Diggers Directory: a new mix & interview series that salutes the diggers, record enthusiasts and music lovers. For more in the series, browse through the archive.
Brian Not Brian, real name Brian Morrison, is exactly the sort of selector we wanted to track down when we started the Diggers Directory series. A complete vinyl enthusiast since finding an escape through music as an outsider growing up in troubled Belfast; his open minded approach and deep musical knowledge has seen him win admirers from the legendary Sex Tags Mania crew, who Brian regularly DJ’s with. Not to mention his role founding one of the most interesting labels of recent years, Going Good, which has seen releases from the likes of Moon B, Cloudface and Ewan Jansen.
Possibly the most emotional Diggers Directory yet, we spoke to Brian about his deep appreciation of vinyl, his ever-lasting quest in unearthing sounds and the plans for Going Good in 2016. He’s also put together a 100% vinyl two hour music to listen alongside which showcases the full range of Brian’s rich and diverse musical personality.
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?
Yes, I’ve heard other people mention that their parents or family record collection informed their tastes. This wasn’t exactly the case with me initially. For me, the first thing I was really into was making tapes. Recording 1 In The jungle, Westwood, Essential Mixes etc every weekend and spending a fortune on C-120s! Strangely I’d say us having an early version of Sky TV in the early 90s played a big part in my musical taste-shaping too – I’d obsessively VHS tape YO!, MTV Raps, The Dance Zone, The Chillout Show and loads of other things, making video compilations of what I liked and then dubbing them onto cassettes using a small mic on my ghetto-blaster that I’d been given for Xmas. It’s weird, because both my parents and my older sister were really into dance music and club culture, my parents were really into going clubbing (seriously), they were good friends with and hung out with a lot of DJs at parties, radio stations and various other places around Belfast and Northern Ireland. My sister was clubbing a lot, going to Cream in Liverpool some weekends and big outdoor raves around the country that were happening. I was exposed to dance music very early on. There were records of that type in the house that you’d think might have had some sort of impact on me, but it just wasn’t the case. I liked those records, but I was utterly obsessed with hip-hop and jungle at that time. House and techno came along in a massive way for me a couple of years later.
In terms of a pivotal song or track I’ll always remember my mum and dad playing me – ‘The wind Cries Mary’ by Hendrix. We went on a road-trip in Southern Ireland once and I think we only had this one Hendrix tape and a Sasha mix or something that my dad had so I heard that track a lot. Also my aunt is called Mary so my mum always used to joke that it was about her. I remember that fondly. I also remember my dad hammering the 45 of ‘Monkey Spanner’ by Dave and Ansel Collins in between his progressive house mixtapes a lot too growing up.
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?
At the beginning it was definitely the people I encountered that sparked my interest. I have to admit, the first few people I met who were seriously into music and records were complete outsiders; proper odd people that looking back now, and maybe they had some family and social issues, or deep seated emotional problems. I can’t really remember how I met these guys, but there was a sort of weird network of outsiders in my hometown of Antrim just outside Belfast. Pretty dysfunctional people but in the best possible ways: punks, rockers, BMX kids, skaters, stoners, graffiti writers, goths and any other marginal, subcultural group you’d care to mention. I was this staunch hip-hop / junglist kid who somehow got introduced to this assortment of people and pretty much ended up spending all my free time with them. We were all against the violence that was going on outside our front door and we didn’t care about each other’s religious or class backgrounds.
We’d congregate at this railway bridge in a park near the centre, people would make mixtapes and I’d get exposed to everything from Mantronix, Joey Beltram & The Cure to Deep Forest or Tangerine Dream in one evening. I guess that was the beauty of having such a varied group of people: you’d get a full spectrum of exciting musics. Plus, due to the fact that we didn’t really fit in, I felt we had a sort of unity, an affinity with each other and that helped solidify the bond we were already experiencing through sharing music and experimenting with various mind altering substances.
After a little while I started visiting some of my new friends’ houses and saw that they were compiling these tapes that had soundtracked the various expansions of my teenage mind straight from the actual records. That blew me away. I’d never really thought about where the music came from! I started buying my own records and it didn’t stop, I then started to bring my own compilations down to the group each weekend; my selections. By this stage I had acquired a set of belt drives and a two channel mixer so I was set. For me, the initial allure of records was that there was virtually NOBODY in my class at school or on my estate who was into it. It felt sort of clandestine, special, mine.
