The idea was that this interview would be for an ‘On Record’ feature, in which the DJ, DMZ graduate, Swamp81 boss and producer of some of the greatest underground dance music of the 2000s would talk in-depth about a particular favourite from his collection. However, pretty much from the off Loefah declared that choosing just one record would be impossible, and agreed to proceed only if he could talk more generally about his love for the sticky black stuff. The person at the other end of the phone, FACT’s Kiran Sande, was only too happy to indulge him.
“Hardcore was what got me started buying music on vinyl, ‘cos you literally couldn’t get it anywhere else.”
“[long pause] You know, I never had Timeless on vinyl. I had all the singles leading up to it and that on vinyl, but I never had Timeless on vinyl. I had all the Metalheadz stuff though, and Reinforced before that…You know, back then it was like, if an album came out on CD it was like wow, ‘cos there wasn’t bare CDs around, at least not of that kind of underground ilk, do you know what I mean?”
Especially on double-CD.
“Exactly, exactly. I mean, I did eventually get it on vinyl, but that was only about a year ago. You know…I buy records every week. It’s hard to pinpoint a particular record to talk about, ‘cos every day I listen to vinyl, and each day has a different tune. A tune of the day. Yesterday it was, you know a guy called Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson? Yeah? I got ‘Superman Lover’ on vinyl last week and I was battering it yesterday. The day before that it was S.O.S. Band, ‘The Finest’, which I picked up in Greece a couple of weeks ago. Then a mate came round last night and we were listening to loads of drum ‘n bass, the original drum ‘n bass, just after it split from jungle – old Photek tracks like ‘Water Margin’, old Source Direct, that sort of thing.”
Was that the era that you got into buying records?
“I’ve been listening to it, well, since sort of late acid house – sort of late ’89. Right at the start of hardcore I suppose. But I was quite young, I was just listening to it on pirates; I didn’t start raving until about ’93. I’d been buying vinyl since way back.
“It was all about, if you’ve got it, then you were hardcore.”
“Hardcore was what got me started buying music on vinyl, yeah. And it was literally ‘cos you couldn’t get it anywhere else. I didn’t have decks at the time, I couldn’t mix; I was like 11 or 12 years old. But I used to save my pound lunch money every day, ‘cos the records were a fiver, and on Fridays I’d go down to Wax City Records in Croydon.
“Most people think it would be Big Apple, but there was two record stores in Croydon, and I was actually more into Wax City. Even though Big Apple was sick and my mates worked there and it’s got this big legacy, I dunno, Wax City was like my house or whatever. So I used to go down there on Fridays and buy a hardcore tune and pick up loads of flyers. It was nothing to do with sound quality, it was just the only way you could get it. You could hear it on pirate, hear it on a tape-pack, but if you wanted to listen to a tune on its own then it was all about vinyl.
“But then it quickly gets you into that collector’s mentality…one minute you’ve got one vinyl, then you’ve got five, then you’ve got ten…it builds up. And they look sick when they’re all lined up in the rack or whatever, know what I mean? [laughs] You get the bug. At the same time I was picking up flyers and it was like the same thing with that, I started collecting flyers and just….being part of it. Being part of that hardcore thing. When I say hardcore I don’t necessarily mean the music, but more like the era…”
“I’m not gonna shout about it, I’m not gonna try to get it into HMV or whatever the fuck the high street record store is now, I’m not gonna go digital, I’m not gonna do all that shit.”
“Yeah, totally. It was a word that was bandied about lot. It was all about, if you’ve got it, then you were hardcore [laughs]. What I try to do at the moment [with Swamp81] – it’s a similar kind of ethos. The music’s there on vinyl. If you want to go and get it, you can; I’m not gonna shout about it, I’m not gonna try to get it into HMV or whatever the fuck the high street record store is now [laughs], I’m not gonna go digital, I’m not gonna do all that shit… so it’s like, it’s over here. If you want to be part of it, you can be, but you’ve got to make a bit of effort. And that’s kind of what hardcore was about.
“If you made the effort to find your local independent record shop, if you made the effort to get the flyer to go to the rave – ‘cos without the flyer you literally wouldn’t know about it, there was no internet, there weren’t many adverts, at least not for the smaller raves – then you were hardcore. If you did make that effort, then you were accepted, you were in a kind of gang, a club. It was a special thing, and it was linked into the record shops, the vinyl, the pirates, the flyers – it was all this one thing together. That was hardcore for me.”
Has your relationship with vinyl changed over the years?
“It changed, ‘cos I stopped buying it for a couple of years when I started getting sent it. I was getting all the promos through the post and blah blah blah. And then it was like, I was DJing, but the vinyl became less relevant, because I was DJing with acetates, I was DJing on dubplates. And for a while I just forgot about it in a way, in terms of buying it for myself. I was so involved on the other side of it – the manufacturing and all that – and me going out record shopping became a bit of a thing of the past. If I wanted vinyl, I’d get it sent to me and all this shit.
“Kevin [The Bug] had loads of 45s and I was just like, you know what, I want to compete.“
“Then I started using Serato, when all the clubs stopped catering to vinyl or acetate – you know, systems go digital, decks aren’t dealt with properly, not earthed or whatever, they’re vibrating through the table, a million different reasons why. But then I just found myself enjoying putting on records at home – I’d be having a practice and just playing two records ‘cos it’s Serato, and then I’d put an album on, a vinyl album, and listen to it, and I was just like oh yeah, this is actually wonderful. I’d been preaching for years about the sound quality on vinyl and all that, but for some reason in my head it hadn’t crossed over into home listening. It just didn’t, even though it was sort of obvious. And then one day it did, and then I was like oh yeah. Then I started thinking, you know what, I’d really like that on vinyl.”