Diggers Directory: Project 95

Continuing our spotlight on Australia in the Diggers Directory series, Project 95 is made up of two Melbourne record collectors: Myles Mac, co-founder of music platform Melbourne Deepcast, and Grant Camov aka DJ Camov, a resident for local party Loose Joints. Together they dine on a limited diet of black plastic cooked up in the 90s but it’s the refined palette that helps them go deeper than most. They both unpack their lives as record collectors across and extended interview, which is accompanied by a near-three hour mix of spacey 90s Detroit techno, electro, IDM, acid and rave.

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?

Myles: In my house growing up we didn’t have a TV until I was 12 or so, so besides from doing normal kid stuff, my main form of entertainment was listening to my mum’s small collection of tapes and records.. Annie Lennox, Phil Collins, that kind of thing. Not long after receiving Michael Jackson’s History on CD one christmas and becoming totally obsessed, I started getting more into the Black pop and RnB of the time (mid-late 90s).. albums like The Score by The Fugees and Boyz II Men’s II. Probably for nostalgic reasons I still think that period was responsible for some of the best pop music, and obviously a huge chunk of the best house, techno and hip hop ever made.

Grant: Not so much. My folks were into music but not massively. My favourite CD as a kid was Meat Loaf’s Bat out Of Hell lol so I wouldn’t say that album was too fundamental as an influence. But if I did have to pick out one album that sent me on my way it would have to be Cypress Hill’s 1993 stone cold classic Black Sunday. I remember seeing them feature in a Simpsons episode and when I saw the album at my local CD shop I was lucky enough that mum didn’t read the track titles and bought it for me. I was around 11 at the time so hearing hip hop like that definitely started my love for electronically produced music.

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? 

M: Initially it was just something that me and my young DJ mates got into (around 2007) hoping to get booked alongside some of the veteran vinyl DJs in Melbourne that we looked up to at the time. We ended up buying a lot of junk as we were easy targets for record store owners (one in particular) who knew how to suck us in by saying all the right things. These days I’m just pretty hooked on the whole process of hunting for records and the rabbit hole you invariably end up going down after you make a cool new discovery of an artist or label etc. Being able to surround yourself with the music at home and the social aspect that goes with it is also something I like… popping into a store, heading to a record fair, playing records with mates.. there’s often some kind of story behind each record and how you or a friend came to stumble across it.

G: Some new found friends at the time who I would go see spin Drum n Bass & Dubstep at a club night called Wobble in 2009 & 2010 were collecting records and had been for years prior and would only play records in their sets. So from hanging out and playing records in their bedrooms I soon thought to myself that it would be a wicked hobby to get into. So as the story goes I scored a pair of passed down Numarks and started to collect and the rest is history. Cheers Retsa, WOZ & Rory!

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

M: Besides a few crates of crappy mid 2000s deep prog and minimal (as mentioned above) stored away at my mum’s house which I don’t think anyone would ever have a reason to take off my hands, the rest are stored in my lounge room in trusty Ikea expedits of varying sizes. In terms of filing them I have a few sections that store downtempo albums, ambient, new wave and hip hop all mixed together, a few sections of Disco, Afro and Italo, a little 45 section with boogie and random things, sections of newer house and techno, some deep atmospheric techno stuff, an electro section, an 80s Chicago house section, then a bigger arrangement of varying styles of 90s and early 2000s house and techno.

G: I’ve got the classic Ikea 8 box shelving unit and another 8 box unit that are both full, I’ve also got about 4 crates lying around and I’ve had to take off the doors to some cabinets in my room so I can store more tunes there. In terms of ordering them I mainly have them sorted into styles and genres. In the pic that you can see, the top left shelf is all hip hop albums, below that is a selection of doubles, Tribal America records and the rest is all Chicago House. To the top right of those shelves lies Rock, Indie, Metal, New Wave, Pop, a little bit of Reggae & random 7 inches. Beneath that is all UK Garage and 4X4 Garage, some Dubstep and a section with all my LTJ Bukem and early Good Looking Records 12”s. I then have sections with only Kerri Chandler productions, 90’s Drum n Bass, 2000-2010’s Drum n Bass, Hip Hop singles, Trance, Techno, Disco & French House, German producers such as Needs, Ian Pooley, DJ Tonka, Maurizio and some Dub Techno and the rest is just random House scattered around the place with some form of order as I do have little sections of just 1 producers work next to each other. At the end of my bed also I have a little hi fi setup with a turntable, CD player and a cassette deck. The records there are most of my 70’s & 80’s boogie, disco and funk albums. Roy Ayers and Lonnie Liston Smith type stuff 😉

