We make no excuses for our love of Manchester and its thriving dance music culture right now. Its distance from London has protected it somewhere from the media glare but there’s a wealth of activity from DJs, producers, record shops, clubs and promoters, that easily rivals the capital for its quality, while taking itself a touch less seriously. One of its stalwarts is Christian Wood or Il Bosco to his relatives. His Red Laser imprint has provided a platform to Manchester’s unsung producers, while his involvement in Friends & Family, Eyes Down and Hi-Tackle record shop has left an indelible mark on music lovers and dancers in his city. Not content with all that, he’s got the defibrillator ready and is resuscitating hardcore through his superbly named side-project DJ Absolutely Shit.
Accompanied by a vinyl-only mix titled ‘80s new wave and pop that wasn’t’ (mixed while his son stuck SpongeBob on in the same room and refused to leave) we chat to Il Bosco about life as a record collector.
Catch Il Bosco inside Ruffy’s Lab at Gottwood Festival, 7th-10th June.
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?
Well it’s true, my dad and his brothers were DJs in the 70s and 80s. They were called The 3 Gees (Greg, Gary and Glen) (business card attached) and they were the residents at Salford Rugby Club’s variety centre, which was called The Willows. My Dad had a few flight boxes the size of a large table full of 7”s. My Uncle Gaz has thousands! They would play anything that was in the top 40 and would do mobile discos too. I remember as a kid we’d have amps and speakers in the garage along with crazy 80s light boxes and these personalised signs made from florescent plastic tubing. Dad would play mixes he’d recorded from the club on tape in the car. He would be talking over tunes and wishing people happy birthday, announcing requests and telling jokes (he was terrible at telling jokes ha ha).
There was always music I liked on those tapes but the main influence for me was watching Top Of The Pops. It was a family occasion in our house from as early as I can remember. I reckon my earliest memories of TOTP is from about five or six years old (1980). It was tea (dinner to southerns), bath, Top Of The Pops and bed. I’d be mesmorized at bands like The Human League, Eurhythmics., Yazoo, Gary Newman, The Smiths and New Order. They made me fall in love with music. Because my Dad DJd we always had a mint sound system in our gaff and we had a mega DJ console called Discosound in the front room (pic attached). A big bastard thing linked to Peavey speakers. Because i was able feel the music it made its mark.
Also my parents were really young when they had me and very social people so they had parties a lot. It was fukin ace in our house growing up. Eventually me and my mates chose the music and we always had the party buzzing. I was lucky I suppose.
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?
I was in school, bout 14 years old and kids were talking about Acid House and Raves (1988) and this stuff was getting played on late night radio. A friend recorded the 808 State show on Sunset 102FM and Stu Allen on Key 103 in about 1989 the music blew my head off. When I hit 16/17 I got stuck right into the breakhardcore scene. Me and my crew would travel to any raves in the North West we could get too. Even though I bought the records regularly it was when I got into Hip Hop and, most of all the realization that Hip Hop sampled all kinds of music, that I went mental for music discovery. I was on one now ha ha, Jazz, Funk, Soul, Disco, Rock, Boogie, House, Reggae, Dub, Ska anything was game. That’s the beauty of Hip hop culture. It was about rocking a party with records you shouldn’t be rockin a party with. Hip Hop is the gateway to eclectisim. My advice to anyone wanting to explore different genres but don’t know where to start just go and buy all of the most important compilation series ever made. Numbers 1 – 25 of the Ultimate Breaks & Beats series. Cornerstone shit.
Where do you store your records and how do you file them?
Proper collectors will feel waves of anxiety reading the next few sentences ha ha. There all over the fukin house ha ha, the front room and the studio in the cellar. They’re in no order at all! Piles of em out of the sleeves everywhere. My daughter will pull piles out of there slevves and put them in record bags saying “Daddy I’m helping” Well you just knocked 50 quid of that rare as fuck Italo jam but crack on. I don’t see records for years cos they end up churning themselves into damp corners of the house. I’ve always treated records like toys. My special move is NM to G- in under 5 seconds
What are your favourite spots to go digging and why?
