London born and bred, Jaye Ward has been spinning records since before some of you lot were born. With a sprawling knowledge and collection that stretches to the far corners of the musical spectrum, you’re as likely to hear her dropping a hypnotic trance joint as you will a low slung jazz-funk cut — that’s why she’s just as at home playing a comfy little boozer as she is sweating it out in a dark basement somewhere.
When she’s not playing out and about, solo or alongside her fellow PLU affiliate Chris Ranks, listeners are treated to her sonic delights week-in-week-out through her Magical Real show on Netil Radio, which transcends genre tags, touching on all kinds of cosmic and psychedelic goodness.
It’s these musical strains she’s chosen to centre her 2 hour 30 vinyl mix around, floating from intergalactic jazz to wonky funk and psyched out dub. This sits alongside an interview about a lifetime spent immersed in music and her relationship to 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?
Definitely! My sister is responsible for opening me up to the power of music and that. My mum and dad were quite old by time I came along and they were really into crooners like Sinatra and Jim Reeves and orchestral stuff like Mantovani, that sort of thing. My dad was quite into reggae crooners too like John Holt. My sister is 16 years older than me and had sort of stopped really being into music by the time I was listening to John Peel and late night radio, but did leave me a legacy of 60s Motown 7”s, Traffic, Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Wishbone Ash and that sort of thing. The scene in almost famous where his sister has left him her records — definite feels there ha! The Yes LP ‘Fragile’ has stayed with me from that time. I didn’t really appreciate what a jam ‘Roundabout’ was until way later on.
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?
The radio and the music papers like Sounds and the Melody Maker were really important in how I got into buying music. Pocket money was spent on 7”s from Woolies and I had a nice little collection of late punk and new wave bits and bobs, but it all escalated when I started having my own money.
I was involved in nefarious activities as a early teenager as well as dabbling in TV acting, Grange Hill, The Bill and the usual early 80’s tv thuggery haha! It payed good money and that enabled me to go to shops like HMV & Virgin and buy LPs. Mainly punk, goth and dub things. I was already a drug taker so I was drawn to the weirder end of post punk and that early industrial sound like TG and Neubauten. The music press always told tall tales about this sort of music along with photos of musicians with ambiguous genders and sexualities. I loved it haha!
The internet has meant that everything is available to everyone in some way but pre-internet it was all about physically going out there and looking for stuff. I don’t really buy much new music on vinyl anymore. I only dig for old second hand and bargain bucket stuff and I collect still mainly because I can’t help myself. The temptation is always way too great when I’m passing a charity shop or a record stall ha!
Where do you store your records and how do you file them?
I have them on shelves and in boxes, in piles and in record bags and record boxes. I even still have about 1000 odd, sitting behind my ex wife’s sofa at her place haha! I don’t file them. I have zero executive function so can’t really get into the whole alphabet or genre thing. It’s really chaotic from the outside but I know where every one of my records are. Sort of. What usually happens is that I’ll empty a bag and it will go back onto the shelves so things are sort of grouped in being played together. Over time those groupings will get mixed up.
I have to say though that my collection is a very functional record collection in that it’s been used for DJing since about 1987ish so it’s less of a collection and more a lot of tools that have been used and abused over the years in clubs, at festivals and then piled next to each other after spannered home sessions. A lot are in generic disco bags because I’ve lost the sleeves. Terrible I know but the crusty in me was never bothered about the monetary value. WARNING!! If you have, or are developing, a large record collection you better stop travelling around or living in your boat/van because it’s a mission to schlep about loads of records. Digital files are much better if you have that wandering spirit. Haha!
What are your favourite spots to go digging and why?
Charity shops in general are my favourite places but elsewhere outside of London they become totally essential. Furniture clearance warehouses seem to always a few boxes of records too haha! Because I’m quite broad in what I’m interested in finding, I always get a few gooduns and they are usually cheap enough to go for blind buying too. Before covid I was out of the country a lot and digging in the bargain bins of random specialist record shops which always brings up good things. Discogs is still brilliant, I know its not strictly digging but really it can’t be ignored. Alas the postage is becoming totally mental which is off putting when you are on a budget.
