A love of the past and a curiosity to unearth and discover has always been instilled in Bristol-based DJ Tilly. Her degree focused on just that and has now extended to the way she looks for music and pieces it together.
Her long-standing residency on Noods Radio is evidence of that. Every month she joins the dots between sounds like new wave, synth-pop, punk, new beat and disco with elegance and style, never subscribing to any one genre and consistently seeking out music that sits on the fringes.
The theme of Tilly’s Diggers Directory mix was decided by fate. A turn of the tarot card dealt her The Lovers, which symbolises not only love but choice, alignment and being at a crossroads. Interpreting her collection around the card, she pieces together a mix of 80s downtempo synth-pop, soft rock and new wave, alongside an interview about her relationship with music…
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 and no. I don’t come from a particularly musical family. I guess music wasn’t a massive part of my early years, so in terms of musical education it was very much self led later on. I have always been engaged in music but not very musically talented! At school we were encouraged to play instruments but I wasn’t gifted in that department and I can’t sing so playing other people’s music was really the only option for me in this industry.
Having said that, music was always around at home. I think a big focus of my upbringing was to have fun and to never rule anything out. We had (and still have) a turntable, tape and hi-fi set up in the living room that I would absolutely love to get out and listen to all my parent’s LPs. I am really lucky that my rents have great taste even though they aren’t “heads” or “diggers” they just really enjoy it. I can vividly remember singing and dancing along to a lot of New Romantic 80s hits and ‘You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)’ by Dead or Alive. But they are also into a lot of other stuff like Motown, Northern Soul, Rock and Pop etc they don’t like to subscribe to one genre, they just want to feel good and relax and I hope I’ve inherited this approach too.
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 wouldn’t say I’m really a collector or a digger just someone who really enjoys the whole ritual of playing music and learning the narrative behind the tracks and artists. In terms of motivation, I would have to link this back A) major boredom growing up in a small town in the Cotswold’s and B) to my love of the past. I am absolutely obsessed with artefacts and history; I did a degree in it, so I guess unearthing and discovering stuff, wider reading and learning the bigger picture is ingrained in me.
Where do you store your records and how do you file them?
In that standard Ikea cabinet everyone has in my flat. It’s all in no particular order, rammed full, alongside books and arts and crafts materials. I have small piles around the room too. It is so full of stuff that its slowly collapsing so should probably get a new one. I literally live in a matchbox so some of my earlier punk and indie records are still at my rents house along with all of my 7” collection.
What are your favourite spots to go digging and why?
To be honest, I dig digitally and physically – I think you’re blinkered if you constrain yourself to one or the other. You have to stay open minded. I’ll spend hours in record shops or at markets. It honestly depends what mood I’m in, how much money and time I’ve got. I’m a normal person and life can get in the way, I have bills to pay – some months I can find and buy loads of stuff, some months I can’t, and that’s fine. DJing is a privilege, so I feel lucky when I’m able to do it. A great place to start is looking through close friend’s collections. Friend’s know you best and often can recommend the most amazing records and put you on a completely different path! I also like markets and car boots too but because I work and gig at the weekends it is a rarity when I manage to get to one. So that’s where the Internet comes in handy. Charity shops and small local record shops in and around the southwest are also always a good shout. A personal Bristol favourite is Wanted Records in St Nicks Market. But, an all time favourite is Vinyl Vault in my hometown. I’ve been going there since I was a teenager. Whenever I go back home I always go there without fail.
More recently, and to make myself sound a lot cooler than I am, I really like Sound Metaphors in Berlin, Redlight Records but also really like Pinkman in Rotterdam – their bin deal is an actual dream. Also, really looking forward to Planet Caravan arriving in Bristol soon as I will definitely going to be shopping there A LOT.
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 don’t really know many people well in the scene because I’m an introvert and haven’t had the chance to travel around loads of shops (yet). I kind of keep myself to myself when I’m out looking for stuff. But yeah anyway, I actually don’t know his name after all these years but the nice man from Vinyl Vault. He has always just let me just get on with it. Always friendly, always gives me suggestions, never forceful with sales and think he’s just glad I’ve cleared some of the crates for him over the years because the basement is honestly packed out.
