Welcome to On Record, a feature that’s new to FACT’s website, but has appeared before in our discontinued (but not forgotten) print magazine.
Each month, an artist will pick a record from their collection that resonates with them in a way that others don’t, and explain why it means so much to them. First off, we have Andrew Weatherall, one of Britain’s all-time great DJs, producers and characters, and one of many artists performing at the Vintage Festival, which takes place at London’s Southbank Centre this month. He picked Gin Gillette’s ‘Train to Satanville’.
Gin Gillette – ‘Train to Satanville’ (Musikon, 1961)
Weatherall: “It’s such a weird, ghostly, overworldly record that I know nothing about, and I have made no attempt to find out anything about it because I don’t want to spoil that otherworldlyness. I probably could go online and Google stuff and find out who he or she was, but I didn’t want to. Same way that when I first found the record, I could’ve probably gone online and tracked down a copy quite easily, but I didn’t want to. I wanted it to reach mythic status – even if it took me 10 years, I wanted to find it in a dusty box of records rather than just tapping in ‘Gin Gillette’ and pressing ‘add to basket’. Objects aren’t imbued with any great mystery once you’ve pressed the ‘add to basket’ button; it’s far more appealing when you’ve been searching for them and then come across it accidently.”
Did you first hear it on a compilation, then?
“I first heard it in New York, years ago. I bought a compilation called Scum of the Earth, which in itself is quite rare – you know, it’s a compilation that they only made 300 or 500 copies of. And that record was on there, and I thought it was just ridiculous: it’s kind of rockabilly, it’s kind of church, it’s kind of a religious record, you know, it’s about what happens if you sin – we’re all on the train to Satanville. I made a few enquiries to record dealers, who were like ‘well you can get it, but it’ll cost you some money’. Whenever I travelled around the world, it became one of my records that I dreamed of finding.
“A few years later, imagine my surprise when I walked into my local pub and it was playing. Cosmic Keith, who’s a very fine psyche and rockabilly DJ was playing in my pub, and I just went rushing over and said ‘this is Gin Gillette!’. So we had a little chat, and I actually said ‘can I look at it, can I hold it?’ [laughs] I just wanted to have this mythical record in my hand. And as I was holding it, like some sort of grail-like object, he said ‘well it’s yours for £200.’ So the deal was done and the record was mine.”
A man who takes £200 to the pub, too.
“[laughs] No, I had to arrange finance – I think I went and saw him a couple of days later. But it was £200 well spent.”
I’m glad that the first thing you said was that you didn’t know much about Gin Gillette and had no desire to know more. I know very little about rockabilly, I’ve just got a few of those Greasy Rock ‘n’ Roll vinyl compilations, but what’s quite appealing is that you’ll have little anecdotes and quotes on the back of the record, but that’s all you really know about the songs.
“Well I don’t want to find out that she’s some kind of horrible right wing Christian fundamentalist or something. As first I wasn’t sure whether it was a man or a woman. But I do feel like… when I first started collecting records, there wasn’t the internet. So information about bands and records… well that’s why they became mythical. You couldn’t go online and read the drummer’s blog, like you can now. I feel like a lot of the magic’s been taken out of it.
“But I’m like that with a lot of things. I don’t make it easy for myself: there’s a lot of books and a lot of records that I still want, but ‘add to basket’ – I don’t really want to go there. It’s a bit too easy. It’s great that it’s easy, and there are certain books that I have bought online, but with esoterical, mysterious books and records, I’d rather wait five or ten years than press that ‘add to basket’ button, to be honest with you.”
Well it would kill the mystique if Gin Gillette had a Twitter account.
Photo credit: Piotr Niepsuj