Diggers Directory: Earl Jeffers

No matter what Earl Jeffers puts his hand to, you’re guaranteed it’s going to be dripping with soul. The producer and DJ began his musical journey under the name Chesus, releasing rough and ready house grooves on a series of labels including 4 Lux, Local Talk and Ten Thousand. But his output as Earl Jeffers took centre stage around six years ago, coinciding with the launch of his own imprint MELANGE.

Veering more into soulful and classic 90s house flavours, his releases — solo and alongside artists like Kaidi Tatham, K15 and Byron the Aquarius — flaunt his ability at crafting future-facing electronics as well as seeing him flex his sampling muscles, influenced by his passion for collecting records.

Opting to showcase the sounds that make up the core of his collection – Jazz and its many forms – Earl weaves together funk-driven jams, psychedelic flavours all saturated in (yes you guessed it) a shed load of soul. This sits alongside an interview about a life spent digging, preferring the hunt for records in the wild and how his parent’s musical influence still feeds into what he’s doing today.

Earl Jeffers’ latest EP Higher, featuring Kaidi Tatham, is out now on MELANGE.

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?

There was definitely some of that from my upbringing. My dad was big in to Stanley Clarke, Santana, Al Di Meola, Weather Report etc. Literally the other day he told me a story about sneaking in to Glastonbury with his mates, then on the Saturday borrowing his mate’s car and driving up to London with a couple of friends to catch Al Di Meola live, then driving back to Glasto. This was around early ’80s.

My mum was into a lot of soul like Luther, Prince, Alexander O’Neal. She was also the first person to put me on to Erykah Badu back in the 90s. Baduizm was on rotation at the house. Then an extension of that was my big bro and cousin who were heavy into jungle and early hardcore. I started collecting records off the back of that as I wanted to be a DJ after hearing Fabio Amnesia House and Quest tape packs. Then around ’97 it was all garage garage garage; the likes of Tuff Jam, New Horizons and Grant Nelson got me hooked on wanted to buy records. Eating less at school to save a couple of quid for the weekend record shop. 

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?

There’s definitely some sort of addiction involved, always hunting for gems and many hours digging in them. I have to tell my girl or friends who don’t dig to “meet me in a bit” when there’s a record shop involved, because I could be in there for anything from 5 minutes to hours, depending on the selections. Usually the first point of conversation when I get picked up for shows in other countries is “where’s the record store?” Like most collectors/diggers will tell you, you’re always hinting for the next bit of gold to play/sample or whatever. The urge doesn’t seem to go away.

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

My studio is where I store records but at the moment things are a bit all over the shop. There’s a general order for Jazz and all it’s strains then soul, library, world gear etc.. but when I have the studio refurb soon! 

What are your favourite spots to go digging and why?

I don’t have a fav spot as such as sometimes you can go to the spot you got some good pieces from last time, but the next time might not be the one. But generally I’d say Amsterdam is a good spot, like Red Light and Vintage Voodoo, then I had a great haul in Tokyo when I toured there a few years back. They take pride in everything being pristine and it was more reasonable with the pricing than I imagined. I love a charity/thrift store too – many gems have been found in them over the years.

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?

For sure. There always seems to be characters in record shops and fairs. Me and Don Leisure make regular trips up to Bristol record fair and there’s two fellas that hold down the soul stall – Des and I forget the other guy’s name – they are like a dynamic duo. One is on the deck pulling out heater after heater whilst giving us takes of experiences when hearing/playing these tunes back in the day. Informative fun and you’re pretty much guaranteed to come away with some heaters and some jokes. Then on the other hand you have huehyon market in Seoul, Korea. It’s an underground market in the city with walls and walls of wax. I go in one store and start pulling records, I have a stack and the owner comes up and says “if you want to play you have to buy!” Even though he has a deck right in front of us, so I leave that one and step in the next. I start doing the same and the owner starts getting funny! So this time I pipe up and say “what are you talking about?” Once I did, he started pulling out heat hahaha. So note to Korea diggers: don’t take no shit!! Haha.

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

As for elusive records, I really want a copy of Sunny Sides by Alan Hawkshaw. I could just go on discogs and pay £100+ for it but I have faith haha. 

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?

It all depends who I’m with and how long we have because if it’s a good spot I’ll be there all day, so generally I’ll dig alone. But it’s also good to have some tower heads to put you on stuff and visa versa. 

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?

Some can yes. It’s always good to start by greeting the owner/worker when you go in – and don’t be shy to ask about a price chip if you think the record is overpriced. I generally go to the soul/jazz sections then work my way through down to the £1 bins. Overall I’d say my collections consists more of Jazz and all its forms and Soul than anything else. After years of collecting it’s become more apparent that my parent’s influence still plays a role in my digging/collecting. 

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

It’s definitely a grabber that’s for sure, but I’ve made some bad purchases on that basis and I’m sure I can speak for countless others on this. At least it makes a good poster I guess. 

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

Again the focus, like the bio of my collection is jazz and all it’s forms, with a few soul jams thrown in. Chords and progressions are a big factor in my music taste so that is another reason why I gravitate to these styles I guess. 

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

All heat haha.

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

There’s some great ones out there, maybe too many to mention. 

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

Tbh I don’t really keep an eye out for emerging diggers but due to the internet and access to things like Discogs, people can quickly become aficionados on stuff. Me personally, I like the hunt for things out in the wild. I do like a Discogs purchase, like most, but there’s nothing better that finding things that you never imagined would be there. Especially when it’s in a charity shop as that generally means you’re getting it for next to nothing. Can’t beat shit like that.

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.

Comments are closed.