Diggers Directory: Alfred Anders

Belgium may be a small country but there’s no shortage of people indebted to pushing their exciting music scene forward. From Nosedrip’s STROOM introducing people to homegrown sounds to radio stations like Kiosk and The Word becoming a home for both local and touring DJs, cities like Brussels, Antwerp and Ghent are beginning to get recognition on a global scale.

Alfred Anders, real name Pim Thomas, has helped to put the former on the map with the opening of his record shop; a lovingly curated space that has become a community hub for the city’s vinyl and music enthusiasts. Pim set up Crevette in 2016, seeing a gap in Brussel’s market for the electronic sounds he’d been digging for since he was 15 years old. As a collector he is impelled by curiosity and the thrill of happening upon undiscovered gems, something apparent in the curation of the shop; it’s always meticulously selected, particularly their second hand offerings, and that’s regardless of genre.

In April of this year he made his Boiler Room debut at Listen! Festival, a four day event in the centre of Brussels, and showed us his abilities behind the decks are just as mastered as his ear for the weird and wonderful.

Alongside an interview about the beginnings of Crevette, the flourishing local scene and his healthy record addiction, “Tamtam Pim” pieces together a vinyl-only mix of “tropical / not-so-tropical” sounds.

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

There’s been a record player in the living room for as long as I can remember. Actually more than one. Three to be specific! One ‘normal’ record player, one for 78s and one jukebox for the 45s. So yes, you can say I got the musical education and addiction from my parents. There was never silence in my parental home — it still makes me nervous when I enter a space that’s quiet with no music playing. There wasn’t really a specific record that was pivotal for me, but my dad has always been a big jazz enthusiast, so that was what I mainly grew up with.

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 got into buying records when I got into electronic music. It drove me to go digging for new tracks on a weekly basis. This was around the age of 15 and I lived just outside of Brussels, so every Friday after school I took the bus to the city centre and went to the record shops with my friends. I caught the ‘collecting’ fever at a young age. The passion (some might call it an addiction) only grew more intense with time. It really got out of hand when I started collecting non-electronic music and listening stuff as well. Curiosity is in my nature, and there is so much undiscovered music out there, which makes digging fun. The fun of finding these records is addictive to me. The best part is that it will never stop, so I can keep on digging and feeding the addiction.

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

I store my records in my living room on a custom-made shelf by ‘Clauset & Dekeyser’. I like to be surrounded by my records, so they are a bit here and there. My collection isn’t strictly organised and definitely not alphabetical, but I can find stuff quite easily and quickly. My records are mainly categorised in terms of feelings or main elements inside the tracks. For example: Slow Burners, Heavy Hitters, Weirdo Stuff, Tam Tam…  and the rest is classified by genre. The main shelf has my stuff that I DJ with, and in the flipping area are my more recent buys or stuff that I rediscovered that I would like to use at upcoming gigs or radio shows. The stuff that I’m listening to at the moment is also in there. The second shelf is more the ‘listening music’ shelf, which speaks for itself.

What are your favourite spots to go digging and why?

I prefer to go digging in real stores, at private sellers’ homes, or in flea markets.  There you’re more likely to stumble upon things you’ve never heard or seen before. For this reason I like to travel a lot and find the less obvious places and shops. However, traveling is not always needed — the main flea market of Brussels, Jeu de Balle, is just around the corner from our shop. I do a little tour there every day before I open the store.

Another big part of the digging I do is thanks to the shop. We are privileged in that we come across and buy many large record collections. These are collections of people who have been digging and collecting for decades, and then they decide to sell the entire lot (mostly because they need more room when a baby is on the way. Crevette <3 New Parents!). We get these opportunities quite often, and these collections are where the treasures are hidden. Don’t get me wrong, I can get lost for hours on the internet looking for records, too. Record shops aren’t open at night anyway, ha ha! From time to time I like to play the blind-buy game as well. Made me discover some really cool and super shitty records. Everything works for me, but I do prefer human contact while on the hunt.

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?

