Diggers Directory: a new mix & interview series that salutes the diggers, record enthusiasts and music lovers. For more in the series, browse through the archive.
John Gomez epitomises why we started the Diggers Directory series. The Madrid-born, London based selector might not be the best known name on the circuit, but his deep musical knowledge and devotion to collecting records makes him admired by those in the know. For Antal to choose John to host the Rush Hour show on NTS speaks volumes, while his Tangent parties with Nick The Record are further proof of John’s deep, deep know-how. We spoke to John about his attitudes to digging and the vinyl format, and he’s also done a 100% Japan mix to listen to alongside.
Catch John warming up for Soichi Terada at our Far East Infusions party at Dance Tunnel this Friday.
DJs and producers often mention their musical education came through their family’s record collection. Was this the case for you? Can you pick out any pivotal records from your upbringing that informed your musical journey?
My parents listened to music, but not in a substantial or focused way. It has always been more of an individual pursuit for me, maybe because I’m an only child. The most important record from my formative years is likely De La Soul’s Buhloone Mind State. I was getting into hip hop, probably as a result of watching The Fresh Prince, and this album felt like my introduction into a music more mature than what I had encountered previously. It was – and still is – such an adventurous album to listen to, full of introspection, playfulness, and experimentation.
People buy records for a multiple of reasons; they love the analogue sound, the physicality of having something that they can collect and share, or maybe it provides them with a way to build relationships with likeminded people. What first drew you to collecting records and what motivates you to continue digging after all these years?
I don’t really buy into the whole analogue sound being intrinsically better than digital. There are so many factors that come into any listening experience that making absolutist value judgements about sound seems rash and, most often, elitist. My interest in vinyl grew out of my relationship with hip hop, but over time my records have become a way of ordering my life. I have a somewhat enchanted relationship with my collection, filled with memories and images that I associate with the records.
Where do you store all your records and how do you file them?
I have recently moved home, so my records are still in temporary storage while I figure out what kind of shelves I need building. In terms of filing, it’s a bit of a loose mix of genres, formats, and countries.
What are your favourite spots to go digging and why?
I like places that bring in a range of styles, and London’s diversity and rich musical history means there are always interesting records popping up. Stores like Eldica, Flashback, Alan’s, and Rat Records consistently turn up great music. But to find bargains you need to go further afield. People are really clued up now and price everything in relation to discogs. Still, I’ve found some crazy records in all of these shops simply because they were not hyped at the time. That’s the key for me, trusting my ears and instinct over what discogs wantlists tell me is good. I love the basement in Flashback because I can’t get any signal on my phone. It’s quite liberating to not be able to measure every record that sparks your curiosity against online sale histories.
Digging isn’t just about the records you find, but the people who help you find them. Who are some of the colourful characters you’ve met on your travels in record stores round the world? Any unsung heroes you’d like to shout out?
There are so many, but Andy at Eldica restlessly looks for new stock and seems to have a better collection of rare Caribbean records on offer than Port of Spain. I’ve bought some fantastic records from him, including Shadow’s monstrous ‘D’Hardest‘ twelve when it was still a ghost. There was virtually no information anywhere about this record and in the past year or so the demand for it has gone through the roof.
DJs and producers often talk about a number of records that never leave their bag. Do you have any records like this?
Esa – ‘A Muto‘ is my jam. I found it in Flashback a couple of years ago and I always take it out, but only play it when the vibe is really special, when it’s time to really get lost in the dance. It’s my favourite afro-disco record, a perfect late night tune: deep and hypnotic, but with an uplifting and hopeful chorus that lets you breathe before diving back in again.
Is there a record (or records), which you’ve wanted to own but cannot afford or find in print anymore?
Of course, there are dozens or, more likely, hundreds. I’m quite protective of my wants, but given that there is already fierce demand for it, Lucy Stone’s Giving Love Instead of Gold on Fire Mountain is a majestic record that will in all likelihood never be marked off my wantlist.
Do you prefer record shopping as a solitary process or with friends to nerd out with and search for strange sounds together? If the latter, who do you like to go digging with?
In the UK I tend to dig alone as most of my “digging friends” are abroad. In Madrid I always go out with DJ and collector Javi Bayo, who’s as happy looking for modal jazz as he is Spanish freakbeat. Digging is our way of catching up: we meet up, go for breakfast, and then spend a sunny Sunday morning strolling through Madrid’s flea market, El Rastro, looking through the little piles of records stacked against all kinds of antiques. Whenever friends like Invisible City, Jamie Tiller, or Antal are in town we try to get in a spot of digging in too. It kind of forms the backdrop to our friendships.
Walking into a record shop can be quite a daunting process, with some many different genres and formats. Do you have a digging process that helps you hone in on what you’re after? Is it about patience, diligence and a bit of luck or are you more methodical when you enter a record shop?
There is always an element of luck, as it depends on timing: on when a good collection has come in and on who has seen it before you have. But in terms of how I approach shops, I tend to go to the cheap bins first, or any section in which the categories seem a little vague. If sellers know they have some heat, they are likely to sell it online or put it on the wall. I’m more interested in the records they have discarded than in the grails.
