Little White Earbuds Interviews Miles

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Modern Love has expanded dramatically over the past couple of years, widening their palette from the grubby, northern techno they initially made their name in to encompass a host of idiosyncratic sounds and styles, from Demdike Stare’s experiments in sampled patchworks to whatever it is you call Andy Stott’s recent output. Yet the personnel behind the label have remained remarkably consistent — none more so than Miles Whittaker. Member of label mainstays such as Demdike Stare and Pendle Conven, and prolific solo artist under the names MLZ, Suum Cuique, Millie, and more, Whitaker has had his hand in more of the label’s releases than anyone else. As endearing old YouTube videos demonstrate, Miles’ hardware-centric attitudes is responsible for much of the label’s own sonic identity — something Miles injects into all of his projects whether using software on the road, or simply capturing the noisy incidental sounds of his machines for Suum Cuique. LWE sat down with Whittaker last year for a lengthy chat about relocation, collaboration, cracked software, and much more.

Who is Miles and how is he different from MLZ?

Miles Whittaker: MLZ was me trying to be other people, I think. You know, when you start producing music, you are inspired by other producers and other music. So MLZ was me basically being inspired and wanting to be these other producers or wanting to sound like other producers. And then I decided to stop MLZ maybe a year or two after Demdike Stare started because Demdike Stare showed me that we could just do what we wanted, go wherever we wanted to go with it, and I became a lot more confident. Wen I decided to release more solo material, I wanted to do it under my own name.

So then what is the status of some of your earlier projects, such as MLZ and Pendle Coven?

I mean, the Pendle Coven thing is a lot different because there’s two of us involved, and Gary [Howell] has been studying for the last four years quite intensively — ecological construction, green building, and this kind of thing. So he’s been away from the scene completely. I still see him a lot, but we just haven’t had a chance to work on anything.

MLZ was very much a techno moniker — everything that I released was pretty straight up. And I needed to break away from it, really, because I just couldn’t produce in that way anymore. I think my tastes and horizons have broadened quite a lot. Like I said, that was due to Demdike Stare and starting to work with Sean [Canty].

If MLZ was techno, then is there any specific genre for Miles?

The more I buy and produce and am involved in music, the less I like genres. I think they’re really constricting and almost prejudiced in some ways, and I don’t like that. I don’t sit down and specifically want to write a certain thing. I’m not aiming for a market, I’m not aiming for branding or anything like that. Releasing on Modern Love allows me the freedom to do what I want. The creative control is all mine. We’ll sit down with the label and they’ll help us compile a release. I think the Miles album is pretty much all over the place like the Demdike Stare records are. They’re all over the place, which is freedom, and I love it. I think if you’re part of a genre or a subgenre, you’re kind of tied to it, and you have to be very careful. You’ve got to tread carefully if you’re known for that kind of thing. And that’s why I decided to stop MLZ. It’s basically known for dub techno, and I want more freedom.

Another more recent moniker you’ve used is Suum Cuique.

Suum Cuique is a very targeted production project because it’s just analog and noise. And it is basically me trying to create tracks without sequencing or without a computer involved, but even without MIDI or without sequencing or without sync. It’s basically me using machines to create noise. And that’s my favorite stuff to do, really, but it’s kind of the most difficult as well. You know, it’s the most difficult technically and the most difficult to listen to. It’s an acquired taste, I suppose. I was surprised that they got issued in the first place. The label was like, “Yeah, we really want to put this out,” and I’m like, “Well, it’s your risk.” But I really love it. It’s actually some of my favorite solo material, that stuff.

The way I work is always a bit strange, but my rule number one has always been if I go into the studio, I press record and then I turn everything on. I’m recording everything. So Suum Cuique is a combination of pieces which are between 12 and one years old. A lot of it is the ends of tracks. Where I’ve spent four or five hours making a piece of music, and then when I press “stop” — after I press stop is better than the whole four or five hours that came before it. Just pressing “stop,” the machines are still going, and it sounds way better than everything I’d spent all my time on. So I just edit that bit out. Or it will be where I’ve left the machines running, I’ve gone out, I’ve come back in, and they’re doing something that I could never create myself and, obviously I’m recording it, so then I can just edit that out again later.

