Diggers Directory: IDA

Music had long been a part of IDA‘s life before she took to the decks, but the Finnish DJ found this path cemented whilst on an exchange in Aberdeen during university. After returning she bought some turntables and began to dive further into the electronic sounds that she’d playlisted and written about on the music blog she’d started during her teens.

A move back to the Granite City a few years later saw the birth of her Acid Flash parties. Launched in 2015, the club night saluted IDA’s love for anything 303-related, and quickly picked up steam before she moved the night to her now home of Glasgow, first to La Cheetah and then, pre-covid lockdown, to the legendary Sub Club.

Her most recent venture is Sävy; a label that’s been two years in the making. Taking its name from a Finnish word that translates into multiple meanings: ‘hue’, ‘accent, ‘shade’, ‘tone of speech’, the imprint will serve as an audio-visual platform, integrating emotions expressed through music with colourful artwork created by Finnish visual artist, Irene Suosalo.

To celebrate the launch, and the release of the inaugural EP from Ryan James Ford, IDA has themed her Diggers Directory mix around some of the musical influences central to the imprint – 90s US breaks and techno – delivering a dark, twisted set for a peak-time dancefloor. This sits alongside an interview about her relationship with records.

Ryan James Ford’s Six Stair is out now via Sävy Records.

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?

It played a part for sure. My older brother had a huge impact on what I listened to. When I was in primary school, I remember sneaking into my brother’s room while he was away, logging on to his PC and going through the music he had on there. I’d burn CDs of it all to listen to on my Sony Walkman. His music library varied, containing everything from the Chemical Brothers and Gorillaz to 90s East & West Coast Hip Hop & Rap. I also collected CDs that my uncle brought back for me after travelling over the border to Russia.

Off the back of getting into electronic music through my brother, I was really drawn to trance in my teens and I even wrote a music blog about it which had a decent following. My brother’s music collection was a bigger influence on my musical taste than I ever realised, and I’m so thankful for that. I was also listening to a lot of classical pieces as I started playing piano when I was seven years old, which I kept up for nearly 10 years. I find myself drawn to beautiful melodies when I dig for new music, which I’m sure is partially down to playing piano for so many years when I was younger.

I started collecting my own records when I moved from Sweden, where I was studying at University, to Aberdeen in the north of Scotland in my early 20s, which was around the time I got really into electronic music. At first, I mainly bought classic house and techno records from the late 80s / early 90s. Then, I started my own club night, Acid Flash, which further encouraged me to buy records that I was really into, especially acid techno. As time has gone by I’ve drifted away from housey sounds towards techno, trance, electro and breaks, which is the stuff I’m drawn to the most.

Pivotal records include: Robert Leiner – Visions Of The Past (1994), K.G.B. – Detroit 909 (1991), F.U.S.E. – Dimension Intrusion (1993), Stasis – Point Of No Return! (1993) and Air Liquide – Liquide Air (1992).

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 have a few reasons why I collect records. Firstly, I like to own music in a material form. I love that vinyl allows you to see the artwork right in front of you whilst you are playing the music. For me, it’s much easier to remember the track I want to play when I can immediately associate an image and colours with it. I’m really bad at remembering artist or track names so it helps my memory. Secondly, so much of the music that I’m really into – especially the 90s stuff – isn’t available digitally. I’m very passionate about discovering records that are under the radar these days. Also, playing vinyl feels kind of freeing to me, as I don’t have time to overthink which track to play next, which I sometimes end up doing with digital tracks on a usb full of endless amounts of playlists.

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

I use my shelves for filing records in different sections, normally based on genre or a decade that they represent. I have sections for 90s techno, 90s trance, contemporary techno, electro, breaks, jungle, house and ambient. Within these sections – let’s say for example contemporary techno – I tend to file techno with broken rhythms on the opposite side of the shelf to the more straight ones. If the record overlaps in style, I try to think what would I normally play this with and add it in that section. I see this kind of filing as vital for home-playing and choosing what records to take with me on a gig.

What are your favourite spots to go digging and why?

I try to use as many different sources for digging as possible. I do most of the digging online by listening to old mixes and playlists on Youtube and Discogs. But, I love digging at second hand record stores because you can come across so many great finds and bargains that you wouldn’t normally discover when digging on Discogs, for example. Also, I find going to record stores a very calming experience, I see it almost as self-care sometimes. When I’m abroad, I always love visiting local record stores as every country has its own musical speciality, which I find fascinating, as it tells a story about the place.

My go-to record stores in Glasgow are Palais De Danse for second hand records and Rubadub for contemporary ones. When I go to Berlin, I normally visit Space Hall. I always went to The Record Loft there as well, but I hear they closed the doors permanently now which is a shame. It was such a brilliant store!

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 one specific person that really stands out in this sense, and he’s had a huge impact on my dance music knowledge. I met Giles Walker aka The Nightlark (who was also mentioned by Automaticamore in her Diggers Directory piece), when I had my first gig in Aberdeen where we played on the same line-up. He became one of my good friends, and has taught me a great deal about the history of dance music in the UK and outside the UK, and we share our latest finds and mixes almost on a daily basis. Giles has been a key figure for me and my journey as an artist, for which I can’t thank him enough. The amount of knowledge Giles has is unreal, he’s like a walking encyclopedia of music. If you ever wonder where something has been sampled from, 9 out of 10 times he knows the right answer. He’s an outstanding DJ too. Promoters, book this guy!