Ain’t tellin ha ha. If I’m in any town, village, settlement I’m digging. I’d find records on the fuckin moon mate. Concerto in Amsterdam is good, Wax Well too, Kellys records in Cardiff is great. Groucho in Dundee. King Bee in Manchester, Any 2nd had shops on those super local Charity shops like Wigan Chernobyl Mutant Society or Tamworth Hedgehog Protection, shit like that. The best moments are when you least expect it. A few months back I was in a bar in Chorlton Manchester that had been open a week having a glass of wine. My 2 year old daughter started tugging at my arm sayin “Wecords Daddy”. I got up and followed her to these boxes under the counter that were for sale. First one I picked up was a rare as fuck soul banger on TSR in mint condition. Was TSCRT 5. £100 quid all day. I thought fuckin hell YES! The next record was a double copy ha ha. The record after that was Gold In The Shades Over You. And the rest of the pile was some rare ass street soul and boogie. I fukin legged it to the bank machine ha ha. £5 each the guy said. I got him down to about £3 a record and spent £220 quid so you can imagine how many I got. I kept a bunch of killers and gave the rest to Randy and Ruf Dug at Hitackle to sell. The majority were that good they ended up buying them for themselves ha ha.
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?
Its true that without great people in record shops you would be less inspired. I like a good mix of self-discovery through digging and great advise from record shops. Manchester has had a proper vinyl culture for a long time. Some old school gees still putting you in touch with great new and old music. Russ Marland when he worked at Spin Inn and nowadays in Vinyl Exchange. I never get a shit record of that cat. Mikey Don when he worked at Vinyl Ex always passed me the best records. He’s got impeccable taste and has laods of history being in Krispy 3 who played a huge part in making UK Hip Hop credible. Balearic Mike when he worked there too would pass me fantastic Disco and oddball party trax. And Si G. Loads of Library bangers. Matt Triggs, Martin Brew and Chubby Grooves when I first bought records in Fat City and when I worked there in the late 90s early 00s the shop was split with One Way records in the back and Andy Madhatter and Mike Stevens sold R&B and soul records in there and would put me onto loads of amazing Philly stuff and boogie records. Nowadays I go to Piccadilly Records a lot to see Matt ‘Kickin Pigeon’ Ward and Patrick Ryder and always get hitters, never shitters (Bangers no clangers).
Is there a record (or records), that has continued to be illusive over the years?
YEAH! I still don’t own a copy of the vocal side of Masterplan – Pushin Too Hard. I don’t even care about owning an original. A decent bootleg would do. I’d fukin bootleg it if I could get a copy.
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 love digging with mates and alone. With mates its always the trip. Even if you don’t find anything you have a mega buzz. But if you do find gems and its your mate that hits gold first I’m like going nuts inside with crate envy and even start jumping into their crate ahead of where there digging ha ha. Ask Randy Brunson and sonofapizzman. Im a nightmare for it. I did it in Concerto in Amsterdam and got some bargain bangers he he
Casting the net wider now, who are some of the record collectors you most admire and why?
A read an interview with Andrew Weatherall a few months back. I never really followed what he’s done but I’d seen him DJ a few times and enjoyed it so I read the interview and what he was saying was exactly how I see it all and it made sense that I feel I’m not a collector I just happen to have amassed quite a few records because I find happiness in inspiration and records offer lots of opportunities to be inspired. Not just the music but in the design and the writing too.
And are there any young collectors emerging who we should keep a close eye on?
YEAH! Busby Wood age 9. Its good my son likes records. He’s got a little collection of mega pop albums already including Bruno Mars, Justin Timberlake and Gregory Porter. Got me into some decent new pop records I might have ignored. He’s nicked some of my records too and plays them with his mates in his room on his turntable. They especially like Ultramagnetic MCs and a Jazz funk compilation series called Dealers Choice ha ha
Walking into a record shop can be quite a daunting experience. Do you have a digging process that helps you hone in on what you’re after?
If in doubt always judge a book by its cover. I’ll hit a section and pick nice artwork and listen. I’m lucky cos the shop staff already know me so I get handed great stuff cos they know my taste but if I’m in another city I pick piles of records on gut feel and go the listening deck. If they ain’t got a deck then fuck it I’m off unless there 50p a pop then I’ll spend 20 quid and take a punt. If it aint cheap then you can only buy shit you recognise and I don’t wanna buy records I already have or didn’t bother with the last time I saw it cheaper!
How big a role does album artwork play in your digging?
