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Pre-Record Store Day chat with Icebird (RJD2 & Aaron Livingston)

RJD2 & Aaron Livingston

RJD2 & Aaron Livingston in our record library. Photos by Gabe Coffey (

Everyday is Record Store Day for a lot of us, including RJD2 and Aaron Livingston, who recorded a brilliant album together in 2011 as Icebird. I had the privilege to sit down with them in our studio last week to chat and play some records ahead of the Record Store Day vinyl release of their album The Abandoned Lullaby.

“I feel weird saying I have a lot of records when I’m sitting next to RJ. I have a few records,” said Aaron.

RJ responded, “But I don’t have a lot of records, I don’t have records like Rich Medina. I have a modest record collection when I consider the heavy duty record collectors. I don’t have a storage unit -there’s a defining line and I’m a non-storage unit guy.”

CB: “Are you still actively collecting records?”

RJ: “Yeah, but I’m not a fiend like I once was. In the mid-to-late nineties, I would hit some kind of record store six days a week. It got to the point where I distinctly remember there were sections of this place called Used Kids in Columbus, Ohio and I knew the order of the records that I hadn’t bought, so I could skim through certain sections in like 10 seconds and just move on. Ohio in ’96 you could count all the “digger kids” on two hands in the whole city, there was a whole lot of records to be had.”

CB: “So why now did you decided to put out the vinyl for Icebird, The Abandoned Lullaby?”

RJ: “When I put it out on my label, we didn’t know what to expect at the time. Vinyl can be a big risk on the label side, especially when you’re rolling out a new group, so we just went with CD and digital when it came out. I had a lot of people saying, “This is one of my favorite records you were a part of,” and at one point in time a discussion got started by Ryan Schwab about working with Mad Dragon and doing some co-projects. One of the things that was put on the table was doing a vinyl of the Icebird record. It was always kind of a thorn in my side that there wasn’t a vinyl version of this record, so when we saw Record Store Day was coming up, it just made sense to go for it. It’s got two bonus cuts, double vinyl, gold recods, nice gatefold, expanded artwork. As far as vinyl releases on my label, it’s by far the nicest one that I’ve put out.”

AL: “It’s orange by the way.”

We avoided a “dress”-like discussion, but a discussion of orange vs. gold did occur.

RJ: “We were deciding which track from our project to play, and this was the first track we were both thinking.”

Icebird – “King Tut”

CB: “Do either of you guys have a good digging or sentimental record story?”

AL: “Records are how I really got into music deeply. When I was 12 or 13 years old I was bored at my grandparents’ house and I found this closet that was full of records. The thing that sticks out to me is that I saw Parliament Mothership Connection and I just remember staring at this picture and it made me see my family differently. They were hanging out listening to this dude with silver boots jumping out of a spaceship.”

Parliament, Mothership Connection cover

Parliament “Mothership Connection” cover, silver boots and all.

RJ: “This story is what I call the “big dig”. I’m gonna put the year at ’99, there was a place on the Southeast side of Columbus, Ohio called Robert’s Records. It was a distributor for all the retail shops in Columbus, but it was also its own store. At some point in time, the guy decided to sell the store, so all the LPs were $1 and all the 45s were $.25. I started going to this place and I was doing five-six-seven hour days and I went through all the LPs and pulled out everything I wanted. Then there was this room that was 12′ X 15′ and it was just boxes of un-arranged 45s stacked up to the ceiling with no rhyme or reason to them. I start in on them and I’m pulling a bunch of Ultimate Breaks and Beats caliber things out – Eddie Bo, The Meters, stuff like that. I think that I’m killing it, everything’s a quarter and it’s all un-played records. I’m walking out of the store one day and there’s a three foot counter on a hinge, and I’m like “What’s behind there?” And the guy says, “Oh that’s the 45 room.” I thought I was in the 45 room! The 45 room was alphabetized and it was damn near the size of a basketball court. There was one six foot high, four foot wide shelf that was just the James Brown section of the B’s. At that point, I completely lost it. I start in on that room and then like four days later I go back at 11 am and the door’s locked. There’s a dude on the other side of the door and he’s just shaking his head going “Nope!” I came back another day, same thing – somebody came in and bought the stock of the store when I was in the process of trying to clear it out.”

RJ Aaron 3

RJ & Aaron in storytelling mode in our studio.

Amy Winehouse – “You Know I’m No Good”

RJ: “I picked this Amy Winehouse tune because to me this was kinda like the pace car for a modern drum sound. When this record came out, I said this is arguably the best modern drum sound I’ve heard on record in the last 20 years. Those things are really important to me as a hip hop breakbeat nerd. Every time something like that happens it’s kind of like a significant moment for me.”

CB: “Do you remember the first record you bought?”

