Exclusive interview with elite crate diggers, DJ Shadow and Egon

WRITER
Hashim Kotaro Bharoocha

Known for his impeccable collection of rare funk, soul, psychedelic rock, and world music vinyl, Rappcats / Now Again head honcho Egon has been doing a series of pop-up record stores in Los Angeles called Rappcats. He recently he did one with DJ Shadow, who is respected as one of the top record collectors in the world. They were gracious enough to grant Donuts Magazine an exclusive interview though they were busy handling the throngs of customers that showed up.

――Egon, why did you start the Rappcats pop-up shop?
Egon: The other side is our office, and we’re on York Blvd. street level, with a retail space.  Record store day was coming up, we had three officially sanctioned Record Store Day records. I thought it would be a damn shame if we didn’t sell these records to the public. So we built an entire front space with collapsible doors, and we opened up on Record Store Day. We sold a bunch of my records, and our Record Store Day records. Boom! We had a line down the road and it was great. That was four years ago, so we’ve been doing this for a while.

――Shadow, why did you decide to be a part of this pop-up?
Shadow: Egon asked me, and I was like that sounds fun so I decided to do it. I have enough records to go around. Almost every record in here is a duplicate, so I already have my own, and it’s nice to be able to spread it around. I’m happy that people showed up.

――What kind of people came here to buy records today?
Egon: Trackmaster who is Run The Jewels’ DJ just walked out.  Emilie Haynie, Jeff Bhasker, they’re the guys who did all of Kanye West albums. Jeff did “Uptown Funk”, and he’s won 5 Grammys. He’s won Producer of the Year at the Grammys. We have tons of people like that that come here. Mark Ronson, Elijah Wood, Vincent Gallo comes to these things.

――So this space is also your office?
Egon: The other side is our office. This used to be a martial arts facility. I asked the landlord if I could take on the space, and I didn’t want anyone else to move in. I thought, if I have this space, I can do these pop-ups on a bigger scale. So we had to start doing them more seriously. We do them once a month to help pay for the rent. It was really a thought that people need to come together and experience record collecting for what it should be, which is a celebration of music, rather than a competition for who can get the rarest record. So all of the events are based on the same method. If it’s someone like Shadow who already has a following, or someone like Geoffrey Weiss who I think is the world’s greatest record collector, but nobody knows about, it’s always the same. That person is going to be there, and they can talk to you about every single record they’re selling. You can’t buy ahead of time and we don’t ship anything. You have to be there, and engage with the people there. Talk about music, engage in music, people are here just having a good time, listening to records, having a beer or coffee, and talking to someone that might be a specialist in one genre. Or in Shadow’s case, every genre, and they can ask him questions.

――You use this space only for your pop-ups?
Egon: My office is next door, so I’ll hang out here and listen to records and take calls, but this is literally a space only used for events.

――Shadow, has your love for records changed in any way?
Shadow: No I mean I’m just more open-minded than ever, more knowledgeable. In the old days, if I saw a rock record I wouldn’t know if it’s a first pressing, or all the little different versions, so it’s just a constant learning process.

――What are your thoughts on how digital streaming has affected the music scene?
Shadow: Time marches on, people evolve, and the methods of music dissemination evolves. I’m fine with all of it. But there is always going to be a place for physical music as well.

Egon: Records are huge right now. Just think about this. On this street, there are three record streets including this one. On Figueroa, there are four record stores. So in Highland Park, there are seven record stores. That’s kind of crazy. I never thought that this part of town could sustain one record store. But people care about vinyl now, the same way people care about natural wine, bespoke shaving products, coffee, or fixed gear bicycles. There are cults for this type of stuff. The internet has made it possible to celebrate something that was done in private. Record collecting used to be a very lonely weird thing where most people didn’t care. Now kids are buying records, and they are buying records that you thought could never sell, like dollar bin records that you wouldn’t even purchase if you’re a record collector. Now people are paying 20, 30 dollars for a Neil Young record. I saw one in there. Back in the day, those were like a 2, 3 dollar record.

――Shadow, do you still actively dig for vinyl?
Shadow: Oh yeah.

――What kind of records have you been searching for?
Shadow: I’m more and more into tapes and CDs these days. I like all formats though. There are tons of stuff that you can only find on cassette and CD. A lot of hiphop is tape only and CD only.

――I noticed that there are short descriptions written on the record sleeves, but did you write them all?
Shadow: Yeah that’s something I still do everyday to keep the records organized.

――Is it ever difficult to part with records?
Shadow: It’s not really hard in the sense that there’s more than enough there, so it’s not like it’s painful. It’s easy in that respect, but it’s more about making sure everything is priced fair, and people are going to be happy.

――Why did you decide to do a pop-up with DJ Shadow?
Egon: I thought about all the record collectors that I wanted to have down here, and I literally hit up all of them. And some of them were like “Oh yeah I’ll do something”, and like Cut Chemist did one. But he only did one. He didn’t want to do more, and he didn’t have the stock. I hit up Mr. Supreme, but it was obvious after a certain amount of time that it was going to take too much effort to get him to do it. I hit up Shadow, and he was like “I get it. I’m in”. He saw it as an exercise in using a space and sharing music with people.

――Shadow brought music from a wide array of genres, but were you surprised with any of the records that he brought?
Egon: Everything is interesting with him, because he collects so much stuff, and he’s done it for so long, and he’s done it so obsessively that, there’s always something you see in his collection that you never thought could possibly exist. Because of the way that he purchased, and his open mind, and the way he looked at the world’s music, there’s a chance of discovering something you never thought existed. But the thing I like about Shadow’s records is that there are specific records that he brings down from like the Bay Area, and from his trips to the midwest with his digging partner Dante Carfagna. When you find a really special record like that Imani record that he has in there, and it’s his discovery, like one of the earliest discoveries that he made, it’s from the Bay Area, and it’s a great record, and he’s selling his copy that he bought. That’s pretty special.

Go to Part2 of interview with elite crate diggers, DJ Shadow and Egon

Egon&DJ Shadow

Egon&DJ Shadow
DJ Shadow
Born in Hayward California, DJ Shadow shot to fame with his first album “Endtroducing” released in 1996. The album opened up the possibilities for instrumental hiphop, and it has been hailed as a masterpiece from the 90s era. He then went on to release “The Private Press” (2002), “The Outsider” (2006), and “The Less You Know The Better” (2011).

Egon
Along with DJ Shadow, Keb Darge, and Cut Chemist, Egon is known as one of the world’s top record collectors, and specializes in rare funk, soul, psychedelic rock, and world music. He is also a journalist, and is the owner of the Now Again record label which is respected by music fans from around the world. When he was working at Stones Throw, he helped to bring global success to artists such as Madlib, J Dilla, and Aloe Blacc.

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