Phonica has been at the heart of the vinyl revival and has been a huge boost to record shopping in the Soho area. At the time of its opening, it was revolutionary and has since influenced a new generation of record shops.
The year it opened, vinyl sales were at an all-time low and to many it seemed like a crazy idea, but time has showed them to be ahead of the game. Founder Simon Rigg, who started his music career as a dance buyer at Virgin, had a vision for a different type of record shop stocking product that you could not get in the mainstream stores. In collaboration with Vinyl Factory who also had a pressing plant and FACT magazine, Simon opened the shop in 2003 with Heidi (who was later to become a Radio1 DJ) and Tom Relleen (now part of the band Tomaga).
The shop quickly gathered a reputation for carrying a particular kind of music that was becoming really popular in the early 2000’s, the German minimal sound embodied by the Kompakt & Playhouse labels which nobody else was really selling at the time.
They captured this niche market and the later electro house movement that became popular and soon established itself not only in the UK but worldwide as the place to go for dance music. It is a shop where a large percentage of their customers are DJ’s.
They cover all aspects of dance music, offering everything from rare soul 7″s to library soundtracks to big room house and techno 12″ singles.
With a series of ten Technics record decks they give the customer the chance to listen before they buy. One aspect I really like is the three-seater sofa positioned at the front of the shop allowing you to look out on to a busy Poland Street to people watch.
Another popular feature is tables that display the new CDs. Each has an in-depth review on display for you to read so you have the background to your potential purchase.
In 2008, they branched out and started their own label. With three out of the first four releases being by staff members it was soon a very important part of the business. In 2014, they released a triple compilation titled ‘Ten Years of Phonica’ featuring exclusive material from established DJs and producers and they now have 5 labels connected to the shop.
The store has also been renowned for its events including its annual birthday party in such places as Fabric, Corsica Studios or XOYO, but it is hardly surprising when they can count on ex-staff members such as Heidi, Hector, Anthea, Palms Trax or Tasker (NTS / Whities) who have all gone on to their own successful careers.
I asked Simon for his favourite releases distributed by Proper:
Bro. Valentino – Stay Up Zimbabwe / Ah Wo (Catalogue number AADE06 on Analogue Africa)
This is one of the best Calypsonian records of all time with a fantastic back story. The sense of revolution that was going on at the time can really be felt on both sides of the record. ‘Ah Wo (Brand New Revolution)’ is a surefire dancefloor filler to this day and it won’t be leaving our record bags for quite some time!
Zazou Bikaye / CY1 – Noir Et Blanc (LP Catalogue number CRAM025LP on Crammed Discs)
When this finally got reissued we were delighted. It’s one of the finest cult-afro-electronic albums in the Crammed Discs back catalogue. The tracks ‘Dju Ya Feza’ and ‘Lamuka’ are arguably the best-known tracks on the LP and they both work equally as well in the comfort of your own home or in a club. A real masterpiece!
If you would like to be Proper’s Featured Store, contact Graham Jones
Tel: 020 7025 6070
Vinyl, CD, accessories, books, bags, t-shirts
Monday – Wednesday: 11:30am – 7:30pm
Thursday – Friday: 11:30am – 8pm
Saturday: 11:30am – 7:30pm
51 Poland Street,