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In the record room with Dave Seaman

2021 May 29     
2 Bit Thugs

The Selador boss has been reorganising his record collection – and has started putting out vinyl again as a result

Recently, Dave Seaman and Steve Parry's Selador Recordings label has started releasing vinyl records again, having previously been an almost entirely digital label. But labels flit in and out of the vinyl market all the time, don't they? What's more interesting is why they've made that move right now: it's all come about because Dave's recently rediscovered his own love of the black wax, after spending much of lockdown sorting out the many thousands of records he accumulated during the pre-digital era.

“I figured 5,000 was still a healthy collection and would be more manageable,” read the press release Dave sent us, “but I didn’t just want to sift through and sort the keepers from the ones to let go – I felt every record deserved one last play, which also gave me a chance to check everything for possible samples. I ended up recording over 1000 loops, kickdrums, one-shots, vocal snippets and more. It was a long process but a cathartic one, and it made me really reconnect with the physical format and my boyhood love of collecting records.”

Well, as luck would have it… Dave's email landed while yours truly was in the middle of a charity shop trawl, and I'd just picked up a couple of new/old slabs of black plastic myself. What's more, my own lockdown had involved finally giving the collection of 1000 seven-inches I bought from a guy in Oxford a few years back a proper sift n' sort out. Clearly, the fates had decreed that a good old natter on the phone was in order.

So be warned, this is definitely one for the vinyl nerds! But here's what Dave had to say…

You say you decided 5000 was a reasonable number of records to own… how many did you start with?

“Oh gosh… well, I've had a couple of big clear-outs before. About a decade ago I moved house and I got rid of about 5000 then, and maybe seven or eight years before that I'd got rid of about another 5000. So I was left with about 10,000, but they've just been sat in boxes in my garage for the last decade. I did get some of them out and put them on shelves, but there were still tons and tons in boxes, and it was just one of those mammoth tasks that I kept looking at thinking, 'I haven't got time for that right now'.

“But of course with Covid… I think probably quite a lot of DJs will have been going through their collections and taking stock of all the music they've amassed over the years. When you've been on that hamster wheel of gigging every weekend and new music, new music, new music, it's difficult to find the time. So lockdown was an opportunity to do that. It was a massive job, and at the beginning I kept thinking, 'Oh God, this is never ending'. But the more I did it, the more I was enjoying it.

“Once you've got all the ones you really want to keep in one place, that becomes much more of an exciting wall of inspiration, as opposed to all these boxes and boxes of stuff that you don't really need any more and aren't going to play. So the start was the hardest part.”

I've been doing something similar lately myself. Not in such an organised way, but pulling out records and going is this a keeper, one for Discogs or one for the charity shop… 

“Yeah, a lot of it doesn't stand the test of time, does it? And it's quality over quantity, so now I can go to any section on my shelves and it's full of just gem after gem, rather than anything that's just 'yeah, that's okay'. I'm not planning to start DJing with vinyl again, so now it's really back to that boyhood love of collecting records.

“And it's that idea of getting it into sections and getting it all organised. So now I've got a Shelley's section, I've got a Hacienda section, a Renaissance section… different eras, different clubs. Or some of it's grouped together by different producers, or I've got a US house section, all my Guerrilla records together, all my Stress records, all my Slam and Soma stuff… I've enjoyed putting things in order and organising them. 

“And obviously I'm playing these records as I go along as well, and I've noticed that when you put a record on a turntable, you don't tend to skip through it like you would if you were playing it on the computer. It's something I'd never even think of doing with MP3s. I mean you have iTunes and Spotify playlists which I guess are a similar thing, but it's much more enjoyable in physical format than it would be sorting out MP3s.”

What are your criteria for whether a record gets kept or not?

“What I did to start with was go through the boxes one by one, and listen to everything. Because Iike I said, I've had two clear-outs before so most of the crap had already gone! And also I thought, even if I'm getting rid of the vinyl, there might be a mix on there I can keep a digital copy of, and certainly in terms of sampling there'd be bits n' bobs on there. So I went through each one and first of all it's about particular memories or eras or clubs, so I'd keep some things for that reason.

