Hearing Sally C play, you’re immediately transported back to the early 90s and a sweaty warehouse teeming with uninhibited dancers. A party starter of the highest regard, there’s a distinct energy and excitement that she brings to her sets that is pure and unfiltered, stimulated by her passion for unearthing classic house, acid, ghetto and straight up rollers, and lacing them together with skill and elegance.
Lovingly known as Big Saldo to her friends and fans, it was only a matter of time before this nickname would officially become part of her musical journey. After saving a sketch in Ableton a few years ago as ‘big saldo’s chunker’, the concept stuck with her, and thereon out it was that chunky sound she was constantly searching for; think banging drums, fat basslines and off-kilter vocals.
It’s this sound that has inspired her to get her own label off the ground. Taking its name from that very sketch, Big Saldo’s Chunkers begins life with an inaugural release, and debut record, from Sally. After all, who better to channel that chunker spirit that the label will continue to pivot on than Sally herself.
Ahead of the release she takes us on a journey through the golden era of house music from 1988 – 1998, exploring the sounds that have had the biggest impact on her as an artist. Alongside this vinyl-only mix, she chats to us about her formative music experiences, becoming hooked on buying records and what the future holds for her new label…
Big Saldo’s Chunkers 001 will be released on 1st June.
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 dad had a really nice record collection, all carefully archived alphabetically and played on a Linn Sondek (older than me). I definitely learned how to look after records properly from my dad, you’d be scolded for not lifting the tone arm correctly and had to put them back very carefully in the right sleeves. There was always music on, whether in the house or in the car. Eurythmics, Elton John, R.E.M., Dire Straits, James Taylor, Everything But The Girl, Tracy Chapman. Not so much influencing my musical journey but instilling the beauty of music in everyday life.
I have my brother to thank for introducing me to a lot of music that’s probably influenced me the most. We shared a great love for the Chilis, Jurassic 5, Nightmares on Wax and he used to send me old Fabriclive CDs from London when I was 15, which catapulted me into electronic music. My ears were slightly confused at the sounds of Roni Size and Andy C but I found it extremely fascinating and the electronic music journey grew from there.
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?
It was a natural process having been surrounded by records from a young age. I remember feeling very comfortable when I first started to properly dig in the record store Grouchos in Dundee where I lived between the ages of 18-23. I liked speaking to the people who worked there about music and they had this cool little second hand dance section where I found a lot of records I still play now. I loved the sensation of listening in store and buying special records online and waiting for them to arrive. I knew they were always going to be a big part of my life. And of course once you start you can’t stop. I’ve been undoubtedly hooked for 10 years and still get the same buzz from them, they are infinite and fascinating treasures. Aside from it being the best addictive habit in the world, it helps me a lot mentally, digging and listening, digging and listening, it sorts you right out if you feel like shit. It’s one of my favourite ways to spend my time, there’s not much that can beat the feeling of unearthing old grooving records that you’ve never heard before and bringing them home to add to the collection, I don’t need much motivation for that.
Where do you store your records and how do you file them?
I store my records in my room, about a metre away from where I sleep. In my old apartment I used to know where every single record was by memory, they were all in exactly the right place but the order was all in my head. Since I moved last year they got a little messed up and I knew I needed to organise them properly so I spent a very very long time listening to every single record finding the correct place for each one. I now have sections – old good house, misc house, hip/ghetto house, non annoying disco house, disco, breaks/acid, harder shit, rolling techno…. The list goes on. But it’s still somehow all organised in my head if that makes sense? I also have a separate listening area with nice old records like Ella Fitzerald and hip hop records. The rest of the records are essentially organised for DJing purposes.
What are your favourite spots to go digging and why?