I ran into a guy named Walter in a record shop in Paris four years ago. It was around the same time I was making preparations to open Crevette. He heard me speaking in Dutch with my girlfriend, so we struck up a conversation (he’s also from Belgium). He asked about the record shops we visited while in Paris and what I recommended, so we had a long conversation and exchanged contacts. Despite a big age difference, we had an immediate click and kept in touch afterward. He told me that he and his friend Benny had around 30K records we could dig through in a private warehouse. Of course I jumped at the opportunity, went there with some friends, and found some wonderful stuff for both my personal collection and the shop. Crevette was newly opened around that time. I visited the warehouse several times, each time trying to convince him to let me buy the whole collection. Initially he wasn’t convinced, but after the third time, he finally agreed and we bought the complete collection. This collection was crucial for us in starting the second hand part of the shop. I will always be grateful to them for selling it to us, it definitely played a huge part in the success of our launch. From time to time he comes by the shop and I’m always glad to see him. If you read this Benny and Walter, love you guys!

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

I don’t have a ‘’want list’’ in my head while digging. The best part of a digging session for me is to discover stuff I didn’t know existed. Finding certain records you like and didn’t own yet is nice, of course. But finding something that you didn’t know existed is obviously even better.

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?

Digging can be a social thing to me, e.g. handing each other records you already have but the other might not, and vice versa. That’s the nice part about digging with friends. Having someone to talk to during your smoke break is always better, right? I must admit, if I enter a store with friends that are looking for the same stuff as me, it could get a bit stressful. When they reach out first to the crates I wanted to dig through, it can get a little awkward. I prefer going digging with friends that aren’t looking for the same stuff as me.

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?

It’s difficult to not start browsing the crates instantly, but I’ve learned that the best thing is to first make a little tour of the entire shop to select which crates you want to dig. When I enter a record shop, there’s some kind of special modus activated in my brain, very robotic. I’m much more focused and can do the same activity for hours and hours. That is not always the case in the rest of my life! After some hours of digging myself, I like to show the shop owner the selection of records I already found and ask for some recommendations. After all, it’s these people who know their shop by heart and will hand you the records that you might’ve overlooked. If I have a lot of time, I like to search in the less obvious crates where I think I won’t find anything. Here you get extremely lucky sometimes, as people looking for a certain thing usually pass over the ones that don’t really belong there.

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

Album artwork and the accompanying information on them do play a big role for me. These things capture my attention before listening to the music. Also, I’m a bit dyslexic, so memorising certain names can be tricky. I have more of a photographic memory, which is why album artwork comes in handy. While digging, I recognise stuff by colour combos, typography, styles of logos, etc. used in a certain location and time or by certain labels and artists. We also put a lot of time and effort into the album covers from our own label. It’s just better for everyone if the whole package is attractive.

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

Some of my friends call me ‘TamTam Pim’ because I’m kind of obsessed by percussion and ‘tamtam’ sounds. I think this mix reflects this. Besides that, the mix includes some ‘tropical/not-so-tropical’ Belgian tracks and some of my latests digs that I adore at the moment. It’s mostly music from the late 80’s and early 90’s, which is where I’m digging lately. I dislike it when things are too serious or straightforward; I prefer tracks that have a weird twist, so that’s what I went for in this mix.

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

The track that brings a smile to my face every time is one by RAH Band, a British studio project group, titled ‘Time Keeps Tearing Us Apart (The Homecoming)’. It’s such a big production with so many killer elements; that makes it a great track to me. Like most of the tracks in this mix, it’s a cheap, one euro find, which makes it even better! Eurodeals are the best.

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

There are so many people pushing cool stuff and sounds. Really too many to make a finite list.

I appreciate everyone that embraces music with heart and passion for what they do. A lot of them have passed the revue on this Diggers Directory series. I’m sure the rest are on your ‘to ask’ list, haha.

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

First I want to mention Walrus, he’s a passionate lifetime digger machine who drills right through the surface, going much deeper. I can maybe even say he’s a freak. The good kind of freak! That’s the reason he’s in charge of our secondhand selection at the shop. He has a flair for uncovering the unexpected and has a broad musical taste. I’ve learned a lot from him, and he has pointed me to some really cool records. He told me once, “Sometimes you need to squeeze one ear if there is something small that bothers you in a song. If you can do that, you might even start to like it after a while.” It’s not always possible, but from time to time I follow this advice!

Another one I respect a lot is Aroh. He just traveled around the world for a year and did some wonderful digs along the way. He gave me some crazy records from his trip which I would otherwise have never had the chance to be exposed to. And lastly I will mention Rick Shiver, who is doing an excellent job exposing hidden gems on his self-titled YouTube channel! All of them would first buy records, and then afterwards see what budget is left for food. That’s the spirit I admire.

