Diggers Directory: a mix & interview series that salutes the diggers, record enthusiasts and music lovers. For more in the series, browse through the archive.
Jonny Rock has been a mainstay in London electronic underground music for nearly two decades now, making him perfect for our Diggers Directory Series. As a producer and DJ he has laid down tracks with some of the most respected names in the business such as DJ Fett Burger and Luke Solomon and held residencies capital’s most iconic parties from Classic at The End to Key at Phonica and Herbal. Not to mention being the forefront of the growing interest of Turkish music, by helping to promote producers such as Mehmet Aslan and helping to unearth sublime Turkish Disco Folk from the band 1970’s outfit Arsivplak. We spoke to Mr Rock about the record he adored growing up and his love of Middle Eastern sounds. He has also been kind enough to put together an beautiful all vinyl mix.
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?
There were Baris Manco tapes in the car but I really got into all that many, many moons later. There was always good music in the house though, I’m sure it all helps.
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 a rock n blues man growing up so I had 4-5 LPs including Rush, Van Halen and Robert Johnson, but I guess seeing two records mixed together in London made me get in to it with a different perspective. As you grow older in the way you hear records, this turns into a record with a certain vibe that tickles you in the right places. No genres spared.
Where do you store all your records and how do you file them?
They are all on two walls, four meters high. Current plays are on the lower east side, and archives are at mile high.
What are your favourite spots to go digging and why?
It’s a shame London lost a lot of its great spots. M&V Exchange (and that they were everywhere) was great. Mainly nowadays it’s the unknown record spots when I am abroad excite me. A new way of racking…. things organised, things messy. Last year L.A. was great, we drove every day to dive in with ma bro Dirty Dave who is also a fierce digger.
I like shops that don’t make you feel uncomfortable. I can deal with strange people that work in there but some make you feel bad if u don’t find anything – as if you don’t know what you’re looking for (there is/was a few in London not naming as they also contributed to my growth). I already feel bad that I spent all that time searching and i haven’t found anything….don’t look at me like that dude.. u know?
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?
With the rise of collectors, nothing stays unsung these days. To my favourite turkish digging spots Deform, Zoltans Boutique, Matara Ilgievi, Dip Sahaf in Turkey, where i was not only allowed to dig in peace but also graced with knowledge. People who run things with passion and happy to share information as long as they know you are respecting what they do.
There was also this record dealer who I enjoyed the company of and the records very much. He would buy collections and everything that wasn’t his area of interest he would call me and say hey dude, got some weird shit for you to check. And they would be – weird shit.
DJs and producers often talk about a number of records that never leave their bag. Do you have any records like this?
I used to carry this 7” of the Yakety Yack. You know, the Benny Hill soundtrack – a good version – with the idea that if a fight broke in the club, I could play that loud and sort of soften the scenario. The only time I needed it was in a beach bar in Turkey and unfortunately it wasn’t with me. Then i digitised it and put it in the tampon. Sorry am I ok to mention digital shit here? Uppps I say shit. Can i say shit?
Is there a record (or records), which you’ve wanted to own but cannot afford or find in print anymore?
With expensive records, I’m quite good, as i don’t really want them. If it’s got to be on vinyl, when I play somewhere with turntables, like our night Tunji at Brilliant Corners (plug), I get (dig deep among friends) a digi copy and cut a one off dub plate. The ‘original’ fetish only kicks in if I found a bargain bin. Most of my highs live in the bargain basements.
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?
Depends if you’re tired or well-rested or got time or not. If you’ve got an hour in a place full of gold, there’s no time for chit chat.
When we were in Sao Paolo with my bro Baris K, they took us to this magical record dealer’s house. About five or six diggers in total. I mean these guys had everything you ever wanted and multiple copies. First everyone dug in, getting their piles together, chit chating, stories after stories, and then one-by-one started listening to them. But the amusement of being there and talking about it meant we lost so much time that we could have been listening. It is still one of my memorable digs. I love to go there on my own with a pocket full o dolla and hours to kill.
If the mood is right though any of my digger buddies is good to go with a shovel. Too many to name.
Walking into a record shop can be quite a daunting process. Do you have a digging process that helps you hone in on what you’re after?
It depends on the day, the shop and the time you’ve got there. You just dig in with how you’re feeling that day. If it’s an eclectic shop it’s different than a dance shop. I try to do genres at a time, so if i don’t like it I can (first ask the shop) put it back in the section to help out. (I spent few years filing records back in the shelves in record stores/warehouse i worked at)
How big a role does album artwork play in your digging, esp. if you’re not familiar with something you pick up?
If you spent time digging for years, you do develop certain criteria for the records that you cannot listen to. A criteria that makes you buy a record not knowing what it is, but there is the calling, you know? You’ve just got to have it. This criteria is different from digger to digger.
With labels such as Habibi Funk, Hamam House an Disco Halal, and producers like Red Axes and Mehmet Aslan, there seems to be a growing interest in Middle Eastern music, both new and old amongst the dance community. As someone who is at the forefront of this movement – Phonica Records – Turkish Connection – can you tell us a little about it and your role within it?
I think there is interest in world music in general with the rise of online diggin and sharing of music. Middle Eastern jams are just part of this. I am a big fan of Middle Eastern melodies with a modern twist. I find it exciting to drop one or two jams in a session as a surprise effect, rather than play it all night. My bros Mehmet Aslan and Baris K however does this very well. They’ve both been producing amazing electronic music with the Middle Eastern vibes and I have been lucky enough to put out records by them.
But there are many more dudes doing great music. You’ll soon be (if not already had) be hearing stuff coming from my channels by artists like Kaan (Foc edits), Fattish and Ozer. Keep your ear out!
Also, I was lucky enough to buy a lot of originals in the second part of 2000’s when it was available and not that expensive, and now still collect the odd ones. It’s very interesting to hear reworks of the originals these days to suit a club atmosphere. Amazing in fact especially when done well.
You also recently helped to compile Moog edits by 1970’s Turkish band ARŞIVPLAK. How did you become involved with the project?
It’s my friend Volga who also is a great record dealer who did the edits. Arsivplak is the name of the label, that also put out legit reissue of the Senay LP. I just distributed the titles.
You are Djing as part of our very own Infusions series. What can we expect from a typical Jonny Rock set?
Rockstar entertainment. Looking forward to this for sure.
Finally, what are your plans for the rest of 2016, and beyond?
More production, studio time, playing guitar and trying to get a live ting going. Fucking off from London, moving to LA or somewhere lese. Summer time now though, so got quite a few festivities that I’m happy to be involved with that I’m gonna rock, as my name says on the can!