Also music really kept me off the streets, where I grew up in Northern Ireland in those days there was a lot of savage random violence going on, literally streets away from you or on your doorstep! You could easily be picked up off the street and badly maimed or murdered for no reason at all during the heights of the troubles. Me and a small handful of mates got lost in our own world. We smoked a truckload of dope, bought turntables and explored whatever music we could find on our own terms; genre didn’t matter really. I guess what keeps me going these days is that “what the fuck is this?!” factor, when you hear something so unlike anything that’s ever graced your ears. You just have to know more, you’re fascinated, intrigued. I still hear stuff today that just makes me go “WOAH, I need that”. It’s the unknown, music is never ending, you’ll always find something interesting. It’s the gift that keeps giving I think. A beautiful thing.
Where do you store all your records and how do you file them?
All my records are, and always have been, here with me at GGHQ in South London. The stash has fluctuated a lot over the years in terms of quantity (and quality!), but right now it’s just about manageable. In terms of filing, I used to be majorly OCD about it but that’s gone out the window a bit lately as I’ve been DJ-ing quite a lot and travelling and have just been pulling stuff out left, right and centre for various gigs. Then when I come home I can’t be arsed to refile it all and it just gets outta hand. So currently the filing system that exists is – 12”s / LPss. That’s it! Makes it fun searching for things, also I end up coming across stuff where I’m like “when the fuck did I get that?!” and I discover things in my own collection, that’s also really cool. But yeah, I am going to have to face it and re-organise at some stage!
What are your favourite spots to go digging and why?
I still really love physically going out and digging, walking the streets, hitting odd neighbourhoods or cities and charity shops etc in order to find records. Just generally putting some time and effort into what you’re doing I guess. As far as good record stores go in London? I think there’s loads of good spots, Reckless in Soho is a firm favourite, they get good records and the staff there are great. I really like The Little Record Shop in Crouch End, you gotta get involved in the stacks but Dave who runs it has some great stock and he’s super friendly. Also the Record And Book Bar in West Norwood has some killer bits. Michael the proprietor there is very knowledgable and easy going. Then you got your London mainstays – MVE, Flashback, Rat and Co, always find something in them too. There’s spots I go to on the down-low too but I won’t tell where they are here.
If I’m overseas I’ll go into any place I see that has records, but I have been a bit spoiled as usually the people who bring you out to somewhere to play will inevitably take you to the best places to dig, which is also a very nice luxury indeed. As well as physically going out looking for records I buy quite a bit on Discogs and eBay too. They’re my last chance saloons, I’ll hold out and if i can’t find something after a few weeks and pull the trigger (I can be an impatient bugger sometimes!). But, like I say, it’s the last resort, get up and get out! Go look, you might be surprised what you can find out there.
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?
There’s absolutely tons of people I could talk about! But the person who introduced me to this whole thing on a serious level really was a guy from Springfarm Estate in Antrim called Rab. He had one of the biggest collections I’ve ever seen and placed the notion of enjoying all genres equally in my mind. He collected industrial, pop, jazz, soul, reggae, techno, hardcore, rock, death metal, classical and anything else that turned him on. I really liked that. He was an ‘equal opportunities’ listener, just a thorough head who soaked everything up. He saw value in a lot of things that others would overlook because of trend or hype.
Another person who had an impact was the Belfast City Breakers John a.k.a Sconey. He was not only an incredible breaker but he was super heavy on the original breaks and samples, the first person I ever saw cutting up Bob James’s ‘Mardi Gras’ and other such classics in his mum’s attic on the Antrim Road. He had TONS of records way back, he was a killer DJ too, pure B-boy style but with a very Belfast twist.
I was also extremely spoiled in that I had a large circle of friends in Belfast who were all DJs and had very different tastes. When I think back to what they were playing back then I realise I was lucky to be exposed to so much quality music all the time – great days. And the too-many-to-mention house parties and club nights were legendary too!). In London, I’d say some of the people I’ve spent inordinate amounts of time in record stores with are people like my old mate Jeremy Spellacey. He was my record spar and he now lives in Melbourne and is involved in the Crown Ruler website dealing in ultra rare Afro / Caribbean music. We did a lot together years ago before he moved. I would also dig a lot with James T, he was a familiar face on both sides of record counters in London for many years. A man with very specific tastes but unlimited knowledge who wasn’t afraid to hand you a killer record and say “here, take this….”.
