Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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Oli Lazarus: 15 Years Of Papa Records

Oli Lazarus (Papa Records)
Oli Lazarus (Papa Records) Tony Momrelle Monique Bingham DJ Spinna

As one of London's finest soulful labels, Papa Records, celebrates 15 glorious years of releasing great music. We look back at some of the highlight's with label boss Oli Lazarus and take a look at their giant anniversary compilation, "Play It Like Papa".

How did Papa Records first come about, what did you set out to achieve and did you ever anticipate you'd still be releasing records 15 years later?

Papa was conceived in late 2001 and actually started as a label in early 2002. I had worked 3 years previously at Flying Records (a vinyl record store in Soho, London). I learnt a lot at the shop and got a real education there. I made some wonderful contacts and friends. During that time I also delved into production and was DJ’ing a lot. I started my project called "Reel People" around the same time and our 1st single "Spiritual" was the 1st release on Papa. For me, I just wanted Papa to be a platform for the music that I really loved which always had Soul Music at its core. Never in a million years did I expect to reach 15 years but it's a wonderful feeling to still be here and be doing our thing.

What was the London Soulful scene like back then when you started and who were your early signings?

London at that time was a great place to be. The scene was exciting with lots of artists and producers doing their thing. Of course, the Broken Beat scene at the time was just bubbling and we dabbled with the genre working with Seiji, Bugz In The Attic, Domu & 4hero etc. Obviously, Reel People recorded quite a few of the early releases but we also worked with house heads like Jon Cutler, Osunlade, DJ Spinna, Monique Bingham, Matthias Heilbronn and Oreja to name a few.

Are you pleased with how you've developed over the years, how have things changed compared to the early days and what were your biggest challenges?

Yeah, its been a great journey with lots of ups and a few downs. I think working with all the wonderful artists I have has been such a highlight and just being involved in releasing some genuinely wonderful music is a great feeling. Biggest challenge must be the big shift in how music is consumed. Things changed so much and learning how to still operate as a business took some learning and mistakes were made. The great thing is we are still here today and continue to play our part.

You have had some amazing artists in your repertoire, which are Papa's stand out releases for you and why?

I think on a personal level, the 2 Reel People albums we released were a huge achievement for myself and the team involved. I think some of the stand out tracks are Simon Grey - "The Galactica Suite" (Just an awesome track from top to bottom, Jazz Funk Soul fusion meets Dance), Oreja - Vazilando (A big record on the house scene, which we licensed all over the world, new mixes of this coming in 2018), Saison - "The Dukes" (just a great modern Deep House cut). There quite a few more but they stick out a little for me.

Rightfully so, you're releasing a triple cd "Play It Like Papa" to celebrate your 15th anniversary, congratulations! Tell us about the release.

Well, we just wanted to celebrate the anniversary and really showcase some of the back catalogue to the new wave of music fans. Its been fun putting it together...I decided to break the release into 3 albums so that people get a real feel of the music we released over the 15 Years. Album 1 is Soul, Broken Beat & Nu Jazz, Album 2 is Soulful House and Album 3 is Deep House & House. We have a Triple CD release and also a Triple Album Digital Release. My good friend DJ Spinna has done an exclusive DJ mix of each album.

You've worked a lot with Brooklyn's DJ Spinna over the years, when and how did you first link up and what great projects have you worked together on since?

From when I worked in the shop I always used to sell vinyl with DJ Spinna remixes on and then I got to hear him DJ in London around 2000. When I set up Papa he was one of the guys I definitely wanted involved and in 2002 I flew out to meet him in New York, we hung out, he actually took me to some amazing NY parties at the time like Shelter and Body & Soul. We just always stayed in touch and continued to work together over the years. I just think he is a genuine guy and his musical knowledge, passion and creativity is like no other. Love working with him!

"As time progresses and musical fads come and go, Papa records remains true to all things soulful across many musical genres. They've are a trustworthy name for music that touches emotions and speaks to the heart of the people.” - Dj Spinna

One of your biggest artists on the label are your own band, Reel People, what are the plans for the band moving forward - any plans for a new album and live shows?

I am actually working on a new Reel People album now. I am hoping to release by April/May next shows will definitely follow.

What new talent have you signed to the label recently?

Well, I now actually run 3 labels, Papa of course, Reel People Music and last year I acquired another label called Foliage Records. Working with a whole host of exciting projects for 2018, including the new Reel People album and also a new Tony Momrelle album.

Who would you most like to sign?

Wow, tough question as there are too many to mention… Anyone got Stevie’s number? (laughs)

Any Papa 2018 plans you can share with us?

Just to keep the release schedule full of good quality house music, deep, soulful, afro and to introduce some exciting new artists to the fold - keep your eyes peeled.

"Play It Like Papa (15 Years Of Papa Records)" is out on Papa Records.

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