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?
Yes to a degree this is true because the first tracks I recall hearing were in my parents car; tracks like ELO ‘Last Train To London’ were early recollections and still loved today. My grandad loved Frank Sinatra so I got my love of Frank’s music from him, but later in my early teens my sister Emma was the one giving me albums like ‘The House Sound Of Chicago – Vol 1’ that really inspired me, hearing tracks like ‘Mr Fingers – Can You Feel It’ blew my mind (this was in 1986).
My first holiday to Ibiza the next year had a big impact, as I heard strange exotic sounding music in the hotel disco like ‘Off – Electric Salsa’, then the next year the compilation ‘Balearic Beats – Vol 1’. Another holiday to Ibiza in 1989 opened me up to more influences and set my taste that still holds true to today; French Kiss by Lil Louis was the big one that year for me, every time I hear it I can picture myself dancing in Amnesia.
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 started buying records after my holiday to Ibiza in 1989. I went to a club for the first time and experienced that bigger picture because up until this point I had been buying the odd album but not in an obsessive way, but this holiday turned me into a record collector. In a way buying vinyl was like a souvenir of a specific memory. Originally it was my obsession to own tracks I had heard in clubs in Ibiza or at early raves in Birmingham or on mixtapes by people like Sasha or Jose Padilla. I still feel this way now, I still love to buy vinyl but do try to limit it as it gets expensive. I used to run a record shop in the 90s in Birmingham and even then at cost price I was spending about £200 per week. I think for me there is a romance about buying vinyl that has never gone away.
Where do you store your records and how do you file them?
Most of my records are at my mother’s house in the UK, but here in Ibiza I have about four boxes. I file my House music in year order starting at 1986 through to the current year and then alphabetical within each year. Then I have separate sections for soul, Jazz Funk, Rare Groove, Latin Jazz, early Hip Hop, Disco, Chill out, Drum & Bass and other genres. 7 inches are in a separate shelf. To be honest my CDs are just in huge piles but always in the right cover, no exception. My digital collection is about 55,000 now and all in iTunes, I have about 18 genres as far as how I like to view it and each genre has a playlist for each year. Then on top of that I always create a ‘Best Of the year’ playlist and I like to keep this to below 1000 ideally, but I have a photographic memory for artist names, titles, labels, the year and even month they were all released, it’s a bit crazy to most people who know me well but to me it’s normal.
What are your favourite spots to go digging and why?
I love to go to second hand shops when I’m in London and Amsterdam especially but in general I will find a record shop where ever I am. Then online it’s Discogs, Bandcamp and Phonica, I tend to stick to these as they seem to get packages to Ibiza a lot faster than other stores so I have given up using anyone else.
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?
When I was young growing up in Birmingham, Don from Don Christies was always very helpful and friendly as was Lee Fisher in Pure Records. Jason Kirby in Hard to Find was great with me and so knowledgable, John in Tempest too especially as he loved more alternative Balearic stuff.
Frenchie in Summitt saved me my copy of ‘Frankie Knuckles -Your Love’ in 1989 and later on Louie Osbourne in Hard To Find Records who, after becoming mates, would join me at Cafe Mambo in 1998. Then in Manchester I remember Mike in Eastern Bloc was nice but then the rest were a bit up themselves.
I found so many ‘cool’ record shops and it always confused me as they were there to serve you as paying customers and yet acted intimidating. When I started to work in record shops in Birmingham like Global Grooves and eventually ran one called Vinyl Matters I made sure all customers were treated in a welcoming and friendly way. The biggest character I ever remember was Dave Silby in City Sounds in Holborn, he was an amazing salesman and so funny, a real character, he was so good I often left with a stack of records I didn’t even want but he was just so good at selling I couldn’t say no.
Is there a record (or records), that has continued to be elusive over the years?
Yes there are a few from early Jose tapes that Shazam still can’t pick up. In fact only two months ago I got a track on vinyl from a tape of Jose’s from 1992 – it was like Christmas when I got it after waiting 27 years. There was the odd track from old Sasha, Laurent Garnier, Andrew Weatherall and Fabio tapes I never got, but if I knew their names I would already have them so they remain elusive.
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 am easy to be honest, when I was young me and Steve Lawler used to go together a lot as aspiring wannabe DJs just after we left school. We did trips to Manchester to go to Eastern Bloc and then down to Tag and Black Market in London. I am usually on my own these days when shopping as it’s never something I plan and usually when I am travelling or at ADE in Amsterdam.
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 usually head for the Afro sections, Balearic, old Disco etc depends what mood I’m in. I love the process, the dusty smell of old vinyl, I’m happy to take my time.
How big a role does album artwork play in your digging?
