Detroit’s storied past is well-known, but beyond the major players who’ve long orbited our musical universe, there’s a serious wealth of DJs and producers operating just below the surface. Scott Zacharias is one of those selectors who’s unafraid to colour outside the genre lines. Growing up on a diet of space rock, jazz and thrash, he soon became interested in his home’s deep house heritage, before expanding his repertoire further into psychedelia, disco, Italo and everything in between.
Unsurprisingly, his no holds barred outlook on music and DJing soon led to residencies throughout the city. On top of being an original resident of Oslo and a regular head at No Way Back, he also played a major part in Philadelphia-born-Detroit-based party Macho City, as well as co-finding Disco/Secret with Mike Trombley. This borderless approach feeds into more than just his solo pursuits. Alongside previous Diggers Directory inductee, Interdimensional Transmissions boss BMG, he makes up one half of edit duo The Fantasy, who’ve put their own spin on everything from Bill Withers to Chris & Cosey.
For his freeform Diggers mix, he kindly gives us a look into ‘a little corner of his bizarre mind garden’, picking out favourites from an old box of records that could well be suited to your nomadic, rambling activities. This is paired with an interview about his pathway into collecting and a period spent working at Record Time – plus, for any of you lucky Detroit-based followers, it seems Scott’s looking to shift some of his old wax. Now there’s an offer you can’t refuse…
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?
Music skipped my parents. I still have my mother’s copy of “Are You Experienced?”, but it wasn’t a major focus with them growing up. Radio and, to some extent MTV, informed me entirely. The high school radio station was run by a drunk, so one of the hosts used to illegally broadcast all night. I think his name was Elan. He was a hippie-free-speech type and also free of any format. Punk, jazz, hip hop, shitty rock, spoken word. I used to listen on a clock radio and would fall asleep in school from being up all night. I’m not even mentioning Electrifying Mojo or Jeff Mills. Radio in Detroit was flush with talent.
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?
When I was a kid my cousin gave me a KISS or Blondie record or something (maybe Def Leppard?), but all my first music buys were cassettes. I had a boom box and I used to record shows off the radio and even host my own imaginary show. Oof. It wasn’t until high school I was able to afford an all-in-one plastic stereo “thingy” with a turntable. I would go to this shop, Record Collector, and that basically ruined my life. Hehehe. The hazing was severe, but so many other worlds came alive. Miles Davis, SST, CAN, Boredoms, Sonny Sharrock. Linda Sharrock! On and on. I still dream about those bins.
Where do you store your records and how do you file them?
I live in a small apartment, so for the past few years the boxes lived in a storage unit. I now have a studio and things are finally moving along. My mother’s a librarian, but I’ve never filed my records in any order other than chronologically. Teen angst, I’m guessing.
What are your favourite spots to go digging and why?
Japan. That’s it. It’s all there. Everything. The end. Close second: Detroit, 30 years ago.
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?
I worked at Record Time for a short stint and everyone used to come cop new house and techno shit every week. Co-workers over the years included: Mike Huckaby, Rick Wade, Korie Enyard, Brenden Gillen, Brian Gillespie, House Shoes, and Brian aka Godfather. Everyone paid dues and it definitely wasn’t for the money.
I’d say Peoples Records was where I got many of my main pulls. The place remains a beacon to a wildly different set of characters — not always pretty. Many folks have had their homes foreclosed on, been evicted, divorced, had problems with addiction. Records come and they go, but this is a town big on music. That will never change.
Is there a record (or records), that has continued to be elusive over the years?
I’m getting so old I can’t even remember tbh. I’ve always wanted to find that Steve Kuhn on Buddah. I fuck with Discogs, but can’t pull the trigger on that one. Elusive it shall remain.
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’m pretty lazy, so any record shit is purely going to be an unscheduled pop-in. The regulars show up regardless. They don’t know anything else. We’re fucked.
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?
Coffee helps. If later in the day, booze.
How big a role does album artwork play in your digging?
It’s a thing, but not exclusively. Labels, eras, musicians, instruments, and studios all hold equal weight.
Could you tell us a bit about the mix you’ve done for us?
I opened about four boxes of records I haven’t seen in three years and pulled some faves. Set up the delay pedal and went for it. Fully improvised, so apologies for the rough cut.
Any standouts in the mix you’d like to mention?
It’s not really mixed. For walks, hikes, and the like. I happen to love Karen Krog and Matt/Terreke. That pretty much sums up where I’m at musically.
Are there any young collectors emerging who we should keep a close eye on?
S/o to Bill Spencer and Izaak, Maxy, Ryan and Cruce. Bryan and Nick Pure Ravers, Brad at Peoples, Wade and Shelly at Hello, Satoshi and Red Light people in Amsterdam. Invisible City and Comos Candadians. Ron Morelli. The internet?
Anything on the horizon you’re excited about?
Studio work. I need to make room so come over and scoop some of these damn records. Thank you so much for reaching out and for the opportunity to share a little corner of my bizarre mind garden : )