The interwebs have been all a-buzz with the new reissue of the legendary Quebec funk soundtrack from the sexploitation film Après Ski. This record has long been elusive to find and very costly to obtain even if you are lucky enough to get a sniff of it! And thanks to Quebec-based label, Les Disques Pluton (Pluton Records), we can all rest easily knowing that we finally have a copy in our stacks. Pluton is new on the block, but with two releases under their belt and a truly great blog, there’s nothing but good things down the line for them. Pluton’s head honcho Félix Desfossés was kind enough to sit down with us and discuss his label, blog Vente de garage, and the rich history of Quebec’s soul/funk music scene.
For audio samples and to order Après Ski Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, click HERE!
Tell us some stuff about yourself and Les Disques Pluton. What was the inspiration to start the label?
Well, I’ve been in the music business (musician, journalism, historical research, promotion and production) for most of my life now. About three years ago, my girlfriend Melodie and I started the podcast/blog Vente de garage (“Garage Sale” in English). Most of the music we’d play was obscure garage and R&B 45s from around the globe with a special interest in local Quebecois music. I then started posting ripped 45s on the blog. We got lots of feedback and realised there was a true interest in Quebec’s musical past. There already are reissue labels specialised in music from Quebec like the totally cool Mucho Gusto label, Hungry For Vinyl and Disques Merite. But, being a soul/funk/r&b/garage fan, I thought it could be a great idea to reissue some warm and groovy tunes from around here. So our blog was our starting point and we then started the label.
Your first release was Donald Seward Studio B Funk 45, which quickly sold out (so quickly yours truly didn’t get to snag one…darn it!). How did you discover that gem?
Yes, Pluton’s first release was a very limited 100 copies only 45! The idea behind this micro-pressing was simply to put our name on the map, in French we call it a “carte de visite”.
With Seward’s record, we were stating that we were going to reissue groovy and obscur stuff from Quebec. As for how I discovered his music, well, I digged his records from different thrift stores and garage sales, knowing that he was from my hometown, Rouyn-Noranda, and that he was the keyboard player for Cesar et Les Romains, one of Quebec biggest sixties act. When I found out just how funky and great his solo career was, I thought I had to meet him and do an interview for the blog. That was the first idea. Mr. Seward turned out to be a nice gentlemen. And the idea just came up. Melo and I had spoken about starting a label so we thought that’d be a perfect project to begin. And it was. All copies sold out in a couple of weeks, finding their way to Europe and the United States. At that point, we knew there was an international interest for Quebec’s groovy side of music.
You have a great blog, “Vente de garage”, that digs deep into the musical history of Quebec. Is there a big scene of people collecting and sharing this music? Or just a few lone diggers unearthing these long lost records?
Actually, yes, there’s a big scene of people collecting Quebec’s music. To tell you the truth, here in Quebec, our own musical history still is quite obscure to most people. So bringing all this music back to people’s ears is a mission and passion for me. Vente de garage (Garage Sale) is part of a little blog network specialised in Quebec’s 60s and 70s music. But outside of here, Quebec’s sixties garage is very in demand in France (French langague helps!), but also in Italy, Greece, Germany, and further in Europe. We got lots of feedback from Europe. Actually, our podcast was broadcasted in Belgium for a while! I try to translate most of my posts from French to English. But I’ve been lazy on translating recently… music speaks for itself anyways.
There are some truly great bands that you talk about on the blog–Les Monsters, George Thurston, and others that are totally new to me. Amazing stuff.
Yes! Truly amazing stuff that should be known worldwide. For some people, language is still a barrier. For the most open minded of us, it gives an exotic side to music.
I dig Brazilian psych, Turkish garage, Italian stuff too, even though I can’t understand a word of what they’re saying. Georges Thurston was HUGE here, in the seventies. He WAS disco. But in the sixties, when he begun, he recorded some soul/r&b tracks that could be played in any Northen Soul DJ night. Les Monstres (The Monsters) we’re a cool horror outfit that surfed on Bobby Boris Pickett’s success with Monster Mash. They’re quite scary when you look at their pictures!
But this is just the tip of the iceberg. Since the rise of rock’n'roll, Quebec always had it’s own “popular culture”, it’s own star system and music scene, with underground and popular layers – our 6 million population is rather small compared to the USA, but we’re also very creative. So we do have a cool musical underground history yet to be unearthed. Everything hasn’t been discovered here yet. We can still find gems from time to time and share them with the whole world.
Now, tell us about your latest release, the rare and highly collectible Apres Ski OST (available NOW). This record is crazy! So many styles and some really avant sounding electronic instrumentals. What’s the story behind it? How did you find it?
Après Ski is Quebec’s holy grail of funk. Long story short, this record has been sought after worlwide for a while now for it’s heavy funk instrumental B side. The A side has more variety in styles. On the original pressing, the A side was pop only. On the reissue, we added an avant-garde psych freak out from the movie soundtrack and a lost funk gem, never heard before anywhere, not even in the original movie, to make it a little more interesting. But listen to the B side first. Trust me.
This soundtrack was recorded in 1970 in Montreal for the sexploitation/maple syrup porn movie Après Ski which turned to be censored and condemned by a court of justic for “obscenity”! For a while, people thought Jacques Crevier et son ensemble were the band that recorded the funky tunes, since they were credited on the album. But a rumor had it that it was some other band. People thought it was Chicago! Well, it was not. Turned out it was lllustration, a band formed in Montreal with musicians from various backgrounds, that blended together in the funk rock style. They couldn’t put their name on the record at the time because they were linked by contract to Janus records in the USA.
As for how we found this out… wow. This is quite crazy. Long story short, it happened part because of the blog – people giving us different infos, but everyhting happens for a reason I guess. While I was finishing everything for our first release, Donald Seward’s Studio B Funk, I deciced to google the name of his first band – The Flaming Stars. I ended up on a website showing a picture of the band, but not mentionning Seward. It was Illustration’s John Ranger’s website, on which he was telling his carrer story. John Ranger replaced Donald Seward in the Flaming Stars, back in 1959 or so. I kept on reading Ranger’s life story and he simply mentioned, on his website, that he wrote and recorded the Après Ski soundtrack. I couldn’t believe what I was reading – nobody knew who had composed and recorded those songs. I emailed Mr. Ranger, did a quick interview and posted this info on my blog. The reaction was HUGE! I knew just how rare and in demand Après Ski was and still is. I asked John if he’d be interested in getting his music reissued, and he was. Jean Zaloum, the original producer fo the movie, still had the original master tapes from which we were able to work and on which we found never heard extras – which are now available on Pluton’s reissue. Everything went really smooth and cool for that reissue. I’m extremely proud of it.
And lastly, anything new on the horizon?
We have tons of different reissue projects in mind – either in the garage or soul/funk/r&b vein. Since we’re a small record label with a low limited budget, we’ll try to put out a record/year. 2011 is starting big with Après Ski and as soon as it’s launched we’ll start working on the next record. Trust us, you’re going to dig it. In the meanwhile, check out Vente de garage for more obsucre garage, soul, funk & r&b from Quebec!
Special thanks to Félix for taking the time to chat and to Light In The Attic’s distro guru Josh Wright for setting up the interview. See ya on the slopes…