Compelled by an insatiable appetite to discover rare and forgotten music, Tako Reyenga used to embark on trips across Europe with likeminded friends, returning to his native Netherlands with carloads of dusty black gold. Selling some of these finds online was a natural progression, until one day when he and Abel Nagengast, who was also slinging records over the web, had a stroke of fortune. Informed by Redlight Radio founder Opheo “The Wizard” De Jong that a space had become available in the same building, Redlight Records was founded in 2012 and the pair haven’t looked back (if you hadn’t guessed already, the shop is located in Amsterdam’s infamous Red Light District, “housed in a former prostitution window” no less).
That very same year he would partner up with Echovolt’s Ilias Pitsios to christen Into The Light Records with an album entitled Into The Light: A Journey Into Greek Electronic Music, Classics & Rarities (1978 – 1991). The retrospective compilation did exactly what it said on the tin, and it also put the wheels in motion for Reyenga, Nagengast and London native Jamie Tiller to launch Music From Memory. Another label specialising in reissues, the release of material from names like Suso Sáiz, Workdub, Dip In The Pool and Gigi Masin elevated MFM to its current status as one of the finest outlets for obscure synthesiser music in operation. Speaking to the man himself, we delved into various topics, including his beginnings in Tilburg, the state of the reissue label in 2017 and what it’s like to run a respectable business in the Red Light District.
Hi Tako, how’s Amsterdam life treating you?
Hi, Amsterdam life is treating me good, it’s a nice place to live!
You have lived there for some time, but your earliest digging experiences came via a shop in Tilburg run by a few members of the Psychick Warriors Ov Gaia. Did you know much about them at the time?
Yes, I started buying records properly there first when I was about 17. The shop wasn’t run or owned by them, but Reinoud Van De Broek, one if the PWOG members, was working there. The place was called Tommy and it was one of the ‘go to’ shops in the south of Holland, for those in the know for anything good that came out in electronic music at the time – these were mostly imports from the states – the now classic Detroit techno, New York & New Jersey house, Chicago house but also a lot of interesting European stuff and UK techno. It was all there in the racks and bins. Whereas record buying people in Amsterdam sometimes didn’t have access to these records, because they all ended up in the then famous local DJs (Dimitri etc.) bags before they even hit the shops bins – at Tommy these records were almost dusting away in the bins when I started buying records there. A good example maybe is Carl Craig’s Retroactive, there was section for this label and all its releases available! Lucky me ☺.
The same goes for a labels like Nu Groove or Trax Records etc. etc. – it was a proper eduction for me. Reinoud was also a very kind and knowledgable person and passed on many good records to me. Of course the PWOG stuff was also available there and I got all their releases and was loving them. I was also a bit friendly with Joris Hilckman who became a member of PWOG at the time – he was living in the same village near Tilburg as me and he was hanging out at Tommy often.
First playing records in the “chill out” room of Tilburg club, Kadance, you were granted the opportunity to reach for some interesting stuff. Do you think those experiences made an impression on how you would buy and play music in the coming years?
Definately, and Tilburg for what it was as a small southern city, did have some interesting underground stuff happening – there was this place called De Spoel where I heard Aardvark play for the first time I think in 1990 and that changed a lot for me, hearing him play amazing techno and house the right way – he was already so good back then. There was also a British lot doing breakbeat and rave parties at the same place and at the Kadance, which was a big club – I heard Derrick May and Darryll Wynn play I think in 1991 or 1992 for instance – that made a pretty big impression on me.
PWOG or at least Reinoud and Joris also organised a series of small parties in the upstairs room of the Kadance for a while and invited Irdial artists, Mark Broom and LB Bad.
I had a residency playing every other week in that upstairs room which was indeed a chill out area – and I played ambient stuff of the time, things like Namlook, Orb , Irresistible Force, Link and Aphex Twin, B12 etc. but also the first Trip-hop bits that were coming out then like things on Mo Wax… It was a fun time and they were my first experiences with DJing. I guess what it made me think, playing a chill out room, was that I never had to be bounded by dancing that much and that open way of listening to music did shape me, yes!
Your listening sessions are the stuff of legend. how much value do you place on sharing music with likeminded souls?
Well I’m not so sure of the legendary status of it as it was just me and my friends hanging out in my room listening to music… You know, a lot of people do this in the same way I guess. Though the timeframe this was going on and the type of music we were searching and listening to were all a bit ahead of the curve maybe – we listened to a lot of music that now became looked for by many. Also my friends I was hanging out with all moved on doing stuff worthwhile in music in some way or another. Gijs Poortman came by early on and spend many hours after his night shifts from work at my room.
