Diggers Directory: a mix series that salutes the diggers, record enthusiasts and music lovers. For more in the series, browse through the archive.
Melbourne has emerged over the last half decade as a one of the most exciting destinations for underground music. Alongside Andras Fox, Fantastic Man, Harvey Sutherland and J’Nett, to name a few, Francis Inferno Orchestra is among the most esteemed talents to emerge from Australia’s creative capital. His wonky discofied, house sound which has one step in the past and one toward the future, has also permeated the Superconscious label he runs alongside Fantastic Man. Now living in London, we went round to his pad to discuss life as a record collector, his favourite spots to digging, the secret to the growth of Australian and underground music. The extended interview is accompanied by a two hour vinyl mix of ambient, new wave, balearic and leftfield disco and a bunch of photos shot exclusively for us by Lewis Khan.
FIO plays our next Infusions party, teaming up with Brian Not Brian for a cosmic blend at The Colombian on the 28th April.
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?
Yeah I’m lucky to have had some pretty cool parents in that respect. I guess they were quite alternative in their heyday and music was always playing around the house at any given time whilst I was growing up. A few key records from memory were The B-52’s first album. Sex Pistols – Never mind the Bollocks, any album by INXS and The The – Infected. The Beatles got a hard flogging through the years but we don’t need to talk about that.
People buy records for a multiple of reasons. What first drew you to collecting records and what motivates you to continue digging after all these years?
It probably started because I simply thought it was a cool thing to do. I didn’t come from the age where vinyl or tape was the only option as a teenager, I was going through the Napster, Limewire era. So it was kinda unnecessary and I remember distinctly that it was in that period of time around 2007-8 where vinyl industry was in massive decline and shops were closing left and right. Having said all that, I got hooked.
Where do you store all your records and how do you file them?
The majority of my records are back in Melbourne so I only have a small collection here. It’s a complete mess but it makes sense in my head. There’s no real order but generally there’s an area which I haven’t touched in a while and an area where the latest stuff I’ve bought and the last stuff I’ve pulled out for gigs.
What are your favourite spots to go digging and why?
There’s an abundance of good shops in Melbourne, but Liquorice Pie, Alley Tunes and Skydiver (shout out Tom & Mike!) are my favourites. Each one offers something different to the next. Heart Beat in Paris is a very pleasant experience and Melik behind the counter is a real dude. La Fin Du Vinyle in Montreal is really good too. I always like places that feel like you can hang out at even if you don’t really feel like buying anything. Alley Tunes for instance is partly a coffee shop so when I used to live in Melbourne I would just go there and hang out. Every time I’m back in the city I’ll go do the same thing and there’s a comforting feeling like I never left. I still haven’t made it to USA or Japan yet which is already very well known to be some next level shit but soon.
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?
Every place I mentioned above has characters and I think that’s what kept me going back. You get to meet all sorts of personalities which is refreshing. some are lovely people who have a real deep hearted passion for it, then some people in the record game are the absolute fucking worst. I read Ruf Dug’s answer on this and he mentioned Steve G from Profile Music in Melbourne and that had me laughing so hard. That guy is so notorious man…me and my friends used to buy from him back in day and everyone has a story about that guy. I gotta give him credit though, he has been at it for YEARS and is probably the best record salesmen I’ve ever met and he’ll get you with surprises.
DJs and producers often talk about a number of records that never leave their bag. Do you have any records like this?
I don’t think I really have a ‘never left the bag’ record. My Brandy – The Ritual 12” with the timeless Chateau Flight remix has been constantly subbed in and out over the last few years
Is there a record (or records), which you’ve wanted to own but cannot afford or find in print anymore?
Yeah there’s a quite a few, but seriously let’s be honest here, everything is going to be reissued eventually, it’s just a matter of time. I really don’t mind owning a reissue compared to an original press, and it has happened to me where I’ve owned something that I’ve payed a few bucks for then six months to a year down the line having it get repressed or reissued or whatever. Everything will be done eventually because it seems like a competition these days of who can reissue the more ‘rare’ and ‘crazier’ shit between the heads.
Whether that is healthy or not I’m still yet to figure it out, because what matters is that it’s done ethically and responsibly. Also I’ve never gone into three digits with a purchase but that’s also because I simply can’t afford it, but I have some records that have accumulated value over time which is kinda cool/funny. I’ve had instances where I was really tempted to drop a large sum on discogs something but these records always found their way to me for a slice the price. I’ve been very lucky but I’ve also been very patient. Anyone with a rich dad can buy themselves into having a “hot” record collection tomorrow knowmsayin?
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?
I enjoy both, because I love finding records which I might already own and love and give it to the person I’m digging with, but even If I’m alone I’ll still buy doubles of stuff because someone will enjoy it as a gift.
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?
I really have a hard time doing an ‘all round’ shop whenever I go somewhere. I like to prep a little bit and do some research on a shop I’m going to if I can. I always do my best to visit a shop wherever I go in my travels and it kinda dictates what I’m looking to buy. For example: if I’m in Italy I will mostly look for italo records, or if I’m Belgium I’ll look for new beat and so forth. I also find it helps to just listen to a bunch of stuff in the area of what you might want to buy, as a little bit of a mental warm up kinda thing? I know you can never anticipate what you’re going to find but if I go in off the cusp it always takes me like an hour to get settled in. Also I never go looking for records without making sure I’ve had a decent meal and coffee first.
How big a role does album artwork play in your digging, esp. if you’re not familiar with something you pick up?
So big. I actually get super fucking bummed out when I pick up a record with really special sleeve artwork only to have the music make me want to cringe or vomit. I’ve been tempted at times to just steal the sleeve and leave the record behind (don’t worry I have never actually done it).
Could you tell us a bit about the mix you made for us? Where you recorded it, what your set-up was and the idea behind it.
Yeah it’s a quite a bit of a trip. Really ideal for a nice car trip or train ride into the countryside.
We asked you to keep the tracklist secret but are there any standouts from the mix you’d like to shout out?
Yeah there’s this one drone track about 20 mins in that I’ve been obsessed with lately from Stara Rzeka. The name of the song and whole album is completely in Polish so won’t even attempt typing it out, but it’s on this label called Instant Classic which is my recent favourite discovery. Also must give some cred to my boy Simon TK for the tip on the Jakarta record that’s in there somewhere.
Australia, and particularly Melbourne, has a really healthy scene at the moment. What is it about Melbourne which has allowed such a strong scene to flourish, and how has the city changed in it’s relationship towards underground music since you started djing and producing?
I really feel as it’s not just Melbourne carrying the torch anymore but Australia as a whole has stepped it up, which is great. It’s a bit of a trip thinking back to around 2009 when I first got started, how small and humble things were for the underground scene. I’m not entirely sure why things changed but there’s so much happing now all over the country, maybe all the plebs got a little less lame?
You are playing our cosmic Infusions party at the Colombian this month alongside Brian Not Brian. What cosmic classics, past and present, can we expect to hear?
Well we chose the cosmic theme as it’s quite broad and can cover quite a range of stuff. Not just strictly the Baldelli kinda stuff but also the more 80s-90s stuff that was influenced, and also just anything that has a cosmic feel, regardless of the time period! We’re making it feel extra extrerrestrial.
Finally, what are your personal plans for 2017 and beyond?
Working with Mic to show the world’s sphere some (hopefully) really nice music from us and our friends, we have a mini LP coming up from a project that Luis CL & his girlfriend En.V do called Cheap Present, which I’m excited about. And our 10th release coming after that which will be something special as a bit a milestone for the label. Something I’m personally really excited about though is I have my second LP finished up and will be with us all very soon.