Diggers Directory: Jamie Tiller

Jamie Tiller DD

Diggers Directory: a mix series that salutes the diggers, record enthusiasts and music lovers. For more in the series, browse through the archive.

As one third of the one of most consistent and brilliant labels around (Music from Memory and it’s sister label Second Circle) and heavily involved in what many regard to be one of the best record stores in the world (Amsterdam’s Red Light Records), it’s no exaggeration to say Jamie Tiller is one of the most exciting new voices in Amsterdam’s ever bustling music scene. We spoke to the London born selector about the records he adored as a kid, his difficulties with elitist vinyl culture and how he and the fellow MFM crew stumbled upon the previously unknown talents of Gigi Masin, Roberto Musci, Suso Saiz and Dip in the Pool. He’s also carefully curated a 75 minute vinyl only mix to accompany.

Jamie Tiller plays our next Infusions party alongside John Goméz, focussing on Brazil. 24th Feb and The Colombian, London – for more details head to FB or RAWe’ll also be hosting Gaussian Curve’s London debut, live at The Yard on 19th February – grab tickets here. For Summer activities, catch Jamie at Selectors in Croatia. 

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 didn’t have loads of records but they definitely had some good ones, I guess we had the usual stuff like Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Roxy Music. Later my parents had been given some LPs by a friend, like Gang Of Four, The Specials, The Clash, Ian Dury, New Order. I’m not sure how much my parents ever listened to those ones but my Dad was definitely fond of the Ian Dury records. We also had some nice pop records at home too like Sade or Tracey Chapman, which I remember us all singing along to sometimes. My older brother was into records too and I remember getting into his Pixies and Dead Kennedy records a lot in particular. Then later he got into house and dance music. I remember being really into his Orb and Orbital records especially. I guess this all informed my pretty eclectic taste haha.

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 don’t really think of myself as a collector to be honest. I got into records as a way to discover new music. I got into buying records locally – my earliest record buying memory was buying The Charlatans – The Only One I know on 7”, a UK hip hop 7” and a 12” on Shut Up and Dance (the Ragga Twins) from a store called Musictown near where I grew up. I had a few friends at school and we were really into hip-hop and I remember buying records by groups like The Pharcyde, Black Moon and Gang Starr. I guess looking back golden era hip-hop type stuff. Then it was all about discovering UK music; getting into jungle and DnB and sneaking under age into raves, going to Wax City in Croydon or Black Market in Soho to hear all the latest releases. But back then I never bought that much, it was mostly just a great time to go and listen and hear all the latest releases. I discovered house music through a tape by LTJ Bukem and that took me somewhere else. Later I spent quite a bit of time at a local store called Vinyl Resting Place, a store run by an ex- Disco DJ so that was a great way of discovering a lot of US and UK Disco music.

Of course I dig the physicality of records in some ways; the sleeves, the history.. especially ones that have a bit of a story with; names like ‘Tina, 21-01-80’ written on a label or stickers from old Discotheques or drunk messages scribbled to an old girlfriend on a sleeve. But I’m definitely no hoarder or feel the need to show off because of what records I might own or not own. And the idea of too many records kind of scares me tbh, like a huge weight around your neck. Quality over quantity I guess. I’ve definitely regretted letting one or two records go but for the most part there are some serious lifetime keepers and then maybe just some records that seem to run their course sometimes. Those tend to be more the DJ records though. Sometimes a cool track is just a cool track and I lose interest quickly.. a few I can for sure imagine grabbing from a burning house though.

The motivation is to discover music in my own way and I guess I like to be in my own world a little with that or at least the feeling of discovering music for myself or amongst friends is a big part of what keeps me interested.

Where do you store all your records and how do you file them?

My records have been known to be scattered around different cities around Europe haha. But they’re mostly all at home with me in Berlin now which is good. I try file by genre so I can find them easier but I also have, or maybe more to the point drawn to, lots of oddball genre bending records that don’t easily find a home.. which is definitely an excuse for not sorting them properly and it does get a little messy sometimes.

What are your favourite spots to go digging and why?

New cities, small towns, record fairs, obviously getting into a record storage facility or a warehouse would be the most exciting and rewarding for anyone I guess. DJing has become a great way to dig in cities you’d otherwise maybe never have been able to dig in. The big European cities are getting harder and harder though – the Internet changed a lot. Digging became a full time profession for some people – so it’s also being able to stay one step ahead of the sharks; finding and hearing something they might not hear. Today’s ‘holy grails’ are yesterday’s euro bin records I guess. Digging has taken me to so many places I would surely have never gone to, strange German towns in the middle of nowhere with one record store which has probably had the same stock for the last 25 years or working through piles of records in a lock up in a flea market in Kiev in sub zero temperatures. That was part of the fun of doing graffiti for me, going places you’d never go to otherwise.. but hey that’s a story for another time haha

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?

Someone I really admire as a digger was Petros Malevris – a collector and record dealer from Athens who sadly passed away a few years back. I never met him personally unfortunately but I bought a couple of records from him on eBay around 2006 and was about to trade some Japanese records I had picked up doubles of in Japan a year later for some great Greek records he had. Through close friends of his I learnt about the records he had discovered and had in his collection and this guy’s ears were golden, he was years ahead of the curve on so much music and so many records. Not a big collection but so many special records.

There are so many great diggers not shouting from the rooftops about what records they do or don’t find or have and I actually admire those people the most, people just digging amazing music without feeling the need to show off about it. These are the unsung heroes I admire the most, people digging like crazy finding amazing records just for the love of music not Instagram likes. I always admire people most who are quietly doing their own thing.

