Now here’s a friendly and familiar face. London-based DJ, vocalist and radio host Eliza Rose‘s musical ethos is all about sharing. Something that’s been ingrained in her since she locked in her work experience at Flashback Records at the age of 15.
She went on to work at the shop on and off for 10 years which fuelled her passion for collecting and helped her to expand her musical horizons. These formative years have seen her go on to share her musical discoveries and knowledge with the world through both her mentoring work as a core member of Rhythm Sister, a collective and platform pushing women and female identifying artists, as well as via her regular transmissions on London’s airwaves.
Her radio shows are probably the most representative of the depths and far flung corners of her record bag. As well as holding down a weekly at Rinse FM, that spans everything from reggae and RnB to disco, house and Italo, she also continues her longstanding residency at Balamii Radio with her ‘The Funk U Show’, which cruises through the (you guessed it) funky and soulful side of her collection.
Her vinyl-only mix, titled ‘It’s a London thing’, showcases the music Eliza has had a passion for since she first began collecting. Alongside an interview about a life spent saturated in music, she weaves together nearly two hours of 90s and early 00s UKG and garage house, this one’s guaranteed to lift those quarantine spirits…
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 parents are both very creative and I think that has definitely informed a large part of my interests when I was growing up. They were into theatre and acting, I just really wanted something of my own and so I got into music; choir and singing, song writing and things like that.
I think I really started getting a “musical education” when I started working at Flashback records at 15. I did my work experience there, then worked part time, or full time on or off for about 10 years. When I started working there I was mainly listening to 90s/00s Rnb and UKG but suddenly I was exposed to all these different genres – jazz, blues, soul, motown, lovers rock – and I was working alongside people with really deep knowledge, that were like specialists in specific genres. I worked with LOADS of amazing people over the years but special shout out to Ossie and Matt, two of my colleagues who really informed and exposed me to so many amazing artists as a teenager. I definitely wouldn’t have found such obsession and love for soul music without them – so yeah I definitely got my “musical education” there.
A pivotal record would be anything from Billie Holiday I think, I can’t remember a particular record but that was what I would play at the shop a lot at the start. I was really really OBSESSED with Amy Winehouse at one point and I wanted to find music that was similar or was influential to her sound so I started researching and then really got into early Jazz singers Bille, Ella, Sarah Vaughn ect. but Billie Holiday was the first person, and lucky for me I had all these amazing records right at my fingertips and people working there who would be like ‘listen to this one’.
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?
Well again I was just exposed to lots of good music and stuff you couldn’t find anywhere else unless you bought the record. I wouldn’t be able to find the track on Youtube or whatever so I had to buy the record and it started from there really. That’s one of the things that motivates me really, discovering new music, when I find something new that I haven’t heard before it’s like a rush, haha bit naff but I just love it.
Where do you store your records and how do you file them?
In my bedroom mainly in the trusty IKEA Kallax things that everyone uses. I also bought this storage unit off Gumtree years ago, some guy had hand- made it and didn’t want anymore, so bought it and I painted it orange. That was my first storage unit. Also I have a crate which I fill with stuff I’ll be playing that week on radio or want to add to my record bag, which is filled with records that I am playing out.
So I have a kind of method to the madness system, that, to be fair is more madness then method. It doesn’t really make sense but makes sense to me… kind of. So it’s genres first. Jazz, 90s RnB,and reggae, music I have bought from around the world.
House and UKG are ordered by year, UKG also has a ‘bait/classics’ section within that. Disco and boogie is 12″, then LPs, but LPs are split up into men and women. Cause I am a very visual person I usually don’t remember the name of the band or the track but I remember the sleeves this obviously this can get confusing especially with disco because a lot of them have women on the cover but usually I can picture the band so I know, but still mistakes are OFTEN made. My 7s are just hot mess right now, they are vaguely in genre but I really need to show them some love and sort them properly.
What are your favourite spots to go digging and why?
ELDICA! My all time fave, I have literally found the best music there and Andy, who owns it, just comes with the FIRE recommendations every single time. Literally if go there I come out poorer (because I just want to buy everything) but enriched!!
DNR is really seriously amazing for UKG bits – only thing is, is that it’s really out the way for me so I have only been once but I am always checking their website and ordering stuff over the phone.
Flashback is really really good as well they have three shops and they just get bought in such a wide scope of music.
I buy a lot online as I don’t really have as much free time as I would like, so I have specific Discogs sellers who I check there pages like once or twice a week.
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?
Andy who I just mentioned. My friends Jack and Bobby, fellow Flashback veterans who put me on to loads of great house and UKG.
A guy in Lisbon I bought some records off told me these super cool interesting stories about all the records I bought. One being that Tim Maia was in this weird cult for a while, and even made a few albums promoting it, one being Racional Voc 1. When he realised it was a big scam he destroyed a lot of the music he had made during that period. I live for weird little facts like that. So yeah, anyone whose told me some cool history about the artist but I never found out their names…
Is there a record (or records), that has continued to be elusive over the years?
