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Belgium: The Vinyl Frontier

Ziggy Devriendt

I sold a whole bunch of records recently. The less records I own, the more I actually get to listen to them.

Interview Koen Galle
Photographs Thomas Sweertvaegher

For Ziggy Devriendt (aka Nosedrip), the Holy Grail is personified by an Australian nun called Sister Irene O’Connor, who in the early ‘70s serenaded the Lord with an electronic organ and a drum computer. Her album is called Fire Of God's Love, and it’s impossible to find. At the time when this article is published, only a single damaged copy is for sale online and the price tag reads 360 euro. One day, though, Ziggy will own one, and it won't be because he's such a devout Christian. “Her message means nothing to me. What draws me in, is that sense of alienation, the overall weirdness of it. The cover, the story behind it, the music, literally everything about this album is just right.” Ziggy looks for the WTF factor in music. He has taken a liking to the outsiders, the one-of-a-kind cases and, above all, the idiosyncratic tales that accompany them. He is permanently on the lookout for precisely those artists who slipped between the cracks of the record industry.

The DJ is passionate to the point of getting fidgety when he talks about it. “I guess that might be the reason I moved from the city of Ghent back to my hometown of Ostend. Gazing across those boring, archetypical Flemish backyards and gardens somehow calms me down.” The living room of the terrace house he occupies with his girlfriend exhumes a unique aura of style and personality. Record covers are on display as art, and they blend in seamlessly with the accumulated assortment of rarities and retro furniture. A bright red album by Gary Wilson, one of Ziggy's biggest idols, immediately catches the eye. Scribbled across the photo on the front are the words You Think You Really Know Me. Ziggy suggests it would make a great title for this interview. “He is my idea of a soccer team. I'm a huge fan.”

I really don't go looking for music that intensely. I'm not the type to flip through two thousand records that mean nothing to me. It gives me too much stress.

Another favorite is the Dutchman Ton Lebbink, who created some of the weirdest synthpop known to man over the course of the ‘80s – rife with poetic lyrics about footballers’ knees and bouncing inflatable houses, written in the early hours, after his shifts working as a doorman at the Amsterdam club Paradiso. The Dutch capital seems to take up an important place in Ziggy's life. He regularly visits Red Light Records, his favorite record store. Smack in the middle of the notorious red light district and hidden behind a barred gate and a doorbell, it’s a treasure trove for some of the most bizarre music. “I go there to look for what normal people would call ‘ugly music’. It's a meeting point for a very specific community and I love the service they give you.” Ziggy spontaneously confesses: “To be honest, I really don't go looking for music that intensely. I can name you at least fifty people who are better diggers than me. I see myself more as a gatekeeper to the gatekeepers, exploring some sort of extra dimension to the concept of digging. And because people know what I represent, a lot of stuff just gets handed to me. Frankly, I prefer to pay a higher price than to keep scouring the globe for that one copy that’s on sale for a couple of euros. I'm not the type to flip through two thousand records that mean nothing to me. It gives me too much stress.”

Balance is key for Ziggy. Instead of trying to collect everything like some nerdy vinyl librarian, he is constantly working on purifying his collection. He recently offloaded a large part of his collection, seeing less is more. “I was listening to my records less and less, simply because it was taking up more and more time to find anything. So the less records I own, the more I actually get to listen to them.” The big wall cabinet in Ziggy's living room may not be home to be the biggest collection on Earth but it is a very meticulously sorted one. The order is not alphabetical or genre-based. Instead, Ziggy applies a highly personalized classification system, which involves tags like French Psychedelic, Lo-Fi, Dark, Berlin School or the quite prominent Female Voices. “Why needlessly complicate things? I plan to put in a section someday called Pleasant Music. That might sound like a trivial method but, actually, this way of sorting things saves me a lot of worrying.”

Digital also has had a positive effect on my record cabinet because, this way, it doesn't get swamped with dubious purchases.

Ziggy found another level of calm after he realized he would never become a professional club DJ. The lifestyle that comes with that territory was likely to prove impossible to combine with being a salesman in Ghent’s Music Mania store. On top of that, he doesn't feel like spinning records every week. He chooses instead to spend just as much hours at home going through his collection – a job that takes up a significant amount of time by itself. In addition to a number of other projects and maintaining a steady relationship with his girlfriend, Ziggy works on Stroom.tv, an online platform. Together with his girlfriend, he is currently working on customized turntable slipmats for Stroom.tv because, in his eyes, there are no nice slip-mats available. The items are shipped with a love letter – a fake declaration of love, pilfered from some obscure sex cam website – that is handwritten on a pink sheet of paper. Ziggy found the inspiration for this idea in a record – literally. “Over the years, I have found a lot of love letters inside record sleeves, and I think it's a beautiful thing. Records are almost like pieces of art to me. My house needs to be full of them, much in the same way that other people need to buy books or a new set of rims for their car. I use them to impress – just like I used to impress other kids with Pokemon cards. It's about so much more than just the music.”

When he plays at a party, Ziggy prefers to play his music digitally. He doesn't really understand the whole fuss about vinyl versus digital. “If you have to wait for everything to come out on vinyl, you're bound to fall behind at some point. It's the creator who decides what medium the music is released on, I'm not going to let something as trivial as that restrain my creativity. Digital also has had a positive effect on my record cabinet because, this way, it doesn't get swamped with dubious purchases.” Ziggy also enjoys the technical possibilities that the digital medium has opened up, and that really becomes clear in his weekly online radio shows. “Digitally looping a part of record makes it possible for me to easily mix tracks that have completely different tempos. Without those digital tools, I wouldn't have been able to do what I'm doing now.”

A vinyl DJ set is a treat that he saves exclusively for when he plays for friends at small parties. Like the Parels voor de zwijnen nights (Dutch for Pearls Before Swine), which he curates with Captain Starlight. For these most special of occasions, the duo will drag half of their record collections to a club so they can play their favorite rarities back to back. Ideal for whoever wants to spend an entire evening yelling WTF. We highly recommend it.