11 Jun Mahabe137’s favourite record stores and their love for collecting records
In just a few years, the Amsterdam-based DJ’s and record collectors Mahabe137 made a name for themselves and became familiar faces on festivals like Into The Woods and Wildeburg. Mauro and Han have been involved with Rhythmic Culture since the very beginning. We caught up with them to find out what got them into record collecting and how it shaped their lives up until now.
Interview & photography by Brendan Reterink
Editing by Casper Janssen
First of all, how are you guys doing? We’re living in weird times right now, how are you dealing with this COVID-19 situation?
Han: I think it’s sad that everything’s cancelled, but I do spend a lot of time listening to music and buying records to feel a bit better. Last year, I noticed we did a lot of gigs in quick succession and we couldn’t find much time to develop our sound – but now we can. Right now, I’m not aiming for records to play at gigs, but I’m trying to find music that I really like and that I want people to hear. So the situation has its advantages – but it’s still fucked up.
Mauro: Yeah, I share the same thoughts. I also buy a lot of music – mostly music I like to listen to at home, so it’s not necessarily music I want to play in clubs. Besides this, I want to learn how to make music and start producing. It would be cool to be able to play my own records at some point.
“I came across Han in Rush Hour and found out we both bought the same record, so I was like: Yo what’s up, sick record right?”
You know each other for a while now. How did you come to the idea to play records together?
M: We met each other in Amersfoort, that’s where we’re both from. Together with Robbie (former member of Mahabe137). It all started at Volta, that’s where I started to learn how to deejay and Robbie used to work there as well. We could use the deejay gear over there and because we discovered we had the same musical taste we started to hang out. Later on, I came across Han in Rush Hour and found out we both bought the same record, so I was like: “Yo what’s up, sick record right?” We started talking and I said we should hang out at my place in Amsterdam sometimes – from that point we started playing records with the three of us and we told each other we had to play shows together, as a joke. That’s how the name Mahabe137 came about. Mahabe stands for Mauro, Han and Bengkulu, Robbie used to play under the name Bengkulu, and 137 you need to find out for yourself.
H: We’re all from Amersfoort, so we know the guys from Kultlab well and we’d managed to get a spot on Lepeltje Lepeltje Festival quite easy – the place where we played with the three of us for the first time. Eventually, things were starting off and I moved to Amsterdam. We spammed a lot of clubs and radio stations in the area to get spots for ourselves, and the first place that invited us was BRET. We started to do more and more gigs and made a lot of new friends along the way. And before we knew it we were playing at Wildeburg.
So you’ve started with the three of you, but Robbie recently decided to leave Mahabe137. Did that affect the dynamic now you’re left with two guys?
H: It’s different to play with only two people. But, incidentally, the last show we played with Robbie, really was the last show we played before we went into this lockdown. We didn’t do any shows with the two of us yet, but it did affect the sound we want to represent from now on because we see this as an opportunity and we also live in the same place now.
M: We were asked to play at Wildeburg this year, but separately instead of the three of us together – and that was really a coincidence because we just decided to break up. We were really looking forward to it because we were able to completely do our own thing.
H: But for the record, Robbie didn’t leave because of a fight or something. He just wanted to do something else. Mauro and I are more into House and Robbie always wanted to play deeper music. It was his own choice to leave, and it turned out that he had been struggling with this for some time. We kind of noticed it earlier, so that affected the dynamic a bit already.
M: Yeah, definitely. Our go-to genre still is House, because we listen to it a lot as well. But if it’s up to me, I could play Jungle or Electro too, or even Free Jazz. We don’t want to be stuck to a genre.
You guys now live together too. How did that affect your music collection? Do you share it?
H: When I just moved in here, I thought I would listen to all of Mauro’s records. But I didn’t do that – we both didn’t do that. I think it’s important we’re still able to surprise each other in a way. But it had an impact on me anyway because it changed the way I buy records now. At first, I was just buying records, but now I take record collecting more serious. When we like an artist, we try to buy all of their records. So that’s something that’s keeping us busy right now – for me at least. I try to get all albums from an artist. I used to only collect House, Soul and Disco, but now it can be literally anything because I don’t want to stick to a genre anymore.
M: I do buy more different genres – I never listened to Jazz, but now I’m really into Jazz. Maybe House, I think I do listen and buy it in a different way now. We play the same stuff quite often, we really feel each other. Sometimes we’re more in a UKG vibe and then we both buy more UKG.
