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Gold Panda

Gold Panda

‘Lucky Shiner’ was one of our top albums of 2012, so when Gold Panda agreed to take us record shopping in Berlin we jumped at the chance. Our intrepid tour guide talked to us about his record shop history, computers in music and his Notown label.

Which record shops did you grow up with and how important were they to you?

The first time I went to a record shop was on Peckham high street when I was 9 or 10. I bought a Soul II Soul 12”. Some tall funky dread sold it to me! My Dad used to take me to Woolworths to buy cassettes or toy cars. He had (and still has) a Rega turntable, I guess I didn’t really consider it much, I knew that there was this song and it wasn’t on cassette in Woolworths so I checked the other shop and there it was on 12”. I bought it because my Dad had a record player. After that my mate’s Dad would bring home bags of vinyl for us, all stuff that was being played on pirate radio. We were 12/13/14 listening to all this mental rave/jungle, smashing up toys with bricks and stuff. When we moved to Chelmsford in Essex when I was 15 I missed the culture of London and I started getting into hip-hop quite a lot because everyone was into brit-pop there and no one I knew at school in South London listened to that. I used to go record shopping with my paper round money in Soho. Uptown records, Record & Tape Exchange, Reckless, Deal Real, Blackmarket, one that was under a small clothes shop that was packed with white labels and test presses. I bought so many. It was my life but I never DJ’d or anything.

You worked in a record shop right? What is your experience of being behind the counter?

I think it depends where you work. I worked in HMV and stuff and that is just about sales really.. and then it became a dvd store..and then a games store and music took a back seat. I was lucky enough to work at Puregroove in London which was all about the love, sadly so much so that it had to close down, but I think before I joined they had some pretty lucrative years, especially when they were focussed on house/ dance music. It was also responsible for some great music probably most recognised for a record label called “Locked On” and the signing of a Mr. Mike Skinner. But I decided to get out of music retail and study Japanese.

As someone who has grew up with physicality are you into digital music? Does it have a place?

For me, no. It isn’t the same. I mean, I have Spotify (stone me to death now) and use that quite a bit on my phone but I pretty much own everything I listen to on there. I don’t have to import a cd or record a vinyl so it is great for that. I think I’m just old. Lets say the average wav is 50MB, I just think to myself “well, I don’t want to take up space on my computer with that”. If someone sends me an mp3 I probably won’t download it or listen to it for a month. If I have a vinyl I stick it on straight away.

I found a Dave Brubeck record I’d been after for ages. I woke up the next day and he was dead! I felt awful

Plus I’m more inclined to just skip through a track on my laptop than actually play through it. Plus I love to make a cup of tea and sit down and read liner notes and ‘travel’ through the record from start to finish. Buying records, even online, I look at the cover and I think “I have no idea what that is but the cover is great” so I’ll buy it. But I’ve always been the same, going to school and thinking “well if I don’t eat today this three quid can go towards some vinyl at the weekend”. However I look on bandcamp and I think “fuck, I’m missing out on all this amazing music by people who can’t afford to do physical” but I just can’t justify it sometimes when I just get a deletable file. I know it is the music that counts but i’d just like it on something a bit more...ummm,... keepable? Is that a word?

The Berlin scene seems pretty well supported, are Berliners more into physical releases?

Nah I don’t think so. I think because the dance music/ electronic music scene here is big and there are a lot of people doing music and especially music that does well on vinyl. The average German probably uses itunes. (I’m sure there is a racist joke in there somewhere).

Where in Berlin is good for what?

Well, I can only comment on the ones I’ve been to. Anything dance music/electronic related including hiphop, soul and disco etc. Hardwax, Oye and Melting Point. Noise and weird shit: Staalplaat. There are loads of places that just have random vinyls, I don’t know the names, sorry! There are 6 record shops within 10 mins walking distance from my house which is very dangerous.

I hear the markets are pretty awesome also?

Yeah! But I’m usually away on weekends!

Do you shop second hand, new, both?

Yeah of course. New music? What does that even mean? It is new for about 5 mins. New, 2nd hand, discogs. Just anywhere I can get the vinyl I want and vinyl I don’t know I want yet.

Best ever find in a record shop?

Oh man, I have no idea. So many but then I forget as soon as I find the next one I want. I was in a shop in Victoria in Canada and I found a Dave Brubeck record I’d been after for ages. I woke up the next day and he was dead! I felt awful haha.

Do you remember the first time you saw your own music in a shop?

Yeah it was in Rough Trade East. I thought it looked pretty fuckin’ good! I liked that it didn’t have any info on it. It made my music feel real and to be honest, even though it had been on blogs/sites and stuff before hand, when it actually came out physically the feedback was amazing.

What is the Notown story?

I couldn’t find a label willing to give me any dosh upfront so I was advised that I should just do it myself (‘cough’....with the kind help of all at Wichita Recordings) and I’d probably see some money back and not have anyone telling me what to do. Ghostly International licensed stuff from me. Luke Abbott who I’d got to know through shows and email sent me some tunes and wanted to get them out pretty swift so I said I have a label and that was that. He is still on Border Community though as far as I know. Then Tom (Dam Mantle) wanted to do something and he already had artwork and everything sorted and that album really is great... so we did that and uh.. well yeah now it is 2013. I need to put more time into it but this year should be good. Hopefully we can do some shows together.

Holkham Drones was my 2010 record the year, we’re vibrating at the prospect of a new Luke Abbott LP… should we be this excited?

I’m pretty sure there will be one. There are two 12”s on Notown to keep you going until then, all in all 10 tracks. That is pretty much an album, I’d advise you to buy them both and listen to them in one go!

And Lucky Shiner was right up there in our ‘best of the year list’ what you working on?

Well on Notown there is a release by Hannes Rasmus called “Analog ist besser” out in a few months. Pure German analog electronic business. We just finalised artwork today. My Trust 12”/EP will be out soon and then an album to follow on Ghostly International later in the year. It has taken a while but I did basically 140 live jams and culled them down to 11 tracks. Now I’m just going back through my zip discs and trying to re-create the jams bit by bit so they feel as natural as the first take. I’m doing this so I can mix them better. Next time I’m just going to record them properly the first time round, I’m such an idiot.

Lastly, are record shops still an important part of the musical landscape?

Yes of course and now that they are getting more rare, every time I see one I just have to go inside.

This interview was first published in Issue Three of Deluxe back on 2013. Read it online here.