Based in Adelaide, Australia, DJ, producer and record label guy Kevin Griffiths is the force behind Tsuba Records, Jura Soundsystem, Isle of Jura, and Temples Of Jura. Earlier in the month, he released "Jura Soundsystem Presents Transmission Two" the second in a series of compilation albums designed to bring together a mixture of music never before released on Vinyl and sought after out of print titles. When we reviewed it (here), we described it as "one of those compilations that slides between dimensions, opens stargates, and suggests wormholes well worth heading down."
Not long after, I asked Kevin if he would like to take part in our "A Day In The Life" series, and he kindly agreed. Below, Kevin walks us through a day in his life, while sharing some of the realities of making a living in music, and how tenuous and daunting that sort of proposition seems as we head into what may very well be the most significant global moment of our lifetimes. Thanks Kevin, we appreciate you.
How much is the current coronavirus effecting or impacting on your day to day life and work?
It's had quite an impact, a festival in Melbourne I was supposed to be playing at last weekend was cancelled and two weekly bar gigs here in Adelaide have gone, so like many others I’m now totally without gigs which obviously hurts financially. When it comes to the label many stores are temporarily closing across Europe, Rush Hour and Phonica being prime examples, so this will inevitably have an effect on sales. Maybe people will be bored at home and buy more vinyl online? Who knows, but I think in general people will be watching the pennies at this time.
If you are at home, what time do you wake up, and how do you start your day?
I’m an early riser, usually between 6.00 and 6.30 am, I’ve never been much of a morning person but having kids changed all that and forced me into it! I start the day with a cuppa of Yorkshire Tea, I can’t really get going until some caffeine enters the system.
Do you have any family, kids or pets that pull you out of bed in the morning?
We have two girls aged 13 and 7, a cat and 6 months ago we got a family dog, Bluey, a Cavoodle who’s a total nutcase. The kids now sleep in a bit, but Bluey is up around 6.30 am everyday and is another reason I get up early to take him out for a walk. If I have time I mediate, but life’s so busy its mostly confined to an early evening meditation. My wife Lindsay and I learnt Transcendental Meditation six years ago and it's a really good way to de-stress and chill out a bit.
What is the first thing you look at on your phone in the morning? Email? Instagram? The news?
Whilst having my brew I read the Guardian, mostly the football news and then the other headlines. I’m a football nut, especially Fantasy Football, and at this time of year there’s quite often a premier league or champions league game to watch first thing in the morning, though currently Covid-19 has put paid to that.
How long do you wait after waking up before you do this?
I’m looking at a screen within 20 mins of being awake which isn’t that healthy, but its become part of life.
Bandcamp continues to be a total revelation and I sell a lot of records globally so I do a post office run at least 3 times a week. It’s a total cottage industry in that respect, if you buy a Jura Soundsystem record from Bandcamp its sent to you by the guy who produced the music from the same room it was created in.
What do you have for breakfast?
I like to combine 2 cereals, at the moment I’m on a Weetabix and Cornflakes tip with a sprinkling of sultanas, blueberries and grapes.
Do you think you usually get enough sleep?
My default setting seems to be tired, but with a young family that’s just how it is. DJing tends to unsettle the routine, I never sleep well after a gig and wake up at 6.30 am even if I go to bed at 4 am. I’ve become quite good at napping for half an hour so always do that the day before and after a gig.
Where do you live? What is the surrounding area and your living space like?
We live on the coast in Adelaide, South Australia. Its really a beautiful place, ten mins to several beaches, palm trees in the garden and lots of tropical wildlife. It’s a really quiet spot, even by Adelaide’s standards which is not exactly bustling, but I really love the peaceful vibe.
Once you are up and about, how do you usually spend your day?
I drop the kids at school at 8.45 am and am back home sat in my office by 9 am. I’m very lucky I have a dedicated office away from the house which houses my record collection and various bit of studio kit. As well as running the label from here I write all the Jura Soundsystem stuff in this space. Its really an oasis and I can quite happily lose myself for hours digging for music or creating stuff. I spend at least 3-4 hours per day doing label admin, aside from design & mastering I literally do everything myself at the label, its really the only way to make any money doing it. Bandcamp continues to be a total revelation and I sell a lot of records globally so I do a post office run at least 3 times a week. It’s a total cottage industry in that respect, if you buy a Jura Soundsystem record from Bandcamp its sent to you by the guy who produced the music from the same room it was created in.
When do you get to lunch?
At Midday, and then its back to work before leaving at 3 pm to collect the girls from school. My wife works 3 days a week and we tend to split everything down the middle which works pretty well. I’ve been self employed since 2006 with my other label Tsuba and now Isle Of Jura. Every year I think I’ll need to get a proper job, but I somehow keep doing it, though its going to be a different world after this crisis which is quite concerning.
How much time do you spend digging for music? How do you do it? Are you a record store guy, do you buy off the internet, network with friends or dealers? What’s your process?
My approach is a little bit of everything. I go through digging waves and am in the middle of one at the moment spending a good 2-3 hours a day looking for nuggets, with Youtube and Discogs being the main sources. I have certain sellers, discogs lists and channels I follow which are the anchors and then I get sucked into the wormhole, you get into a certain rhythm and can sense when something interesting is going to pop up. The anchors are important so you keep track otherwise it can just feel aimless and random. I also have a great circle of digging friends here in Adelaide who recommend music to check out. In terms of dealers, there’s an amazing local crew called Paradise Loft here who hold a record fair every couple of months, they buy Vinyl by the ton from the US and it’s a fantastic source of old Disco, Dub, Early House, Soundtracks and 80’s Dubs & Instrumentals. There’s a long list of things I want to reissue, but sourcing the rights holder is another long part of the process so it’s a question of prioritising. Reissues can sell well but they are very time consuming and the process is expensive.
Do you get sent much digital music? How do you sort through it or organise it?
I unsubscribed from most promo lists a few years ago as it was just too distracting so I very rarely get digital promos now, but on top of digging I spend time each week listening to new releases & reissues on Juno, Phonica etc. I come across a ton of stuff through digging and my wantlist is enormous but I have to show some restraint otherwise I’d be totally broke. I still buy a lot of records, but I’m aware it can get out of control quite easily so try to be mindful. My bar gigs are (or were!) vinyl only, there’s no digital option, so my collection has also grown as a result of that. The more digging I do the broader my tastes become, so thank god for Spotify. I have about 20 rolling playlists split by genre covering Ambient, Jazz, World, Soundtracks, Afrobeat, Psych-rock etc. which I add to whilst digging.
Have you got any good local record stores you’d recommend to visitors?
Transition Records is run by a good friend Hans, it’s a tough job as the scene here in Adelaide is very small, but he’s an enthusiast who stocks a wide range of interesting records.
How often do you DJ usually? Where do you play?
Before the current state of affairs it was a couple of time a week, 4 hour sets covering Reggae & Dub, Disco, Funk and early house records mostly. Then I’ll do club gigs as Jura Soundsystem every couple of months which is more a nightclub focused selection.
Is there anything you’ve watched recently that you are enjoying? Netflix series, films or documentaries?
The new season of "Better Call Saul" is predictably brilliant and my favourite show right now, the pace is slow and it’s the TV equivalent of meditation. "Westworld" is back and I’m still trying to get my head around the first episode. I watched the "ZZ Top documentary" on Netflix this week and had no idea how great their early stuff is, bluesey hypnotic space rock, really great music.
You can purchase Various Artists, Jura Soundsystem Presents Transmission Two via the Isle of Jura Bandcamp page (here)