Are you a record nerd? You should be opines veteran DJ and producer Yogi Haughton, who argues the importance of vinyl in this digital age
Does Anybody Know What This Is?
Feeling mischievous, I posted an image of a turntable on my Instagram page recently, asking, “Does anybody know what this is? Asking for a friend”.
If there is one DJ culture scab that you must never pick, it’s the ‘digital DJ versus the vinyl DJ’ wound – it’s a right sore ’un. I sat back and waited for the scab to bleed.
Within moments the replies came flooding in. The gloves were off, including my own. I was in my corner fighting like Anthony Joshua, bruised and battered but unlike Joshua, I was rolling with the debate’s punches. You see, despite being an avid record collector, I’ve come to terms with the fact that my big fat record collection has succumbed to the DJ scene’s lean, mean easy-to-carry digi machine.
Attempting to wax lyrical (excuse the pun) about the advantages of both the digital format and the trusted vinyl format is difficult for me because I use both and see the debate from either side. However, one format is far superior to the other format on so many levels – and that is vinyl.
Forget the whole “vinyl sounds better” argument; I defy anybody to identify the format a track is being played off. If I played ten tracks on various formats, I doubt that anybody would guess the correct format each time.
Truth told, I resisted using sticks for a long time; my natural transition from vinyl promos was initially to CDRs for gigs abroad – the vinyl promos simply stopped arriving due to the digital revolution. CDRs are round and have a sheen just like rekkids, you can touch them, this is a good thing is it not, Yogi? Mmmm, no, they are disposable bits of coated polycarbonate plastic. If it breaks, or you lose it, or someone steals it, you simply re-burn another copy – but let’s be honest, who in their right mind would steal a CDR? Finished, manufactured release CDs aside, which at least have some aesthetic value, CDRs have no financial or emotional attachment and should you should lose one... meh, not a problem.
But hang on, haven’t rekkids got a similar feel too (apart from the obvious diameter difference)? Surely if you lose one or break one, or heaven forbid, have a record stolen, it’s no biggie either? After all, it’s just a lump of polyvinyl chloride resin – a kinda plastic too, just like CDRs?
Hell no, ’cos this is where magic happens and turns plastic into gold. Unlike CDRs and intangible waveforms, humble polyvinyl chloride can become mythical and as beautiful as the most stunning human form – something to behold, something to worship, where even the weight of the stuff is important, much like the purity of gold.
“It’s a passion, a feeling and mindset that only record collectors will ever understand”
So What Makes Vinyl So Special?
Only diggers and nerds (record collectors for the benefit of digi DJs) will understand the huge loss a collector feels when a £1000 record gets cracked, scratched or stolen. It really is like losing a member of the family; you sweat, fret and lose sleep and guess what, even though there are possibly more copies of the record out there, at a price of course, it will never be your copy. The one that you saved up to buy for a year, bought as a teenager, or was gifted to you by an old mate. The copy you found while on a once in a lifetime trip to Brazil or Japan; the one your missus or fella bought you for Christmas; the one you were elated to find in a charity shop for a pound. It’s a passion, a feeling and mindset that only record collectors will ever understand.
The Real Thing
Trying to get a good collection of vinyl together is an overwhelming prospect in this ‘must-have now’ world. But, as a DJ, not owning rare disco, acid house, hip-hop, boogie, funk, soul, etc, on vinyl will exclude you from some purist promoter’s events. In some circles, vinyl simply is king and digital is emphatically not an option.
I’m sick of listening to digital DJs come up with excuse after excuse as to why having a track on vinyl doesn’t matter. For me, it’s about your level of integrity and how much work and effort you’re prepared to put in to own the real thing. With this in mind, let me put a scenario to you. In my left hand is a Prelude test pressing of a withdrawn Bill Brandon album. Folk have hunted one of the two known copies for decades, it’s full of disco and soul bangers that nobody has heard before complete with engineer’s notes, and it’s possibly worth a small mortgage. In my right hand is a stick with the same LP on it. You can have one of them, gratis, as a gift from me to you. Which one do you want?
We should also remember that unless I put that LP into the digital world, no other DJ will have it in their collection. It will give me signature tracks for my set, something especially important if you’re on the Northern soul, rare funk, jazz, disco scene. If you’re a master of your craft, who wants to be playing sommat the whole damn world can download?
The proud owner of one of the UK’s biggest collections of hip-hop, house, jazz, soul, techno/acid, boogie and funk records, Yogi Haughton has been DJing for almost 40 years. He founded Edinburgh’s Mutha Funkin’ Soulful Beats (MSFB) club and co-founded the SSW Weekender. Signed to Midnight/Black Riot Records, Yogi can be booked through phutureManagement.