Diggers Directory: Ashley Beedle

Records have been a part of Ashley Beedle‘s life for as long as he can remember. His Dad, a collector and lover of everything from folk to rocksteady, was a big catalyst in igniting that passion, encouraging Ashley to buy records and dig deep.

And dig deep he did; Ashley’s passion for collecting took over his life, leading him to open Black Market Records in Soho in the late 80s, followed by launching his own label, Black Sunshine Records, in the early 90s. But while selling and digging for other people’s records was all well and good, Ashley really made his mark when he started producing his own music.

With a lengthy catalogue of records that stretches back nearly 30 years, he’s dabbled in everything from dub and deep house to disco and trip hop, cementing his name both solo and with his work as part of successful groups like The Ballistic Brothers, X-Press 2 and Black Science Orchestra.

It’s the latter project, which will be making a triumphant comeback in the near future, that Ashley takes inspiration from for the theme of his mix. Centring it around songs that have “inspired the sound of the Black Science Orchestra in all its incarnations over the years”, he laces together a mix of soul-stirring soul, funk and rare groove, soaked in epic strings and tight instrumentation. 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?

This is definitely true for me. My father, Colin Beedle, came from a very musical family and he had a great ear for a tune and an awesome record collection. He was particularly fond of folk, rocksteady, Bruce Springsteen and Creedence Clearwater Revival. He wrote to Ashley Hutchins from Fairport Convention and I still have Ashley’s letter back to my dad. My father encouraged me to buy records and dig deep.

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?

See above and also to have the physical article in your hand. Nothing beats vinyl.

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

I store them in our record room – my wife, Jo has one half and I have the other. She was also the archivist for Universal Music so she makes sure I file them correctly – label order (alphabetical) and then artist(s) alphabetically within the label…

What are your favourite spots to go digging and why?

Usually far flung places where I’ve done DJ gigs – Serbia, Bulgaria etc are still pretty untouched and I’ve turned up a fine selection of Slade picture covers from the old version of the Czech Republic.

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?

Zaf from Love Vinyl, the staff in A1 Records in New York and Marc Lessner, who is an absolute don. He’s forgotten more about vinyl than we’ll ever collectively know about it.

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

The Sons of Jah – Israel 12”. I’ve never found a NM copy.

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 prefer to search for tunes on my own otherwise people tend to jump in front of you and mates stop being mates at that point.

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?

I don’t really find walking into a record shop daunting as I managed ‘Black Market Records’ in Soho, London back in the day. I do go in with a list though as I get sidetracked otherwise.

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

It’s not so much the artwork as the credits on the back of the sleeve. Those of a certain generation will know exactly what I’m talking about… those late 70s CBS albums!

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

The mix is a selection of tracks that have inspired the sound of the Black Science Orchestra in all its incarnations over the years.

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

Trust me – all of them have had a profound effect on me.

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

My wife, Jo Wallace – her zeal in hunting down incredibly obscure 60s soul is inspiring. She’s been collecting since 1969 – and mostly big ticket Northern Soul items and UK reggae labels from the 60s. It’s eye-watering when you get into the trading that goes on and price bracket that these items go for.

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

I wouldn’t know – good luck to all of them as it’s a thankless existence. I could’ve been living on my own desert island if I hadn’t discovered vinyl.

Anything on the horizon you’re excited about?

The forthcoming Black Science Orchestra musical projects with Rob Mello and Darren Morris and a cast of thousands. Watch this space.

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