During my recent visit to Israel, I stopped in Paris to visit a few friends and dig for record collectors.So here comes a series of European collectors, From Paris, Istanbul, England and Israel.
Please welcome Victor Kiswell.
Q:What do you do for a living?
A: My main job is selling records. I mostly sell samples and breaks to US Hip-Hop producers, as you may know. I also provide rare sounds to radio programmers, musicians and DJs and help movie makers giving a score to their pictures. Once or twice a month I play in clubs and radio shows. And I am now at the head of a small cinema production unit, so I intend to release films very soon. It is a chance I have a lot of freedom in my work, and a whole life assigned to sounds and images, hence the quantity of music going into my ears. Many reasons to feel lucky.
Q: What was your first album? How did you get it? At what age? Can you describe that feeling? Do you still have it?
A: The first album I bought was “Diana Ross & The Supremes Join The Temptations”. Very cheesy Rhythm n Blues. So my first LP was a Motown production, a sign. I remember I bought it at the flea market, where my mother took me on sunday. I was not very old, and I still have the record here. Then I decided to buy every record released by Motown between 1964 and 1980, ah ah, a good start.
Diana Ross & The Supremes Join The Temptations -The first black music LP I bought and the start of my “Motown investigations”.
Q: What prompted you to start collecting? What age did you start? Was there a specific event in your life, an era, which signify your transition from music lover to a collector?
A: At the age of 12-14, I used to listen to a lot of Hip-Hop… On tape ! A funny thing… At that age, I thought that old music should be listened to old turntables and new music should be on tape, then on CD, ah ah. Don’t be afraid, this only lasts two years. My first move was towards soul music. I was the only guy at school to listen to that kind of music. Even my black friends only listened to Hip-Hop. I felt lonely, but I knew I was right. People of my age did not collect vinyls. They listened to radio and recorded tapes. I was considered a bit crazy. “Why such an old fashioned passion ?” have I heard many times… Part of the answer lies within the sound itself, the other part is in the distinction, in term of Sociology. Pierre Bourdieu described it well. Refine your tastes to distinguish from other People. I did not want to feel superior, but different. At that time, the only way to listen to a tune was to possess the record. And there were just vinyls. Only a few soul and funk albums had been released on CD, but they were Japanese pressing and were very expensive. The only way to discover a sound was to buy the record. 1, 2, 3, then 10, 20, 100, 1000, and so on… Collecting was the condition to the discoveries.
Arawak – Accadde a Bali-A pretty rare Italian library record. I have seen it only two times in my life. The copy I own now was supposed to go to the garbage when I found it. I spared it and gave it a new life. No doubt, one of the pearls in my collection. A track from the LP has became famous as it was sampled by Quasimoto a few years ago.
Q: What was your Initial interest in music? Did you have any influence from your family? Or perhaps your best friend (or enemy)?
A: Yes, my family had a great impact on my tastes as a kid. They opened me to soul, hip-hop, reggae, hippie folk, classical music, krautrock, and Gainsbourg. As a very little child. I could have gone gothic or technoid, but I decided to follow… And to dig deeper.
Girls also had an undirect influence on me… When I was 13, girls in my class were all fond of black boys. Tall, strong, playing basket ball, listening to Hip-Hop. No place in their heart for a young white boy, ah ah. My only chance was to be Black inside. This might sound strange, but that’s how I felt at that time.
Tala André Marie – Hot Koki -Cameroonese afro funk… There is a legend about this album. While on trip in Zaire for a concert celebrating the fight Ali / Foreman, James Brown is supposed to have bought this album and lifted the title track when he went back to US. The result is “Hustle (Dead on It)”. At that time James Brown’s inspiration was declining, he was copying a lot.
Ofege – the Nigerian funk band. Although I tend to listen more and more rough afro groove I still enjoy the thumping afrofunk in the vein of BLO, The Apostles, Aktion, or Ofege.
Q: Why vinyl?
A: There were quite a lot of vinyls at home, I’d say almost 500. I have developped a very sensual relation to them. And we were listening to music all the time. That helps for sure. Then, when the time arrived to decide between LPs and CDs I had a very close friend I often visit, we did our homework together, explored new fields, etc… His parents were kind of post hippies, they had old records too. I will always remember that evening when we listened to The Tempts’s album called “All Directions”. Long playing tracks, black funky sound with strings, wah wah, vocals… I knew that I would always love long-playing records. Vinyl was an important part of the Black culture in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. Jazz, soul, early techno, and Hip-Hop… Records were the vectors of political and cultural messages. So I am fond of vinyls for sensual, social, historical reasons.
