Vinyl addict, disco DJ, and serious head Nick the Record has just been commissioned to hand pick the latest in Z Records' "Under the Influence" series. As you'd expect from a man who's spent more years digging than most of you have breathing, Nick has done a sterling job, pulling funk, disco and boogie gems, from the obscure to some well loved floor fillers.We grabbed a hold of Nick to get some history of his long career as a crate rifler, and to (attempt to) solve the thorny issue of Discogs collectors once and for all...
You were originally a hip hop & house collector - can you remember the first records that really grabbed you?
The first record I bought with my own money at the age of 8 was Elvis Costello - Oliver's Army. I learn't the words & sung it for my class at school. The first record that really hipped me to early Electro was Planet Rock by Bambaataa. A girl from school called Nova brought over her older brothers copy and I was hooked.
So what were the tracks that made you want to dig backwards? Was there a particular sample or producer?
As far as I can remember it was probably some of the early Hip Hop Cut up's that got me to explore backwards. Things like Fusion Beats 2 on Bozo Meko, Feelin' James on TD & of course Double Dee & Steinski - Lessons 2 & 3. The sound was just so different to the basic, drum machine based Hip Hop & Electro I was used to.
What were the first record shops you went into?
I grew up in a small village called Bricket Wood, where I had a Breakdance Crew with Paul Murphy of Claremont 56 Records, but that's another story, It was half way between St. Albans & Watford so every Saturday we'd go to one or the other. In Watford we had Past & Present Records. They had a second store round the corner with used stuff, found lots of bargains in there like Weldon Irvine - In Harmony on Strata East for £2. In St. Albans there was a great market stall. Found Tommy Stewart lp for £2. Both of those finds were just guesses, based on the sleeves. I'm sure I bought some junk at the same time to balance things out. That stall was also good for new releases. I bought my early imports there. He had a turntable set up & was happy to play stuff, which was rare in those days. Things were less genre specific then - as well as Hip Hop & Soul I bought records like Adonis - No Way Back there. I had no idea it was House music, it was just a good dance record to my ears.
Whats been your all time favourite record shop? Any reason why?
That's a hard one. The only record shops I go to regularly are for new releases. I used to go to Vinyl Junkies a lot when it was open. Lighthouse Records in Tokyo is always good. For used records one of the first shops I spent a lot of time at was Quaff Records. It started out as a used record shop, run by Roy The Roach & another guy who did reggae. I got a lot of great records & met a lot of good people in there. When they opened up a second store in Ladbroke Grove I worked there at weekends and there would always be new 'old' stuff in. I used to go weekly to The Shephards Bush branch of Music & Video when my man Hector worked there. He used to let me look at stuff out in the back. I love to dig at Disk Union in Japan. It's like an upmarket Music & Video exchange. It's where most people in Tokyo would go if they want to sell their records & they also buy high end stuff from dealers in the US & on ebay so they have quality high end stuff but you can also sometimes find a bargain. I say that but in recent years the prices have gone up & they check most prices online. It used to be that if a record was not in demand in Japan but was sought after in Europe you could get it cheap. Not so much now.
Whats been the best track you got for the least amount of money?
There are so many. I found Sabu Martinez - Afro Temple in Shepards Bush Music & Video back when it was a new discovery & had sold for £1000. It was priced at £7 but Hector gave it me for £5. I also found a copy of the same record at the Utrecht record fair for 2 euros. Although it's retail is probably around £250 That was probably the last of the wicked bargains to be found at that fair, everyone checks their prices online now.
Discogs is killing crate digging. Discuss.
Discogs and the Internet in general has changed the face of digging for good and bad. It's opened up a world of knowledge to collectors. Back when I started out, someone could tell you about a record & it might be 10 years before you actually saw a copy. Now you hear about a record & you can listen to it, add it to your wants, maybe even buy a copy within minutes. If you lived in the South of England in the early nineties and you heard a good US Disco record & wanted to buy it you didn't have too many options. Apart from trying to get lucky in second hand shops there were about 6 dealers who you could ask for it. Now things are very different. Discogs has probably helped with the new wave of collectors. It has also balanced things out a lot more. A lot of records which we thought were a little rare you might now find there are 20 copies for sale and each person who listed it for sale made their copy a little cheaper than those already listed. So the prices are going down. The biggest problem with Discogs is a lot of the sellers are not professional so they don't know how to grade. If you look at the definition of Nr. Mint on Discogs it is very strict. It should mean, pretty much unplayed with only the very slightest signs of wear. But no one wants to grade their records as VG+. They really missed a trick not having an EX grade on Discogs. I'd say I'm satisfied with the grade of about 1 in 3 used records I buy on Discogs. I've pretty much given up on using Discogs to buy. As far as my business is concerned the rare records are pretty easy to sell if priced correctly. For the less rare records my business model has probably changed a bit due to the Internet. I try to price fairly & grade strictly. I've already paid for the shipping & Import duty which makes a difference with 1 record shipped from the US now costing $18/20. So if you buy from the djfriendly website you'll know the records are in the condition stated, they will be sent out quickly, there will be no bootlegs or reissues and you can buy 2 or 3 or as many records as you can afford whilst only having to deal with & pay postage to one person.
What do you look for when you go digging? Like is it a certain style of sleeve, or a name you recognise?
It can be a sleeve or a certain look that grabs my attention, if there is a name on there you recognize that helps. If it's something I've never seen before at this stage in my career then I guess it must be rare - that of course doesn't make it good.
Where's the best place to go diggin now?
I've always done most of my buying in the US. Record shops are rarely much fun now since the internet. I actually buy more collections now. In the last 5 years I've bought some large collections from pretty big dj's in the US. A lot of older people dumped or sold their records in the nineties but more recently, I've bought from people who were holding on to their collections, who probably though they would never sell. Generally I don't think they needed the money. More a case of getting the space & doing something with it. So these days, as it's part of a collection, I tend to just grab stuff I don't know, or a common soul lp that I've never actually taken the time to listen to or I'll check out a disco 12" that I didn't like back in the late eighties but might sound good now. I spent my early years looking for the rare and obscure, (they were easier to find back then) but these days it's more methodical, just taking records home and giving them a proper listen.
What's you favourite cut on this Under the Influence comp?
That's a tough one. I guess Skye is the one I have played out the most. It was a bit of an anthem for me at my Lifeforce parties in Tokyo back in the late nineties. Blackway & Helene is similar, almost unknown & a great early morning 'play one more' record.
And were there any you wanted on there that couldn't make it?
Gloria Ann Taylor - Love Is A Hurting thing - we were close to putting that on. We got the sound cleaned up by Sean P & made a couple of minor edits and then we heard Ubiquity were working on putting it out & so we left it alone & in the meantime, someone in Italy has reissued it, they claim it's legitimate but I'm convinced it's a bootleg, Gloria Ann Taylor didn't know anything about it anyway.
Will you tell us an under rated gem that everyone should own...?
There are so many. If you check out my mix for ebonycuts I did a few years back. As I touched on earlier, there are a lot of overlooked common lp tracks on there.