This is something that I was really flattered to be involved in. DIG is a CD-sized magazine. Twenty-Four pages focussed on music. Hard copy describing obscurities – to me at least – across genres, that have one thing in common. The Funk. Proof that breaks can be found in the most unlikely of places.
Given no remit, I submitted around five hundred words on Yoko Ono`s Fly (please see below), and then had my mind blown when I saw the proofs. Since my fellow contributors made up a Who`s Who of UK Hip Hop. Celebrated beat makers, ex-DMC champions, graphic designers, label founders, musical archeologists, performers, producers, promoters, store owners, and vinyl vultures. Each sharing not only their discoveries, but also the stories behind them.
Treasure from car boot sales, charity shops, flea markets, and emporiums now sadly consigned to legend. Deep Soul 7s, privately-pressed Jazz, Reggae 45s, and all-time favourites.
With Issue 1 currently sold out, I asked the man responsible, Martin Lovegrove, for a bit of background on himself, and DIG.
When and why did you start digging for records?
Ever since Hip Hop exploded onto the UK back in the 1980s I`ve been obsessed with music. That genre in particular and almost exclusively, up until the Acid Jazz scene blew up and shifted my tastes. I guess it was a logical step from Hip Hop to Jazz anyway. But I’d say I didn’t really start to “dig” for stuff until the early 2000’s, as a result of a new turntable – I hadn’t had one for years – plus spending lots of time on internet forums such as Vinyl Vulture, which were highlighting the delightful discoveries you can come across in charity shops.
Are you still digging for records? If so, what sort of things are you looking for?
Absolutely, apart from illustrating, it’s my favourite way to spend time. As a father of two it’s hard to find time to do it in the real world rather than online, but whenever the opportunity presents itself I will hit the chazzas or car boots for a bit of a dig around. My tastes tend to lean towards the Soul / Jazz / Funk / Disco genres as these are generally easy to find, but my history is in Hip Hop so that always interests me. As well as Soundtracks, AOR, Drum and Bass… er… it’s pretty much anything apart from Country, but I’m sure in time I’ll include that as well!
Can you give me one new record and one old record that you are currently into?
I’ve bought so many great new bits recently that’s a tough one! I really like the second LP by Young Gun Silver Fox. It`s a project consisting of Shawn Lee and Andy Platts – from Mama’s Gun, combining their love for the West Coast AOR sound. Their first LP is great, but the follow-up, AM Waves, has a slightly funkier edge to it, with the introduction of some killer horns. They’ve nailed the sound.
Whilst out with the family a couple of months back, we spent the day at the Piece Hall in Halifax, and there just happened to be a record shop there, so I had a quite flick through their cheapies and found a copy of Kenny Loggins’ first LP Celebrate Me Home, for a couple of quid. I only have one other LP by Kenny, but when Bob James is involved in the production it’s always worth a punt. For me there’s a couple of nice tracks on here but I’ve Got The Melody (Deep In My Heart) with Patti Austin, is such a incredible stomper. Why it wasn’t a single is beyond me. My wife thinks he sounds a bit like George Michael on it, and I tend to agree!
What made you start DIG Magazine? What`s the idea behind it?
It was a combination of things really. First and foremost I really miss buying physical mags that feature music that I have an interest in. Many of the greats no longer exist since the internet took over – although Straight no Chaser has made a much needed return, and those that are still around are either swamped with advertising and / or have a tiny portion of content I’m actually interested in.
I always liked the “DJ Top Ten” lists that would feature in these publications. A mix of names you could trust with others you’d never heard of, suggesting a bunch of releases that had just come out, or annoyingly sometimes would never come out – as they were lucky enough to get a white label.
Over the years, and really before social media really changed the game online, I used to take part in CD swaps affiliated with various forums. The way it worked was simple. You sign up to take part, and let’s say there are fifty of you involved. You then make a pre-determined themed mix, and burn fifty copies onto CD – with sleeve art, etc. – and post off to a single address (the host of the swap). Once all the contributors sent in their mixes, the host would divide them all up and post back to you a package full of fifty different mixes.
This was the closest thing I had to being a DJ. I’ve never DJ’d in my life and these mixes were a great way to do something more with your music. Like most people who value buying physical music, reading the liner notes is part of the experience, and being able to sometime compliment these mix CDs with some words was also appealing. So I definitely wanted there to be an audio element to compliment DIG.
Last year I discovered the popularity of the Love Injection fanzine, and to be honest it really surprised me that there was so much love for print out there. This was definitely a light-bulb moment, and then also the growing popularity of YouTube Vinyl Haul videos also played a part in the mix.
Have you been involved in writing for, or producing, magazines and fanzines in the past?
