With the logically-titled compilation, 10 Years of Phonica Records,landing recently and remaining on the office hi-fi since, we thought it might be an idea to invite someone from the eponymous and somewhat legendary London music store in for a chat about the new anniversary album, and why this particular retailer hasn’t succumbed to the same online diaspora so many similar shops have been finished off by. Obligingly, Simon Rigg, Phonica Records manager, agreed to answer our questions. This is what he has to say.
Thanks very much for your time here. We’ve been knee-deep in the Phonica compilation; what went into selecting which tracks to license for release?
Glad you like it – it has taken almost a year to compile and finish, we wanted to make it special, and have exclusive specially commissioned tracks for the compilation. So we asked friends of the shop and producers who we respected or who had a special relationship with Phonica, and we ended up with so many good tracks that we decided to do a triple LP and CD, with the third part being highlights from the Phonica label.
Ten years is a long time to be in business, especially when that business involves selling physical music. Plenty of other shops have downsized or disappeared altogether between 2003 and now, what do you think helps makes Phonica different to the point of growing in that period?
I think it’s because we all work hard in the shop, trying to get as much good music in as possible across many genres in dance music. We’ve had some great members of staff in the past such as Heidi, Hector, Anthea and now with Vangelis, Nick and all the others – it’s the staff that make the shop. The ‘retro’ feel of the shop has helped and we tried to make it less intimidating when we designed it.
When it was first opened there was already a very healthy independent record shop ‘scene’ in Phonica’s local area, Soho. What made you think another would be able to establish itself within that competitive market?
I, along with Heidi & Tom Relleen, was already running another record shop in the area and we knew that we could do it better, especially since we could design it how we wanted, stock what we wanted and call it what we wanted, thanks to financial help from The Vinyl Factory.
Do you think all record shops will need to adapt their role- for example by hosting events, setting up imprints and developing a brand beyond strictly selling products- in order to cement their place for another decade?
It’s very hard to make money just from selling physical records alone – we also sell CDs, headphones, record bags, t-shirts – this all helps to stay alive. We also have the labels and host events so we try and do a lot.
You will have sold a lot of records over the years, clearly production quality has been raised in that time technically, but do you feel the standard of music has got better at all?
Oh no, not at all, now there are a lot more mediocre records being made, but luckily most only make it to digital download. There’s a lot more effort and work with getting your track on to vinyl – so maybe it means the quality of music is better (usually) on vinyl.
Dance and electronic music work in cycles, has there been a trend over the last decade you have particularly enjoyed seeing rise to prominence?
We’ve seen things come and go in the last 10 years from electro house to minimal, disco edits, dubstep techno, ‘outsider’ house, the 90s house revival sounds… and we look forward to the next cycle.
Finally, what’s coming up for Phonica this year, other than the compilation?
The compilation will take up our time over the next couple of months with three vinyl samplers. We also have releases from Lo Shea, Luv Jam with a Prosumer remix, Lord of The Isles and a few more…
Images (C) Sarah Ginn