I look to it in the same with Demdike Stare where we literally like to compose for atmosphere and mood. It’s the same thing with Suum Cuique. The machines are just trying to create an emotion, in a way. Whether or not it’s dread or fear or angst or whatever, it’s about creating a mood and atmosphere, and when you hear a certain piece of music, you can feel the mood inherent in it. The Suum Cuique stuff is basically accidental, where I’ll wire triggers into CVs and I’ll wire gates into the wrong place. It’s about doing stuff wrong and just trying to create noises. Because one of the things that really inspired me early on in producing music, especially with hardware, is just turning the machines on, sometimes some of them make noises that you just can’t make when they’re on. You know, the machines almost pop or whatever when you turn them on, and I’m really inspired by that.

I don’t ever want to sit down and spend seven hours creating a noise. I think it’s a waste of time. It’s more important to capture a moment of time and space then it is to sit down and become technically perfect at doing something. I don’t know how to use most of [my gear] properly. I really like that because it’s like it keeps a kind of naïveté, which I think is the most important thing in music. You need that human aspect of not knowing what you’re doing. My favorite types of music, like jungle, have got this naïveté inherent in it. It’s kids not knowing what they’re doing, trying to produce music with technology they don’t know how to use, and they do it so wrong that it’s so right. I think the longer you produce music or you’re involved in it, it’s really hard to keep that naïveté. Because you learn more and you’re searching more.

The first Suum Cuique was on Young Americans, a label on which the only other releases have been Daphne Oram archival recordings. Was there an archival aspect to that record?

Yeah, it was completely archived. Most of it was at least six years old. It was just culled from, like, my old DAT tapes that I was recording years and years ago when I was trying to emulate other producers. I used to spend months and months trying to sound like Basic Channel, just trying to capture what they were doing and trying to make those sounds, but I never really nailed it. But in the process, I recorded a bunch of stuff which, five or six years later, is sounding really good. It’s funny how you evolve and how you can go back and listen to your own stuff, and you realize that what sounded just like rubbish at the time sounds really good now.

When did you move to Berlin? How do you reestablish your studio elsewhere?

I’ve been in Berlin for two years and three months now, or something like that, and I still haven’t got my mixing desk here because it’s too big. But I won’t ever sell it and I won’t ever buy another mixing desk because that is the most important piece of kit I’ve ever bought in my life. And I hope in the next three weeks it’s going to be here. But there’s still quite a lot of equipment in England because I could only afford to ship my records and most of my rack equipment and that stuff over. So my big synthesizers are in England, and my mixing desk. I’ve got a very different studio now, to be honest. I’m really obsessed with filters and compressors now. That’s just what I’m obsessed with, and I really like playing around with stuff which doesn’t actually make any noise. I used to be really obsessed with synthesizers and drum machines and delay units, but now I’m all about pieces of kit that don’t actually make noise but they shed noise, you know? Is that odd? I don’t understand them, so that’s really good. [laughs]

Do you find yourself hooking things back up in different ways and becoming more interested in the things that you hadn’t considered as much before?

Every partner I’ve ever worked with, whether it’s Sean or Gary or Andy Stott, they think I’m crazy, but every six or seven weeks I’ll just rewire everything. I’ll take everything apart, move it all, and put it all back in a completely different configuration. And I’ve learned now the genius of patchbays, because they enable you to move everything without physically moving it. My studio in England — I used to have a very big space — and people just used to give me equipment because I had this space. So I had a couple of drum kits, like 15 drum machines. I had so much equipment it’s unbelievable. Anything you can imagine — guitars, whatever. It was all there.

The last time I rewired in that big space, I was using close to 700 wires, and it took four days to rewire my studio. You become less productive, even though I enjoy it so much. I’m like, “Well, I just spent four days rewiring my studio.” And when Demdike Stare started, time started to become an issue because we play so many shows as Demdike Stare. And plus Sean lives in Manchester and I live in Berlin. So I’m glad that I discovered patchbays because that saves me a hell of a lot of physical effort. But also enables me to rewire pretty much instantly. Wiring it up wrong is one of the best things you can ever do. I’m not a musician; I never have been. I don’t sit down and play things. I have keyboards, but I’ve never played them. I just wire them up and get other things to play them. I won’t ever consider myself a musician; I just consider myself a producer, which is kind of a new phenomenon, isn’t it? In the last kind of 25 years, really.

