Diggers Directory: Ceri

Photo credit: Samara Morris and Othercrowd

London-based DJ and producer Ceri made a name for herself through a number of residencies across the capital, in particular Corsica’s after hours party Jaded where she’d regularly navigate sets that stretched up to nine hours. Her sound is characterised by depth, rooted in dub techno, deep house and garage, with a mastered ability to craft a distinct mood in her sets, that is in no doubt largely down to those lengthy resident shifts.

As a producer she treads a similar musical path. In 2017 she set up her own vinyl-only imprint, Find Your Own, as a platform to share her own music, and most importantly, to just do her. Ceri has since opened up the opportunity to learn production techniques to others, lending the skills she’s learnt over the years to mentor budding producers and DJs.

Ahead of her appearance at Gottwood this year, we spoke to her about how her relationship with records has evolved over the years and the beauty of owning something tangible. This sits alongside a vinyl-only mix of deep house and techno selections from artists, labels and remixers inhabiting different cities across the globe.

Ceri plays Gottwood Festival (6th-9th June 2019).

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 introduced me to people like Bowie and the Bee Gees, and while I do love Bowie, their taste in music and mine is quite different so I wasn’t really influenced by their taste. I was always into finding music that was more me, I did like some of the more commercial stuff too, but remember buying random reggae compilation tapes from as young as eight. I listened to Kiss and Radio One, making my own mixtapes by recording off the radio. I was mostly into Hip Hop and UK Garage as a young teenager before discovering and falling in love with house and techno in my late teens.

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?

When I started going out to clubs, I found I was the only one of my friends who actually cared about what was being played. I didn’t care which DJ was playing it until I got more into the music, I just cared about what they were playing. I used to obsessively hunt tracks down and go on journeys of discovery, it was much harder than it is now to find music because social media and the internet weren’t like they are now. I just loved digging for records and discovering new music, I still do. I also love rediscovering old music too. There are so many forgotten gems.

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

I have some in storage, some at home and some in my studio. The ones in storage are some I picked up off a retired old school raver who was a DJ in the late eighties and early 90s when the rave scene was kicking off big time. I still need to go through and work out what I like and find space for them. I live in London and with it’s crazy rental market I’ve moved quite a lot, buying a new coloured Ikea Kallax each time I move to match the decor. I’ve very recently moved again and have created a yoga and music corner which is really nice zen vibes to chill out and listen to music, have a mix, or do yoga in.

The records I have at home are mainly all variations of house and techno, filed into different moods and themes. For example, I have a dark deep dubby section, a classic upbeat house section, a new, but old sounding, house section etc. I prefer to file them by mood, than in alphabetical order or anything like that.

I also have a disco, soul and funk section, which I don’t really play out much, but like to listen to at home while I’m cooking or when I have friends over, and obviously a diva and classics section for house parties and when I feel like singing and dancing around the house. I also have some random charity shop finds with stuff like world music and a random leftfield section too, which is mostly things I want to sample.

Which brings me on to the records at the studio, which are mostly records to sample. Anything from old school house and techno, DJ tools, drum break records and sound effects, to African tribal singing or anything else I can find that could be sampled in an interesting way.

What are your favourite spots to go digging and why?

In London, it’s Phonica for new records. I’ve got to know the staff over the years and they have gotten to know me and can always pick me out some gems I will love, especially Nick and Luther. Vinyl Junkies was my go to for older records and other genres, they used to also have a shop underneath my old studio in Hackney, which I used to go down to for a dig on my break’s. Unfortunately the building got sold to developers last year so we all had to move out and I’m not sure where they are now.

In Berlin I love Hardwax and Oye and I’m yet to visit Technique Tokyo but I want to very soon. My friend Marcus also wrote a book ‘Around the World in 80 Record Stores’ which made me want to go on a round the world trip to visit them all. That’s something I want to do in my lifetime. Hopefully I can make it happen.

Do you prefer record shopping as a solitary process or with friends to nerd out with and search or strange sounds together? If the latter, who do you like to go digging with?

I prefer to go on my own, I like to take my time and listen carefully to what I’m buying, listening to each record two or three times before I commit to buying it, spending hours digging for both new and old records. I usually find more records than I can afford so have to be ruthless with my selections and listen a few times to cut the selection down. I went record shopping with Mr. G once and couldn’t believe how quickly he was in and out! I suppose after all these years he is good at easily and quickly identifying what he likes, maybe I need to learn that skill.

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?

I’ve never really thought of it as daunting, more exciting. I should probably work out a better process though to be honest, to help me not spend so long in shops. I just like so much different music so I don’t really confine it to one genre or style, I just listen to a lot of different stuff from different sections and buy stuff I like. Although if I have a big gig coming up or a mix to do, then I will also take into account if a record could fit into that.

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

Meda Fury has had some beautiful records out recently, and I like how Cabinet, Holic Trax and Perlon release different coloured records, because it makes them more collectable, and luckily their music is just as good as they look.

I try to mostly ignore the artwork though, to listen to the music with an open mind, and I aim to do that with physical and digital record shopping, as well as with promos. Saying that, I’m sure we are all affected on a subconscious level, even when we’re trying not to be. I once found an amazing track on a label with a really awful sounding name and really unprofessional ugly looking artwork. Some other DJs would have probably been put off by that and not even listened, letting the aesthetics and the name influence their perception of the music.