I think its part of the romance, great artwork is timeless and adds so much value and I can remember what the artwork looks like for so many records it’s scary.
Could you tell us a bit about the mix you’ve done for us?
Its basically tracks that I recall hearing on my early trips to Ibiza between 1987 and 1992. I’m not one for trying to be cool or deliberately putting rare tracks on mixes, these are just tracks that were special to me and they are a strong part of my memories from that time. For me this was a magical part of my life that shaped what was to follow but it’s pretty mellow as a lot of what inspired me back then wasn’t the main stream up tempo stuff.
Any standouts in the mix you’d like to mention?
I love them all so it’s really hard to separate them to be honest.
Casting the net wider now, who are some of the record collectors you most admire and why?
Jose Padilla has a great collection and when I managed him I got to have a proper look around it, which was great, but anyone who has been at it for decades and knows their stuff always impresses me. Ben (Gatto Fritto) I have spoken to on the phone and he really knows his stuff as did Jason Kirby who owned Hard To Find Records years ago in Birmingham. Harvey must have a great collection, I did speak to him about this a couple of summers back in Ibiza, but he said he didn’t see himself as a collector but more of a DJ which makes sense. I guess I’m in the middle.
And are there any young collectors emerging who we should keep a close eye on?
It’s not something I’m aware of really but I’m always amazed at anyone a fair bit younger than me who has a serious knowledge because I assumed it took a life time to build this up, so people like Jan Schulte and Aaron from STW do blow my mind, they seem to have the knowledge of 50 year olds.
Anything on the horizon you’re excited about?
This latest La Torre compilation from me and Mark Barrott, it’s the third one we have done and we didn’t release one for two years so it’s great to be back with something new for everyone.
Alongside Mark Barrott, you are behind Ibiza institution La Torre’s music direction and compilation series. What’s special about La Torre in comparison to other places on the island?
La Torre has the best location of any sunset venue in Ibiza’s history, it has a breathtaking, panoramic view perched on the side of a cliff. It’s unbeatable and we have no passing trade being in a remote spot so we only get people who are aware of La Torre and what it stands for.
How have you seen the island change over the years?
Firstly, it’s more popular but in recent years it’s appeal has extended way past Europe, we now get people coming from all over the world. However, it’s too busy to be honest, especially in peak summer, too much traffic clogging up the main areas. This is why I live in the countryside in the north of Ibiza which has the feel of the Ibiza a few decades ago which really appeals to me. Ultimately you can find what ever you want in Ibiza, it can be crazy or chilled out, it’s what you make it. The VIP culture has exploded too, bottle service to private tables in clubs and many many concierge companies, luxury boat and villa hire companies etc. This has overpriced Ibiza to many normal people including many people who come here to work. There are benefits and drawbacks to all these things like with everything in life, it is what it is, but ultimately it’s still an amazing place. You can also see so many of the worlds biggest DJs on a daily basis, no where in the world has such a high concentration of DJ led events. The venues got more visually impressive, look at Hï and Ushuaïa, both incredible but then you have the other end of the spectrum with places like La Torre, Pikes and Las Dalias that are very rustic and oozing local charm, what’s wonderful is there’s something for everyone.
You took a couple of years hiatus from the compilation series but now you’re set to release another which draws influence from Ibiza’s hedonistic history. Was it a cathartic process putting this together?
I think everything I do reflects the history of the island because it’s also my own history so that’s a natural thing. I can’t help it, as we look back to the roots but also look forward with new music, the vibe is always more alternative. By using less obvious tracks that hopefully the listener doesn’t know, they can be entertained but also discover new music they can treasure, this is what Jose Padilla created with the first six Café Del Mar compilations. We want to create a timeless series that isn’t made with any financial motivation it’s purely a labour of love from everyone involved. Mark and I love the process, it’s great fun but also a lot of work to fit into our already busy lives but well worth it.
How has the summer at La Torre been so far? What else have you got coming up before the season is out?
It’s the fifth season at La Torre since the Mambo family took over and I’m still loving being musical director. We have our favourite regular guests like DJ Harvey, Lovefingers, Heidi Lawden, Paul Daley, Leo Mas, Balearic Gabba Sound System, plus this year Sasha makes his debut playing a special one off sunset on August 30th. There are other big names that I am not allowed to announce just yet. I have some great residents in place this year including local legends: Pippi, Alfredo and Jose Padilla along with Buda, Medusa Odyssey, Andy Wilson, Phat Phil Cooper, The Brothers Grim and of course Mark Barrott, what a line up. Then there’s a possible forth compilation to think about!
Volumen Tres of the La Torre compilation series will be released soon – grab your copy.