An introduction, please … who are you, where are you, and what pays the bills?
Hello. I’m Rob Butler and I live in Manchester. I’ve been a DJ for over 20 years (does that qualify as “veteran DJ” now?) and I run Be With Records.
Where was the mix recorded, and what is the inspiration behind it?
At home, using records I bought and/or fell in love with during my time as a student at The University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC). That was between September 2004 and June 2005.
Looking back, it’s apparent that this trip, this academic year, was a very formative time for me. So it’s been really nice to revisit the sounds of that time. I’d just turned 22, had just been working at Piccadilly Records for the past 18 months, thought I knew everything and, of course, I didn’t.
It was mostly an important time because I met my now-wife, Valentina, who lived on the same halls of residence floor as me. Also, during that year, I was introduced to songs that connected with me on such a profound level that I was desperate to work with them in some capacity after starting Be With. And I had many nice moments that year that were soundtracked by the songs on this mix.
So I wanted to include road trip songs from a Spring Break odyseey with visiting mates from the UK, songs I downloaded via Limewire on Valentina’s laptop (I’d never owned a computer and certainly didn’t have one that year!), records I took a punt on in Santa Cruz book stores, records I gathered on dedicated digging trips LA, San Francisco, Berkeley, San Jose. There’s a distinctly sun-dappled flavour to the music blended here. It’s also very varied. There’s straight up jazz, jazz-funk, folk, Brazilian, Italian, Irish drinking songs, jazzy west coast rap, dancehall, reggae, deep soul, Laurel Canyon vibes, the list goes on. There’s records gifted to me by the man who would become my father-in-law and also tracks I was turned on to by my new friends in the same halls of residence as me.
4 of the tracks in particular have some resonance for me.
“Age Of Consent” by New Order was important to me in my first few weeks, far from home, when slight twinges of homesickness can briefly raise their head. Here was something to remind me of home (Manchester) in the 1st week or two. It’s from one of the first records I bought there, in Streetlight Records on Pacific Avenue, Power Corruption & Lies.
Tommy Guerrero’s music had always appealed to me since the early 2000s but it wasn’t until I was in Santa Cruz that it all really made sense to me. It probably helped that he was based in the same area and his music speaks to his surroundings. I could finally relate. Plus that dusty drums mixed with melodic melancholy sound always leaves me reeling. We’ve since become friends and put out 3 records together.
Koushik’s “Be With” came out on my favourite label Stones Throw at the time. I ended up naming my label after this song, as it extra meaning after my wife Valentina walked down the aisle to it.
I wanted to finish the mix with the one track that I didn’t discover or buy during my year in Santa Cruz: Ned Doheny’s “Postcards From Hollywood”. It was the first track to well and truly stop me in my tracks when I was back at Piccadilly Records upon returning home in the autumn of 2005. It made me long to be back in California and set me off on a lifelong love and eventually close friendship with Ned.
The mix is over 2 hours long and was done in one take whilst my two young boys ran around me. It is lockdown after all. There’s no escape. So, please forgive any roughness. To be honest, I do prefer mixes that have a rawness to them, that aren’t super seamless and polished. They’re more human, to me. That’s my excuse, anyway!
Strictly vinyl? Strictly digital? Couldn’t care less?
Oh, I probably care too much! I’ve been DJing with vinyl only since about 97-98, firstly in my bedroom as a 15 year old and then getting snuck into venues to play in pubs and clubs before I was 18. I’m a believer in the art of being a strictly vinyl DJ and love and effort and passion that goes into that.
Also, the art and joy of one-take mixing (as mentioned above). Vinyl is the only format I have love for and vinyl DJing is the only approach I appreciate. I know it’s not for everyone and this is an extremely hardline, narrow attitude but they’re just my honest feelings. I’m not precious about *everything* – i.e. whether something is a first press or a latter day reissue!
‘Balearic’, seems to be a somewhat overused term these days, but if you had to – and we are asking you to – describe the essence of ‘Balearic’ in one record?
That’s hard to describe, isn’t it??
It’s funny, when he first came over here in 2015, Ned Doheny suddenly asked me in a hotel room in Dublin at 4am as we silently dug into a late night curry: “what’s Balearic?”. I was stumped but I think I managed to explain something about the spirit of anything goes so long as it’s good and feels right when everything feels right around you…yada yada yada.
But…at the same time, I should’ve just said “YOU!”.