I was very lucky to have no sound issues at the spot I lived (above a restaurant and no neighbours across) so could always blast my system (that later became the one at the shop) super loud till early hours (if it was necessary) – that was kinda one of the great things about that spot. Orpheo and [Young] Marco came by a lot after I got to know them. Jamie Tiller I also met around this time and around the Utrecht record fair there would always be Chee [Shimizu] and [Growing Bin Records owner] Basso dropping by after which we did our German digging trips in combination. Steele Bonus came by one night and got to know him after Andrew [Hogge AKA Lovefingers] told me to meet up with him and of course also Abel, whom I knew from my time in Tilburg came by a lot with our mutual friend’s Bas Gitmans, Jonny Nash, George and Kyle…
Yeah it was a special time actually and the value of it, sharing music in this way is very much cherished of course – it was purely about listening to great music and exploring, digging deep and sharing each others finds in a time before you could fetch everything and all your info from the internet like you can now – YouTube and Discogs lists etc., these wouldn’t even exist so much back then.
I guess we were all part of that new ‘guard’ of diggers, trying to look beyond the already set out parameters of what music was good or not and trying to find new old music that we hadn’t heard before or just stuff that sounded different from everything else we had heard before. There was a great deal of excitement involved, knowing there is just a never ending stream of great music popping up via all these friends who are digging all the time, it was super inspiring. Now in hindsight it’s crazy that until this day 10-15 years later it basically hasn’t stopped also – there are still amazing old records being dug up and discovered all the time, which I think is pretty insane. The sheer amount of good records being made in say just the ‘70s and ‘80s (which were pretty much the decades we all kind of focused on) and ’90s of course, but we had come out of that decade.
You have previously mentioned your love of ‘70s and ‘80s music due to the sheer number of oddities available, but are there any specific musical qualities you enjoy from sounds of those eras?
For me there aren’t really any specific qualities other then looking for a certain feeling in music I can relate to. I have a desire to find and to listen to music and sounds I haven’t heard before. Also, the music I was looking for has always been totally across the board, and although the ‘70s and ‘80s are a sort of subconscious preference, the time or year music is recorded isn’t important. A good idea is a good idea, and a good piece of music a good piece of music no matter what time it is made.
Digging exploits have taken you far and wide, but could you explain what a “timewarp” shop is to the unacquainted?
Aha, the “timewarp shop” came about joking with Basso and Chee on one of our long German digging trips – I think we had just visited a cd shop near Frankfurt – Basso had found out that the guy from the shop sold records via Ebay and he figured that the ‘CD’ shop might possibly have records too. After getting there, indeed the shop window was filled with CD’s looking at it from the outside but once inside it was basically only records and a lot of good ones. We all came out of that shop with about 50-60 records each all bought for 2 to 5 euros – the old man who ran the shop even gave us big discounts .
You know we figured from our finds, no one looking for the same kinda records that we do had ever visited that shop since the ‘80s, so it was basically like going back in time and picking up the releases that came out then, hence the term “time warp shop.” On our first digging trips almost every small town and village in Germany had a record shop and quiet a few of them were of those types – we where hoovering up all the weird and wonderful stuff: new age world music, weird German private presses nobody cared for, lotsa electronics, experimental stuff. Sometimes you could find whole sky records label sections all for like 5 or 10 euros a pop – they were the best times!
Would you agree that while there’s so much affordable vintage music to be found on vinyl, the internet can prove a daunting place to look for it?
I’m not sure. The internet is everything and nothing as much as how you value it. It’s just there but yes it changed a lot in the record game for better and worse – but mind that good records actually can still be found outside of it too.
Do you have any advice for people struggling with quality control with an ever-growing vinyl collection?
Buy more and listen more than it will sort itself out (or not), haha.
We’re still listening to the Juno podcast you recorded in 2015. Do you have a specific process when it comes to picking records for a mix?
Ah that’s nice to hear ☺. I usually like to imagine a certain feeling or atmosphere and or a imaginary place & time when doing a mix and then I’ll try to find the records that match that feeling in the best way – but it’s always a hard process for me somehow. Sometimes its just better to hit record and flow with the moment , like DJing out
You were selling music online before opening the Redlight store. How smooth was the transition from the online world to the physical as a retailer?
Nobody wanted the records I was selling online and when we started the shop no one wanted to buy the records we were selling there, hahaha. It however changed a lot over the years to come.
Was there a need to reassess how to acquire stock in order to meet demand?