AL: “I didn’t buy records for so long. The first CD I bought was Santana’s Greatest Hits. I was taking a stab at it and I feel like there weren’t that many CDs or something. I knew about CDs a long time before I got one.”

RJ “I have very very vivid memories of listening to the first UTFO cassette tape in the alley behind my house where I lived in Columbus, Ohio memorizing the words on a boombox. Maybe I was scared that my Mom was going to say, “What is this nonsense?” Records were out at that point, but I was mostly buying cassettes and dubbing songs off the radio.”

UTFO album

Cover of UTFO’s self titled first album.

CB: “Some of the records from Record Store Day this year have already been seen on eBay. What do you guys make of the record buying / selling market?”

AL: “Sometimes with a lot of the records you want, people have them and they’re not letting them go.”

RJ: “That’s why you need to support your record store, mostly to just buy the records that you want. Because you never know when stuff goes out of print or it’s just not gonna be available. Before Diplo got a deal or anything, he was basically a record dealer. Prior to moving to Philly, I used to do flea market trips with this guy Tony Larsen, and he had this crew with him which included Wes (Diplo), Ben and another guy.  We’d all cram into a Nissan Altima at 6 am and go out to flea markets. That was their thing, they’d buy and flip records.”

De La Soul – “Rock Co.Kane Flow” feat. DOOM

RJ: “One of, if not my favorite, working hip hop producers, Jake One with De La Soul and Doom.

Nas – “It Ain’t Hard To Tell”

RJ: “I put this in the playlist because it was a record that dominated my senior year of high school. When it first came out, I didn’t run to the store, it was one of those things that I kind of got beaten into submission if I’m totally being honest about it. It’s not that I didn’t like it, it was just culturally inescapable. You would hear it in every car. Then through sheer repetition, it kind of just sunk in.”

AL: “I think Illmatic is a pretty perfect record. I was living in New Jersey at the time and I would go up to New York and it was months before it came out and everyone was talking about it. People would be like, “So it’s cold out here today. Yo, when’s that Nas record dropping?” It was like “Hello”. So I was kind of prepared for it and caught up in the hype. But I’m still listening to it now.”

Bob James – “Night on Bald Mountain”

RJ: “This record has done so much for me – from engineering, to composition, to playing. It’s another one that I didn’t discover when I was a kid, but is just baked into my musical DNA. There isn’t a 45 second stretch in that song where I can get bored and that’s the thing that I’ve taken away from it. Going back to “It Ain’t Hard To Tell” and the mid-90s where I started making records, the guys at the top of the heap were DJ Premier, Large Professor, Prince Paul. Those guys could make a beat that was so effective and so good, like “NY State of Mind”, where it’s just a loop and it works for three and a half minutes because it’s so good. It’s virtually impossible to do that if you’re just a normal human being. So very early on I realized I’m gonna have to have some bells and whistles or something. When I first started making records, my approach was “Premier’s one dope loop can be a song. I’m gonna need five of my best loops to make one song.” The other part of it was I saw a lane where you could take the nuts and bolts of how rap records are made but envision it in a way that was more intricate in terms of arrangement and composition.”

RJ Aaron 2

The guys taking in some of our record library. Maybe we can get them to come back later for a more extensive dig.

CB: “What is some music that people might not expect you to listen to?”

AL: “Black Sabbath maybe? Not sure what people would expect from me.”

Black Sabbath – “The Wizard”

RJ: “When I’m in the mood, definitely hard metal like Mastodon. There’s a group from Columbus, Ohio called Dead Sea that would probably qualify as death metal and they’re awesome. I don’t know what people expect me to listen to. My son has thoroughly ran Songs In The Key of Life into the ground – and I’m happy about that. I’ve listened to it, including the bonus 45, probably over 300 times in the past 4 months or so. We went to the Stevie Wonder concert in the fall and then after that, literally everyday, we would do the whole record front to back between four to seven times a day, seven days a week. He’d skip around too – he doesn’t like the first song. We’re not a religious family, but his favorite song is “Have A Talk With God”. So then he gets to a point where he starts asking, “Hey, what is “Have a Talk With God” about?” He’s three.”

Nick Drake – “Things Behind the Sun”

RJ: “From an engineering standpoint, this is probably my favorite acoustic guitar sound of all time.”

We wound down the show with an eclectic mix of some classic records before ending with “A Love Supreme” by John Coltrane.

John Coltrane – “A Love Supreme Part 1″

So in conclusion, RJD2 & Aaron Livingston are the shit – super nice guys who definitely know their music and are super passionate about it. The Icebird record is really awesome and I highly recommend you check it out and purchase a vinyl copy of it on Record Store Day if you can beat the diggers to it. The guys were even nice enough to record a station ID for us!


