Somewhere around 2014, I bought minty copies of the Jobettes "What You Gonna Do" and Prince Geno & The Tailormades "Brand New Man With A Masterplan" for a sweet price on Discogs and posted them on my Instagram. A guy with the handle @stayaware made a comment Happy you received the records, enjoy! That guy was Cameron. Went to check out his feed and quickly realised the man is a killer record collector and deejay, not to mention a fabulous visual artist and painter with an amazing, unique style. We've been cyber buddies ever since. Cameron's collection is serious stuff. Sweet, deep, group soul, rare funk, latin, reggae... you name it, he's got it covered. It's an honour to have him featured and tell us a bit about himself and his impressive collection. Cameron is taking over our stream this weekend as well with a 2,5h deep 'n sweet soul special so be sure to tune in. Details on the homepage. Read on...
Cameron Thompson aka Dj Aware aka Stay Aware. Started collecting records around 91’. Always had a strong love for music in many different styles and genres. Grateful for the opportunities I've had to Dj in various countries and across the US. Been fortunate enough to know so many talented people that I can share music with and learn from. Held down multiple Dj nights, Events, Radio Shows etc. over the years with folks such as Dusty Diamonds, Suavecito Souldies, Wise Up Wednesdays, Gangster Dedications Radio, KALX Radio, KGPC Radio, Bay Area Soul Weekender, Latin Soul Fridays and Saturdays, Soul Congregation, Sound Dimension Radio, Sweet Soul Sundays, Oakland Museum Friday Night Live, countless art shows and community events, and the list goes on. Put out the Panama Sweet Soul CD many years back. Have worked on hundreds of mixes on tape, cd, as well as online. Still looking for/ finding new and old music. The journey continues…..
How did you get started with collecting soul records?
The evolution of collecting soul records takes me back to jazz and hip hop. Being Califonia born and raised I feel blessed to have grown up around so much music. I listened to soul music in the 80s and 90s but the changing point for my ear and appreciation of soul music was probably around 94 or 95 when I had this girlfriend who made me this mixtape. She put the Charmels on there and I was like “yo that's the Wu Tang sample”. Game changer. Wouldn't be till over 15 years later that I found the record. I was always into breaks and sample stuff and anything soul/ jazz related. I was buying reggae records and other styles alongside hip hop, jazz, and soul. I was picking up records in the 90s but the real evolution and changing point for me was around 2000/2001. I moved to Ireland and was picking up a ton of records out there. Really getting deeper into rare stuff and under the radar stuff. I moved to Texas around 2002 and it just got so much deeper out there. For me it was always about the music regardless of rarity or something common. Picking up things that I loved and enjoyed for myself first. Living out in Texas from around 02’-07’ I started picking up a ton of latin soul, chicano soul, panama soul, afro soul, and other international soul related stuff. I had a friend, Marcos, who put me up on a ton of dope latin music in the late 90s and was finally finding a lot of those records that I heard on tapes he made for me back in the day. Moved back to Oakland in 2007 and it was all uphill from there. It's been an almost 30 year journey in records and I still get that feeling like the first time I picked up a record. Soul music has a special place in my heart. Interesting thing for me over the years is that soul music has always been soul music. It's not till later in my journey that I was labeling things as sweet soul, crossover, northern, etc. Labels work for certain records but some are so far out of the box you can't pigeonhole them. For every record i know something about there are the other 5 records i don't know anything about. There are literally MILLIONS of soul recordings. It's endless. I’m all about the journey and the evolution of that journey. Coming back and revisiting records I found 20 years ago and appreciating them again. I love rare soul stuff like the next collector but also all the hidden gems by artists that are common and super easy to find. Music is music and if it's good I’ll play it and collect it if it feels right. I’ve let a lot of records go over the years but honestly it feels pretty good to not be so attached to things. Records are always out there. That's the fun of digging and searching for things in the field. You never know what you’ll find. Sometimes it's nice to let something go and maybe find it again years later. The Soul Saga continues…..
Do you remember the first record you ever bought?
I think it was a Crimpshrine 45. Was living back and forth from Cali to Texas. I think 1991. Lookout Records used to have ads in magazines and I sent cash in an envelope to them for the record. Good times. Great band!
What’s that one song that moves you the most? The one that hits you straight in the heart and moves you deeply?
Awe, this is hard. So many moods. Probably have to say “Together”. So many killer versions by artists like the Intruders, New Days, The Dinos, Disciples Of Soul, Sal DeLeon, and so on. The lyrics are timeless. I can appreciate it as a slow dagger to a mid tempo groover. Yeah definitely never get tired hearing it! So damn good! My favorite is probably the Dinos version for the uptempo and the New days for the slow dagger.
Is there a record you get especially melancholy by, that reminds you of a certain period of your life?
Frankie Nieves "It's Better To Cry". Always gets me right in the gut. Whole LP is so good! One day I’ll find the 45 but I’m happy having the LP. Always reminds me of simpler times in many ways but also difficult times in my life.
How many records do you own? Any system in keeping things organised?
