Tru Thoughts Records - Interview with Paul Jonas M.D. & Co-Owner

by Alice Beesley

This week world famous Brighton based record label Tru Thoughts celebrate their 18th Birthday. On the 18th October they will be taking over the Dome with performances from Hot 8 Brass Band, Alice Russell, Quantic, Werkha & Bryony Jarman-Pinto, Robert Luis, Wrongtom and J-Felix. I cannot wait to cut a rug and see these phenomenal artists play in the label’s hometown.

Tru Thoughts is the brainchild of Robert Luis and Paul Jonas, which saw their first label release “Animal Magic” by the now world-renowned Bonobo in 2000. Their label has brought us some of the most distinctive artists over the last two decades such as Alice Russell, Quantic and Bonobo.

For me Tru Thoughts represents the creative and diverse city that we love and what better way to relaunch Art In Brighton than alongside this celebration of 18 years of success, creativity and expression through music.

AIB have been lucky enough to chat with Paul Jonas - Co-owner and Label Manager and J-Felix – Producer, multi-instrumentalist and DJ. Their interviews will give you a glimpse into what its like to own a record label, being a musician and what it takes to be successful doing what you love.


Paul Jonas – Managing Director at Tru Thoughts Records

How did yourself and Robert Luis come up with the idea to start a record label?

 It was originally Rob’s own personal venture. His lifelong love of music leading him to want to work in music and to release the tunes that weren’t getting out there. We were running clubs together at the time, essentially him playing the tunes and me trying to get people in a room to hear him. He asked if he could include mention of his record label on the flyers, so I naturally promoted the label too (both to help the clubs and because I thought it was very exciting) and then when the acts were appearing at the clubs and I was interacting with them, we realized that maybe I should get more officially involved. Oh, and the little matter of our debut artist album being Bonobo, who happened to get a lot of attention.


Tru Thoughts is celebrating its 18th Birthday this week; how do you think the label has remained so successful over the years?

I think the key has been that we have been so eclectic and as our distribution and name grew around the world we gained more acts from different corners of the world (Anchorsong from Japan, The Bamboos from Australia, Kinny from Norway, and then from the US: Hot 8 Brass Band, The Seshen, Moonchild, Starkiller, Lost Midas, Youngblood Brass Band etc…) and this helped spread the name of the label and its acts.

We hope that every song we release will break and become massive, but by releasing such varied music we have has success with some acts that maybe we wouldn’t have released if we had stayed in one genre or only released two or three albums a year.

I enjoy meeting new people who have not heard of the label and trying to set about finding an album that they will love and with us having music that includes electronic soul, reggae, funk, hip hop, downtempo, brass bands, grime and so on then I can usually find something and that is pleasing. It means we get listeners from a range of genres and places around the world and then we hope that we have their ears to listen to the next release.

[Here are some examples of the variation:

Rodney P

The Seshen



Quantic & His Combo Barbaro feat. Nidia Gongora


Tru Thoughts has brought us some important artists over the last decade such as Bonobo, Quantic, Alice Russell and many others. How do you know when you see/hear an artist that this is someone you want to work with?

The obvious answer is first and foremost it is all about the music. We don’t care if the act is 16 or 60, male or female or their backgrounds, it is all about the music. Rob will bring something into the office and his face is lit up and you know he is excited by something. We then arrange to meet the act and are really open about how we work and how tough it is in music. We get a feel for the acts and they for us. Sometimes either party doesn’t move forward with the deal and we accept that. It is a collaborative process between act and label so we want to create a nice relationship with them, and then the best bit about being a totally independent label is that we can sit with the acts and put our heads together and try out new things.  


 What has been the highest point in your career with Tru Thoughts?

This won’t be the most glamorous answer. But the remit I set myself was to have a strong business in place where all our acts get paid their royalties on time, all our staff are treated fairly and looked after and we don’t have a financial hand to mouth situation at the label. Once we achieved this I was very proud. We have seen some of our favourite labels go down, we have seen acts not getting paid and we have watched as quality music has not seen the light of day. With us we have been able to create a platform for new music and make it solid enough to ensure we can keep doing that for the future. Not a glamourous answer, but something I am proud of.


What advice do you have for young artists trying to get into the music business?

 First of all, love the music and enjoy it! But also listen in every meeting, read blogs, websites (I recommend Music Business Worldwide - and CMU and try and learn as much as you can. It is complicated and ever changing.


What is it about Brighton, that it has remained the base for Tru Thoughts? 

Rob and I met here and ran the clubs here and it naturally grew. But also at the time a lot of acts lived or moved here (Quantic, Bonobo, TM Juke, Nostalgia 77, Natural Self, Alice Russell) so it was nice to have people pop by the office or us all chat at the clubs and compare tunes. It is nice living in Brighton though of course! We used to laugh how we would try and arrange meetings with people in London and they would set 30 minutes aside, but then they would come to Brighton for a meeting and suddenly “my afternoon has just cleared.” It helps that I am involved in the Fortune Of War on the beach. Not a bad place for a meeting!


 … and quickly

 What is the most recent record you bought?

That’s Rob’s job! 


 Jazz or Funk?

 Funk for me.


 Brass or Beats?



Vinyl or Digital?

 Aahh. That’s tough. Can I pick Cassingles? The forgotten format?