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

My original idea was to do an ‘Anti-Brexit’ mix. Whatever your stance on it, I’m sure we can all agree the whole thing is a massive f*** up and no one knows what’s happening. I was going to use Glenn Underground’s ‘F*** The Government’ EP and the Brawther track – which I did end up including in this mix – that features a speech about how the solution is knowledge; “once you know yourself, you can do all things according to who you are, and when we know who we are we can have economic power.” But then I thought that the idea was too negative, so instead of focusing on the negative side of it, I thought I would flip it into a positive.

The final mix includes music from different cities around the world. Showing how music unites us, and remembering dance musics original ethos of inclusivity and loving everyone, no matter their background, ethnicity, race, gender, sexuality or any other differentiating factors.

Obviously I had to include records from the birthplaces of house and techno; Chicago and Detroit, plus music by producers, remixers and labels from; Tokyo, New York, Cologne, Lisbon, Paris, Sydney, London, Italy, Washington, Bucharest, Dortmund and more.

Any standouts in the mix you’d like to mention?

The first track is a beautiful slice of ‘proper’ deepness from the legend, and prolific DJ and producer that is New York-born Berlin-based, Fred P. The Parisian Point G’s tune on Technique Tokyo’s label is an absolute dirtbag, I love it, the bass is so sexual. There is also an Itinerant Dubs track which is bad boy, the identity of the producer is supposed to be unknown but I may or may not know they are Italian.

I should probably also shamelessly self promote my own track from my label; Find Your Own?! Also a shout out to the track that was a random ‘I have no idea what this track is’ purchase on Discogs. Sometimes if I’m buying a large order I ask the seller to throw in a random surprise. The A-Side had this horrific vocal and I thought it was going to go straight to the charity shop, but luckily the instrumental worked for me.

Then the last track is an absolute classic and one of my favourite tracks of all time, by Inner City. Kevin Saunderson, one of the pioneers of original Detroit Techno, alongside people like Derrick May and Juan Atkins, who remixed this version, whom without, the music we know and love may not be where it is today.

Casting the net wider now, who are some of the record collectors you most admire and why?

Mr. G, Villalobos, Fred P, Craig Richards, Tristan Da Cuhna, Tomoki Tamura, Jeremy Underground, Ben UFO, Move D, Carista, Bradley Zero, Tama Sumo and Lakuti. They all collect and play a variety of music, they all have the ability to adapt and match the mood, create the mood, and throw in a few surprises too.

And are there any young collectors emerging who we should keep a close eye on?

John Swing, Blackhall & Bookless, Anna Wall, Thoma Buwler, Adam Curtain and Al Bradley.  These guys aren’t that young really, but they are all amazing DJs and Producers and deserve to be doing a lot more than they currently are. They are all very talented people doing it for the right reasons, so please go support them and their music.

You have had quite a few DJ residencies over the years, even one where you played nine hour sets, how do these long sets influence which records you pack?

I don’t do the nine hour sets as often as I used to, but they were an integral part of my DJ journey and I believe in being prepared for every eventuality. I love starting slow and deep and then going on a journey through different sounds and moods. On the occasions where the crowd is really receptive and you go on that journey together, there’s nothing like it. As much as I love vinyl, I also play digital files too. It’s always good to have options; some great music can only be found digitally while other great music can only be found on vinyl, so it’s good to have the best of both in my opinion. It was nice to do vinyl only for this mix though.

You recently launched your label Find Your Own Records, why did you choose to go down the vinyl-only route?

I launched my label as a platform for my own music. I was finding it hard to get signed to the labels I admired because often they would like one or two tracks, then ask if I could send more tracks like those ones, which I didn’t want to do. I like my EPs to reflect my various tastes and moods, not just be three or four tracks that all sound the same.

I am influenced by so many different things, I didn’t want to be pigeonholed and wanted to have the creative freedom to do what I wanted. I always knew the label would be vinyl because it’s more tangible, I wanted to be able to hold it in my hand. I also think doing vinyl can be an indication that you really believe in the music because there is a bigger financial risk involved.

I was extremely lucky to have two of my favourite producers and DJs on the first two releases as remixers; Fred P and Mr. G. It’s a dream come true to have them on my label remixing my music, and I’m sure they took it more seriously because they knew I would be doing vinyl. The old school heads still love it, and some of the younger heads too. I may consider doing digital in the future, but for now that’s how I’m working. There have been a few delays that might not have happened with digital, but I believe in quality over quantity, so I try not to get too stressed about these things and just go with the flow.

You’ve recently talked publicly about your sobriety and reasons for not drinking, has this had an influence on the way you approach DJing or producing?

I can still understand, imagine and feel what it’s like to be in different states, because I’ve been there in the past. So even if me and the dancers are in totally different states, chemically, we can still connect via the music and the energy of the room. I do think it’s easier to DJ knowing what it feels like to be in those moments though, compared to if I had never drunk or partaken in ‘party fun’. Same with making music, the only thing that’s changed there is I don’t do as many studio all nighters as I used to.

Ceri plays Gottwood Festival (6th-9th June 2019).

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