TONIGHT (4/16) on Drexel’s campus is the vinyl release party for Icebird’s The Abandoned Lullaby. Free refreshments, merch and a chance to win signed vinyl!

Support your local record store this Saturday (4/18) for Record Store Day!

WKDU Philadelphia

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An obscure Israeli mixtape from Juval Haring (of Vaadat Charigim)!
Juval Haring– from shoegaze-psych Israeli band Vaadat Charigim– was nice enough to create a super awesome playlist of obscure Israeli music for us! The Tel-Aviv band will release their new album, Sinking as a Stone, May 5th on Burger Records

Listen to a new track from the album and Juval’s playlist below.

Plastic Venus – “Malach”

Ashkara Metim – “Anachnu Hashampania”

Elad Zeev – “Al Tefached Mehamachshev”

Mora Chayelet – “Pachot Amiti”

Ed Turner Vehadanilof Center – “Shefel”

Sadranei Hadeshe – “Hachatul Sheli”

Subway Suckers – “Extacy”

Hameyutarim – “Kalaniot”

Hamahapecha Hameyuteret – “Halaliot”

Charlie Megira – “Nechshalt Beahava”

Pag Adir – 3 songs

Elegant – “Hakol Mitbaher”

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Rich Medina’s ALL VINYL Hot Mix set in GIFs

Rich Medina is a straight up legend. He’s one of the few DJs out there that can bring crowds to a frenzy with literally any style of music. We were blessed to have him come through our studio with a bag stuffed full of soul, funk, psych and African vinyl on a seriously cold and chilly Thursday night (that also was the NBA trade deadline).


Rich Medina, searching for the perfect beat. All GIFs (cinemagraphs actually) by Gabe Coffey.

This Hot Mix was a reunion in a few ways.
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Starkey & Dev79 on their “anti-genre” STREET BASS

Two of Philadelphia’s electronic music veterans, Starkey and Dev79, came to the WKDU studio and spun a killer guest mix last Thursday. We recorded the mix and the guys posted it up for you to listen back. In between turns mixing, I got a chance to chat with the DJ/producers/label bosses about their history in Philadelphia’s electronic music scene.

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Sounds of Midnight: the very first tracks played in 2015

Midnight strikes at Making Time NYE

Madness ensues at Union Transfer as Making Time NYE transcends into 2015!

Playing the right track at the right time is one of the most important aspects of DJing. I asked some of my favorite DJs that spun on New Year’s what they played at MIDNIGHT to see what songs ushered in 2015 !!!

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A Playlist from The Wytches

English three-piece surf-psych band The Wytches dropped the killer Annabel Dream Reader this August on Partisan Records, and stopped by at WKDU on November 21st while on the tail end of their US tour.

Check out their playlist below featuring Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Esperanza Spalding, Converge and more!

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The Life of a Modern Record Dealer: Max from Brewerytown Beats

by Chris Burrell // @Chri5B_

Brewerytown Beats 45s

Max Ochester, owner of Brewerytown Beats, in front of the well stocked 7″ display at his store

Max Ochester, Mt. Airy native and owner of Brewerytown Beats, lived all over before coming back to Philly and setting up shop at 29th and Girard in Brewerytown. This month marks the one-year anniversary of his shop being open, so I sat down with him at Sarah’s Place for a beer to talk about his love of vinyl, selling records to Q-Tip at age 14 and why moving sucks when you’re a vinyl fiend. His one-hour ALL VINYL set from the EMM is rad and gives you a glimpse into some of the electro funky goodness that he carries in his store.

CB: Did you have record stores before?

Max: No, this is the first record store that I’ve done. When I moved back to Philly, I handled art for four years and worked odd jobs. Then, it got to the point where I had enough records and said, “I’m just gonna do it and see what happens.” I started looking on Craigslist. There was one guy in West Philly who worked for a record label for about 15 years and had amassed this huge collection of stuff. He had really good taste and was selling it all because his wife got a job in upstate New York. I went over to his house about four times and eventually, bought everything that he had. He was giving me a great deal and I probably bought 600-1000 records each time. By the end of it, my basement had about 10,000 records and that was enough to fill the crates in the store and open up.

CB: Some people move around with their collections. Any vinyl head knows that moving with records is an absolute pain. Was your collection always in one central location?

Max: No, it definitely wasn’t in just one spot. I brought around 500 records to the Caribbean and left about 100 there. From the Caribbean, I moved to Seattle and started collecting heavily. Then, I moved from Seattle to New Orleans and spent about $500 shipping on media mail to move 12-15 crates down there. When I moved back to Philly, I had about 1000 pieces and drove down in a van and picked them all up. Moving is the biggest pain in the ass when you have records. God forbid you live on the third floor and have a shit ton of records. I’m looking to move to a new place where I can build out a record room and it has to be on the first floor; that’s one of my requirements for a new house.