There has been a lot made about the physical location of where you were making music having an effect on the music itself. The environment of Northern England, the surroundings, its history. So how has that changed in Berlin?

I really miss it. But I’m over there a lot anyway. Every two weeks I’m back in the north of England. You carry it with you, in a way. I see a very different side of Berlin because I don’t go out. I don’t hang around with other producers, I don’t go to Berghain all the time. I don’t go clubbing. When I’m home, I’m at home. I really want to be relaxed, and I want to eat food, see my girlfriend, do all the normal stuff. But it’s a really cold city in a way, Berlin. It’s a competitive city. Probably in a very different way than New York or London, but it’s cold. I draw inspiration at that as well. If something makes me angry, I can write music; if something makes me sad, I can write music; if something makes me happy, I can try and write music. It doesn’t always work, but it’s much better with negative emotions. Berlin’s really good for that, because there’s a lot of broken dreams in this city. There’s a lot of people moving here for the wrong reasons — or without a plan.

I think you should use where you come from as part of your makeup. It’s what makes you you. It’s what makes your music unique. A lot of people sound the same these days, and the more honest I was with myself where I came from, the better the music became. It’s the same place that Sam Shackleton comes from; it’s the same place Marcus Intalex comes from; me and Sean come from there. But I started looking at it going, “It’s so bloody influential in the way that we work.” I go to the countryside there and it sounds — when I’m there it feels like the Demdike Stare music sounds, and I’m think, “Yeah, we’ve been honest with ourselves.” And that’s what makes us sound like us.

I know that you make music on the road. Does this end up mostly as sketches that you then try to finish when you get home into your studio, or do you find that you’re able to compose full tracks?

You see, like, those two words “able to” is one letter short of Ableton, and Ableton, for me, was one of the most genius things ever invented. The simple fact that it allows you to do it wherever you are. I’m not afraid of digital. I’m not afraid of analog. If you work with music, you can work in however way suits you best. I’m not a snob in it. I think if you work purely with Ableton, you work purely with Ableton. But there’s a lot of people who just work with Ableton and you can tell. You can just tell. It’s like, “Come on, mate, put a bit of effort in, you know?”

So I work in a very funny way with it. I sample basically every synthesizer that I own, and I’ll create my own version of that synthesizer in Ableton. Every compressor I own, I’ll try and do the same thing. I’ll try and create the character within Ableton, the reverbs within Ableton. So when I’m traveling on the road, I’m using a virtual version of my studio. And then if I don’t like the sound of it, even if it’s been purely in Ableton, I can port it out. It’s easy enough for me to port it out and record it back in. Some tracks we do are pure Ableton. Some tracks we do are pure hardware; some are mixed. Being on the road so much, you have to have an outlet. Me and Sean both carry field recorders with us and we travel with quite a lot of hardware for the shows anyway, so if we need to, you know — we’ve recorded sound checks before and made tracks straight off that.
Sean really nails it; he says, “You’ve got to be into what you’re doing. You’ve got to be like a 16-year-old kid.” If you’re into the music and you’re into the records and you’re into the equipment, it makes it so much easier to produce music anywhere and everywhere. You’ve got to be enthusiastic about it. In Berlin there are so many producers and they’re so serious. It’s the same in the graphic design world. Any of these freelance, creative worlds, people gravitate here because it’s cheap to live.

In a way, you’re sort of Modern Love’s main man. By my count, you’ve been a part of 30 of the label’s catalogue numbers, which accounts for about 32 percent.

I’ve never looked at it like that. [laughs]

It’s pretty staggering. What’s your relationship with this label and with this group of people?