There’s certain records that I just really want to find in a shop and not just buy on Discogs. They’re not even rare and I think that’s more the reason I really want to find them in person. One being Change – Mutual Attraction.
Another LP I really want is Langey School – Music Project Innocence and Despair – a kids choir from the 70s I think, singing, it’s so so cute. I heard it years ago and really wanted it but it was super expensive, for my Saturday job wage at the time anyway, and never I’ve come across it since.
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?
A bit of both, really. Going by yourself is nice, it’s therapeutic. You can take your time and spend as long as you need there’s no pressure. I do also love going record shopping with other people as two heads are better than one and all that, but I am quite competitive so I am always peeking over my shoulder to check on what they have nabbed before 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?
I don’t find it that daunting because I worked in record shops for such a long time. I do get a small thrill though when I go somewhere new and the (usually) old white man is giving me some side eye from behind the counter like I don’t know what I’m doing but soon realises that I do.
As for digging process, it depends on what I am looking for I guess. If I am looking for stuff for my radio shows I’ll head to the soul/funk/disco section. If I have a gig coming up I’ll go straight to House and UKG. I usually go off year, so House and UKG I’m looking for 90s stuff really and, especially UKG, I’m looking for ’98. Also labels that I like play a big part, if recognise a label I have I will check the track or album.
How big a role does album artwork play in your digging?
A big part. And so do funny names of tracks, I love things that are a bit silly so if I see an outlandish or eye catching cover I will at least pick it up and check it out – you’ve put in work to make your artwork stand out, hopefully you’ve done the same with your music. Herbie Hancock artwork being a good example of this. Although very often this is not the case and the music is rubbish, but I also collect sleeves, I like to frame them so even if the music is bad I might still buy it for the sleeve.
Also I love funny titles especially with soul, funk and reggae ‘Dresses too short‘ – hilarious. I will always listen if I see something like that, I also reach for anything with references to alcohol and drugs so Gin House Blues for example.
Could you tell us a bit about the mix you’ve done for us?
The theme of the mix is ‘It’s a London thing’ – 90s/00s garage house and UK garage. I have been buying UKG for a long time, I stupidly sold a decent bit of my collection a few years ago when I was broke and also when I thought I was only playing house, so the last few years I have been rectifying that mistake and buying a lots of great UKG. I wanted to share something that represented me and where I am from as being from London is such a big part of my identity. I also wanted something that was upbeat and uplifting to combat the dark times we are currently facing.
Any standouts in the mix you’d like to mention?
Any of the tracks by Grant Nelson (love of my musical life). Lots of the garage house on Nice n Ripe you can pick up relatively cheaply and I didn’t want the whole mix to be about only rare or expensive tracks. You can still pick up amazing records for a few quid.
Also Restless Natives – Felas Tune! Fela Kuti x UKG – what’s not to love?
Casting the net wider now, who are some of the record collectors you most admire and why?
It’s sooo hard to choose so I won’t. I guess for me it’s about local people who have been collecting for a minute, someone who I can see myself in, someone I aspire to their knowledge and taste.
One being Jaye Ward. I have never seen her record collection but I’m pretty sure it is like a Holy Grail type thing. I’ve seen her play out and it’s just incredible and also I am looking up anything she posts on Facebook and quickly adding to my want list.
Rachael from Rye Wax as well, I know she has the same passion for records as me, she always comes with the amazing disco tracks. Whenever I have played with her I am just asking ‘what is this?’ non-stop.
Marcia Carr is another – an old skool collector with a huge collection I’ve seen in pictures. As a black woman playing and collecting vinyl that clearly is a big aspiration for me.
Josey Rebelle – I actually feel like I am getting an education when I listen to her rinse show.
Finally Willow, I saw her play out in Dance Tunnel and it was the first time I had seen a young women playing all vinyl, not through a computer screen. That really inspired me to seriously start collecting House and UKG to play out rather then just for home listening.
Are there any young collectors emerging who we should keep a close eye on?
Again so so hard to choose…
Scarlett O’Malley – She has a wicked soul collection, especially 45s, and throws a really good party. She is also negotiating soul, a scene that’s ran by a lot of older white men, and she is always pushing and booking women of colour.
Angel D’Lite as well, for all things hard and nasty with a sprinkle of sugar on top. Again I know she has a passion for digging out the unknown.
Jossy Mitsu is a garage girl after my own heart, I know she’s got collection that is coming along nicely, same with OK Williams for your house and techno needs.
Anything on the horizon you’re excited about?
Well everything is really up in the air right now because of Coronavirus so a lot of stuff has been cancelled or put on hold. I had a few festivals confirmed which I was looking forward to: Gala, Queens Yard, Kingdom, We Out Here and Headroom, but god knows if they will happen. But if not, I’m not mad at it, it’s a necessary step for us to put things right in the long run.
I have still have weekly radio on Rinse and my monthly on Balamii so I am excited and grateful to still have a platform to share music with people. Also time to go through my own collection and rediscover hidden and forgotten gems, so yeah excited about that.