Off The Record: BM Soho
It’s a sunny and surprisingly warm day in London as I stroll down the streets of Soho, a mecca for all things vinyl, in search of a man named Goldie. Goldie runs the oldest underground dance music record store in the country, and one of the most well known record shops in the world – BM Soho, formerly Blackmarket Records. His former partner/founding member DnB DJ/producer Nicky Blackmarket left the store a few years ago but Goldie continues to keep its sonic spirit alive, stacking his shelves with vinyls from around the world in hues of DnB, house, minimal, electro, techno, UK urban underground styles like garage, breakstep, dubstep and more. Walking into the little box of a store I’m greeted by the musty homey scent of vinyl, and the sight of Goldie chatting with his customers about the latest releases – offering his recommendations, comparing notes. He proceeds to sit down with me for an equally interesting chat.
Nirupama: Goldie tell me about when the store first opened up?
Goldie: The shop opened in 1988 – so we are the longest running independent dance music record store in the UK, and that was around the start of rave music, house (in the earliest stages). We continued on it, selling Drum n Bass, but a unique UK kind of genre of music – and that sort of transformed from early rave stuff and DnB – we’re one of the best known shops for DnB. I was a manager of the shop for about ten years, and then about five-ten years after that I bought the shop. So it’s been a long time! 25 years!
Nirupama: That’s a lifetime!
Goldie: Exactly! We try to be a cutting edge sort of shop – all the stuff that’s in here, it’s all relatively new.
Nirupama: Tell me a bit more about your founding partner Nicky Blackmarket?
Goldie: Nicky! [smiles fondly] He was one of the biggest Drum n Bass DJs in the UK, he was my partner up until about 6 years ago – then he got his own family, moved out of town, so he wasn’t here very often. But he’s still involved – comes and does stuff in the shop, on Record Store Day we have a sound system outside, and the whole street becomes on massive club, it’s good fun.
Nirupama: Tell me about the selection process – how you decide what gets on the shelves and what doesn’t?
Goldie: We get our records from all over the world, the other places that sell a lot of vinyl are Germany, America not so much but we do get a bit from there – it’s quite tough since vinyls went more underground and tend to be very limited, but it’s coming from all corners of the world now. It’s not like digital, because there’s so much out there on digital, with vinyl it’s an actual process of filtering out – not the rubbish per say, but filtering out stuff – so with vinyl, by the time you do the ordering and buying, you know you have stuff that’s already been filtered in some way.
Nirupama: Tell me about the record shop culture that goes along with discovering music in this environment and context – and how you see that being impacted by the shift to digital?
Goldie: Well that’s the thing about the shop, one thing you don’t get online is this one to one people recommended stuff – try this, listen to that – and with the decks we’ve got in the shop, you can listen to the whole thing rather than little samples. It’s been quite hard moving, you know we used to turn over millions when there was no digital. Vinyl is a very niche market now, but it’s still something we believe in, in the format – it’s a physical thing, you can hold it, you can collect it, you can smell it, there’s often great artwork that goes along with it – it’s not disposable like a file on your phone or something, which can just go away like that.
Nirupama: How have you ensured survival in the market for so long, as a vinyl only store?
Goldie: A lot of dance music is about technology and using your equipment, we believe in vinyl, and you know it’s picking up now – it’s not going to go back to what it was – but there’s a revival. But we do sell DJ equipment now too – so you have to be doing other things, you can’t just be selling vinyl.
Nirupama: Can I get a few reccos – what’s hot on the shelves here now?
Seven Davis Jr, this guy [proceeds to pull out the vinyl] – there’s this DnB label called XL that we do really well with – a lot of this UK bass driven stuff is hot, techno’s coming back in, and a lot of this early 90’s American sounding garage stuff that’s got a 2014 twist. It’s funny how these genres and styles just keep going round and round, it draws people back into it.
Nirupama: It’s cyclical
Goldie: Exactly! And anything Detroit-y, is coming back. So younger people who missed it the first time round, are getting it now. There’s this artist called Mr Fingers who’s awesome. There’s lots of stuff getting reissued again.
Nirupama: In your vision – what do you see for the future of vinyl?
Goldie: Record shops they have changed – think there’s only about 200 in the UK now – but they’re not going to die away. We went through a period about 2 years ago, recession, and a lot of the big ones shut down – even HMV shut down. People used to come to record shops to socialise, talk about music, and then that went away when people started using online shops. But they still miss it! Because the vibe’s really good – that’s never going to go from a record shop.
I also don’t think the format’s ever going to die, it’s just such a nice format, it sounds so nice – compared to digital stuff that sounds compressed and tinny – with vinyl there’s a warmth to it, and as long as people still like that, shops are going to be there. It’s not been easy, but the future looks bright – you don’t want to predict how it’s going to be, but it’s certainly better than how it was a few years ago.
Nirupama: That’s good to hear – and that you’ve found your life’s calling.
Goldie: You know sometimes your love of music, it’s an attachment, you don’t realise till you’ve listened to stuff for forty years and been involved with music for so long, you realise it’s like a lifetime, a part of you, a part of your make up. We get a lot of people in here, often people who aren’t well maybe in the head – but when they come here and listen to music, it’s therapeutic, it makes you happier. Some people have that, and to other people music’s not so important in their life – but usually people who tend to run record shops it tends to be that important! [laughs]
For more on Goldie and BM Soho visit www.bm-soho.com/
Photo Credits: Nirupama Belliappa