These days I dig with a small nucleus of people like Jack Time Is Away occasionally, DJ Sotofett, Fettburger, Kenny Wisdom, The Maghreban, Danny Bushes, Kenny White, Gatto Fritto and a few others. However, I would like to give an extra special shout out to DJ Spence, from Parkhall estate – he was the first DJ I ever saw blend two records together at the local youth club roller disco in the late 80s. Mind blowing for me as a youngster (and yes, I was a pretty good roller skater back then too!).
DJs and producers often talk about a number of records that never leave their bag. Do you have any records like this?
Yeah, everyone has their own weapons. I try to play a lot of different styles so my selections might be a bit all over the place but some that spring to mind from recent gigs are: The amazing Wolf Muller remix of Tolouse Low Trax’s ‘Jeidem Fall’ which i’ve been hammering since it came out, that Alma Negra 12″ on Soundway / Sofrito is amazing, DJ Harvey’s remix of Doc Severinson hasn’t left my bag for months, I’ve been obsessively playing a few unreleased Bluntman Deejay edits as well, one of which is incoming on 12″ on Mood Hut – look out for that! Also I’ve been rinsing the MAW dub of Shanice since Jonny Rock blessed me with a copy, that one does some damage! I play tons of Disco stuff too, things like Mouzon’s Electric Band, Hott City, Yello, Mass Production.. the list is endless!
Is there a record (or records), which you’ve wanted to own but cannot afford or find in print anymore?
There’s blatantly a few. Thing is, I’m not focussed strictly on rare records, there’s so many cheap things I’ve picked up that I have gotten so much pleasure out of that I end up playing them more than anything else. Saying that though, I wouldn’t say no to a nice, clean copy of Ashford & Simpson’s ‘One More Try’ on promo 12”, or Aleke Kanou’s Aleke LP or, if anyone wants to buy me a nice mint copy of Angelo & Eighteen’s ‘Flight 2’ 45, I’d be eternally grateful! I think right now though, we’re a bit spoilt with lots of incredible stuff that you’d never ever get your hands on being reissued and being made available. There’s tons of killer labels who’re really pushing it and digging hard to bring everyone the most ridiculous, top level, pant wettingly good obscure music that it’ll only be a matter of time before all the big hitters on all our secret lists will be easy enough to get. But saying that, and referring back to what I said earlier, this is never ending man, it’s a bottomless pit… the music is infinite!!
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?
It depends on my mood on the day. As I mentioned previously, I’ve pounded the streets of many cities around the world with various motley crews of people, but sometimes just being on your own can be the best. There’s no pressures, no-one beating you to the punch. It’s nice to be the only person in a store sometimes. Especially if you go super early, you feel like you have the run of the place and sometimes everything’s aligned just right and you come up on some gems. I like those situations. There’s nothing worse than your pals bringing along a bunch of other people and you’re going into record shops mob handed. I think 2 – 3 people max is best, for me anyway. Less competition on the day!
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?
If only I did have some sort of well thought out process! I literally just try to do every single section I can, depending on time. I will usually hit the Soul/Disco 12” section first, or the dance 12”s, then all the other sections. It really does change every time. Again, this is all dependent on mood I think. Some days are LP days, some days are 12” days, some days I only want 45s, but usually, most days I want it all at the same time. I’ll even look at tapes, CDs or whatever there is in the store. I don’t discriminate, if it’s interesting looking or it’s speaking to me on some level I’ll most likely buy it to see what it’s about.
How big a role does album artwork play in your digging, esp. if you’re not familiar with something you pick up?
I’ve learnt that some of the best looking records are utter shite and that some of the worst looking records are straight killers. While this isn’t always the case we’ve all bought stuff that looks amazing thinking “yeah, what’s this then?” only to find it’s horrific and vice versa. Sometimes the artwork is super on point and representative of how the music sounds but it can swing both ways. I tend to look at labels, producers, musicians, country of origin, instruments played, year, engineers, producers and all the little details that might give an inkling as to what’s contained within the grooves. Sometimes you hit it, sometimes you lose out. Can’t win ‘em all eh? In terms of importance I’m not too fussy about artwork really, though I have to admit some people out there today doing reissues etc really need to sort it out on the aesthetics front. I’m a firm believer in the reissue looking like the OG or close enough to it, not sure why but when folks start “remixing” the artwork it really bothers me. Ah, life’s too short, eh? 😉
Your label Going Good has released music from a diverse range of artists from LA’s Moon B, Vancouver’s Cloudface and Japan’s Yoshinori Hayashi. Is there a specific sound which you wanted to push forward when you started the label? Are there any releases which we can look forward to in 2016?
