Discogs is working with RE:VIVE and Red Light Radio in Amsterdam, following renowned DJs as they mix together a selection from one the biggest record collections in The Netherlands. RE:VIVE is an initiative from The Netherlands Institute For Sound and Vision that brings archives and musicians together to create new productions inspired by old collections. You can read a full account of our exploration of Sound and Vision’s archive here. This write up is based on a conversation I had with Femke Dekker after her set.
“Music was always around us”. Femke Dekker, AKA Loma Doom, tells me her dad was a big jazz head and bought Femke her first record player when she was just 5 years old. “It was one of those ones where you had to slot in a 7 inch, and it would spit it back out. The sound quality was horrible but I would spend hours, and hours in my room, dancing.” Today she’s still a big record head, one of the longest running DJs on Red light Radio, an artist, a curator and an avid radio fan. Basically a really, really interesting person to walk through 300,000 records with.
“When I was super young I was dancing to like, Jackson 5.” Then, one day, in her teens, when she naturally needed to rebel, she started listening to hardcore punk, which her dad hated. Her DJ name is in fact inspired by bassist Lorna Doom of legendary Punk band Germs. These days things seem to have come full circle, as she has a monthly show on Red Light Radio, ‘Tuesday night Prayer Meeting’, the name of which is inspired by Jazz legend Charlie Mingus’s Wednesday night Prayer Meeting.
Charlie Mingus was also a notable activists, so it’s no surprise our conversation swung in that direction. “I’ve been really interested in the role of archives and archivists as activists. I was very much influenced by friends of mine who have based a lot of their work on using archives from the 60s.” She says they take images from the Provo counterculture movement in The Netherlands, and build on them to create their own new works with a similar activist layer. Because it’s such huge encyclopedia of history and culture, she also considers Discogs a really vital catalogue from which one can create new things. Amen.
“But It’s not just the fact that things are stored somewhere, and that they might get lost. The preservation side of things is not necessarily what I’m interested in.” Indeed, preservation is just a means to an end, and it seems the end is what she’s more interested in. “History really comes alive through archives. You can build bridges to your own times, and see all these parallels. Of course we’re in a completely different day and age but the problems we’re facing a very similar”. Obviously it’s hard to build those bridges, and before she made her mix Femke admitted there would be little if any hard activism in it. “I just want to build a radio show and I really want it to be Dutch in some way. I want to give the listeners a taste of great Dutch music and to try to tell a story to weave the threads together.” But in the end I think her selections actually managed to tell a story and to shed light on some important but perhaps under-recognised activism in music.
The first record she wanted to show me was Cinema by Fay Lovsky. “Maybe she’s just a household name in The Netherlands for the older generations, but apart from a couple of hit singles she was always a little bit more experimental. She ended up doing a lot of work with experimental theatre groups. I don’t think she was interested in being a pop star, she was just interested in this kind of sound that was a little bit poppy.” Femke retells how she came to know Fay’s music through a friend who knew a lot about Dutch music, and it inspired her to do her own digging and get to know her country’s musical background a littler better. “I knew a little bit about Fay but I really got to know her through a friend of mine. He was responsible for the music in the design studio where my partner worked. He used to burn compilation CDs, complete with really well designed Digipak sleeves.”
Next she pulled out the self-titled album by Sammie America’s Mam. “This one I wanted to bring because it’s a little bit forgotten. It’s a weird combo of experimental and pop music.” This one is also quite special to Femke. Sammie America is just another name for Tom America, one of the group’s members. He was Femke’s drawing teacher during high school, although at that time she had no idea he was a musician. “Only years later did I find out.” This album is also produced by Henny Vrienten, who was at that time the bassist of one of the most popular bands from The Netherlands in the 80s, Ska and Synth Pop outfit Doe Maar. “They were like The Beatles of The Netherlands. Sometimes they couldn’t even play the girls in the concert halls were screaming so loud!”
It wasn’t until we spoke about the last record she wanted to show me that the activist agenda re-emerged. “I played two songs from this one, because these guys were huge; they were totally instrumental in the early Post-Hardcore and very early Emo scenes in the United States” she says as she holds out Joggers & Smoggers by Dutch anarcho-punk band The Ex. “Another band that I totally adore is Fugazi, and The Ex was really influential on them, and probably also on a lot of the stuff that came out via guitarist and vocalist Ian MacKaye’s label Dischord Records. Basically The Ex are a punk band but not just any punk band. They were totally Punk in their first few records but then they started to move into Noise and then in the late 90s they started getting really interested in the African Diaspora.” They have recorded a few releases in Ethiopia, and in the early 2000s they recorded a spree of collaborations with cult Ethiopian saxophonist Getatchew Mekuria (promo-copies of which were handed out to the local taxi-drivers, the best guarantee for good publicity). Apparently some members of the band actually own an Ethiopian Restaurant on Overtoom! “There records were about so much more than music. They were extremely punk. There was always a message in their music. There’s actually a really really great documentary [Building A Broken Mousetrap – see below] about their 2004 live show at The Knitting Factory in New York. It wasn’t just 4 chords and an activist agenda, they actually managed to bring that activism into the music itself, which is why I think they’re so important.”
Femke and I spent the last 20 minutes going over three incredibly detailed booklets that were found tucked away in the sleeves of Joggers & Smoggers, preserved for 30 years in pristine conditions inside Sound and Vision’s temperature controlled archive, one of which was a DIY manifesto called ‘A Piece Od Paper: Or How To Do It Yourself’. According to some comments on the Discogs Release Page these inserts might actually be a bit rare. We took pictures and preserved them on the internet with one of the Discogs Contributor Community’s favourite archive tools: Internet Archive. You can find links to these booklet images in the Release Edit History Page.
Thanks a lot to the team at Sound and Vision for holding on to all these records for so many years, and for opening the vaults to let us all have a peek. And thanks to all the Discogs Contributors that catalogued the releases, artists and labels mentioned throughout this series. Without you we wouldn’t be able to connect the dots. There’s always more music to catalog so if you have anything in your personal collection that’s not yet on Discogs, add it to the Database so everyone can find it.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.