Diggers Directory: Jon Sable

At the beginning of last year – over a few dozen cheese burgers – we got to know a bit more about Chaos In The CBD and Jon Sable, the minds behind London-based label In Dust We Trust. An outlet for their own productions, the trio are now five releases strong and have established themselves as purveyors of deep and soulful sounds. During our conversation with the guys, Sable recounted their early days of discovering music via trading their iTunes library, a passion that has remained but the method has evolved. Although vinyl culture wasn’t huge in Auckland where he grew up, his relationship with vinyl deepened after spending time working at Turntable Lab while living in New York.

In this interview we explore this passion further and chat about what’s coming up on the label, sharing music with his 90 year old Granddad, and his belief that, if you are interested in music, you should be able to spot the merit in everything regardless of genre. It’s accompanied by a vinyl-only mix, titled ‘Elevation Time’ that pulls together music from the countries Jon has spent time in and connected with on his travels. 

DJs and producers often mention that their musical education came through their family’s record collection. Was this the case for you?
I come from a family of music appreciators. My father and grandfather being especially big fans. While I wouldn’t necessarily say that my taste comes directly from them, I inherited their love for finding and collecting music. Both my father and grandfather have dedicated music listening rooms with decent hi-fi set ups. Even as a 90 year old (happy birthday Jack if you are reading) he still is interested in discovering new music and will bring his iPod Nano over for me to load up with my latest finds and stuff I’ve been making.
Can you pick out any pivotal records from your upbringing that informed your musical journey?
Records from their collections that had an effect on me at a young age were my dad’s copy of ‘Closing Time’ by Tom Waits, my mum’s copy of ‘Bleach’ by Nirvana and my grandfather’s copy of ‘White Light/White Heat’ by The Velvet Underground. I was also heavily influenced by the music on skate videos, each skater would pick the music for their part and this lead to me falling in love with artists like The Misfits and Roots Manuva in my early teens.
People buy records for multiple reasons. What first drew you to collecting records and what motivates you to continue digging after all these years?
I’ve always enjoyed a wide range of music. I’ve always stood by my belief that if you are interested in music, you should be able to spot the merit in everything regardless of genre or trend. I think that this mentality keeps me hungry to continue finding new and exciting music. I also really enjoy finding music on my own time, coming across a record that I really enjoy in a store just seems to hold more value to me than a Spotify recommendation.
Where do you store your records and how do you file them?
I’m definitely not strict about categorising my music. I keep the records that are in heavy rotation (sorry) under the tables but have stores above my wardrobe and under the stairs. I keep them in pretty loose sections more focused on the energy of the music rather than genre. An added benefit of being this lazy is that I get a kick out of looking through all the records I have bought over the years when I’m searching for something.
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?
From 2012 to 2014 my partner and I were based in Brooklyn. I worked full time at Turntable Lab selling records and DJ/production equipment. Definitely a few unsung heroes there; Mennlay Golokeh Aggrey – a great DJ who has just released a book entitled ‘Art of Weed Butter’, DJ IXL – an old school turntablist and graffiti writer and Gareth Smyth aka Lumigraph – who makes some killer gritty techno influenced stuff. But most of all, the person who I share most music with is my partner Grace. She has the same love for listening as me and is constantly introducing me to new music. She doesn’t DJ but if she did we would all be out of work.
What are your favourite spots to go digging and why?
My local record store is Flashback records in London, a decent sized second hand store which I visit every other week and stay up to date with. I really enjoy Reckless Records in Soho for the same reason. The legendary A1 Records and Human Head were my favourites in NYC, the musical history of New York really is reflected in the records on their shelves. Revelation Time in Osaka and Disc Union in Tokyo were my favourites on a recent Japan trip, the diversity of the music in these stores and the care to which they are kept is second to none. I also really enjoy Heartbeat in Paris, this store only sells original pressings and the selection is so well curated it blew my mind!
Do you prefer record shopping as a solitary process or with friends to nerd out with and search or strange sounds together? If the latter, who do you like to go digging with?
I love going with my close friends but when I’m in the store I keep the chat to a minimum. I’m kinda conscious of being the loud over-sharer clogging up the listening station. The little wind down show and tell session at the pub after is nice though.
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?
It depends on the shop I’m in and where I am. Certain shops will specialise in certain styles and different countries will have different local offerings. Most of the time I will look through the second hand sections first.
How big a role does album artwork play in your digging?
An interesting cover or centre sticker will definitely have an influence on whether I pick a record out to check. Some of my favourite records in my collection I have picked out just because I liked the look of the cover and then connected with the music after. The artwork will definitely help to frame the music it accompanies. It’s also fun to pick up on certain trends within genres that change over time, like the current ‘printed and scanned’ Sex Tags look and the super close up portrait styles of soul and funk records of the eighties.
Could you tell us a bit about the mix you’ve done for us?
I recorded this mix on the home set up in the apartment I share with my partner in London. It’s a small, cosy spot and I like to think that atmosphere comes across in the vibe of the mix. I’ve started off slow with a recent favourite of mine by Alex Zhang Hungtai and build up the energy with a lot of tracks featuring natural percussion then ending on the grittier end of the spectrum.
Any standouts in the mix you’d like to mention?
I particularly like the Jwif Ginen version of Jephteì Guillaume’s The Prayer. It’s may not be the rarest record of all time but it definitely hits me hard!
Casting the net wider now, who are some of the record collectors you most admire and why?
I definitely look up to Danny Krivit. He has such a wide knowledge of music and has been in the game forever. I had the pleasure of getting to know him and a few of his pals while working at TTL. It was a nice scene when they would come in to the store and chat endlessly about music. It was really inspiring to see a group of friends still enjoying digging for music together after many years. I remember when ‘Disco Illusion’ by Stephen Encinas was repressed and all six of them bought a copy and reminisce about the first time they heard it.

