What Year did you buy your first record and what was it, and would you still play it today?
I think the first LP I bought was 7 by Madness in 1981. I would have been ten years old. I probably wouldn’t play that in a club today, but it’s great for a nostalgic home listen. My seven year old son has now become a bit of a Madness fan because of that. It must be something about the childlike melodies and almost carnival or circus feel to some of their tracks, and their sense of humour of course – which often belied somewhat darker subject matter. Madness, of course, were my gateway band to ska, 2-Tone and then reggae and soul. A hugely important and influential band for me. My first 12″ was definitely Solid by Ashford and Simpson (UK pressing) in 1984 and it’s one that I still play. Not the A-side though. I only realised years later that it was all about “Street Corner” on the flip. A great tune to play out to this day. Both records still sit proudly in my collection.
What were your favourite record shops back in the day?
If by “back in the day” you mean the 1990s (as that’s when I started to really ramp up my collection) it was all about the shops in London’s Soho for me. I had a job as a sound engineer there and had just started DJing and actually getting paid for it. My job put me in the midst of some of the finest shops at that time – Mr. Bongo, Soul Jazz, Release The Groove, Rockin’ Sarah’s, Daddy Kool, Vinyl Junkies and later If Music… the list goes on. At one point I was in Mr Bongo every single day. Kev Beadle, Huw, Kam and Tony Vegas worked there at the time. There would be white labels under the counter for me pretty much every day. Later on, it was a similar story at Release The Groove and then If Music, where I even worked the odd day when I was supposed to be working in the studio!
Was there a record store that made you feel uncomfortable?
Er, yes. Quite a lot of the second hand ones did. The staff were often quite grumpy and snooty in those ones. I totally get it now, and some of those guys are actually friends of mine now, but at the time it was quite intimidating.
Is there a particular memory of a mission trying to find a certain record?
I remember the first time I heard “Sour Times” by Portishead on Gilles Peterson’s show. I was blown away. Back in those days DJs would get test presses long before the rest of us (it’s not so much the case now) and I think I asked Kev in Mr Bongo about the record every single day, until one day he magically produced a hand stamped white label 12″ from under the counter that read “Welcome To Portishead’s Sour Times”. What a moment.
What was the best bargain find you remember?
I used to work in a sound recording studio and they had a bunch of library music vinyl they didn’t want any more. Amongst the nuggets in there was “Afro Rock” by Vecchio on Music De Wolfe. A free record that now fetches around the £300 mark.
Is there a certain record that sticks in your head that someone in a record store recommended to you & you’ll be ever thankful for?
That’s got to be “Gears” by Johnny Hammond. A girl who worked at the studio in Soho gave me a mixtape that had the track “Can’t We Smile” on it, as well as many other (now) classics. It remains one of my favourite albums of all time.
Did you ever work in a record store or distributor, if so any fond or particular memory that sticks out?
I informally worked at Release The Groove and If Music in between recording sessions and the odd Saturday. It was yet another way to meet all the right people as all the big name DJs (to me) would come in those shops. It was a little testing at times but an invaluable experience.
What’s better, being sent a record for free, or going to search and buy a record?
It depends on the record! A record that arrives on your doormat for free that you weren’t expecting and totally blows you away is something very special, but equally, digging deep and unearthing a magical gem is something quite unique also!
What record are you currently waiting for in anticipation to come out, if any?
The next twenty or so SAULT albums to be released before Christmas.