No Sleep ‘Til Bushwick: Daptone Records
Budos Band by Kisha Bari
Creative differences between Roth and Lehman eventually led to the demise of Desco, but Roth was convinced there was still plenty more in his tank. “At that point we’d put together a real family of musicians,” he says. “The Soul Providers went through a bunch of changes [in personnel] and the Dap-Kings came out of that. But we had guys from Antibalas and the Sugarman 3 and The Mighty Imperials—a real crew, with Lee Fields and Sharon Jones, and I’d hooked up with [singers] Joe Henry, Charles Bradley and Naomi Shelton. We just wanted to keep making records.”
Sugarman was also intent on continuing to work with Roth, but neither of them had a tangible plan for how to do it. After a studio move to Brooklyn, where they set up in the basement of Antibalas frontman Duke Amayo, Roth and Sugarman tracked the first Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings album ( Dap-Dippin’ ) and the third Sugarman 3 album (Pure Cane Sugar). While they were shopping both projects to numerous labels, the path ahead became clear.
“I think even when we were working on Pure Cane Sugar, we were thinking about starting a label,” Sugarman says. “We had all these contacts from Desco, we had the name recognition and we had the artists. So we just started making phone calls from my apartment in the Lower East Side. Gabe would come by after I’d been up drinking coffee—it’s 12 o’clock and I’m still in my underwear [laughs], selling 45s to all these different distributors and record shops. That’s how it all started.”
The new heads of Daptone sought to foster a creative environment where new ideas were heartily encouraged, artists were paid fairly and everyone involved had a vested interest in the success of the label. (It’s an ethos that extended to Daptone’s employees: One of the first, label vice president Nydia Ines Davila, has an equal say in the curation and musical direction of the catalog.) Of course, keeping up a steady flow of new projects without flooding the system was equally important. Daptone had access to a few albums from the Desco catalog that were ripe for reissue—including the Daktaris’ Soul Explosion, the first two Sugarman 3 albums and an unreleased gem by The Mighty Imperials—but Sugarman and Roth had their ears open for new talent. That’s when the Budos Band came into the picture.
“I was living in Staten Island and playing with a band called Dirt Rifle and The Bullets,” recalls multi-instrumentalist and producer Tommy Brenneck. “We were giving Neal and Gabe demos all the time, and going to Antibalas and Sugarman 3 shows. This was the post-Desco, pre-Daptone period, when they were just figuring out what they were doing with the label.”
With a stripped-down sound modeled after James Brown’s original J.B.’s, Dirt Rifle quickly emptied its clip on funky soul. Changing direction, the band absorbed more percussionists and horn players and began mixing funk with Afrobeat into an “Afro-soul” hybrid. By the time they started calling themselves The Budos Band, recording and releasing their first album with Daptone in 2005, Brenneck was already a full-time Dap-King—having signed on for the second SJDK album, Naturally —and sharing guitar duties with Binky Griptite (who had been involved with Antibalas and the Soul Providers).
“I pretty much started recording at Daptone from day one,” Brenneck says. “I mean, we were knocking down walls and helping them rebuild the house from the inside. Gabe knew I was diehard because I moved from Staten Island to Bushwick just so I could walk to the studio every day, so he became my mentor for recording, engineering and arranging. At one point, I was rehearsing with the Budos Band on Monday and the Gospel Queens on Tuesday—only when I wasn’t on tour with the Dap-Kings, making records with El Michels Affair or my own Menahan Street Band on the side [laughs]. It was extremely busy, but really fertile and creative.”
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