Last year you launched In Dust We Trust, a label you run with friends Louis and Beans aka Chaos In The CBD. What prompted you guys to start it and what’s the philosophy behind it? 

Louis, Beans and I are all from New Zealand and have been close friends since high school. We were all sort of the odd ones out in our existing friend groups which we broke out of and connected with each other through sharing music. When the teenage band that Beans and Louis were in broke up, Beans started to experiment with electronic music on his computer. This sparked all of our interest and after a few sessions together I started to pick it up. Even back in those days we had been talking about starting a label once we felt we were ready. Now 8 or 9 years later things have started to line up.

While it isn’t something that we discuss too often, I would say that the philosophy behind our label is an attempt to showcase our music, while capturing energy of our young naive selves and the excitement we had, and still have, creating music together.

What’s coming up for the label?

So far this year we have put out two records, one from me and another from the Chaos brothers. We did our first label showcase at Concrete in Paris and threw our first label party in London. Coming up on the label you can expect two more EP’s by the end of the year, one has just gone off to mastering and is already sounding great! Look out for more showcases, parties and merchandise.

What’s on the horizon for you in terms of releases and gigs? Anything we should know about?

I’ve really been on a collaboration kick recently and have enjoyed making music with friends. Expect more of that most likely in the form of an EP as well as some solo stuff by the end of the year. Other than the normal DJ gigs our label parties will launch early next year.

Tracklist

Alex Zhang Hungtai – Pacific Ocean
DJ Sprinkles – Grand Central, Pt. II (72 Hrs. by Rail from Missouri)
Are, Be – The Sound Of The Memory Of Many Living People
Fred P – Leaving You Behind
Vangelis Katsoulis – Improvisation
S.A.M – Mirror
Wally Badarou & Anthony ‘Reebop’ Kwaku Bah – Theme From Countryman
Jephteì Guillaume – The Prayer (Priyeì-a) (Jwif Ginen)
Aleqs Notal – The Search (Obsession for Percussion Mix)
Ola Jagun and his Ancestral Rhythms – Odo Oya
Ten City – My Piece of Heaven (Joe Claussel Mix)
Kyoto Koizumi – When Will I See You Again (Massive Sounds Club Mix)
Ron Trent – Message To The World
DJ Duke – Tribal Journey (The Sun Mix)
Instant House – Awade (Joe’s Jungle Dub)
Kamau Baaqi – 290518
Chaos in the CBD – Drum Therapy

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