Interview – Simon Rigg, co-founder, Phonica Records

phonicarecords

Deep in the heart of soho lies undoubtedly one of the most integral parts of the current UK underground electronic music scene, it’s influence undeniable; Phonica records, some amazing artists of worth when in town have clamoured to play an in store set, artists with a vast range of musical styles ranging from Motor City Drum Ensemble to Mount Kimbie, to Vakula, to Richie Hawtin to Four Tet (to name but a few). 

 Now about to begin its tenth year of trading a supposedly defunct music medium in an extreme economic climate where huge high street chains like HMV are going under on a daily basis, what makes this tiny bastion of independence tick?

I had a chat with co-founder Simon Rigg to ask him about all things Phonica;

Where did it all begin? When were your ears first alerted to electronic music and how did it affect you?

For me, I can actually pinpoint the time and place. In a local youth club in a Shropshire village, the older guys were playing a cassette of The House Sound of Chicago Vol 1, and I had to find out what out was so I could buy it!

http://www.discogs.com/Various-The-House-Sound-Of-Chicago/release/89727

All the classics were on there from Marshall Jefferson to ‘Jack Your Body’ , Chip E’s Like This to Fingers Inc ‘Mystery of Love’…and from then on in, my love of house music started!

So how did the shop come into being?

I was running another record store in 2001 on Berwick St, called Koobla and the guys who run Vinyl Factory approached me to open a record store to sit alongside FACT Magazine and  their pressing plant. It was a lucky break, they were very dedicated to vinyl and opening a shop and we had a blank slate to design the shop how we wanted etc. With Tom Relleen (now in The Oscillation) and Heidi (Radio1  DJ) , we left Koobla to open the new shop wondering if any of our customers would come with us.

The Vinyl Factory? What is it and what links does it have to the shop?

Vinyl Factory is a group of companies that comprise of FACT Magazine, VF Editions (limited vinyl box sets etc) and VF Manufacturing (the old EMI pressing plant in Hayes) – the whole company is dedicated to music and vinyl, especially.

The Phonica collection of labels? With over 16 successful releases under their belts what are the Plans for the future of these labels?

To be honest, we probably don’t have so many grand plans as some other stand-alone labels . We started the label in order to release great tracks from the staff (Hector & Anthea both had early releases)  and friends and family. We often come across good tracks or up and coming producers and if we like it, we will put it out.  We have forthcoming tracks from Sad City, Lord of The Isles, Iori and Northlake who have all releases with us before.

Ex staff? You have some now very famous faces that used to work behind the counter, do you think that this fact attracts young upcoming artists to an internship in the shop?

Will Saul, Pete Herbert  were there in the early days…James Priestley, Geddes and of course Hector, Anthea and Heidi who were such an integral part of the shop. I wouldn’t say that attracts people to do internships – its more of an interesting thing to do alongside doing / running a label / producing etc which a lot of people are pursuing as their main source of income.

You are supplying some if not all of London’s best DJ’s/Producers with new vinyl, not to mention those visiting the UK therefore to a certain extent shaping the music that we listen to on the dance floor at the weekend, who is the main buyer for Phonica and how hard a job is it to make those selections?

I’m the main buyer at Phonica with help from Vangelis. I choose which records to get in and in what quantities – however, this is also shaped by what people buy, what sells well in the shop, what the other staff like and tell me about, what other customers tell me about. If people ask for records we don’t stock, I will go and check it to see if we should be stocking it. These days, with such limited runs, you have to take a chance on things -if you only order a few copies of a killer record, chances are there won’t be any left by the time you re-order!

How do you stay on top of your game/ahead of your competitors?

I think all the shops that are left now, especially in London, all have their own niche and speciality and we are all good at what we do. Customers are either very loyal to a particular shop or they shop around and see what each shop has to offer. On the internet, its harder competition but we try and stock the best records we can, have a good range of different genres and provide a good service.

There has been much talk of late of a vinyl revival, have you noticed an increase in sales in the last few years?

Yes, its true, there has been a slight increase in sales over the past year or two – but not in the way that has been publicised.  This talk of a vinyl revival is using figures from US high street stores and for mainstream albums only – for independents and for dance music, vinyl sales have been steadily decreasing for 15 years – however, they do seem to be remaining solid in a genre that should’ve been killed off when the cassette was introduced.  But the pressing speak for themselves, 10 years ago, a ‘limited’ run was 2000 copies! Now its 300!

Record Store Day seems to have been a great success for independent record stores across the world, do you think it has helped the success of Phonica?

I think RSD has been a great way to highlight independent record stores across the world and show a different way of buying and enjoying music rather than sitting at home trawling through loads of mediocrity on a mp3 website!

Do you still think it’s possible for artists to make money from record sales or do you now think it’s more of a promotional platform for live shows/gigs?

Well, you can make a small amount of money from record sales – yes, but not enough to support you in life. Vinyl sales now are more of a promotional platform so you can demand higher DJ fees or live shows.

