With Record Store Day fast approaching we wanted to stay true to the vinyl and work alongside London based DJ Chris Read to put together a mix for the Frequent Player channel.
Chris is no stranger when it comes to DJing, producing and collecting records having done so for a long while, having more than 50 Mixcloud Specialists Genre Chart #1s to his name!
We sat down to talk about all things music and Chris’s journey so far. We also gave Chris some money to spend in some of soho’s most infamous record stores with the task to create a special guest mix with only what he could find and purchase on the day!
Read our interview with Chris about the challenge we set him and his career to date below.
Chris welcome back! It’s been a long time since we worked together and since then you’ve been super busy by the looks of things, how have you been?
Yeah I’ve been good! Working on lots of different stuff. I think it’s been like 5/6 years since the last collaboration we did.
Well for our newer readers and listeners who may not have heard you DJ could you give us a quick breakdown on how you got to where you are now?
I have been DJing since my teens, got into it more seriously when I was in college, running club nights and DJing. That’s kind of where it all started for me. I was already a collector of music and I just wanted to do something creative with that. I always bought records, so DJing seemed like a natural place to go with it. When we started running club nights it was out of necessity really. There weren’t places playing the music that I wanted to hear, so we started doing nights, like most people I guess, for our friends to come. It grew very very quickly from there!
Over time I got involved in loads of other aspects of music, producing music and then eventually working in music. Now my job is all music related stuff!
So music music music!
Haha yeah exactly!
There are some DJs out there that didn’t collect records prior to DJing.
For me the records came first – I just really loved music and at the time I started DJing having records was the only way to have the music. I grew up on the outskirts of London so I was within striking distance of hearing good music on the radio, but really it was either recording music off the radio or buying the records – that was how I acquired new music from very early on. But having records almost created a desire to want to do something creative with them. Like – now I’ve got them, let me do something with them. Djing just seemed the obvious choice.
In terms of collecting records would you say that vinyl is better than everything else when it comes to quality?
Nah, I’m not a snob about the format at all really. I mean I love records and I wouldn’t have them all here if I didn’t but for a long time I didn’t really view it as a thing to collect them – it was a necessity. If you wanted to DJ at the weekend, then you needed new records so you’d spend every weekend going to record stores and listening to stuff or digging for old stuff. At some point that became a collection. Now a lot of the new music that comes out I listen to and consume digitally, but I still get that same buzz especially with the older stuff! It’s almost like stamp collecting, there’s records from certain artists or labels and you just want to have them all!
It’s a similar outlook that sneaker enthusiasts would have, we would buy a pair of shoes because of the connection we would have with that brand.
Yeah exactly – you have a relationship with the brand as you would with an artist or a record label. There’s some bits of the collection where it’s like, yeah I got everything from a certain label or artist, but not every single one of those records is good, but something in me wants to have them all!
You also produce as well! I’m a big fan of your album – Colo (U) Rs of the World with Pugs Atomz. Did this path come before or after the start of your DJing career?
If I’m being totally honest with you, I think the idea of producing music was part of the initial attraction of DJing for me. I was really just a kid when I got my first pair of second hand turntables and at that time, I think the distinction between what DJing was and what a producer in say a rap group was, was a pretty blurred concept in my mind. I didn’t see a clear distinction between the two. I guess my main influence of doing it was wanting to make music as much as playing it initially, but it wasn’t until a lot later that I actually got into producing. A few of us had been running a club night for a while and a lot of people were coming to it and it was making a bit of noise and off the back of that we were getting booked to play at other places. A local label pretty much just said to us, do you want to make a record? At this point I’d have never made a record before and I didn’t really know much about production. They were kind enough to spend time with us in the studio and give us that opportunity. That was a record label called ‘Different Drummer’ by the way!
After that I got really into it, spent a lot of time at home learning to produce and made a couple of records. It became more like a hobby for a while after that, but then some years passed and I’d been quietly making music and teaching myself more and then I began to take it a lot more seriously and have been making records regularly ever since.
That’s insane that you were just given that opportunity and thrown into the deep, almost forcing yourself to have to learn it.
Yeah I mean I don’t think it would happen now. There are so many amazing producers at home making music at the moment. So to give someone that opportunity who doesn’t really know anything about producing on the strength of their DJing wouldn’t really happen anymore. But at the time, there were records like Deep Concentration that were really made as much by DJs as they were by producers – I think that’s what the label had in mind when they approached us.
Last project you did with us was the Classic Material T-shirt launch which was sick! This time round we are here for Record Store day, we looked through some crazy vinyl down in Soho. Could you tell us a bit about the ones that you picked out?
Spending the day going record shopping is always pretty fun, but with the thought in the back of my mind the whole time was knowing I had to make a mix out of whatever I picked up was kind of daunting haha! I wouldn’t necessarily say it was stressful, but I was conscious of the fact that I was buying these records to try and make something out of them.
I did tick a few things off the wants list: Sir IBU’s, ‘I’m the Peacemaker’, a classic late 80s rap thing which you don’t see too often, some more obvious ones to fill a couple of gaps in the collection – Ultramagnetic MCs, Big L.
I also picked up some Jazz, Funk and Soul bits too: Milton Wright’s ‘Spaced’ Album, 80s Ladies which is a Roy Ayers produced thing, a favourite of mine, and some Last Poets.
Some might call it cheating, but for safety’s sake I also picked up a couple of Soul compilations, just to make sure there was enough stuff in the bag to make a mix out of.
I got some new things too: Kamaal Williams | big fan of their stuff
It probably won’t make it into the mix, but I also did a bit of lucky dip on some other Jazz records I wasn’t familiar with. One of the stores had a 3 for tenner section on cheap jazz. Some of the artists on those records, Jayson Lindh and Lee Konitz, I’ve sampled before, so I’m hoping there will be something usable there.
Being a big hip hop head, would you say you have a favourite MC?
I wouldn’t say I have a favourite, I could probably do a top 5 if I was forced to. Everyone gives Rakim, Kane etc a shout on those lists and for good reason, but I would have to have a couple of artists like Chubb Rock in there – I always thought he had a great voice, witty and had a positive message in what he said allround. Others like maybe Special Ed. There was just a lot of charisma in those early 90s records.
Well Chris thank you again for spending some time with us, we are all looking forward to hearing your mix! Before we let you go, is there anything you want to get the Footpatrol and Frequent Players family excited about?
Yeah, so I got quite a few records coming. Lockdown has been a bit of a weird one with labels slowing down a bit and record shops were not open either so I made the decision to hold back on some stuff.
All being well, the bits I have been working on should be coming out before the end of the year. There’s another Suburban Architecture EP coming in October which I co-produced, a 7” with a rapper called Simba from Mozambique and that’s a collaboration with Kardinal Offishal, a second volume of Library Archive which is a compilation which I did with Mr. Thing and a handful of remixes coming too – stuff with Inkswel featuring Steve Spacek, Planetself with John Robinson and a couple more. There’s another Digging the Vaults 10” coming too with KPM which has been in the pipeline a while now. So quite a lot in the bag which will hopefully see the light of day before Christmas if not soon after!
Thank you Chris!
We would also like to say a special thank you to PUMA and our Soho Neighbours: Reckless Records, Phonica and Sister Ray for allowing us to photograph in-store.