Centreforce Radio hosts a Street Sounds night once a month with DJs Peter P and Andy Smith and with founder of Street Sounds, Morgan Khan.
Founder, Morgan Khan said: ‘I formed my first label called R&B Records and it was the label that the group Imagination were on and we’d had a hit single with Body Talk.
I went to work at Sony and they liked my ideas and gave me a budget to create my label which I called Streetwave. It provided me with an opportunity to develop my own artists. There was fresh new music coming into the UK from the States. I had my first release with ‘I Just Wanna (Spend Some Time With You)’ by Alton Edwards in 1982 and it was a top twenty hit.
There was a real underground scene happening, and I had been working with the Sugar Hill Gang and Sylvia Robinson, who had formed Sugar Hill Records. Because of this connection I started travelling out to the States.
It was an amazing being in the New York at that time as there was a movement going on and there was a pulse about it. It was obvious to me that what was happening was much more than just a fad. It was a lifestyle. I saw all these kids messing about with oil drums and we now know those guys as being rappers.
People thought the Sugar Hill Gang would just be a one off and that it wouldn’t take off. That was why there was only one label putting this music out. How wrong were they?
Going to New York was my initiation into Hip Hop. Electro was just starting to happen, and this led to the Electro compilation albums series. I knew this would cater for a certain audience but in time Street Sounds also catered for the Soul and Jazz Funk scene too. I also started to work with people like Donna Summer and Parliament and other record labels like Buddha and Casablanca.
For a period of time, the various record labels only serviced certain DJs with their records, guys like the Soul Mafia got the music and they had total power. I decided that I wanted to give a break to all the independent DJs too. I wasn’t very popular because of this and was told in no uncertain terms that if I didn’t stop servicing all those other DJs with records I wouldn’t be welcomed at certain events. I didn’t care as I just wanted to do what I thought was best for the music.
Fortunately, I had the support from guys like Steve Walsh, Froggy and Mike Allen. Mike had a huge love for Electro music and his Saturday night shows on Capital Radio were incredible.
The Electro albums really took off and I was literally flying out to the States on a weekly basis for about three years. I would be there by Tuesday or Wednesday to pick up the master recordings, bring them back to London, master them again on the Thursday or Friday and we’d be pressing them up at the weekend and delivering them to the shops for Monday. The Street Sounds team, all five of us, would all be there helping the girls in the factory pack the records. Electro One sold over 60,000 copies and went silver and others sold 100,000 and went gold.
It wasn’t always easy though because when Electro was happening a lot of mainstream radio still refused to play it. This was why I’d send Street Sounds records out to the pirate radio stations and the independent DJs of the time. It was those guys that broke the records to the kids.
Street Sounds is now back, and I am genuinely excited. I don’t think I have ever been more focused and excited about the prospects of what’s possible. There’s now a film company making a documentary about Street Sounds and that’s exciting. I made a list of Street Sounds projects that are happening, and I got up to seventy-four. Included on the list is the Street Sounds musical, the new albums, concerts, TV show and a book because we want the history written correctly.
I’m also managing artists, and these include the Fat Back Band, Roxanne Shante, Lisa Lisa, Brass Construction, Captain Rock and many others and there are some really good events coming up in 2019 at some really nice venues like the Jazz Café.
There’s also the relationship that Street Sounds now has with Centreforce and this works very well for us.
Centreforce started in 1989 and around that time I had already created West Side Records. I worked with the Chicago House labels Trax and DJ International and was licensing their music, so I could put out records in the UK. Because of this I worked with Joe Smooth, Tyree Cooper, Fast Eddie and Marshall Jefferson. People perceive that Street Sounds was just about Electro but it was much more than that and we helped to break a lot of records on the House music scene between 1986 and 1989.
I knew Hip Hop was going to be much more than just a fad I saw House music’s potential too. A label like Street Sounds was a forerunner to what people like the Ministry of Sound went on to do after us.
