Record Store Day is a sacred event for fans of music who are heavily invested in preserving the sounds they love in a physical form that has endured throughout generations. In Singapore, Darren Dubwise is a known aficionado, collector and passionate advocate of the vinyl record. From his platform #vinyloftheday, to co-helming White Label Records, a record store, café and restaurant, he is a true believer in the power of the format.
Below, we speak to him about his journey through the wheels of steel.
How did you get into collecting vinyl records?
Wow. It all came from the love of music at a very young age. I grew up listening to obscure music and back in the day, all those wouldn't be available on CDs; only on vinyl records. I was also in charge of ordering records at my previous job at HMV. All of them led up to this point.
Many years later, what still draws you to vinyl records?
The love of music never ends. Coupled with the joy of discovering something new, something old, something forgotten.
Why not digital?
Digital is good to discover music on the fly but once you find this artist you love, there comes the urge of owning and encountering the physical record out in the wild. I like being forced with the decision of buying it, although it’s always a losing battle.
The "hunt" for vinyl records is an integral part of being a collector. What does that mean to you?
It’s about never really knowing what you're going to find but when you do, it becomes a memory. It'll trigger an emotional response; it's about that euphoria of finding the music you love in physical form.
When you go for these hunts, do you consciously go expecting to find something?
There are definitely certain records or artists that I would want to search for. Most of the time, I find myself very lucky to always find what I'm looking for. It's always best to go in with an open mind; to discover what is there. You might find weird record sleeves or artists whom you've never heard of. Nowadays, you can search the artists on your phone to hear what he/she/they sound like but previously, we weren't that fortunate, so it's a gamble.
The sound of a vinyl record is what most vinyl advocates champion.
It has never been about the superior sound quality. For me, it's more of the emotional attachment to the piece of music and the memory of where I found it.
What about the fact that "bigger size = artwork"? Do you agree with that?
Of course. Nowadays, it's more of a statement. If you like the artist, there will be an attachment to the artwork. Compared to a CD, it is larger and you’ll be able to admire it better.
What's the personal importance of Record Store Day to you?
It's about recognising the impact that independent record stores/labels have had on the entire music industry. It's also about the relationship between the consumer and the records themselves and how you would be able to discover an underground artist you've never heard before.
Lately, there has been an issue about blockbuster artists releasing stuff on Record Store Day. How do you feel about that?
I've no qualms about that. Record Store Day has been going on for so long that major labels/artists would eventually jump on the bandwagon to be relevant. It's always nice to have a format that your fans can connect to. If it leads to Taylor Swift fans buying vinyl records of obscure artists then it's all good.
Can you tell us more about the curation/selection process at White Label Records?
What we try to do is to curate music that we're passionate about, which is soul, funk and electronic. I wouldn't say that we're a convenience store for vinyl records; you’re not going to find The Beatles or Queen. We veer away from that and introduce more under-represented or undiscovered artists.
Tell us about the most treasured record you own.
Larry Levan: Live At Paradise Garage. It's not an old or rare record, in any sense. I found it in a record store while in Tokyo. It was a record that I've wanted to get for a long time – I could've gotten it online – but when I found it and physically held it, I knew instantly I had to get it. It was fated that I should get it.
Take a look at selections from Darren's personal collection, as well as exclusive White Label Records stock below.
Vanessa Fernandez – When The Levee Breaks
Satan! – Kingbreaker
Xhin – SHIFT LTD 001
The Analog Girl – Tonight Your Love
Intriguant – Recluse
Dru Chen – Mirror Work
The Observatory/Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Pariso U.F.O – Trails To The Cosmic Vibrations
The Padres – What's Your Story
Fzpz – Hidden Personas
Shelves – Shelves