Dan Prothero is a San Francisco-based independent music producer, graphic designer, and vinyl junkie. His label, Fog City Records, is the focal point for all these interests and provides a forum to develop new artists by any means necessary.
Dan helped develop the look and sound of Bay Area label Ubiquity Recordings from its inception, forming and/or producing many of the groups that appeared on its wildly successful initial releases (Slide Five, New Legends, Sweet Potato, Rhythm Section, etc.), writing liner notes and doing most of the graphic design for Ubiquity and its vintage re-release label Luv N Haight.
The first release on Fog City Records was the Coolin' Off album from New Orleans funk band Galactic. Released in 1996 as one of the first Enhanced CDs ever released, it received immediate and widespread critical acclaim (including a spotlight in Billboard Magazine) for both the music (which he produced and engineered) and the New Orleans-flavored multimedia (which he designed and programmed). Ultimately, this record was picked up by Capricorn/Polygram along with Galactic's follow-up Crazyhorse Mongoose which Dan also recorded and produced.
Fog City Records is now cultivating a growing roster of new artists, diversifying beyond the limitations of a single genre while developing a distinct sound and a loyal following. In the words of one fan: "I absolutely love each Fog City release, and look forward to continued success on your part. This is grass roots style, and your imprint is stamped heavily on each disc (superb graphics). IMO, that's a great thing, and something we in the scene should appreciate."
This all began with a year in England in the late 1980's. At that time, London's underground music scene was bubbling under with warehouse parties spinning what they called "rare groove" - really American funk music from the early 1970's. Not being old enough to remember that decade, the funk was an eye-opener and marked the beginning of a musical path that he's been on ever since.
Returning to the states, Dan spent time running a DJ service to England - seeking out the "rare grooves" and shipping them overseas. Pooling the proceeds into some simple recording equipment (and keeping the best records for his own collection!) he began teaching himself the craft of sampling beats and arranging music. The hip hop music of the time provided the blueprints, with its heavy emphasis on samples from much of the music he was collecting.
A move to the San Francisco Bay Area set things into high gear. Hooking up with some fellow funk fanatics, Dan began designing the album cover art for a fledgling reissue label Luv N Haight, and handled most of the technical aspects of recovering the music from crackly old 45's. Eventually word got out that he was hookin' up beats at his home studio - and the results were released as Bulldog Breaks, a highly-acclaimed (and widely sampled) series of breakbeat records.
From there, a series of "live" breakbeat albums was begun. Called "Master Drummers", the series included two volumes from legendary drummer Bernard Purdie and another from Headhunters drummer Mike Clark. Since then, Dan has steadily progressed from the "breakbeat and saxophone" sound that characterized his first recordings to producing and engineering a variety of full, live acts -- including a solo project with Galactic drummer Stanton Moore, whose debut CD (featuring Charlie Hunter) is also on Fog City Records (along with another project recorded in the same recording session, the debut recording from Garage A Trois).
About a more recent recording in Austin Texas with Fog City recording artist Papa Mali, Dan says: "I cut my teeth as a producer and engineer being fascinated with funk, and I'm still a total sucker for big drums and fat bass. But the Papa Mali album is really special to me, because it was the first time that I'd worked with a singer/songwriter who could hold his own with just a guitar and his voice. Although the record has tons of funky moments, I'm most proud of those really personal, confessional tunes we recorded because they are so real and because I might have ignored them a few years ago. The experience made me realize that's what I've been trying to get at all along -- putting a real, personal and positive human experience down on tape -- rather than starting from the funk and adding some stuff on top. It's also been the record that has attracted the most attention from musicians I've sought since. The records I've worked on after that (including the first three from MOFRO which we recorded in Florida) are memorable because of the unique personality of the lead singer/songwriter. The fun part will be, as always, making it funky too."
"The last 16 years have really been a series of experiments. I've gone from collecting records to helping re-issue them, and then from just sampling beats and basslines to having musicians re-play and re-work them, and finally beginning to write music and form bands from the best players I know. Now that there are great funky bands and soulful musicians sprouting up everywhere, I've started my own label so I can guide their work to listeners myself. I've been lucky to be able to work with some amazing people along the way. And still I've only scratched the surface - music is an infinitely deep subject, and the challenges of recording music (so that it's consistent with my ever-growing list of favorite records) make it a lifelong pursuit. I think if you check back in 20 years I'll still be learning. At least I hope so!"You can reach Dan via email at
NOTE FROM DAN:
DJ Rob Kowal did a nice interview a while back. If you've read this far, you might like to read that too