"I have a wonderful selection of new music in the pipeline for release over the coming months. I’ve been collaborating with different artist of late, lots of very cool new things for Shaboom Records and also for other labels. I’ve been working with Manuel Tur from Germany on his new LP for Freerange Recordings and he’s also been remixing several tracks from my back catalogue including Totally by Shaboom and several other cuts that we intend to make into a continuous mix. I’ve also been working on a couple of tracks with Dave Pezzner for his LP that will drop on OM records next year alongside some new material for Chez Damier’s labels and the next King Britt LP. I’m also putting the finishing touches to a Long Player for the Australian singer Holly Backler who is without a doubt one of the greatest singers I’ve ever had the pleasure of producing. Holly’s record is due for release next spring on Shaboom and has some hot remixes from the legendary Rune Linbaek amongst others."

What’s your view on the way digital retailing has impacted on the industry?

"There are defiantly pros and cons. It’s great that all that older music is being made available for everyone and anyone everywhere, and I do love the fact anyone can get their music out there without the whole process of a label or whatever, but the honest truth is vinyl sounds so much better if it’s played on a system that is dialed in properly, and I think it’s a shame that so many great record stores have closed down, but this is the new reality, digital retailers are here to stay and we all have to embrace it and work out how to function within this framework."
What labels are you looking for these days?

"There are so many great labels now the list would go on forever. I’m a huge fan of the Kompakt family and all the Compost labels, I also love Mild Pitch, Permanent Vacation, The Poker Flat labels, Rong Records and China Town from NYC."

Between Shaboom and Paper you were at the core of the UK’s deep and tech house scene – what’s your best memory of that time?

"Obviously the label parties, Paper Recording’s RoboDisco and the Shaboom ones for In The City with Doc Martin, DJ Sneak, Slam, Dick Johnson and Ben Davis. I also had an amazing live show at Fabric in room 1 with Terry Francis, Hipp e and Halo and as for the releases it would be Those Norwegians on Paper Recordings."

Which do you prefer, Djing or running the label?

"I love playing out, but I also get great satisfaction from releasing a new artist’s first records. We did it many times with Shaboom and I truly believe that it is a label’s reason for being, finding new talent and helping them develop into great artists."

As the industry utilises more and more technology to promote itself, how are you finding the challenges of engaging audiences on social networks and the like?

"In a word challenging. Trying to convince people to notice my music in an extremely overcrowded environment, quite frankly I find overwhelming. I’m very old school in my approach to this, if you make the best quality music you can it will stand the test of time, which in the current digital universe we don’t seem to have the attention span for. The upside is you get more than one chance to get noticed, and we don’t incur the same penalties that we did with physical releases in terms of returns and warehouse storage etc."

What are you listening to at home these days?

"Everything and anything, from classic soul and funk from the 70’s and 80’s to whatever fits the mood I’m in, be it recent recordings from the ECM label or Fever Ray, Estrella Morente or even Wildbirds and Peacedrums. I must also mention I’m a big fan of Kirk Degiorgio’s and Bill Lazwell’s podcasts and I do get sent some wicked sets from some of the DJ’s I have the pleasure of knowing."

As Blakkat you produced some of my favourite Shaboom releases – what is your favourite Shaboom release?

"Probably shab 050 - If you Need Me by Shaboom, the Blakkat Dub was used by Doc Martin on his Fabric release which incidentally is as of this moment getting a brand new remix from Manuel Tur."

Which opens up a whole new story about how Shaboom's back catalogue is being given new life.

"In the Summer of 2010 Manuel approached me with the idea of doing a continuous DJ mix for Shaboom Records. I agreed, and he then explained that he would give me a list of his favourite tracks and that he also wanted all the studio sessions for each piece of music. He requested the parts to over 30 different titles and immediately began dissecting the multi tracks and audio stems. He’s already remixed several tracks of which the first for this project was Totally by Shaboom that has just been released. For the mashups he has been using the beats from one cut then adding the music from another and has then placed vocals from another song on top. He then mixes it all down to create a new piece of music. He’s currently in the final stages of putting it all together, and if all goes to plan it should be available by early next year."

For those followers of Shaboom you'll no doubt already have checked out the first installment from the Shaboom Records Reworx series on Beatport. Classic House Music created by giants of the genre, DJ Sneak, Marshall Jefferson, Doc Martin, UBU, Blakkat, Paul Johnson & DJ Motion. The releases include Digitally remastered versions, and new exclusive mixes of selected Shaboom Records Classic catalogue.

There's something great about an old friend being back on their game and Shaboom's one of those labels that lingers fondly in the mind of fans like me. Seeing it back with new energy is a testament to just how good they were back then, and how even today the music that shaped mine and many more of our lives can find new audiences around the world.



  1. Thank you for posting this! Great news indeed from a solid label and talented artists.

  2. TERRIFIC interview.
    SHABOOM is responsible for SO much great music over the years and continues to be a force.

    ..and If You Need Me sounds as good today on every dance floor as it did when it was first released.