I’ve been reminded this week by my Linked-In page that I (this is Keith Dixon posting this item) became a Partner in Plankton Records in January 1991! My, how times flies! So, on this momentous (ha ha ha) occasion I thought I share a few thoughts and memories of the last 25 years.
Plankton Records was launched in 1978 by Simon Law (who remains the other Partner with me to this day). I got to know Simon in the late 80s. We both lived close to each other in the East London borough of Newham (where I still live) and the band I was working with (as sound man, roadie and ‘manager’) which at that time was called “Against The Tide” played a few local gigs and festivals with Simon’s band “Fresh Claim”. Simon then talked to us about releasing some music on his record label and in 1990, by which time the band had changed some personnel and changed their name, the “Medals” cassette 6 song EP ‘Blue Blood’ was released (‘Blue Blood’ is to be made available on all major digital music download and streaming sites Worldwide at some point this year). I then started working as a self-employed painter and decorator and was employed by Simon to decorated several rooms in his house, which included the Plankton Records head office in, what would normally have been, the front bedroom. As time went on I spent less time decorating and more time sitting and working with Simon in the office and then Simon suggested I became a partner – Hey presto! A dream fulfilled – I’d always wanted to work in the ‘music industry’ (how glamorous does that sound!).
In 1991, my first year, I got to sing some backing vocals on a recording we did of kids songs for Scripture Union (called ‘Newshounds’ – available on all major music download and streaming sites Worldwide!) in Studio 2 at ICC studios in Eastbourne (for whom I would later work for for one year in the mid 2000’s) and we released our first CD (Marc Catley & Geoff Mann’s “The Off The End OF The Pier Show” – CD available from this website’s store and also on all major music download and streaming sites Worldwide!) which was very exciting but in all truth I had very little involvement in as Marc Catley had sorted it all out and presented us with stock at the Greenbelt festival, where Plankton Records ran the Musician’s Advice Tent on the Fringe until the Fringe was unfortunately axed!
In 1992 we released the “Generation” album for Ben Okafor on CD and cassette. This was very exciting for me as Ben, at that time, was fairly well known within the UK CCM scene and was unique in so much as he was mainly a reggae artist. It was ,and still is a fantastic album and I was actively involved in the song selection and also designed the lettering used on the front of the album and also designing and setting all of the artwork. Ben launched the album at a packed Big Top appearance at Greenbelt that year and it received to great acclaim by both reviewers and fans.
Many more events, gigs, missions and releases of all kinds followed during the 90s. We produced a company T-shirt (see pic) and in 1995, when CDs were still a new and expensive format for independent artists, I organised the compiling and release of the 20 track “Greenbelt Fringe ’95” CD which featured 20 artists that appeared on that year’s Fringe programme. It proved a very popular idea and sold really well.
Then in 2000, following Simon completing a degree at Oak Hill College, he fulfilled a long held ambition and was ordained as an Anglican curate. I found myself a job working with a company supplying kid’s music to major UK High Street stores. So, apart from releasing a teaching cassette in 2001 for some old friends in Cardiff (Gary Smith and Nigel James’ “Big Ideas”) Plankton very much went into mothballs for several years.
Then in 2006 I decided I wanted to re-activate Plankton and with Simon still available to help with accounts and book keeping when needed, and still performing recording with “Fresh Claim”, I took the reigns as effectively a one man operation. In the first year we released two albums with Ben Okafor – a remastered and extended version of his classic 1992 ‘Generation’ album and a wonderful acoustic album ‘Acoustic Close’ (CDs of both albums available from this website’s store and also on all major music download and streaming sites Worldwide!) as well as a CD for the dynamic “Mohabir Sisters” who were 5 actual sisters who mixed gospel and soul beautifully, with some brilliant vocal harmonies (‘Feel The Power’ CD available from this website’s store and also on all major music download and streaming sites Worldwide!).
I also spent over a year trying to get Plankton’s album available on the (at the time) new digital music sites, which were totally dominated by iTunes. It took a lot of research, time, energy and paperwork and it was a steep learning curve. It was because of all the contacts I’d made and everything I’d learned that I decide to launch the aggregation service DOXMEDIA (‘Dox’ was my nick name as a kid) which still running and growing to this day (check out the Doxmedia website, Facebook and Twitter pages), helping artists and their labels avoid all the hassle and trouble I’d experienced and to act as a ‘one-stop shop’ for them to place their music on all major music download and streaming sites Worldwide.
I’ve now been involved with around 40 releases on Plankton (albums, EPs and singles), almost 25 of which have been released since the 2006 re-launch and I have to say that I still get the same joy and excitement when a new release launches as I always did. And it still carries on. There’s a new album coming very soon for “Darn Funk Orchestra” and hopefully a new EP soon from a very old Plankton friend and I’m also talking with “Echo” about their second album. Here’s to many more!
It’s been a joy to work with all of the artists over the years (a big thank you to you all) and I hope to keep helping, supporting and encouraging artists through Plankton Records for a long time yet!