Q: Are you following any specific genre when you collect? Or perhaps fixed on a specific album cover artists? Or maybe pressing years? Or maybe it’s just the music, no matter what..
A: My first move was towards American black music… Rhythm n Blues, then soul, funk and jazz. I was also listening to a lot of Hip-Hop and I tried to build bridges between all these sounds. Listening to a rap tune and finding its source, the original sample…long before all these sites existed thanks to internet. Then I followed that idea, trying to catch this black sound everywhere in the world… Italy, Nigeria, India, Venezuela, Finland, West Indies, Japan… Be it played by black or white musicians. I was not searching a specific sound, but a feeling, an attitude… In this quest, there are a lot of opportunities to discover unsuspected sounds. While looking for Bollywood funk, you might discover Indian or Pakistani folklore. On you way to Lebanese jazz you will listen to a lot of belly dance, some electronic, with moog and synthesizers, some more traditionnal. When looking for Caribbean groove, you will open your ears to calypso or biguine.
R.D. Burman – Shalimar -This is the legendary deluxe release for the classic bollywood funk soundtrack “Shalimar”. The inner sleeves open like a flower to let a jewel appear. Really amazing.
Q: What’s your digging habit in these digital days? Do you go out to dig in basements and fleas, or are you an eBay expert? Has things changed for you since the web days?
A: It has changed a lot, of course. In better and in worse. The good side is that we can now find previously “unfindable” records. Fifteen years ago, if you wanted to hear Ethiopian music, if there were no Ethiopian in your neighborhood, you had to go to Addis ! Not an easy trip ! Same thing for the African productions from Ghana, Benin, South Africa. Or even Turkish music. With internet you can be connected with people everywhere in the world, even Pakistan or Columbia, so it opens the doors to every record that has been pressed in the world. The second good thing is the knowlegde. Internet allows us to share our knowledge very quickly. It is a good way to discover more and more. Some blogs are fantastic. True goldmines ! And people who work on them can be congratulated. On the other side, Internet often keeps people at their home, they don’t live adventures while looking for music anymore. It is now too easy. The sensations are not the same, the surprise has not the same taste. Everyday I meet guys who know the production of an artist by heart, without having touched a record by this musician. Without knowing how his face is like, or where he lived or how he lived. Only by diggin’ Mp3. Poor guys. It is not a snob posture, I just think they miss something. Concerning eBay… Well, of course, it helps. But I don’t want to promote them, ah ah.
Q: In a world of endless musical sources, streaming music, MP3’s, Serato and other digital substances. Do you sometime stop and ask your self “what for???”
A: Look, before the vinyl, the music couldn’t be released on a medium. You had to go to the concert, or read the notes, to hear and feel the music. What happens now is just a normal evolution. There is something strange though. We now have access to more and more music, and it’s dematerialized. It takes less and less space. But this will be considered as a progress only if the quality of the sound increases. One things is now almost lost : the sensual feeling with the record. Now we don’t touch the music, and see it turning around… It is invisible and you just have to press a bouton. This sensual aspect to me is fundamental, it participates to the mythology of the record.
Q: How do you organize your collection?
A: One third of the records here are American soul, jazz and funk albums. They are all in the same part of the flat. In this area, the “James Brown box” and the “George Clinton box”, filled with the almost complete discography of Funkadelic-Parliament, the JB’s, all the Funky People, etc… There is a “soundtrack” corner, of course, -more than 1000 LPs- with the Bollywood stuff, Italian, French, Greek, German, Japanese, Russian scores. Then, there’s afro, French groove, library, Euro-jazz, reggae… From A to Z, and from the earliest recording to the latest. This might seem a bit rigid and rigorous but, when I work, I don’t want to lose time searching for a record in my own flat ! The organisation is more functionnal than sentimental or poetic, ah ah.
Q:Tell me a useful record storage / shelving tip!
A: No tip or advice. To each his own, right ? The main thing is to know where a record is when you quickly want to listen to it. This being said, one must admit that, while looking for a specific funk record in your collection you find out that you still have that magnificient soul blues record by Koko Taylor, forgotten long ago… Well, it may take hours before you go back to the point, and then find out that you have spent the day listening to your own records !
Q: What do you look for in a record?
A: At first, the quality of the music. And / or the potential. Of course I prefer when the album is excellent from the first note to the last one, but I also enjoy finding a one-track LP, if the track is tremendous, or even a superb 5 sec. breaks on an average record. It could be usefull someday… Regarding the sleeves, well, I only have a very few records with crappy music and beautiful covers. Most of them resulting from a mistaken intuition I had.
