Diggers Directory: a mix series that salutes the diggers, record enthusiasts and music lovers. For more in the series, browse through the archive.
Before names like Andras Fox, Harvey Sutherland, Francis Inferno Orchestra and Fantastic man put Melbourne on the map as one of the most exciting place to watch for underground music, there was DJ JNETT. Considered something of a legend in her home city, she has been DJing and producing for well over two decades, counting herself as one of the few artists to release on Maurice Fulton’s mysterious Bubbletease Communication. We spoke to her about a life spent collecting records and the the secret to Melbourne burgeoning scene.
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?
I can honestly say, whilst the contents of my parents record collection didn’t necessarily influence my own personal musical education, it did however, give me a lasting sensation of how much music can really influence a space by instantly creating strong emotive, nostalgic and joyful sensibilities.
My parents individually came from different cultural backgrounds, my father from Sicily and my mother from Serbia. So whilst they both enjoyed their respective traditional sounds, they seemed to come together somewhere in the middle. Their mutual love for the ‘ballata’, always meant that the sounds of Italian Romantica would always win them both over!
My father was very passionate about his music, and it never failed to transform his rather serious disposition, into one that was super passionate and playful. More often than not, he would reminisce about his beautiful homeland, relaying memories back to his youth.
Music would always generate a positive energy and flow within our household. It was a time where we would all gather in the lounge room, the needle hit the record, and Dad’s regular, rather staunch expression, instantly transitioned into the most infectious smile from ear to ear. He loved to dance, declare his love for us all, embrace my mother, and they would dance.
Of course my sister and I would roll our eyes, as if to say “oh, here we go again??” but regardless we would stick around and watch, listen and occasionally participate, as it bloomed such an infectious joy!
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?
The obvious and real reason that compelled me to buy and collect records was first and foremost the ‘music’. If you wanted the music, then you needed the record. Of course there were cassettes too, and yes I would buy them too, to boom in my car. Records of course were far more stimulating on many levels, and to buy individual songs, you needed to buy the record. There was no other format, records were ‘it!’ If you wanted the music, you needed the record.
I also really enjoyed my solitude at home. From when I was a teenager, I would buy records, sit in my room, and with just my one belt drive turntable, and my big old cassette deck, I soon became obsessed with the idea of making mixed tapes. With the idea of listening to them in my car, and subsequently copy multiples for my family and friends.
Where do you store all your records and how do you file them?
My records are mainly stored in a wonderful building that is not connected to our house. Of course there are also several areas where they have spilled over and into our house….in fact, I have kind of let them take over a little? It certainly is time for a good clean out and the need to cull is overdue and imminent. ( Ha! I’ve been saying that for years, and although it happens sporadically, I seem to bring in as many as I get rid of?…..Oops!)
There is no longer any real filing system. There was a time, when there was much more order in the chaos, but of recent years, as much as I have liked the idea, it really is a case of anything goes! However, I tend to file by a system that lends itself to many piles of active records (as in the records I am currently rotating) which I tend to leave in rather inconvenient long piles, that lead their way into the centre of the room, requiring anyone who enters the space to step over, and or, around the piles and stacks. The majority of them are in wall shelves that line the space. Every few months I will store all the records on the floor back into random wall shelves. This way I have to start the search and go back through the records, to find the new ‘active’ pile(s) of records that I will rotate.
“Ha Ha!” I know it sounds crazy, but for me it keeps the element of surprise rolling, and it’s exciting as to what I will discover everytime!
What are your favourite spots to go digging and why?
Times have changed completely from when I first started seriously collecting, back then (mid 80’s), it was a case of religiously rummaging places like Dixon’s in Blackburn, buying a pile of records, with no chance of listening until you got them home. This was so much fun particularly when you found gold, but equally as annoying to accumulate a bunch of average finds.
Now, certain sellers over the internet have become my favourite spots to go digging. This has opened up an amazing array of opportunities to find stuff we would certainly have never been able to find in the cities of Australia.
Oh yeah, and of course I still love the op-shop find. Nothing like finding a gem, particularly if it’s in the single $ figure! Believe it or not, (with dilligence and dedication) there are those rare occasions when this still does happen!
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?
I have over the last two decades been fortunate enough to go digging in some great places around the world, mainly here in Australia, in the U.S.A and the U.K.
I spent four years living in Ladbroke Grove, London, in the early 90’s. Therefore regular visits to Dub Vendor (original store, where the record shopping experience was so much fun!), the place was so tiny, they would just play all the records of the day on rotation, and as you heard what you want, you’d just put your hand up, and that was it!! Oh, how I loved it there!!!
