In the midst of a council estate in Hoxton sits the Lion & Lamb, an unassuming East End pub that plays host to some of the most refined selectors around. Known for its Sunday sessions with the likes of Craig Richards and Ricardo Villalobos at the helm, as well as its resident nights with crews and labels like North South and The Bricks, the venue has become a destination for the heads in London.
The man behind the space is DJ and producer Andre King. Since launching in 2018, he’s built an incredible music community around it, with revered artists coming back to play time and time again on their finely tuned sound system. Recently he’s extended the L&L brand further, opening up a record shop as well as a new label arm, with the first release coming from Voigtmann, Alex Celler, Unai Trotti and, of course, Andre himself. Now he’s working hard on a new album which will see the light of day later this year on the imprint.
We chatted to him about the L&L journey and his relationship with vinyl, alongside a mix of laid back electronic selections…
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?
Growing up my mum was always playing classic albums from the 70s like the Beatles, Supertramp, Bowie etc… I used to love sitting on the couch listening to them while reading all the sleeve notes and looking at the artwork. I suppose thats when I first fell in love with vinyl. It wasn’t long after that, aged 11 or 12, that I started my own record collection. I remember standing in line for ages waiting for the a new Michael Jackson Bad album the day it was released. Collecting albums became a huge ritual growing up, dressing up like the artists and learning the dance moves.
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?
Later when I was about 18 I had a girlfriend whose brother turned out to be Rob Mello. Through him I fell in love with the art of collecting records as a DJ and from there my obsession with collecting 12″ really started. I had a routine every Saturday starting out at Rough Trade on Portobello Road, where Nigel would always pick out some really interesting stuff for me (Herbert, Aubrey and so on), then I would walk up to Notting Hill where I would dip in to the Exchange Shops before moving on to Soho. There I would go and see Rob Mello; during those days he worked at Black Market Records and would hand pick some of the latest dance floor stuff for me to listen to. After that I would always finish up down at Vinyl Junkies with JP, listening to new stuff before I had to rush off to play somewhere, excited to try out all of my new records.
Where do you store your records and how do you file them?
At the moment they are literally scattered all over the pub (Lion & Lamb) as I live in the flat upstairs. I have a whole load of shelves in the basement opposite the studio, more shelves in the office and record bags full of them all over the place. I never really had a system for filing before but this all changed when we opened the record shop at the pub – we now have them all on excel documents filed on Discogs. I am painfully trying to do this with my own personal collection but it’s gonna take some time!
What are your favourite spots to go digging and why?
Nowadays I’m sorry to say but I do a lot of digging online for the record shop and for myself. Although we did buy a 3000 record collection from a private collector which is turning in to a massive labour of love to go through, but a lot of fun too as there is literally everything in there. Now and then you find some really rare stuff you just weren’t expecting.
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?
There’s a guy called Jay (The Plastic Vinyl Dog) who comes to the Lion & Lamb who runs a record fair some Saturdays that I love. A really colourful character with a massive beard who always has really good records – it’s impossible to have a chat with him without spending less than £100. Other than that when I did some gigs in New York and Chicago years ago I remember going digging and having a great time at Gramaphone Records in Chicago, all the guys in there were definitely what you could call colourful characters.
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?
All my business partners at the Lion & Lamb are DJs and record collectors too, so there’s been times when nobody was quite sure who owned what record as they would seem to jump from one record bag to another (resulting in the occasional argument). In the early days we were always hanging out listening to records together so there was a fair amount of digging happening just checking out each other’s record collections.
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 do love that feeling of walking in to a new record shop for the first time and trying to work out where everything is. There is a particular instinct you develop, which I suppose comes from many years buying records.
How big a role does album artwork play in your digging?
It plays a massive role to be honest. Some shops you go in to that don’t have listening stations it’s all about the look of the record. There’s many times I’ve bought stuff that just looks really interesting – even though I’ve never heard of the artists or the label – that’s ended up being really good once I’ve got home and listened to it. It’s almost more exciting to buy stuff without listening to it but of course there are also disappointments.
Could you tell us a bit about the mix you’ve done for us?
The mix is for a laid back afternoon at home rather than something to listen to in a club. The mix reflects that both in the music and with the mixing style. Although I do beat match the tracks there are other moments where I just transition from one record to another as the tempos are too different. When I do beat match it’s just about joining the records together at the end.
Any standouts in the mix you’d like to mention?
The week I did the mix I’d been listening to the Andrew Weatherall album, Masterpiece, that’s been kicking around the record shop for a while. I really fell in love with it, and as a result there are at least three or four tracks from the album in the mix.
Casting the net wider now, who are some of the record collectors you most admire and why?
I would have to say Craig Richards. We became good friends when I opened the Lion & Lamb and he helped me a lot in setting the right tone for the club for which I’m very grateful for. As I got to know him better and understand him as a DJ, I developed a huge admiration for his attitude as an artist. His view on music and the art of the DJing is totally magical and his record collection reflects that.
Are there any young collectors emerging who we should keep a close eye on?
There are a lot of kids nowadays going back to vinyl. A lot of the guys doing the best parties at Lion & Lamb have all got vinyl-only labels and are all serious diggers. Crews like North South, Sentaku and Opia.
You’ve built an amazing community around the Lion & Lamb since opening your doors. Do you feel that the vision you had back then has been realised? What exciting things have you got in store for 2020?
Yes for sure it really has been amazing. I could never have dreamed it would have gone as well as it has. I knew the place was special but I never expected quite what has happened. I’ve been very lucky that all the elements seemed to align themselves at the same time we opened and it’s just been going from strength to strength ever since.
That L&L community we mentioned has recently led to the launch of the Lion & Lamb’s label arm, can you let us into what else you have penned for the year?
Well we have a lot of exciting releases planned throughout the year including our first release this week! The first in a series of Various Artists EP’s featuring Voigtmann, Alex Celler, Unai Trotti and myself.
And we hear you’ve also been working hard on an album…
Yes a real labour of love! I set up a studio in the basement and the moment I did that I broke my ankle, so it was the perfect time to explore all my musical influences and try and do something that brings them all together in an album. I’m still working on it but it’s starting to come together finally! It will be out on Lion & Lamb Records later this year.
Anything on the horizon you’re excited about?
I’m excited about the same things, keeping the club vibrant and fresh and developing the label. Maybe a Lion & Lamb festival at some point… Who knows!