Introduced in 2015 with an eponymous debut EP of rapturous Italo-disco and Afro-cosmic imbued grooves courtesy of Italian legend Beppe Loda, Passport To Paradise has rapidly made its mark in the growingly attractive market for retro-laced re-edits and other off-kilter dance oddities from the past, casting releases from Albion, Macadam Mambo, Mori Ra and more.
Behind the label with the bird-of-paradise hides Lenny Paradise, a fictional character whose unquenchable thirst for unexplored audio realms led him to travel the world in search for the next unheard treasure, getting to expand his contacts as he slowly but surely polished the heliotropic and positively-charged aesthetic of his heavenly venture.
We took the chance to find out more about what makes Lenny tick and learn about his long-haul experience in electronic music, unique encounters and further projects for the future. As a little extra to celebrate the imminent release of ‘Nemas Problemas Vol.2‘, we’re glad to offer you a full stream of the EP’s funk-soaked opener ‘Bear Claw‘.
Interview by Baptiste Girou
"Everything in life runs its course for one reason or another and I'm the type of person always looking for the next thing."
Back two years ago, you founded Passport To Paradise, a label dedicated to issuing re-edits of old gems sourced directly from the wide-ranging collections of some of the most renowned diggers and collectors out there… What prompted you to start this venture?
It was a natural progression from running the Joe’s Bakery label really. Although I wanted this label to be an edits only label as at the time I was hearing more interesting older music than newer stuff. The older unknown music with a cheeky edit or added overdubs sounded fresher than the original music coming out at the time.
I have been collecting records for 30 years and in my collection there are records that stood the test of time. I believe that if it’s good music you will go back to it and play them out today and for years to come so with Passport To Paradise you get that older music updated a little for the modern day dancefloor and hopefully people will collect the label and enjoy the music in the future too.
Since the stop of Joe’s Bakery, the reputed Leeds-based event you were running alongside Joe Gill, you moved on to set up your own space, the Outlaws Yacht Club, which you co-captain with Joe and Johnny Gilroy. What’s cooking on that front?
Everything in life runs its course for one reason or another and I’m the type of person always looking for the next thing. I had 3 wonderful years being able to make my dreams a reality creatively with Outlaws Yacht Club. From a music and art point of view I invited all my favourite DJs/artists and producers to be part of that dream.
I have been involved with music and the Leeds club and bar scene since the late eighties and I’m proud of what I created with two of my best friends. Jonny and I decided to move on to new pastures so Joe and our bar manager Shaun are flying the flag these days. Leeds needed Outlaws Yacht Club at the time and long may their success continue.
"The music chosen for the label is usually predominantly aimed at the dancefloor with varying tempos and the occasional odd ball thrown in for good measure."
Selection-wise, how do you usually proceed? Do you ask your collaborators to pick the material they’d like to retouch and let them completely hands-free or do you agree on a direction with them beforehands?
The process is really simple the people I choose for the label are usually friends or DJs/producers I respect for their knowledge and outstanding dedication to the art of digging. My love of underground music has enabled me to connect with likeminded people from around the world who share the same passion as myself in finding those hidden treasures in those dusty record boxes. So I trust my friends/collaborators to do their thing.
The label sweeps quite a broad sound spectrum, from disco to balearic house to new wave onto multiple styles. Do you follow a particular guideline or is it just about having a crush with the music?
The ethos of the label is to put out interesting music from all genres of music. Every EP consists of four tracks that cover all bases for DJs to play and collectors to collect. When I ask the artist to submit their selections all I usually say is I want something odd/outsider music that no one knows and people will get excited about when hearing it for the first time, just like myself. If the music is unknown to me and is interesting then we usually have an EP that fits what I’m trying to do with the label.
The music chosen for the label is usually predominantly aimed at the dancefloor with varying tempos and the occasional odd ball thrown in for good measure. Also if you have an EP that has a varied musical output then usually you will get all sorts of people buying the music. It’s not easy selling records these days so you have to appeal to everyone who goes out and buys/ collects records.
"There is this fictional character called Lenny Paradise, he is an obsessive music collector who over the years has spent most of his spare time traveling the world discovering unknown music."
Why this name, Passport To Paradise? What does it mean to you?
Now we go into the strange place that exists in my mind…! As the music that I put out usually comes from various places around the world I had this idea. There is this fictional character called Lenny Paradise, he is an obsessive music collector who over the years has spent most of his spare time traveling the world discovering unknown music.
Along the way he has formed friendships with likeminded music-collecting obsessives who share the same passion in finding this music. He puts on his flasher mac and flat cap, picks up his passport and off he goes to meet his music-loving friends. When he arrives at his destination after spending hours trawling through boxes of unwanted records he usually finds that one track that he never knew he was looking for… he is in Paradise!
His first visit was to Italy, where he met his disco dad Beppe Loda aka the “Italian stallion”. From Italy he visited Sweden where he met the Nemas Problemas collective. Four record-collecting friends who have a knack for finding the hidden treasures in and amongst some of the strangest places in the deepest towns and villages of Sweden.
Lenny didn’t leave the country without passing by his old friend’s place. Albion aka the “Disco druid” invited him in for some ash cake and a cup of yorkshire tea and an evening on the decks transpired listening to music that Lenny had never heard before. It was now time for his next stop, one of his favourite places in france. Lyon the home of two of his brothers from another mother Sacha and Guillaume aka Macadam Mambo. A day eating oysters on the boat followed by more record hunting.
