Considered one of Italy’s most exciting selectors, Paquita Gordon is slowly but surely making waves outside her home country. She has seen her stock rise in most part due to her fabled, genre-spanning odyssey-like sets at Terraforma, where each year her adventurous selections and carefree persona are a perfect match for the festival’s open-minded crowd. She describes the vinyl format as her “safe zone”, both in a club and home setting. Alongside a vinyl-only mix chronicling nine years living and digging at UK record stores, Gordon opens up about a life spent collecting records, the magic of Terraforma and why the physical format is her “safe zone”.
DJs and producers often mention their musical education came through their family’s record collection. Was this the case for you? Can you pick out any pivotal records from your upbringing that informed your musical journey?
There are no specific records which influenced me in the youth, a part from the fact I wanted to watch ‘The Blues Brothers’ everyday! I guess everything comes from experience, family and especially travels around the world with my parents, probably opening my ears towards a multicultural interest of sound.
I grew up surrounded by CDs and cassettes. Aurelio, my farher, has been working in the industry for over thirty years: firstly he managed his own label ‘Come il Vento’ producing artists as Mia Martini, Dario Baldanbenbo and the great Mauro Malavasi, releasing hits such as disco anthem ‘Hypnotic Tango’ by My Mine. At the end of the 80s he left the discographic world to approach the upcoming system of private radios where he worked and contributed to the mostly spread FM Italian stations: Radio 105, Radio Montecarlo, Virgin Radio.
When I was a kid every week he brought home a box full of tapes and CDs promo copies of every genre. It was just like having a birthday a week: I dug into the crates, brought a selection to my room and record with my stereo compilations on virgin cassettes.
My mother’s family is also crucial into the making of my musical taste as my uncle Dado Ulrich is considered by director Riccardo Muti one of the greatest Opera experts alive. When I was three he used to hold me in his arms and ‘dance’ Waltzer together. Music constantly plays in his life and he has an entire wall of CDs in alphabetical order, including an almost complete collection of Classical Music. My mum passed my Bossa Nova and Soul records which I keep as a treasure.
People buy records for a multiple of reasons. What first drew you to collecting records and what motivates you to continue digging after all these years?
I approached the art of DJing through digital formats while I was living in London in 2007. After a couple of years my friend, record collector and music producer EMG (also founder with his brother John Swing of LiveJam Records and Relative Records) convinced me to make an experiment and play a vinyl-only set; so we went to Vinyl Junkies in Soho, bought a bunch of House and Deep House records and since that moment I never got back to digital again.
I keep on collecting and playing records because I feel a force within that guides me to dig and spread frequencies in a collective point of view, diffusing sound of people. Furthermore, I feel like vinyl gives me the chance to work with a technology that moves and transforms physical elements in a way that is not possible through digitally produced and released music. Vibrations coming from different origins.
Where do you store your records and how do you file them?
At the moment my records are all stored at the Plancton Studio in Milan which I share with friend and analog photographer Margherita Chiarva and that’s where I also
live. They are divided into genres or macro genres like World, Jazz, House, Techno, Dnb, Disco-Funk, Experimental, Electronic Dub, etc.
What are your favourite spots to go digging and why?
My favourite spots to dig are with no doubt in England because, I guess, I belong to a type of music culture with no ethnic or genres barriers which in Europe is peculiar to the UK for obvious historical reasons. I love to go to different shops depending on which sound research I’m going through at the moment. I’ve been a lot in London and recently visited Bristol and Brighton.
Digging isn’t just about the records you find, but the people who help you find them. Who are some of the colourful characters you’ve met on your travels in record stores round the world? Any unsung heroes you’d like to shout out?
Is not just about some heroes, but the heroic community and each dig a a new encounter and a new human experience a new piece of the puzzle.
Is there a record (or records), that has continued to be illusive over the years?
The album ‘G-Spot’ by Speedy J, found in a little shop in Kreuzberg Berlin around 2010 keeps on revealing new aspects of sound at each new phase of my DJ evolution.
I rarely get bored by any record I buy, but there always is a long-length relationship and trust; if not now, there will surely be a right moment to play it.
Do you prefer record shopping as a solitary process or with friends to nerd out with and search for strange sounds together? If the latter, who do you like to go digging with?
I normally like to search for records by myself or maximum two people. The best is when you go home and finally listen to the finds of the day.
Walking into a record shop can be quite a daunting experience. Do you have a digging process that helps you hone in on what you’re after?
I mostly buy second hand and have no particular process, but check as many unknown records as possible. Decades can be an influential factor as, for example I have preferences for the 90s or the 70s.
How big a role does album artwork play in your digging?
An artwork plays a fundamental role. As a DJ artworks are important especially regarding memory and the way, for example, my brain decides which is the next record to play in a set, revealing an image and mood which strictly relates to sound content pressed on that vinyl. Words, titles, names and concepts play another important role, going back to your question, in the way it first attracts my attention while I’m digging.
Could you tell us a bit about the mix you’ve done for us?
I lived in England for almost seven years and kept visiting also once moved back to Italy. As said, this is my main area of research; London is my digging territory and I’m discovering the rest of the UK shops little by little. This podcast reveals a journey since 2010 till today about my research through some crucial shops, mixed in chronological as a little tribute to the UK way of dealing with records.
