Ze Turns 30!

2009 marks the 30th birthday of Ze Records, a label founded, well, actually technically back in 1978 by Michael Zilkha and Michel Esteban (I bet your detective skills will lead you to unearthing why it was given its name!) Zilkha's father was a U.K. record industry hotshot; Esteban was the owner of a Parisian punk shop and magazine; and together, they formed one of the most seminal NYC dance labels. Strangely enough, John Cale was the fellow that connected the two idealists. Roster members included Lizzy Mercier Descloux, James White and the Blacks, Was (Not Was), Kid Creole and the Coconuts, Suicide, and many more.

Zilkha (now a Texan in the renewable energy industry) and Esteban wanted to release records that illustrated the merging of art, music, fashion, literature, and film that the 70s saw (think Richard Prince and Glenn Branca and Robert Longo and Cindy Sherman and David Salle and Glenn O'Brien and all those arty New Yorkers of the era that acted as cultural catalysts, bringing together seemingly disparate worlds in new and creative ways). Ze did pretty well through the mid-80s until its 1986 demise thanks in part to a distribution deal of some sort with Island, and, of course, the quality of their represented artists. The musicians signed to Ze tended to extend disco to the post-punk of the era or the other way around making for especially exciting, funky, foot-tapping singles and full-lengths alike. Artists like Descloux (who happened to be involved with Esteban) incorporated Afro-beat and various form of world music into their compositions to further enhance their sound; some, like Kid Creole, buttered their stuff up with plenty of Latin swagger; others, like James White (James Chance), looked to the world of free-form jazz for inspiration (White continues to be an established saxophone improvisationalist... now he's less violent, though); and most of them hung quite tightly to the No Wave movement that was sweeping the city.

Below are a few jams from the 30th anniversary compilation, Ze 30: Ze Records Story 1979-2009. Some of them (the classic "Tell Me That I'm Dreaming") you'll probably recognize.

Was (Not Was) - Tell Me That I'm Dreaming

Don Armando's Second Avenue Rhumba Band - Deputy Of Love

Lizzy Mercier Descloux -- Hard-Boiled Baby

James White & the Blacks - Contort Yourself

Kid Creole & the Coconuts - Something Wrong In Paradise

Suicide - Dream Baby Dream

Buy it at Insound!


Øblio said…
what a great post! i had no idea such an amazing label existed, this is exactly the kind of music i've been yearning for lately. great background information too, i'm gonna be frequenting this land everyday mate. cheeers