Six Years of Phonica

London's best stocked record store of electronic and dance music reach their sixth birthday

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Phonica on London's Poland Street, Soho is still holding the unrefuted title to the best collection of vinyl in their favourite genres, spanning electronic and dance music from techno to house, electronica to disco, and minimal to dubstep. Also a label and respected brand worldwide, they focus on vinyl records with a new vinyl-only release series, The White Label. Running monthly clubnights and also partnering with Get Physical last week at Cable, they'll be celebrating their sixth birthday at T Bar next weekend with sets from Lauhaus, David Labeij and a special guest amongst their own DJs Ben Skull Juice, Hector, The Vangelis, and Anthea. Dazed spoke to founder and manager Simon Rigg who'll also be playing on the night about the affect of mp3s and the internet on the record store...

Dazed Digital: How did Phonica come about?

Simon Rigg: Well it was in 2003, I was running another record store on Berwick Street and these two guys who run The Vinyl Factory, a group of companies who own part of the old EMI pressing plants and FACT Magazine approached me to start a record store. It would be a blank canvas as it used to be an old car showroom and it was an amazing space; big for a record shop and we could design it how we wanted, call it what we wanted- Tom Relleen and Heidi were working in the other shop- so we left together and took maybe three or four other staff. It was very quiet at first but we found our niche and eventually the other shop closed down. I think it was because we were selling that new German sound and where the late 90s were all about UK, American, French house, we were the only ones importing all this exciting stuff from Germany, which developed into electro house, minimal etc.

DD: Were you always so interested in music?
Simon Rigg: Yeah, always. Used to work in Virgin Megastore. But the last few years have been very hard for record stores...

DD: Yeah, how did the 'mp3 / digital culture' affect you? You also sell online now anyway?
Simon Rigg: It's definitely taken a downturn, like 30 per cent down in vinyl and we're selling more CDs in the shop now, though the main vinyl market is still there. The people who we've lost are those who buy one or two records, but the people who like house and techno and electronic music, a lot of this music from Chicago, Detroit, Berlin, it isn't on download. There's like 500 copies on vinyl and that's it now, so we get the DJs and avid collectors in here week after week.

DD: Are there any other stores now that match your styles, or is still a niche you cover?
Smon Rigg: Shops like Rough Trade will sell and cover some of it but they're not as wide ranging in those genres, just the main releases or the UK ones, not imports. Sounds of the Universe is a great shop but it's more reggae, hip-hop, dubstep- they do really well in dubstep.

DD: So one of the founding assistants Heidi has re-located to Berlin, and you sell mostly imports, do you see Phonica as a British label or does it exist more internationally?
Simon Rigg: The whole thing is international now, because of the internet and just the way through blogs and everything, so as soon as people can hear a record, in a day, everybody knows about it. There aren't that many shops selling records anymore, but when people are in town they just go to Phonica.

DD: Why did you choose T Bar as the venue for your sixth birthday?
Simon Rigg: We do a monthly there anyway; every second saturday, for nearly four years now with the old T Bar and now the new one. It's always busy, I think we have the busiest night there actually.

DD: What lies in store for the future?
Simon Rigg: We might be doing some bigger parties, we also do the Big Chill bar every month, it varies- we also play in Barcelona every three months, I'd like to do Berlin again, but the main thing is the label in the last year. We've just done our third release, the first one was by Hector, the second by Anthea which had a Revenge remix, the latest one was Matt Tolfrey and Ramirez with the Lauhaus remix, which was a best seller on Beatport. We're also doing a White Label series which is a vinyl only series, this new one by Iori's like deep Japanese techno and that's already sold out and the feedback has been really good. A little more techno, a little more underground.

DD: What are your favourite three releases now?
Simon Rigg: Our one! That Iori record, I've listened to it hundreds of times and I'm never bored of it- we get sent stuff all the time but this was really great. Joy Orbison's 'Hyph Mngo' which was one of our best selling records of the year, and my favourite for the dancefloor is the new Horacio which is like 90s house- nothing new but it just sounds great.
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