Real Tone Records... In The Groove

Words by: Marcus Barnes
Posted: 31/10/12 8:01

Real Tone Records... In The GrooveReal Tone Records has been a constant source of good quality house music for quite some time now. With Franck Roger and Lionel Marciano at the helm it has evolved from simply a platform for Franck's prolific output to become a force to be reckoned with attracting producers young and old and releasing some of the scene's definitive music – including 2010's ubiquitous What They Say by Maya Jane Coles and, more recently, Franck's own After All (with Mandel Turner), You Know What It's Like by M A N I K and Burnski, H 2 Da Izzo by The Martinez Brothers and Shonky's excellent Le Velour, among many others.

With all this in mind it was about time I Voice got In The Groove with Lionel to get the lowdown on the French label...

So, first of all – who started Real Tone and when was it conceived as a label?
It was created in August 2004, eight years ago. Franck and I met each other in 2000 in a Parisian record shop, Betino's, which still exists today. He was working there part-time selling records, he got his musical education there by selling House, Hip-Hop , Jazz and Reggae... Then we became best friends. I was working as engineer assistant for a mainstream French pop star, and Franck was a DJ/producer and had already released tracks on labels like Versatile, BBE, Kenlou and Straight Up (French).

The name of Real Tone was first used for a party we organized together in an obscure Paris club. Franck was the DJ and I was the promoter, it ended up with no one in the club …we did not care we were happy, we had found a name for the label and it was the beginning...

Why was the label started in the first place? What was the original idea behind the label...? What was its original purpose/ethos?
The original idea was to release Franck’s music, in fact Franck was very productive and we decided to self-produce instead of knocking at labels' doors. Running a label was a dream and our passion, pressing the wax, going to the mastering session for the whole day at the mastering studio,waiting for the test press etc... apart from our influences we had no direction, just passion.

How easy/difficult was it to set up the label?
Franck was already a name in the underground scene so quickly and easily we found a distributor, and because he has always been very productive we could keep on releasing music. The most difficult part was the communication, the marketing and the business parts. We did not study for it but we learned on the job and by making mistakes or taking the advice of friends.

Who designed the logo? What's the meaning behind the logo?
We have been influenced by this label called Gold Tone that featured some of the best Jovonn’s music, one of our hero who became an artist on the label four years later.. The logo was designed by a French graphic artist, who first proposed that the logo used a typical Parisian waiter, with the tray and the apron to have a bit of the French touch. However, it was definitely not for us. The second proposal was a horse, which represents power and strength, we were macho teenager music lovers that needed something like that. The horse was coherent with Real Tone: the right tune and true music.

How many were employed to work at Real Tone in the beginning? What were their different roles? How many people do you employ now?
At the beginning it was just two of us; Franck Roger at the studio day and night, and myself at the office - which was actually at home in my living room. At that time promos were simply the result of sending vinyls by mail, with a feedback sheet inside that DJs had to to send back by fax. I remember very late one night I was doing some cleaning at home and the phone rang, it was Laurent Garnier trying to fax the feedback sheet for “Dub H” (Franck Roger & Alix Alvarez), I picked up the phone thinking it was a regular call and we ended up talking together, it made my night!

Today the studio and the office are in the same place, we have four people working on bookings, promotions, press, accounting..

Which other labels, house or any other genre, inspired Real Tone?
We were definitely inspired by the New York and Chicago house scene. Prescription (Ron Trent), Casual, KingStreet, Nu Groove, MAW, Mad House, all US underground scene heroes from Masters at Work to Jeff Mills

What was the very first release? How did you manage to get the first release together?
The first track was a song called “ You Can Be The One” produced by Franck Roger and singer Chris Wonder. I met Chris Wonder at a Jewish wedding, he was singing Stevie Wonder and Donny Hathaway’s classics while people were having dinner. The kind of show you don’t really watch or listen because you are eating… but I was bored and listening to the singer. His voice was great. I went to talk to him and told him I wanted to work with him, he said, “Ok! When is your wedding?”! I finally introduced him to Franck and he recorded five songs with him, including the first release of the label and a release on Kenlou (Louie Vega and Kenny Dope).

What would you say has been the most important Real Tone release so far? Which release really helped to establish the label?
Without a doubt, Maya Jane Coles "What They Say”. It was our first Beatport No.1 and it got to No.1 the same day my mother passed away, so this release is very important for Real Tone and personally as well.

From this moment a lot of things changed. The label, which was initially considered as a soul house label reached another audience. For most of the public Real Tone was born with this release, which is completely fine with us as it led to use feeling young again.

A kind of second youth for the label, which allowed us to work with high profiles artists and established DJ/producers.

How is the label doing now? It seems to be a highly-respected label, always attracting high-profile names and pushing new talent as well.. you must feel proud with its achievements so far?
We are proud but the best word to describe our feeling is blessed. Blessed to wake up everyday for the label, blessed by the support we received, blessed to be able to do this job, blessed but not euphoric.

In fact we have the feeling that everything could stop tomorrow. It is a bit of a pressure. I had to take up yoga...

Can you tell me about some of your newer signings, like Paolo Rocco for instance...
Paolo Rocco is a very interesting artist and talent. I really like to work with him and it's obvious to me that he will become successful. His production skills are amazing. He works very hard to come up with new ideas. He is also very patient and always willing to challenge himself.

Aside from that he also has a good knowledge of the market. It is simply a matter of time and good music! I really want him to read this!

How do you manage to keep a label running with the economy in such a bad way? Sales must be down in comparison with past years?
We used to sell 4000 vinyls, sometimes more, today we sell only 400 units. Things have changed! We don’t complain, we just have to release more... one release every three weeks.

Even if the Internet has reduced sales it also provided us with a lot - we are now in direct contact with our audience and followers and that is priceless.

How has Real Tone changed or evolved since the early days? What does the future hold for the label? Any targets/plans for where it will be going in the coming years?
Before we had no musical direction, we were producing music instinctively, it could be techno, soul or jazzy one day piano another day, afro… Today it's hard to be as spontaneous as before. We need to keep producing music we love without being formatted, less strategy in our choices. We will definitely try not to make music for DJs only. That's our main target..

Real Tone Records
Started: 2004
Address: 243 rue saint martin paris 75003

Label Artist
Franck Roger, Mandel Turner, Paolo Rocco, Delano Smith, The Martinez Brothers, Shonky, Larry Heard, Burnski, MANIK, Point G, Maya Jane Coles, Dyed Soundorom, Gerd
RTR060 - Franck Roger & Mandel Turner - Through The Motions
RTR058 - Shonky - Le Velour Remixes (Incl. Delano Smith, Larry Heard, The Martinez Brothers remix)
RTR057 - Paolo Rocco - That I Am
RTR054 - Burnski & Manik -You Know What It's Like
RTR051 - Franck Roger & Mandel Turner - After All

Maya Jane Coles " What They Say"
Franck Roger & Mandel Turner " After All"

Martinez Borthers "H 2 Da Izzo"
POINT G "Confusion"


Diego Krause
Luigi Madonna