|The Deepgrooves logo, designed by Mark Tierney and John Pitcairn. The story behind the logo is here|
Self Adhesive Labels: Getting It Out
By Emma Farry, NZ Herald, 8 Oct 1993; s.2 p.1,3
At the age of 28, Kane Massey, of Auckland, owns his own magazine and his own record company, but he says neither business has made him a rich man.
The record company is the Deepgrooves label, which specialises in producing groove music ranging from hiphop to soul to instrumental jazz. The magazine is Stamp, the Auckland city give-away with a leaning towards the arts and music. The combination would seem like the perfect recipe for success.
Massey is the major shareholder in Deepgrooves so “What I say goes.” He uses his position to keep pushing the boundaries of what started as a small project back in late 1991.
“It was a mistake, really,” Massey says with a grin. “It seemed like a good idea at the time to start this label and it just got out of control and there was no way I could get out of it.”
Massey is banking on big success with Deepgrooves in the future. He is in the process of moving the label base to Sydney and hopes to have some kind of expansion deal in either Europe or the United States within the next two years.
He is adamant the move across the Tasman won’t be detrimental to the artists on the Deepgrooves label here. On the contrary, he aims to use the Australian base to take the artists to a bigger and more lucrative market.
Massey believes timing is what life is all about and he is sure that our Aussie neighbours are ready for what Deepgrooves has to offer.
“Australia is trying desperately to get away from this huge rock thing which seems about the only thing going on over there. But there are a lot of Pacific Islanders, especially Tongans, in Sydney and they’re starting to get into bands. It’s just starting out now so they haven’t had time to develop that strong groove music thing that we have in New Zealand.
“It was the same here about two or three years ago and then a whole subculture sprung up around Pacific-based groove and reggae music and what we produce now is really good.”
Deepgrooves was set up by Massey, Strawperson Mark Tierney and Bill Latimer. After a while, the three went their separate ways but the label remained. It was originally supposed to take advantage of the crossover between the alternative bands, a la Flying Nun, and the explosive dancehall, reggae and groove music.
“Back in the 80s, everything was very clear cut: the white alternative scene was the cool music to be listening to. But at the same time, the popularity of reggae music was growing. It was starting to move away from the Herbsie roots reggae into something more urban which became the ragamuffin and hiphop styles.’
Massey kept seeing the same people at the same places and thought he would try to bring together two very different musical groups.
“All of a sudden, the crossover started to happen. Bobbylon from an alternative white thrash band, the Hallelujah Picassos, suddenly found himself doing a good job of singing reggae… and the Headless Chickens changed from a hardcore alternative band to a pop dance band in the space of 12 months.”
Dance music became ‘cool’ very quickly and Deepgrooves was there to capitalise on an eager market. Since 1991, the label has released four albums and four singles, including two compilation albums and other by Nemesis Dub Systems who are now based in New York city.
|Kane Massey with Kelly Ana Morey. Source: Audioculture|
Massey is unwilling to reveal the identity of the three companies which have invested in Deepgrooves or exact sales figures, but he does say that the albums have sold “in the low thousands” and a couple of singles have hit the magic thousand mark.
Four new Deepgrooves releases show the label’s diversity. The first is from Colony, which Massey describes as a hardcore rap band, another is by Grace, three Samoan brothers who make Pacifican soul music; and the others come from Urban Disturbance, a popular Auckland hiphop group, and Freebass, a jazz band with an album recorded live at the central Auckland jazz club Cause Celebre.
Massey is proud of the diversity and hopes the move to Australia will take artists he believes are world class to a bigger market. Rastafarian reggae singer Jules Issa will be Deepgrooves’ “flagship artist” in Australia.
“From what I’ve seen over there, no one comes close to Jules in the reggae scene. She’s already made it big in Noumea, which has a large reggae market, and I’m sure she’ll have the success she deserves in Australia.”
A Deepgrooves devotee, Sonoma Message, was sent to Dame Edna country eight months ago to set things up and lay the foundations for the move. Before Message arrived, sales figures in Australia were lower than a rattlesnake’s belly; now they are looking a lot healthier, especially for non-charting records.
Massey is keen to emphasise that Deepgrooves is different from other independent record labels, because none of the groundwork is inhouse. The label has a deal with Festival Records, which distributes and produces all Deepgrooves releases, so unlike the others, Massey does not do the whole thing from his garage.
“We’re licenced to Festival and they do everything for us… at a cost. Deepgrooves is really more of an artist development label; we concentrate on getting the right material together for each of our artists and then marketing it, rather than spending our time dubbing tapes off DAT masters.”
Deepgrooves draws deeply from this country’s roots as a Pacific nation.
“We don’t even need to push the Pacifican thing because the music speaks for itself. The whole groove music scene has a lot of Pacific Island influence.”
One of the next Deepgrooves projects involves the South Auckland Samoan band Fuemana - a family affair with Phil Fuemana mixing the material at his own studio.
“Phil works with the Christian Mission in South Auckland, so he has all this great talent at his fingertips. We have an album coming out next year; Phil will collect all the talent and produce the album and some kids in South Auckland may get a big break.”
[NOTE: The original published version of this story refers to Chris Fuemana - I have corrected this to Phil Fuemana.]