Diggers Directory: Felix Dickinson

Felix Dickinson is someone who needs little by way of an introduction, having carved out a fierce reputation as a refined selector and producer over the last 30 years.

Starting out playing at illegal raves in the 90s, he went on to become a resident (alongside fellow DJ Nick The Record) at Life Force, a long-running party in Japan that leaned on the free party spirit of the UK and ran by word-of-mouth. After 10 years there, he went on to become part of the Block 9 Glastonbury, Love International and Houghton families, coming back to play as a resident year in, year out.

As a producer he’s made music under various aliases and guises over the years including Das Etwas, Foolish and Sly, LHAS Inc and his Dedication project which had several releases on the likes of DFA, Claremont 56, Adventures in Paradise and his own Cynic imprint, which has acted as a platform for “proper house music” for the last 16 years.

For his vinyl-only mix he dives into the acid sounds among his collection, selecting various squelchy 303 lines from all different styles and eras. This sits alongside an interview about his relationship with records.

We now premiere all our mixes a week early on Mixcloud. Subscribe to our channel to listen first, download all mixes, and ensure that the artists included in each one gets paid. Read more about our decision here.

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?

I’m the youngest in a big family with four older full-siblings and five steps-siblings, and will have to credit them for a lot of my exposure to music growing up. My eldest brother Ivor was a keen record collector, and owned a record shop for a bit. He used to play me stuff like Bowie and Steve Miller Band (he took me to my first Bowie concert when I was 10).

I have another brother called Luke who used to play me stuff like Talking Heads and Eno’s My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts, which I was really in to. My earliest memory of being into disco is of arguing with my sister Sophie about who we wanted to get to number one, I was firmly in the Bee Gees camp while she was championing whichever punk band was competing for number one spot that week. My passion (obsession) with music really started when I got introduced to dance music going to Tonka parties (my introduction to Tonka came through my step-brother Julian).

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 only started seriously record collecting when I started partying, and I’d go to record shops trying to find the records I’d heard at the weekend, nowadays I keep digging due to an insatiable desire to hunt out new bits that I haven’t heard before.

Where do you store your records and how do you file them?

I’ve got two walls for my record shelves (in a couple rooms). One room has my 12’s, the other my albums. Both kinda arranged chronologically, which makes sense for me; I always have a place to automatically put the new bits, and the shelves kinda organically create other genres depending on music technology, trends. I can see what I might have played at various stages of my life and which parties were going on at that time, also if I ever need to find a record that I haven’t played in a while I can just check what year it came out and then usually can find it in a couple minutes.

What are your favourite spots to go digging and why?

I’m sad to say most of my records come through the post these days, but you can’t beat a physical record shop.

When I’m in London I generally go to Phonica (and try stay on top of things on Juno on a daily basis). But my favourite digging is always on my travels, and I’ll try and check the local store whenever I have a gig somewhere.

I think my favourite digging has been in Japan which I was lucky enough to go to regularly for a while. Shibuya used to be good, but when I was last there Shimokitazowa had stolen the crown, a few good spots there but City Country City comes to mind. I’ve been digging Amsterdam and Rotterdam as well recently, obviously Red Light records, and there’s a few in Rotterdam I liked, although can’t remember their names.

When I first went to the US when I was about 24 I visited this one spot called Record Rack that will be well known to many a DJ who visited SF in the 90s. Apart from the shop they also had three garages full of old disco, which was like an Aladdin’s cave to me back then. They were all priced cheap and from a week’s digging I ended up with about 700 records, which at that age probably doubled my collection in one go!

Is there a record (or records), that has continued to be illusive over the years?

With Discogs these days it’s pretty easy to get most of the stuff that I’m after, there’s obviously some stuff in my wants list that I haven’t bought yet, generally as the price doesn’t match my desire to have it. For me it’s much more the hunger for the bits I haven’t heard and don’t know yet that keeps me digging, rather than obsessing over trying to find something that I already know but don’t own.

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?

Generally I’ll shop on my own, but if I go to a new city I’m always grateful of some local knowledge so try and encourage a friend from there to show me around.

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?

If it has a listening station I’m happy, it’s only daunting if I’m limited to looking for bits I already know or have to take a punt on something that looks good. I’ll usually go for the disco/dance 12’s first, as that gives me quite a good idea of what kind of stuff I’m likely to find elsewhere in the shop. If I find some good bits in there, then I’ll slowly inch my way round the rest of the shop.

How big a role does album artwork play in your digging?

Album art definitely enriches the collection, but I try not to get too seduced by it when digging, as there’s some amazing looking records that sound dreadful (which I’ve definitely picked up a few of when buying blind or should that be deaf), and some great records that only made it to white label, or have some dodgy design.

Could you tell us a bit about the mix you’ve done for us?

I usually try and mix it up when I DJ, so your brief being honed to one genre really challenged me. I flirted with various genre’s/themes, but went for acid in the end as I suppose that’s something I’ve always been interested in, and am still picking up nice bits today, so I’ve got a wide range of styles spanning the years to pick from. I confess I’ve been exclusively a digital DJ now for about six years as it’s so much easier/reliable to play off stick, and my decks have only really been used to rip my new records in that time, so it was fun to get the decks set up again and mix records.

Any standouts in the mix you’d like to mention?

There’s one killer record on the mix that I still don’t the name of. I first heard Phoreski (Frank Butters) play it many moons ago, and when I asked him what it was he wouldn’t tell me as he wanted to keep the knowledge to himself, but he generously sent me a copy the following week (with the label scribbled over), so despite playing it for over 10 years now, I still have no idea what it is.

Casting the net wider now, who are some of the record collectors you most admire and why?

Frank Butters as I mentioned before has some great records, and is a great DJ. Other record fiend friends worthy of a mention are Nick the Record (who I lived with for a while) who I can thank for a lot of music he turned me onto during those years, Placid (otherwise known as Paul Wise; check out his Facebook Group ‘We’re Going Deep’), I’ll have record evenings with Placid and another friend of mine Sprads (who also has a wicked collection). Also worth mentioning Gideon from Block 9/NYC Download/Soho Radio, he has a broad taste in music and always blows me away with his Reggae and Soul selections.

Anything on the horizon you’re excited about?

Going out for a dance anywhere sounds quite exciting at the moment, but sadly can’t see that being on the horizon any time soon!
I’ve got a new track out on the new Gottwax/Nottwax compilation under the Dedication collaboration I did with a crew in Japan that comes out this week.

We now premiere all our mixes a week early on Mixcloud. Subscribe to our channel to listen first, download all mixes, and ensure that the artists included in each one gets paid. Read more about our decision here.

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