Strut kicks off its 2013 release schedule with the first definitive overview of one of the most revered, open-minded and influential labels of the 1980s, Celluloid Records, on February 19th.
Formed by Jean Georgakarakos in Paris during the late ’70s after a decade co-running French record shops and the spiritual jazz label BYG, the label gathered steam following Karakos’ fateful early ’80s trips to New York. After a chance meeting Bill Laswell who had himself landed fresh in the Big Apple from Michigan, Karakos began releasing the full spectrum of Laswell’s early work, from the avant-rock cacophony of Massacre to his fluid, dance / post-punk production outfit, Material.
During the early ’80s, Karakos became involved in the nascent hip hop scene In New York, releasing Timezone’s breakers favourite, ‘Wildstyle’, produced by UK DJ Rusty Egan and featuring Afrika Bambaataa and French MC B Side. In ’83, both he and Laswell worked with Herbie Hancock on his electro smash, ‘Rockit’, Spotting a keyboard riff that had been played towards the end of the original demo, Karakos suggested that this form the main hook of the track. From the resultant publishing income, Karakos and Laswell continued to explore early hip hop culture and a slew of classics followed: successful 12’s by Hancock’s scratch DJ, Grandmixer D.ST, Fab 5 Freddy’s groundbreaking French / English slo mo rap, ‘Change The Beat’ and graf artist Futura 2000 on the cult single ‘Escapades Of Futura 2000’ backed by The Clash. Time Zone would also re-surface with Bambaataa and collaborator John Lydon (PiL / Sex Pistols) with the apocalyptic chart smash ‘World Destruction’.
During this seminal period, Karakos also began working with US producer / entrepreneur Alan Douglas, licensing in recordings for release on Celluloid including early Last Poets albums, Ronald Shannon Jackson and more. The repertoire included a rare track cut by Jalal from The Last Poets, enlisting Buddy Miles and Jimi Hendrix on guest guitar duties for ‘Doriella du Fontaine’ following one of Hendrix’ album recording sessions in a neighbouring studio at Trident in London.
Celluloid would continue to support Bill Laswell’s varied and groundbreaking production work including his experimental sessions with Praxis and Last Exit and embarked on a glut of excellent genre-bending world / electro fusions. Karakos had already dabbled with music by African artists and had been instrumental in breaking Fela Kuti to a wider Western audience. Now, Laswell’s progressive approach spawned Manu Dibango’s landmark ‘Electric Africa’ album pitching the Makossa Man against crunching electro arrangements, then Mandingo’s anthem â€šHarima’ and Laswell’s own roots-based Deadline project. Meanwhile, Celluloid continued to support music from back home in France, honing in on quality new wave and electronic music during the early ’80s: avant-rock guitarist Ferdinand Richard, a one-off EP from cold wave vocalist Nini Raviolette and Moroccan songstress Sapho all addig considerable colour to the Celluloid palette.
By 1986, Laswell’s work for Celluloid became more sparse as he was pulled onto major projects for Yoko Ono, Mick Jagger, PiL and more. The label, meanwhile, continued its eclectic path with recordings by jazz legend Eric Dolphy, John McLaughlin and the ‘Welcome To Dreamland’ compilation of out-there Japanese pop overseen by regular Laswell cohort, Fred Frith. African music also continued to feature heavily in the label’s later output through world pop stars like Kassav and Toure Kunda.
‘Change The Beat’ is released in conjunction with Jean Karakos and Celluloid Records. Formats include 2CD, 2LP and digital. All physical formats feature rare photos from the Celluloid Records archive and extended interviews with label owner Jean Karakos, Bill Laswell, Afrika Bambaataa, John Lydon, Rusty Egan (Timezone) and more.