We're selecting some of the best DJs in the business and taking them back to the record shops that mean the most to them. They will then lay down an immensely special set from their record shop of choice and needless to say, the mix is 100% Vinyl
So far the series has seen Cassy at Hard Wax Records in Berlin while Ninja Tune's Mr Scruff took us to Piccadilly Records in Manchester. For the latest instalment we've selected the brilliant Tom Trago. A vinyl fanatic and avid record digger, Trago is also the man behind modern day classics such as 'Use Me Again' and 'Two Together'. Having initially been into classic hip hop, soul and disco, he was introduced to a whole new dimension of sound through a vinyl store that is now synonymous with the man himself, Amsterdam's own Rush Hour Records. We caught up with Tom ahead of his 100% Vinyl mix at Rush Hour during Amsterdam Dance Event:
Why does Rush Hour hold such a special place in your heart?
To cut a long story short, my discovery of house came off the back off a track Rush Hour stocked. I was first introduced to the store through a friend; he made a track that I really liked but the only place that stocked it in the city was Rush Hour so I went down to pick up a copy. I was into 90s hip hop and DJing soul, funk and disco at the time, and it was a track called 'Tea For Two' by Kid Sublime which had a hip hop feel but was essentially a house track. The more I got into house the more it opened up a whole new world. I started going to Rush Hour a hell of a lot – I'd just go there to dig and that led to getting to know the guys that worked there, Christiaan and Antal, who are such cool guys. Eventually, the moment came when I started producing tracks. I dropped off my demo tape at the store and two days later they were like, "We'd love you to release some records on the label". So that was the start – and the rest is history.
How old where you when you first started collecting vinyl?
I started collecting records when I was doing fake radio shows in the attic of my parents' old house, when I was 10 or 11. I remember having a little microphone and putting on records from my parents and leading from one to another speaking into a mic. That was when I started really appreciating records: taking them out of the sleeves, looking them, checking out the artwork. But to be honest I didn't know jack shit. I didn't even know who Tina Turner was yet! The real collecting came when my mum wanted to throw away loads of records, around the time that CDs came in. Then my dad and me went up to my room and he was like, "OK, listen, we have to throw away a lot of records but there's going to be a few you have to keep as these are classics to me." So we went through and I took the cream of the crop. That led to two crates full of records. There was a lot of mainstream soul stuff, Sam & Dave, Otis Redding, some Fela Kuti, of course some classics. Nothing deep but it was all very broad.
First record you ever bought?
ODB 'Brooklyn Zoo'. It has the SD50 remix of 'Give It To Ya Raw' on the other side, which was killer too – and I've still got it!
What's the most prized record in your collection?
One that's really special to me is 'DJ Premier In Deep Concentration'. It's from the Gang Starr record 'Words I Manifest' and is signed by Premier from when I met him eight years ago. He made the best beats, was the best DJ and of course there's his connection to Gang Starr, he's the shit!
If you could swap collections with someone for two weeks who would it be?
I think Antal from Rush Hour, you know. He's got some sick shit. I just know Antal has some serious diamonds. He's a real digger. All over the world. His collection is insane!
Which record shops are you using these days now?
For Italy I go to Serendeepity in Milan, in Berlin I like Space Hall Records and OYE Records. In LA I like Amoeba Music, In New York, A1 Records is great – that's where I met Ron Morelli from L.I.E.S and their crew; they've got a real good second-hand store. There aren't that may left in New York these days. Tokyo is fucking amazing for records. Disk Union is literally perfect, then you have Technique which is also really cool. This year I was in Japan and annoyingly I went back with about six bags! I went bananas and bought like four or five hundred records. There was just so much good stuff.
What makes a record shop great?
The pre-selecting is so key. Picking the cream of the crop. And with a good pre-selection, listening is always so much nicer. A good collection is important, but in smaller stores, if you spend over an hour it's always great if the person working there sees what you're up to for the first hour, understands your taste and then they step up and just ram you through the next two hours with records. I like personal tips from behind the counter, as they know what they've got. I really like it when someone has time for you in the store, 'cause that's when you discover the shit you don't know yet! And then of course one of the most important things is that you're able to listen.
What's the best vinyl accessory you ever bought and why?
A good needle of course! Man, I underestimated the value of a good needle in the first eight years when I first started DJing. I used to use Stanton, then I started using the Blue Point needles and the clarity of the record just advances so much with a good needle. It makes a world of difference.
What's the best bargain buy you ever made in a record store?
It has to be the one I just mentioned, coming back from Japan with over four hundred records. Each one was like two, three, maybe four Euros and not a single one over €15.
What are some of you most trusted labels that put out quality vinyl?
A label by DVS1 called Mistress Recordings is a new label I really like; Clone is one of my all-time favourites, and I've always been a fan of Moodymann's Mahogany Music and R&S always surprise me in a good way.
Was there a favourite time in your life for buying vinyl?
Well I'm now in this second wave of love for buying vinyl. I used to always buy vinyl as it was the only way, but then CDJs came in, then USB sticks. A couple of years ago during a trip to Japan I started listening to a lot of old sets of mine and in comparison to the sets I did with USB sticks, vinyl sounded so much better – plus when I moved into my new house having all my records in one place really triggered the second wave of vinyl so it's all come together nicely. I've never spent so much money on records as I have this year.
How do you sort your collection – A to Z, chronologically, sleeve colour, grammage, amount of fingerprints on the shiny bit next to the label?
I'm still waiting for a big wall of vinyl but now its everywhere, on the couch, on the floor, on the speakers, on the kitchen table – it's not ordered at all.
Which record is ALWAYS in your record bag?
That's such a hard question as I always try to rotate; if I play tracks too often I'm afraid I'm going to get tired of them… but a favourite of mine is a Moodymann record called 'Dem Young Sconies' – you play it to a techno crowd or to a house crowd and it always works. Another record that's been in my bag for a long time is the Andrés remix of Cool Peepl 'Free'… and a Soundstream record called 'Live Goes On'.
What are some of your favourite record sleeve artwork designs, any particular labels?
There is a new label from Amsterdam called TAPE records that's got some really cool designs. Clone Records from Rotterdam have over the years maintained a silent and beautiful style. I think if you ask about consistency they've got it down.
If you could entrust your entire vinyl collection to one person, who would it be and why?
My boy Maxi Mill – he's also a producer on my label and a longtime studio friend. He used to work with me digitising the vinyl so he knows half of the collection already. I know he'd take good care of them.
This Thursday we provide a unique insight into Rush Hour Records as we talk to the guys behind the scenes and get a look at the staff's favourite new releases then come Friday we release Tom Trago's impeccable mix from Rush Hour Records