With legendary UK house label Champion Records celebrating its 35th Anniversary in 2020 (and still based out of the same North London office!), DMCWORLD chatted with Label Manager and Head A&R Rob Tabor, aka Rob Made, about the label’s plans to commemorate this landmark, along with the recently-released vinyl boxset.
Thanks for speaking with DMC and congratulations on the Champion Records 35th Anniversary! When did you join Champion Records and how did you come on board?
I started at the beginning of 2019. I had a call from my good friends at Label Worx asking if I wanted a Job; they’d put me forward for the position as I’d worked my own label Sleazy Deep, produced & DJ’d as Rob Made full-time and they believed I’d be a perfect match for the label. I’d worked in the industry since 2000 from Amato, React Music, Universal and Sony before going full-time with my own labels and as an artist/DJ. When I got the call from Dom at Label Worx regarding the position, I jumped at the opportunity and everything else just fell into place.
Champion are such an iconic UK house label. What is your favourite Champion release?
There are just so many to list, but the one that always stands out to me and holds a special place in my heart is Raze ‘Break 4 Love’. This is the record I first heard that made me discover house music properly. I was very much into my Drum & Bass, Hardcore, Rave Culture growing up in the ‘90s, so from that day forth my passion for house music really started.
Mel Medalie must be one of the longest-serving record bosses in the businesses. How involved is he on a day to day level?
Unbelievably very much so, prior to lockdown, Mel came into the office every day for at least 2 to 3 hours. I’d love to play him potential signings for the label and gage his reaction as he still knows what he loves…and most certainly what he does not!
What are some of the reasons why Champion Records has stood the test of time for four decades?
I truly believe it’s down to the huge importance of the label and the iconic records it put out in the early days. It was ground breaking and played a huge part in the story of UK House Music and introducing US House Music to our country and with some key acts all developed from here from Faithless, Dido and Rollo Armstrong being a huge part of that with Rob Dougan, Robin S, Sandy B, Deep Dish, StoneBridge the list just goes on & on….
The Ryan Blyth remixes of Sandy B ‘Make The World Go Round’ and Robin S ‘Luv 4 Luv’ both performed well. Are there plans to remix other classic Champion tracks?
Yes, we’ve already covered a few since I started. My plan was to do a huge Classic once every quarter with a host of current remixes/remixers that could bring a more modern edge to them. We’ve already taken on Kristine W’s ‘Feel What You Want’, Robin S ‘Luv 4 Luv’, Raze ‘Break 4 Love’ and as you mentioned recently Sandy B’s ‘Make The World Go Round’. These are all building up to our official 35th Anniversary Champion Classics boxset that includes all the original 12” cuts, remastered in full so we’ve still a few to come with Sandy B, Staxx, OT Quartet & more.
The 35th Anniversary Boxset looks fantastic. How difficult was it choosing which 15 tracks to feature on the vinyl release?
The vinyl release was easier than the mix compilation; we’re known for our key classics with Robin S, Raze, Sandy B, Kristine W, OT Quartet and Staxx, so I managed to decide on those quite quickly. As the previous 25 Years vinyl releases we’re currently selling mainly featured two tracks per side, I thought people would want the full, original club mixes at 45rpm per side (in a lovely high-quality premium boxset), yet with Kristine W, I had to put 4 tracks on that one as just couldn’t decide on two!
You and StoneBridge have remixed the digital ‘Champion Classics’ release which features even more tracks. Was there added pressure working on such a big release and how did you decide who played which tracks?
Well, StoneBridge being the absolute legend he is and key to many Champion releases in the past, I obviously gave him free reign. He decided to pick out all his favourite Champion releases and remixes that he’d done for us and place them in an hour mix to support the online version. Once I had the tracklist, I knew which he hadn’t used, so my starting point was any of the tracks from the boxset he didn’t use and from there, just filled in the gaps with some of my own favourites from Champion: Recall 22, Sphinx, Rollo Goes Mystic and more. I also finished the mix with an exclusive blending of the Brutal & Builds Like A Skyscraper Remixes of Hold That Sucker Down using the acapella to include the radio edits full vocal that didn’t exist before and I’m quite proud with how the mix turned out overall! Look out for part II later this year.
How much has COVID-19 affected the 35th Anniversary preparations? We saw that the boxset release date had to move back twice, to coincide with the revised Record Store Day dates.
Well yeah, everything has been ready to go for what seems like an eternity, with it being such a huge project I’ve been working on its conception since this time if not earlier last year. It was all remastered, cut and prepared with distribution since the beginning of the year and as you mention, sadly got moved back to June and then finally pushed back again to the end of August for Record Store Day. I’m so happy to say that its finally out, with a great reception for R.S.D (month one) and now flying off the shelves (online too).
What can people expect from Champion over the next few months and beyond?
We have many releases lined up well into next year with some really exciting new names & known we’re working with. The coming months will see our remixes of Mr & Mrs Smith ’96 classic ‘Get Loose’ come out with Blame, Rob Made, Andy Smith and Neontronix mixes; an amazing single from Skeleton Keys featuring Anelisa Lamola who’s an amazing singer you might know from Icarus ‘King Kong’; new Sandy B ‘Ain’t No Need To Hide’ remixes. And finally, a project I’m very excited about from Beyond Therapy & EchoFly (Dougal & Ollie Jacobs) featuring Angie Brown which will closes the year out (not in that order though).
Which artists would you love to release on Champion?
Oh, hard question, I’m really trying to build our own new artist (to us) eco-system with acts I believe can go big but obviously there’s so many I like ATM from across many genres, so a remix wish list would be a bit like… Sub Focus, Dimension, Totally Extinct Enormous Dinosaurs (just love these guys), Joe Goddard, Maceo Plex, Theo Kottis, Mark Knight, Skream, Gerd Janson, Paul Woolford. Haha, I could go on forever. If any of you are reading and have any singles or wanna remix… pm ;-D x
What tips would you give to people starting a record label today?
I really think/believe that you need to have a strong vision artistically and have a really good circle of artists around you, who also trust in that vision with their music alongside your own (if that’s what you want). Don’t copy what’s popular now, do it for the love and the rest should follow – the world doesn’t need another Defected, Hot Creations or Toolroom. Yet, that doesn’t mean you can’t compete with your own sound. Make sure you get your schedule together well in advance and work with a good distributor and promo companies for your releases who can best advise release plans and marketing. Finally, maybe wait for clubs to re-open!