Published May 08, 2013Curtis Lynch is a London, UK-based reggae and dancehall producer and label owner. His label, Necessary Mayhem, is singlehandedly spearheading the new wave of conscious Caribbean artists with acts such as Mr. Williamz, Cali P and Etada. Necessary Mayhem's new release, Gregory Isaacs Remixed, features all new interpretations of Isaacs' extensive catalogue of classics, replayed and re-imagined with some of the greatest session players working, a landmark release for fans of the Cool Ruler both old and new. We recently sat down with Curtis Lynch to talk record distribution, future plans and why reggae will never die.
For those that don't know, please introduce yourself and your label Necessary Mayhem.
I'm a record producer, I've done a lot of work with major record labels and artists, including Gorillaz, Alicia Keys, Beenie Man. After a while of doing that, I started my label Necessary Mayhem. As far as I'm concerned any reggae producer eventually starts their own record label, for me I felt it was my time to start my own label, a chance to record with some artists that I have been fans of for years as well as being in the position of being able to pass on knowledge I had gained working in the music industry to younger up-and-coming artists.
As a label owner, you distribute both online and physically in record stores. What works better for you, from a profit-making perspective? Also, where do you see the future of record distribution?
It's a tough one. I was speaking to a friend that also runs a label and we have sleepless nights over what formats to release our music on. I thought it was just me! Should it be vinyl, CD? It's always going to be digital, but in terms of the way the world is moving, digital is most important. In the next few years everything will move more towards digital distribution. What do I prefer? I like the idea of both. I heard a tune the other night at 3 a.m., and by the next morning I owned it ― I like that. I shudder to think how much money I would spend on music if I was born these days. From a creative point of view I like the idea that I can complete a song and the next day it will be on iTunes, there are so many people I don't have to go through any more to get my music out there. As a connoisseur I always prefer owning the vinyl though.
Do you think people would be upset with you if you didn't commit to a vinyl release of your new releases? There are quite a few purists out there, but is there enough demand to make releasing vinyl viable financially?
There used to be a lot more sales in terms of the physical product and now there is definitely less demand. For us as a label we still do fairly well with vinyl, but with our new project (Gregory Isaacs Remixed) we haven't released on vinyl, just CD for numerous reasons. Mostly it's just a sign of times, and whether people want to admit it or not it is what it is. From our standpoint as a label it makes sense. Some of my friends who produce drum & bass and jungle (which I love) are not even pressing vinyl anymore, which I find amazing!
How did the Gregory Isaacs originally come about? Did you contact Gussie Clarke (original producer) or did he approach you?
That all started from a tune I did called "Champion Sound"; on it I replayed Gussie's "Pirate's Anthem." VP wanted to use the song for a compilation album and had to clear it with Mr. Clarke first, and Mr. Clarke didn't believe I had replayed everything. He then requested I send him all the parts to prove I did play everything live. From there we started working together. I had already initiated a project using lots of his tracks but replaying them in the studio. We met up in Jamaica, I was there for six, seven months, I stayed with him and that was how the project was born.
There are some lesser known Isaacs tracks you chose to include on the project. What process did you go through to choose them? Did you feel you had to choose some more of his better-known work you perhaps weren't such a fan of to create more of a commercial appeal or did you just choose your favourite tracks?
Definitely a lot of them are my favourite tracks. I grew up listening to a lot of these songs, and this is why this project is so important to me. Albums are very important, as a record buyer yourself I'm sure you know that a lot of the best tunes are the album tracks, they're not even the ones that had been released. For me those tunes are some of the biggest on their respective albums, it was good fun to put my spin on them.
Are there any other legendary artists catalogues you have your eye on remixing?
Nope, I've retired from remixing. Gregory Isaacs, for me, was the ultimate. Unless Island Records approach me to remix some Bob Marley records, of course!
Who has been your favourite artist to produce for and work with so far?
Wow, that's difficult. There have been so many people I've enjoyed working with for different reasons. I worked with Amy Winehouse in the studio, there where whispers going around saying "Oh, Amy's difficult to work with," but I had her MCing, tap dancing, all of that. That was a great session. Alicia Keys was great. Gorillaz ― Damon Albarn is a complete genius, if there was anybody I worked with I could say that completely blew me away it was Damon, the way he conducts a session is amazing. Shola Ama, Mr. Williamz, there are so many I could choose.
Are you currently producing any genres outside of reggae and dancehall?
We've got a project at the moment I've called Killer Mosquito, which is an alter-ego where I get to use all of the frequencies I want to, it's a mash of reggae, drum & bass, dubstep, hip-hop, all types. There is a record coming later on in the year which I'm excited about, it's very different for me.
What is your favourite riddim of all time?
That's difficult. I love "Sleng Teng," "Punanny Riddim." I really love the "Showtime Riddim" from Dave Kelly too. There are so many ― "Golden Hen" ― I could go on and on.
Dancehall is quite en vogue right now, do you see this trend continuing? What's next for dancehall?
I think that reggae and dancehall are both genres that are here for the long haul, they're related to so many different genres: drum & bass, jungle, hip-hop, R&B. It's always been cool, especially in [the UK] as soon as carnival comes around everyone hops on it again. Any DJ who plays well-known reggae or dancehall will be guaranteed to tear the roof off the place.
Read a review of the Gregory Isaacs Remixed here.