Huw Stephens is a Cardiff-born DJ and broadcaster. He joined BBC Radio 1 at 17, becoming the station’s youngest ever presenter. A champion for new music via both his Radio 1 and BBC Radio Cymru shows, Stephens also runs the Swn Festival, held in venues across Cardiff as well as regular live-music nights in London, where he now lives. Cerith Mathias caught up with him ahead of Record Store Day.
What is the value of Record Store Day? Why is it important?
It was set up in the USA as a way of appreciating and highlighting the wonder of vinyl. And bringing new customers to the record shops across the country. Then it was set up in the UK with the same idea. It’s been successful, with hundreds of new albums and singles, one off releases, coming out every year for the day.
How has the event evolved over the years?
It has grown in popularity. One big change is that the major labels are pressing more and more records for Record Store Day now, with records by all sorts of bands, not just left field or alternative artists, but boy bands also. This has been a problem for some independent labels who have to wait a while to get the records they press all year round, while the major labels have their records being manufactured in the few pressing plants we have.
What are your plans for record store day this year?
I don’t go to it! Not because I don’t like it, I think it’s a very good thing, and anything that highlights the brilliant record shops the better. But I go to record shops practically every week of the year to buy music. I don’t want to queue to get into a shop, and I’m not an obsessive collector like that. Often the records are still in the shops after Record Store day itself, so I go in in the following week.
If you had to name one — what is your favourite record shop and why?
Sounds of the Universe in Soho is an incredible shop. I always find something interesting there, something new or old that looks and sounds fantastic. They have a label called Soul Jazz which releases great compilations of reggae, dub and post punk. I discovered Daedelus’ music there for the first time. His album was called Of Snowdonia, and featured a track called Hiraeth so I presumed he was Welsh. He actually comes from LA and is now one of my favourite artists. I love that sense of discovery in a record shop, browsing and finding something great.
Do you remember the first record you bought?
The first music I bought was a tape in Asda. It was a Crowded House album. The first piece of vinyl I bought was Basement Jaxx in HMV Cardiff. Then it was Spillers on the Hayes for Edwyn Collins, Super Furry Animals and Divine Comedy on seven inch singles.
What’s your favourite track of 2015 so far?
Pretty Vicious – ‘It’s Always There’. I’ve seen Merthyr’s Pretty Vicious a couple of times this year, and they are the real deal. I love their heads down approach to music; it’s all about the strength of the song and the sound.
Finally, do initiatives such as Record Store Day help in promoting new, independent music like the Horizons/ Gorwelion scheme you’re involved with?
I think Record Store Day does help new music get heard. New customers might come in to a shop and find a new artist. Platforms for new music makers are very important, which is why I think the BBC and Arts Council’s Horizons scheme is a good thing as it highlights some artists and lets people discover them easier.
Photo credit: Ffion Matthews