DMCWorld checks in with label head and superwoman, Jo Wallace, on all things Ramrock Records.
Under the ‘Ramrock’ umbrella you’ve got Ramrock Records, Ramrock Blue Records, Ramrock Red Records, Ramrock Retro Records + F*CLR Records.
When did you launch and what was your first single release?
We launched the label with Ramrock Allstars ‘The Return of the Gentleman Rudeboy’ (feat. D’Oxman Pon Mike) in 2014.
The Return of the Gentleman Rudeboy (feat. D'Oxman Pon Mike)
What’s the meaning behind the name?
My husband, Ashley Beedle, came up with the idea – he mentioned Damian Marley’s ‘Welcome to Jamrock’ and said, ‘The label is in Ramsgate – welcome to Ramrock’…..I lost the ‘welcome to’ and kept ‘Ramrock’.
Where are you based?
Ramsgate on the South Coast of the UK. If I say, ‘It’s near Margate’, everyone knows where I mean!
How did the label come about?
The label was invented in response to international photographer, Dean Chalkley commissioning me to do a track for his hugely successful ‘Rudeboy’ exhibition at Somerset House in 2014. He said ‘Can you write a tune about rudeboys and their culture? You have a label, don’t you?’ The answer was ‘yes’ to both questions – Ramrock was born after I put the phone down on the top of a bus in Oxford Street. I wrote the lyrics and Oxman delivered them along with Darren Morris and Ashley Beedle as part of the Ramrock Allstars. I do BVs along with Darren and Ashley and play the milk bottle – a very traditional sound in early Reggae tracks.
What is your core musical style and ethos behind the label?
Originally, it was just going to be reggae on Ramrock. Then Greg Blackman and Mr Bird came along with ‘Over and Over’ which was soul, so I had to create another label – Ramrock Blue and when Future Unit came along with his Balearic monster, ‘Lazy Bones’, I had to set up Ramrock Red to accommodate it. Now, anything that doesn’t fall under the previous 2 labels gets assigned to Ramrock Red, so you’ve got hip hop, jazz, post punk, electronica and ‘stuff’. I also release house on my F*CLR label and license in obscure Northern Soul and lost soul gems for 7” vinyl release only on Ramrock Retro.
As corny as it sounds, Ramrock is a family – all the artists are equally brilliant. My relationship with the artists, radio presenters and PR people goes beyond a release – I’ve met the best people ever through the music and I can’t imagine life without them – it would be very dull. The ethos behind the label is giving each release the best opportunity to shine and keeping the output as musically consistent and well produced as possible. Because of the outstanding mastering of Darren Morris, the sound quality is incredibly high. Radio is still the most important outlet for the output from the labels – I’m very traditional in my approach to visibility for the releases. Nothing beats the thrill of hearing a Ramrock track coming out of the speakers. I encourage collaborations between all the artists on the label(s) and there’s been some amazing results. My strap line for the labels is ‘Ramrock Records – beautifully independent’.
Who does what at the labels?
I do everything for all five labels from my kitchen table. There is a total of one member of staff – me. I do the A&R, signing each release, organising the remixes and going into the studio as part of the North Street West production team to work on each remix with Ashley Beedle and Darren Morris. I sort out the artwork for the digital releases and Richard Epps, who created the signature Ramrock ‘seaweed’ label and the ‘look’ of Ramrock, handles all the vinyl artwork. I work closely with my distributors, Republic of Music, who guide me through each release; I write the press releases, help artists with any production issues or visuals, organise PR with Sarah at Favouritizm for campaigns, send out digital promos to radio presenters and anything else that needs doing in conjunction with the releases.
Which artists are featured on the labels?
Joseph Malik, Maxine Scott, Ghetto Priest, Kameelah Waheed, DB Cohen, Twelve Caesars, Greenwood & Horn, D.Foe, Suddenly WOW!, Substance Abuse, Cuban Brothers, Andre Espeut, Greg Blackman, 77:78, Stefano De Santis, Daniel March, King Bee, Leo Pesci, Jennifer Ewan Band, Steven Christie, Scorpio Leisure, Bum Clocks, Manakinz, Reggie Boone, CJ Cooper x Robert Owens, King Brasstards, Bon Voyage, Andrew Sant, Darren Price, The Descendants + Mazen Bedwei, Robb Scott x Leee John, Saaf Central… and more. The level of talent is insane.
Who else would you love to sign?
Let’s flip that – it’s more a case of who wants to be signed to Ramrock. I wait for artists to come to me who think they’d be a good fit for any of the labels. I have some fabulous artists in the 2024 Ramrock pipeline and I’m very excited at the prospect of working with them. You’ll have to wait for the big reveals though.
Which have been your 4 most successful releases to date?
77:78 – Love Said (Let’s Go) (Wallace & Morris ‘North Street West’ Rework)
Love Said (Wallace & Morris 'North Street' Vocal Rework)
Ghetto Priest – Hercules (North Street West Vocal Remix)
Hercules (North Street West 'holyvoodou' Vocal Remix)
Joseph Malik – Take A Left
Take a Left
Kameelah Waheed – America The Beautiful (North Street West Vocal Remix)
America the Beautiful (North Street West Vocal Remix)
What’s your A&R process and how can producers get demos to you?
Anything that’s sent to me is listened to and if it’s a good fit, I’ll reply to the artist and tell them that I’d love to release their music. If the submission isn’t a good fit, I’ll still let them know and I’ll try and offer some signposting. I know what I like when I hear it, and artists/producers can send their tracks over to me at email@example.com.
What’s the best about running a record label?
Waking up listening to music and going to sleep listening to music. The excitement of the ‘new’ and having the opportunity to work in the studio with Ashley Beedle and Darren Morris as a remixer/arranger/producer in the North Street West team.
And what difficulties as a label have you had to overcome?
Getting people to understand that it is me singlehandedly running the labels and nobody else, wading through the backlog of releases because lockdown derailed the release schedule, keeping on top of all the associated admin, getting music under the noses of BBC 6 Music + BBC Radio 2 producers, working releases around artists who have external issues to deal with, and not having enough time in the day to listen to all the music.
What’s your current release?
D.Foe – ‘Fool’ ft Hannah Morris (South of the Border Vocal)
Fool ('South of the Border' Vocal)
Do you host label events or plan to?
Joseph Malik has an album launch for his forthcoming LP, ‘Proxima Ebony’ on September 8th at Edinburgh’s iconic Voodoo Rooms with me DJing and MCing along with DJ sets from Shuya Okino (Kyoto Jazz Massive) and Natasha Kitty Katt. Tickets are available here. https://tickets-scotland.com/jos23
Maxine Scott also has a headline gig in London in October and I’ll be announcing that soon. And I feel that a Ramrock Revue is well overdue.
Where would you like to see the labels in 5 years?
At the top of their game and regarded in the industry and public eye as a source of incredible music with a stellar line up of artists.
What pearls of wisdom would you offer to those considering setting up their own label?
Have a vision and know what you want your label output to sound like. Delete premasters when you get the masters, so you don’t upload the wrong versions and get good at juggling – everything.
What’s coming up on the label that you can tell us about?
Joseph Malik’s monumental ‘Proxima Ebony’ LP and follow up EPs, Leo Pesci’s wonderful nujazz LP, ‘Impolite’, DB Cohen’s rabble rousing ‘On Target’ LP + EPs, a dance-tastic release from DJ/producer Natasha Kitty Katt, a HUGE reggae project, a multitude of goodness from Maxine Scott… and so much more! The future is bright, the future is Ramrock!