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?
Yeah I spent most of the 90s and bit of the 00s working in record shops and really that’s the coal face of what’s happening. I was a buyer for Virgin in the mid 90s and I ended up working for Reckless after a year working for a crack head in Koobla records in Soho with Simon Rigg from Phonica, and the Mighty Zaf was my boss. He runs Love Vinyl now, he’s a total don! Really broadminded and totally outrageous in how he interacts with the customers. He’s turned me on to ace tunes. Brilliant brilliant bloke.
Sean P used to work in the Record & Tape Exchange in Notting Hill and everyone used to call him ‘the knowledge’ — he’s another person that’s turned me on to brilliant records. Cscar who worked in Trax back in the day was the total enthusiast and totally under appreciated in the annuls of dance music over the last 30 years. Really it’s people I’ve worked with or met in record shops who know their onions — Zaf, Sean P, Oscar, Ben Gatto Fritto, Lou Wang, Joel Martin, Phil Mison, Jane Fitz, Simon. I know they all have amazing record collections.
Is there a record (or records), that has continued to be illusive over the years?
I’m not that kind of collector to be honest. I love OGs but I’ll take a repress or if it’s the version I want or like and the pressing is nice then I’ll by comps too. The whole rare/pricey records game is for other people. I’ve found some totally money records in charity shops and most of the time, unless I really need it, I’ve flogged it and bought more records. Record & Tape Exchange voucher power take a bow ha!
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 love digging on my own, especially if I’m taking a day out for it. Trawling through charity shops at my own pace is good meditation although I do also enjoy being taken to special places especially if I’m abroad.
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?
Not really. If I go to dance music specialists then I always go straight for the cheapies, sale boxes and second hand bits first. Most of the time what they have up on the racks I’m already aware of. I used to like going in proper specialist shops like garage and drum & bass or reggae & soul places and go through their sale bins as I always, always, used to get interesting things. There’s not that many shops around like that anymore so it’s charity shops nowadays which are always fun, especially outside of London.
How big a role does album artwork play in your digging?
I’m really visual with a sort of wandering focus so yeah LP covers are always good for helping me not miss stuff. Same goes for labels and any random bits of writing on the label or sleeve. I like it when in some shops every record has a little blurb written by someone who’s actually listened to it. Always handy. Digital DJ’ing has been a real test of my focus but I write little descriptions of the track in the genre bit and that has helped me no end at finding things on my key or hard drive.
Could you tell us a bit about the mix you’ve done for us?
I’ve not done a vinyl only thing for the longest time. I’m really rubbish at themes and that so I thought I’d just grab the last big bag of records I’d packed which was for a Tribe Records thing up in Leeds with the Cosmic Slop boys and Joe Gill. I remember not really playing that much of the vinyl as my hard drive had loads of other stuff I was eager to play, so it was nice to air some more from the selection that I schlepped up there haha! It’s pretty varied in tone and texture and is fairly chilled which I’m really chuffed about actually, as I wanted my mix to be a foil to Sadie’s mix which was so full of wonderful banging energy and pretty well amazing. It’s got a lot 80s & 90s flavour but also has a distinct 70s German feel too. There’s a bit of dub, jazz, lots of wonky funk, records from cult leaders, leaders of cults as well as heavily psychedelic things too. I think the term is Balearic or is that cosmic? haha!
Any standouts in the mix you’d like to mention?
Um the Depeche Mode 7” b-side ‘Ice Machine’ is a long term fave from way back when I bought it in 1981 from Woolworths ha! The ooioo remix from Yamataka Eye is another fave. I really love how Japanese noise bands also all seem to have a proper good psychedelic streak through them. The Leo Young 12” is such a bad pressing but it’s totally nuts. It doesn’t seem to be on Discogs either but I love the mighty Leo Zagami Young. Total maverick fella. Completely out out out there.