Not really as I think we somewhat created a demand for certain type of records by always keep pushing new and unheard sounds – we are a shop with a lot of ‘niche’ music, and we sold records none of the other shops were selling in Amsterdam at the time. I guess that those digging days before opening the shop is were it all came out of. The shop is an extension of our own curiosity in music. It took a little while but eventually people got what we were about and seemed to like what we do.
I received some pretty dodgy looks waiting at the gate to the courtyard leading to the Red Light store. What’s it like running a shop like that in the Red Light district?
Well there has been sightings of hookers chasing tourists waving huge dildos like baseball bats after them taking pictures they shouldn’t have – I think Marco who has his studio there once saw a midget painted and dressed up as a smurf and chained to its mate or a pony, something like that, and there were people riding camels into the area a few months ago to give you an idea…
A friend of mine once referred to the area and our complex especially as the Bermuda triangle – I think that pretty much sums it up right. People go missing or down under around there – it’s a place of pleasure and the shop fits right in ☺. Apart from being the shop our little space also worked quiet well as a mini club a bit too often – we had shitty diapers thrown into our courtyard by a neighbour who didn’t like those parties really… At some point we had too ease down for our own good too.
Red Light Radio recently opened a new shop and event venue. Was it really just an excuse to kit a space out with some Klipschorns?
No, not really really, though the Klipsch are of course speakers you want to have a space for. I think the main reason was the opportunity for getting the space and generate some extra income via selling merch. It became a shop with the potential to do events occasionally. An online radio station as people might figure isn’t exactly a money making business but does involve a lot of work full-time and part-time for a whole bunch of people.
Dekmantel has just been and gone. In its 10th year, what do you feel the festival has brought to Amsterdam?
I think Dekmantel has put Amsterdam on the map for a greater audience and showed us in a concentrated way for many people that our city is pretty amazing for music culture. They have set a really amazing standard for organising events and parties and I think they are really good at what they do. Amsterdam, especially in the last 6 years or so is on the up and has been getting more and more interesting for nightlife and music culture and also everyone involved in the scene is vibing off each other. The people here are really supportive for one another and this lifts everyone up at the same time.
You know Rush Hour had been around and has been important for the scene for years. The club Trouw definitely changed a lot (and before, maybe [Club] 11) – all of a sudden there was a pretty free spirited community and also a lot of diversity. New clubs started popping up or old ones reviving, more and more foreigners came – DJs and musicians etc. started moving to the city or using it as their base to tour from in Europe. The moment I saw DJ Rahaan biking through the city I figured something is happening haha. And then also Redlight Radio and our shop happened and in our own way also contributed to the scene .
Was the release of that Into The Light compilation in 2012 your first attempt at reissuing music?
Did you Abel and Jamie already have Music From Memory in the pipeline, or did the success of that comp inspire you to start the label?
After doing the Into the light compilation with Ilias – Jamie, abel and me came up with the idea for Music From Memory to start reissuing other music we were also really into, as Into The Night was set up to highlight obscure greek music alone, it was a logical step to make.
Leon Lowman was surprised music he described as “middle-of-the-road” would see a reissue via Music From Memory. What’s it like dealing with an artist who isn’t particularly bothered if their music remains elusive?
Well some artists need a little bit more convincing than others. We’ve found that most musicians tend to look forwards and not backwards, so releasing or rereleasing their older music doesn’t al ways feels like something they should do and we then need to explain them why we think it’s relevant today.
We imagine seeing the renewed interest in Gigi Masin and Vito Ricci’s music is more than enough reward for your hard work.
Yes, it’s one of the nicest things to experience with doing what we do and indeed leaves us with a very rewarding feeling. Its’ so nice to see these artists being recognised today for something they had made 20-30 years ago and at the time wasn’t well known or properly received. And then to find out they are still are relevant with what they do musically and performing and touring again, it’s just so nice for everyone – the artists, the people that buy our records, audiences…
What are your thoughts on the ubiquity of reissue labels in 2017?
Well it’s a free world ☺. I think there are a lot of people and labels doing really amazing stuff. There is a lot of amazing and exciting old music being reissued nowadays which is great – for music consumers it’s a really good time. Of course there are also a bunch of chancers around or unimaginative people that should check a bit better where they are coming from instead of looking at what everyone wants or use the youtube algorithm sidebar as an inspiration for their releases.
And finally, you play HORST in September, which looks really interesting. Have you been before? Will you be able to enjoy the festival while you’re there?
It does look like its a special festival, yes, and I’m quite excited for it! I prefer those smaller and more intimate festivals that seem to be popping up more in recent years.
Tako plays HORST Arts and Music Festival (Holsbeek, Belgium) on Friday September 8th – buy tickets here.