What’s your take on soundcloud and how do you think it is changing the landscape of electronic music worldwide?

Soundcloud is very useful, although I don’t use it too often myself – just mainly as a way of listening to records forthcoming on vinyl…i don’t think its the most functional software…..

I still think people would buy a vinyl copy if its something they want!

Check out www.phonicarecords.com or pop in store to pick up some select killer vinyl

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Review – The Young Gentleman’s Adventure Society / Parada 88: Adventure Party / You’re Gonna Miss Me

International Feel, the quintessential Balearic label, not content with producing some of the most sought after 12” vinyl in the last three years, have also recently gifted us with two Killer EP’s and an album all from the  “Sketches From An Island” project, and a totally new production by one of the men who started it all José Padilla.

In 2011 the label put out two separate releases with an extremely limited run on each, so much so it actually caused a mini riot in a Japanese store.  These releases are on the Discgos want list of many a vinyl enthusiasts with copies changing hands upwards of £200.

Just to put those proud owners noses out of joint just a tiny tad, but great news for the rest of us, Mark Barrott has decided to re-release both tracks. Mark states; “the simple fact is these records have power and I just want more people to hear them”.

The Young Gentleman’s Adventure Society / Parada 88: Adventure Party / You’re Gonna Miss Me, although relatively new productions definitely carry more than an air of nostalgia to them, and in my humble opinion have successfully captured a sound from the heady earlier days of the acid house explosion.

Both are on release Monday August 18th, get em while they’re hot!

10/10

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DIRTCAST #41 | Brame & Hamo

This rather splendid offering from two burgeoning young Irish producers is pure textbook Deep House, which will flow out of your speakers like aural velvet.

Brame & Hamo have exceptional production skills, wise beyond their tender years.

With releases on Dirt Crew and most recently Drumpoet Community these two chaps are certainly ones to watch.

Enjoy

M 🙂

Clandestino 212 Promo Mix

Track List:

Intro
Hubbabubbaklub – Mopedbart (Death Strobe Records)
Parkway Rhythm – The Answer. Mark Seven Club Mix (Parkway Records)
Volta Cab – Native Talk (Pole Jam Vinyl)
Weirdo Police – Electronic Cretin (Redux)
Popular People’s Front – Anyway Ya Wanna (PPF)
Fernando – From Out There (Bear Funk)
Chicken Lips – 3 Soaps In One (Kingsize)
Deep Sound Express – Changes (Pole Jam Vinyl)
Secret Squirrel – Side B (Secret Squirrel)
Silver Linings – Sleepless (Gulf Point Records)
The Grid & Robert Fripp – A Cabala Sky
Khidja – Mustafa. JuJu & Jordash Remix (Emotional Especial)

Check out the event here:
www.facebook.com/events/333949470091736/

Independent Label Market 2014 – Test Pressing

Word faithfully reproduced from the wonderful folk over at testpressing.org;

A lovely day at the Independent Label Market on Saturday in London’s Spitalfields. Things we learnt. Lots of cool girls work at independent record labels, someone at HYperdub used to tag, Andrew Weatherall has his own tote bag and people like ale and records lots. Fairplay to organiser Katie who has done a great job taking the market to where it is now which is the perfect mix of music, records and real ales from some of the best independent breweries in the UK.

http://testpressing.org/2014/07/independent-label-market-2014/

Caribou – Can’t Do Without You

Have you ever heard a piece of music that has simply stopped you in your tracks?

I was and still am a regular listener to the stellar monthly www.residentadvisor.net podcast.

In February 2011 I witnessed simply one of the most amazing expressions of music that I have ever heard on an RA podcast and have not heard it bettered since.

Aside from the fact that it is my best friend’s wife’s favourite word, or that it has anything to do with Father Christmas, or reindeer; Caribou – or Dan Snaith is a Canadian artist with a complete and utter bona fide talent.  Having been glued to the album “Swim” since its release in 2010, I was even more chuffed to be able to get my hands on a double gatefold vinyl edition.

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When the equally incredible Midland got his hands on “Sun” my initial reaction was to shudder at the thought of a remix, however, Harry worked his amazing magic and true to form, here we are left with (in my honest humble opinion) a truly great re-work of an already future classic, and a free download to boot!

And now here we have Mr Snaith’s latest offering which leaves absolutely nothing to the imagination, hold onto your hats, Caribou is back and out to capture those summer vibes;

Enjoy

M 🙂

My Ibiza And The Changing Nature Of The Balearic Beat

I stepped out of the door of the plane and walked straight into a heavy wall of heat, instantly the strong stinging scent of salt from the salt flats and the thick heavy aroma of pines hit my nostrils and my stomach was filled with butterflies.  It instantly felt like home.

This was September in 1990 and my first visit to the Island which would take a very special place in mine and my families heart.