In Berlin my favourite store is Bikini Waxx – me and this store have a very good relationship. I buy a lot of second hand records and I always come away with a bag full of gems every single time I go there. They will get a lot of really cool collection drops from previous owners so it’s nice to dig through a collection that you know was once owned by someone, a kind of personal touch to the digging process. The staff are all super lovely too. Also I loved to spend time in Record Loft before it closed, it was kind of a safe haven when I arrived in Berlin at 23, somewhere I knew I could spend hours in and combat my new city anxiety. I found a lot of great records there. Space Hall too is amazing, it’s so vast, there’s so much of everything and it’s organised / categorised immensely well which is nice if you’re looking for something specific. OYE records, too, for the same reason. I really love Vinyl Exchange in Manchester. I always have a really good dig every time I go and the staff are great. Killa Kutz in Amsterdam is probably my favourite there, I’d admired their discogs catalogue a lot before finally going, it’s a super small store with a lot of magic inside and they have a whole grotto downstairs which they are happy to delve into for you.
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 met a really nice character in Sleeve Records in Florence. After digging for quite some time we started chatting and ended up spending hours there and buying a lot of records. He knew so much about music and it’s always so nice to have these conversations in store. He introduced me to Casa Voyager too, which I will be forever grateful for. Also have to shout out the Bikini staff – Yannick, Alex and Gerd.. sweet souled music heads who add to the digging experience as opposed to some stores where it can feel a little cliquey or intimidating.
Is there a record (or records), that has continued to be illusive over the years?
I don’t focus too much if I can’t get hold of a particular record, they always without a doubt show up at some point in a random crate and you get that feeling. I trust this process.
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 mostly prefer to go digging on my own – it’s an extremely personal experience for me and I like to give it my full attention and respect every time I go. I find it hard to concentrate on things in general but with digging I’ll go into a portal for a few hours and I love that I have that, it’s for me and the records and nothing else and I know I can go anywhere in the world on my own and gain immense satisfaction and comfort from a dig. All record stores are safe places for me. Cromby is probably the only person I’d go on a long dig with but to be honest, it’s hard not to be jealous of the records the other person is picking up. On the other hand we’ll always pass over records we think the other might like before putting them in the return crate.
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 go in with any kind of agenda. I will usually just go to the crate that seems most appealing in that moment and work my way round, building a big pile for round 1, listen, then go for round 2 and 3 then maybe have a final listen at the end as I’ll forget what I’ve listened to. It’s different in every store but generally I just throw myself in and begin the haul.
How big a role does album artwork play in your digging?
Aside from the year the record was made, it’s probably one of the most important features I take into account in deciding whether to add to the pile. Old artwork, funny logos/names and funny descriptions always stand out to me. I know what I’m looking for in this sense. With second hand records they always have a story, well I will imagine one anyway – who has owned this before, who has it made dance, which countries has it travelled to, who wrote this cute little note that I’m now reading 30 years later. You can feel the history sometimes and that connects you with the record even before listening to it. So maybe not the artwork directly but the instinctive/aesthetic feel I get from a record at a first glance.
Could you tell us a bit about the mix you’ve done for us?
The mix is the sounds of 1988 – 1998, the house sounds that have had the biggest impact on me as an artist and that have really shaped my style as a DJ. I begin the mix in 1991 and go on a journey throughout the years in chronological order until 1998 which is around half way, then I rewind back to 1988 and go back up through the years in the same chronological order until 1997. In a lot of ways this was really the mix for me, I got an incredible amount of satisfaction planning and preparing it, placing all the right records together for this journey. At first I thought it might sound all over the place but naturally records from similar years sound good together and I wanted the challenge of making it work as a whole journey. There’s something insanely therapeutic and calming about vinyl and I also just really loved sitting on my floor surrounded by all of the possible records for the mix (there were A LOT), knowing they would all make sense at some point.
Any standouts in the mix you’d like to mention?
There is a Mike Huckaby record around 35 mins in that has a really cool extra vocal after the record ends that I was unaware of before this mix and it works so perfectly as a tribute to him, this was quite an emotional part of the mix all the energy in that moment made me feel a lot and how fucking sad it is to have lost a absolute legend and true soul. RIP Mike Huckaby I will play his records forever.
Casting the net wider now, who are some of the record collectors you most admire and why?
I’ve always been a big fan of Nightmares On Wax, his record collection looks insane! I look up a lot to Cinthie, her collection is also insane and she now has her own record store, something that is always at the back of my head. Sunil Sharpe is probably the artist I am in total awe of when it comes to records. He is a true master of vinyl and his knowledge of music is so vast. He also does so much for the scene in Ireland with his ‘Give Us The Night’ initiative, which is a long running campaign that is fighting for the modernisation of Irish nightlife that is held back by outdated legislations. A true inspiration.