TRT Ara Muzikleri II -This was released by the Turkish Television Broadcast as a…library. Nathan Davis played flute on the volume I, on this album you have somptuous, hypnotic tracks by Okay Temiz and a bunch of Anatolian musicians. I got it from a friend and a maaaad collector of Lebanese and Turkish music.
Q: What’s was your partners’ reaction to this obsession?
A: The mother of my child used to want her own copy of each good record coming in…
Q: Do you have a record collecting philosophy or routine when you enter a store?
A: I do not light candles, or recite mantras, ah ah. No rite or routine. A few words to the shop keeper and I let my fingers run in every direction. I try not to avoid looking in a box, because, you know, there are a few sellers who don’t know what they sell. I might look in the rock and pop section, and find a marvellous prog funk album. When I am not in a shop that I already know, I take a look at every record pile, and it may last a few hours before I leave.
Les Mogol – Danses et rythmes de la Turquie -This Turkish group, also know as Mogollar, released an album in France on Concert Hall. A look at the cover let you suppose it is just another tradi-folk record… Well, the LP is filled with groovy / prog jazz with a pinch of orientalism, and it is no surprise that it appeared on many want lists as the ultimate oriental groove record. Now that it has been sampled by the hip-hop star Jay-Dee, it has become harder to find.
Q: Out of your great collection, there must be a few records that you like going back to at any time. Name a few. What makes them so special for you?
A: It might be the music in itself, or the story associated to it, when I found it, who made me discover it… There are a few, yes, I might say the first albums by Funkadelic and Wu Tang Clan. “Electric Ladyland” by Hendrix, of course. Two albums by Chêne Noir, a theatrical group from the South of France who played deep, eerie, engaged jazz. Dorothy Ashby albums, for the subtle mixture of afro and jazz played on her harp. “Brown rice” by Don Cherry and “There It Is” by James Brown. And above all, “Die Zauberflöte” by Mozart. All of them symbolizing a part of my life.
Matata 45,Georges Garvarentz “La part des lions”,A.R. & Machines “Die grüne Reise” -Afro funk, French soundtrack and German krautrock…Eclectism !
Okay Temiz – Drummer of Two Worlds -The famous Turkish percussionist Okay Temiz, once again. He made his way to Western Europe to play with German, Swedish and French musicians in the 70’s. This album includes the track “Penguin”. I think I’ve found the LP in Sweden a few years ago.
Q: I know that every “your favorite” question is a tough one, but try to remember. Can you name a few of your favorite album covers?
A: Miles’ “Bitches Brew”, “Under pompelmo” by Giuliano Sorgini, “El fabuloso” by Aldemaro Romero, the French soundtrack “Les gants blancs du diable”, Ken Nordine’s magnificient album “Colors”, Structure’s “Pop Music” and “Jazzbalett rytmer” by Melvyn Price, simply beautiful, and the minimalist design of the KPM plain olive sleeve. Drawn covers, mostly. Cover art is important, but it’s not the main goal. If the music is good, and if the cover is amazing, beautiful, mysterious, this is just a bonus. Once again : it participates to the myth, so I won’t neglect it, but I don’t feel that it is the most important.
Q: Did you have any covers that scared you as a child?
A: Yes, I remember “L’homme à tête de chou” by Gainsbourg was the last album by him I took time to listen to, as a child. The sculpture on the cover was so weird… Did’nt dare having it in my hands. And some of the punk / new wave records my mother used to have had bad cover. For a kid, those people were scary…
Ohio Players -I have always been intrigued by the series of pictures taken by Joel Brodsky… The Ohio albums on Westbound –the period I prefer- show a leather-clad bald woman and all that bizarre S&M; / bondage imagery. And the titles : “Pain”, “Pleasure”, “Ecstasy”, “Climax”… All is said. Did you know that photographer Joel Brodsky was also responsible of the first album covers for The Doors ?
Q: Dirtiest, sexiest,filthiestalbum cover you know or own?
A: Surely the Disco Cassex series. Sex shop records, of course. But there’s also this incredible German record called “St Pauli Nachrichten”, with heavy psychedelic groove and filthy dialogues. The 4x gatefold cover opens and shows two 1:1 open legs and two hands hiding a secret place. The hands remove and let appear the sex of a lady. Powerful !
St Pauli Nachrichten – Porno Record -Supposed to be sold in German sex shops only…. Salacious stories over psychedelic and groovy organ sounds. Among the tracks presented here, some great krautrock by Floh de Cologne and the intense “Sexologie” by Rita, here overdubbed with screaming animals. Wild ! And the sleeves open and let you discover a welcoming pubis, hidden by two removable hands. Another amazing item !