“But also I'd keep some things just to have examples of a particular genre – you know, it might not be my particular favourite style of music but it's good to have a few examples of the best of it, because there's good and bad in every genre. So UK garage for example: I'm not a massive fan and I didn't really used to play it, but there were some great records in that genre, so it's nice to have a little section with the best of the best.

“And I did also start selling a few things – if I had an ultra-rare promo of something, say, but it's a record I'm quite happy to have just a normal copy of. So I did sell some, because obviously with no gigs this year that's had a bit of an impact financially, and do I really need limited edition Kylie or Pet Shop Boys records or would I be equally happy with the finished copies? 

“And then I realised that I'd stopped buying vinyl in about 2005, so that actually set me off buying some more records to fill in those gaps! I looked back at all my end-of-year charts for the past 15 years, got on Discogs and made sure that I had all the tunes I'd considered the best records in each year on vinyl. So I really did get the Discogs bug, and obviously there are some records that don't really mean a lot to me, but they mean a hell of a lot to someone else.

“Like that whole late 90s/early 00s trance era, round about the time I did my Global Underground and Renaissance CDs… I don't have as much affection for those records as I do for New York club music of the 1980s, which I'm obsessed with. So one man's trance – one man's trash, sorry, is another man's treasure! So I let a lot of those sort of records go, especially the rare acetates and stuff – that funded me buying a lot of stuff from the last decade.”

There's a saying that 'books die on shelves' – it's a bit like that with records, isn't it?

“Yeah, I mean like some of the Pet Shop Boys rarities – those records are not as precious to me, but then I'd get a message from the buyer and they were almost besides themselves, telling me it was now their most treasured possession and stuff. So it's finding good homes for things, really. 

“A lot of it's about eras, I think. You know, I'm obsessed with New York 80s club music because it was just a little bit out of my reach – I was too young and too far away and I couldn't get there. Whereas with the millennium trance stuff, I was right there in the eye of the storm, so I had all the music but it doesn't mean that much to me. Let's get it to that trance-obsessed kid in South America who's gonna love it. 

“Being a fairly well-known DJ, I've had a few people grumble about prices. But first of all it's not me selling them directly, I've had a friend handling that for me, so there’s his cut plus the Discogs commission. And secondly, it's not like I haven't spend tens of thousands of pounds on records over the years! One guy kept saying, 'These are promos, you got them for free!' but I'm like, 'Yeah, I did. But at the same time I was regularly spending hundreds of pounds a week in record stores!'. Heaven knows how much money I’ve spent on vinyl over the years…"

What about cleaning records – any tips? Because I've dug out some old records from the early 90s and to be honest they're just about unplayable…

“Yeah, I have the same problem. But it's Pete Bromley from Global Grooves in Stoke who's been selling stuff for me, so he's taken care of a lot of that. And actually he told me my records were in a better state than most, because I did try and look after them!

“But the stuff I'm keeping, usually it's just baby wipes to start with, to get the top layer of crap off, and then a record cleaning cloth and a bit of spray. There's no great magic to it.” 

And is that okay? Because I got bought a vinyl cleaning kit for Xmas with these non-alcoholic, non-acidic wipes in it, and to be fair, they're brilliant… but it's literally one wipe per record and that's not really sustainable cost-wise. So have you found just normal baby wipes work?

“Yeah, just for getting the surface crap off, I've not had any problems. And for cleaning sleeves. And then a record cleaning spray and a microfibre cloth. I've seen those expensive wipes… and I know some of the stuff I've bought on Discogs, the guys make a big deal of how they've been professionally cleaned on a cleaning lathe and to be fair, when they arrive they do look brand new, it's incredible.” 

But those machines cost around £2,000…

“Yeah, and I've not gone quite that far into it yet. But who knows, because I've been spending more time on Discogs than anywhere else lately! I've just fallen back in love with it. It had got to the point where it was all a bit of a burden and it just sat in boxes out in the garage, but now it's quality over quantity and I've got an entire wall of memories. 

“Because that's what it's about really, isn't it – that emotional attachment you have to the physical format, rather than these cold, clinical, functional MP3 and WAV files on your hard drive.”

