If we’re talking about contemporary edit maestros, Hysteric‘s name would definitely be up there. With a penchant for the sounds of the 80s, the Melbourne-based DJ, producer and label boss has been adding his subtle touch to oddball rarities and stone-cold classics alike, crafting his own personal takes on Italo, new wave, new beat and synth-pop discoveries.
Scroll through his Bandcamp and you’ll find a literal gold mine of reworks while, aside from these passion projects, his reimaginations have been housed on labels like of Edits Du Plaisir, Centre Neptune and Pleasure Of Love. But he’s not just a one trick pony, his original productions for Ostra Discos, Public Possession, Bahnsteig 23 and his own Mothball Record — a platform devoted to Italo Disco — to name but a few, are just as wonderfully masterminded.
Exploring an extension of his passion for Italo sounds, his Diggers mix focuses on a genre he’s had a long love affair with: 80s HiNRG. Having already shared three mixes that centre around this theme in the past – The Aerobic Trilogy – he treats us to the fourth instalment, which 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?
My parents had one box of records which my brother and I grew up with.
The most influential (to me) of these were Beatles – Sgt Peppers, Marianne Faithful – Broken English, Wendy Carlos – A Clockwork Orange soundtrack and the 50s rock n roll soundtrack for That’ll Be The Day (a throwback movie starring Ringo Starr and David Essex).
I still vividly remember the smell of this old box of records and thinking they were magical somehow.
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 first records I ever bought were from a church fair I went to as a child. Not exactly sure why we went as my parents don’t like buying dusty old junk and we aren’t religious.
My brother and I each bought a couple of records for a few cents each… I got Santana S/T album and one amazing record called Player One – Space Invaders.
My first solo trips into the city in my early teens were spent walking between the (then) many record stores in Melbourne CBD, flipping through the racks of the entire shop, mostly just looking at the covers.
The first records/CDs I really searched for were the Return of the Living Dead soundtrack and the Samhain albums (Glenn Danzig’s band between Misfits and Danzig), both out of print at the time and almost impossible to find. I guess finding these was the beginning of the rush and my addiction to buying records.
These days I really go through phases with collecting records, sometimes I am still totally obsessed and crazy on it, other times I am more relaxed just to let things come to me.
At the moment stores here are closed due to lockdown and at least 50% of what I order from Europe/USA arrives warped, so my excitement of a new record arriving is tempered a bit by the fear it’s going to be melted and unplayable.
Where do you store your records and how do you file them?
My records are mostly all dumped in the second bedroom, though they are spilling out into the hallway now. Unfortunately they are not really organised that well. In the expedits they’re filed somewhat by genre, but the boxes on the floor are just in what order they arrived or the last time I played them. Inside the front door are “emergency” records if I need to pack a bag at the last minute.
What are your favourite spots to go digging and why?
Most of my favourite digging memories are from my time spent overseas and in particular I really like the Berlin flea markets. I can’t say I’ve ever found anything truly incredible there, but I thoroughly enjoy wandering around looking at the records and other junk and wondering if I can get it all back to Australia.
For physical record stores, I could list a hundred here, but it really just depends what day you go on. In terms of hanging out and talking rubbish with the owner or staff, I like the Bordello A Parigi shop and Red Light Records (both in Amsterdam) and Skydiver, Northside Records and Licorice Pie here in Melbourne.
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?
It have to mention Warren from the original Record Paradise in St Kilda, long since retired (I thought deceased, but heard recently he might still be alive after all). A trip to Warren’s wasn’t complete without witnessing some poor fool being yelled at for crimes such as leaving the door open or talking too much. I found a lot of great records at Warren’s.
For the opposite reason I would also say Platten Pedro in Berlin, a welcoming and friendly record store guy with a lot of patience.
Is there a record (or records), that has continued to be elusive over the years?
In the last year or two I have gradually come round to the idea of being less obsessed about finding these “holy grail” records, as I usually have more fun from random unexpected finds.