H: When I hadn’t settled here yet, I used to go to Amsterdam once a week and then I brought a new batch of records so I could surprise Mauro – and that actually didn’t change. Sometimes I buy a record and I won’t show it to Mauro until I’m able to play it at a gig – that’s a fun thing to do. When you both know all the records, then it’s a shared collection.
M: And I think that’s a good addition to the fact we’re playing together. We play the same genres, but also different in a way. We can still surprise each other and sometimes Han will play a record that makes me think: “Damn, I didn’t see that one coming.” And I think that’s one of the reasons we fit together so well as deejays.
And you’ve been collection records for some years already. What drew you guys into collecting records in the first place?
H: I have to go back to the time we used to come to Volta. There was a guy named Michel aka Bonnefooi. He’s a real purist and I was still a rookie, so I played a lot of edits from Disco records because they were easy to mix. He talked down to me all the time because of that and because I didn’t know who the original artist was. He told me that I had to know what I was playing. You play someone else’s music – so you better need to know who the fuck this is. And that’s the reason why I bought my first record because he was always depreciating me. I think that’s almost 5 years ago, but I’m really happy I bought that first records.
M: For me, I always wanted to know how to play music and I learned some basics from Robbie. At some point I thought, fuck it, I’m going to buy turntables and a mixer. I found it interesting when people played with records and I was a bit in doubt of buying CDJ’s or Technics. But it thought it was the best choice to buy Technics right away – and they were more affordable back then too. And no CDJ’s so I was only able to play with vinyl. I bought a lot of records because that was the only way for me to play music. That’s the reason why I have this big collection – there wasn’t another option. And it got a bit out of hand from there. At some point, I had a lot of House records, but I thought it was interesting to listen to other genres as well. So I started listening to those other genres – which I never expected I was going to listen to or even play. Not only my skills developed because of that, but my musical education made progress as well.
What’s your favorite place to go record digging?
H: Killacutz, definitely.
M: Richard, the owner of the store is a legend and he’s a super cool guy. His selection of House and electronic music is always spot on and really affordable. I think there isn’t a place in Amsterdam, where you’re able to find good electronic music for these prices. And they’ve got a lot of House records – in every sub-genre. Electro, Techno, they’ve got everything. I mean, I like to go to Rush Hour or Red Light Records as well, but Killacutz is my favourite place to go digging. Richard recently imported 20.000 records from Germany – a box full of Frankie Knuckles, a box of this, Masters at Work. And that’s the reason why Killacutz is the shit.
H: I agree. Not to say the other stores here in Amsterdam aren’t good because we go digging there as well. But I feel at Killacutz everything is less pre-selected, so you can find real dimes in the bins for good prices. Most of my House records are from there and like I already mentioned, you can get these big anthems or bangers for just 2 euros.
M: Killacutz is just the go-to spot to find records we play. They also have good Hip Hop and a solid selection of Disco, and sometimes a good Prince record. For represses and new records, I mostly go to Rush Hour and they also have a good second-hand selection of Jazz. WaxWell I sometimes go to as well, for cheaper Jazz records. And really expensive Hip Hop, haha. Red Light Records I go to, to find more obscure music.
Digging for records can be an exhausting activity. Especially when you’re searching for specific stuff. How do you guys select what records you take out of the bins? Do you have certain criteria?
H: When you listen to a lot of House, you start to recognize labels. Or if they have a dub or overdub version on the B-side, I’ll always take that out as well. But before I go to Killacutz, most of the times I already have in mind what I’m searching for. But if the cover looks good, I’ll check that out too.
M: Same. Sometimes I already have a genre in mind, but other times I don’t have any idea what I’m looking for. So, I just go digging. Lately, I’ve been filtering the records more precisely – in the past, some records in the store sounded great, but at home they were nothing like it. Now I start off with a big stack, which I filter until there’s a small selection left that I want to buy. Then I’m taking a little break, have a talk with some people and then I listen to it one more time. Sometimes I ask if they can play it over the sound system, so I can judge the record and find out if I really like it. Every record you buy has to be on point. I used to think, when in doubt just buy the record. But now it’s vice versa, I became more selective. When I have a day off, I go to the store early, take a chair and listen to the whole record. Spending a lot of money too, haha.
H: We’re really into digging, so we pay attention to labels and stuff. But things we don’t know are sometimes even more interesting because that’s where you find the really cool stuff.
M: We also get a lot of recommendations from Richard, the owner of Killacutz. Because we spend a lot of time over there, he knows what stuff we like, so he’s got good suggestions most of the times. Shout out to Richard!
