Lyon-born, Paris-based Pascal Rioux doesn’t have much time for the “French Touch”–the signature disco-house sound established by Daft Punk, Etienne de Crécy, and Cassius. Rioux played his share of house music as a club DJ in the 1990s and producing tracks for the Rotax label and Glasgow Underground, but he found his soul in American '70s and '80s funk and established several labels and Pusher Distribution to bring his beloved grooves to the world.
Pusher trades in imprints like Q-Tapes, Soultronik, Beat & Discovery, and Big Single, the latter of which has been tearing up American dance floors with its rare groove reggae remixes. Big Single’s “biggest” releases include Mato’s Jamaicanized Rick James “Mary Jane” remake and breakthrough reggae band The Dynamics’ covers of Rolling Stones “Miss You” and White Stripes “Seven Nation Army”–all straight party jams!
Next up from the Pusher camp is an album by French-Vietnamese producer Onra, which takes beat digging in Hanoi to a new level, and the anticipated debut solo album by Mr. Day, the alias of Eric Duperray, a.k.a. Patchworks and the Dynamics front man. Believe me, the Pusher’s dope is some addictive stuff! Pascal vacationed in the Western U.S. this past month and gave us some music and culinary impressions.
1. XLR8R: Do you do A&R as well as run Pusher?
Pascal Rioux: I run the Favorite [label], which I started in 2004 with a release by an American '70s soul artist, Lee McDonald. I met him in New Jersey after Mr. Day and I covered one of his songs and had some business to clear up. In 2005, I started Big Single with a release by The Dynamics. I’m doing both labels by myself.
2. Do you release mostly French artists?
75 percent are French, except for Lee McDonald and Modo Solar, who are from Sao Paulo, Brazil.
3. How did the The Dynamics get so big?
The concept was to do an all cover album, which is not a new idea–Jamaican artists have been covering American songs for a long time. But we wanted to take classics, like Curtis Mayfield’s “Move On Up” or Rolling Stones–songs that everyone knows–and do them in a reggae style. Their first single, a cover of “Seven Nation Army,” sold 4000 copies. The second album will be something different, a mixture of reggae, Afrobeat, Ethiopian jazz. and soul.
4. Distributors are going out of business left and right. Why did you start Pusher?
I wasn’t happy with traditional distribution because the distribution rep takes one Euro to put your record’s name on a list. The Pusher company really saved our labels’ business. I started out small and now I deal with 40 shops. But we only sell music that we love and feel. We’re not in it to do a big volume of sales.
5. What was your favorite music when you were 21?
I loved early '80s funk, like Marvin Gaye, Isley Brothers, Leon Ware, Cameo, Mtume, and Donny Hathaway.
6. What brand do you smoke?
Merit, or I do roll-ups, cause you don’t smoke as many of those!
7. What’s the strangest American food you’ve had on this trip?
Well, first of all, American restaurants put cheese on everything. One place we went had tuna with cheese on it [A tuna melt –Ed]. I guess the strangest thing to me was trying [chicken-fried] steak. Everything here is fried. And you’ll never see those large quantities of food in France. When Americans come to France, they’ll feel underfed!