Diggers Directory: a mix series that salutes the diggers, record enthusiasts and music lovers. For more in the series, browse through the archive.
Given the amount of respect Mr Beatnick commands as a DJ and digger, for him to look to Breakplus to occupy both the first two releases on his new Mythstery label, says volumes. The Genevan producer has known Beatnick for over 15 years, and the self-proclaimed musical brothers have worked together on parties and productions – as Thieves of Time. His two releases so far for Mythstery show a deep appreciation for the dance floor potential of non-Western sounds, so we thought he’d be an ideal candidate for a Diggers Directory feature. We drilled about a life with vinyl, which you can read alongside a carefully curated vinyl only 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?
My parents definitely had quite varied musical tastes, which probably helped me stay quite open in terms of what genres I can listen to. I don’t have one pivotal record that changed everything for me, but there’s for sure some artists they listened to that are in my collection today, like Steely Dan, Mike Oldfield, Toure Kunda and Carlos Santana.
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?
It all started for me as it did for many other people: from being into hip-hop culture and music, wanting to become a turntablist, and trying to find the source material used to produce my favourite beats. You have to bear in mind this is pre-CDJs and pre-Serato, so if you wanted to be a deejay there was no other option but to buy vinyl. Then I realised that I often preferred the jazz or soul records that were sampled over the beats that were made out of them, so that opened a whole other crate of worms so to speak.
These days I buy records for the listening pleasure, to play out in clubs or to sample them, so I have enough reasons to keep on digging! It’s a bit of a drug to be honest, there’s always something new (or old) to discover. What keeps me motivated is the mystery, you never quite know what you will find next. As much as I find the Internet has helped a lot, it killed a lot of the mystery which is a bit of a shame. But if you think only 25% of the pre-digital era recorded music has since been digitalised, it gives you an idea of the enormity and vastness of what is still out there, more than enough for a lifetime of surprises, secret breaks, funny sleeves and oddball musical moments.
Where do you store all your records and how do you file them?
I have about half at home and the other half in my music studio. I have all the “contemporary” music at my house and all the vintage stuff in the lab. It’s all split into sections by genres: hip-hop, breakbeat, broken-beat, house, dubstep and bass, jungle, nu-soul and nu-jazz at home. Studio has the good stuff: jazz, soul, funk, disco, psych rock, libraries, afrobeat and highlife, OSTs, Brazilian, Hungarian, Turkish, Polish music etc.
What are your favourite spots to go digging and why?
I do like charity shops. Usually the section isn’t big so you can get through it all quite quickly and there may be some really good surprises. I used to work close to Spitalfields market so going for a spot of digging at lunchtime on record fair day has always been quite cool as well.
But none of that replaces the excitement of digging abroad. I’m not even talking of going to record stores but to people’s homes. I was in Istanbul recently and my connection there brought me to this guy’s house, where I got an insane amount of mega rare Turkish stuff. I spent the whole day drinking tea and sifting through the piles.
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?
Most definitely Mauro Bozzi from Stigmate Records in Geneva. He imparted me with a lot of knowledge, guided me to discover new sounds during my formative years in Switzerland. I think secretly I kinda wanted to be him. I mean, who doesn’t want to make a seemingly really good living out of dealing records?
There’s also this guy Bob Perry from Blue Note Records in Miami, very cool dude as well. He was a good friend of Blowfly (RIP), had the original Blowfly costume in his shop and had plenty of colourful stories to share about him.
DJs and producers often talk about a number of records that never leave their bag. Do you have any records like this?
It all depends what kind of set I’m due to play, but I tend to always have ‘Somebody Else’s Guy’ from Jocelyn Brown in my bag, simply because I reckon you can get any party started with that track alone. I remember that one time this girl came over to the decks as the vocal intro was playing, asking me if I could play something a bit more energetic. As she was done with her request the beat kicked in and the whole room went wild, so I didn’t answer anything, just pointed her to the crowd.
Is there a record (or records), which you’ve wanted to own but cannot afford or find in print anymore?