So we start in London with Three Chairs, Alton Miller and Ralph Thomas bought in Vinyl Junkies in the beginning of my personal digging journey. Then we have some Soul Jazz Records from Sounds of the Universe with Lola, Omar-S, Freddie & Sound Dimension and King Tubby Jamaican Dubs. ‘Chet Baker Sings’ was an amazing deal for only fifteen pounds in a small shop behind Tottenham Court Road and Harry Edison comes from Reckless Records.
We chronologically end up in 2011 when a friend living in the area introduced me to Eldica Records in Dalston (Dandy, Tropical Combo). This brought to the random discovery of Lucky Seven shop in Stoke Newington (Ashley Slater and Lionrock); when looking for latest releases to Kristina Records (Ill Considered, Shabaka and the Ancestors) and Love Vinyl for various types
of grooves (Phat, Mr Finger’s rmx).
Tunnidge and Maximum Joys are digs from Idle Hands in Bristol when I played last September for PLU. Herbie Mann and last track by Thelonious Monk are part of a long day digging in Brighton last december at Across the Tracks Records. Gaia Tones #2 is a present from a good friend based in South London that usually feeds me with his latests pressings.
The mix was recorded in my studio with two Technics 1210 turntables, two Shure needles and an Ecler Nuo3 mixer.
Casting the net wider now, who are some of the record collectors you most admire and why?
I get blown away every time I listen to a set by Jonny Rock. I heard he has an incredible records collection.
And are there any young collectors emerging who we should keep a close eye on?
Regarding the youngest DJs and selectors, there is a whole world of talents who, as a generation, made a good use of the internet as a tool to absorb music-information, so they all look amazingly acknowledged to me. Only nine years ago you couldn’t find much music uploaded online on platforms like YouTube as today or there was no such thing as Spotify. I the exchange with both younger and older generations inspiring. There is something to learn everywhere.
You seem committed to spinning only vinyl when you DJ. What is it about the format you find so appealing? Do you ever feel restricted by promoters not ensuring the booth is treated well enough for vinyl?
Vinyls and turntables are the unique instruments I use. It’s my safe zone; it helps me to better select music and to promote aspects that I truly support. Unfortunately many clubs don’t provide comfortable set ups for vinyls, that’s why I need to be very careful with my technical rider.
You are famed for your genre spanning sets at Terraforma. In your eyes what makes the festival so special?
Terraforma is an independent project with no compromises. I love brave people never giving up. That’s what makes it special to me, as a dream coming true.
Donato Dozzy, Nuel, Nu Guinea and Lory D are helping put Italy on the map for electronic music. Are there any other artists from your country whose music may have gone under the radar, who you feel deserve our wider attention?
You names some amazing musicians and DJs. I would also mention Filippo Zenna, 291Out, Key Clef, Tommaso Cappellato, Gianluca Petrella, Claudio Fabrianesi, EMG, John Swing, Rawmance, The Analogue Cops, Riccardo Schiró, Gigi Masin, Massimo Amato and actually the list would be much longer. An unbelievable amount of talent in this country, we would just need better clubs and structures.
When you are not collecting and spinning records, what other things inspire you?
I spend as much time as I can with my family and the people I love. I travel and get closer to nature, in particular by the sea where I scuba dive and explore.
Finally what’s coming up on your horizon that’s getting you excited?
My next two exciting gigs are in Basel at Elysia with the Giegling crew on 26 January and Corsica Studios in London on 8 February for a Nachtdigital Festival showcase.
1) Three Chairs – Good Kiss (Sound Signature)
2) Alton Miller – Light Years Away (Mixed Signal Music)
3) Ralph Thomas – Big Spliff (BMI) (Comp. Soul Jazz Records)
4) Lola – Wax The Van (Comp. Soul Jazz Records)
5) Omar S – Set It Out (FXHE Records)
6) Freddie & Sound Dimension – How could you version (Studio One) (Comp. Soul Jazz Records)
7) King Tubby – East Of (Arrows Hi-Fi) (Jamaican Recordings)
8) Chet Baker – Time After Time (Pacific Jazz)
9) Harry Edison – Blues For Piney Brown (Verve)
10) Dandy – First Note (Downtown)
11) The Tropical Combo – Tropical Theme (Aldente)
12) Ashley Slater – Private Dubshine (Afro Art Records)
13) Lionkock – The Guide (version) (Deconstruction)
14) Ill Considered – Unwritten Rules (Ill Considered Music)
15) Shabaka and The Ancestors – OBS (Brownswood Recordings)
16) Phat – Taiso (Blue Note)
17) Gerd – Palm Leaves (Mr Fingers AfroPsychojungledub/mix) (Royal Oak)
18) Tunnidge – Higher Forces (Boka Records)
19) Maximum Joy – Building Bridges / Building Dub (Silent Street Records, Originally Realised on Y Records)
20) Herbe Mann With Machito And His Afro Cuban Jazz Ensemble – Love Chart (Roulette Records)
21) Unknown Artist – Gaiatones #2 ying (not on label)
22) Thelonious Monk – I Surrender Dear (Columbia)
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