We’re all best friends, and have been since before the label started. I used to work in the music industry for distribution. I worked in record shops, and I know quite a lot about the business and about labels and how they run. How stuff’s licensed and how people get paid, and the divisions of payment and the divisions of labor and all that kind of, you know, angle of the music business. So, working with friends — in some ways can be very difficult and in other ways can be completely genius. For Modern Love, it’s just completely genius.

I’m allowed 100-percent creative control to produce whatever kind of music I want, and the label shields me from the negative sides of the music industry that I hated when I was working with them. That’s probably the best way to say it. The label looks after the really awful stuff that they’re going to deal with, and I’m just allowed to do what I want. If they want to put a release out, they’ll put a release out. I don’t argue with them. Never have, never will. And I don’t think I’ll ever release for anyone else. Why should I? I hear so many horror stories about labels and artists, and it’s just like, “Oh man, I don’t need that in my life.”

For the first year with Demdike Stare the offers coming in were phenomenal. You start getting contracts though, and they’re like 20 pages, and I’m like, “Oh, forget it. Forget it. Creative control? Yeah, right.” We have everything. The label just helps us decide on the music. The funny thing with Modern Love is that every single act on Modern Love — and I speak for everyone when I say this — it’s like the label is part of the act. Modern Love is part of Demdike Stare. They’re a member of Demdike Stare, the people who work for the label. They’re part of it. They’re part of Andy Stott; they’re part of Rainer Veil; they’re part of Jack Dice. It’s just like they’re part of the band, you know? The funny thing is that if we do a Modern Love showcase, which we tend to do quite a lot of, but the label’s not there, I’m like, “Well, you’re only really getting half the story here.” [laughs]

What is it about collaboration that you’ve enjoyed? What do you pull out of each person that you collaborate with, and what do they pull out of you?

I work so much better in collaboration. Sean will ask me to do something which I would never, ever think of. He’ll ask me, “You know, I think we should do an African kind of sounding track. Can you put, like, a fuzzy guitar in it?” And I’ll be like, “What? Really?” And he’s like, “Yeah, yeah. It really needs a fuzzy guitar.” And it will be amazing. He comes with that creative impulse, which I kind of lose out on because I get really bored once I know how to use a sampler. But he’s probably the best music researcher I’ve ever known in my life, and he’ll just play me something that will blow me away. And I’ll be like, “This should be out now, and it’s 25 years old!” And he’s like, “Yeah, but this is what we should be doing!”

Same thing with Gary — they’re kind of similar, in a way, but both Gary and Sean are kind of technically inept. Sean’s learning quite a lot at the moment, but they were both, when we first started working together, like, scratching their heads. Gary’ll tell me to do something, you know, in Pendle Coven, and the same thing with Demdike Stare. Sean will just come in with, “Can you do this? Can you do that?” And I wouldn’t think about doing it because I already know how to do it. But he tells me how to do it out of context, approaching it with a naïveté which I don’t have anymore. It’s like buying new equipment; I’ll buy a new piece of kit when I don’t understand it and I think, “Yeah, I could probably use that on quite a few sessions.” At the moment I’m using a Vermona Retroverb. I’ve had it for a year, and I can’t get it to do the same thing twice. It’s amazing. It’s just wild. You’ve got to have it recorded all the time because you’ll have it really good, and you’ll accidentally knock it or something, and it’s gone. It’s doing something completely different.

You make an incredible amount of music. What keeps you going?

You don’t know the half of it. The label sent me an email at the end of last year. And they’ll be like, “Yeah, you’ve sent us 280 tracks this year.” I was like, “What?” [laughs] Because I’m just allowed to do it, you know? It’s funny; there’s a few things you won’t know about because I do still release music anonymously. In this day and age hype has got a lot to do with music. And that hype is super accelerated these days. You’ve got a two-week window to sell a piece of music, and then you’re yesterday’s news.

I’ve come around to the mode of thinking that I don’t buy music every week. I don’t buy new music. I have to wait until it sinks in, and then I’ll be like, “Right, this is actually really good. I’m going to buy it.” There are a few producers out there that I’ll buy on sight. But there’s a lot of stuff I want. So every now and again I’ll release a few 12s or whatever anonymously. So the music stands on its own. And it’s not associated with any kind of hype. It doesn’t come through the same channels; it just comes out somewhere else, and if that does really well, that gives me a bit of confidence.

