Record stores have always been the lifeblood of any music scene and the second-hand stores in Berlin are almost as important as the clubs themselves. Arming DJ’s and collectors with all manner of musical ingredients is all part of the job and for some, it is a calling that goes hand in hand with spreading the word of music. We caught up with Kim of Kimchi Records to discuss his store in Berlin and also in Quito…
How are things going at Kimchi Records with the recent restrictions?
Things have been a bit crazy, with lots of ups and downs. Several times it seemed that the situation was getting better and the community was coming together and then boom another variant and a new set of restrictions. That has been somehow a challenge that was felt all around. So, I guess in a way with the pandemic, we’ve learned to take decisions as it comes, we don’t plan ahead too much as that can be a source of disappointment.
Have you found the record store game has changed since this whole COVID-19 mess?
Since COVID-19 started we have relied a lot on online sales, which for us somehow kills the vibe. We enjoy having the doors of the shop open. The interaction with customers creates synergy, and collaborations or new projects come to life. That is the main goal of having a physical record shop, interacting. So, we are looking forward to this whole COVID-19 mess being over.
Kim, you helped to set up BikiniWaxx, was this a major factor in you setting up Kimchi?
I mean setting up BikiniWaxx for sure gave me the experience to be able to start my own project, but I would not say it was a big factor in setting up Kimchi. In 2018, I travelled to Canada to play in Montreal at The Hive, which was a project that Chicaiza, my childhood friend, was running at the time. There I realised Chicaiza and I were on the same page sonically as well as in regards to concepts. That kinda put a seed in the idea of us collaborating in the future. Then before he moved to Berlin In 2019, I proposed we start a Record Shop together and that was the beginning of it all.
Tell us more about the ethos of Kimchi Records and the actual store?
Basically, the foundation of the shop consists of the community and friends. When we were setting up the shop our partners, as well as friends, were constantly coming and giving a hand on design, crates, paint and whatever was needed. We basically did it all ourselves in collaboration with friends, which already gave the shop energy even before it was open. So, to answer your question the ethos of the shop is collaboration and community. That can be felt in the shop today as well, everything occurred organically and Kamyar and Marius joined the team and they have a similar conception of what is important for the shop and for the community.
Many people have said just how friendly a visit to the Berlin store is, is there a conscious effort to cultivate this?
Well, somehow it is something that Chicaiza and I have in our DNA. If you’ve ever been to Ecuador you know that guests are treated like family and somehow it is essential to make them feel at home. So that is transmitted to our customers, but I feel it is an organic thing. The beauty is that once Kamyar and Marius joined the crew they matched perfectly with the idea of “if you come to the shop you are family.”
Tell us more about the records you sell in your store? What sort of sound are you focused on presenting?
Well, it was discussed since the beginning of the shop that we would try to have as much variety as possible. That being said, the focus lies mostly on electronic music. We have had the chance to buy several collections from Denmark since my dad is Danish and has a lot of friends that were involved in the music scene in the 90’s. That has been quite interesting because it has allowed us to find music that is not as common in Berlin. Also, we’ve brought a bunch of music from Ecuador because we have a stock of around 8,000 records that we bought from a radio station there.
How do you choose which collection to go for?
The way we go about it is if anyone from the team presents a possible collection to buy, then we all go through it if it produces excitement and we feel that it has something to bring to the table then we go for it. We try not to overthink things and a bunch of the collections that we’ve bought have happened organically, by interacting with customers or through friends and friends of friends.
Have any nice collections hit the racks recently?
Yeah, actually last week Kamyar got in touch with a local digger that had contacted us a couple of months ago. Some real gems in this one so we totally recommend diggers to pass by. We also brought a big collection from Denmark in December with a lot of New Wave, Trance/Techno and more.
You also have a branch in Quito, how do the two stores differ musically and vibe?
The store in Quito is a smaller branch and so is the market per se. In Berlin, it is easier to bring people together than it is in Quito. But we really appreciate the challenge of bringing something new to the city (in Quito). Chicaiza and I always felt that we had to give back to the city which gave us many memories and inspiration. In Quito, there is a lot more Latin music. As mentioned before, we bought a collection from a radio station in a city called Ibarra, so we have a lot of stock that we bring to the shop. A big difference with the electronic music between cities is that in Quito at the time being people buy more new music, somehow, they do not go deep into second hand, while in Berlin it’s all about second hand. In regards to the vibe, we try to maintain the same energy and aesthetic in both cities.
Kimchi Records is also the name of your record label, tell us more about the label and studio and your plans going forward?
After a year of running the shop and getting things to a point where they were somewhat established we felt that it was time to push it a bit more. We had always talked about starting a label and it made sense to keep it under the same name. Chicaiza approached me with several tracks he had done and I instantly felt that represented what we were trying to share with the world. So that was that, the label started. Then I was visiting my dad in Denmark and I ended up hanging out with Frank from KoxBox. We clicked and I told him about the shop and the label. We have been a huge fan of KoxBox so after meeting him I decided to ask if he would be down to reissue World of Illusion / Crystal / Orientalic and he agreed, which for us was a total honour. The last release was my release, with Chicaiza we always said the first 2 releases should be ours, then the Koxbox opportunity came by which we could not let pass, but for that reason, the third release had to be mine. I think the three first releases really represent our conception of a label and sound. We like to have a variety of sounds and tempos while keeping a consistent aesthetic. As we speak we are in the process of printing KIMCHI 004, which will be a release from our good friend Tro and by the end of the year we have inline KIMCHI 005 from a good friend of ours from Ecuador which we will keep as a surprise.
We leave this conversation with Kim and Chicaiza with a poignant sign off, “Thanks for taking the time to give us a space to speak a bit about the Kimchi world. Just want to invite all and everyone who passes by Berlin to come by to the shop and share some light in this time of madness. We also want to send strength to all of the people of Ukraine and to all the places where at the moment there is conflict. We hope there is a shift in humanity and strive for peace around the world.”