Grant’s Setup

What are your favourite spots to go digging and why?

M: Like most I’m pretty addicted to discogs, which is a curse when you live in Australia and end up often paying more to ship the records than the record itself. But in terms of physical stores my favourite here in Melbourne is a store run by a couple of mates called Skydiver – they have an incredibly well curated selection of new and old bits, and it’s also a spot where a lot of local DJs go to drop off records they don’t need anymore, so you usually walk away with some gold. In recent digs away from home I’ve found great stuff at stores like A1 Records and Academy Records in Brooklyn, Disk Union Shibuya and City Country City in Tokyo, and Japonica and Jetset in Kyoto.

G: There are quite a few spots in Melbourne to go digging but if I had to narrow it down I would say Alley Tunes (whats up Max!), Licorice Pie, Dixons Recycled, Cry Baby (come back soon dudes!) and Special Request (yo Rob!). And from my travels over the years I would have to note A1 Records in New York, Kstarke in Chicago, Amoeba in L.A., Cosmos West Records in Toronto, Detroit Threads in Detroit, Flashback Records in London (Shoreditch & Islington), Snickars Records in Stockholm & The Record Loft in Berlin. Although specialist dance music record shops are fantastic I do love finding the odd electronic record deep in some singles section of a Rock store or a random second hand shop!

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?

M: As I think some of your other Melbourne guests have mentioned before, there’s the notorious Steve G who was known for using every trick in the book to offload his latest ‘must have’ records onto eager young kids. His business partner at the now defunct record store Rhythm & Soul was quite the opposite though, a super lovely dude named Greg who you could chat to for hours about records and never feel pressured to buy anything. He now runs a great little store here called Hub 301 which has a solid selection of new and reissued stuff. I can highly recommend popping in for a chat as he’s been in the game forever and knows his shit – definitely an unsung hero of the record store game here in Melbourne. Also shout outs to Max down at Alley Tunes who’s always down for a chat, and his store is a great place to hunt for all kinds of weird and wonderful bits, with a solid selection of second hand NYC house.

G: Most definitely. It can go both ways in record shops sometimes as I’m sure you’re aware of, some people behind the counter couldn’t care in the slightest about what you’re buying but the legends you meet are true legends. Just recently in London I met a bloke called Andy who was working in Flashback, Shoreditch. I had on a t-shirt with a now defunct record label logo Transient Records on it. He spotted the logo instantly and we had a real nice chat about 90’s Trance music which I’m also into playing and collecting. He found for me some tracks I had been looking for and was a top notch dude to have a chat with about the heyday of the London scene in the 90’s and the tunes coming out of U.K. based labels back then.

However the wildest digging story would have to be when I visited Underground Resistance’s shop Submerge in Detroit in 2013. It was already mysterious from the get go as it was appointment based only so I emailed them and sorted a date. When I rocked up there was a tiny sign on a black door and I had to get buzzed in. A man called Mike let me and I asked him “as in Mad Mike?” to which he responded “Yeah”. From then I thought to myself, damn this the real deal! He gave me a tour of the museum that they have set up within the store and told me many stories of how Detroit was in the 60’s and 70’s with so many Detroit musicians making Soul and Disco records and even how the B52’s track Rock Lobster was a massive Detroit hit on the radio when it was released. When we got to the basement I soon picked out a few things and ended up getting a 4th copy of Davina – Don’t You Want It which was produced by Mike. This record is particularly special to me as it was one of the first House records that I truly loved and was one of the first in my collection. He kindly signed it for me and wrote a nice message on the cover which I have proudly framed. We had a chat about that track and Davina especially who is an amazing singer and has released other great music such as her Neo-Soul album Best of Both Worlds in 1998. I ended up spending all afternoon chatting with Mike and just hanging in the shop, a truly memorable day that I will never forget!