DJs and producers often talk about a number of records that never leave their bag. Do you have any records like this?

I go through phases of bringing certain records if not always playing them. Some records you’re just kind of willing it to happen that one special time and sometimes the moment feels right and sometimes it just never comes haha. Some records work every time but you also don’t want to get tired of playing those.

Is there a record (or records), which you’ve wanted to own but cannot afford or find in print anymore?

Sure – I’ve definitely found a few special records I thought I’d never own – but others I’ve almost kind of given up on and lost interest in – so these come and go. Of course at the end of the day it’s about finding and enjoying amazing music but I think myself and my circle of friends have always been searching for music we didn’t know rather than a record some DJ played it or because it was rare/hyped. Searching for records people don’t know yet has been a great way to get some very special records without having to pay through the nose later. This leads you to develop much more of a personal collection of music and to find records you didn’t even know you were looking for.. which is always way more interesting. To me nothing beats searching for records in the wild over just hitting ‘buy’ on some web page.

The internet has been amazing for discovering music that might otherwise never have been heard. It’s a strange time though for records where things are going quite crazy online, almost out of hand I’d say; prices have gone through the roof lately and it makes me lose interest more and more in certain records or types of music due to this kind of hype for often quite average records. I actually became quite allergic to that whole scene of people frantically clambering for the same records. People who spend all day on Discogs tracking IDs and buying everything they want just because some DJ played it once or it has become a hyped or sought after record. People posting expensive records on social media all day. This whole Instagram posting pictures of rare/expensive records seems like a really strange way to share music and doesn’t have too much to do with my own enjoyment of sharing or discovering music. It seems to have become a bit like stamp collecting or something now. There’s just so many more enjoyable and stimulating ways to share music imho. I mean anyone with a load of money and an unhealthy amount of time to spend on the internet can have all the ‘hot’ records. But then they miss all the great 1 euro, 5 euro or even 10 euro records you can discover in a record store and it’s just not about music any more but about status. I mean I sometimes wonder if these people even play the records or they’re just post pictures of them?

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’s definitely more fun to dig for music with friends – sharing knowledge – sometimes someone finds a record you want right under your nose – even though you showed them the spot but in the end that’s all fine. And generally I’ve been lucky to dig with friends where we would always pass a record on or make sure everyone left happy rather. It’s always great to go digging with local people in countries you’ve never been to, discovering local records is always the most fun.

Walking into a record shop can be quite a daunting process, with so many different genres and formats. Do you have a digging process that helps you hone in on what you’re after? Is it about patience, diligence and a bit of luck or are you more methodical when you enter a record shop?

I go through everything as much as possible or time will allow. Keeping an open mind and checking everything – I’ve found some great records shoved into the easy listening section or a wave record thrown into the metal section. If I’m pushed for time I’ll try to go for the lets say the less obvious spots – the records maybe the local diggers and the store owners seem to care less about.. it depends on the store. Experimental or World is always the most exciting place to start for me haha. I think the more time you spend in stores the less daunting it seems – you learn quite quickly – often the hard way – just by looking and listening.

How big a role does album artwork play in your digging, esp. if you’re not familiar with something you pick up?

Don’t judge a book by its cover doesn’t really apply to records haha. Of course there are really innocuous records with amazing tracks – I’m always more impressed when people discover a good track on a record with a boring or god awful looking sleeve, but for the most part a record sleeve and the credits list is a great way to discover something.. and some records are just screaming out at you! Someone surrounded by synthesizers is always a pretty good sign haha

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 mean I’m always happy to give an ID out if people reach out or come ask me when I’m playing. But personally I also think the whole should be more important than the parts. Plus I like a little mystery myself around music.. it’s always added to the enjoyment for me to listen to DJs play or mixes and not know everything or even anything for that matter.. it’s a great way to connect to people also and . If I’m eating an amazing meal I don’t want to call out the Chef from the kitchen to know every single ingredient, it would just totally spoil the meal for me.. its what you do with the ingredients anyway surely?

You run one of our favourite labels Music From Memory, and with releases like Gigi Masin, Vito Ricci and Dip in the Pool it seems to be going from strength to strength. Have all these artists been discovered through your digging adventures, and what can we expect from the label this year?

The artists we have released so far has all come from music we have mostly discovered ourselves or through an amazing network of good friends who have shared their finds with us over the years. It’s definitely something that’s really important to us that the artists or music that we release feels close to us in some way. We’re also very much interested in introducing artists that maybe aren’t so known or very little known at all and much less interested in filling gaps in people’s record collections for hyped or expensive records. We want our records to be much more of a leap of faith on everyone’s part I guess, which makes it much more exciting.

With Red Light Records and Radio, Music For Memory, festivals such a Dekmantel and of course Rush Hour, it seems Amsterdam has an incredibly vibrant and open-minded culture at the moment. What is it about the city which has made it such a brilliant city for music?

I think a number of factors have contributed to the healthiness of the Amsterdam scene and the Dutch music scene in general but I’d definitely say those that you mentioned have had a huge impact on people’s tastes and perceptions of music which I would say was generally pretty narrow minded when I first came to Holland, in comparison to my experiences in the UK. In the UK growing up music was everything, it was how you socialised, how you spent your time. Very few seemed to care about music in Holland beyond a few very passionate people and those people rarely got the audience they deserved. Now a very healthy and open audience has developed and a whole generation of young people making music inspired by all that which is great.

Finally, what are your plans for the rest of 2017, and beyond?

Best laid plans and all that haha.

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