Graffiti fanzines were quite popular in the UK towards the late 80s, so a friend and I started one whilst at school / college. Representing the scene from our area – The Midlands – and called A.O.S. (Art Of Survival). We eventually expanded to national and international content. A.O.S. fizzled out after a couple of years, but I got the hunger for it again in the mid-90’s and collaborated with another friend for a fanzine called Chaff, which was more comedy-focussed. This morphed into a website called chaffonline which gathered quite a lot of media interest, as there wasn’t really anyone else doing the sort of content we were. The features and games were what you’d expect from the likes of Charlie Brooker. In fact, as this was 1999, his TV Go Home was a massive influence for us. After a while life dictated that Chaff couldn’t be maintained the way it deserved so we made the decision to pull the plug.
We “got the band back together” and recruited a third member last year to work on another fanzine called OTO, which was a spoof music magazine. This didn’t really go above the radar, but was very well received by those that grabbed one. I’m unsure at the moment if there will be any more, especially since the success of DIG.
How did you find the contributors for Issue 1?
A variety of ways really. Some I knew from the old forum days – Sie Vulture was co-creator and Blaxploitation Ed was a big part of the Vinyl Vulture forum, some I have collaborated with before – Mr. Krum worked me on my ‘Record Finder’ T-Shirt, some I have struck friendships up with via social media – Chris Gibbs, susanslegpolicy, some, like DJ Format, have helped support me while I was running my ‘Style Warrior’ project, some, such as Tom from Resolution 88, have supported my Digging 4 Victory mixcloud show, and others I simply reached out to for the first time and convinced them to give it a go – people like yourself, Barry Beats, Albin from Boogie80, Mr. Thing and DJ Food. Networking basically!
Where can folks pick up a copy of DIG?
Currently the only place you can buy it is www.digmag.co.uk, although I had no idea how popular it was going to be. I honestly expected to struggle to sell a hundred copies and perhaps thought I’d end up giving them away with T-shirts… but after the day it went live I sold out overnight. I quickly had another two hundred printed and they’ve all gone too – with the exception of a few spares. So officially we are sold out of Issue 1 currently. Once the dust has settled I will make the last few copies for sale – I have about twenty. Mike over at Rap And Soul Mail Order had some off me so you may see some over there soon.
If it proves to be something that people would like to read on the regular, I’d like to somehow get it into some physical stores. Perhaps even partnering up for some “store / label-specific” issues too.
How often do you plan to publish?
At the moment I’m thinking quarterly, so I’m looking at October for the next one.
Is Issue 2 ready to go?
I haven’t even started it! I’ve had a lot of interest for people to contribute to it, and I’d like to also mention that anyone can get involved. I want the mix of contributors to cover all types of diggers out there, not just influencers, but also people that just collect for their own pleasure. If any of your readers would like to contribute, they can simply contact me through the site.
Martin`s put together a mix, where you can listen to the selections from DIG Issue 1.
And here`s my piece on Yoko Ono…..
I have a few Yoko Ono records. The B-sides to John Lennon 45s. The fragile Folk of Remember Love on the flip of Give Peace A Chance. Who Has Seen The Wind? backing Instant Karma. The veteran of Dada and Fluxus happenings wailing away. The mean might say, tunelessly. Sometimes sounding like a police-siren, if it were to have a fit. Yoko`s Walking On Thin Ice is a Disco-Not-Disco classic. I figured that was the exception that proves the rule. But when a friend (130107`s Dave Howell) recommended Yoko`s solo long-player, Fly, I was thrown by Midsummer New York`s Fab Four meets Bolan Boogie. Enough to invest in a copy of the reissued album. Only for it to turn out to be, a perhaps predictably, challenging listen.
Sparse percussion, random strings, and shaman shouts. All creaking and croaking. Trapped in echo. Dub experiments, like Lee Perry without the bass, and at least one “petrol & blackcurrant” over the eight. Tabla mantras. Reich-ian Minimalism mixed with Indonesian Kecak. Musique concrete of phones ringing, and toilets flushing. The titular Fly, twenty-two minutes of unaccompanied, wordless, voice. Ono as high-pitched as a whistling kettle. Yelps, barks. Chirrups and coughs. I have to admit that, three minutes in, it had me laughing out loud (thank you Yoko for that gift). Then five minutes in, had me wondering what noises she`d make in bed. Illustrating its primal power. Even more sexually-charged is the once-banned Funk of Hirake (AKA Open Your Box).
Determined to give the “set” a fair chance, I burnt the accompanying downloads to a CD and played the whole thing one morning on the school run. While my sons sat – initially – in stunned silence. I explained that Yoko was John Lennon`s wife. Described the shock that the record must have been to Beatles fans. How I thought that Lennon had deliberately made unlistenable albums. So that people would leave him alone (after the “bigger than Jesus” furore). I also told the boys how the CIA / FBI / Special Forces will use music to break down hostage situations. To crack sieges. Bombarding Opera loving El Chapo with Death Metal. Tragically driving David Koresh further round the bend with Tibetan chants, and Andy Williams.
For a couple of years we`ve had difficulty getting my youngest to go to school, and while the boys screamed at me to make it stop, I wondered out loud if we could use Yoko Ono to drive him out of the house, out of the car, and through those gates of learning.
Psychedelic, but too heavy to be taken with LSD. The faint-hearted should restrict their trip to the way-groovy fifteen minutes of Mind Train.