Is there a record (or records) that has continued to be illusive over the years?
I’m not sure about this illusive record business purely because it suddenly becomes inaccessible for a lot of people. As soon as it’s ilusive, it’s exclusive as this often goes hand in hand with high price increases and certain people “in-the-know” or social capital or whatever you want to call it. For me personally, the ‘illusive’ quality suddenly disappears seeing as there are so many different ways you can listen to music nowadays. I just notice the same demographic who can afford to buy these obscure, expensive, hype records and inevitably this mentality just echoes out into the wider industry. I don’t know if I’m explaining myself very well when I say this but records should be for everyone and no one in particular at the same time.
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 much prefer to shop by myself. I like the rhythm of flicking through crates. You can sort of lose yourself in it and switch off. So, I like to enjoy the whole ritual of looking for music alone whereas, I enjoy the whole process of listening and sharing music with others, hence the radio show on Noods.
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?
Depends what mood I’m in. I tend to set myself a budget because of my financial situation and income. I tend to take a few breaths, count to three, head straight over to New Second Hand if I’m heading to my local record shops. Then, I’ll tend to hop over to New Wave/Punk/Post Punk/Industrial/avant-garde and just kind of go from there. 12” section if there is one. Then, through bargain bins for the rest of the period. Depending on time, I’ll just go alphabetically, through every box (ask for a stool)! To be honest, what I’ve just described is a bit of an erratic process (if you can even call it a process!?) Just get stuck in if you’ve got the time and patience.
How big a role does album artwork play in your digging?
Massively, but I try not to get too bogged down with the visuals. I did one of those tests way back when at school and apparently I’m a “visual learner” so maybe this plays a big part? I love the way things look, I’m fickle like that so I have lots of records that sound terrible but look great. Style no substance should be my new bio haha. But, obviously, online I’m just looking for the information/year etc. It doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things.
Could you tell us a bit about the mix you’ve done for us?
I was struggling with a concept for this one for a while. I actually pulled out the tarot deck and just chose a card. Funnily enough, I picked the sixth major arcana card, upright, which is The Lovers for those who aren’t familiar with a traditional tarot deck. On the surface, this card is obviously symbolic of love but also about choice and alignment and often being at a crossroads. So, I’ve interpreted some of my personal collection around this card. I hope it speaks to some people listening even if they’re not into that sort of thing. It’s very much downtempo and chilled, full of bathtub trippers. So ultimately, I hope it’s a reflection of the first half of my Noods archived shows too. Mainly 80s stuff, all fairly cheap and easy to get hold of so hopefully people can access the tracks really easily at home.
I recorded this mix on x2 1210s and then rigged these up to my boyfriend’s controller because my mixer is broken.
Any standouts in the mix you’d like to mention?
That lovely Ghia 7” that finally got re-issued by the Artless Cuckoo! I’ve been obsessed with it for so long so I’m so glad its affordable now because there was no way I was going to pay the OG pressing price.
Casting the net wider now, who are some of the record collectors you most admire and why?
Yes, I have loads. Off the top of my head, JAZ, Flo Dill, Bruno, Kayne the Hermit, Belec, Gabi, Customs, Vio, Love Shadow, Castro and Nemo, Nosedrip, William (Tanzparty), OhLandy, Emma Isabella, Maybe Tonight, Bianca Lexis, No Frills, Master Phil, Marlene Stark, Milch…. I’ve probably missed so many off that list but those are just a few I’m loving right now!
Are there any young collectors emerging who we should keep a close eye on?
I said Kayne the Hermit already but Kayne knows what’s up. Really enjoying Tia Cousin’s mixes too. Nice Strangers. Also, Miniature, Sofie K and Giovanna! AND, all of my talented and very down to earth friends on Noods Radio are all great DJs in their own right. Definitely check out the resident’s page you’ll be very pleased with what you find.
Anything on the horizon you’re excited about?
I’m playing at the Tate Modern at the end of March. Hopefully, more but I’m not trying to get wound up in the machinations of the industry and just take things at my own pace, slow and steady.
Photography by Sarah Currie.