Lenny Paradise & Albion
Next stop Lenny’s favourite place in Japan to see his friend Mori Ra, the king of next-level digging. After sushi and saké, Lenny picked up his passport again and headed to the airport. Next stop Amsterdam, the place where girls sit under red lights and cannabis is legal. His friend Abel was waiting for him a day of searching the flee markets and illicit establishments you never knew existed. Phew what a trip! That is the story so far… Passport to Lenny’s Paradise!
I do love a good story that’s usually behind the idea you have in your head. It’s also important for me to have great artwork to help tell the story. The artwork for the first five releases came from Norrie Harman, an amazing artist I met through a mutual friend – Irvine Welsh of ‘Trainspotting‘ fame. I had Norrie do an exhibition at Outlaws and mentioned I had this idea for the label and the story behind it. We both decided that drawings of birds of paradise would represent what Passport To Paradise meant to us. I wanted to include other artists on this project and their interpretation of the label.
For the next five releases the serbian artist Marko Vuleta-Djukanov has joined our family with his take on Passport To Paradise. Something completely different. His idea for the Abel release was Adam and Eve at the gates of heaven/paradise with neon lights from the last club we visit up in the sky. The artwork for the next release by Nemas Problemas Vol 2 shows fallen angels…
"Getting this undiscovered music out on vinyl so people can hear it, that's what makes me happy. It's for the love and not about making money for me."
Your new record, ‘Nemas Problemas vol.2’ is about to hit the streets. It features contributions from collective members The Keeper, Kool DJ Dust, Rasta Nils and Rizzolo DJ. Please tell us more about it?
Nemas Problemas are a collective of DJs/record collectors from Sweden. This is the second volume of edits for the first time on the label. The guys sent me so much great music I decided we needed to do two volumes. As I explained in a previous question the guys have a knack for finding amazing music that needs to be heard by a wider audience rather than sat on their laptops and occasionally played out in their DJ sets.
That’s my job really, getting this undiscovered music out on vinyl so people can hear it, that’s what makes me happy. It’s for the love and not about making money for me. Also it improves mine and everybody else’s record collections of obscure timeless music.
How did you come to music in the first place? Did you grow up in a music-loving family or was it more of a personal move?
I don’t come from a musical background at all. My dad was a coal miner and into rod stewart and my mum a housewife who was an old northern soul girl so I guess I heard this sort of music growing up. I was a teenager though in the early ’80s so I would hear music played on radio stations that caught my attention. Kraftwerk, Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five, Afrika Bambaataa and other more electronic sounding music got me started I guess. And my first holiday away on my own with my friends to ibiza in 1988 (I was 18) cemented my love of club music and all the hedonistic lifestyle that came along with it.
"I fell into DJing really [...] Once you do one party then someone else will ask you and usually before you know it you are now a DJ."
What got you round to DJing? Any memory from a pivotal night/party that changed everything?
I fell into DJing really. I have collected music for around 30 years now and it all started when friends would throw parties and ask me to provide the music from my collection. Once you do one party then someone else will ask you and usually before you know it you are now a DJ.
I was partying most weekends at the Hacienda in manchester, Kool Kats in Nottingham and The Warehouse in Leeds and loved the fact there was a DJ programming the music with no breaks so I bought a pair of decks and a mixer and taught myself to mix.
It wasn’t until one of my best friends, Dave Beer, opened Back To Basics in 1991 that DJing became something a little more serious. I was kind of the stand in DJ for when Dave, Huggy, Allistair Cooke or Ralf were away. I would play regularly over the years and various other gigs would come from that too.
Do you remember the first record you bought?
I get asked this all the time and instead of coming up with some story about my first record and how it steered me on my musical path etc etc the honest truth is I cant remember! I have had some might say quite a hedonistic lifestyle since this whole music thing started and I can’t even remember what I had for dinner last night… You could say I’m an acid house casualty or should I say my mind is not what it used to be, haha! Probably something from the ’80s and probably the last track on the B-side knowing myself and the music I collect…
"It's a fine line between putting out music that is too obscure or not, because after all, I have to sell the records to continue with the PTP project."
How’s 2017 shaping up? Can you lift a corner of the veil on your release schedule?
A busy schedule of trying to get the records out that are all ready to go. Next up is Kompleks, a DJ producer from Serbia who will also have 2 volumes of music spread over 2 x 12″ records. He sent me a bunch of crazy music I have never heard of before which I’m looking forward to seeing if other people enjoy this music too.
It’s a fine line between putting out music that is too obscure or not, because after all, I have to sell the records to continue with the PTP project. Although I do think that I have a quite loyal base of people now that collect the releases and the ethos of the label is now a lot more established, people are more open-minded these days I think?
I have an EP almost ready from four of my good friends from Brighton Soft Rocks… And I’m in on going conversations from other friends music lovers DJs that I admire… Leonid Lipelis (Beard In Dust), Dea (Frisbee Records), Jaz (John Zahl), Ric Picolo, DJ old spice, Roeland Otten to name a few.
What can we wish you for the new year?
LOVE HEALTH AND HAPPINESS!
Nemas Problemas Vol.2 is released via Passport To Paradise on 23rd January, pre-order a vinyl copy from Juno.
A1. The Keeper – Bear Claw
A2. Kool DJ Dust – Return Of Koolius
B1. Rasta Nils – Babla Rappinghood
B2. Rizzolo DJ – Body Down
Discover more about Passport To Paradise on Inverted Audio.Lenny ParadisePassport To Paradise23 January 2017