Do you have any standout records you want to share?
H: Since this lockdown, we mostly buy records to just listen to at home and at this moment I’m really into Hip Hop – and especially A Tribe Called Quest. Obviously, we already knew them, but now we’re rediscovering their music. The fun thing is that we know Tribe for quite some time, we both had a Disco and Soul phase, and now we’re listening to Tribe we discovered they were using samples from some of our favourite Disco and Soul records. Because of that, we’re really into them at the moment and we now know what a don Q-Tip is.
M: And J. Dilla too. And Muhammad. All the producers from A Tribe Called Quest, always cool. And this [A Tribe Called Quest – The Love Movement] was the first record I bought when I dove back into Hip Hop music. This one came by in the Hip Hop documentary on Netflix Hip Hop Evolution. One of the episodes featured producers and one of them was J. Dilla and they played this track Find a Way. And later on, I found this one at WaxWell and I immediately bought it.
H: Yeah, Mauro came home with this record and I was like: “Wow, Tribe? That’s sick.” We played the record from front to back quite often – and it eventually led us to buy all of their albums. If we’re going back to House music, I really dig the music of Andres. That’s the vibe at the moment. But we’ve been listening a lot to Playin’ for the City lately, so a lot of Deep House.
During your gigs, you play a lot with vinyl. How do you select what records you’re taking with you?
M: At first, we check where we’re playing and what time – that’s the most important thing. And after that, we start selecting our records – or at least showing each other records we want to take with us. We’re really making a selection on the energy level within a record, if it has vocals and if it’s instrumental or electronic. We really love anthems and classics, so most of our sets will definitely include one classic that people will know. That’s how we build up our energy, blending minimalistic electronic music together with instrumentals. We always bring more records with us than we actually play. We’re both bringing 60 records with us, but we don’t play 120 records you know… We want to be able to decide on the spot what way we want to go.
H: Especially now, because we’re spending more time at home, is an ideal time to sort all our records – and so we did! We love vocal House, and we want to present the vocals stronger due playing records without vocals and mix some really good vocal tracks in between. But it’s hard to say what to play before a gig – sometimes the magic will happen at the moment itself, so you don’t know yet what you’re going to play. But we come prepared – as I said before, we love ourselves some classics.
“When I was a child, my parents used to listen to his music. I thought it was a bit weird. Who was this man, sounding like a woman? I don’t know, I didn’t understand why my parents listened to him.”
Yeah, so you mostly collect classics and music from different era’s, but there’s no way around you’ll get across music from younger talents as well. Which names do we have to keep an eye one?
H: The thing is, we mostly dig in secondhand stores and our sound is highly influenced by the 90’s – we love these older vibes. Sometimes we discover an artist, Playin’ for the City for instance and then we devour their entire repertoire. And because it’s old, you’ll reach the bottom at some point. And then we go further. But for newer producers, to be honest, I don’t know man.
M: Let me think. Like Han said, we mostly play older music.
H: Yeah, House music will never die man. There’s a bottomless pit of 90’s and early 2000’s House music. Like I said earlier, Andres recently released a new album and single – but new House… Not really, I think. As you see, we need to really think about it. I mean, there’s a lot of good new House music coming out. When we go to Rush Hour we sometimes come across cool new stuff that we buy too. But there’s not a specific name that pops into my mind right now. We’re mostly searching for these kinds of forgotten records. But also, productions from Masters at Work, they made a lot of records and some of them you can’t find on the internet – dub remixes from the B-sides for example. That’s what I’m mostly searching for. Recently I bought a record from Masters at Work – which sounded like an anthem but I never heard it before. And then you can get it for only 3 euros – that’s what I like about digging for these records. Finding a real gem for a mere pittance. When you’re buying newer records, you can easily spend 50 euros on just one, which in my case gives me less satisfaction.
M: Classics that never became classics, that’s how it feels for us. But I know a producer that I really like. It’s that guy from Early Sounds Recordings, Pellegrino. He’s from Italy and he’s got his own sound. Everything he’s putting out on his label Early Sounds is really up there you know. Now that’s good Disco! Good to listen to at home, but definitely good to play out on the dancefloors as well.
H: Now you’re talking about that, we like to play some good Disco in between sometimes as well, and I had a period when I was really into Nu-Disco – there was this label Star Creature. They released all these 7” records and I found a lot of these floor fillers coming from their label – and they were mostly new. Mostly, we’re into dusty records from Masters at Work, Kerri Chandler, Chez Damier, that kind of stuff. But there are so many good records out there that we don’t even know about. It’s insane!
