Through production and release of the Stir It Up Turntable, we strive to understand the differences and similarities in musical generations and the way that we experience music.
When Miss Pat welcomed us to the office of VP, we we’re ecstatic. At almost 80 years old, Patricia Chin (known as Miss Pat) is a legend in the music industry. We couldn’t wait to chat with the same Miss Pat who watched Bob Marley and Peter Tosh (among others) record in her record studio about 50 years ago in Kingston, Jamaica.
HOM: Hi Miss Pat! Thanks so much for having us here at VP. Would love to explain to those who might not know, what you’re all about.
VP: My name Is Patricia Chin and I am founder of Randy’s Records and VP Records. My family is from Jamaica and have been living in America for 40 years now. We continue to do what we’ve been doing for over 50 years – producing and developing artists. It hasn’t changed much even though the way we sell music has changed. We develop new artists and give them wings to fly.
HOM: During the first year when you moved to Queens from Kingston, what were some of the difficulties?
VP: I first came here in 1977. It was difficult because no one knew reggae other than Bob Marley. I had to tell them that there is other reggae. I am happy that Bob Marley opened the door for us. There are a few records that came from England but the records they sold in Jamaica no one knew of and we had to educate them. It was most difficult for us because of our language, and being a woman it was a hard struggle for me personally, because women weren’t part of businesses. We struggled (my husband and I), but because it was our culture and we love it, we tried to educate the people about other types of music, other cultures and artists.
HOM: In Jamaica during the 1970’s it seems the music business depended on the records and sound systems more than the musicians themselves. Would you say VP Records in NY was similar?
VP: Back home in Jamaica, we had a store and studio in the heart of Kingston. Musicians, singers, backup singers, song-writers, DJs, everybody would gather right there because it was a meeting place. If you were recording and wanted a backup singer, you would just come downstairs to get a backup singer. If you wanted a guitar or any type of instrument – they (the people) were just there looking for jobs. It was an exciting time. At that time in NYC, the shops were spread out and there were 5 record stores in the whole city. We had to keep sending out flyers, telling them about the music. It was like we went 20 years backwards.
HOM: In the late 70s and into the 80s, it seemed like NYC was connected to Caribbean culture through dancehall, can you elaborate more on this?
VP: When I came here and we moved from Jamaica, I brought up a lot of Bob Marley and a lot of Roots music because we thought since Bob Marley was such big hit in Jamaica that they would gravitate towards more roots music but it didn’t happen that way. Dance artists are associated with hip-hop and that was what the young people liked so that was the genre that really brought us a lot more fame. We still had roots music, which you know, reggae music is such a wide genre. We have all different types of music for different types of folks. And I think when you are young you like the dance songs but as you get older you appreciate Roots music and the lovers rock. It all goes with the age and the type of beat. That is why the music stays fresh because you’re always having new musicians and new singers—the beat changes, the dance changes with the beat to make it fresh.
HOM: What do you think about the way hip hop has fused Caribbean aspects into popular music today? Specifically, Drake comes to mind.
VP: I think it is a good idea because it shows that music as a whole is created for everyone. And if you can infuse your music with my music, it is better for everyone. It gives a variation of sounds; when I listen to the hip-hop cross over it is so nice to hear the beat with a mixture of other beats within. It is fresh and new, I like that.
HOM: As demand for music, and physical material (vinyl, CD, digital) has changed, we’re curious to hear about what you’re selling in the store and what is demand now.
VP: Before the download came about, 90% of sales were on CD’s but it has changed and the download has caused the sales on the CD to drop – at the same time, the vinyl has picked up! I would say we’re still doing 50% CD but definitely have a surge in vinyl. We are rereleasing the vinyl’s now for the young generation who knows reggae, but wasn’t born during that time. It is really exciting to see how the music is catching onto the younger generation and they are going back.
HOM: As you now know, House of Marley will be releasing our very first turntable this summer. For those just getting into vinyl, what do you recommend?
VP: I would say the 45’s are very easy to handle and easy to mix some things – and then LP’s. Vinyl is more authentic and carries a soul with it and makes you feel special inside like it is a heartbeat. It is the beat of your heart and the beat that makes it special.
HOM: Last year at the Libera Awards you received the Lifetime Achievement Award presented by A2IM. You were the first female to receive such a prestigious award in the music industry. What can you say about this?
VP: First and foremost, I had a husband who was willing to let me do whatever I wanted in the business. I am in the store 24/7 because I love what I do. Being a woman it was hard, people would say “You don’t know the music”. When they soon realized I do know the music, they began to trust me to sell them anything. If they don’t know the name of the record, they just have to hum it to me and I will tell them what they are singing. My motto is to get whatever the customer wants.
HOM: When it comes to embracing change, VP Records is an example of a company that has evolved with the time. What advice would you give to a young musical entrepreneur to do the same and evolve with time?
VP: Do a lot of research, talk to people and don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you don’t know it, ask – don’t assume you know it all. People are kind and they will help you. I’ve noticed through my years that when times are the most difficult, those are the times when you are going to grow more. Don’t be afraid to take that step if you are doing what you love.