When Houghton Festival was sadly cancelled this summer due to unsafe weather conditions, festival organisers, attendees and DJs alike mourned a lost weekend of quality music programming in an intimate and magical location. The hours of preparation that had gone into this weekend from all sides unfortunately couldn’t be shared with those who’d had it marked in their calendars since the previous year.
A-Future was among the weighty line up for Houghton’s third edition, lined up to play two sets across the weekend. The guise of Adam Shelton, A-Future represents his tastes for darker electro, breaks and electronica, something he’s also been showcasing through his newly founded imprint EON. The Birmingham-based DJ, producer and face behind the counter at record shop Café Artum, run by Jayson Wynters and Christy Lakeman, has been immersed in music from a very young age, something that’s evident through the depth of his collection and the masterful way he navigates his sets.
He’d been preparing to dive deep into his collection for Houghton earlier this year, crafting a special set of ethereal electronics and broken rhythms for his first slot at the opening of Tantrum. For his Diggers Directory mix he’s revisited some of those selections and penned some words about his relationship with vinyl and the influences around him…
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 father and step father were both in to music. My first memory of any music was Jimmy Hendrix and Queen, I remember hearing them in my fathers car when I was very young. I still listen to these for the memories and because I like the music. I cannot say that these educated me to where I am now though. My step father was in to Pink Floyd, a band that again I still listen to now. There is one track in particular from the dark side of the moon album called “Breathe In The Air” which is built around modular synthesis; this is a very pure piece of early electronica music which is more fitting with what I am in to these days.
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?
For me it’s very simple, that is what the DJs would play. I was in to the rave scene from a very young age, from eleven years old I was hooked, I used to watch my older friends play records on there hi-fi systems and wanted to collect them too. My first pair of turntables I purchased when I was fourteen came with a collection of around two hundred vinyl. By then I was fully involved and appreciated the sleeve art, the sound and the concept of mixing.
Where do you store your records and how do you file them?
I have a record room. I have actually down scaled this year a lot, I have sold around 3,000 vinyl in various ways and now I’m a firm believer that less is more. Until that point I had never sold a record, and to be honest having 7,000 plus was just too much, now I have around 4,000 and I am really happy with my collection. I file them in my own order, some piles are based on genre, some albums, some compilations. Some are what I am playing currently and some are filed by label or artist – if I have more than five records on a certain label or by an artist they will form their own section or pile.
What are your favourite spots to go digging and why?
To be honest these days I do most of my buying online, I have such a tight system with Youtube/Discogs and Juno records that I don’t need to go to record stores as much. Of course I still do when I’m travelling and one of my favourite spots over the last few years is A-1 Records in NYC; I love their collections, of course NYC has such a rich history of music and they get new drops all the time. Another place I like is Syncrophone Records in Paris, really cool spot for new music and reissues.
I do also work in a record shop called Café Artum in Birmingham, meaning I have my finger on the pulse with new music before it comes out. Dealing with distributors like Rubadub in Glasgow and Clone in Rotterdam means a lot of amazing new music.
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 am very lucky to have travelled the world playing music, I have only just scratched the surface too when I think about some of the people I have met along the way; street sellers in Rio de Janerio, market sellers at London’s Spitalfields, the guy with the cart at Shambala festival, names I forget or never knew. I love meeting people that sell records, it does not matter to me if I buy or just look, it’s a beautiful thing to have that instant connection with someone because of records. It is very rare you hear “oh that person was a dick, trying to push those second hand records on me like that’ – it is very much the opposite.
Shout out to my man on the streets of Santa Teresa in Rio who sold me that George Benson album, I hope you’re still alive and well sir.
Is there a record (or records), that has continued to be elusive over the years???
I have found everything I am looking for so far, or it has found me.
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?
It depends, if I want to have a serious spend then on my own all day long. I can’t help digging for other people if I’m with friends, that takes away from your time but I do like that experience too.
I guess I would ideally like to go with people that can show me stuff. My ideals would be Tristan da Cunha, Jayson Wynters and Rod Lee-Peace; I know they will show me some special music and give me new ideas.
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?
Ha ha yes I do, I walk around the shop with my hands behind my back and see what sections they have, before I touch anything I have to do this, otherwise it’s just throwing yourself in without a clue. I don’t find any record shop daunting anymore, I feel I can hold my own now.
How big a role does album artwork play in your digging?