We have never taken ourselves too seriously, it was always about the music and having fun and working with Andy (Smith) and Peter (Poyten) is just right for the label.
I first got involved in Street Sounds as a customer, I was more about the soul stuff and not so much the Electro. I got the box sets that came out like the Philadelphia Story that came as a 14 vinyl album collection. There was The Philly Sound, Cult Cuts and Hit It and they had the likes of the Trammps, The O’Jays and MFSB on them. I had a lot of the records already, but it was good to get the whole collection in one place. There was also a Salsoul Records box set which was wow!
When I was with Centreforce on Time FM I got chatting with Smithy (Andy Smith). He used to do the show after me and he and told me about Street Sounds doing the UK Fresh Tour. It was going to be at the Scala in Kings Cross. That was the night I met Morgan (Khan). After that I ended up hosting the events with Andy and those included people like the Fatback Band, Imagination and Galaxy. I then became a Street Sounds resident DJ and continued playing alongside Andy.
When Street Sounds came out it was massive and it was extremely important. A lot of the older, more established DJs didn’t like the label because they were paying seven or eight pounds for an import, but then Street Sounds were putting together compilations with lots of those records on it and you could buy that was nine pounds. What Street Sounds did was make certain records accessible to people like me, who were DJing for next to nothing back in those days.
An important thing about Morgan was that he also managed to get the right mix of the songs. He would nail the mix that was being played in the clubs. Some of the albums Street Sounds put out also had Street Sounds mixes on them and you couldn’t get them anywhere else.
We did the 30th anniversary year for Street Sounds and this led to other things and there’s a lot going to be happening again for the label. Both Smithy and myself are helping to drive Morgan this time too and involving the label with Centreforce is a perfect fit. The timing is perfect.
There are some big events being planned for 2019. There’s going to be a Street Sounds Road Show and there’s going to be a lot of stuff re-released. The back catalogue is huge and has in it all the Street Wave and DJ International-loads!
The response from people about Street Sounds has been incredible. It’s a very exciting time. We did our first show on Centreforce and that blew up and everyone enjoyed it. The energy was great. The vibe was great and the way we bounce off of each other really works. We don’t take life too seriously. We just want to play good music and have a laugh.
We did the Street Sounds Christmas Special and had a few guests come in: The Cool Notes, Georgie Bromfield, Alton Edwards, they’re going to be interviewed and do some live performances. We also had producer Simon Harris come in and he did stuff back in the day with Derek B. He also did Bass (How Low Can You Go) with Milk and Sugar. He also worked with Froggy a lot too. He was one of the original pioneers from the 80s.
We think a lot of people just view Street Sounds as being an Electro album but it’s much more than that and we want to introduce a lot more people to a lot more music from other genres.
Around 1985/86 I was with Radio TKO, I was only about sixteen at the time. The station owner used to take me with him when he went down to the offices where Street Sounds were based. Morgan used to give me promos, and a lot of them. I had piles of them which I’d then play on my show. This was my initial connection with Street Sounds and Morgan.
I emailed Morgan one day and we got talking, he sent me a Mantronix track and then got me in to some hosting/DJing at UK Fresh, and this led to us thinking about starting some Street Sounds events. This was around 2013. I then spoke with Peter P, who I knew from Time FM and he had the Soul Syndicate going on too and so pulled him into the Street Sounds events.
It’s now time for the Street Sounds label to be re-launched. There are ideas about records with the best of or the best cuts from the back catalogue. There’s so much music there. I believe Morgan’s personal collection is around 25,000 records.
There’s also a connection with Centreforce now, we might end up calling this Centrestreet or something like that. There are ideas to collaborate on events. When Centreforce first came on, Morgan was doing all the Jack Trax stuff, which were compilations of early house music. He was behind Hummanoid Stakker for example, which he released on his Westside Records. Morgan had all the DJ International tracks too and there’ll be more from that label in the future too. It’s all happening.