As you can tell a lot. I’ll buy records cos the artwork is amazing even if the tunes are shite. I remember when Lex records were making amazing covers and I’d buy Boom Bip LPs that were really boring but ace sleeves. LEX put out the Dangermouse LP and twelves too (DM had ace music though). Soon after I was at a party in Manchester (bout 15 years ago) and my Mrs, who was new at the time, introduced me to this lad called Bhatti. We got on really well and later on I found out he was one of the designers for Lex and I was like fukin hell mate your artwork I collect even when the music is shite!! We’ve been mates ever since.
Could you tell us a bit about the mix you’ve done for us?
Ive collected all sorts of stuff over the years. When asked to do a mix of stuff I don’t normally play its refreshing. I love 80’s New Wave. Its that weird mix of experimental Punk, Funk, Indie and Synth Pop that kinda creates a grey area of un-classifiable music. A bit like when people say Rare Groove and it’s a jumble of Boogie, Soul, Latin and Jazz Funk. New Wave suits the industrial backdrop of Manchester and Ive always loved it. It ain’t easy to mix though cos its mainly 7”s and live bands. I started it four times and never got passed record number three. Then, Just after tea the Mrs took our two year old for a bath and I nailed the fucker in one shot in the front room. There was plenty of prep days before it though. A few nights digging in the cellar which was a nightmare. Loads of boxes of 7”s still packed away since I moved here two years ago and at the weekend I went up to Yorkshire where my inlaws live just to get some tracks I knew were at Emma’s (The Mrs) Dads gaff. He’s called Chris Joyce and has been a drummer all his life. He’s played in some seminal bands including The Mothmen, Durrutti Column, Sons Of Arqa and Wah to name a few. He had some rare arse bangers I needed to borrow and he kindly let me take some for the mix.
Any standouts in the mix you’d like to mention?
Yeah theres an amazing dub version of The Mothmen track ‘House And Car’. I think only a few were ever pressed back in the early 80s and Chris let me borrow his copy for the mix.
We hear you recorded this while your son was slamming out Spongebob in the same room. Do you think it’s the time of torturous endurance training that every DJ should be put through?
If you can smash a mix out with Spongebob’s inane cackle bouncing around the room you can mix anywhere, anytime to anyone.
Red Laser put out the monster hardcore anthem from DJ Absolutely Shit this year. Who is he and why does he have such a foul mouth?
Agghh Mr Absolutley Shit. Another one of my monikers im afraid ha ha. A local G called Lucas (big up gee) was debating shit DJ names at the afterparty. Just as he was I danger of becoming boring he spoke the words “DJ Absolutely Shit” and I could hear a lightbulb moment fanfare of heavenly trumpets from above. Genius. I totally nicked it off him that night. We bigged him on on the artwork insert. Had to be done. The EP I’d already made back in 2009. So I released it just to use the name. I didn’t think anyone would buy it ha ha. Perfect timing I suppose
What is it about hardcore that gets you going so much?
Its fukin mint. Hip Hop sped up with electronic noises. Whats not to like. To be honest there was a lot of hardcore records made and only a small percent are timeless bit you can still find forgotten gems. Its special music to me cos its my first love and im happy that 25 years later it still destroys a dancefloor.
Any more releases planned for Red Laser and Full Beam this year?
Yeah its been hard with kids and full time job. This has always been a hobby for me and I love it that way. The problem is the production line moves slow. Sayin that we nearly got Full Beam 2 nailed, There’s another DJ Ab Shit 12 in the pipeline, EP 9 with Starion, me, Kid Machine and this mega Belgian Kid whos been waiting for his track to get released for about a year now, Tommy Walker 3 LP and a few more hopefully
Finally anything else coming up on your horizon that’s getting you excited?
Gottwood Festival. Last year it was fuckin mega. Love International Festival I can’t wait for, Tisno is beautiful and the lineup looks amazing. Full crew out for that too. Red Laser Basement Jam at Partisan Manchester 19th May, Dimensions Festival and the return of Heartbreak doing a live show in Hackney for London’s best Italo night ‘Hypnotic Tango’ in June. Oh and the big one this year Friends & Family in Manchester 14th July. Mad scenes that I tell ya.
Catch Il Bosco inside Ruffy’s Lab at Gottwood Festival, 7th-10th June.