I recently interviewed Chris Lane of Fashion Records fame. many thanks to Inyaki (from Basque Dub Foundation ) and Fred ‘Reggaelover’ P for making the connection!
Former co-founder of the UK-based Fashion Records label, Chris Lane is a multi-talented musician, producer, mixologist, dubologist, manager, consultant, archivist, writer, and unabashed classic reggae fan whose contributions to the genre are too many to list here. He is perhaps one of the most gracious and humble individuals I’ve come across in the business and he speaks of his many experiences with an honesty and an articulateness that is nothing if not refreshing.
He is of course best known as half of the dynamic duo of MacGillivray and Lane who launched the popular and successful Fashion Records label from their Dub Vendor record shop. Founded in 1980, Fashion Records was one of only a few British reggae labels to release records that were produced in their own recording studio. Over the course of 20 years, Fashion released music from artists such as Carlton Manning, Alton Ellis, Carlton Lewis, Johnnie Clarke, Pato Banton, Macka B, Maxi Priest, and several other heavyweights from the era.
Later this month, Fashion will release a dancehall remix of General Levy’s ‘Incredible‘ and another one of Cutty Ranks’ ‘As You See It You Dead.’ They will follow on the heels of those new releases with the release of the follow-up to the very successful ‘Fashion In Fine Style: Significant Hits Volume 1,‘ which will feature another 20 tracks of Fashion classics and will be available for digital download as well as available on CD a few weeks later.
Chris sat down for an interview with World-A-Reggae where he talks about camping out on the floor of the Black Ark for a month, contributing to a Bob Marley and Lee Perry track, watching Dennis Brown rehearse The Heptones on “Here I Come,” oh, and what it’s like to start a legendary record label out of your basement.
W-A-R: So you’ve had many titles in your career relating to reggae. You’ve been described as a reggae devotee, dubologist, mixologist, producer, manager, and even label head. Talk about how you discovered reggae? Do you remember a particular song that that you can point to as sort of an ”anchor” in your life as a fan, and a professional in the business? Mine was, is, and will always be Burning Spear’s “Door Peep,” the version from Reggae Greats. Don’t know if it is the first song I heard, but it is the first I remember hearing.
CL: “In ’67 and ’68 there was a little bit of rocksteady (or Bluebeat as we called it then) in the UK pop charts – Johnny Nash’s ‘Hold Me Tight’, etc were pop hits and tunes like Donnie Elbert’s ‘Without You’ as well as Buster’s ‘Al Capone’ and the Skatalites ‘Guns Of Navarone’ were played in youth clubs and so on….. as we got into ’69 it was like an underground thing for us kids, probably a carry-over from the mod scene were they liked a bit of ska along side their soul & r&b.
In ’69 Trojan started getting a few of their releases into the national charts and they were played on national radio as well, so you would hear some reggae there, but only the big hits….. one of my mates (actually a friend’s big brother) was really into reggae, had a few albums and lots of singles, and one day he played us a few new tunes he’d just bought….. when I heard ‘Mama Look Deh’ by the Reggae Boys, that was the tune that really cemented my relationship with reggae, it unlocked something inside me, and when my family got our first record player (Christmas ’69) I went out and bought the ‘Tighten Up Vol 2’ and ‘Motown Chartbusters Vol 3’ albums (along with just about every one else I knew!!) …. and I carried on from there, like thousands of others.
I was 13 then, and like most working or lower middle class kids I was into the skinhead fashion – I loved the clothes and the music (Atlantic/Stax Soul & Motown as well as ska/reggae… ) – in those days (1968 – 1971) it really was just a fashion for kids, when it got revived ten years later somehow it all got politicized, and it annoys me that people now look at it as some sort of fascist youth movement which it never was back then…. It was just a fashion!
Trojan (and Pama) developed a policy of releasing cheap compilation albums, so at least the music was accessible for us teenagers – I spent all of my paper round and Saturday job money on records and clothes – but nearly everyone I knew went off reggae when the fashion changed around the end of ’71…… only a couple of my mates were still interested in reggae by ’72…. “