Q: Where there any albums that where banned from you in your childhood?
A: My parents introduced me to Hip-Hop in the 80’s… Eric B & Rakim and all that stuff. But they refused to buy me the Public Enemy albums. You know, because of the controversial speeches and attitudes of Professor Griff. That was just smelly anti-semetism… So I understood my parents’ point of view. They never banned me from listening to an artist, I was very free to discover what I wanted. So I also listened to P.E., because I love their music, but I listened with detachment and a critical look at it.
Q: Bad album cover that hides great music inside the album?
A: A lot of good albums have awful covers, or even not “exciting” cover. By “exciting” I do not mean the sexual thing, you know, but the excitement felt while finding a new treasure. The cover should not stop any one. It’s like humans. Some ugly people can be very gentle and generous. And a bad looking shell could do the most exquisite meal. Same for records. But to be honest, this thought came with age. When I was a kid the cover was a very important part of the excitement. The best examples are probably library music LPs. These albums were not supposed to be released commercially. So there was no marketing, no effort to look attractive. Only a functionnal design. Some of them are very badly designed. And some German records too, ah ah. Fat naked women with animals… You see the picture ? Bad taste… But if you mean covers that mislead, I’d say Romanian records… Pictures of waste grounds and crossroads in Bucarest. And inside, pure latin jazz with female scat vocals. With such music, the covers almost becomes poetic, ah ah.
Q: Is there a specific musical instrument that attracts you when listening to music?
A: Yes, I would say vibraphone, sitar, oboe, harp, Fender Rhodes, trombone, flute… But, fortunately, I might like a track without these instruments.
Q:Tell me about a dollar bin record you would never part with!
A: No really “dollar bin” record here… But if you ask me weather I have cheap records I will always enjoy, yes… I will never part with The Doors. People always say “Beatles” or “Stones”… To me it’s Morrison and Manzarek.
Q: Have you ever kept a particular purchase secret from your partner?
A: No, never… As I always enjoyed sharing a discovery or a new purchase. I have never been ashamed of buying a record. Or a lots of records. Regardless of the price. Life is for experiencing emotions. Travelling, reading, hearing, even smelling… We are not here just to eat, sleep, work, pay taxes and reproduce, don’t you think??
Q: Name 5 songs you’d put on a mixtape for a potential love one.
A: “Journey Into Satchidananda” by Alice Coltrane, “Celestial Blues” by Andy Bey, “The Joint” by EPMD, “Discophrenia” by Ralph Lundsten and “Welcome to the Party” by the Harlem Youth Percussion Group. In this order (ah ah) !
Egypt – A Holiday Souvenir -Salah Ragab, known as the “Egyptian Sun Ra”. Not exactly the same style but they played together… This album was offered to tourists visiting the superb monuments from ancient Egypt. As most of the Egyptian records this one was pressed in Greece in the 70’s. Looks like another record for tourists, but a quick listen makes you think there is a hidden treasure on this LP.
Q: What about digging buddies? Do you share or you go solo?
A: To be honest I’d rather go solo. Not that I want to keep the place secret, but I want to take my time searching for records. I don’t like the rush, push people, shout, fight. Of course, I have digging buddies, but it depends on the place and the quantity of records. I shared great experiences with friends, because we helped each other, stimulated each other. But I admit I stay alone most of the time.
Q: Tell me about the most unlikely place/occasion where/when you found records?
A: I remember a good experience in Calcutta, almost 15 years ago, a warehouse full of Bollywood albums on a building roof. If was 5pm and night was already there. So I tried finding my way among the records with a flashlight. In this warm and wet atmosphere of the Bengale, the experience was unique ! But I also found records in cellars, garages, theatres, schools, thief markets, garbages, trains, hotels and restaurants… The world is vast for someone who looks for records.
Q:Tell me about a closed down record store / Flea market you will grieve all your life!
A: A lot of good record shops closed down in Paris these last years, and that’s sad. Now most of the shops are online, and I just can regret it. I really miss the time when vinyls were everywhere. People older than me always talk about “Champs Disques” with emotion in their voice. It was a shop on the Champs Elysées, open from 9 in the morning till 1 in the night.
The paradise for vinyl collectors in the 70’s and the 80’s. I haven’t had the chance to go there but I kinda miss it. Honestly, I have never been attached to a store in particular… Except maybe two, ok… One is called “Exodisc”, based in Montmartre, and it is still alive. I owe a large part of my knowledge to the two owners, Dominique and Larry. The other one has closed down last year and was called “Chez Youri”. I worked there as a student, it was a very dynamic store, trying to elaborate trends. It was a good pace to meet people, collectors, famous DJs and musicians, exchange our points of view, ideas and infos. It finally closed down… and it is sad when such a place has to end, because it brought interesting and creative people together, but it is like that… Even Warhol’s Factory closed down, and the Italian Renaissance has a beginning and an end. That is how life goes. I would say… by chance, the best spots are still shining… Intoxica in London, the Fleamarket at Clignancourt, near Paris, and Porta Portese in Roma.
