18 Oct #vinyloftheday – Maurice Simon interview
To DJ Maurice Simon, vinyl is more than just a 12″ plate, but a bearer of the art and heritage of club culture. This month, #vinyloftheday and ZIGGY pick the man’s mind to trace the origins of his record collection, and to discover his personal and professional ties to the format. “My record collection is a blueprint of my early musical DNA,” he tells us, “and I treasure every piece that I have.” And true enough, as Maurice uncovers a diverse collection that stretches from house to broken beat to alternative rock, he also displays a true passion for discovering new music, while sharing some of the unlikeliest places he’s discovered records (“a lively Rastafarian guy who was selling records from a beat-up cardboard box in an alleyway in Camden for £3”). Also noting how “vinyl triggers a strong, visceral connection with a piece of music”, Maurice also gets into how the vinyl format forms the solid foundation for dance music and club culture, thus ensuring its enduring legacy. As he sums it up: “For DJs, vinyl is the most important tactile link to the historical origins of our craft.” Read the interview below and in ZIGGY‘s March issue.
1 – What was it that got you into DJ-ing? It all began when I listened to 4 Hero‘s “Two Pages” album on vinyl at HMV at the Heeren Shops back in ’99. It got me hooked on the broken beat sound which was emerging at that time, which was the gateway that led me discover the House genre through Jazzanova‘s Sonar Kollektiv Label. I moved to London in ’04 as a student and got a job working as a promoter at Ben Watt‘s label, Buzzin’ Fly. That job connected me to record stores and their proprietors like DJ Heidi from Phonica Records (Will Saul and Pete Herbert also worked there at the time) as well as the house and techno scene in the city, which inspired me to start DJing. A respected and trusted friend, Nadiem Makarim, was the catalyst who finally inspired me to stop dreaming and go for it after an important conversation we had one Spring afternoon in his Bury Place apartment in London in ’05.
2 – Do you remember the first (or the earliest) record you bought? It was Adam Johnson’s Malk EP (Narita Records, ’04), which I picked up at Plastic Fantastic, a record store on Drury Lane in London’s West End Theatre District. It’s a five track EP of dub and minimal techno, and I copped it for the sublime B-side track, “Four Squares”, which was the second track on Sasha’s “Fundacion NYC” mix CD.
3 – How would you describe your record collection now? What sort of records can we find in it? My record collection is a blueprint of my early musical DNA, and I treasure every piece that I have. It’s made up of UK and German produced Deep House, Minimal and Dub Techno, New York and Chicago House, UK Garage, Nu-Jazz, Broken Beat, Alternative Rock, Afrobeat and Latin records. It contains a number of promo only pieces and white labels which I acquired through one-off sales. In 2010, Ben Watt hosted a charity sale for some of his personal vinyl collection, and he was selling his House music records in random bundles of five for £25. I picked up one bundle, and the best records I discovered in it was a white label of the “Future Flight” EP by Miguel Migs from 1999, and the “Set My Spirit Free” EP by Kings of Tomorrow from 1997.
4 – Where do you usually shop for vinyl records? Any records you’ve discovered in unlikely places? In London, Vinyl Junkies, Rough Trade and Phonica have been my go-to record stores. In Singapore, my favourites are Roxy and Straits Records. I also use eBay, Discogs and Juno for online purchases. In ’05 I bought “The Heart’s a Lonely Hunter” EP by Thievery Corporation from a lively Rastafarian guy who was selling records from a beat up cardboard box in an alleyway in Camden for £3.
5 – What is it about the format that you love? To me, the vinyl format is about paying homage to the history of the art form of DJing. Vinyl records are the original tools behind how the DJ’s craft came to be. It is the foundation of the dance music culture which exploded in New York City in places like The Loft and The Sanctuary in the 1970s led by vinyl DJs like David Mancuso. That culture was dependant on vinyl and it represents the roots which evolved to become the vibrant and diverse dance music and club culture that we all enjoy today. Vinyl is where it all began, which is what I love most about it.
6 – Do you reckon that vinyl can still be relevant in this digital day and age? Although contemporary practices around DJing techniques have changed and vinyl now occupies a niche market, it will always remain relevant in my view. For DJs, they are the most important tactile link to the historical origins of our craft. For music-lovers more broadly, vinyl triggers a strong visceral connection with a piece of music that digital forms do not, and inspire a love for and personalised rituals in how we enjoy music. Vinyl equates to heritage in music, and heritage never dies.
7 – Name us your top three records. 1. Ben Watt, Stimming, Julia Biel – Bright Star EP, label 50th release 180g limited collector’s edition – Buzzin’ Fly Records, 2003 2. The White Stripes – Elephant Album LP, 2 x 180gram limited edition red and white vinyl pressing – Third Man Records, 2003 3. Sirens (featuring O.D.B) – Love Hurts (Wookie Remix) EP – White Label