Record Store Day on the 29th August is fast approaching. We’re very excited about the special releases we’ve cooked up for this celebration of record store culture. One such release is our Brazil 45 Boxset, compiled by the magnificent DJ Format. We've been toying with the idea of collaborating with a guest selector for the Brazil 45 series since its inception in 2014, but up until now the timing has never been quite right. That all changed following a recent digging trip to Brazil, where upon our return DJ Format was first into the office, full of excitement and enthusiasm (portable record player in hand), ready to bust open the boxes and see what treats we had unearthed. Straight away we knew that alongside being one of the UK's premier record collectors, producers and DJs, he had the passion and knowledge that would result in a totally unique take on a Brazil 45 collection.
He didn't disappoint - the Boxset is total fire! To get a deeper insight into how the release came about we put some questions to DJ Format and found out more about his DJing, digging, and connection with Brazilian music...
How would you describe your musical taste?
It's hard to be specific but I mostly like music from the late '60s & very early '70s. Jazz, soul, funk, latin, psychedelic rock & blues from that period seem to appeal to my ears more than anything else. I also love the sample-heavy hip hop from the late '80s & early '90s that I grew up listening to because that's what started me on my musical journey. In my quest to find cool things to sample in my own songs, I discovered so many other genres of music and kind of fell out of love with hip hop.
When you DJ, do you find yourself playing a wide-range of genres?
Yes, as wide as I can realistically get away with playing! In a nightclub environment where people are there to dance I mostly play uptempo soul, funk, latin & old school hip hop because that's the kind of 'party music' I love. When I play in small/cool bars or do mixes for online listening purposes I can get a bit more self indulgent and play music that isn't so danceable.
Which DJ’s have influenced you the most?
This answer will really show my age.....Mr Mixx, DJ Aladdin, Cash Money, Tat Money, Code Money, DJ Too Tough, DJ Magic Mike, Q-Bert, Mixmaster Mike, Cut Chemist & DJ Shadow.
Can you remember the first Brazilian record that you bought?
If I'm being honest, probably the Sergio Mendes version of Superstition, ha!
What was your entry into digging for Brazilian and Latin records?
I used to buy Mongo Santamaria records because they were easy to find cheap and so many of them had big drum breaks, but I actually avoided getting into buying Latin and Brazilain records for years because I knew it would become an expensive addiction. Most of the records I bought in the '90s were things that I found cheap in UK record shops, charity shops & car boot sales, but I also started visiting Eastern European countries at that time to make cheap and original discoveries. The truth is I never really stumbled across many Brazilian records in my early days of digging and if I did they were probably out of my price range. When things started to change with eBay, and later Discogs, it became easier to access records from all over the world, and by that time I was earning money as a DJ so it was easier to justify spending money on slightly more expensive records.
How did you meet the Mr Bongo team?
I used to visit the famous London shop to buy hip hop records in the 90's and became good friends with Huw 72 who worked there. When Mr Bongo closed down the shop and relocated the office to Brighton it was around the same time I moved from London back to Brighton myself, so it was only a matter of time before our paths crossed.
Were you aware of their 45 series?
I was aware of it, but I don't often buy reissues myself. It's (hopefully) not snobbery on my part, but the way I was schooled in looking for records (especially looking for things to sample) was to buy original pressings because ANYONE can just walk into a record shop, buy a reissue and sample it. If you wanted to be taken seriously by other hip hop producers back in the days you had to dig for your own breaks, put in some hard graft and make your own discoveries. I realise that times have changed and things are completely different, not to mention that fact that record prices have gone through the roof, but old habits die hard with me.
What period/genre of Brazilian music have you focused on for the boxset?
Mostly the late '60s & early '70s because that is exactly what I'm into. I really love the drum-heavy Tropicalia stuff that seems to somehow fuse together elements of all the genres of music I love from that period. I've included cover versions of well known soul/funk songs originally by Kool & The Gang, original Brazilian compositions that kind of imitate that style, plus there's some quite heavy psych-tinged stuff too.
Do you have any favourite Brazilian musicians/producers singers?
Well they are two of the most famous and maybe predictable choices but I have to say Gal Costa and Gilberto Gil.
Which Brazilian singer/musicians would you most like to have worked with (contemporary or from the past)?
I'm definitely not worthy! I can enjoy music as a fan without feeling any egotistical urges to work with people who make records I love.
When digging are there any key years that you look out for?
The late '60s & early '70s will always be my main focus. I had a funny situation when Dave (Mr Bongo head honcho) was pulling out various recommendations for me when he'd just returned from a digging trip to Brazil and I was handing him some of the records straight back saying "nope, this one is too late for my tastes". He looked at me bemused like I was surely making a mistake but after a while he seemed genuinely impressed that I was able to identify a record's approximate age just from the cover design. I assumed that any serious digger/collector would have that same sixth sense but Dave seemed to think mine was particularly strong. I do of course make big mistakes and misjudgements occasionally and probably pass up great records, ha!
Whilst digging what are the key attributes of a record you look for?
I always check the album sleeve-notes for any info....the year, the record label, do I recognise any of the musicians names, what instruments were used on the album. For example, if there's no drums/drummer then that's obviously not a good sign. If there's a flute player on a rock record that's probably a sign it's not just straight up rock, it's more likely to be jazz-tinged. Those are the things I look for but sometimes just the cover artwork alone can be enough to convince me to buy an album if I'm not able to listen and it's cheap enough to take a punt.
When entering a record shop, which section do you head to first?
Hmmm....it actually depends what sections the shop has. Nowadays I would probably head to the jazz section first, but if there was a psych section I would head straight to that. It sounds really nerdy, but there are so many factors in even deciding what section to look in first haha!
What are your favourite record shops - local / global / online?
I'm lucky to have Rarekind Records here in Brighton, plus Mr Thing has a great little shop down the road in Hastings. In London I always head straight to Eldica and there's a few other key shops in cities around Europe like Superfly Records in Paris, Pure Soul in Hamburg, 16 Tons in Zurich. Just thinking about all these record shops makes me realise how much I've missed digging since all this lockdown nonsense was forced on us.
Do you enjoy digging with friends or is it a solo mission?
I do enjoy digging with like-minded friends because there's a nice social aspect to that, plus you can pull out recommendations for each other. But in all honesty I prefer to dig alone so I can totally get 'in the zone' and play through endless piles of records without interruption. That's the best way to make exciting new discoveries and that's what got me hooked on digging for old records in the first place.
Many thanks to DJ Format for the incredible Boxset and for giving us his time for this feature. This special limited Record Store Day 5 x 45s collection will be available in all participating record stores on August 29th.
PLUS - Make sure you check DJ Format's mix for Mr Bongo - live-streamed in partnership with United We Stream. Recorded in August 2020 live from Patterns, Brighton.