Q: Tell me a particularly sad record story!
A: I have a friend who is totally fond of Italian libraries and soundtracks. Very rare and beautiful records. Some of them have been pressed in very low quantities, like 1000, or 200, or even 50 copies. Very rare stuff. So this guy finally found a superb I Marc 4 album, not the LPs on the Nelson series… The one with the badges. The seller asked a big price, but we all thought there is no price for such a rarity. So he bought it. After leaving the dealer, my friend went to a bar, waiting for some friends to share his excitement. As he was sitting and drinking, the vinyl slipped from its sleeve, flew, and broke into pieces as it fell on the ground. Can you believe that ? He even did not have the time to listen to this pearl… What a sad story. I would have been sad myself, but, as you may say…it is just a record !
Q: Tell me about a record that’s too weird to believe, even for a die-hard record fiend?
A: Do you know the album called “Le allucinazione” ? It is an Italian record, pressed in the late 60’s, and it is said on the cover something like “A document about a trip on LSD”. Might expect many things… It smelled good. Listened to the first bars and wow, my lord, but that’s Ethiopian music ! And it sounded like I had never heard before… A bunch of crazy Italians had used the “Afro Latin Soul” record by Mulatu Astatké and added overdubbed sound effects, psychedelic ambiances, gunshots, carousel and crowd noises. Incredible. Regarding the story of the Mulatu recording -itself a true rarity- and the value it reached, it is unbelievable. This is one of my nicest pieces I must confess… These unknown Italians must have been well inspired. See what I mean ?
Q: Tell me about a record that has healed heartbreaks! Name one that made them worse!
A: It is very easy to cause an emotion with the music. As we have all our own history related to the music, it is very difficult to say in advance if a track will heal or cause pain. A tune may be associated with a certain moment of your life, be it enjoyable or sad. A funny, joyful track can make a woman cry if it reminds her of the father disappeared too soon. You see the picture… The same track could heal or hurt, it depends on the person you have in front of you. If I had to name one artist, I would say that Gil Scott-Heron has a certain power in this domain.
Q:The One Album That Has The Ability To Make You A Kid Again?
A: “La planète sauvage” by Alain Goraguer, of course.
Q:Music that has the ability to make you cry?
A: Some tunes by Belgian singer Jacques Brel, I admit, the Great Mass by Mozart, and the piano trio by Franz Schubert.
Marvin Martin – Charles Wilp fotografiert Bunny -The journey of a German photographer put in music by Marvin Martin. A marvellous jazz record from the mid 60’s. Splendid front and back cover, swinging sounds, spoken words of models preparing for a défilé, this is simply amazing.
Q: What are the most records you bought in one go?
A: I once bought 350-400 records in one go. Not too much at one time. Because you have to keep in mind that you need time to listen to them all.
Q: Tell me about a record you still regret not picking up?
A: Ethiopian records in general. I’ve discovered Mulatu back in 1995, but I found my first Ethio record in 2001, and that was too late. I miised a lot of things and it is now much too expensive for me.
Q: Who has the toughest record collection that you have ever seen?
A: Toughest to me does not mean the largest. I’d rather meet a collector with 1000-2000 very very good records, than a guy that owns 20000 LPs, most of them being crappy, or given for free as promo. I also do not consider a person who has bought all his collection in one shot (a stock from a radio, a discotheque, a closing record shop, etc)… To me, a collection should be raised day after day, with curiosity, patience and determination. Some of my Japanese and Swiss friends have superb collections… Yeah, besides the qualities I quoted, time and money can help, eh eh. I’ve seen beautiful thematic collections : library, soundtracks, progressive, afro, or French psych / freakbeat 45. But I try to stay open to any kind of music, and I respect a lot people who can combine all these tastes. I’ve never seen his records but I am sure Gilles Peterson must have one of the most enjoyable collection. From early jazz to house. I follow his steps, with my humble means… If you want me to describe it in two words I would say that I am looking for sounds that can make people dance and music to make love by.
Let’s seal this interview with a few words from you to fellow diggers, young collectors who just started to collect or to the veterans, who forgot about vinyl.
Once again: CURIOSITY, DISCRETION, MEMORY. Not a motto, just an advice, and this could be applied to all.
website (record shop) :