Gu – Interview

Music is so clearly a massive part of your life. Who in your life first gave you your love of music and which artists inspired you then and now? 

I grew up in a household where there was always some music around. My dad sings and plays guitar, my mother played some piano and also always likes to sing. We always had records and at least a guitar and a piano in the house. Since I am the youngest of three children I was very little when I first joined in watching the one or two TV shows with music (Germany in the late 70s had three TV channels and basically one or two music shows). And us kids would have kids’ music records and sing along. And I used to fiddle around on my Dad’s guitar and make up songs. The first international song I remember being really excited about was “Let’s Dance” by David Bowie. One of the TV channels started a new “young” music format that we started to watch regularly. My brother got “Thriller” for Christmas and I started wanting to own my favorite songs. And vinyl was the way to go. Although it was “Ready For The Battle” by the Rocksteady Crew on tape, that was running non-stop on my walkman. By 1986 I started to actively go out and look at the record section of the mall like places we would go to shop for clothes with my mother. My first Hip Hop records were “How Ya Like Me Now” (LP) by Kool Moe Dee, “Go Cut Creator Go” by LL Cool J (12“) and “I’m All Shook Up” (12“) by Spoonie Gee. A local radio station had a just started a weekly Hip Hop and Funk show in 1986 and I would sit at home, record it on tape and then invest all money I had (and didn’t have) in the records I liked the most. My small collection was all current artists like Michael Jackson, Depeche Mode and (my favorite!) Huey Lewis & The News and their popular songs plus my favorite Hip Hop records.
Now, bare in mind that in 1986 in a small place that would even disqualify as a village, I had no grasp on magazines or newsletters or such. I would go to the big city Bremen and take my radio show list or just look at the covers in the Hip Hop section and choose from there. My brother used to DJ with a friend at a youth center in another small town we used to live in, and in that 1986 I did my first gig there. Teenagers playing records for other teenagers. From there on I couldn’t stop. I did birthday parties, sometimes the School party,  as by fourteen I had two turntables (one Technics 1210 and one cheap belt-driven thing) and a mixer (again cheap). But most importantly I was the guy with the records. And with a couple of dozens of them and a few hit compilations, you could throw a bit of a party. I have to add that it was my friend Walter and I who were the only ones in our realms that really appreciated Hip Hop, so him and I would then DJ together, play the hits we liked for everybody and then played a Hip Hop record to have the floor to ourselves, just to return to the booth before the record ended and refill the floor with more of the current stuff. The only break I took from DJing was from about 1993 until 1996. But I still collected the music and made tapes for people that didn’t ask for it. Just like this very long answer that covers grounds you didn’t ask for. It seems that is part of my story. 🙂
In 1988 I went to my first Hip Hop concert: Run DMC, Public Enemy and Derek B on one bill. That surely sealed the deal. Public Enemy ist my favorite group of all time. On a list that is very very long…
The current work with Daddy-O is very inspiring. But we’ll get to that.

When did you first set up Our Label and Origu, what does they promote and can you tell us about some of the highlights of running the labels.

Our Label Records was founded in 2005 by me and my brother Tom. And since he had a knack for the Funk and was a also a business major, I could not have done it without him. He lived in London, UK at the time and I had just started DJ’ing at “Keb Darge’s Legendary Deep Funk” nights every now and then. I met Keb in 2001 for the first time and we used to go to the club whenever I was visting my brother. After another DJ night with Keb in Bremen he was kind enough to ask me, if I would want to bring records the next time I was in London. I sure wanted to. Fueled by the great feeling to be playing at THE Funk night, I wanted more and starting a label that makes Funk records seemed a good way to go. As I had befriended Simon and Eddie of The New Mastersounds in 2004, they were a logical choice to make a first release with. As planned I wrote a tune and made it come alive with their help. Our dear friend Henry Storch of Unique Records took Our Label Records under the Unique wings and we sold 1000 copies of our first 45 in three months. That was a great start! Because we wanted to put out new Funk recordings that we wanted to hear at parties. That was a first highlight. Shortly after, I wanted to put out a 45 by this Japanese Funk band I had gotten a few 45s from by my friend Nico. That led to me getting Osaka Monaurail added to the Unique Records roster. And Our Label putting out “We Got One (A Show)”. That was their first release outside of Japan. And the beginning of a great musical friendship that lasts to this day. We are discussing a new Osaka Monaurail 45 on Our Label just now. Another highlight was producing a 45 with the great Diazpora from Hamburg, Germany. I wrote the A-Side “Raw Meat” and you can hear my voice in the chorus of the Funk version of “Song 2”, originally by Blur. We did a take of me singing the whole thing. And I had to say I wasn’t funky enough. So we got Nora Kinga Becker, somebody the band knew to have a great voice. And she rocked that tune brilliantly. That one also sold out quickly.
In 2015 I was sent a promo by an artist called Substantial and was asked if I wanted to do an interview for my weekly radio show Home Diggin’. And I wanted to. And I asked if my favorite track “Follow The Master” would appear on vinyl. And I decided that I wanted to put it out. Initially, I wanted to start the label with tracks that Andy Cooper of Ugly Duckling had released as an mp3 give away to promote his new blog (I was on friendly terms with UD, after my Hip Hop group Alder Ego had opened for them in 2005 and 2006). The next time I met Andy I had just found out that two of the tracks would be released on Soundweight, and I was a bit bummed at first. He thought I wasn’t too serious about it, when we spoke. But this led to him sending me two brand new tracks that would then make up for the first of three 45s I have done with Andy so far. And we actually did a mini-tour in Northern Germany to promote the release and the upcoming solo LP. I got to be the DJ at his first ever solo shows. That surely is a highlight, as well as finally meeting Substantial in 2017 in my now hometown Kiel. Like with Andy, we are in contact every now and then about beats, rhymes and life.
So, I started Origu to put out new Hip Hop tracks that need to be on a record, so I can play them when I DJ.
And in the catalogue you can find records where the artists approached me, as well as 45s where I heard the music and wanting to have that on a 7“. Beatmaker Deep of 2 Hungry Bros approached me with an album he did with a female MC called Likwuid and they have this crazy dope track featuring cuts by DJ Evil Dee of Black Moon. So I had to put it out. Love that beat so much. And lyrics and cuts on “IllFayted” are just amazing. And I had Evil Dee on my name dropping list 🙂 The latest example is our release by Outlaw Posse. I heard that track on a short clip on producer Karl Gordon’s Facebook page. And I contacted them. Now, Daddy-O and Chuck D… that’s a whole ‘nother story…

