With RA recently penning their deep dive long-read into UK Tech House, and the debate that followed: with a slow rehabilitation of “tech house” from a dirty word, the journey to uber-expensive elitist Discogs fare, and all the way back again. We thought it high time to reflect on some of the key relationships with a part of UK’s tech house royalty, that helped forge LEGRAM’s world beating stock selection, and pay tribute to the hard working shops, label owners and artists - from Grant Dell to the late Liz Edwards - who’s high quality output still ripples through today’s shelves, not just in the UK, but here at LEGRAM VG and all across the world.
There is no finer reminder of the far reaching tentacles of the groundbreaking underground culture that seeped out of London at the turn of the century than the ubiquitous “SWAG Records” shop stickers that serve as a constant mark of quality for diggers, more than two decades later. As painful as it is to pay £25 for a record that is marked as £6.99 in 2001, it is a testament to their unfaltering taste. Forever popping up in the top right corner of sleeves of the keen and discerning nightclub records that Terry Francis, Grant Dell, Dave Mothersole, Richard Grey and Liz Edwards distributed from their Croydon base in the early 00’s.
They were urban tastemakers of a sleek yet stripped back, rough and ready late-night club sound. Thriving on long and luxurious grooves that were deep and dubby, upfront and bass-driven, naughty but nice. Functional tried and tested dance music that stands head and shoulders above the saturated funky house and vocal trance rubbish that washed through the scene at the time. There was no need for hands in the air breakdowns, or nostalgic piano nonsense. This was music by dancers... for dancers, on modern dancefloors that wanted to soak up and immerse themselves in a groove. That distinctly creative optimism of the year 2000 inspired so many, including London club spaces like Fabric and The End, and their DJ’s Craig Richards, Terry Francis, Eddie Richards, Bushwacka and Mr C, who championed this powerful heads-down sound, that was distinctly UK (even down to it’s tongue in cheek artist names) and that emitted almost solely from the tight-knit community of select and highly talented bunch of producers, largely working and gravitating under the SWAG umbrella.
LEGRAM VG were lucky enough, after the sad passing of SWAG Records manager Liz Edwards, to come into contact with Grant Dell who supplied the shop with not only a huge section of his own thumping records, but all the remaining SWAG Records shop stock, as well as some of Liz’s personal collection. We are still humbled and privileged by the trust placed in us to carry that torch, and have such a large part of UK dance music history on our shelves here in Switzerland.
We spoke to head honcho, Oscar Conway, about his memories of the initial treasure trove of records:
“Credit to Grant Dell who was a complete legend for getting it all over to us! We knew we were outrageously lucky to come into the game with these record collections behind us. We had to pinch ourselves when we opened the first box and a totally mint sealed Scan 7 - Black Moon Rising was sitting on top. Some of these records are hard enough to get one decent copy of, let alone the five or six we’d been blessed with in some cases. Those pricey tunes definitely helped us get noticed by the locals when we first opened - especially always being the cheapest on the market - but it was the abundance of good cheap rarities we were spoilt with that excited us the most!”
It’s music that manages to be both timeless in it’s quality and ability to burn up a dancefloor, yet be very much rooted to a particular time and place, which lends it a fascinating and unique sound that can be spotted a mile away, but is so hard to recreate. Hence why these records regularly change hands for £30-60 (and more) online. It demands the attention of a worldwide market to this day that are still hungry for an urban and sophisticated sound that can be hypnotic and attention grabbing in equal measure. It’s revival and longevity owes purely to the quality of its productions, and it’s no surprise they became staples in top flight DJ’s sets from Ricardo Villalobos to Dyed Soundorom, Rhadoo, Raresh and more.
Whether you love or loathe the greedy market moves that have rendered some records unobtainable to most, and can question whether such a finite number of records have a sustainable place in our dance music climate, or even roll your eyes at some of the more well known tracks being wheeled out again and again - there is simply no denying that it is music solely crafted for roaring, high energy dancefloors. And that honest simplicity is a rare gem in electronic music.
- Words by Ethan McNamara
Here are some of our favourites that have appeared (or may still be lurking) on the LEGRAM shelves below:
Sounds Of The Suburbs - Beautifly
Red & The Treeman - Function
Mashupheadz - Pillock
Smart Alex - Specially Hot
Metaldogz - This World
Eddie Richards - Kode K2
Bushwacka! - Traffic Jam
3 In Key - Untitled A1
Terry Francis & Eddie Richards - Breakfast at Tones
Second Hand Satellites - Orbit 1.4
Iteration X - Timecheck
Gideon Jackson - Upsundowns