A Gourmet of Soul, Blues & Reggae from Omnivore Recordings


A Gourmet of Soul, Blues & Reggae from Omnivore Recordings

As their label name implies, Omnivore Recordings boasts a wide array of sounds and styles. Including the roster of Ru-Jac: a rich catalog full of R&B and soul from the 60s and 70s. A perfect example of what their label represents, says Omnivore Recordings co-founder Brad Rosenberger.




December 16, 2020

Can you please tell me a bit about the omnivore nature of your label?

Omnivore Recordings was started by four people that have all been in the music industry combined for over a hundred years. We all come from different areas of the business. One of our guys has been in sales for years, another one was an art director/designer, and I come from the film and television publishing area. Cheryl Pawelski, the woman that kind of put it all together, she comes from A&R. So we joined forces ten years ago. The name indeed reflects what we’re all about: we like all kinds of music. First off, we have to like it. And secondly, there needs to be a story. We released over 400 records over the past ten years. With the exception of heavy metal, which we’re not averse to, but that seems to be the only genre we haven’t delved into yet. I’m sure we will at some point.

What do you mean by “there needs to be a story to it”?

If there’s something behind the making of the record, or that particular artist, that we find provocative. That could be anything. From Buck Owens to Emitt Rhodes, to The Knack, to the Beach Boys… Even with a catalog like the Ru-Jac archives on Tracklib. Ru-Jac was a rhythm-and-blues label based in Baltimore founded in the early 60s. There are great records in there, very authentic R&B. The music was sort of lost: records were going for large amounts of money on the second-hand market. We had the opportunity to purchase the label and the publishing rights, to repurpose everything and breathe new life into the Ru-Jac catalog. By doing that, we told the story of Ru-Jac Records through various compilations, which hasn’t been done before, really.

Interesting that you mention “provocative” as the type of story you’re looking for as a label. Does that mean there’s a rebellious spirit throughout all music on Omnivore Recordings?

I’m not sure if it’s always “rebellious.” “Interesting” might be a better way to describe it. A few acts that come to mind are Big Star and Jellyfish. We’ve released more records by those bands than they released during their time. Reissues and records that didn’t exist before. We have to like it; we have to find it interesting. We’re the curators, so to speak. Or better yet: music historians. Unearthing things that didn’t exist before, that we feel is important to the history of music. That listeners—and producers, in the case of Tracklib—should know about. That’s our prime mission.

What role does sampling play in that? The beauty of sampling is obviously also that it preserves old music, or gives new life to it to a younger audience.

The Ru-Jac catalog specifically is a great example of a historical label, unknown to modern audiences, that can be part of new and modern recordings. So absolutely, sampling is an extension of what we do. That’s the music scene we live in today. That’s an interesting and exciting way to breathe new life into existing material.

brad rosenberger

To get back to your days at Warner Chappell: in another interview you mentioned, “Warner-Chappell is a huge, worldwide company with a wide range of music catalogs. I had to learn how to deal with a much broader spectrum of music, both old and new.” Did that open your eyes to start your own label with an eclectic nature?

I can’t say that was my vision down the line during my time at Warner Chappell. But when the opportunity arose to be part of Omnivore, it made perfect sense based on how my career had gone. I originally started working for Richard Perry as a production coordinator, then I went to Motown, then Warner Chappell which was huge, for a little over twenty years. I used to say, ‘we have everything from Gershwin to Green Day.’ My personal taste reflects that: I’ve always been into older music. Thanks to my father I got into old music. Big bands, Gershwin… All of it.

As a kid, I got into The Beatles, and The Beatles on their turn were also into that type of older music. I even made a deal with my dad that instead of getting an allowance, I’d get a 45 every week. So it all made sense and transformed into what Omnivore now is about. As I said, if it’s good music and tells a story we think is interesting: we’re in. It doesn’t even have to be from certain decades. Omnivore’s catalog dates as far back as the 40s.

“We’re music historians who unearth things that we feel are important to the history of music. That listeners—and producers, in the case of Tracklib—should know about.”

—Brad Rosenberger

So how are things going so far on Tracklib for Omnivore Recordings?

The Beat Battle with Scott Storch was the first case of Ru-Jac being sampled and licensed through Tracklib. For the track “Changes - Part 1” by Saturday. But there’s a whole lot more to be sampled than just that track. Seventeen Ru-Jac tracks from the 70s alone, not even counting ***Mule***by blues singer, guitarist and pianist Henry Townsend.

Were you already familiar with Scott Storch and his music?

I’m certainly familiar with Scott Storch and his work. But with modern-day hip-hop, not that much. My current job is to live in the past, so to speak. [Laughs] By the nature of Omnivore Recordings, I tend to look for the best music from the past.

What are some of your personal favorites from the Omnivore Recordings catalog on Tracklib?

"Reggae Jamboree" by The Gladiators has a classic reggae groove with a nice horn arrangement.

"Goose Pimples" by Butch Cornell’s Trio is a nice mid-60s R&B instrumental with a great Neal Hefti-like organ that fills the entire track…

"Can’t You See" by Brenda Jones is a superb mid-60s, mid-uptempo track with a great horn blast intro!

"It’s A Trap" by Dynamic Corvettes is an early 70s groove track with a great heavy guitar riff that permeates the record.

"Get Ready Rock Steady" by The Dominoes and Justin Hinds is an early 80s reggae track; written by Justin Hinds with a tasty intro. Also, check out the repeated organ figure that weaves its way in and out of the track!

How do you think Tracklib can change the way people sample?

To some degree, I see you guys are opening up a whole avenue of material producers perhaps wouldn’t be hip to. So I think that’s a tremendous benefit to new record makers. And then the legality of it taken care of - that’s doing what’s right. Unfortunately, we live in a time where people don’t seem to value music in the way I believe they should. They feel music consumption should be free. Because music is more ubiquitous than it’s ever been, there’s this feeling that you shouldn’t have to pay for it. What’s good about Tracklib, is that it makes sure everyone benefits from it. Including the original artists.

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