Last week I spent a few days in one of my dearest cities – Barcelona. Mixing work and pleasure I went for the sixth edition of Future Music Forum. I also managed to kick back a bit meeting some old friends, spending a day chilling Casteldefels and maybe most importantly booked a date with one of Sweden’s most iconic first movers of the electronic music scene.
Jimi Disko was pioneering the electronic scene of South Sweden throwing some of the very first raves in the early 90s and running the iconic vinyl store Cosmic One in Malmö. He moved to Barcelona some 4 years ago to launch Subwax Barcelona vinyl shop and distribution. I personally was throwing similar parties a decade later in 2000s. Now we’ve both been off the radar for a few years only to see each other getting back into the electronic scene once again during the last few years. So we decided to have a beer and chat about what has changed and what remains the same in house and techno scenes in Sweden and globally.
Alex: So Jimi, you were throwing some rave parties in the early 90s in Malmö and around. So that is where it all started?
Jimi: Yes. We started just before Bantaba (edit: 90s famous underground venue), I don’t know if you ever were there on Östra farmvägen 80? But it was more rough then, just a old abandoned industrial house.. Before the place was called Bantaba we named it The Underground Club, this was back in 1991/1992. So we threw our first real parties there.
Alex: As early as 1992? I was 11 then. So this was long before Elephantdisco, Mission and all the other Malmö “svartklubbar” (edit: Svartklubb = Swedish for a venue throwing all night parties without a permit)
Jimi: 10 years before to be precise. lol.
Alex: Ok so you were doing all this raves in 90s, I was doing mine in the 2000s. What do you think have changed in the scene since then? For better or for worse.
Jimi: One thing for sure – back them in 1992 it was all about the music. 100% music. If somebody would use any type of drugs it was considered as something very weird. Nowdays it’s more like 50% about the music and 50% about the drugs. When we started raves were all about the music and nothing else. At least the first few years.
Alex: I also feel like the scene now is much more about creating trademarks and PR. It didn’t matter as much who was actually playing at you party back in the days. But today the parties are much more focused on….
Jimi: Yes, the hype. it’s definitely much more about the hype today.
Alex: But it is what it is. Since there are so many more producers today and everyone is connected we focus, intentionally or not much more on the number of Facebook likes.
Jimi: Also, It’s much harder to get your message out through the noise today. As a DJ at least. Because that was fully acceptable back in the 90s. That people built careers and got famous on just DJing. Today it’s practically impossible. Today maybe just 1 DJ among 10,000s that can go on and make it big by just DJing without producing.
Alex: The only “just DJ” I can think of is Margarete Dygas, from what I know she hasn’t released any own tacks, but still is popular and booked DJ worldwide…..Speaking about the changes in the scene. Are you familiar with the Picnic Electronique concept here in Barcelona. This summer 2015 we had some massive success with similar Sunday summer daytime parties in Malmö. With DJs like Martinez, Sebastian Mullaert, Ena Cosovic etc. And it worked out really well. Hardly any drugs, super cozy environment with families, old-school ravers, younger generation, dads and moms, 55+ all together on the dance floor. Plus good food and really cozy environment. So this type of “lounge” daytime parties work extremely well. [Edit: I was wrong. Margarete Dygas has actually released quite a few EP lately]
Jimi: Yeah, I saw some photos. where was this?
Alex: Malmö Folkets Park. I think in some way it’s a rebirth of the old scene with more focus on the music and the community. With all the old-school ravers starting to go out in a more responsible way. For example for daytime parties.
Jimi: Sunday daytime parties do very well here in Barcelona and it sounds really cool that it works in Malmö too.
Alex: So lets talk about running the record store. When did you guys open the first Subwax in Malmö?Jimi: We opened in 1994. Originally the store was called Cosmic one. We had just one crate of vinyl and a turntable which you couldn’t even pitch up and down. It was behind the Royal movie theater. We went on running it for a very good while until 2005. Actually it was taken over by Niklas and Staffan (edit: Niklas Air Burea?) and renamed Funk Yard before it closed down completely after a few years.
