In conversation with Discos Paradiso

In conversation with Discos Paradiso

In conversation with Discos Paradiso

In conversation with Discos Paradiso

For the past decade or so, Discos Paradiso has emerged as one of the most interesting record shops in Spain. Located in the vibrant city centre of Barcelona, it was established in 2010 by Gerard and Arnau. Serving as an alternative to the record store landscape in Catalonia's capital, Discos Paradiso introduced a fresh perspective on music and embraced new channels to share it, regardless of whether it was past or contemporary productions. Through their radio shows, in-store events, and releases on their label, Urpa i Musell, Discos Paradiso quickly gained a reputation as one of Europe's most esteemed record stores. We are delighted that they have graciously dedicated an hour to discussing their ideology, aspirations, and upcoming projects.

by Simon Debarbieux 

Simon: Hi Adrià & Gerard, I’m glad to have a moment with you. Before all, could you introduce yourselves and let us know how did you came to music?

: I am Adrià, I’m a worker – I mean I work for them but I’m not a partner. 
Gerard: Although you perform managerial functions!
A: I don't get paid as a boss, but yes, I perform the functions of a boss (laughs). I’m actually in charge of managing and running the website – getting our stock online, organizing shipping, taking care of customer relationships… 
That was my mission when I arrived 7 years ago: continue to develop our shop towards the digital world, a mission that was already taken care of by a guy called Gerard (not the one with me right now nor the legendary house producer!). I initially trained as a web developer, but nowadays I focus more on record appraisal rather than programming. Music has always been important to me – I guess my father was an important figure in this sense. He transmitted me this passion. I suppose that every person who works in a record store has the same motive: they are music lovers. I first came here at Discos Paradiso [DP] as a customer – this is actually where I bought my first record ever! I wanted to learn how to DJ and to start a collection. It was ten years ago and I was mainly interested in house music – and you could find a lot of house records in here. 
We quickly developed a great relationship with Gerard and Arnau [DP founders]. We had a lot of interests in common and we progressively became friends. We realized that there is a turning point when you come often in DP: you don't buy any more records – which could be seen as a problem (laughs)! You come here to hang out and chill, with Gerard & Arnau or other clients who are around.
G: Yes, it's a social place here, a meeting point for a lot of people. And this is something you can’t do on the web!
As for myself, I’ve been into records for a few years now. The important figures weren’t family members but classmates and friends at school. I was a teenager discovering a lot of stuff and I loved it! I started buying records and progressively became obsessed. A few years later, as a young adult I was DJing from time to time – and was also more into partying…
I began to work in a record store here in Barcelona called Ruta Natural, specialized in electronic music and more precisely news. I met Arnau and we became friends. We shared the same love for music and a common worldview. We came to the idea to open a record store –and started to think seriously about it. It took us time but here we are!

You opened the store in 2010. What led you to that project and why was it important for you to have a physical shop? 

: We wanted to offer a place where you could find news and second-hand – but well made, you know. With a diverse and qualitative content, and prices for everyone. It's not that it didn't exist already in Barcelona but… there was more interest for news than for second-hand. We thought we had a small space to grab fill.
A: This neighborhood is very central in Barcelona – and it is very active, lively and cosmopolitan: you have a lot of bars and restaurants around here, important cultural institutions such as the MACBA (the Museum of Contemporary Art) and the CCCB. All this brings a lot of people. It is also where the record stores have always been.
Last but not least, the rents are still affordable (laughs), unlike in other areas of the city… That’s a cool spot to run a business. 

I was wandering on Internet preparing this interview – and I found a lot of material related to the store: a radio show, in-stores events, a blog, a DJ collective It appears to me that your activity goes beyond just being a shopkeeper or a merchant. Do you want to pass down something? Contribute to the history of music? 

: We are lucky guys! We have a job we like, and sharing our passion is part of our work. And we try – or tried – to use several means to do so, from the radio show to the events inside and outside the shop, via our label and the blog we have. It’s important to be active, to do things that make you exist.
It's true that today we hardly go out anymore – but we are lucky to have a social life in the shop that could be similar to that of a club or a party. This place brings together very diverse people – and we have affinity with a lot of them. 

By the way, do you still organize events?