Is there a record (or records), that has continued to be elusive over the years?

M: Thankfully this year Warp decided to reissue one of most sought after albums, The Other People Place – Lifestyles Of The Laptop Café which had been burning a hole in my wantlist for years. A couple of other records that spring to mind would be Dirty Dave P’s Rise of the Moon, a rare slice of raw Detroit house/techno which came out on his now defunct label Vigilante Records in 96’, or the hard to find 94’ NY house classic Journey Into New Age House by Dreamscape.

G: Of course. Since starting to get into House and 4×4 dance music I have been a massive fan of UK Garage & Garage House legends R.I.P. Productions and everything they released their label on Ice Cream Records. I have most of the 12”s but the one that started it all for me was the track Deep Inspiration (R.I.P. Dubbed) from the Deep Dubs EP. All 3 tracks on that record are absolutely killer and the artwork and colour way of the design is super sexy. I’ve wanted it for something like 7 years so I should just take the plunge! On another tip I have always been on the look out for Norwegian band Turbonegro’s Apocalypse Dudes from 1998. The album and their musical style is such a good mix of Punk & Rock n Roll and every track is killer. Quite pricey and rare but I’ll find it one day no doubt!

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?

M: I usually go solo as it’s not often something I plan too far ahead, I just go when I feel like it on the day, or if I’m traveling I generally prefer to go solo as you never know how much time you’re going to take. Showing touring DJs around to local stores has often been a fruitful experience though, guys like your previous guest Justin Carter or San Soda come to mind – both have a wealth of knowledge and I’ve ended up with some great finds as a result of days out digging with them.

G: Bit of both really. If I’m with a friend who isn’t into records then they get bored pretty quick so in that case going solo is way better. But of course it is nice to share the experience with a mate and find tracks for each other. I went digging a bit with a friend who I was travelling with recently and he found me some killer stuff so that worked out nicely! But for the most part I do most of my digging solo.

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? 

M: Most times I go into a store with a loose idea of what I’m hunting for, whether I have a gig coming up that I want some new bits for or just a sound that I’m enjoying at the time. Once I have a general idea of what labels and artists put out the best quality in a certain genre/era then it’s not too difficult to use that as a guide for finding more of a particular style. When it comes to older house and techno I will generally avoid anything from around 2003-2008, with some exceptions, and pick anything from labels or artists I know and like, or at least appear familiar, from the late 80s and 90s-early 00s that don’t look like they were too overly cheesy.

G: Yeah sure, I usually first look for stuff that I’ve been wanting or seen online as opposed to finding new random things. While doing the first check through I’m scoping for familiar labels and artists and then I’ll come back to do the random picks. I try to go through as much as I can before hitting the listening station as that can be time consuming.

How big a role does album artwork play in your digging?

M: I find album artwork can tell you a lot about the music without you even listening to it, so using the art, label font and year of release as a guide is generally a good way to weed out the potential finds from the rest when digging. I’ve bought lots of records over the years just for the dope album art to put on the wall, and recently I shoddily constructed a record display shelf at home which houses some of the more interesting sleeves, which I think is always nicer than staring at a white wall when playing records at home.

Myles’ Setup

G: Quite a decent part. At least with 90s house music most of the labels were really nicely designed with cool logos and nice symmetry and proportions throughout the artwork. And for finding new random stuff I guess the artwork is all you can base the decision upon weather to give it a listen or not. So artwork definitely plays a large part within digging.

Could you tell us a bit about the mix you’ve done for us? 

M: The mix was recorded in two parts at our respective home studios. Sticking with the 90s theme we wanted to explore some of the spacier 90s Detroit techno, electro, IDM, acid and rave that we don’t get a chance to play so often, with a smattering of house for good measure. It’s a bit of a journey over nearly three hours, hope you enjoy the ride!

