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Interview: Werkha in Record Store Day 2014

As part of Far Out Magazine’s coverage of Record Store Day 2014, we thought we would gain a DJ’s perspective by picking the brain of one of Manchester’s brightest new producers.

Following on from our night out at his Beacons EP launch on Thursday, we chatted to Tru Thoughts signee Werkha about what Record Store Day means to him and why in spite of the music industry’s dwindling sales, vinyl will never die.

How important is Record Store Day in ensuring that digital formats don’t eclipse physical music?

It’s important because the digital realm is convenient but I don’t think that convenience always correlates to quality. That’s both music-wise and sound-wise, but music in the way that something isn’t going to get pressed up unless it’s worth it – that can be a really good measure.

It’s so easy to produce digitally, you can do it all yourself on all sorts of platforms and it will cost you next to nothing. This has a major knock-on effect of labels feeling like they don’t necessarily have to invest in their artists. Actually, when an artist sees an investment from the label and you get something out on vinyl, it’s just feels a bit more proper.

I kind of feel like [digital] is deletable, but if it’s a physical thing, it defies the ‘unreal’ aspect that is part of the digital realm. It can last forever, well a very long time anyway! It keeps the interesting music going and keeps music at the core of what it should be about, which is actually listening to it.

My favourite thing to do is to go into whatever store it might be and there will be a few things that catch your eye, but I love just delving through records I’ve never heard. I still find more interesting stuff on the shelves than I do online. Online’s very new, but it’s not necessarily the most interesting thing.

Do you think that the way the internet allows new tracks to be drip-fed to people can take the impact away from a physical LP?

Maybe yeah, but you can still try to do something different. There’s more creative licence with a physical release. You can do anything, for example you can put a download code in with it anyway. My EP’s out on vinyl in the next month or so and we’ve put together a whole new sleeve.

It feels more like a piece of art that you can hold in your hand, you pay more attention to it. I agree in that it can reduce the impact, but at the same time it can also raise better awareness than it just being sat on a shelf somewhere. It’s just about them working in tandem because you’re not going to get rid of one or the other.

Although physical sales have gone down in general, vinyl’s on the up. Is it just the case that the CD’s loss has been vinyl’s gain?

Yeah, I think vinyl will definitely stand the test of time. It’s unique in comparison to digital stuff in that the sound is actually put into the record – it’s physically there. When you put a record on you don’t even need to turn on your speakers, you can hear the music off the actual face of the record and it’s like ‘wow!

From a DJ’s perspective, playing out with vinyl, I think that some DJ’s get caught down a road of thinking that everything has to be perfect. ‘How can we make it perfect?’ ‘Well we can use this digital music and this piece of software so that nothing fucks up’.

But going and seeing someone playing with records and hearing the mistakes, that’s fine because when someone owns a record, they know that record inside out. It brings an element of performance I suppose.

I’ve seen DJs play stuff digitally and you can tell when they haven’t really listened to the record before. All they’re looking at is the BPM and whether that matches up to what they’re doing. That’s not knowing your music and building your collection.

It’s more interesting seeing someone make the effort to take records down to a club. The convenience of using digital in a DJ set, it’s just not very cool basically!

How did you first become attached to records as a kid, were they always around at home?

Growing up in Cumbria, kind of in the middle of nowhere, they didn’t have any record shops. Records to me were just what my parents had on the shelves. It was old jazz and soul stuff like Sun Ra and an album called In The Land of Grey and Pink by Caravan, which I swear was about being on ‘shrooms, but that was a really cool record where I was struck by the design.

A lot of jazz, a lot of Bob Dylan, and just asking my parents about it, not being able to fathom growing up and only having vinyl. And they were just like ‘well, you get a record, you go into the living room and you listen to it?!’

Does it worry you that in 20 years time there will be a whole generation of kids who won’t have their parents record collections to delve in to?

That’s definitely something that I would like to pass on – the physical form of what music is. This is how to present a record, there’s details that you just don’t get anywhere else. Stuff like who produced the tracks or where it was recorded. That’s as much what it’s about as the music itself.

You can start reading who played on different records and from there you establish links between different artists and that’s a really organic way of music spreading and learning about different genres – it’s really important for that.

How much do you feel Record Store Day has played a part in boosting vinyl?

Yeah it’s great. A decade or so ago people were saying vinyl was on the way out and now you look at Record Store Day and there’s people queuing down the road at six in the morning. It’s a clear sign that people still want that.

Because of the development of digital stuff vinyl records have become a bit more niche. It’s special now. Whereas that used to be a means to an end of playing music, it’s now just something that’s a bit special.

It’s great to hear about it on the radio and that will only fuel people’s interest in terms of going out and listening. When you go to a shop, it’s not like buying something online, you actually speak to the people behind the counter. They can teach you a lot about it and what other things you might be into that you’ve never heard before. That’s how you expand your palate really.

Is it encouraging to see so many artists getting behind it with special releases?

Yeah definitely. There was some initial talk, but the EP came slightly too late for me to get involved this year. It’s definitely something I’ll do in the future though.

The inevitable opposition to it is the much more corporate side of it, which is just concerned with reeling in the figures. Basically that is going to be there as long as it is accepted – which we seem to. But you’ve just got to say fuck them, that isn’t why it’s being done.

Luckily Record Store Day hasn’t gone the way I thought it might, which is for it to become a genre-specific thing. People are backing it up right across the board with limited releases. It means that even if you don’t like it style-wise, it’s not some corporate bullshit.

Obviously with my area of music vinyl-heads push it a lot, but in a more general sense I think it is just a measure of more serious music. It needs to be there.

To find out more about Werkha and his brand new live show, look no further than Far Out’s review of his Beacons EP launch at Manchester’s Band on the Wall.

Patrick Davies

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