These days I’ve simplified the collection to around 5 or 6 thousand records. Maybe have another 2000-4000 in storage that I’m trying to get rid of and maybe keeping a few hundred more of those. For me it’s about records I REALLY want or need these days. These are records that are special to me and also many of them have sentimental memories attached to them. Quality over quantity all day! Plus I live in a small apartment so I’ve had to downsize stuff that I don't need. Things are organized by soul, latin, reggae, hip hop, jazz, etc. I collect 45s and Lps. I buyout collections sometimes so the numbers I have might fluctuate but I feel like owning around 5000 at a time is good. I know too many people that have massive collections that they never listen to. That’s not me. I love having music that I can share and revisit. Plus just getting older maybe or spending less time djing I don’t feel the need to have or own everything. It's good to let go of stuff. I gave away a few thousand records from my storage earlier this year. Felt great. Just let stuff go. I’ll always be on the hunt for records so for me it's a lifetime quest. Maybe I’ll want to keep more down the line or maybe I’ll only keep a thousand. Who knows. All part of my own personal growth and journey.
Any records you are done with, and can never put on again? Played to death?
Webs "It’s So Hard To Break A Habit". Feels like everyone was playing the hell out of this 5 years ago. Made me cringe when we used to do one of our dj nights and multiple guests would play this in one night. I used to love hearing it on Matthew and Josh’s Soul Boulders mix. Feel like they were the first to really get that song out there. I love that mix and that’s probably the only time I can hear it because they blend it so well and it really fits the flow of the mix. That mix was way ahead of its time and the joints they played on that were insane! Deep sweet and killer!
Is there a record you have been trying to find for years that you still haven’t found? What’s your biggest want?
Too many to name! Lol. But one I really want is the Fabulous Malibus "My Love" on Unity. Killer local record and hasn't popped up out in the field at all for me. Goosebump Soul. Love it! I’ll find it when the time is right.
Tell us something about how you source your records. Online or in the field? Do you have any feelings towards either?
In the field! That’s where it started for me and that’s always been the best. I travel a bit so I’m always amazed where records can be found. Best stories and best memories are out in the field. I source records from all over. I have folks and places I’ve been going to for years. Flea markets, stores, house calls, garage sales, estate sales, the list goes on. Records have popped up in the craziest places for me. Neighbors. Lol. So many spots. As far as online buying goes I still pick up some stuff. It's just another outlet. My feelings about folks who only buy online is that they are missing so much face to face with people. Hearing stories and getting some history is important. That doesn't happen online much. For me being in the field and having a personal connection to finding a record and an in person interaction is the best.
Collecting deep and sweet soul records has become quite popular, globally, over the last years while before it was limited to certain regions or subcultures. How do you feel about that? What do you think about the state of the scene?
The positives are I think it's amazing newer folks are collecting records and getting exposed to these types of music. With Youtube, Mixcloud, social media, etc people have quick access to the music. It’s great to be able to share music with so many folks. That being said there can always be a downside to things as well. Culture can become disposable and people will embrace it for a minute but when the hype train is over they look for the next thing. Records can hold a rich history if you do your research. Personally I love sweet and deep stuff and follow my own appetite and taste when it comes to the music. Hopefully the newer collectors or folks who decided to start playing the slow side will love the music and will share it with a sincere appreciation for the sounds. Always in it for the long haul so it doesn't bother me which way the winds blow. Music is to be loved and shared and these days I can't be bothered by politics or egos.
Can you share a cool story related to your record collecting?
So, about 7 years ago I was talking to my neighbour about things. I Dj'd a block party on his block years before I moved to the neighborhood. He used to host these epic block parties where he brought out everyone from the community. Oakland locals. Fun, family friendly event plus weed and booze. The Cali way. Lol. So here we are getting nostalgic about the old parties and he started saying let's do another one. I’m down! He starts talking about it and I'm like let's do a community garage sale. He’s down! Then I was like I wonder who has records on the block. He replies i have some records inside. I think a few bags of 45s that were mine and some of my old neighbors. I simply replied dope! He then starts to tell me that he thinks there was a record in there called Oakland Street Band or 14th St. Band. My eyes grew larger! I was like East 14th Street Band? He replies yeah, i think that's the one. I tell him let me go grab some cash and I'll be right back. I come back and give him some cash and he gives me 3 ziploc bags full of 45s. I go home and start pulling out records from the first 2 bags and it's the usual suspects... Kool and the Gang, Bill Withers, One Way, tons of Motown stuff and gospel. I find a few unexpected gems but still no sign of East 14th Street Band. Last bag. Almost all the way through the stack and I’m feeling a sense of disappointment mixed with anxiety. And then it happens… There it is! East 14th Street Band. Nice and clean as well. I threw it on the turntable and played “Now and Then.” Joy to my ears. Definitely a great day and a nice score. Just one more reason why I’ve always loved finding records in person versus online. The adventures are endless. Records come and go but stories and memories are priceless.
Great story! To end our Q&A. What are the top 10 records you currently keep in heavy rotation?
Barrett Bros "Have You Heard Of It"
Merlyn Brooks "You’ll Never Need Somebody"
T&T "Something On My Mind"
Inkeeper Band "I Could Never Hurt You Girl"
Motifs "Come Back To Me"
Pete & Timothy Fradue "Cruisin’ On"
Ravin Mads "How Long Has It Been"
Apollos Show Band "Somebody Help Me"
Jerone "Hey, You Got Me In A Daze"
Soul Fantastics "Te Amo, Te Quiero, Te Espero"
Don't forget to tune in this weekend for Cameron's High Note Radio special. Details on the homepage. Here's a taste what to expect....
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