G: A friend from Canberra had recently designed a logo for us for fun which looked like the PS2 logo but with P95 instead. It gave me a feeling of 90’s techno for some reason so I said to Myles that we should do a 90’s techno mix as our next recorded set and here we are.

Are there any standouts in the mix you’d like to mention?

M: I included a couple of early Orlando Voorn tunes under his Baruka and Defence aliases, he had a seriously hot patch in the mid 90s which seems to be overlooked a bit these days, there’s also some Steve Rachmad under both Parallel 9 and Black Scorpion, some early Aphex Twin, Juan Atkins as Infiniti, and a couple of Australian (heavily Detroit influenced) techno records from HMC and Paddee & A.S.I.O, both on the legendary Adelaide techno label Juice Records.

G: For sure. David Alvarado – T.O. due to the underwater aquatic feel that the track has, I also love the subby bass that kicks in and drives the track along nicely. Aubrey – Evacuation, such a thumping, melodic yet repetitive track that gets me every time. Definitely a club classic. And of course the finishing track by Ian Pooley titled Flatlet. I love the atmosphere within this and most of Pooleys work and the sort of nostalgic feeling that this track evokes.

Now for a few specific questions about Project 95….

What was the spark that started Project 95?

M: I got asked to play at a party a few years back and they wanted me to play with a friend and kinda come up with a new concept for it… I knew Grant had a crazy collection of 90s house and techno and pretty specific taste that was really close to mine so it just began from there. It’s never really been anything too serious, just a chance for us to nerd out a little with some of our favourite records from that time that don’t get enough love.

What does it offer that’s different from your individual endeavours at Melbourne Deepcast and Loose Joints?

M: Playing only records from a certain era adds an interesting restrictive element when packing for a gig, and has lead to digging deeper through our collections instead of just playing things we know will work. Having this little project has actually made me look a lot harder and find some incredible lesser known artists/labels from that time that I probably wouldn’t have come across otherwise. More than anything though it’s a nice excuse to play some longer sets and just see where things end up without too much pre-planning.

G: When we play as Loose Joints there are 5 of us in total – Midnight Tenderness, WOZ, Tuscan Prince & Rory Mc with pretty varied records in each of our bags but the overall taste and vibe that we each play is pretty similar. So with Project 95 we keep the tunes only from the 90s which as Myles stated does restrict the music that we play but it also adds an element of deeper searching. I’m glad we stuck with it cause it’s always fun to play themed sets and the general responses we’ve had from gigs has been positive so far!

What’s so special about the 90s then? And why specifically 1995?

It was just an incredibly fruitful time for house and techno music from all over the world, but especially in Chicago, Detroit and NYC. There were so many labels competing and so many new styles and offshoots of house and techno being made for the first time, plus the often low budget and experimental nature of most of the production gave the sounds a kind of magical character. While there were also thousands of really average records coming out at the time, there still remains a near endless amount of quality that’s rarely picked up on these days if you’re willing to look hard enough for it.

1995 was just a year we both seemed to have a heap of amazing records from – a long list of artists like DJ Duke, K.Hand, François K and loads more released some of their best work that year, so we thought it was fitting.

What have you got planned together in the coming months?

Next up in Melbourne we are playing at Lounge on October 13th for Baby Dance, then on December 9th for Espace Noir.

We’ve kept things pretty Project 95 focused so far, but is there anything on the horizon for Loose Joints and Melbourne Deepcast that you’d like to share?

M: The next Melbourne Deepcast party is happening on the 6th of October at Hugs & Kisses here in Melbourne, we’ve teamed up with local friends Rotation and are flying over Perth’s Phil Stroud and Hugo Gerani (aka Eleventeen Eston) with Rings Around Saturn also doing his killer MPC live set. Should be a hoot! Keep an ear out for a few new podcasts to drop in the coming weeks too over at melbournedeepcast.net.

G: Loose Joints isn’t dead just on a little hiatus at the moment! The crew are focusing on their individual endeavors but we will definitely be planning a party or two over the summer months!

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