You set up Crevette Records in your home of Brussels in 2016. What spurred you on to start the shop? What can people expect if they visit?

I felt that there was something missing in Brussels. I concluded that ‘something’ was a record shop specialised in electronic music in all forms and colours. At that time, I was looking for a job myself, so I decided to create my own job in something that I’m really passionate about. It took me about a year and a half to finalise the idea, find the right spot, find the right people to collaborate with and start the actual shop. The community that we build around the shop is really important to me. A magazine once rewarded us for ‘uniting the scene’, which felt awesome because that was my main goal from the beginning.

In the shop we have an equal mix of new and second hand records. We get fresh records delivered to us almost every day. We try to curate both new and second hand records as much as possible to our standards to ensure that the whole selection is high quality. For me, it’s important that everything is curated with a clear vision. That’s why we have several people doing the buy-ins across several genres. Each of them is specialised in their own musical territory. The secondhand records are all selected for a reason, too. A shop can easily slip down in quality if that’s not the case. It’s a 24/7 job to keep these things in line, but I feel it’s worth it. Special shout out to my team, Jakob and Michiel, who have put tons of energy in the shop from day one. Plus the many other people who’ve made this journey possible. None of this would have worked without such a fantastic team around me.

Later you added a distribution and label arm. Can you tell us a bit about the label? What’s the philosophy behind the label?

Actually, the idea to start a label came before starting the shop, I had everything ready to start the label, but then the idea of the shop came through and took priority. I was looking for a name for the shop and decided to use the name and logo I chose for the label. Once the shop was up and running, I took up the label idea again. As of today, we have three releases on our in-house label. All are from Brussels-based artists, but I’m not restricting it in any way. I am open to releasing anything good that crosses my ears.

That said, I definitely like the idea of highlighting what’s going on in our city. The main philosophy behind the label is that I only bring out stuff I feel myself. No pressure on a release scheme and definitely not genre-restricted. Around the same time that we launched the label, we also started the distribution. It felt like the obvious next step and grew quite naturally. At the start, we only took on labels from friends and people connected to the shop. In some way it’s still the case today; our ‘family’ has just expanded and so has our distribution catalogue. Both are going to be a bigger focus this next year: more releases planned on Crevette records and working hard on growing and improving our distribution.

What’s happening in Brussels, and Belgium generally, that’s exciting you at the moment? Any promoters, artists, venues that are doing great things for the scene? 

It’s so lovely to see how our city (and our little Belgian country) is boiling at the moment. I have a feeling that this is only the start of a new generation of people building up a steady scene! I’m happy that we can be a part of this with Crevette Records. Stand-out clubs and concert venues I’d like to mention are C12 and Les Ateliers Claus. C12 is a fairly ‘new’ club that’s already having an established value in the city. They are pushing the right sounds, daring to take risks, and having the right philosophy about running a club. C12 is the homebase of our own Crevette Club Nights. As a concert venue, Les Ateliers Claus is one of the best venues that is programming very interesting live acts. This is the place where you’ll discover some weirdo stuff you can’t find anywhere else! Festivals that are doing a great job are Listen! Festival and Meakusma. Listen! takes all the promoters of the city together under their wing and gets the whole city moving together for four days in a row every year. Meakusma Festival (who recently joined our distribution) is more of an out-there festival, pushing the less obvious sounds. A festival full of discoveries! Also have to mention the two online radios that are making it possible for our local (and not so local) artists to surf the online airwaves: Kiosk and The Word are doing an excellent job. Obviously there are many more players ‘Making Brussels Great Again’!

What’s coming up for you and Crevette?

On the label front, I can reveal that our latest release from Weird Dust ‘Tribes 1.1’ is the start of a trilogy. Two more releases from him are on the way. The second should be out around November. I’m also in talks with other artists which may turn into releases. Later this year, we’ll be throwing a Birthday Weekender again to celebrate our shop’s third anniversary. We will organise concerts and club nights all over the city at AB, Les Ateliers Claus and C12. Our infamous in-store sale and party are not to be missed during these festivities! The last couple of months, I’ve been working on something truly exciting, but I can’t say much about it yet… it’s something that’s launching next year. Keep you guys posted!

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