Diggers Directory: Toni Yotzi

Toni Yotzi is a phenom: a staple of both the festival and club circuit across Australia. Her sets traverse four decades of dance music with frenetic energy and zero compromise; from neon-hued italo and euro-disco to contemporary dancehall, trap, and up-to-the-minute club tracks from the boundless fount of domestic talent she’s ingratiated with across Australia. Having played at some of Australia’s best festivals (Inner Varnika, Strawberry Fields, Echo Flats, Pitch…), she also plays an integral role in putting together Camp Doogs, Western Australia’s premier festival.

She’s brought the same curatorial nous to coordinating a number of parties in Melbourne, as well as several radio shows. Having studied Radio at university, Yotzi felt a strong affinity with RTRFM, Perth’s legendary community radio station, eventually hosting Full Frequency and Disco Science. The creative freedom afforded by community radio is a natural fit for Yotzi’s free-wheeling sensibilities, and it’s something she’s continued in Melbourne – she’s a fixture on Skylab and community radio station-turned-restaurant Hope St Radio, having played the opening of their Collingwood space this year. She’s guested on NTS multiple times, as well The Lot Radio, Beats in Space, Noods, and a litany of other international stations. Her musical fervour has found her on both sides of the counter, working at the esteemed Skydiver Records, and seeking out local spots while touring internationally.

Her interview for Diggers Directory delves into that, as well as her formative experiences with high-fidelity audio and the importance of stylistic diversity.  The accompanying mix underscores the latter point, sequencing psych, desert jazz, drum’n’bass, and crystalline jangle pop together in a way that just feels natural.

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?

It wasn’t so much about particular records growing up but I owe so much to my Dad’s love of high quality sound, he always saved up for nice headphones and meticulously looked after his setup and records. He’s always been incredibly generous with making sure my brother and I had hifi systems in our room (surely regretting it when I’d max volume Chronic 2001 on repeat). When I was 10 or so I used to record mix tapes of my favourite club tracks like Da Hool – Meet Her at The Love Parade off the radio. 

Maybe my earliest memory is Dad lying me on the living room floor with huge cans on my ears to properly trip out to Pink Floyd. But I think Mum’s UK upbringing on soul, reggae and rnb has permeated my core taste.

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?

Mmmm, sometimes I’m surprised I still buy records, so much about them challenges my struggles with organising information systems and dislike of fussiness. I don’t DJ them out for club sets that often because I have a creative process I’m comfortable with in digital music (I need to loop). I have to rip records a lot, which is a bit of a process. I’ve been feeling almost a sense of itchy feet with DJing for a little while though, like I need to try to explore sound in different ways which has brought me back to enjoying mixing records because of the tactility and not having all the track information visible makes long bar sets more fun.   

But I loveee record shopping when I travel, so it’s very connected with nice memories of people and places. I think it’s important to convey that while I DJ club music digitally, records are a really important part of keeping your style more diverse, it’s so easy to be fed new releases all the time. I don’t want to hear a set of new tracks. I like that I’ve been DJing and collecting music for a long time so I can dip into past experiences… like dubstep coming back around 😉   

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

I’ve done some big culls in the last few years. I’m trying to get a tidy, succinct collection that I know very well and doesn’t feel cluttered. But organisation wise I have a crate with LPs → jazz → next crates are dance/club starting with italo, summery prog to harder/darker and fast jungle then I bookend it with dub + reggae + disco + trance compilation cds + tapes I’ve bought over the years. 

What are your favourite spots to go digging and why?

Melbourne is in another extended stay-at-home period, with the unenviable record of most locked down city in the world. So it feels wavy thinking about even going to a shop let alone travelling, but it was nice to mentally revisit some of my favorite cities. I like Disk Union in Shinjuku, Bikini Wax in Berlin. Brisbane and the Gold Coast are underrated for digging, lots of sick 90s tech house and prog. I heard Lipelis was there a few months before I played and was on a strict no buy rule after being in South America and left with 60 records (I just trawled through every place I take notes and can’t find the name of the store, apologies).

I love Alley Tunes, Licorice Pie and Skydiver in Melbourne. Big Wax in Paris. Shopping with D. Tiff in Vancouver.  

I like all these places because I either find shit I like or the staff are nice.

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? 

Walking into a basement store in Brissie with guys smoking volcanoes is the essence of Australia :,) 

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?

Solo :p I like being in my own world record shopping, on my own time, but have lunch or dinner plans after to bookend a great day.

Actually the one person I like shopping with is Cole Evelev. Knows all the spots in NYC and our snack and beverage desires always align. 

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 have had moments feeling pretty uncomfortable in stores. There’s nothing endearing about grumpy pretentious cunts behind the counter but for every weird experience there’s way more great ones to balance it out. I work at Skydiver occasionally and want to make everyone feel as comfortable and welcome as possible. Everyone 

I try to understand how to work with adhd/organisation/memory/etc frustrations, so for me the key is having a phone with internet on me. I pick out what I think looks good, listen, if it’s interesting I look it up, so I can try and connect as many dots in the moment, then I’m more likely to retain that information and use it to find other releases or labels I like. 

I used to worry how I should or shouldn’t exist in music and in those male dominated spaces, but fuck it I just have to work with myself in anyway possible to be able to share how I hear music and sound.

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

It can feel like music is infinite, so I don’t usually get too caught up in the ‘must have’ mentality. Helps keep choice anxiety at bay. 

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

Mmmmm I generally like looking through 90s club first because I have a good sense of the art and logos. I need to be better at post 2000s sleeves because I end up listening to a lot of trash.

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

This mix occupies a very different space to most of my others but as always a trip through textures I find stimulating. A lot of my favourite mixes are home listening, ambient, jazz mixes so it’s been so nice to record this. Tried to make it feel lovely, soft and uncomplicated with pop and melancholic moments and some prog rock for Dad.  

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

Singing Dust!! James Tom and Jack Doepel from Krakatau have been working on an archive label Fresh Hold with Michael Kuyck/Efficient Space for a long time. First release is from a Queensland jazz pianist Robert Welsh, so happy to see it out of obscurity and on to fresh ears. Efficient Space also just put out the J. Walker – Spectra! release, it’s so so good.  

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

I love visiting James Tom’s (Krakatau/Hyperborea/Edge Worker DJ) apartment for a hang, his collection is impeccable. He’ll play me hard wacky Italian prog techno, metal and jazz. I always leave feeling very inspired.  

Also love talking shop with Mike Wale from Skydiver Records, amazing DJ and knowledge of house, UKG and the rest. I always listen to an Orca DJ mix when it comes out. 

Dawn Again for deep house and friendship.

Scott Storm who runs the elite Modern Hypnosis label and Emelyne for the bass wubs. 

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

Roy Mills!!! and Cole Evelev.

Anything on the horizon you’re excited about?

Being able to see my family again, being around lots of friends, dancing, playing shows.

Singing Dust – Let Me Take Your Name
Fumio Karashima Trio – Tears
Ryszard Sygitowicz – Niespełnienie
Jah Fingers – Dub Mix 3
Shocking Colours – Suspicion
Funktaxi – Bonus
Ross Alexander – Shattering Metals (Burnt Outro Dub)
Dead Calm – New Format Jazz
Kia – Blue Rain
Gavsborg (Equiknoxx) – 11 am with Frankie Bubbler
Dan Mandrila – Sonet
??? – ???
Pantene – Just Business 
Felt – Evergreen Daze
Visible Cloaks – Terrazzo 
J. Walker – Metallic Spit / Silver Place
Ryszard Sygitowicz – Opus 1983

Photo Credit: Karl Halliday 

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