Diggers Directory: Mike Who

Mike Who‘ you say? Well, based on the dedicated following he’s built around his Planet Trip imprint and 1800 triiip series, not to mention his own skills behind the decks, we’re thinking Mike might have to shed the ‘Who’ from his name pretty soon.

Moving out of relative obscurity and into plain view, the Sydney-based DJ has become widely known for his refined ear; be that through his work as a promoter for Freedom Sounds, his deep digging radio shows and mixes, his respected 1800 triiip mix series or his lovingly curated label, Planet Trip.

Though the latter only began in June of 2019, Mike’s already built a strong sonic identity that blurs the lines of boogie, Balearic, dub, tropical and funk, welcoming artists like Mameen 3, Caravan, Errortica and Manuel Darquart to the label.

Choosing to centre his mix around themes of love, loss, leaving and coming back, he covers everything from soul, rap and boogie to new jack swing, house, reggae and dancehall. This sits alongside an interview about his relationship with 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?

Can’t really say my family ran deep, nobody had a collection or was particularly musical but they all played a part in one way or another. My Mum would clap off beat at the best of times but she loved music and played stuff like Bobby Hebb, Boz Scaggs, Aretha Franklin and Joe Cocker at home, she was very supportive of me gravitating towards music at a young age and I’d say she would be happy knowing I have followed that path.

My dad can polish off a bottle of red and break out Sinatra rendition on top of the table, and his voice is actually pretty decent, he’d play a range of stuff usually real loud, from jazz to 60s rock n roll and rnb and a heavy rotation of Italian pop songs.

Thankfully I had two older sisters that played a bigger part in my early introduction to music than mum or dad. At home they played everything from pop and rnb to new jack swing, house and hip hop, stuff that teenagers growing up in the 90s were listening too, nothing deep but always fun. I can remember them rolling out choreographed dance routines to Madonna, Janet and Prince in the living room. Once they started going out they would bring home mix CDs from club nights they went to, that would have been the first time I heard DJ mixes which blew my mind at that age.

Outside of that I’d be glued to rage and video hits on weekend mornings, ruined a few family computers running downloads on limewire, kazza and soulseek and listened to and recorded alot of late night community radio.

As far as key or pivotal records go, “ATCQ – Low End Theory”  was the first record my sister Emlia bought me at around 14 and obviously opened the floodgates to my teenage years being obsessed with hip hop and eventually turning the blinkers off and broadening my taste searching for samples etc.

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?

From the start I’d say just finding and hearing new music I didn’t know about or have access to and also being interested in DJ culture. Early days was all quite naive and fun, buying records in the Darlo/ Surry Hills area when there was record stores on every corner and meeting like minded crew in the process. It was how you found out about parties, new records, understood who was legit and worth checking as a DJ, a big community vibe for sure.

To be honest it was kinda intimidating at first but after doing your time and becoming a regular face, not asking too many dumb questions, some staff behind the counter at a few stores we’re nice enough to chat to and recommend stuff to a geeked out kid.

Being pretty young at that time I bought a lot of shitty records in those early years but weirdly like all things it’s almost come full circle and I have started revisiting and playing some stuff again that I was buying in that period around the mid to late 2000s. Motivation nowadays is still the same, just slightly more refined than when I was younger, just discovering music new or old, I think I’ll always be curious and it’s kind of a never ending thing if you’re into music.

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

At home in the sunroom, now mostly raised off the ground away from my kids thanks to a master tradesman mate Tom who built the shelving in these shots. My filing system is loose at the best of times, 3 or 4 boxes of 12’s and 7’s on the floor rotating different stuff I play out on the regular or at least did pre covid. Then on the shelves it’s all grouped loosely by genre/country or closely related stuff I’d play together in a club/bar or on radio. I.e a shelf of reggae, lovers & digi from JA & UK, a few shelves of disco, boogie and soul, split into 12’s and LPs. A few shelves with hip hop, streetsoul, and rnb from the US and UK. Another few shelves of house split into more soulful stuff and another for oddball or weirder bits, a heavier section with Brazilian, Latin and tropical records, plus a shelf with new stuff I need to listen to properly and sort. It sounds a bit all over the shop but all makes sense in my head.

What are your favourite spots to go digging and why?

Locally not a huge amount of options of brick and mortar stores are left in Sydney, Papa Disquo if they are pushing out stuff quickly and not pricing off online. I’d say private sellers flipping collections of personal or old stock shop out of their garages or storage spaces have been pretty fruitful the last few years, those kinda experiences are always fun and you walk away with memories or personal stories from the sellers.

Overseas-wise Japan was a really fun experience and smaller cities in Germany I have found super interesting and cheap records as those store owners might be interested in say rock or pop and the records I walked away, must have flown under their radar or were just priced cheaper to move. Basically anywhere overseas is cool as you get a chance to find records that don’t necessarily show up at home too often or ever. 

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?

Gonzo here in Sydney who used to man the counter at Revolve and now co-owns papa disquo is a dear friend and colorful character, really generous with time and and always down for a rant, I’d say people go to see him as much as they do to buy records at his store.