Let's talk about the records you've kept, then, and how they're sorted out…

“It's alphabetical, but within that there's little sub-sections… so it's D for disco, then D for DMC, then E for 80s electro, H for Hacienda, H for hip-hop, oh and G's got a big Guerrilla section… stuff like that. There's sections for breaks, jungle, ambient… one for everything I was buying from 2003 onwards which was all early Kompakt stuff… it's still an ongoing process, to be honest. So recently I've sorted out little sub-sections for Farley & Heller/JBO stuff, a section for Slam, one for James Holden, an LCD Soundsystem/DFA section…”

So it's alphabetical, but that might be by artist name or a club you associate it with or a genre, and basically it makes sense in your head, but not to anyone else in the world?

(laughs) “Yeah!  I'm happy with it, though, and I'm not sure anyone else needs to be, really. I'm just going through it now… there's Bowie, there's Brothers In Rhythm, there's Chemical Brothers… like you said, it's all sorts of categories, but it makes sense to me.”

And are you one of the 95% of us that keep our records on Expedit/Kallax shelves from IKEA, or one of the elite 5% that have fancy custom-built oak shelving?

“Well, I've got bespoke storage but it's only MDF, not oak, so I'm not sure which side of that divide I'm on! And they're not actually shelves, I got a joiner to make me up a load of individual cubes that can be stacked up on top of each other. It means I can move them about if I need to… as I did recently, because we were having the floor done.”

Probably a good move. I had to leave several hundred quid's worth of Expedits in one house, because I'd built these great big 5x5 units in a small room, and I couldn't get them apart or get 'em out the door! 

“Yeah, exactly – I had some custom shelves built in one house, and same problem. So now I've got 66 individual cubes, all stacked six high and 11 wide along one wall. 

“You've actually caught me just starting on CDs now. And then it'll be books and DVDs, so eventually it'll be one massive wall of inspiration. But admittedly that's probably a lifetime's work! It's something I've been enjoying though, just squirreling myself away and sorting stuff out. Maybe it's an age thing? I'm 53 now, so maybe as well as covid, I've got to that point where you want to sit back and take stock a bit, I don't know… 

“I don't know how much time and effort I'll be able to put into it once things start opening up again, mind you. Because it looks like there's a bit of hope on the horizon now, and I've started booking a few gigs in from July onwards. And I will return to being a digital DJ, by the way – the prospect of lugging boxes of records around the world doesn't appeal to me in any shape or form!”

In my own sorting out, I've found a few bits I didn't know I had – including a first UK pressing of Rescue Me by Fontella Bass, near mint in the original Chess sleeve, thank you very much…

“Woah-ho-HO! That must be worth a bit, mustn't it?”

Nah, only about £10-£15, cos it sold quite a lot at the time, but it's still a nice thing to own. There was a random white label as well – I thought 'this sounds like Hard-Fi' and it turns out it's the band the singer was in before Hard-Fi. That's about £40 to the right person… I just don't want to sell it, cos it's quite good! But go on, I've shown you mine…

“Well, there was a test pressing of a rare mix of Nightwriters, Let The Music Use You… turns out that was one of only 10, which I didn't realise! So that was a nice find. I did keep the one-sheets for all my promos, so I knew what most stuff was… and I'm glad I did, because from a retail point of view people on Discogs love that, when they get the original info as well. Like we said before, I've got some acetates of stuff by people like Pet Shop Boys or Depeche Mode or New Order… I'll never play them again because you can play an acetate about 20 times tops anyway. But collectors love them, so it's quite nice cos you can make someone's day, sometimes, and that's a nice feeling.”

As an aside – on that note, do you remember when you first found out one-sheets were even a thing? Because I used to read music mags from when I was about 11 years old, and I almost saw the writers as gods, I think, because they knew everything. And then when I was a bit older and started getting promos it was like, 'Hang on… they don't know this stuff at all, they get told it all on a bit of paper! It's all a big swizz!'

(laughs heartily) “Yeah, I do remember that! That was a proper eye-opener, wasn't it? Like seeing behind the curtain. But then that was a massive learning curve for me full stop, that whole time in my life, cos I'd moved down to London to work for DMC, I was only 19, and suddenly I was editing this magazine called Mixmag! So that first year was a massive learning curve all round – I honestly don't think I read a newspaper or looked at a TV for about two years.”