We almost don’t since Covid… but we used to do, a lot. For almost 7 years, every Tuesday we held an event called El Mostrador: a set or live performed by a guest. We featured local DJs and musicians, as well as artists with a broader international audience. 
Nowadays, once in a while if we have a friend who wants to make a presentation or something like that, we help him. But parties like before, not anymore.
A: It’s also because we have more work. Covid was a tough period and we had to focus more on our job: selling records. Hopefully soon we will be able to organize these events again like we used to. 

I hope you will! If we go further on this peripheral content, I was listening to your radio show the other day – it was great! Very eclectic but totally coherent. I guess it’s representative of the store’s crates?

: We try to have a little bit of everything in the store, to have a stock to cover a wide spectrum of genres & styles but with well-chosen references: from jazz to hardcore, alternative rock, African music, techno, house, etc. We’re trying to be as eclectic as possible. 
For example I listened to a lot of house 10 years ago, now I’m more into other styles. Listening music almost every day for years becomes an exercise, a practice. You have to satisfy a curiosity, an appetite. It's part of the job, but it's also a passion - and sometimes it's hard to keep the separation clear… 
Of course… Even though there’s a lot of records for DJs – mainly electronic music.
G: It is a sector that we wanted to explore when we opened the shop. We were really into it – and ten or fifteen years ago, it was not as popular as today. We have great affinity for club music and culture, but at the same time we feel somewhat trapped by it. Many DJs comes to the store just for that. Discos Paradiso has been identified with this kind of music and formats [maxi]. And we have to comply with that now, in a certain way. Electronic music records represent more or less 30 or 40% of our whole stock.  
A: We are slowly trying to get away from this label. We’d like to be more identified as a second-hand, collector’s store: I’d say that today, 70% of the store is second hand. It is also a question of business: there’s almost no margin done on news today… You make a better gain on second-hand. 

Yeah, the record production prices’ has reached new heights… Aside from majors and big labels that are trying to squeeze out merchants (and clients) as much as they can. It is now decisive to broader the scope of our costumers to survive. By the way: I’ve checked the website today. You find more news on it – is this the identity you want to display outside? 

: When we started selling online we put up records that you couldn't leave here lost in the store: rarer, more expensive or fragile records that can’t be listened 3 times a day, or manipulated by everyone. It was also a way for us to reach more people – to broaden the scope of our clients. Barcelona is a big city but also has its limits. 
Step by step we started to put more news online, also because it was selling well. And the idea was the same: you could buy these records living in Madrid or come and get them back directly, being in Barcelona. That's the advantage that online sales offered us; but as you know, it's double-edged: there's a lot of competition, and we are very humble in this area. It is huge and scares us sometimes!

Is this prominence of news also a way to support the contemporary scene? 

: Yes, in a certain way. 
Without being obsessed with that, we try to be in step with the contemporary scene, having the newest references from local producers, labels or collectives – we like that and it's important for us. But we’re not trying to always be up-to-date, you get crazy and new records are very expensive.
Although we’d like to focus more on second-hand records, but we’re also trying to be attentive to our customer's needs – and it’s part of our DNA.
We also have a label through which we try to highlight contemporary productions - and thus contribute to this scene. 

Urpa i Musell, yes – we’ll come back to that later. According to you, how’s the contemporary scene in Barcelona today?

: It's not so bad but it's not like it used to, in my own view. Since 3 or 4 years, it’s so complicated to make a record! So long! From the idea to the release day, there can be years. 
I think it’s a magical, a mystical object... But the process is so expensive and slow that for a young band making music daily, it's hard to imagine that a label is going to publish a record in a year for material you’re working on now. Things go faster, and record production hardly fits the times. 

Yes that’s true, the records’ market is only representative of a small part of the on-going musical & cultural activity. To go further on this, I’d like to talk about your label, Urpa i Musell. Can you tell us how you came to this? 

: The label was created by Arnau & myself with Ignasi – a long-time friend and music enthusiast who went to work in Munich as an architect.  
The first album came out in 2017 – so in line with what we said earlier, we might have created the label at least in 2015 (laughs). 
We are lucky to work with Ignasi because he is very organized and clever. He knows how to make a calendar, to organize the work. We are busy with the store and it’s sometimes hard to focus on something else.
Our first release was a reissue of a record published in 1990 by a Spanish theatre/art group called El Sueño de Hyparco. It was issued both in vinyl and tape by Hyades Arts, a Spanish DIY label from the 1980s era; and both were very rare items, hard to find and in demand. 

