A recording session with the Dap-Kings at the Bushwick studio.
After ten years of recording in Brooklyn, NY’s Bushwick neighborhood, Daptone Records co-founder Gabriel Roth said he still strives to produce the best possible sound quality while making music he loves. “I think we stay true to our fans by staying true to ourselves,” said Roth. “One of the reasons we started a label was that we wanted a label that would give us what we wanted. Our philosophy is to make music we love.” In 1999, after studying music at NYU and working with recording engineer Philippe Lehman, Roth partnered with Neil Sugarman to start Daptone Records. “We’ve been putting out records ever since,” he said.
Daptone Records and its corresponding studio, Daptone Studios (also called the ‘House of Soul’), are based in Bushwick. Equipped with a vintage Trident 65 console and recording to an analog Ampex 440 8-track tape machine, the company boasts its dedication to providing the best possible analog recordings onto vinyl and compact disc. Roth said the studio uses a Tube-Tech amplifier and Purple Audio preamps and compressors during recordings.
Daptone Records Co-Founder Gabe Roth is hard at work at the House of Soul Studios in Bushwick.
While the studio mainly caters to Daptone’s artists, Roth said occasionally outside artists request to work there to incorporate the specific sound Daptone is known for. “We tend to make raw, soulful music,” explained Roth. “It ranges from gospel, to soul music, to afrobeat. One of the things about our label is that we’ve been able to create a sound that people really associate with Daptone.”
Afrobeat band Antibalas has produced a number of records with Daptone, and even helped set up the studio when it was built in 2001. Afrobeat is a style popularized in the 1970s by Nigerian musician Fela Kuti, and combines the sounds of jazz, funk, chanted vocals and traditional West African music. “I’ve known them (Antibalas) for a long time,” said Roth. This past August, Daptone produced Antibalas’ fifth, eponymously titled album—the third record the band has released on Daptone.
“Antibalas has been a very strong voice in the genre, and for me, it was a great record to record. It’s a record I’m really proud of,” Roth said.
During the recording process, Roth said he tries to give the tracks an authentic, almost live sound, and avoids using more artificial techniques. “I think that part of the process is what people like about our records. They have a certain liveliness and confidence that comes from making a record versus piecing something together later in the mix,” Roth said.