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

I normally look for records that are yet to be discovered by the majority of record collectors. The prices of such records are normally fairly cheap which is ideal. I try to avoid buying records that are over-priced on Discogs and instead check regularly if there’s a cheaper copy available that matches the real value of the record. There is a record that I have been after for years – it’s called Captive – Captive (1992). It’s a French techno record that was released on Doss House – a record label I’ve been a huge fan of for years.

Do you prefer record shopping as a solitary process or with friends to nerd out with and search for strange sounds together? If the latter, who do you like to go digging with?

I prefer to go digging by myself as it’s normally a very lengthy process that I like to really focus on. However, I like digging on Discogs with friends and sharing links to tracks with each other. Giles and I spent a lot of time doing this as we were digging for stuff from the West Coast breaks scene in the late 90s.

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?

When I go to a record store, I always go through the techno, electro and breaks sections first. I pay careful attention to the small print and information on the sleeve and the record about the artist, label’s geographical location and the label itself. This often leads to finding some hidden gems by known artists who have released under an alias that I wasn’t yet aware of. I also check through the track names carefully in case the record has a remix from an artist I know, and look out for words like ‘Acid Mix’, Bonus Beats’, ‘Trance Mix’ and ‘Acapella’ that might be useful for DJing. I have a quick listen through everything I’ve picked up, make a pile of potential purchases, and then go through that pile once more before buying to be sure I want them.

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

If the look of a sleeve catches my eye whilst I’m digging, I’ll pick that up to have a listen through. Artwork can also give hints about the record label or genre. For example, Plus 8 records are very easy to spot because the artwork is unique and easily recognisable. When I don’t have a clue about a record but the artwork looks interesting or like a typical early 90s trance record, I’ll pick it up to listen to as well.

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

At the beginning, it was very difficult for me to decide on a theme for this mix as my taste is quite broad. To tie the mix together with the sounds and influences on my label Sävy, I decided to focus on late 90s breaks and techno in the US (mainly from areas such as Florida, San Francisco and New York). Genre-wise, this mix starts with West Coast breaks and I slowly work towards the techno that was typically played in clubs like Twilo, Sound Factory or The Tunnel in New York in the late 90s, then finishing up with breaks again.

When first discovering the styles of music and eras I’ve included in this mix, I listened to live mixes recorded at pivotal clubs, watched documentaries online, read through a lot of Discogs threads and chatted to people who were part of the scene at the time. I want to give a shout out to my friend Lorenzo who’s given me first-hand knowledge about the records played in New York during the late 90s, it’s been very helpful. Overall, I was aiming to deliver a dark and twisted energy with a prog-vibe suitable for a peak-time dancefloor.

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

Frankie Bones, Steve Stoll and Mike Parker who are some of my biggest heroes.

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

There are so many of them, but I’d like to mention Giles Walker again and give a new shout out to an amazing Finnish record collector/DJ Antti Salonen. Earlier this year, I played an all night b2b with Antti at a club called Stidilä in Helsinki. It was such a great night, our set really flowed and it was a great chance for us both to discover new records from each other – almost like walking to a record store. We have a very similar taste in music and quite a few of the same records in our collections. I remember playing at a festival in Helsinki last year and after my set Antti came up to me and could literally recognise almost every record from my set – I was so impressed!! Other Finnish record collectors that are on the top of my list also include Suski and Sansibar. I recommend checking them out.

Are there any young collectors emerging who we should keep a close eye on?

There’s a bunch of great young talent emerging at the moment, but I’d like to give a special mention to Stevie Cox, Adam Pits, Giordano, Poly Chain and Lisalööf. Check them out!

Congratulations on the launch of your new label Sävy, what’s the story behind it?

Thank you so much! Sävy is a project that has been a work in progress for nearly 2 years now. ‘Sävy’ is a Finnish word that translates into multiple meanings such as ‘hue’, ‘accent, ‘shade’, and ‘tone of speech’. As I mentioned earlier I associate music with colours, which helps me to remember records and categorize music. I came up with the name of the label from this concept, and in my head different shades of colour represent the mix of emotions different music expresses.

It’s an audio-visual label with a focus on integrating emotion expressed in music with colourful artwork and visuals tailored by the ground-breaking Finnish visual artist, Irene Suosalo. Genre-wise, the releases will be traversing the spectrum of techno, breaks, electro and other unique sounds that fit the aesthetic of the project. The underlying unifying factor between the releases will be that they are all uptempo and club-oriented records.

What can we expect from the label in the future?

As the first release, ‘Six Stair’ by Ryan James Ford, has sold out, I’m focusing on the next record which is making me feel very positive and excited about the future. It’s an EP from an up-and-coming Berlin-based Italian DJ/producer, Giordano. It’s a beautiful breaks-themed EP that follows on from Ryan’s nicely. The release will be out at the beginning of next year, and we’ve got some previews of it coming soon.

Anything else on the horizon you’re excited about?

I’m actually just really excited to be back at home in Scotland and reconnect with my records. Being apart from my records for so long – seven months because of the pandemic – made me realise that records are where my home is. I really missed being able to access my home set up. Music is definitely giving me much more hope for the better during these tough times.

Ryan James Ford’s Six Stair is out now via Sävy Records.

Photo credit: Michael Hunter.

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