You should see my wantlist on discogs!!! There’s loads. Off the top of my head, there’s quite a few rare library records (like the Tonio Rubio Rhythms on Tele Music) or soul tracks famously sampled such as ‘As Long As I’ve Got You’ from the Charmels.
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 can be a lot of fun to go with friends, so that we can share knowledge along the way and point each other to records that are a good deal. However, it can also turn into a nightmare if you end both spotting a wanted record at the same time! Mostly these days I go alone but it has been great help to take people like Dj F from Geneva with me, he definitely knows his stuff.
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?
If there’s a ‘New In’ section that’s definitely what I’ll go for first. And then I’ll go to the sections the shop has that I’m interested in, depending on what I fancy at the time, and will go through the whole crate. I would hate to miss out on a find because I skipped a few records.
However I must admit that if the shop is too big it can definitely be quite daunting, especially if abroad and pressed for time, especially if my long-suffering significant other is with me. I definitely get FOMO.
How big a role does album artwork play in your digging, esp. if you’re not familiar with something you pick up?
There’s always a lot of information that can be extracted from the artwork, especially if I’m not familiar with the artist. So I would say it plays a big role. And I don’t necessarily tend to gravitate towards beautiful covers exclusively, an ugly or funny sleeve can hide some pretty serious music. One of my favourite drum breaks is on The Edgar Broughton Band S/T LP. Cover is quite ugly but it was intriguing enough for me to give it a spin, and BOOM! straight up fist pumping break face moment as I put the needle down.
Could you tell us a bit about the mix you’ve made for us?
I recorded the mix at my studio, on my E&S DJR 400 mixer. I try never to put the same track in two different mixes, so to ensure that wouldn’t happen, I just used records I bought recently. I tried to have a good balance of Libraries, Soundtracks, original music and oddities. From obscure stuff to better known guilty pleasures, with a sprinkle of Hip Hop original samples. A little round the world trip as well, from the US to the UK, going via France, Italy, Turkey, Russia and Germany. I set out to present a variety of sounds in there yet still keep a common thread, which would be the breaks or percussions and the sort of “jam session” element. A few of the tracks do away with classic structures and let the musicians simply have fun. I like that and I hope you do too.
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 definitely fell in love with the intro of ‘Imagination Flight’ by the Chaffey College Jazz Ensemble. It is actually quite perfect. And the sound of the recording is amazing too, it has that “is the musician in my living room?” quality to it.
Mr Beatnick launched his Mythstery Records imprint with your debut release this year. How did you first become acquainted with the London producer?
Nick and I go way back! Over 15 years for sure. We got introduced via out common friend, Quarion. We used to be part of the same crew, organising underground parties, and even producing records together under the name of Thieves of Time. He’s really my musical brother in many respects. Even though we don’t have as much time for each other these days, he’s still the first person I think of when I spot an unknown break or dope sample. It is common custom between us to call each other and just start by playing something rather than talk.
Both of your releases so far have taken cues from the East. Was is it about the music from there Asia and the Middle East that appeals so much?
My thing is overwhelmingly black music. And wherever I go around the world, I look for these records that blend American jazz, soul, funk and rock templates with the local traditional and folkloric influences. Both Turkish rock and Indian Bollywood Soundtracks have this mix of eastern scales with funky rhythms that is quite infectious. I want music to make me yell “that’s ridiculous” and Erkin Koray or Kalyanji Anandji definitely do that to me regularly.
Finally, what are your plans for 2017?
I have plenty more music to finish and release. There’s a two track disco single for Mythstery that visits Ghana this time, just to show I’m not strictly limited to eastern sounds! I also have been working with an emcee called 3rd Person, we have an LP to finish with about half of the tracks in the box already. I really rate him and his lyrics, and we have this real collaboration where we can shoot ideas back and forth, he can give his input on the music and I can give mine on his texts and rapping. It’s a bit of a childhood dream, to team up with a rapper and produce a full length album together. Finally, Mr Beatnick and I may revive the Thieves of Time project next year. We already have a lot of finished tracks and some more near completion. So don’t be surprised if we go nuts and actually release a double LP by the end of 2017.