Myself and two very close friends were regulars at Charlie Chester’s night, Flying at the Soho Theatre Club behind the Astoria,  and Phil Perry’s Full Circle Parties at The Greyhound in Colnbrook in Slough.  We were avid readers and attenders of the Boys Own fanzine and parties and had heard all the tales of the clubbing paradise that was the white island so we booked up and made the pilgrimage.

To walk into Space for the first time and onto that Terrace to hear extremely loud music at 8am in the morning was a bit of epiphany to say the least.  We couldn’t believe that the club was open air, and this loud!  We had found a perfect playground; hot sun, beautiful sea, sand and locals that had a totally carefree and completely tolerant attitude.  For me that was it, I had found nirvana.

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We visited the huge cavernous Ku, danced on the terrace at Amnesia and went to the water party at Es Paradis, but I think the crowning glory was after the madness, watching the sun go down at Cafe Del Mar, sitting on the beach with a few hundred like minds, smoking a spliff  and enjoying a chocolate milk and brandy, all set to the most amazing sunset soundtrack I had every heard.  The strangest mix of genres, although completely different all seemed to meld perfectly together, and in the beach setting of the Cafe Del Mar.  This was and still remains to be one of the most special and tranquil times in my life, and holds the most fantastic dear memories for me.

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The two weeks came to and end but of course that was just the beginning.  We returned every year for our two week fix, and I have done ever since.  Each time when I returned to the UK my search to hear the music that was played at Cafe Del Mar and my interest in the DJ’s that played it was piqued.  It took four years but finally in 1994 Cafe Del Mar brought out an album, which I bought immediately and it still remains as one of my most played to this day.  It was mixed by none other than José Padilla, the very DJ I had heard playing this emotionally charged music in the first place.

http://www.discogs.com/Various-Caf%C3%A9-Del-Mar/release/6855

It was then that I heard that a local DJ from home had secured a residency at the Café; Phil Mison, an Essex lad that drunk at our local The Bridge House in Upminster Bridge.  Phil had a chance meeting with Jose and was invited to play.

Since those early days I have been captivated by this musical style, I will always have a huge love for House and Techno but the same can be said for this very distinct sound.

With Ibiza’s meteoric rise in popularity in the years that followed, and the growth of the super clubs the sunsets at Cafe Del Mar are much changed, the last time I visited (which was a good few years back) instead of a few hundred on the beach now there are thousands.  With the pre-party bar Mambo next door this guarantees a heaving throng of sweaty revellers, not very tranquil at all!  There are however other alternatives now to be enjoyed, Sunset Ashram and Cap Dés Falcó being two amazing spots to enjoy a less hectic Ibizencan sunset.

http://www.sunsetashram.com/en/

http://cap-des-falco.ibiza.ibiza4all.org/

In 2010 I returned but this time with my family.  We had a completely different holiday and a saw a totally different side to the island.  Every visit previous to this had been pure madness.  We rented a small house in Cala Vadella an idyllic bay on the West coast of the island, around twenty minutes drive from the airport.  We hired a car and driving to our new holiday home for the first time ever I realised that the entire island is covered in pine trees.  I hang my head in shame!

The Greeks called the island “Pitiüses” or Land Of The Pines, now I could see why.  Some family friends of ours live on the island all summer long and gave us some tips of places to visit.  We drove up to Satalia, the highest point on the island.  From here you can really see the full extent of the thick pine forest;

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Our friends have a boat and took us to Cala Conta, where the amazing Sunset Ashram can be found.  To discover this side of the island after all these years only proved to ingrain the power of Balearic music and made the link to the island within me ever stronger.

Thankfully these days we have many bastions of the Balearic sound probably more now than ever before;

Mison himself releases under the moniker Cantoma and with Pete Herbert Reverso 68.  In 2013 Phil launched Highwood Recordings, a new imprint for this unique sound.

http://www.cantomamusic.com/

Claremont 56 is a standout label too, run by Paul Murphy features some of the most forward thinking music around, including the excellent Originals series, of which Mr Mison mixed the 6th version:

http://www.claremont56.com/

And of course there is the quintessential Balearic label International Feel, conceived in 2008 on the Uruguayan coast, Mark Barrott the label boss now lives on the island, his recent release Sketches From An Island in my opinion is a near on perfect audio embodiment of the island:

http://sketchesfromanisland.com/

Also flying the flag for all things Balearic is the truly excellent Test Pressing, which has a vast amount of information plus tons of music, a must for the intrigued:

http://testpressing.org/

And in 2014 a regular Balearic Sunday night affair at The Horse & Groom in Curtain Road, Shoreditch; Música Noche, already in its fourth incarnation with such eminent guests as Phil Mison himself, Nancy Noise, Daniele Baldelli and Ruf Dug holding court, the next party is a Carnival warm up scheduled for the 1st of August with none other than Tom Middleton playing upstairs;

https://www.facebook.com/events/850362681660016/

Salud!

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http://boilerroom.tv/channels/house/balearic-beat/