If we are mainly interested in productions or projects that have a direct link with this country, we don’t stick to that – Mr. Wollugallu is Portuguese. We don’t focus especially on Catalan productions, even though we have a peculiar interest about what happens around us.

Having a label is a way for us to share our passion and aesthetics. The label’s devise is: we simply want music that we love to be made available to everyone. That’s it!
We also have something to say – and it can be frustrating to stick to record selling. There’s a creative aspect to creating a place, working on a selection for the shop, putting forward some releases we particularly like. But not as much as when you have a label. 
Besides being passionate about exploring, documenting or enhancing Iberian productions and projects – and more precisely its alternative, peculiar and eclectic propensities – is another way to stand out in the current cultural landscape. The vinyl industry and market are very competitive. 

If we look closer at your catalogue, the first release was a reissue; the ones that follow except for the Mr. Wollogallu album and the Agustí Fernández compilation – are contemporary, current productions. Is there an intention to find equilibrium between past & contemporary productions?

: We’re trying to be receptive to what happens around us, but also to embrace our desires, what turns us on. For example improvised music is something we’re interested in, as in the musical projects of Agustí Fernández, Lepok or The Devil, Probably.
We have a strong attachment to the aesthetic of objects, particularly when it comes to records. We invest a great deal of attention to that. We’ve been working with a local graphic designer since the beginning – Pol Pérez Nadal from Studiopol. Have a look at Ubaldo or Tarta Relana’s releases. From our third release (UiM 003) we worked with L’Anacrònica, a local printing and letterpress studio to print the covers. We even collaborated with the Botanical Institute of Barcelona for the covers of the last issue (UiM 008) – this was done collectively and is definitely handcrafted! 
A: Yes, for us it's like making bread. In our store or elsewhere, you realize that the records’ materiality is not so elaborate. That’s a general remark – even more relevant for new releases. Maybe it's not as important as it used to be, people don’t really take this into account, as an entire part of the records’ production process. 
G: That’s probably what takes us the longest. We’re very keen to make qualitative, well-done, coherent objects. That tells a story. And we proceed like this at every stage: mastering, artwork… 
We try as much as possible to work with local actors: artists or graphic designers, printers, sometimes labels as well.
A: We also take care of distribution and promotion - and that's perhaps the worst part (laughs). At least the one we like the least, it's the least creative one. 
It’s also because there is a lot of competition nowadays and it's difficult to give space to certain kinds of music. It's not always easy to get reviews in the cultural press – moreover for the kind of content we propose.  
And, well, there is no profit done in these projects – but it’s not really our aim. What is important is to be able to finance the next one. 
As we already say, it is also a way to exist, and to share our passion in another way than the usual selection we’re daily making in the record shop. 

What are the forthcoming projects for the label?

: This year has to be the year of the label! We have 5-6 projects at the same time – hopefully at least 4 will come out this year. We already did Agustí Fernández, and Joseba Agirrezabalaga & Mikel Vega. Another one came out in September: an album by The Devil, Probably, an improvised music band constituted by Alex Reviriego, Vasco Trilla and Patrick Siroshi.
We hope that at the end of the year, the reissue of Norberto de Noah’s album will come out, in collaboration with Canela en Surco, a radio show and label from Barcelona. 

And for the store?

: To be more organized and effective! Automatize some processes, in order to have more time for digging or looking lots and feed the store. 
We’re also working to develop the web with Common Ground, to make it nice and attractive. 
And again, to look for records… this is the basis of everything!
G: Every night I have nightmares that Barcelona runs out of records (laughs). 

Ok fellas I think we’ve already said a lot – even though I’m sure we could go on for another hour. Thank you so much for this exchange. And keep up the good work!

Discos Paradiso
C/ Ferlandina, 39 08001 Barcelona +34 933 29 64 40
Photography ©Andrés de Santiago Areizaga / Discos Paradiso / DR 

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Wednesday, October 25, 2023