Casting the net wider now, who are some of the record collectors you most admire and why?
I know loads of people with fab record collections tbh. Enthusiasts one and all. I know Zaf from Love Vinyl’s collection is outrageous. Lots and lots of rare and wonderful things. Kirsty P has a ridiculously good ear for random stuff, she has been pushing a lot of dark, almost goth, electronics for a long while now. The DJ I do PLU in Bristol with, Chris Ranks, has immaculate taste too. He pulls out lots of gnarly stuff from his collection. Rem Gow, who does a show on Operator, has an amazing collection of records also. I remember Kelvin Andrews having an astonishing collection. I suppose I admire people who collect because they love it. I’d love to rifle through Weatherall & Harvey’s records as well as Vladimir Ivkovic’s too.
Are there any young collectors emerging who we should keep a close eye on?
I’m in awe of DJs that are sort of reframing things like hardcore and trance for modern younger punters. I reckon Sadie (Angel D’lite) & Eris Drew will have really cool collections of random stuff. Not sure if they are new though. Most young DJs I come across or play with are pretty much all digital so I’m not that sure who’s out there digging.
Anything on the horizon you’re excited about?
Even in these weird times with limited opportunities I try to remain positive and buoyant. Me and Chris Ranks are about to launch our PLU label with a first release from Luke Nickel called Gemini, which is a deep slice of crisp electronics and comes complete with a couple of PLU remixes to add to the chaos. We’re hoping to use the label to sort of highlight the kind of vibes we have with the parties, so less house and techno and more crunchy leftfield stuff but we are going to play it by ear, which is sort of how I think record labels should be. Hopefully I can eventually get some of my stuff out on it. I’m doing loads of remixes for people currently which has been a nice heavy learning curve, so more of that please haha! I just want to return to gigging really. There’s so much music out there to share with like minded cranks.
SUNS OF ARQA – DEEP JOURNEY
VON DANKEIN – EARTHBOUND
JOHN CALE & TERRY REILLY — CHURCH OF ANTHRAX
SPIRITUAL CONCEPT – SPIRITUAL SKY
DAN BOADI AND THE AFRICAN INTERNATIONALS – PLAY THAT FUNKY MUSIC
OOIOO – ASOZA (EYE REMIX)
LEO YOUNG – THE AFRO PORN ADVENTURES OF..
GEORGE DUKE – NORTH BEACH
CARLOS SANTANA & MAHAVISHNU JOHN MCLAUGHLIN – THE LIFE DIVINE
SUPER NUMERI – THE BABIES
GALA DROP – OVERCOAT HEAT
LIASONS DANGEREUSES – DUPONT
KING TUBBY (PTV) – PSYCHE OUT
SEVERED HEADS – DEAD EYES OPENED
PINKIE MCLURE & DAVID HARROW – BITE THE HAND THAT FEEDS YOU
DEPECHE MODE – ICE MACHINE
MATO – TRIBE (SPECIAL DUB VERSION)
FRANK MILAN & DJ HARVEY – REHASH (HARVEYS MODERN DANCE)
CHEZ DAMIER – CAN YOU FEEL IT (DISCO CENTRAL VERSION)
THE CANDLE FAMILY – SIXTY NINE BEATS PER MINUTE
BILL LASWELL – UPRIGHT MAN
JACK OFFICERS – TIME MACHINES PT.1
HOT PEPPER – CANCION RITUAL
DUB ARCHANOID TRIM – GROTT (KAGOSHIMA DUB)
PIL – THE SUIT
RECKLESS BREED – DUB FULL OF GIRLS
WEAPON OF PEACE – IF
JEAN LUC PONTY – AURORA PART 2
REP RIG & PANIC – THROUGH NOMADS EYEBALLS
PLANET GONG – NEW AGE TRANSFORMATION TRY: NO MORE SAGES
SPACEMEN 3 – ECSTACY IN SLOW MOTION