Alex: So what is the general difference between your record store customers here in Barcelona 2015 and your customers back in Malmö during the last years of 2002 – 2005?
Jimi: Folks these days are really well informed. At least the DJs. They know everything about the artist, the release, the record label.
Alex: Is that solely because of the internet?
Jimi: Definitely the internet plays the most major role in this. It’s all out there now. Back in the early days, unless you had the physical record it was completely impossible to hear it or know anything at all about it.
Alex: So one would have to spend even more hours in the record store, listening through crate after crate?
Jimi: Yes exactly. Well apart from that DJ Mag was the only source of information you could use. For reviews, new releases and stuff like that. Today it’s all available in hundreds of different forms and formats on the internet. As long as you have time to spend you can find pretty much every opinion about even the most nisch releases. So that’s the big difference.
Alex: Year I remember so well how I used to by every issue of MixMag or DJ Mag as late as in 2005 and trying to note down or memorize their reviews and their description of every track before I would go to the record store. Or before looking for tracks on Beatport and Traxsource once those online stores came along.
Jimi: So the DJ Mag, etc are really more or less have played out their role as a guide to what music we buy.
Alex: Yes, thats’ probably why there are rather writing about certain star DJs drug habits today rather than the actual music….So people are far more informed these days? And your job now is probably even more about finding stuff that can’t be found on internet?
Jimi: Yes, my job is to order stuff that people really can’t find anywhere else. I really try to make the customers who come into the store every day go “Wow, what is this record? I’ve never heard of it. And it’s good!”
Alex: Is it still possible to find stuff like that?
Jimi: For sure. It’s about years of building our supply channels. Most of the time, it’s myself spending countless hours on the net finding the most unusual labels and artists.
Alex: So what makes a good record?
Jimi: It’s a good record if the customer is happy and buys it. Lol. No seriously. it’s a big mix. Some people are more about the visuals and that’s why vinyl is such a great format. For some just one great track on the vinyl is enough. Some are looking for a vinyl with all 3-4 tracks on it being top quality. On the other hand a record by a famous artist will sell for sure with people sometimes not even checking what’s on it.
Alex: Got you. But what one really wants is to find those vinyl gems not produced by Richie Hawtin or DJ Koze yet with some amazing quality music on.
Jimi: Exactly! Also we distribute mostly vinyl only records. Going vinyl only actually does sell more vinyl. The labels that also release the tracks digitally tend to sell about 50% less vinyl. It’s a choice you make.
Alex: But today, can you really press more than 300 ex of a vinyl?
Jimi: for sure, vinyl is still booming. Some labels we distribute sell easily more than 1000 ex. But there are not too many of those super-sellers though. The most usual is 200 – 300 ex.
Alex: What the next step for Subwax BCN? It took you a while to build it up here in Barcelona, but you seem to keep rolling quite well now?
Jimi: yeah, we are doing better and better. Well, primarily my job is too keep finding new quality labels to distribute. We have some 60+ labels we distribute, plus 4 labels of our own. Plus the record store of course. The coming years we will also be focusing more and more on events. Here in Barcelona but also in Berlin. To throw a good party in Berlin is actually easier than here. Also maybe a booking agency or label tours. But it also comes down to the resources and time.
Alex: So what are the three labels you really would recommend, that are doing some really cool stuff right now?
Delaphine – run by Samuel Madsen aka S.A.M. in Copenhagen. It’s in our own distribution and doing really well. They do stuff differently. For instance the upcoming release is a jazzy live jamming session with S.A.M. & Lazare Hoche. And on the flipped it has a more clubby approach. Very different release and absolutely mind-blowing.
Also Modern Obscure Music here in Barcelona – they also do some very different stuff
And finally another great vinyl label we work with, this is a brand new and the first release just came out. It’s a Italian label called Crimini Records.