Huge! If I had the spare cash I could buy records just for the artwork, especially some of the rock albums from the seventies – they have mind-blowing art. Also the disco sleeves were so cool, not the new stuff, the original sleeves, so iconic in colour and tone and style. Soul Jazz records did an amazing book on this called Disco, the art and stories behind the labels are cool. I guess that’s a yes from me.
Could you tell us a bit about the mix you’ve done for us?
The mix is a selection of records I was going to play in one my sets at Houghton Festival this year. I had two sets and the first was the opening of Tantrum on Thursday. I had a three hour slot and was planning an hour or so ambient and down tempo sounds then a slow ride through electro and broken rhythms. This is a selection of some of those.
Any standouts in the mix you’d like to mention?
I don’t really favour tracks too much from a mix. I like them all in their own way. I chose to play them at Houghton Festival because I know you can play your best bits and people will get it.
Casting the net wider now, who are some of the record collectors you most admire and why?
I always find inspiration in my friends, I appreciate collectors that have huge collections of certain styles, or have ridiculous back catalogues of pure nostalgia, but for me now I’m looking for people that are pushing forward with their sound and their collections.
First up is my good friend and boss of Café Artum, Jayson Wynters. We connected through Jamal Moss when talking about music and have a really strong connection when it comes to deep electronics. We are very much on the same page with that, Jayson is always advancing his sound and as a digger, a DJ and a collector he has a cool story to tell.
Second up is the record shop personified Tristan Da Cunha. After owning two record stores, having years at the helm at Back to Basics in Leeds, A&R for 2020, running labels and playing worldwide, Tris has a killer collection but I know he is always pushing forward. What I also love is you can ask him about a track and he can name the label, year, who sampled it, what colour the label is… Pure knowledge and love for the record.
Third up is Alex Downey. I have known Alex now for around three years. My first introduction to him was at Freerotation after him smashing my head to pieces with his set. He was also selling records there, we got talking and since then I have spent time listening to Alex’s wide range of sets and have seen a slice of his collection. I am totally inspired by his sound.
And finally Craig Richards. We all know him as one of the finest selectors on the planet but after spending time with Craig at his place and seeing the mass of records he has… Wow. I found it funny, I remember getting home and feeling like starting all over again. Some people might come to my place and think I have a lot of amazing records but after a trip to Craig’s, I get his twenty year residency, I get that in that room there are nearly forty years of travelling the world, buying music, living it and loving the whole spectrum of music. It’s amazing to see and be around. I was on a path selling records early this year and said to Craig, “do you think you could off load some of yours? Surely you can loose half?” The eyes looked somewhere in my direction and then a plain, simple no was said. We moved on. If I could have single collection in the world it would be this one. I know many people that agree.
And are there any young collectors emerging who we should keep a close eye on?
Two Birmingham collectors that have really been buzzing me up the last year or so have been Christy Lakeman and Matt Jones, both doing their thing. Christy runs Café Artum with Jayson and has been playing some great radio shows of late; I feel he is carving a path for himself really naturally as a selector, playing lovers rock, reggae, disco and amazing world music. Matt Jones is a local DJ who I have been getting to know over the past two or so years. I love to see people that are following a natural path and Matt is doing just that, playing downtempo electronica, quirky drum and bass and spacey techno sounds. Whatever he has played me I have connected with. Buying records for the love and finding your own sound, I think that’s the ticket.
Anything on the horizon you’re excited about?
The whole of 2020 to be honest! EON records, A-Future, Café Artum, new projects and adventures, festivals, gigs, Birmingham, friends…
Crystal Maze – Castro Valley [Eidetic] Strange Audio Dreams – Error Design 2 [Art-Aud] Craig Richards – Batty Three [The Nothing Special] Kurt Baggaley – Remembering Infinity [Something Happening, Somewhere] Objekt – Agnes Apparatus – [Pan] Duplex – Molecular – [Frustrated Funk] Paul Santangelo – Please Him [Venetian Causeway] Brad Peterson – Higher Dimensional [Hotmix] Metamatics – Bodypop [Shipwrec] Binary Operator – System Error [Central Electronics] Garum – Germ Identity [The Trilogy Tapes] Pip Williams – ASBO youth [Broken Toys] Elecktroids – Kilohertz [Warp] Eggfooyoung – Bass2large [Monotone] The Hacker – Rythmus Maschine [Monotone] Maroje T – This is Not The System For Us [Innerspace] Craig Richards – Batty Two [The Nothing Special] Miles Atmospheric – See The Light [Firescope] Dexterous Numerics – Epihany [Blind Allies] Mogwaa – Drizzle – [Spring Theory]