One of your latest releases features the return of Stetsasonic and before this a 45 from Daddy-O. How did you link up with him and the band and how did those releases come about?

In 2017 Origu released a 45 by Sadat X called “I Know The Game” with The UMC’s featured on the B-Side. These were licensed through Loyalty Digital, a label by an artist called Fokis. I featured tracks of his releases on my radio show and he saw and contacted me. We did the Sadat X and a Fokis 45 featuring Skyzoo and Chi-Ali. Especially, the Sadat X release gained the label further recognition. And an IG message from the legendary Daddy-O.
At first it sounded to me like he wanted to get some general information about Hip Hop 45s. Just to learn he was interested to do a 7“ release on my label. That was an awesome day and the beginning of a very rewarding and humbling personal relationship. He is like no other artist I have worked with for sure. Open ears, always working and so versatile. I picked a track from his current album “No Tablecloths” and he then played me the unreleased “Drumma Man”. And that one sealed the deal! It was the fastest selling 45 on the Origu label. We stayed in touch ever since and put out another single a year later, just to finally meet in September 2019 when Stetsasonic played a live show in the Netherlands. That is where talks began with Stet drummer Bobby Simmons about having Stetsasonic returning with a release on Origu. I am beaming with pride about that one: “(now ya’ll givin’ up) LOVE” is available now via – I always told Daddy-O I just want to play that tune from vinyl. And he made me put it out myself. Crazy. Dreams coming true. I am truly thankful for him being a part of my life now.
Also, Daddy-O hooked me up with producer C-Doc and that led to meeting my personal hero Chuck D for a two hour talk about music, business and life. And, of course, that also led to a Chuck D 45 on the label. Again, there is an exclusive track only available on that 45. It’s called “Blacknificent Remixx” and handpicked by me. C-Doc is also somebody I can’t thank enough. This connection also led to a spot on Chuck D’s radio station Rapstation for my show Home Diggin’.

2020 was a crazy time for everyone. As a record label owner how did you deal with all of the craziness and kept the label going?

Oooh, we had plans for some new releases and bringing some live shows to Europe and then this little annoying big thing happened. At first I thought it’ll make me slow down, but actually this year we have released four 45s on Origu, and that’s the most we ever did in a year’s time. I do see a slowed down response, especially from DJs, who obviously have less work. I am so  convinced of the quality of these releases that I keep going. Now, the pay-off is a different story. I also released new music by my own group Alder Ego digitally and had to do a 45, of course. I just wish everybody reading this a good way through this mess. Stay safe and positive!

What advice would you have for anyone who would like to start their own label and put out 45s?

Have a good reason to do it and don’t do it for the money. We do this to have these tracks on vinyl, and did help the original plan to further my career as a DJ, musician and writer. I actually got to know a few label people that found a great balance to have an income and feature music they really like. I mean, people like Jazzman Gerald, Nik Weston, Euan Fryer, Tobias Kirmayer, labels like Burning Sole, Unique, Soundweight, SuperDiscoEdits and others surely present great music on vinyl. And in personal conversations I understood the motivation seems to the music first with a dash of hope to make it a plus money-wise. These people could probably give a better answer. I am pretty naive sometimes I guess. I do learn from my mistakes though. And Our Label and Origu have given me a great deal of joy from day one. Maybe my advice would be a typical one: Do what you feel, trust yourself and listen to your friends!
I have to give major thanks to my man Fox, PeeOFive, Paul Bärwald, Gavin Weiss, all the artist that trust us with their music, Unique Records and Henry Storch, Keb Darge, Paul Boulland, Nicolas Colin and my dear brother!!!