Honest Jon’s, was certainly a regular haunt too, and responsible for lots of the records I still carry and play regularly to this day! The owner, and a girl named Hannah were working there regularly, my frequent visits meant, that eventually they would recommend records to me, that was pretty awesome!
There was also Rough Trade, and a bunch of Reggae Stores that existed on what was then termed ‘The Front Line’, and a couple in Sheppards Bush, and wherever I could find them!
Proceeding that period, I spent over a decade working at Central Station Records, an iconic import record store in Melbourne. Not sure I can really go past the years spent working there? It definitely enabled me to truly dig deep!
Without a doubt my ‘greatest’ ever influence in finding records, was my then work colleague, turned absolute life time friend, the legend that is, the man himself…..Mr Jim K. In fact Jim deserves a drum roll every time!! He was and still is the absolute ‘biz!!!’
Pre internet days, Jim just had the greatest knack in forecasting, hunting down, and ever so excitedly, presenting you with a pile of the best selection of records!!!!
Addicted to digging wherever there were records to be dug! I have found gems in weird record shacks on the Gold Coast, to gold in the sale bins at Gramophone records/ Chicago.
A highlight digging experience for me, was record shopping in New York City with Danny Krivit, then getting a chance to see ‘some’ of his collection, of which he generously handed me a pile of his many wonderful edits on vinyl to keep. Without a doubt, Danny’s edits are always on point! He has championed as a DJ Master, and is one of absolute legends!
DJs and producers often talk about a number of records that never leave their bag. Do you have any records like this?
I always have a number of records that never leave my bag, however, these records change from month to month. If I mention one, then I’m going to have to mention more, and as you can see, my answers are already getting too long!!!
Is there a record (or records), which you’ve wanted to own but cannot afford or find in print anymore?
Admittedly there are many many many that I want and cannot afford!! In fact, more and more, I will look up something on discogs and it’s like WTF!!!!!!!
When a record costs the same amount as our childrens school fees, then, I just got to draw the line there!!!!
It pains me when I see such prices….but, I just need to ask the universe, and if it’s meant to be, then one day, fingers crossed, I will find it at a better price!!!!!!??????? Uuurgh!! It really can feel like torture though!!
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?
Way back when, record shopping really was a rather solitary process for me. I never liked to be rushed out of there, if I wasn’t done yet?
Although those days of endless hours of rummaging through record bins, seems to have become less and less, and it’s now a case of, I will record shop with whomever, and whichever way I can!!!
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?
It really depends on how the store is structured and what kind of mood I am in at the time. Sometimes I will opt to check out the random unsorted stuff usually stacked below the sorted stuff! Other times I might head to a specific section……it often changes, the method is never really structured!
How big a role does album artwork play in your digging, esp. if you’re not familiar with something you pick up?
Of course if something looks visually interesting it will intrigue me and certainly be cause for a listen. I have even kept records solely because of their artwork, even though the content doesn’t hugely grab me. So, I guess it does play a part to some degree, but essentially it’s about the MUSIC!!!!!!!!!
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.
I recorded this mix at my house, in the ‘record room’. The setup, two turntables and a mixer, and the idea was really to compile a bunch of records that in that moment, I really felt a need to let them come together into one mix!!
We asked you to keep the tracklist secret but are there any standouts from the mix you’d like to shout out?
Credit to, and big shout outs to Scott Grooves, whose music has appeared twice in this mix. One of those, which I think is such a beautiful tune, that many people ask me about when they hear it, is ‘Movin’ On’ featuring Seoulonnie from his Unrelease Anthology EP. That guy just keeps the music releases coming, and everyone should be buying his music, his music is a constant celebration!
You have been DJing for well over two decades, and are now considered a cult hero in your hometown, Melbourne, which 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?
At the moment?…….Hmmm, honestly, my view, is that ‘Melbourne’, throughout my personal career, has always had a healthy scene! The fact I’ve been doing it for so long, really confirms that.
You are closely associated with Crown Ruler, the record store, Dj team and label. Can you tell us a little about how you involved with the, the ethos behind CR and it’s plans for this year?
Crown Ruler has been responsible for many wonderful events in Melbourne, and throughout the Country. Bringing lots of international artists to our shores and equally helping to showcase lots of local artists too, to a variety of audiences. Playing a major role in maintaining our vibrant and healthy scene. I am fortunate enough to be an artist / dj on the Crown Ruler roster.
Last year you worked with STW Favourite Maurice Fulton on your record Wildlife. How did you come together to colloborate?
Maurice and I have been friends for a long time. He lived in Melbourne for a period of time years ago! We played many a gig together, he’s a mentor…& overall by far one of the best people to exist on this planet!!!!! That’s how x
Finally, what are your personal plans for 2017 and beyond?
2017 and beyond, the the plan is to be more creative, focused and full of LOVE.❤️