“Fuse dance and rock.” These historic words were to be the launch pad for Skint Records. They were given as a recommendation to Norman Cook - aka Fatboy Slim - by Damian Harris, one of Skint’s founders who knew Cook from their days working in a Brighton record shop.
At the time Harris was working at Loaded Records, Cook was deejaying in Brighton.
A couple of weeks later Cook came to Harris with “Santa Cruz” and Harris thought “This is it!” The ‘it’ was the start of big beat and the start of Loaded’s sub-label Skint, back in 1995. “Santa Cruz” went on to be the label’s first release the same year.
“It grew really quickly from there,” recalls Dave Philpot, who joined the label management team a couple of years later. “Everything coincided and it just rose and rose: the Chemical Brothers were doing big beat music too and the Heavenly Social club night in London was championing it.”
By 1997, Fatboy Slim had appeared on the cover of the NME and Skint acts were playing big tents at the summer festivals.
This frenzy of activity culminated in 1998 with the release of On the Floor at the Boutique, an album inspired by Cook’s Big Beat Boutique night at Brighton’s Concorde. When the DJ remixed Cornershop’s “Brimful of Asha”, the track went to No 1 in the UK charts.
A while later he walked into the office with the cassette of “The Rockerfeller Skank”.
“Everyone in the office stopped what they were doing; we knew it would go high in the charts,” recalls Philpot. “We were like, shit, do that again! Which he then did with ‘Praise You’.”
The success continued. In 1999, Fatboy Slim’s “Right Here, Right Now” reached No 2 in the charts.
Skint owes its existence to Norman Cook but other acts were also making waves.
In the late Nineties, Bentley Rhythm Ace released their eponymous debut album and had a hit with “Bentley’s Gonna Sort You Out”. The Lo Fidelity Allstars released “Battleflag” in 1998, which was a huge seller in the US.
“We also signed X-Press 2 who had been around since the start of acid house,” says Philpot. They released “Lazy” which went to No 2 in 2002. Dance was at its peak.
But by the end of the year the scene had worn off and entered a dark age from which it has still not quite recovered. Skint decided to diversify. Techno artist Dave Clarke – “uncompromised but makes an amazing sound” joined the label.
Further from the usual Skint fare were Lucky Jim, a singer-songwriter from Scotland, and the Ralfe Band from Reading with their unique eastern European sound. It was, according to Philpot, about putting out music to meet the market, something other independent labels have often declined to do.
“In 2006 Tim Deluxe came to us. This was quickly followed by signing the Belgium band Goose,” says Philpot. “They’d already done most of their first album so we put that out and are working on the next one for release in September.”
Goose’s music has also been chosen for the latest Mitsubishi advert, renowned as a good spot for breaking new acts. The Stanton Warriors, a breaks act and mixers of the Gorillaz, have just put out an album. And Mental Alloy, from Belfast, are hotly tipped by the label.
“Our idea, crude as it sounds, is to make some money,” says Philpot. “We look to make our money from sales of records and downloads, of course, but a synched track [a track used in ad advert] can make as much as selling 50,000 records.
“Norman was a genius, who had a great idea. Someone will do that quirky thing again, but it’s impossible to tell what. And crossover music is hard to break without someone like the NME behind it.”
His prediction that the deadlock would be broken by 2007 Mercury Music Prize winners, the Klaxons, or Sonny J’s track, “Can’t Stop Moving”, proved to be wrong. But Philpot is still optimistic.
Introduction: Skint was at the front of the big beat movement of the mid to late Nineties. The Brighton based label is owned by JC Reid, Tim Jeffery and Damian Harris and is a sub-label of Loaded Records, also founded by Reid and Jeffery.
History: Founded in 1995, Skint’s first release was “Santa Cruz” by Norman Cook. His fusion of rock and dance continued to bring the label success through the Nineties and into 2002. Dance then entered a black patch, but Skint continued to do well through synching and by diversifying from dance to techno and singer-songwriters. Tim Deluxe, the Stanton Warriors and Goose have given the label a positive outlook on the future.
What they say: “Our philosophy is find things not run of the mill. We don’t want to be thinking, ‘oh they sound a bit like…’ It can be any genre. Even if we can’t sell it, if it’s something quirky that we all like, we’ll go for it.” Dave Philpot, Skint management.
Notable acts: Fatboy Slim – the big beat founder.
Top tips for 2008: Goose. Their new album comes out in September.
Pub fact: Skint are the longest running sponsor in the football league with Brighton and Hove Albion for nine years.