Who are these producers that you still buy on sight?

Well, the really obvious things, like Mika Vainio. The music’s so difficult but so amazing. It’s not just to do with producers, it’s to do with curators, as well. I think Bill Kouligas and PAN is just next level. The way it looks and how they push people to listen. You don’t get the same record twice. That’s such a difficult thing to do, and they do it with style. You should be pushing people, taking them further down the road. You shouldn’t keep delivering the same thing. I don’t agree with that. I think it’s really lazy, and I think you’re squandering—you know, if you do get a chance to be able to release music, and you do get hyped up initially, then if you come in doing the same thing, I think you’re squandering what you’re doing. You’re squandering your creative side, you know? I much more appreciate these labels that really try to push people into other areas of listening. Because music is endless. Inspiration and influence is endless. Whether you fall backwards, forwards, sideways, it doesn’t matter, you know? There’s a bottomless pit of amazing music.

With a lot of the music that you make you’re sampling records from all around the world, but what do you find distinctly British about your music? And how does that play into some of your other projects as Millie or on HATE?

Well, Millie and HATE — they’re inherently British, in a way because they’re influenced purely through jungle, hardcore, and a little bit of American bass music. You can’t really forget Miami bass or the later aspects of hip-hop and all that came through. Me and Sean are really big hip-hop fans. Sean’s a mega hip-hop fan, but I’m a big hip-hop fan. But we can’t do a hip-hop record because we’re not from America. Do you know what I mean? There’s really good British hip-hop, but me and Sean have a bit of an issue where we’re like, “Well, we’re coming from this kind of thing, so we should try and reflect on that and not concentrate on something which we’re not ever going to be as good at doing.” We really want to do a hip-hop record. The Testpressings series gives us the freedom to do something more like that, but we can’t because we’ll never be as good as, like, Mobb Deep or MF Doom or something. It’s like we just can’t do it. So we normally end up coming out a little more British-sounding.

Since you mentioned it, what was the driving idea behind Testpressings?

Again, it’s just utter freedom, but also to take us away from an album format and to change up what we’re doing. It would’ve been so easy and so predictable to put out another Demdike Stare album. And believe me, we’ve got the material; we could have just put out another record that sounded like a little bit more of an evolution of Elemental. But then the label said, “Look, I really think you should rethink your strategy. You both—” they’d heard some of the stuff that we were heading towards, and were like, “I think you should concentrate on this and just start having more freedom to just put a record out when you want.” So we can just put out a completely different record every time. We’re coming at it from a different route now. There are snippets of it in the live show at the moment because we’ve evolved our live show to be 90 percent improvised. We finally nailed a format which we’re really happy with and we enjoy it every time we do it. Because it’s really difficult to do that when a) you’re not performers and b) you just play electronic music. But, you know, we’ve kind of nailed that now, and hopefully the Testpressings are going to kind of reflect it a bit more.

So there’s no plans to do a CD compilation of the Testpressings stuff?

No, that’s too predictable. We don’t want to do it anymore; we really want to buck the trend in some ways if we can. But the necessity of being in modern music is sales. And vinyl, as most of the producers will tell you that run vinyl labels, they’re really not trying to sell 10,000 copies of a record. The break even point’s pretty tight now. You don’t make a lot of money on it. So CDs really help you back up. And America and Japan are probably the biggest markets for that kind of thing now, CDs. You know, in Europe people really don’t care about CDs anymore. We don’t sell that many here. But America’s still a really good market. So it’s a good way of shoring up your finances and allowing the label to continue putting another record out, you know, because that’s generally what you’re supposed to do. Release a record, you make a bit of money, you plow it back in, and you can put another record out. It gives you the freedom. So CDs are a necessity. But I think I have 20 CDs in my whole life.

How do you blur the lines between your DJing and productions? You’ve said before that much of the Demdike Stare mixtapes try to mix the two up, and when playing out you’ll sometimes blur the lines between DJing and playing live.

