Berlin’s most talked-about new second hand record store is also one of its most reluctant…
There’s no sign on Recordloft’s door, it’s tucked away from Kreuzberg’s main roads, and there’s very little information about it online. And yet, everyone seems to be talking about it – in Berlin and in London. The project of a former Discogs seller, hanging out in Recordloft is like digging for records in the world’s greatest living room.
Laurent Fintoni recently wrote about the virtues of living slow (something that Berliners know more than most about), and browsing in Recordloft is just about as relaxed an experience as it’s possible to find: rather than split into sub-genres, records are piled into thousand-strong categories like “house”, “techno” and “hip-hop”, and nothing is priced. Instead, when you bring your records to the counter, the shop’s owner simply checks Discogs, and offers you them for the lowest price listed on the website (with a minimum of five euros).
There’s already a community forming around Recordloft, and as the store’s publicity-shy owner explained to FACT, it’s something he’s keen to preserve. “I want to grow it slowly,” he claims. “I don’t want to be confronted with hordes of people tomorrow, I want to keep the vibe and stay natural and not to have the pressure to all of a sudden have to professionalise, and get anonymous – I want to have a relationship with every customer.” The store will also soon be pressing its own records, but true to type, it’s doing its label a little differently: the loose plan is for records to be released in runs of around 25 and manufactured in a cutting room in the back of the store to retain that community feel.
Recordloft will feature in a forthcoming FACT TV film about record shopping in Berlin; to whet your appetite for that, here’s our interview with the store’s owner. The store also looks beautiful – check out Anoushka Seigler’s photos here.
How did Recordloft start?
Well we’re still in the process of starting, but I’ve been working with records from the ’90s or so. After being a creative freelancer, at some point I really wanted to do something more haptic, and combined with physical work. This is what people don’t realise – records are heavy, and they require physical work to take them from place to place. It requires weight, and muscle, and steel.
On the other side, at some point I was in connections with a couple of record stores – I had some business relationships with them, and it reached the point where it seemed the right time to rent a small apartment, just a 40×40 square metre place, and do some digital sales from there. All of a sudden, word was spreading…I guess Berlin in 2012 is still a place where this can happen, everywhere else in Germany record stores are closing down, but here – well, you can see it.
I didn’t think it would all happen so fast, I thought I had time – do this for a couple of years, and see how it goes – but now all of a sudden you have these A-class, Resident Advisor top 10 type DJs, like ‘yo, you, I really need this – can you get that?’. It gives you an opportunity to go to more fancy places, and visit more dark bunkers full of records – you get more and more caught up in this whole game. And now we’re here! I hope this is the end [for a while], I’d like four or five years to stuff this place, double the amount of records in it.
It sounds like you’re keen to build it organically?
Here in Berlin we still have the luxury where we are able to take our time. If I rented a place like this in another European city I wouldn’t be able to just have a record shop, I’d have to have a restaurant or bar in there to increase the turnover. I’d like to do this for six or seven more years, I want to grow it slowly. I don’t want to be confronted with hordes of people tomorrow.
I want to keep the vibe and stay natural and not to have the pressure to all of a sudden have to professionalise, and get anonymous – I want to have a relationship with every customer. I want to know everybody who comes here! Shopping for music, whether it’s first hand or second hand, is an emotional act. You really show your personality by the stuff you buy, you can’t fake it. “Who am I to judge records? I like crap as well.”
You’ve got a really interesting approach to pricing.
What I want to offer is unfiltered everything in dance music. One thing is the categories – the small categories. If you have an acid house category, and someone specifically wants acid house, and wants specific acid house records… that’s not the nature of a second hand record shop.
I want people to dig. That’s the same with prices, if you have prices attached to the records… I’ve seen it at other record stores, people either go straight to the 25 euro records or the 3 euro records. But what does price say about the quality of the music? It says nothing. It tells you what’s en vogue, or what’s hyped at the moment, or what Motor City Drum Ensemble just played on his DJ-Kicks or whatever.
We see it, the prices go up then they drop again when everyone’s bored of the record, and that’s something I don’t want to participate in. It just means that you just music by the pricing. There’s amazing music out there that’s very, very underrated – you just need to find it. And that’s what this whole place is about. I’m really obsessed by this library feeling, you go to a big library and the people that work there don’t want to sell you something – it’s more that you go there, you go through the catalogue… I just want to help people. I just want everybody happy.
I also don’t believe in this boutique thing. Of course you have stores like Redlight in Amsterdam, or Kristina in London, where the selection is very tightly monitored, but who am I to judge records? I like crap as well. I’m just a victim of the record collection of my mum!
You’re working on a cutting room at the back, too.
You see, I’m an out of the trunk guy. It would be easy to [start a label to] start releasing new records – think about it, Berlin has 20-25% of the total turnover of house and techno records in the world. If you press 500 and 120-150 are selling in Berlin, then that’s pretty obvious numbers. But me, personally, I like to dig, I like the physical part. I don’t want to become an accountant, involved in distribution and numbers with all these papers to fill. It creates a lot of paperwork, and nobody likes to do that. So we were thinking how can we get the product out, and how can it be more direct?
There are so many people, worldwide, doing interesting music that never comes out, and a dubplate cutting machine seems the perfect way to release them – cut 20, 25 or so and when they’re gone they’re gone. It fascinates me, maybe it’s all myth, but how the hip-hop dudes would sell records straight out of the truck, or 2-step and drum’n’bass white labels in London. That, to me, is the most interesting things that happen – things that just go, and where you don’t have to worry about PR and numbers and release dates. And artists hate their music after a while! Get it out, let it go and then it’s finished.