Having said that, I would dearly love to own the Bert Brac – Horror Pop Sounds LP.
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?
In general I prefer digging solo as it can take me a while to look through everything.
Digging with friends can be fun but only if your targets aren’t crossing over too much. Similar/compatible tastes are good however, you can recommend records to the other person and vice versa without it becoming too competitive.
Trying to record shop with someone who has the same tastes and search list can be a nightmare 🙂
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 think it’s a frequent answer in this series, but definitely the cheapo crates on the floor. Also if there’s a box of yet-to-be-priced stuff behind the counter. I find saying “hello” to the shop owner or whomever is working there helps a lot 🙂
How big a role does album artwork play in your digging?
Huge, I spend almost as much time on Discogs looking for amazing cover artwork as I do looking for music. One thing I can’t understand is why some modern labels spend so little time and effort on getting decent artwork for their releases.
If I’m designing sleeve/label artwork for my label releases I spend a long time considering the ideas and concepts of the music and how these could be reflected in the design.
In the case of a reissue, I try and keep at least some elements from the original cover without making a carbon copy.
Could you tell us a bit about the mix you’ve done for us?
For this mix I decided to focus on 80s HiNRG. I had already done three specific mixes on this theme (the Aerobic Trilogy) and had slowly been collecting possible records the last couple of years with the intention to make an addendum or 4th part… which is this mix!
I have a long love affair with HiNRG going back to when I first started looking for Italo records in Melbourne and, being mostly unable to find any, started buying HiNRG due to the many similarities and easy availability.
I feel like HiNRG is still somewhat of a bastard child of disco and not widely accepted or played, outside of a few famous records such as Sylve – ‘I’ve Only Got You To Blame’ or some of the better known Bobby Orlando produced tracks.
The BPM is often too high to mix with most standard disco or Italo-disco tracks and the arrangements and choice of instruments/sounds is sometimes too weird. One of the things I love about HiNRG are the incredibly tough, almost techno or industrial sounding breakdowns in otherwise camp songs.
I think with HiNRG you need to abandon ideas of what might be kitsch and just enjoy it in the same way you might watch an 80s movie like Scarface or Body Double.
Any standouts in the mix you’d like to mention?
I love all the tracks in this mix but a favourite is Linda Cary – ‘Body Beat’. I discovered this one from an aerobic class on youtube (“Freedanse With Marine Jahan”) trying to stay in shape (and sane) while stuck in a two week isolation last year at the beginning of the pandemic. This is partly what got me interested in HiNRG again and gave me the inspiration for this mix.
Casting the net wider now, who are some of the record collectors you most admire and why?
Ilan Pdahtzur, Tim Beylie, Flemming Dalum, Eric Rinon, Mirjana Parovic, Oscar Gouweleeuw, Phil Ransom, Steele Bonus. These are my friends who I often discuss records with… thanks to them I discovered a lot of great music.
Collectors/DJs whom I don’t know so much on a personal level but whose selections I also admire: Trujillo, Dino Soccio, Frinda Di Lanco, Vidal Benjamin, JAZ …and probably a lot more I forgot.
Are there any young collectors emerging who we should keep a close eye on?
I think I am a bit out of touch with who is upcoming but I would say my friend Gautier (Monodominical) from Paris, who has excellent and original taste in music. I know he spends endless hours trawling obscure Discogs pages looking for mysterious Italian electronic pop records.
Anything on the horizon you’re excited about?
Coming out in the next month is the Mothball Record reissue of Radiators – ‘I Am Sure’, which I have been working on on and off for the last three years. It took a long time to get a master I was happy with but I got the test pressing a little while back and in my (biased) opinion it sounds amazing.
I have also done the full sleeve and label artwork for a few upcoming releases on other labels… right now I’m really passionate about drawing/designing again and I hope to do more of this.
I’m desperately looking forward to life beyond Covid-19 and the possibility to travel outside Australia again.
Thank you for inviting me to be part of this series 🙂