You also said you'd been sampling bits and pieces here and there… have you been carefully documenting where it's all come from as you go along, or are you still flying a bit under the radar in that regard?

“It depends, really. You know, if you're going to sample a full vocal and use it intact, obviously you're gonna need to clear that. But if I'm just taking a little loop and I'm going to slow it down and add three other loops to it, and it's unrecognisable… 

“I'm actually working on an album project at the moment with John Graham AKA Quivver, and there've been a couple of occasions where I've had a brilliant sample but I didn't write down where it came from, and we ended up having to not use it. But it's been good, because these days, everyone's got access to the same sample packs, the same machines, the same VSTs. So going back to the old school way of doing things, you get sounds that other people aren't using. I've collected over 1000 samples so far and I'm not finished yet, so it's fantastic to have that library of sounds to draw on.”

And now Selador as a label is returning to vinyl, so tell us a bit about that…

“Yeah. We did previously put out one vinyl release in 2017, a Robert Babicz one. But I wasn't really buying vinyl at the time and neither was Steve, so that was just a toe in the water and to be honest, we got our fingers burned a bit. They've all gone now, but for a long time we had boxes and boxes of them under our desks! So we never bothered again. But now we've got the 3D Remix EP, with tracks I've done with Danny [Howells] and Darren [Emerson] remixed by Jimpster, re:you and Ian Pooley, and that's done a bit better because we've got a bit more knowledge of how to work that market. And then there's my own remix EP which is the one we've got out now. 

“It's just knowing how to sell vinyl in the modern age, because it’s also about Discogs and Bandcamp now. We do put some out in the shops, to have a presence and to support the shops, but once the retailers’ have taken their cut it leaves virtually nothing for us. So now, about half of what we press goes into shops, which will cover our production costs, and then we keep the rest back to sell via Bandcamp and our own online store. We get a much better mark-up that way.”

But it's not every record, is it – just selected releases?

“Yeah, I don't think we could do it with every one. Just because of the logistics involved, for one thing – when there's a 12- to 16-week wait to get vinyl cut, you've got to be working so far ahead of yourself, it's just not really feasible any more. So it's a case of picking and choosing some of our bigger cuts and a few exclusives. 

“But then vinyl sales keep going up and up at the moment so in future, who knows?”

Selador was our Label Of The Month a few years back… a lot of labels we speak to for that say they're mostly digital but put out some releases on vinyl just because if makes them look/feel like a proper record label. Does that apply to Selador, or are you a bit beyond that now?

“No, I think there's an element of that – just having some physical product out there, it does give the label a bit of extra kudos, I think. But like I say, we couldn't do it with every release. I know there are vinyl-only labels out there, and fair play to them, but it's a whole different way of going about things and a whole different way of working.

“I would like to do more, though. I think the whole online community/ecosystem you have as a label now, where you find your fanbase, however big or small that may be… you can connect to people directly now, so it's nice to be able to connect to them physically as well, be it vinyl or T-shirts or whatever. For your diehard fans, that's an important connection.”

Finally, anything else iDJ readers need to know before we sign off?

“I guess the only other thing is that we have our Seladoria live events concept, which we're launching in London in September. It's a new venture for us – it's something we were working on when the pandemic hit, so September will be the first time doing it in an actual club, as opposed to doing it as a stream, and we'll be working hard over the summer getting that ready. 

“The name Selador and our logo were both inspired by the film Donnie Darko, so it's working that up into a visual concept – the idea of going down a rabbit hole into another world. Which is what clubbing was originally about for me, so we're trying to rekindle that in a way, because a lot of events these days… everyone turns up, watches the main act and leaves again. It's got more like a rock concert, so we want to get back to it being more of an interactive experience again.”

“And also I'll be cracking on with the album with Quiver. That's kind of ongoing, because we've been working on bits remotely but it's much better if you can get in the studio together and just concentrate on it heads-down for a few days. And it's only now that we can do that again, so we'll crack on and hopefully the album will come out some time early next year.”

Words: Russell Deeks

The Dave Seaman Remix EP is out now on Selador Recordings

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Tags: Dave Seaman, Selador Recordings, record collecting, vinyl, storing records, cleaning vinyl, Steve Parry, Quivver