Max getting his dig on...

Any vinyl fiend will tell you that the rush of flipping through a stack of records is a bona fide addiction!

CB: What were the regional fluctuations in what you were finding?

Max: Down in New Orleans, you’ll see Meters records that aren’t as scarce as they are up here – supply and demand, basically. I witnessed Questlove in a crazy bargaining process at a record show I put on in Philly that was like that. The record was a really funky Herbie Hancock offshoot and Questlove was trying to talk the guy down from like $400 to $200. He finally got him down to $250 and bought it. Six months later, I visited my friend in Seattle and saw the same exact record on the wall in a store for $20. It was just more popular out there and I guess there were more copies of it. So yeah, there are definitely regional differences in what you see.

CB: I was talking with one of the guys we had on the marathon who’s an old house head and bought at Funk-o-Mart, 611, etc. What have you seen over the years in Philly as stores have come and gone?

Max: All those were thriving at one point. It was Armand’s611, Funk-o-Mart and Sound of Market (they just closed I believe). Those were big time spots for DJs to go. Since I left, it seems like everybody’s kinda gone down the tubes. My personal opinion is that people don’t know how to do stuff online. That’s the only way I’m making it now. I’ve got Discogs and eBay accounts (both named “BrewerytownBeats”). There’s a whole philosophy to them both. On eBay you put out your premium shit, start out at low prices and wherever it goes, it goes. You kinda just gotta give up on caring if you make so much money. Discogs is a whole different game. You put out cheap stuff, you put out good quality stuff and people will buy it. I got guys down in Brazil right now that are buying 30 records at a time, but it’s like $2-5 records. Just today, I got Peanut Butter Wolf buying something and a couple weeks ago I sold to Onra from France. I looked on Wolf’s want list and he has like 30 to 40 things, all amazing shit. It’s cool to recognize that those people are looking at your stuff.

Old WKDU "Scrapple" comp

Max has got records for DAYS – including this old WKDU “SCRAPPLE!” comp circa who knows when.

CB: What were your music tastes growing up?

At first, I listened to more of the hair metal stuff: Def Leppard, Poison and all that bullshit. I remember in 8th grade, everybody in my school was like, “What the fuck are you listening to that for?” Eventually, I got into De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest and all that. At that same time, I had a neighbor growing up who was a record dealer and sold to the hip hop guys in New York. When I was 14, he asked me to come and help him move records. I walked into a show in New York and literally every hip hop idol that I ever looked up to was buying records from him. I was selling records to Q-Tip, Kid Capri, Diamond D and Pete Rock. The guy that I worked for, David Ozenbaugh AKA Ozy, knew that these guys were serious because they’d spend a lot of money, but he had no idea who they were. I started hipping him to the fact that, “Hey, this is Q-Tip,” and he got really into it and knew all the samples he sold. Ozy knows what other people don’t know – I’ve watched him pick up a dollar record from somebody’s crate then walk four tables down and sell it for $300. That’s when I started listening to the samples in music I liked.

CB: Do you ever see demand spike for a sample after a track blows up?

Max: The “Bound” sample – I had two copies of the 45. I put one online for $12 and it was bought immediately and I was like, why? Then I heard the Kanye song and I put the next one up for $40. I appreciate the knowledge of knowing where people get their samples from. I also enjoy the hunt of finding the sample because some things you’ll find very easily and some things will take you forever to find or hit you hard in the wallet. You’ll see it pop up on eBay and you’re like, “Ugh I could spend $60 or I could take my girl to dinner.” Most record dudes will spend $60 on it.

CB: What’s the most special record you have in your collection?

That would have to be the Windows album by Jack Wilkins. Jack Wilkins was a jazz guitarist who had a couple albums, but this one album was his super funky soulful jazz album. In the early 90s, I watched Q-Tip buy the album from Ozy, later sampling it for “Sucka N—-”  off Midnight Marauders. I looked for the album forever. Everywhere I went, I would always make a point of asking for that album, but they never had it. About 3 years ago, my whole family got together for Christmas and did our presents. Then, my aunt came up to me at the end of it and handed me a box and is like, Here, this is for you.” She and my girlfriend had gotten together and bought it for me – fifteen years later, I finally had it. I didn’t even listen to it when I got home. I left it on the shelf and didn’t touch it until I got interviewed by some other guys. I told them it was my favorite album and put it on to listen, not even knowing if it skipped, but it played perfect.


If you’re a record collector you MUST make a trip out to Brewerytown Beats at 1207 N. 29th St.

Brewerytown Beats was one of the many local businesses that supported the 2014 Electronic Music Marathon.

You can support WKDU, Musicopia and The Village of Arts & Humanities by heading over to and buying station merch or making a donation.

All the sets from the EMM are being posted over at our Soundcloud – thanks for your support!

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