You’ll be hard-pressed to find someone in Melbourne music simultaneously spinning more plates than Simon TK: one third of Wax’o Paradiso (alongside Andy Hart and Edd Fischer) and the ¿Club D’érange? parties, infrequent collaborator with Bronze Savage as Cowboys In Cold Ibiza and even a dabbler in the studio on private edits. That’d be enough for most, but he also set up Skylab Radio in May with Chico G, making regular hosts of just about every DJ and artist on our ever-growing Melbourne Hall of Fame list. Alongside a mix themed around his love for cosmic sounds (including some exclusive personal edits), we grilled Simon about his life as a record collector.
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?
The first two records my mum gave me were Patti Smith’s Horses and Lou Reed’s Transformer. I’ve always loved new wave and post punk and I used to hit up a lot of Melbourne’s punk and hardcore venues. I think whether it’s disco or techno and its derivatives I’ve always erred to the grittier side of things.
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’ve been DJing for about ten years and have been collecting records much longer than that, when we’re all digital they’ll be the only tangible things left.
Where do you store your records and how do you file them?
I don’t keep a huge library of records. I keep some in my home studio and some at Skylab radio. I have one collection at home simply for listening, and one for regular DJ use. I try to keep that collection as tight and concise as possible. I regularly get rid of records to make room for the new, and I don’t use a filing system, I go through everything before a gig. This makes me pick unusual records for the situation I wouldn’t have otherwise chosen.
What are your favourite spots to go digging and why?
I have my favourite spots around the world. Revelation Time in Osaka, Music Mania in Ghent and Licorice Pie in Melbourne. Flea markets are great when you want to canvas a particular scene, I recently dug extensively through the Eastern Bloc and in Tel Aviv. My favourite digging story ever is trawling through a market in Beijing with my mum. She speaks Mandarin and was trying to articulate to stall holders what we were after, electronics, weird, boogie, etc. I ended up with a bunch of stuff, lots of garbage, and a peculiar Russian aerobics record that sounds like Boards of Canada in parts. It’s one of my favourite records.
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’ve already mentioned Music Mania and Revelation Time (out to Eiji!). You’re always meeting characters. There’s a store down the road from my house in Melbourne where the owner will be drinking a VB longneck no matter what time of day you go. The music is nearly always too loud to listen to anything and I never walk away empty-handed.
Is there a record (or records), that has continued to be elusive over the years?
It used to be a record called Skylab by Electronic Butterflies (an alias of Telex’s Dan Lacksman), but I found that years ago. I’m pretty tenacious when it comes to finding my grails.
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?
Normally alone but digging with people on a similar tip can be great.
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?
Always hone in on what the store specialises in.
How big a role does album artwork play in your digging?
A huge role. You can definitely judge a record by its cover. Whether it’s full sleeve artwork or just the typeface used, you can tell so much from typeface.
Could you tell us a bit about the mix you’ve done for us?
It’s loosely based around my love for anything “cosmic” in music. There are many records in there that are special to me, as well as several unreleased and forthcoming edits. I recorded the mix at Skylab in East Brunswick, Melbourne.
Any standouts in the mix you’d like to mention?
An edit I made for the mix especially by Sydney band Dropbears, they’re a real thing.
You’re one wheel in the joyriding Melbourne tricycle that is Wax’o Paradiso. How’s 2018 been for you all together? Any upcoming plans you want to should about?
It’s been absolutely nuts so far. We’ve recently been touring all over Asia, Darwin in far north Australia, Hobart in Tasmania, and we’re now scattered around Europe. We reunite this weekend in Amsterdam for the first of our Europe dates. Apart from that we’ve just wrapped up the winter edition of the Freedom Time festival where we hosted Veronica Vasicka and Dopplereffekt on our stage, and are now planning for the next Melbournian summer.
Credit: Natalie JurrjensYou’re also one third of ¿Club D’érange?, a bit lesser-known to European ears. Could you fill in the uninitiated and less us know what’s in the offing?
¿Club D’érange? is a party I’ve been running for several years now, at the soon-to-close Melbourne institution Hugs&Kisses. I run it with two other DJs, Paul Jager, and Harold, who runs Steeplejack Records. It’s a wild night, you’re likely to see roving performance artists (¿Dance Guides?), live acts playing industrial electro and EBM. The music brief is extremely diverse but it definitely has its own sound, we’ve had opening acts playing exclusively Italian cult horror soundtracks. It gets much heavier later…Hugs is a members only club so the vibe is private, permissive and all-welcoming.
Does your sound, style or approach to DJing differ when you’re on your own in the booth compared to respective collaborative projects?
Yes, it’s completely different. I find the two styles equally enjoyable and entirely incomparable.
Congrats on setting up Skylab Radio in May. We’ll be going deep into the station in the coming weeks, so won’t reveal too much now. How’s the first three months been going though?
The first three months have been fantastic, we’ve barely been able to keep up with how quickly it’s grown. It’s been nice to step outside of DJing briefly to put on a programming/curator hat, and even nicer to get back into the club this summer! Huge shout out to my partner Chico G, and to all that have helped along the way. More on this soon but for now check it at skylab-radio.com.
Cold Ibiza is a term Bronze Savage (aka Nathan Savage) coined referring to Melbournians’ tendency to head to the cold south in Tasmania for a party weekend. We started doing these mixes as an outlet for a very cinematic concept. It was actually supposed to be an unofficial soundtrack to Lee Hazelwood’s Cowboy in Sweden film. Think spaghetti western, acid country, cosmic, wave, chanson, Nick Cave etc. We have a third mix in the pipeline which should surface sometime in the next millennia.
Casting the net wider now, who are some of the record collectors you most admire and why?
I’ve always admired collectors who are resident DJs that inform the sound of the clubs and cities they play in.
And are there any young collectors emerging who we should keep a close eye on?
Pjenne and Millu are two whipper snappers that inspire me more than anyone right now.
Finally, you don’t seem short of things to keep you busy at the moment, but is there anything else on the horizon not mentioned so far that’s getting you excited?
Naturally, we’re releasing our first release on Club D’erange records and it’s absolutely absurd.