So, how about we go with an inarguable Balearic record: Ned’s Hard Candy
Favourite place you’ve travelled to? And why?
Well, California, probably. Firstly, there’s a number of basic reasons why it has such a pull: the climate, the gorgeous backdrops, the (even now) endless great record shops, the blend of city and nature, the beaches, the sunsets, the ocean, the surroundings. But, perhaps more than anything, I like the people a lot. Which I know isn’t often what people say about individuals who live there, but I really warm to people with a sunny disposition and positive outlook. And that’s what you get there. Openness.
It will always be a special place to me. I mean, I met my wife there. It was the first place I ever went to when traveling to the States for the 1st time, with pals and an ex-girlfriend, in 2002. It inspired Leon Ware to write a beautiful song about it and that song was the motivation for putting out Leon’s self-titled record. Which ended up being BEWITH001LP. And that connection with Leon led to us doing more of his albums and, eventually, putting out his last ever album, and having the release party at Peanut Butter Wolf’s bar last September in LA. So, yeah, I have deep ties!
Sunset or Sunrise? And the best place to experience it?
Sunset, for sure. Nothing like magic hour in California. God, I should shut up about the place and just move there, right?
Or how about somewhere in South East Asia, like a beach in Bali or on an island off Thailand.
Most embarrassing record(s) you’ve bought? Most expensive? And your best bargain bin finds you’ve dug out over the years?
Most embarrassing record(s) you’ve bought? I once bought N-Trance’s “Staying Alive” version on CD single when I was about 12-13. I think what my young self was really reaching for was *that* undeniable Bee Gees groove, but, still, no excuses. I’ve also got the Wyclef version. Perhaps I should collect ’em all?
Most expensive? That’s a tough one as in the last 5-6 years I’ve had to pay hundreds for originals of records we were working on for reissues in order to have a reference copy. But that doesn’t really count. I’ve never had a lot of money to splurge on one record – I’ve got a lot of records but I’ve always dug deep for bargains and shopped around until I find a price I can countenance! I spent $40 on Betty Wright’s debut LP in Los Angeles when I was still a student – that felt like a hell of a lot but it’s worth every penny. I think I paid $100 for Monty Alexander Featuring Ernest Ranglin’s Rass! with the Love And Happiness cover on it. That might still be the most I’ve paid for a record.
And your best bargain bin finds you’ve digged out over the years? 52nd Street – Look Into My Eyes I got for 33p in Lucky 7 on Stoke Newington Church St. We’ve just worked with Tony Henry from the group to reissue it. Wonderful record.
Favourite DJ you’ve heard play out over the years?
Mr Thing / Dexter from Avalanches / Sean P / Danny Webb
Anything else we should know about you or what you are up to in terms of music releases, dj stuff, what underwear you are wearing etc. ?
Well it’s obviously tough to talk about doing anything much during lockdown but I have been able to get some mixes done (!), especially ones I’ve been promising over the last few years. The label continues to be busy, we’ve got lots coming out over the next year but I’d ask readers to check out Maston’s Tulips LP and February Montaine’s “Mount Nod” 12″.
And do you have a track listing for the mix provided?
– Gal Costa – Faltando Um Pedaço
– Yolanda Del Rio – De Que Te Quiero…Te Quiero
– Lucio Battisti – Seduto Sotto Un Platano
– Aretha Franklin – One Step Ahead
– Eric Watson – Puppet Flower
– John Coltrane – In A Sentimental Mood
– Pharaoh Sanders – Astral Travelling
– Gato Barbieri – El Gato
– Chuck Mangione – Feels So Good
– Alphonse Mouzon – Do I Have To?
– Stanley Turrentine – Papa T
– Koushik – Be With
– Tommy Guerrero – Flux And Meter
– Emanon – Blind Love
– Grip Grand – Santa Ana Winds
– Common – Be (Intro)
– Sweetwater – What’s Wrong
– The Doors – LA Woman
– The Clancy Brothers – Beer Beer Beer
– The Beach Boys – Feel Flows
– The Flying Burrito Bros & Gene Clark – Here Tonight
– Todd Rundgren – Dust In The Wind
– Alton Ellis – Good Loving
– Barrington Levy – Too Experienced
– New Order – Age Of Consent
– Arlo Guthrie – Highway In Wind
– Ned Doheny – Postcards From Hollywood
A huge thanks to Rob for taking some time out to answer these questions.