One of the big trends in soul over the last few years has been the growth in the number of small, enthusiast-led labels that seek out and re-issue rare and classic soul tunes on vinyl. Amongst the brand leaders is IZIPHO SOUL which is helmed by soul collector PATRICK BIGGERSTAFF and based down in that famous soul hot spot – Surrey!

With a wealth of fine releases in their catalogue and some very special new releases on the way, we felt it was a good idea to catch up with Patrick to discover more about this whole, very special reissue scene – the blood, the sweat, the occasional tears and, of course, the brilliant music. Patrick began by telling us about his label’s aims…..

Our mission at Izipho  is to release the finest soul music by independent artists ranging from new releases, lost unreleased gems and reissues of rarities. We are passionate about being artist focussed and rewarding them financially. Each artist has their own label artwork and sometimes picture sleeve designs.

 …and what about your music background. When did you get the soul bug? What kind of records inspired you?

My first exposure to Black Music was as a 13 year old schoolboy when the British Two Tone movement emerged, gripped by that sound I explored the Jamaican origins of Ska and then Reggae via David Rodigan’s Capital Radio show. With the dial on 95.8 it wasn’t long before I caught Greg Edwards’ ‘Soul Spectrum’; then Robbie Vincent’s Radio London show became essential listening; his showcasing the lesser known sounds kick started my  record collecting obsession that is still strong all these decades later! Records that inspire me first and foremost are those with a real vocal quality, whether it be a gut wrenching male vocalist or an angelic female, my ear naturally tunes into the vocal timbre, then all the other elements fall into place, production, arrangement, lyrical content etc. A great soul composition emotionally moves me, a fine example being Arthur Alexander’s  ‘I Need You Baby’.

So, when did you start the label and what about the name? I read that it’s got something to with Pharaoh Sanders…. What were the first releases?

The label started in the summer of 2016, the first two releases were under the name ZIP Promotions, my company name. On the third release, Melvin Brown’s ‘Love Stormy Weather’, the name changed to IZIPHO SOUL as it was a far more original title for a record label and included the word ZIP, the initials of three of my sons. I am a big Jazz fan and it’s many forms, whether it hard bop, fusion, modern and vocal jazz. Pharoah Sanders is my favourite sax player, his 1973 album ‘Izipho Zam’ (sleeve pictured right) translated from Zulu means ‘My Gifts’. Soul music is a gifts, therefore IZIPHO SOUL is ‘gifts of soul’!

How do you decide what records to try and reissue?

I rely on my ear, if a song hits the ‘sweet spot’, then it passes the test to attempt the long journey to invest in releasing it. Some releases are self-indulgent with the hope it will appeal to a wider audience. I’ve never been afraid to put out something from the ‘left field’, for example blue eyed soul or a deep soul record. I strive to offer variety on every record, for example a dancer backed with a ballad, or an alternative version. There are also some very supportive people who make suggestions for potential releases, Philip Ward (who does my mastering), Tamas Bogyo, Gary Van den Bussche, Mick O’Donnell and Pete Ratcliffe. …

and what about the complex issue of licensing and royalties?

This first stage in the long process is without question the hardest part. Making contact with the artist/ owner and getting a response is just the start – a trust needs to be built. We use a license agreement tailored to each release and the artist’s preference whether it be a share of record sales or a licensing fee. We strive to respect the artists and pay as much as possible. This equates to 50% profits from sales of the record.

What’s been you most successful release to date?

 I’d like to think every release has been a success in its own right, however in terms of numbers and represses it has to be The Regime’s ‘Never Gonna Stop’. This very talented and unique soul and funk collective from Australia created the wonderful retro sound of  ‘Never Gonna Stop’. I saw the potential in this and was thrilled with the love shown.

… and how difficult is it run a record store and label (albeit online) these days?

It’s certainly all-consuming in terms of time and head space. We invested in a top quality website to ensure safe and secure payments and user friendly functionality to navigate and listen to all the records. There are many unglamorous sides to the process, particularly the endless trips to the post office! Ensuring maximum sales requires a strong social media presence and regular contact with our wholesalers.

What’s been your greatest achievement?

To have reached the quantity of releases whilst not compromising on the quality of the music. In five years we are nearly up to our 70th single release. Even though it’s only a number it would be a proud achievement to get to a hundred. I am humbled and grateful to our loyal band of supporters, there are bunch of people out there that will buy everything even before hearing. It is also great when somebody new discovers the label through one release and explores further.

And what’s coming up next for Izipho Records?

The release schedule from now going into next year is a packed one. I like to keep new release news guarded until the right time, mainly because I want the current release to have their own time to breath. However I can reveal two amazing album projects, the first being the new Cornell CC Carter album entitled ‘Next Life’ which is his best work to date (I think!). In Spring 2022 Kim Tibbs returns with an incredible collection of songs ‘The Science OF Completion’.

It all sounds like hard work – lots of effort, a few headaches … is it all worth it?

Most definitely, as long as the soul fans out there continue to support the label. Without them – whether it be our loyalists or those that buy sporadic releases – we wouldn’t exist.  We are grateful for every single order as it enables the label to continue to invest in future projects.

Finally, if you had total free choice – no licensing issues etc – what record would you really love to reissue?

Waymond Hall’s ‘ (I Never Knew Love) Till I Found You’. A rare and fantastic record written and produced by the legendary HB Barnum. I spoke to HB a few years ago about a potential reissue, it was an experience just to talk to the great man. He was interested in the idea, but to date despite chasing, the project has yet to materialise.

Where can we find out more?

We have our own label website – where you can get details on all releases and also sign up to our newsletter. Records can also be purchased from respected retailers, for example Simply Soul, Juno and Crazy Beat.