It’s kind of what we do, really. But that’s the whole thing about the Demdike mixes — half the tracks on the mixes are edits of those tracks which we’ve found, and that’s the old way of working for Demdike. Because we got a little worried about the sampling aspect, so a couple of years ago we decided to really stop sampling. When we found samples we really wanted, we recreated them in our own way. It’s the inspiration and the mood we’re looking for in the end. And to keep sampling in such a way in this day and age of intellectual property bullshit, then you’re just going to end up cutting your own career short if you’re not careful. So the mixtapes are an outlet to be able to do that now.

I think there’s too much of a division between live and DJing, when pretty much, you’ll have artist turning up with a laptop and pressing the spacebar and tweaking around with a few effects. And then you’ll have a DJ turning up with a laptop and pressing the spacebar and tweaking around with a few effects. It’s just in the eye of the beholder. This is why we evolved the Demdike Stare live show, as well, since Sean’s strength is records. He’ll turn up and play me these records which will inspire us to then create music or sample it or whatever. So then we were like, “Well, the perfect live show will be for me to have a load of equipment to mess around with, and for Sean to have some records with a few effects to then do the same thing.” So then he’s playing records, I’m live-sampling them and looping them and layering them. We looked at the idea of the mixtape and the idea of how we work in the studio, and that’s what we now do with the live show. So it’s all intertwined, in a way.

We kind of had a little blip a year or so ago where I was trying to get Sean into doing something which he’s not that good at, and he was trying to get me to do something I’m not that good at. And then we were just like, “Oh, what are we doing? Stick to your strengths. I’ll stick to my strengths, you stick to yours, and let’s come back together in the middle.” And then we were just like, “Right, we’re on a roll again. We know where we are.” It’s just about exploring your own strengths and weaknesses. I think you have to do it, don’t you? The good thing for me and Sean is that we’ve known each other for 25 years so all that bullshit, first seven years of marriage thing, we’ve done that. I’ve slammed the phone down on him so many times… “Your music’s shit!” “Yeah, what you listen to is shit!” We’ve passed that stage so we can have these really easy conversations. Even if we come across little problems, they’re easy to deal with. We know where we are now, we know where we’re going.

What can you tell us about “Concealed,” which was commissioned for Unsound?

It’s a really difficult one to do. The most genius thing about it, aside from the Sinfonietta [Cracovia], is Michael England and his visuals. When I first saw the visuals that he was doing for the show, I was just like — it’s the best thing I’ve ever seen to go with music. But I can’t show you because Michael’s very protective about it, and what we decided, when we first started the project, was that the live show would have to be very special. And the reason for this is to keep people coming to the shows and not just to be turning up and seeing us play a bunch of tracks that we’ve already put out. With “Concealed,” the visuals are spectacular. And they’re the thing that I will tell people to turn up and check out.

Our music… most of it’s been released. Obviously they’re different versions with the Sinfonietta playing over the top, but the real key aspect to it all coming together is Michael’s visuals. They’re just astonishing, and you’re only ever going to see them at a show. It’s a really hard show to put together. It’s the most stressful thing me and Sean have ever done in our lives. I do not enjoy it. It gets really difficult working with a bunch of other musicians because they’re musicians and we’re not. [laughs] But when it comes off right, it’s amazing. It’s uplifting. And these astonishingly boutique visuals — you’ll never see them on a DVD. And it won’t be on YouTube. Michael’s 100 percent about that. If we see people filming, he’d basically stand up and deck them. He’d give them a right crack, smash their phone up or something. He doesn’t mess around.

But there is a reason for that: we really want people to come to the show, and you want to give people something unique for the show. You don’t just want to turn up and play a bunch of tracks. It gives people something to remember it by, whether it’s good or bad. You’ve got to have this experience to remember it instead of just like, “Yeah, it was alright.” I’ve said that so many times going out to shows. “Yeah, it was alright.” But if it’s really rubbish, I’ll remember it for the rest of my life. If it was really good, I’ll remember it for the rest of my life.

How much of the Millie & Andrea material are collaborations?