One more memorable character that deserves a shout is Aditya in Jakarta who had a small stall at the bottom of a shopping mall selling mainly clothes and shoes. He generously schooled me on Indo fuzz, jazz and disco records for a few hours while chain smoking darts and getting super excited to share gems. 

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

Not one record that I obsess over really, with age and time I have learnt to let go of shit I would previously obsess over or would have paid alot of money for at first sight. I’d rather find something I didn’t know or cheap and weird.

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?

Hundred percent a solitary process for me, it is nice having a friend to pull out stuff they already know and have as tips but that also tends to just distract me and leaves me looking over my shoulder or thinking about what they are going through and might get to before I see it or hear it. Way more enjoyable solo and most importantly with no time limits.

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?

First stop is definitely any crates that have just been put on the floor, in a store that specialises in second hand or older stock, that’s the spot I have come up on special records that may have slipped through whoever was pricing stuff up. I spend more time in sales crates looking for anything that sticks out as interesting or local, private or a bit odd, I’d build a stack from that then I’d move around the store into sections relevant to my tastes. It’s all really just accumulated knowledge and depends on how much time I have to spend there and what I’d go through. If whoever is working at the counter seems chill and I’m in another country or city I’ll try to have a chat and ask for some local tips or if there is anything sitting out back worth a peep.

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

Certain covers obviously spark an interest but as most do I’d flip ’em over pretty quickly and check for labels, country, year, producers, players, instruments and gear used etc as a ballpark on stuff that I might take a blind punt on if there are no listening stations. I really hate people looking up records online in stores on their phone, if you pay too much or find a bargain taking a punt it’s all part of it and trusting your ears.

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

It’s loosely based on all things love, loss, leaving, coming back, and that whole push pull that goes with relationships or being a loner, this theme also gave me a bit more wiggle room to move through different sounds, genres, tempos etc and was fun. As cliche as it sounds it’s definitely a mix to bump at home or in your ride.

It moves through long time staples from my crates, new discoveries and some tips, trades, gifts from friends. The mix covers everything on the love tip from soul and rap to boogie, new jack swing, house, reggae, dancehall, a few UFOs and of course some under appreciated cheese to annoy anyone too serious in this whole record/ digging game.

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

Arzu – ‘Junto A Ti’ is a special discovery, a cover of a Maxi Priest’s ‘Close To You’, snoozed on and shunned by many but in my humble opinion the ultimate end of the nighter to dance to by yourself or with someone special.

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

Locally a good mate and one of the absolute deepest with a crazy range and knowledge is Daniel Lupica, we geek out on music and records more than anyone else I know and both of us will often grab second copies of stuff for trades between each other or stuff we know the other might dig. We come from different entry points musically, but have met somewhere in the middle and ended up with a lot of crossover taste from putting on parties and DJing together over the last 4 or 5 years.

Another close mate that changed my outlook on digging and music is Beven Jee aka Sheep, a criminally slept on digger and polarizing character but one that has done it all ten times round, he has bonkers travel stories connected to finding records, and of course a totally unique taste that opened my ears to check for a lot of different sounds I overlooked or didn’t give time to.

Other crew locally whose individual taste I dig and respect would be Jamie Bennett, Lauren Hansom, Magda Bytnerowicz, Ben Fester, Jnett, Chris Bonato, Michael Kucyk, Gian Arpino, Winters, Umut, Paul Jextra, Alex Intas, Astronafrica, CC, Simon Caldwell, Adi Toohey, Dima, Hani, Myles Mac & Nik Thorup. 

Overseas heads who are constantly opening my ears to amazing records are Millos Kaiser, Bill Spencer, Raph (RTS), Trujillo, Johannes Kjellgren, Longboss, Bruno, The Modern Art doods (Ty and Cal), Tal (Archive Digital) Rodrigo Placa, The Alaia, Brandon Hocura, Axel from Mercredi, D.Dee, the Maybe Tonight crew, Gustavo Keno, Bayete, Ty Abiodun, Sam Don, Rob Moller, Fred Fades, Barbara Boeing, Pierre & Joris (Lorem Ipsum), John Gomez, DJ Ray, Viktor from No Frills, Hampus, Dea, Cam Hilderbrandt, Nial Kirk, soFa, Fernando, Maxi, the whole a.luv crew and loads loads more I have no doubt forgotten.

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

So many but here are a couple who’s taste I love and connect with, Cruce, Callum Duff, Montana Bourke, Harry (Free Dots), Taelyn, Sophie McAlister, Mirren, Adriana, Daniel Pisano, Sam Cannon, Stuckey and the Eternal Love cavalli.

Anything on the horizon you’re excited about?

Myself and Daniel Lupica have a little online store about to drop which will be connected to a label I run, Planet Trip. It will be small curated drops with joints from our personal collections, not priced stupid with a mixed bag of cheap and interesting cuts, UFOs and some new discoveries, hopefully something for everyone in there and we’ll aim to to keep updates semi regular. Lot’s of other records and new music on Planet Trip ready to go also, so if that’s your thing and you enjoyed any of the first few releases on the label keep an eye out.

Comments are closed.