We spoke with Maurice Bird and Suff Sakoor, founders of Mange Le Funk Productions to hear about their forthcoming release, their history as a label, and the creative philosophy behind Mange Le Funk.
How long has your label been in operation?
What inspired you to set up the label in the first place?
SS: Having our own label has been a dream for both of us for many years. In this new digital age, we could see other producers setting up their own labels to release their music and thought: “we could do this!” We’ve both been producing music for sometime, Maurice for approximately 30 years and me for around eight.
Setting up a label ourselves meant having to do a little research to fill in the gaps in our knowledge. We took to research and learning, eventually taking small steps to start the ball rolling. My philosophy is that everyday is a learning day.
We both take pride in the fact that we formed Mange Le Funk 21 years ago, being entirely self-taught and self-funded to release our first ever single “I Still Want You” on a limited 250 vinyl pressing. The track was written and produced by Maurice with a little help from me. The track is still receiving DJ spins, radio play, streams, downloads today despite 21 years having passed since the original release. I find it amazing that we managed to create music that has stood the test of time and I feel that we must have done something right!
For me, it’s that achievement and self belief that drives me each day. We are just at the beginning of our journey as a label and as much as it’s something we should have done years ago, the time felt right for us and it was the next natural step for us to take.
At the beginning of lockdown unfortunately I found myself being furloughed from my full time role as a chef and with time on my side, I looked into how we could set up the label. Gathering information from various sources, asking friends in the business, who have been in the game a while running their own established labels and using the internet to research all the details and info we needed. We chipped away slowly at understanding branding, distribution, marketing, publishing, PR and social media and, once we were ready, we put our plans into action to make our dream come true.
MB: Like Suff says, I have been producing music for many years, from the start of my career being heavily involved in the London dance music industry as a producer and working as a mailing assistant for a major record label at the age of 18, mailing promo vinyls to DJ’s. That time had a real profound effect on me, and since then music has been a big part of my life.
Being at the right the right pace at the right time (1988 – the second summer of love) working in soho, mailing out promos and working as a producer in my spare time as a member of the U.K. acid house crew Adrenalin MOD, I was lucky enough to work with some amazing talented artists from Derek May, Graham Parks, Richie Fermie, Daren Mohamed, Jagz Kooner, The Wee Papa Girl Rappers, Rose Windross (Soul to Soul) to name just a few. This widened my knowledge and production skills, having been signed to Warrior Records, MCA and Zomba Music. I later became a solo artist, and was signed to Polydor/Talking Loud.
In 1999 I teamed up with my teenage clubbing partner and long time buddy Suff to form Mange Le Funk and we set about writing our classic “I Still Want You”. The track received various remixes, one of them being by Deep Liquid Soul which turned out to be a hit track at Miami WMC and Ibiza 2000. Originally signed to Release the Groove records London, the track was later picked up by Gusto records and licensed to OXYD Records Italy, Hed Kandi and Ministry of Sound. In 2021, we felt as our next natural progression and as a celebration of 21 years since the original release of “I Still Want You”, we would form Mange Le Funk Productions the record label .
How would you describe your musical philosophy and creative vision?
SS – Our musical philosophy is simple: to release the best quality music we can. I’d like to think we have enough knowledge and experience to tell the difference between something that has a certain quality or timeless appeal.
Our main creative vision is to build a brand that everyone will recognize for quality, a bit like the old days when you went vinyl shopping and bought a track just for the label it was on – even without listening to it.
We’ve both worked very closely to create the brand. We wanted a classic look and style, keeping a generic cover for releases along with our trusty familiar logo, just like the labels from back in the day we still hold in high esteem.
The beauty is we retain full creative control on every aspect of a release and try and keep things fresh and exciting with promotional artwork, social media posts and advertising for each and every one of our release campaigns.
MB: Our vision for Mange Le Funk Productions is to introduce people to music that has movement, true feeling and emotion, whether that be upbeat and fun, thought provoking or melancholic, it’s all about making a connection with the listener.
“It’s all about making a connection with the listener.”
Tell us about your first release – what was special about that one?
MB: The epic and emotional deep house track “LIFE” by myself, in one of my guises, “The African Sunset Project was the first release on the label in September 2020. It was a poignant time for us, but also for many others, as the world had been under the grip of the coronavirus for some time. “LIFE” was written in light of capturing the feelings and emotions that I and many others were experiencing during this time. The essence of the track was to encourage the listener to fall deep into the beautiful melancholic lush sound, and be taken away on a musical journey.
SS: It was very nerve racking and exciting at the same time, almost like putting everything on the line, not knowing how the new music will be received. We’re a new label releasing a new track from an unknown artist, and not only this but the track was a whopping 12 mins long! Although I must say, inside I felt quietly confident. As mentioned earlier Maurice has been creating timeless pieces of music for years of which I have had the pleasure and privilege of listening to. Despite the initial butterflies I had full faith in this release as a quality piece of music and one that the house music scene would embrace.
“The essence of the track was to encourage the listener to fall deep into the beautiful melancholic lush sound, and be taken away on a musical journey.”
What’s been the highlight of your journey so far as a label?
SS: For me the highlight of this journey so far has to be DJ promo mailout day. There is no other day like it! It’s the day we get to unleash our new music to our promo DJ group. We might have been sitting on these tracks for months finalising and polishing them, so to receive the DJ feedback is refreshing. Over the last year we are lucky to have built up our promo list with a great bunch of amazing and talented radio DJs and podcasters.
MB: I would say one of the highlights for me on our journey so far has been the amazing people we have met along the way, who have now become good and lifelong friends. Like-minded beautiful souls with the connection being made through the love of music.
What advice would you give to anyone thinking of setting up their own imprint?
SS: If you believe in yourself and your music go for it! Do some research and then do some more. Have a plan, find your market, create your brand and build up a catalogue of music, set up your social media, then find a distributor. Treat it like your business and the dream could well become your full time role. Keep learning and grow a little each day, do things at your own pace, there’s no rush. Things may take time but stay positive and make small steps towards your goal. Keep that momentum and spirits high.
MB: Believe in yourself, be true to you, keep it real and do the best you can do. Progress may take time and may be in small steps, learn from the situations you encounter, master your craft, keep the faith and there’s no reason why you cannot succeed. It’s an exciting time at present as the industry is ever changing. Artists now have access to so many new ways and platforms to express creativity, to connect with a wide audience and to be heard.
“If you believe in yourself and your music go for it!”
What lies ahead for your label in 2021 and beyond?
SS: I hope we can continue to grow our brand and our audience as we have done over past year, along with with our partnership with MN2S Distribution. We have some brand new material from The African Sunset Project, Maurice Bird and DJ Suff on the horizon, along with new Mange Le Funk material in the making, and a 21st anniversary special release of “I Still Want You” with new 2021 mixes.
We shall also be looking forward to promoting a newly signed single “Dawn” from the Milesart Orchestra and Pure Ibiza Radio/Pacha resident Joan Ribas in September 2021. We also have our first year record label launch party, where we will be joined by some of our amazing DJ friends and supporters. We shall be showcasing our forthcoming material in conjunction with our event “ONE NIGHT LOVE AFFAIR”, taking place on August 7th at House of Dapper Northampton.
MB: I’m looking forward to finding new talent and new music through A&R talent scouting. It’s exciting knowing we shall be able to give a deserving helping hand to others having been in the same position as artists ourselves. Live the Funk, Breathe the Funk, Mange Le Funk.