Diggers Directory: Liv Ayers

It’s fair to say we’re ardent fans of Liv Ayers‘ many talents here at Stamp The Wax: she’s contributed to our Monday Morning Mixtapes , and she’s responsible for the incredible illustrations that adorned our 10th anniversary mix tapes. The London-based DJ & designer is also an integral part of Rhythm Sister, “a collective, platform & community promoting female, non binary, and trans DJs and producers,” who’ve organized parties, skill-sharing workshops and hold a residency on Balamii

Someone with such a focus on connection and community is a prime interviewee on the communal and social side of record collecting. We touch on the joy of shopping for records with friends, including gigs abroad with other members of Rhythm Sisters, and she drops an exhaustive list of like-minded record collectors and inspirational figures that had us probing Mixcloud for days. Her mix is similarly brilliant, choc-full of synth basslines and drum machines, with flashes of boogie, wave and sunlit house. It’s a delectable taste of what you can expect at some of the gigs and festivals she mentions below!

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?

Yes definitely, I am a cliche… My dad grew up in the 60s/70s so has a big collection of all the classics – Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac, Simon & Garfunkel, Richie Havens, Joni Mitchell, Sex Pistols and basically every Bob Dylan record and bootleg going. Mum did try to push in bits of what she liked – Stevie Wonder, Billie Holiday, Sade and like, moody intellectual heartthrobs like Cat Stevens, Leonard Cohen and Jacques Brel, but it was a bit of a battle – their identity was so wrapped up in their music tastes. 

I got my musical education from when I was a baby as they’d sing us these songs as lullabies to get us to sleep. I also danced a lot growing up so my first time playing a record was when I was trying to choreograph a dance routine to Wuthering Heights. 

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?

I started out interning at Bleep in the Warp offices so I got a few free records there and that’s what really gave me the bug to keep building my collection. I felt so excited to be holding these records and it was just a very cool feeling so I kept riding that wave and collecting more. I was also very inspired by some of the people around me at the time who had huge collections and really sick setups, these were also the people who helped me get into DJing and start growing my collection. 

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

Before Covid I got very into having my records perfectly filed, clean and pristine with proper high quality outer and inner sleeves. I actually sorted them by how much I liked them, with my favourites most accessible. I moved home for a bit during lockdown and have been shuffling around different places so my collection is kind of all over the place at the moment. I’ve had to let go of having my records perfectly filed as life has taken over, which is good I guess as I’m relaxing more in life. But once I’m settled in one place I plan to go back to having them properly filed and get a really nice setup.

What are your favourite spots to go digging and why?

I’ve found quite a few great records in charity shops, particularly surprising when I’m shopping in my hometown. Over lockdown obviously I got way more into Discogs shopping which has actually been very nice and efficient. I used to live a few doors down from Love Vinyl so that’ll always have a special place in my heart, but I also love Flashback, Sounds of the Universe and Alan’s in London to name a few! 

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

Yes there are quite a few. Some I have managed to buy, which is such a high, but as soon as I get them I’m like ‘this is going somewhere very safe where it will never see the light of day.’ Which sort of defeats the object. And then I want to chase that high again and it can get a little unhealthy. Discogs sharks are usually circling around the records I find most elusive – been waiting years for the price to go down and it’s just going up and up. Bo Rye Posse – Rastafarian Groove! Judy Em – Love Hangover, Johnny Lamas – Danza Cosmica and Sunlight Orchestra are some of the ones on my list.

Do you prefer record shopping as a solitary process or with friends to nerd out with and search for strange sounds together? If the latter, who do you like to go digging with?

I like both, but I prefer it with friends. It can be a great social activity and can help you think out the box when you see what your friends are digging. 

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 did/do find it really daunting, which might be a reason I prefer shopping with friends. When Rhythm Sister have played abroad we’ve often gone record shopping together – fond memories of this place in Budapest which I cannot remember the name of but had some silly good records. It’s so much more fun doing it with pals anyway. BUT if I’m alone and I’m shopping somewhere new I tend to kind of skirt around the entrance first and as I get more comfortable I’ll get deeper into the shop. I’m probably inventing it all in my own head but it’s not always a comfortable experience. So I do end up honing in on what I want! Just can take some time. 

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

Too much of a role. I have bought so many records with beautiful artwork that don’t live up to the looks. My excuse is I’m a very visual person and a graphic designer etc. etc. and I often save record covers as inspiration. I need to learn not to judge a record by it’s cover because you know, it’s what’s inside that counts… 

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

I’ve tried to keep a more light-hearted, summery theme with the mix which is possibly a departure from stuff I usually play, and also a departure from a lot of the records I have which are moodier and groovier and quite stripped back. I had to make an executive decision to cut a lot of the records which I wanted in the mix, letting others take precedence. I didn’t want it to be toooo chaotic!

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

I had to slip some Tom Wolgers in. Some releases from pals Manuel Darquart and Heels & Souls. A Tippa Irie track which, when I played it out my mate literally screamed with laughter because he couldn’t believe it was him. Of course it’s not his best record but this track is kind of fun. 

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

Nick the Record, John Gomez, Norsicaa, Jaye Ward, Eliza Rose, to think of a few. Really nice people who are very passionate about records. 

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

My pal Sarah Isaacs/sarahtonin is definitely one to watch – she was always the biggest music enthusiast in a very authentic way and is now getting championed by Bill Brewster. Also Adriana from Rhythm Sister (Ariane V), she’s just so good and SO passionate about djing and digging, aand Millie McKee, Daughters of Frank, Lora Mipsum, Manuel Darquart, Sara El Harrak.

Anything on the horizon you’re excited about?

Yes! Got some really good gigs and festivals coming up this summer – so excited to be back 😄

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