Dean Rudland is a legendary compiler and DJ. He has kindly taken the time to sit down with us and answer some of our questions.
Dean, what were some of the first music you listened to?
It was whatever my mum and dad were playing around the house. The first record I really remember making an impression was a Drifters Greatest Hits which my mum bought in the mid 70s and played a lot. After that I got into the Beatles, the Jam and then 60s soul through the mod scene.
How did get into DJing? What was the musical landscape at the time?
In the mid 80s, when I was 15/16 their was a mod scene which had moved on from the revival bands of 1979 and into 60s soul and R&B. The records had to be looked for but were available so I started pestering the DJs as to the names and started to get a collection together via charity shops, boot sales and 2nd hand record shops. Everyone on that scene was young, no one was older than about 20 and it was all very much about doing your own thing, so along with two other guys we put on a night in a wine bar in Victoria that my dad found for us, with our selves DJing and we got the bug. I saw one of the guys I did the night with last week, Dave Edwards , and he pointed out that it was 25 years ago last month.
How did you get into compiling compilations?
After the mod scene I started hanging around on the jazz scene just as it became the acid jazz scene. I also started doing a night with Ed Piller who owned Acid Jazz, and as I was at University just around the corner from his office I would pop into see him until he eventually offered me a job – “start Monday and I’ll see what I can pay you!” As well as having five years there where we signed some of the biggest acts of the 90s we also had a compilation series called Totally Wired which was basically a few old tracks, some of our favourite recent 12s and some of the label’s new acts. It was a roaring success, and allowed me to get a bit of a name as a compiler.
I was then introduced to a guy at EMI Records, Tony Harlow who was in charge of their Blue Note label and a friend of ours – the late Marts Andrups who managed Roger Sanchez and Masters At Work – thought we would hit it off. Sure enough we did and our first release was Blue Break Beats which sold over 100,000 copies in the UK and set us up for a ten year stint of releasing Blue Note comps, from the super commercial to the comically obscure.
From there on I worked at relaunching the Stateside label with EMI, with some great comps of people like David Axelrod, Minnie Riperton and the like, and I was taken on by Ace Records as a consultant to run the releases on their BGP label, which I’ve done for the last 12 years or so.
What is your process for putting together a compilation from start to finish?
It seems like a bit of a trite answer, but it really does depend on the sort of compilation it is. Sometimes like with the Super Funk comps on BGP the purpose is to get together as many rare tracks as possible and then make them sound good together, which is a very different process to putting together an historical overview as we did with the Southern Soul Box Set that we did for Ace, where you are telling a story. Most of the times you are falling somewhere in between, telling a story through personal choice as with the Riperton’s and the Axelrod’s.
Tell me about your latest projects. How did you do the research for it?
Well Mellow Mellow was Ian Dewhirst and I batting around our favourite downtempo tunes. Big strings, beats, and smooth smooth voices and coming up with something that really does do the title justice. For ‘The Breaks’ I was looking for a set of tunes that did justice to the 15th Anniversary edition. So we tracked some cuts that hadn’t been widely comped before on breakbeat compilations and mixed them in with some classics and hopefully came up with a great result.
What has been your favorite compilation you have put together in the past? If you could put together any kind of compilation, what would it be? What are some of your tracks of all time regardless of compilations and rarity?
There’s a handful, topped I think by ‘Take Me To The River: A Southern Soul Story’ which was put together by me and Tony Rounce a couple of years back and which we won Mojo Magazine’s compilation of the year with. Everything came together perfectly for that. But also that very first Blue Break Beats, which was very influential especially in the States I think, and the David Axelrod Anthology, which allowed me to become friends with David, who was a man of many stories.
What do you think will be the future of compilations since CD sales are down? What will be the next format?
I don’t think it is something that you can waste time worrying about. It may be that I have been working in a period which was golden age for compilations, the only time in history I could have made a living out of doing so, and that in ten years time it will be back to swapping playlists between friends. Who knows?