Anything on the horizon you’re excited about?
The prospect of open air parties being allowed in Berlin this summer – it’s a sad old time for the live music industry, but hopefully there is some light. Praying for this so we can plan some summer parties.
You’ve just announced the launch of your new label Big Saldo’s Chunkers, with a debut EP from yourself. What was the incentive behind launching the label? Did you always foresee this being the platform you’d debut your own productions?
I started this project a couple of years ago after I automatically saved a track as ‘big saldo’s chunker’ in Ableton. The name just stuck and I’ve been working on tracks to fit into my sets ever since. It’s a simple concept, the tracks are made for the dance floor. The sound I am always searching for is banging drums, chunky basslines and weird vocals. This is what I call the ‘holy trinity’ and this EP encompasses this ethos throughout. Big Saldo is a rowdy nickname friends gave me which has undoubtedly carried through to my productions.
I never thought I would initially start my own label, in fact the visualisation of having my music on an actual record was a far away thought that I found hard to grasp for a long time. Coming into the industry as a DJ before a producer (usually it’s the other way round) created some sort of mental cloud over me for a long time where I never thought my music was as good as others or I would never attain the quality of all my peers and favourite producers. It was a classic case of not believing in myself, but as soon as I started making music really for me and to fit into my sets, the creativity flowed so much better and the chunker idea developed over time as I started to produce dance floor-oriented music. Having established some sort of platform I decided to release them myself which gave me full creative control and it meant I didn’t have to wait for another label’s approval. I will of course aim to work with labels I admire and respect down the line, but for now this is my first EP and it feels right coming directly from me.
What else have you got planned for the label in future? Will you be looking far and wide for potential releases or keeping it close knit?
I have a very exciting project coming up for one of the next releases, but for now, it’s close knit. I love the idea of releasing a wide range of different artists’ music, but that will come with time and probably on a separate label. For now it’s strictly chunkers. It’s a simple concept and I’m really excited to finally launch it.
Big Saldo’s Chunkers 001 will be released on 1st June.
Twin Freaks – Agent Cooper Lurvs Coffee (1991)
Eddie Flashin’ Fowlkes – Understand (1992)
Outrage – That Piano Track (1993)
The Untouchables – “Lil Louie’s Anthem” (1994)
DJ Sneak – Message Of Love (1994)
Nightmares On Wax – Alive (Original B-Boy Club) (1994)
Rhythm Division – Northern Exposure (1995)
DJ Tonka – Flashback (1995)
Mike Huckaby – Flashback 78 (1995)
DJ Sneak – Nite At The Disco (1995)
The Bucketheadz – Lil Louie Bonus (1996)
DJ Pierre – C’Mon Baby (Wild Shit Mix) (1997)
Freddy Fresh – It’s About The Groove (Aim Remix) (1998)
Fast Eddie – Hip House (Julian Jumpin’ Perez Mix) (1988)
KA Posse – Dig This (Tyree Mix) (1989)
KC Flight – Dancin Machine (Acid House Remix) (1989)
Mr Lee – Get Busy (Lidell Townsell Mix) (1990)
Tyree Feat. J.M.D – Move Your Body (Julian Jumpin’ Perez Mix) (1990)
Fast Eddie – Make Some Noise (Fast Eddie Mix) (1990)
Tyree Cooper – Hip House Is The Style (Tyree Mix) (1990)
Fast Eddie – Get Some More (Tyree Cooper Mix) (1990)
Tyree Cooper – Rock The Discotech (Vocal Mix) (1991)
Jovonn – This Thing Is Jammin’ (1992)
DJ Funk – House The Groove (1993)
Reality – Yolanda (Eric Moore Mix) (1993)
Pyjama Party – Kinky People (Nombre De Pistes Mix) (1994)
Black N Spanish – Spanish & Black (1995)
Tragic – Wreck It (1996)
DJ Supreme – Tha Wild Style (1996)
Lil Louie – Clap Your Hands (R&B Mix) (1997)