How big a role does album artwork play in your digging, esp. if you’re not familiar with something you pick up?
It plays a big role, as it’s your way in. Each record in a rack only has a split second to grab your attention before you move on to the next.
What are you 3 favourite examples of album art?[running left to right)
1) There is a unique compilation of cerebral Brazilian MPB called Prá Quem Sabe Das Coisas, and the amazing artwork – with an image of a man with a reel to reel recorder rooting into his brain – reflects the music’s strange and floating tone.
2) I also love Ariel Kalma’s self-titled LP on Astral Muse. Each copy is a blank sleeve onto which Ariel Kalma drew a sketch of his own hand. I love the simplicity and imperfection of this, very much in keeping with the minimal and improvisatory music.
3) Another hand cover, but I’ve always loved Mary Lou Williams’ Black Christ of the Andes on her own label, Mary Records. It has a beautiful sketch by David Stone Martin, who was a prolific illustrator of mid-century jazz records. His images are born from American modernism and I love how dynamic his heavy lines make the hands seem.
We hear you’ve been digging in Brazil recently. Are you allowed to reveal why yet, and could you fill us in about some favourite spots and records you picked up on your travels (without giving too many secrets away of course!)
Yeah, I’ve just come back from two weeks digging in Brazil, mostly in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. I’m working on a project with Brazilian music, but I can’t reveal the details of it just yet! Unbelievably, Brazil still hasn’t dried up. If you are looking for the well-known Brazilian grails, there are shops like Chico e Zico that are wall to wall covered in them, but they are extremely expensive. I was looking to be surprised and bring back records I didn’t know, rather than tick things off a list. Fabio at Mararecords in Rio was really helpful in this respect. I spent a long night with him and he completely ruined me, pulling out killer after killer. I brought back around 100 records, from forró and deep afro samba to Brazilian boogie and bossa jazz. One record that I’ve been playing on repeat all week is a version by Lani Hall of one of my favourite Arthur Verocai productions, Ivan Lins’ ‘Abre Alas‘.
You run an event in London called Tangent with your friend Nick the Record. Could you tell us a bit more about that and the music we can expect to hear at one of the parties?
Tangent is all about playing great records on a great system. Every couple of months we team up with Darren Morgan from Love Machine, who installs a beautiful soundsystem in an intimate basement in Hoxton. Nick is a supreme digger and has been resident at some of the most legendary parties in Japan, including Lifeforce. At Tangent we are trying to bring a bit of that to London: a particular approach to music and to sound. It’s a seven-hour journey in which we get to touch on everything, from obscure disco and soul to tropical gems and house. We might be quite nerdy about records, but Tangent is not a party for beard-strokers: it’s a party for proper dancers. We are now preparing for the next date, which is set to be in early May.
You also host the Rush Hour Takeover on NTS show, which has featured the likes of Antal, Hunee and Soichi Terada from the label. How did you first become involved with the label and, again, what can the initiated expect to hear if when they tune in?
I’ve known Antal for around ten years and when the opportunity for the Rush Hour show came up, he wanted a friend whom he could trust to take the lead in London. I think Rush Hour in all its forms is defined by the combination of friendship and passion, which inevitably always leads back to Antal. In terms of the show itself, we try to fit one in when someone close to the label is in town. Listeners can expect stellar guest mixes, informal chats with top people, and balancing upcoming Rush Hour releases with my own finds.
Thanks for recording this mix for us. Where and how did you record it and what was the idea behind it?
The idea was to do a Japanese mix ahead of the Infusions event with Soichi and Daniel Wang. I’m mindful of saving some my Japanese dancefloor records for Friday, so I decided to do something a bit more leftfield and spacey, touching on Japanese groove, quirky synth-pop, fusion, and electronica.
We asked you to keep the tracklist secret (to get listeners to dig deep for their IDs!) but are there any standouts from the mix you’d like to shout out?
My favourite Japanese stepper by Yumi Matsutōya called ‘We’re All Free‘. I’m a soul boy at heart and this just melts me every time.
You’ll be joining us this weekend at Dance Tunnel for our first Infusions party with Soichi Terada and Daniel Wang. Looking forward? What have you got planned for your set?
Yeah, I’ve been looking forward to this one for a while now and I’m delighted to be part of such a great series. I’ve called in the help of our man in Tokyo, the encyclopaedia that is Jérôme Qpchan, to source some under the radar disco and house to play along with some Japanese classics.
And beyond our party, what else have you got coming up in 2016 you can tell us about?
I have some really nice parties coming up this month, playing at the Music from Memory label night in Brussels along with Jamie Tiller and Tako, following what is set to be an amazing gig by Suso Sáiz and Gigi Masin. Then I’ll be playing at Sofrito’s ten-year anniversary party, which will feature a live set from Africaine 808. I feel very lucky to have the opportunity to mix it up so much, playing a Japanese house set one week and a tropical one the next. It’s exciting, and I think it will keep me excited in 2016 and hopefully beyond.
Diggers Directory visual concept designed by Emily Dann.