Rook Records opened its online doors in 2016 and has since had a meteoric rise through the Discogs seller charts. Specialising in Soul to Afro and Disco to Techno, Julian’s taste was founded & refined in over a decade of digging and now, luckily for us, shared with the world!
We paid a visit to Rook Towers last week to have a catch up with the man himself, to gain an insight into how this all started and to the inner workings of Rook Record’s operation.
Interview with Julian Gascoigne of Rook Records
How long have you been buying and selling records for and where did it start?
I started Rook Records in 2016. I’d been DJing professionally for the last few years but got tired of the late nights and being forced to take gigs that bored the hell out of me. I always knew I wanted to start a business, and with vinyl being on the up and having always been an avid collector, it seemed like the perfect fit. I had originally planned to open a coffee / vinyl shop in London, but when the application for the place I found fell through, I started trading online as a stop-gap till I found another place. I guess that stop-gap is still going on…
At what stage did the vinyl habit turn into a viable business?
I guess pretty quickly after I started trading. I’d built a decent website and starting listing stuff on Discogs, and pretty soon I was turning over enough for a (very) small wage. I supplemented it with DJ gigs for the first year or so, but after a while it just became apparent that I had no spare time for anything else, and at that time it became my full-time gig.
Tell us about are the benefits and drawbacks of being online only?
As I alluded to in the first question, I had originally wanted a shop. I guess the appeal of that is the social aspect, meeting other vinyl heads and chatting about music is a pretty sweet job. However, there are a tonne of benefits to being online only. One of the main things I love is having my weekends back. Having always DJ’d for money, weekends were always work-time for me. So being online only, I operate normal business hours and it generally means I get to hang out on the weekends now, which definitely pays dividends in my relationships and social life.
Personal holy grail record?
It goes in phases I guess, but for the last year or so it’s got to be Deception by Price Exchange on 7″. It’s a killer soul jam with an afro cuban kind of edge used by Madlib in a track he did with Guilty Simpson. I’ve always been hankering for a copy (I’m hoping me saying this doesn’t drive the price up on Discogs?!)
Favourite record you are stocking today?
I’m actually holding an OG of Hotline’s You Are Mine (also titled Can You Do It?). It’s a Nigerian boogie LP from 1986 and is absolute fire. The condition’s pretty mashed though, but I guess that adds to the charm somewhat.
Top three record shops?
Lived about 100 yards from this one for a good few years. The owner Ewan is always super helpful, and the shop holds some killer stock, especially if you’re into your hip hop, funk and soul (which I certainly am).
My bro used to work in this shop, so I used to frequent it whenever I had some spare digging cash as a kid. They’re the ones that put me on to various African and Latin bits that started me off in a love affair with those genres and is definitely one of the key reasons why Rook specialises in those kinds of records.
How do you use Discogs in your day to day?
Discogs is a vital tool for me. Business-wise I couldn’t run without it, simple as. It accounts for a significant proportion of my sales and is pretty much open constantly on my work laptop. As a general vinyl head too though, it’s the most incredible tool. If ever a tune catches my ear, my first port of call is the Discogs app on my phone so I can check the price and add it to my Wantlist (where it may stay for some time… I tend to have expensive taste).
Any tips for people browsing your crates?
Just enjoy it really, after all that’s what this is all about. We try and put audio clips up for everything on the site, so just see where your ears take you!
What do you predict for the future of Rook Records and where are you aiming?
In general, I guess I’m just hoping for more of the same. I’m one of those annoying people who loves their job, so as long as I can keep doing it, it’s fine by me. We’ve started running a Rook Records YouTube channel where we get DJs to send us in filmed vinyl mixes of their favourite records. I guess I’m hoping to expand this more creative side of the business, and potentially use it to launch a record label and perhaps some events in the near future. I’m planning to set up a little make-shift studio in our new Hackney HQ, so hopefully we’ll get some live stuff broadcasting out from there soon. Watch this space…
Huge huge thank you to Julian for giving us the Rook Records 101. Hugely exciting times ahead, go check out his digital crates for the full picture!