»For us it’s always been about doing what you are passionate about,« says Phil Merckx. Four years ago, the Belgian founded the reissue label Tidal Waves together with a childhood friend. Since then, rare jazz, soul and funk records have been released there. And already with the first release, the label put a big exclamation mark: Nina Simone’s »A Very Rare Evening« – an intimate live record that was no longer officially available between 1979 and the reissue in October 2016.
»When something catches our eye and ears, we do the research,« says Merckx. It is an organic process. »Riding the wave,« he calls it. Would that also clarify the name of the label? »Maybe,« says Merckx. Because a little later he claims that the name is based on his favorite band Katrina & The Waves. What now?
Merckx prefers to talk directly to the artists or small labels. »But sometimes you just have to step into the scary world of major labels to get that release you really want to do,« admits the music lover. When he doesn’t get the master tapes or the original copies from these sources, he uses a huge network of collectors, DJs and vinyl dealers. At some point the wave washes every hidden treasure ashore.
But not everything works in the crazy world of reissues. Tidal Waves also had to cancel projects that were already planned. »I want to keep this answer positive and talk about the times things worked out unexpectedly.« Once he was looking for a rare funk record from Perfect Circle. Merckx contacted the label owned by Westcoast legend George Semper. Instead of Perfect Circle, the album »Funkproof« was released via Tidal Waves with unreleased Semper tracks from the 1970s.
»There is so much untold musical history that people need to hear and read about.«
The vinyl lover can tell many of these stories. When he spoke to Wendell Harrison, the Detroit jazz legend nudged him on the rare LP »The Real ShooBeeDoo«. This one and Harrison’s first solo record were then reissued on Tidal Waves. Two treasures that Merckx didn’t know until this conversation.
»There is so much untold musical history that people need to hear and read about,« says Merckx. But the social, cultural, political and personal backgrounds of the artists are also interesting. Most of the musicians on Tidal Waves are 70 years or older. These personalities can offer a lot more than their art. Experience and wisdom, for example.
Jazz musician Byron Pope has now even reached the age of 86. Tired of the way African Americans are treated, he moved to Europe in 1970. He reveals what has changed for him in the liner notes of »Music For Earthdwellers & Starseekers«. It is a label guideline to include additional information such as this with the albums. Merckx does its own research, holds interviews and asks for pictures from family archives.
»Palais Des Beaux-Arts 1963« by Thelonious Monk is one of Merckx’s favorite records on Tidal Waves. »We spent a year and a half trying to convince all the parties involved to get the authorizations we needed,« says Mercks. »I never thought we would pull this one off.« It was important to Monk’s family to preserve the musical legacy. Even if it took a long time, everyone involved was still enthusiastic about the project, Merckx remembers.
»What I find broadly appealing to music is the emotion it creates,« reveals the label maker. Merckx comes from a time when vinyl was still popular. But at some point other formats replaced the black discs. Now times are changing again. »Vinyl is filling in the gaps where digital music had failed to do so,« says Merckx. That is only possible because vinyl is a thing for music lovers. Niche genres such as punk, electro and hip-hop remained true to the format even in difficult times. That is paying off today. »Good music, with true heart and soul, made and produced by people with a passion will always deserve its righteous place on the vinyl format,« promises the Tidal Waves owner.