I’ll be honest about it; the album’s like 80 percent Andy. We used to collaborate a lot, but I’ve been really busy working on other stuff, and Andy’s in the afterglow of his album, so he has a bit more time to write on it. We still do collaborate, but Andy’s much more open to footwork and to trap — I’ve missed a lot of that stuff. So I’m still old school where I’ll come with hardcore and jungle and UK garage and early dubstep. That’s kind of my thing, really. So yeah, it’s not 50/50. He’s done all the work. [laughter]

When I talked to Sean for the interview a couple of years ago, he said that when you guys play shows you really consider whether or not to take the show based on if there are any good record stores in town. Any recent record store highlights?

We played in Stockholm a few weeks ago, and went to Record Mania. I’ve been on this mailing list for some reason. I don’t know why, but I signed onto this mailing list for this shop in Sweden called Record Mania. I think it’s because they always have good jazz records in. We went there and we both spent a lot of money there. It’s a really good shop. I think they do auctions and eBay, but not with everything. There’s so much more in the shop than I’ve ever seen on the site. And obviously you can sit down and listen to it. And then there’s a shop which Bill Kouligas took me to in Berlin, but I’m not telling you about it because it’s way under the radar. It’s not even listed anywhere, and he took me there, and I was just like, “Whoa, this is amazing.” And I spent so much goddamn money there.

Is there anything recently that you found after looking for a long time that really broke the bank?

No. I mean there is, but it’s kind of not— it doesn’t matter how much money you spent on a record. Sean and I both agree that 90 percent of the time, the best records are the pound ones, the ones that cost nothing. The dollar records that people have forgotten about. I’ve spent a lot of money on some records. Sean’s done it for a lot longer than me. He’s a major, major collector. And often you get one chance to buy these records and that’s it. It’s gone then. Egisto Macchi is a very good example because this year, like, five records have come up on eBay that I’ve never even heard of. Like, no one’s ever even — they’re not on blogs, they’re not on Discogs, they’re not on eBay, they’ve never, ever come up before, and five albums by my favorite artist from, you know, the last 30 years. I’ve never even heard them, so we don’t know anything. I’ve been collecting records for 30 years, and I know nothing. [laughs]

With buying rare records, you’ve got to weigh up whether or not you can get it. Because you can go out right now and spend $500 on a Beatles record, but the thing is you can buy that same record for 500 dollars next week. You can buy them 20 different places for 500 dollars. Is it worth 500 dollars? Probably not. You can get a 10-dollar issue of that record, you know what I mean? But then, finding an Egisto Macchi you’ve never heard before that comes up and it’s going to cost you 200 euros, that’s kind of a snip, in a way. Because it might never, ever come up again.

Sean taught me not to think about the money because once you start paying 50 dollars for a record you’re like, “Whoa, man, I just spent 50 dollars on a record and I feel terrible.” Two years later, you’ve paid 50 dollars every week for a record, you don’t care. But then you spend 200 dollars on a record, and you’re like, “Oh, I just spend 200 dollars on a record.” Two years later, when you’re doing it every week or every month or whatever, you know… A friend of mine, he’s 60 years old, and he’s a Northern Soul collector. And he spends, like, five figures on records. Five figures! But he’ll buy one record a year because that’s the only one he needs. He’s like, “Look, I’ve saved up all year, and you’ve spent the same amount of money on 300 records that I’ve spent for one record. Because I’ve got all the other records.”

If you’re not a collector, it looks like a really weird thing to be doing, but it isn’t. It’s just what you’re into. Some people spend that on a meal. What I spend on a rare record—[people say] “You spent what? 200 euros on a record?!” It’s like, “Yeah, what did that meal cost you last night?” “Oh yeah, well — oh right, yeah.” The thing that reinforces us being able to do something like this is we really like putting money back into music. You earn money, you put it back into it. So the first ten years of producing music, easily six, seven years before I released a record, I was using cracked software because I couldn’t afford to buy the bloody software. The minute I was paid money for a record I was out buying software, or buying hardware. You’ve got to put it back in. I’m not afraid of saying it, because everybody uses cracked software. I know people more successful than me that still use cracked software.

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