The following interview has been borrowed from Spinemagazine.
Spinemagazine, one of the best hip-hop grassroots mags on the net have done a dope feature on Tone Voke, our man in New York. Read all about Groove Attack’s NYC operation and find out how the business is done in the motherland…
Groove Attack has quickly proven to be one of the most consistent and productive record labels in the years of late. From unleashing a star-packed series of compilations through to adventurous solo projects by established artists, the label continually keeps us reaching for the record racks.
Spinemagazine took a second to meet Tone Voke “ the man who runs Groove Attack’s NYC operation “ and got the lowdown on the industry game…
So how does the operation work? Over the past two years, I’d say that maybe 30% of the best stuff we’re being sent to review is coming through Groove Attack somehow. How does it all work?
Tone: “Groove Attack started in Germany about 10 years ago by two or three DJs who wanted to start up their own shop. From retail they went into wholesale and through the connections they started licensing stuff and bringing in a lot of American product for the European market. Superrappin’ is the hip-hop imprint, GAP is the more downtempo stuff and a couple of others dealing with drum and bass. The company has now established its name as THE distribution place to go to. It all runs down the line: if a label they’ve dealt with before is doing something, they’ll say, ‘oh yeah – we’ve dealt with them before… they’re cool’ – and that’s how so much stuff gets to go through the company.
My situation here is that they decided to try and make more of an impact here in NYC, especially with some of the European things like the Humdrums stuff and so on. So I run the NYC office. I’m becoming more involved in doing promo and press stuff for the things like the DJ Serious or the 3582 material, which is really good.”
So Groove Attack is a European company… how does your job here in the US vary from what’s happening over back in Germany and England?
“It’s on a smaller scale than it is in the European market. The most important thing to realise is that the markets are completely different. America is ‘on the surface’ – it’s glamour and glitz and it’s throwaway. It’s just there and part of every day life here in NYC. When I was younger you had to really hunt stuff down – and that’s never really been the case here in NYC. The music-lover aspect and fanaticism is different in Europe. That being said, a company like Groove Attack is based on those ideals: the music that we sign up represents our love of hip-hop and what we consider to be progressive and interesting.”
How do the different projects work when you take them from the European market that loves everything you guys do and bring them to a completely different audience here in the US?
“Well, if you take something like the J.Rawls project which is not really geared to this market at all, the two mentalities are vastly different. Even though you’ve got some MCs on there that people here will recognise – such as J-Live, who has a very good reputation – it’s still different. J’s known for his Lone Catalysts connection – and they’re known for doing a lot of good live shows, which definitely helps out. But still – if we were to do something from over here in the US with the whole idealogies of the ‘every day’ kind of life, then that would do a lot better salewise. It can be an uphill battle.
When you’re a kid you think, ‘New York’s the greatest’ – but it’s different when you’re here. Having lived in Europe for years, you see the love and fan aspect that they have over there – and you miss that sometimes when you’re here. Sometimes you’ll need to sit in Sound Library and chat to Rob and Jared for a while to get back a feeling of that love for the music that you miss.”
Groove Attack released the amazing Biz Markie “Turn Tha Party Out” in 2001. Now (at the time of writing) everybody is eagerly anticipating the full album. How is this project going to happen ?
Tone: “I just hooked up with J-Zone and put him in touch with Biz – and I’m just *hoping* that something happens between them. There’s so much going on between the whole process between recording tracks that I just hope that this one comes off. That was something from me – something that I managed to put together. I knew J-Zone’s DJ – he used to work at Caroline Distribution – and he was raving about J-Zone.. so I said to him, ‘Get J to send me some beats over’. And I was thinking at the time that we’d get J-Zone to do a remix for the Declaime project. As it turns out, Declaime is a hard guy to work with, as he moves in his own circle of Madlib and so forth to do all his beats, which is fair enough. So I thought, ‘you know what… J-Zone and Biz are two different eras but two very similar approaches to hip-hop – just have a laugh.
And it just made sense. So I gave the CD to Biz and the response came back from Monarkie – Biz’s management – that they were really feeling two of the joints. That to me is one of those events that TOTALLY rekindles your love for hip-hop. When something like that comes together…
So everyone is waiting for the album from Biz… how is that working out? I mean we’d heard that he’d already finished an album with Large Professor beats all over it a while back… where did that go?! What’s happening with the new album for Groove Attack?
“If it works out, he’s gonna have J-Zone tracks on there and also tracks from Megahertz as well, which will be nice to get some of the new producers styles through. Jazzy Jeff did some real tight stuff as well. Biz is a hard guy to work with. If, and I hope it does all come through, the album works it’s going to be a good one.”