A two-hour Arthur Russell tribute mix.
When did you first hear Arthur Russell? Was it "Is It All Over My Face" at the Paradise Garage? Did you catch up when Soul Jazz released its retrospective, The World Of Arthur Russell? Were you entranced by the sad, beautiful songs—"That's Us/Wild Combination" or "You Can Make Me Feel Bad"—from Calling Out Of Context? His singular voice resonates over a diffuse catalogue of mutant disco tracks, folk songs, modern composition and odd lullabies for voice and cello.
Nick The Record (Nick Girdwood) caught onto the magic of Arthur Russell early, but if you know anything about the Brighton resident, you might expect that. Girdwood cut his teeth DJing free parties outside London in the early '90s before bringing that outlaw energy to Lifeforce, the first outdoor dance music party in Japan. He'd go on to play Lifeforce every three months for nearly two decades, while simultaneously becoming one of the UK's go-to dealers of rare soul, disco and dance music.
On a digging trip to the US in the mid-'90s, he stumbled on Russell's World Of Echo at a warehouse in the deep South. He quickly bought the remaining stock, and his resultant obsession with Russell's lesser-known, understated material eventually led him to New York City, where he purchased unreleased acetates and tapes from Russell's long-term boyfriend Tom Lee. Earlier this year, London reissue label Be With Records secured the rights for a deluxe version of Event Horizon by The Necessaries, a band Russell played with in the early '80s. To mark the occasion, they asked Nick The Record to pull together an Arthur Russell mix, which we're pleased to present here. The two-hour set serves as an extensive primer for the uninitiated, but it will also delight hardcore fans—it's chock full of unreleased versions and previously unknown material from the artist David Mancuso once described as "Dylan and Coltrane rolled into one."
What have you been up to recently?
I've had a really fun summer with DJ gigs most weekends, probably my busiest year yet for gigs. A highlight was going to Montenegro for Southern Soul Festival and then taking a spectacular drive up to Tisno for Love International and spinning on the final boat party of the festival. There were dolphins, a perfectly timed sunset record and of course a lovely bunch of people. Also TAICOCLUB festival in Japan, where I am lucky enough to play the closing set every year in the mountains of Nagano. Release-wise, an edit 12-inch of mine just came out on Gamm as well as a re-edit of Tabu Le's "Hafi Deo" on Soundway made with my man Dan Tyler from Idjut Boys.
How and where was the mix recorded?
At home on 1210s, one CDJ and my OG Bozak.
Arthur Russell is the only artist with a dedicated category at your online record shop, DJFriendly. What makes his music so special?
Well it's certainly unique and also covers several styles, from disco to pop to modern classical. Perhaps my favourite is the stuff with just him jamming with his cello, voice and effects, like the whole of the World Of Echo LP. In the mid-'90s I was making buying trips to the US searching for soul and jazz, but in particular disco. I was into all Arthur's disco stuff but hadn't heard the other stuff. In a warehouse in the deep South I found a copy of World Of Echo, which I fell in love with when I got home and played it. I took home a catalogue from this warehouse and the LP was listed in there, so I got in touch asking how many copies they had, it was probably by fax (it was before e-mail) and they got back saying they had 225 copies. I took a deep breath and said, "I'll buy them all."
I knew it would take a long time but I believed in the record and I was evangelical about it to my customers. They all sold eventually. So in my own small way I like to think I have helped Arthur's music get the recognition it deserves, which I think is why I was asked to provide this mix to coincide with the release of The Necessaries reissue on Be With Records
Some rare, unreleased Arthur Russell recordings made their way into the mix. What can you tell us about them?
In the late '90s I recorded for David Hill’s Nuphonic records. He was also really into Arthur's music and was working on putting together a compilation for the label. He was in touch with Tom Lee, Arthur's long-term boyfriend who had unreleased acetates and tapes of Arthur's stuff. I bought some of these from David and I also got some when I went to visit Tom in New York. He also had ten to 20 copies of most of Arthur's releases on vinyl, which is why David put me in touch to go and buy them from him. He was absolutely gobsmacked when I told him how much I was going to pay him for the records. He was used to Arthur's music never really selling that well, so when I offered him a couple of thousand dollars for a couple of hundred records he couldn't believe it. When I told him the amount he even asked me what currency, as he was so surprised and touched.
What are you up to next?
I have an edit label with Dan Tyler called Record Mission, with any luck the fourth release will be out by the end of the year. I also just finished a remix of Andromeda Orchestra's "Get Up & Dance." I also run a regular party called Tangent with John Gomez. The next one is at The Pickle Factory on November 17th.