When I first saw the 7″s of People’s Potential Unlimited pop up in Rush Hour’s weekly mail with the new releases I quickly got over the idea that it was just another bootleg label. Mainly over the ‘just another’ part because from those first pieces of vinyl it stood out from the pack. The songs they released were not played out and badly edited ones nor were they mediocre Deep Funk tunes that were forgotten for a good reason. No this was pure quality 80s Disco / Funk / Soul tracks and I hadn’t heard any of them before. If you know that I both adore that specific sound and discovering new music you will understand I’m hooked ever since.
I got over the bootleg part after a post I did about the label on this site. Andrew Morgan, the main force behind it, mailed me to correct my faulty assumption. We kept in contact and when I decided to concentrate on more elaborate articles, instead of short, simple posts that are already omnipresent on the net, it was obvious I should start with a special on PPU.
But first lets give you some background info on the label itself. People Potential Unlimited is a strictly vinyl, 100% legit record label, licensing all the music they release. That music is 80s Boogie, Electro-Funk and Disco that somehow failed to grab the attention of nearly everybody when it came out. Not because it lacked quality but because it lacked about everything else a record needs to break.
Now PPU is giving them a second chance. From the Caprice / T.M.S. split 7″ in 2008 until now they brought us nothing but solid tunes and gathered some fans in the process. Nevertheless it was Midnight Express’ “Dangerzone” that caught the attention of people outside of the collector’s universe. Its devastating effect on dance floors all over the world, plus that all important video (which you can find on Youtube), made it easy to get picked up by Bloggers like myself, and turned heads to the artist and label behind it.
If you want to know more about that group check out the site Andrew Morgan did for the main man behind Midnight Express, Robbie M.To know more about the label I asked the main man behind it some questions. For your ease I’ve tried to include as many useful links as possible. Enjoy.
What got you hooked to the style of music you are releasing / selling ?
When I was younger the only records we could find for cheap were 12″ dance singles. Rap records were always too expensive, and I only ever liked the instrumentals anyway. I’ve always been a fan of classic dance 70s/80s. But I am into all genres, even country.
You are behind the Earcave site too ? Something special we need to say about that ?
Yes, Earcave is my site. So is “Madmosaic” on Ebay and Districtwax.com. All me. Earcave is a site where I consign records for dj’s and original artists.
Can you give us some starting points, landmark album or artists, to explore this sound ?
Pick up any album where on the cover you find one band member holding a Keytar. You are guaranteed at least one Funk track.
What do you think attracts people to this music nowadays ? With DF, Midnight Express and through my own sets I feel a new interest in it. Looks like people are a bit bored with the deep funk.
The music was built for club speakers. I’m working with a guy down south in GA. He only recorded 45s, levels to the max. All sub bass and claps. They made records to play out at the local club. That’s the design. Listeners recognize the 80s sounds and head to the dance floors. It just all works.
Is the label and selling vinyl your main occupation or are there other things you do in the music business ?
I’m an animator – I teach classes in Washington DC and Maryland. Claymation! I work with lots of kids and make movies. All ages. I’ve had several careers. Records are my main job when I’m not contracting or teaching.
What is your main motivation to do the record label ? Surely not becoming rich because there are better ways to do that.
I always wanted to make records. The process of pressing them is still crazy to me. My methods are a lot of trial and error. I’m learning more about the science. In two years I’ll be cutting the lacquers myself.
What made you decide to start this label and do it the hard way instead of going bootleg (which would be a lot easier I guess since you wouldn’t have to track them down and the chance of being sued is small) ?
Dealing with the artists is the best part … who doesn’t like getting called at 2 in the morning, “Hey when’s the record coming out!?”
Are there pieces of music you want to release but don’t because you can’t find the people behind it ?
What’s their reaction when you tell them you want to release their 20+ year old music ? Baffled that there’s still some interest in it ?
The reaction is; “Of course! My song is the best song ever written”. I send them other releases on PPU, and they don’t get it. “That’s not as good as my song?”.
Are any of them planning new releases or still releasing music ?
CD-Rs yeah, mostly. Every artist is still hoping for that gold record.
I love the small liner notes on the PPU site. Like the Ballplayers story or the fact that James S. Carter (Checker Kabb) has written “Help Is On The Way” by the Whatnauts. Any plans on telling even more anecdotes or interesting facts about the artists you release ? Somebody should document those stories.
Almost every artist I’ve talked to has a similar story. They are all musicians so they lived the lifestyle at some point. I just always end up talking music and synths with them. PPU-001 features a group CAPRICE, the lead vocalist is Larnette Winston. I didn’t realize this until later but she was the back-up vocalist on “Danger Zone”. She is Apollonia’s sister too! It’s crazy when it all starts to come together. Robbie M and Larnette called me a few weeks ago, and I missed that phone call but they were rehearsing DANGER ZONE! Something in the works for 2009 maybe????
Do you remaster the original tracks or do you use vinyl copies and clean them up ?
We just master off the vinyl and I clean them up. I’m getting better at it. You can still hear a lot of noise on PPU-002, but not on any of the new vinyl. I slave over the computer, removing the pops manually in protools. No restoration software is used!
How many copies are pressed of every release ?
They are currently all in print. Some are limited to 1000.
I heard you are planning some new releases too. Dâm Funk told me something about a track he has made that you will release.
Yes, Dâm Funk has a new side project called “WaveLength“. PPU pressed up 1000 copies, which Dâm Funk will be selling at his shows. We started a new label for this venture called GLYDEZONE. The song one of my personal favorites!
Will the future releases be 7″s and 12″s only or are any album releases planned ? What can we expect from PPU ?
More 12″ vinyl; Tom Noble Disco, Glass Pyramid, Twin City Players, Bozeman & Roberts, 4-Reel, Billy Littlejohn, Cross Town Traffic, Point of View.
Can we expect some Washington Go-Go releases ? I always thought is was a shame not more people knew about it.
Yeah, we got another one coming out. CROSSTOWN TRAFFIC from Arlington Virginia. DMV-2000. It’s the best blend of gogo and disco this world will ever know.
How long do you think you can keep doing this ? Will the source ever dry up ?
As long as I have ears. There is an infinite world of music around us waiting to be discovered. I met a guy the other day, lives 3 doors down, in the basement. He was in a group called PRISM in the late 80s. No records, nothing. It never ends.