And throughout the years your musical taste kept developing as well of course, but there are always some records that you’ll keep listening to. What are these records for you?
M: There are some artists we both really appreciate. For the both of us that’s without a doubt Tatsuro Yamashita – he’s a Japanese producer and singer. He reached quite an age now, I think he’s probably 80 years old or something. That’s something we keep on listening to.
H: Tatsuro for example, is some of the music we listen to at home. It all started with the album For You. We always call Tasuro the Japanese Quincy Jones, because we’ve got a lot of City Pop albums at home and we found out that he produced and wrote most of those timeless albums. He won a record amount of Grammy’s, but not under his own name – and this guy had that too. Since that moment, we’ve fallen in love with him and tried to collect everything of him. That’s something we listen to a lot, apart from Hip Hop and other stuff. And for House music, it’s really the Detroit sound. And the Chicago sound too. Personally, I really like to listen to Andres, from day one. And still, I’m discovering some of his music I never knew about – but the albums of his I bought a while ago I still listen to every week.
M: I share the same thoughts. House we always listen to and play as well, are the Detroit sounds. Moodymann, Andres, Omar S. And also, it’s not Detroit, but we play a lot of Joe Clausell.
H: Yeah, Masters at Work, Kerri Chandler.
M: Underground Resistance, the classic stuff you know. A lot of drum computers, gritty stuff. That’s the music we’re into. And from Chicago, we really like the classic Deep House sound – instrumental music with not only drum computers. Sample-based stuff!
H: Yeah samples and stuff. The really warm sounds. Don’t get me wrong, when we were still able to, I would go to De School and dance to really hard Techno as well. But if it’s about collecting records, we’re more into these sample-based records. Old skool, drum computers.
M: So long story short, drum computers, sample-based stuff and music with real instruments.
H: That’s why we fell in love with The Tribe. I always liked their stuff but I never knew where they got their music from you know. That’s what I like because in that sense we’re real collectors. When I hear the stuff from those producers, they make me think like: “Damn, they’ve spent probably thousands of hours digging to find this stuff in the bins.” And that’s what we both really like to do!
M: And last, I have to mention – I’m a really big Prince fan. I will always listen to Prince, he’s the man, rest in peace. When I come across his music, I will always buy it no matter what it is. I collect it, I listen to it and I enjoy it!
That’s what I wanted to ask you next, Mauro. You do have a Prince tattoo on your arm as well. How did your love for Prince started?
M: When I was a child, my parents used to listen to his music. I thought it was a bit weird. Who was this man, sounding like a woman? I don’t know, I didn’t understand why my parents listened to him. But when I started to play music and buy records, I started to listen to more of his stuff as well – hits like Purple Rain. I discovered he has an insane discography and he made literally anything from Hip Hop to Glamfunk to Disco and even House. So, I was digging more into his music eventually and discovered this guy was a genius. I realized no one was as funky as Prince you know. And my love got a bit out of hand from there. I always listen to Prince, no matter what mood I’m in, I can always listen to his music.
H: Yeah a funny thing is, my friends Sean and Erik, and especially Sean’s brother was a hardcore MJ fan. So that’s what I grew up with. And when I moved here – I mean, I really like Prince, but I always thought MJ is the man. The King of Pop. But when I moved here and started listening to Prince – no offence to MJ, they’re both like gods, but Prince has made so much more music than MJ. Everything MJ made was a hit and that made him the King of Pop, but Prince… You can’t get that many albums of MJ. And that’s why I started listening to Prince more and more because there’s so much music that I never knew about. Since that moment, I was an instant fan of him too – I don’t want to say he’s the better musician, but he released a lot more good music – and much more versatile music. It can be Pop, but at the beginning it was Funk.
M: Jazz, Hip Hop. He experiments a lot. And Prince is a sick dude because he goes to the studio by himself and plays everything by himself and leaves with a hit you know.
H: We’re talking about Quincy Jones again. All the music of Michael Jackson that became hits were produced by Quincy Jones. And Prince did everything by himself. Mauro already was, but since then I became a bigger Prince fan as well.
M: Yeah, and I didn’t really listen to Michael Jackson before – but because of Han I started to listen to Michael Jackson too.
H: We had some discussions at the beginning, without a doubt haha. Mauro does have a tattoo of the Prince logo on his arm, so you can probably imagine how these discussions went haha.