Well, so far this year we’ve put out what I think is one of our strongest records to date (Ewan Jansen’s Lost Embers EP). To have the inside track on a dude like Ewan’s DATs etc is a huge honour and we felt so strongly about the record that we’re super proud that it was so well received. That was an amazing experience. Next up we have the Mystic Jungle Tribe’s Live In Naples record, those guys are ridiculously good (and very heavy diggers, you should get them to do one of these features!). We’re very honoured that they chose us to share their music with and we can’t wait to get that one out. It’s currently going to master and should be out soon once we get past the whole frustrating RSD/pressing plant hangover. With Going Good the only specific thing we try to push from day one is music that both myself and Sal (my partner in the label) feel 100%. Style or genre is not important, as long as it’s moving us in some way we feel confident to put the stuff out. That’s the key.
You regularly spin records with DJ Sotofett, DJ Fett Burger and the extended Sex Tags Mania family how did this musical relationship between you and the Nordic brothers blossom?
Sex Tags are like true family to us now. Beyond the obvious tag team DJ sets and music, we’ve shared real life experiences with those guys. Yes of course all of these things are rooted in music initially, but I think we’ve all become close friends for life. We’ve stayed with each other at our homes, we’ve shared incredible things together and there’s a mutual respect for each other as human beings as deep down we’re all on the same wavelength and see the world in a similar way.
I suppose the friendship was born out of me being the first UK promoter to bring Sotofett to England early on for the first Going Good party. We hung out for a week, ate together, went digging, walked the entire length of London everyday, socialised and just clicked. From that point onwards, along with some trips out to Moss in Norway and Berlin I gradually got introduced to the whole Sex Tags constellation, a unique group of individuals who have all become good friends of mine (and Sal’s). I just recently did a two week trip in Australia with them and it was pretty much a life affirming experience. Glad I got to share it with them. Love those guys.
Thanks for recording this mix for us. Where and how did you record it and what was the idea behind it?
The mix was recorded here at GGHQ in Brixton, my base of operations for the last 15+ years. It was recorded using two turntables, a mixer, isolator, faulty interface and Garage band in one, live take after a particularly psychedelic and thoroughly pleasurable weekend. The idea behind it was to showcase some lesser known music that transcends dull genre boundaries that I really enjoy. I wouldn’t say it’s 100% indicative of what I would play in a club situation but it certainly leans towards that around the end of the mix. It’s not all rare stuff, just overlooked stuff perhaps, but most importantly it’s all stuff that I enjoy. I hope everyone else who listens likes it as I really enjoyed making it on this dreary Monday afternoon. There’s a few bumps, clicks and hisses here and there but that all comes with the territory I guess.
We asked you to keep the tracklist secret (to get listeners to dig deep for their IDs!) but are there any standouts from the mix you’d like to shout out?
I love all the tracks on here but in terms of standouts, one for me on the mix would be Chantal Curtis’ ‘I’m Burning’, often overlooked for the flip side (‘Get Another Love’). I love that, so slow, spacey and sleazy, perfect when that nagging synth line kicks in. Also, I’m really into Sylive Fosters ‘Hooky’ towards the end of the mix: a cosmic classic that I don’t think I’ve put on a mix before. What the hell is he talking about?! Classic nonsensical Euro disco lyrics. Answers on a postcard please!
Finally, what are your plans for the rest of the year and beyond?
Mainly DJing and putting records out. That’s what I’m focussing on. I have quite a few club dates and festivals coming up in the UK and Europe, I’m hoping some more further afield DJ bookings will come through as that Australia trip we did is still fresh in my mind and to think that I made it to the other side of the planet through playing records just messes me up if I stop and dwell on it. It’s an incredible feeling and I feel super lucky to have experienced that. But generally I’ll be pushing on with Going Good. I also have a new undercover project with The Maghreban underway, we’re about to start working on the second release for that too. I’m also starting to get the feeling that I may want to venture into the studio and make some tracks myself, but that’s a pretty scary proposition for me, I have literally zero technical knowhow and I’m the least patient person ever so let’s see how that pans out!!! Wish me luck.
Diggers Directory visual concept designed by Emily Dann. Credit to Merve Kurtoglu for the photo provided.