The head of influential dance label R&S Records discriminated against black and female artists, according to a former employee.
Label founder Renaat Vandepapeliere dismissed music by some ethnic minority artists as “meaningless” and claimed the history of techno was “very white”, said former talent scout Raj Chaudhuri.
Chaudhuri is suing R&S for unfair dismissal, citing race discrimination.
The label said there was “no truth” to his “spurious” and “damaging” claims.
“Mr Renaat Vandepapeliere is certainly not racist and everyone at R&S Records embraces equality,” said R&S co-founder Sabine Maes, who is also Mr Vandepapeliere’s wife, in a statement.
The statement characterised Mr Chaudhuri as a “freelancer who became disgruntled”, and accused him of trying to “blackmail” the label for £10,000.
“There is simply no truth in anything he says,” it added.
‘Relax a bit’
Launched in Belgium in 1984, R&S Records has released some of the most seminal tracks in electronic music, from Joey Beltram’s Energy Flash to Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works 85-92.
In employment tribunal papers he has filed in London, Mr Chaudhuri said he had repeatedly attempted to “diversify the label and the artists it worked with”, but found his efforts frustrated or criticised.
Some of the ethnic artists he championed were dismissed as “terrible” and “crap”, according to text messages included in his claim.
Mr Chaudhuri also alleged that Mr Vandepapeliere refused to sever ties with a recording artist who had placed anti-Semitic messages on Facebook.
One post contained a photograph of Hitler captioned: “You should have listened”.
“Remove his track? No way”, wrote Mr Vandepapeliere, after being made aware of the messages. “Inform him of the danger – yes”.
When Mr Chaudhuri continued to express his unease over being associated with the artist, he was told to “relax a bit”.
Mr Chaudhuri also alleged that R&S tried to suppress an NHS charity album he had put together because – in his opinion – Mr Vandepapeliere was uncomfortable with the Black and non-binary musicians featured on the compilation.
His tribunal papers included an email from Mr Vandepapeliere, in which he said: “Time to delete the NHS comp… and time for quality”.
“I know, Raj, you love all this – etc – but I hate it. No talent, no quality.”
Mr Chaudhuri said his year-long tenure at the label, where he was paid £1,000 a month, ended “with no warning” last September.
His dismissal came after Mr Vandepapeliere engaged in a public spat with former R&S recording artist Eddington Again.
Last September, the LA-based musician published an email exchange with the label boss, in which he questioned why R&S had signed so few black and female artists.
In response Mr Vandepapeliere wrote: “We are not a political party” and “I sign music I can find – I don’t sign color mate”.
He also referenced a new artist the label was planning to work with, writing: “I hope that I have now found a full pure breed black artist that I can spend my life with in full focus”.
The messages provoked widespread condemnation from the dance music industry, and two of R&S’s biggest artists, Lone and Paul Woolford (aka Special Request) posted messages saying they were ending their relationship with the label.
In his tribunal claim, Mr Chaudhuri said he had confronted Mr Vandepapeliere over the controversy, conveying some people’s opinion that he should step down from the label.
“How dare you, mate,” wrote Mr Vandepapeliere in a text message. “Don’t need your advice at all… R&S goes my way”.
Mr Chaudhuri claims he was dismissed the following day, with Mr Vandepapeliere saying he wanted “a strong team” who stood behind the company.
Text messages from that day, which also appear in the tribunal papers, show that the label boss called Mr Chaudhuri a “superstar” who should “start ur own label”.
Mr Vandepapeliere subsequently apologised for the content of his leaked emails.
“R&S is by no means an organisation where bigotry has a place,” he wrote in a statement. “We are deeply convinced of the urgency of racial equality, non-discrimination and a sensitive and respectful discourse”.
Following his dismissal, Mr Chaudhuri demanded payment for the remainder of his contract, totalling £10,000. He also threatened to reveal what he called Mr Vandepapeliere’s “discriminatory conduct” in a public letter, if the money was withheld.
In a statement to the BBC, R&S said this amounted to an attempt at “extortion or blackmail”. It added that it was considering launching a defamation case over Mr Chaudhuri’s allegations.
The employment tribunal claim has only recently been filed in London, and the papers have not been served on R&S yet, and a date for the tribunal hearing is some way off.
R&S said the initiation of proceedings “proves nothing”, adding: “We have no intention of litigating this in the press and have every confidence that justice will prevail.”
“We believe Mr Chaudhuri has done this in order to attack Mr Renaat Vandepapeliere in an attempt to sway him away from other legal proceedings and cause the malicious damage that he threatened unless Mr Renaat Vandepapeliere gave into his monetary demands,” it added.
Mr Chaudhuri said he had filed the case to draw attention to racial inequality in the music industry.
“The music industry must become free of racial and gender discrimination and the fight back starts with those in the music community supporting and working towards equality,” he told the BBC.