Mania Dub: giving lost dub gems a second chance

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You may be familiar with Music Mania, the stalwart record store in the centre of Ghent that’s celebrating its 50th (!!!) anniversary with a mouth-watering (and, alas, sold out) party at Bar Bricolage with 2manydjs and Indica Dubs. But did you know owner Karel Van Audenaerde also has a great little dub label on the side? Together with Sukh Gill (the UK native who also runs Indica Dubs), Van Audenaerde founded Mania Dub, a record label with a mission to reissue lost dub gems from the 80s and 90s as well as new productions. While only founded last year, the imprint is already preparing its 15th release. Curious to know how the current dub and reissue climate is doing at the moment, we swung by the Music Mania store and asked the duo a couple of questions.

When did you first fall in love with dub music?

Karel: I think my interest in the genre was sparked in the 90's, during the rise of electronic trip-hop music. Many significant artists and labels like for example The Orb, Massive Attack and G Stone experimented with reggae and dub music, but there was an intense underground scene too. You had hundreds of small labels, many of which did great roots and reggae releases and reissues. In particular, I was a fan of On U Sound. A lot of these artists came to Belgium, and there were plenty of gigs. This niche music scene was well-connected with other scenes. For me, it was a time for musical discovery.

How did the collab with Indica Dubs come to be?

Sukh: I think we first met in August 2017. Karel had sent me an email to stock some of my releases and we got talking every time I had a new release lined up. Eventually, I swung by the shop, and Karel proposed to start a new record label together. We both had the idea for a while to focus on reissuing classic hard-to-find releases and dubplates, while keeping the price reasonable.

Karel: A lot of the music of that 90's era is hard to find on vinyl. There are ways to listen to music online, but I wanted this music back in the record shops.

So far, your output is quite steady. You drop a release once every month, more or less. Is it not hard to maintain a relatively fixed release calendar when you're dealing with reissues?

Karel: It's quite hard, yes. Luckily, Sukh has a lot of contacts in this scene. He's always out there to look for new opportunities. Of course, we have to work with a tight schedule to ensure we have a steady output, although things might slow down in the future. People can't always follow-up on us. We realized new releases need some time to circulate a little bit. It could take weeks before a batch reaches some shops around the world. If we drop a new one by that time, it might get confusing for a lot of people. Music needs to be played out before you can drop the next record.

Many tracks have reached a mythical status despite not getting a vinyl release. Giving them one now serves them right.

Sukh: There are a lot of sound systems abroad that play our stuff, they are the main source of promotion. People love to collect music they’ve heard in a session, so they can relive that moment from the session at home. Sound systems are our primary way of promotion, but it can require a little more time for the song to circulate.

Re-issuing is a trend that’s been on the rise in the vinyl industry for a while now. How can you explain this popularity?

Sukh: It's just exciting to dive into history. Tunes that shaped the scene today. A lot of songs have never been released.

Karel: Regardless, many tracks have reached a mythical status despite not getting a vinyl release. Giving them one now serves them right. In a world where there’s so much new music floating around, I can imagine it feels good to take a look back sometimes. Maybe that’s why reissues are so popular nowadays.

How do you even do reissues? How do you make contact with these artists? What's their usual reaction when you make a proposal?

Sukh: I talk to most of them on a daily basis so it’s quite easy to make a plan. We make a proposal, come to an agreement, draw up a contract, and take it from there. It can become a longer process when there are several artists and record labels involved in a certain tune, but in the end, if everyone agrees and it works, it works. It’s been an honour and pleasure to work with the legendary artists, I’m a huge fan of their music since I was young, and that hasn’t changed!

What does the current dub music scene in Belgium look like?

Karel: It’s quite big actually; a lot bigger than what we had in the 90s. If you went to Reggae Geel (Belgium's most significant reggae festival, ed.) during that time, the dub corner didn’t exist. Now, this stage well-established and grown considerably over the recent years, hosting more local crews and hundreds of fans every day. The scene is livelier than it has ever been. Everyone supports one another, and we have some excellent independent sound systems.

And globally?

Karel: It's everywhere, and it's growing. Every city across the globe has its crew. Sukh has toured around Latin America more than once, visiting local scenes in almost every country. It's far more widespread as you might think (laughs).