Our second entry of Record Rooms zooms in on Jordan aka William J, a core member of homegrown label & collective Darker Than Wax. He's been DJ-ing for over a decade at this point, and has built up a reputation for his perpetual hunt for lost cuts and fresh sounds.
Listen to his recent all-vinyl mix for music-centric bar Offtrack:
Jordan's mixes showcase a breadth of knowledge, fusing a deep love for the most soulful sounds with booming machine workouts, raw disco cuts and sub-bass pressure. In this entry, we take a look at his personal space and geek out on his setup.
When and how did you get started with the itch for music?
Jordan: Tough to give a definitive answer on this, but I’ve always been around music as my Dad is a big music lover and collector, as well as a guitar player. Growing up he had around 1500 records and over 1000 CDs (I still have his CDs in my house today), heavy on Folk, Rock, Blues, AOR, Reggae, and ‘World’ music. Music was a primary interest of mine as far back as I can remember, and I played guitar for a number of years and was in a few not-so-serious bands as a teen.
I’ve been DJing for around 12 years, and that was really the proper start of record collecting - a lot of the music I wanted was only available on wax. Early on it was mostly grime, dubstep, and UKG, but I quickly got into house, techno, disco, boogie, jazz, and a million other things. I would say I’ve been a bit more ‘serious’ about buying records for the last 6 years or so.
Run us through your setup – turntables, carts, mixer, amp, speakers, everything! How did you come to decide on each piece of kit and how did you acquire it all?
Jordan: The heart of the setup is the mixer - a Condesa Carmen V. My turntables are Japan-market Technics MK3D (one purchased in Canada and one purchased here) both with Shure M44-7 carts with Jico stylus - I’ve also got a pair of M44G but need to replace the stylus on those. I’ve always used Shure carts as I’ve never vibed with Ortofons, and I’ve never felt the need to get into the pricier hi-fi carts. For digital, I’ve got a pair of Pioneer XDJ-700s as they are the most compact (and affordable) CDJs.
Jordan: I had used some not so great speakers for years (KRK Rokit 5s), but once I got my Condesa I knew I needed to do it justice with a proper hifi setup. I recently replaced them with Morel Octave 5.2M bookshelf speakers, which continually blow my mind with their sound quality for such a small speaker. The amplifier is a workhorse NAD C320BEE recently acquired on Carousell, and I’ll probably upgrade this a few years down the line once I wrap my head around the world of amplifiers.
The NAD C320BEE amp.
Couldn't help but notice that very handsome looking Condesa rotary mixer you’ve got! Big high five on that because we use the very same one here at the store. What drew you to the Condesa?
Jordan: I had wanted a rotary mixer for years and spend a long time figuring out which one to get. I had only really played on E&S and Condesa mixers extensively and enjoyed them both immensely, but was also seriously considering a MasterSounds. E&S was out of the running pretty early on as the wait times are insane, and while it is an amazing mixer I feel the other options have a more full sound. I eventually decided on the Condesa because I wanted a drastically different playing experience than what I was used to with modern mixers. MasterSounds are more precise, have more modern features, and are probably better as a ‘club’ mixer than a Condesa. But I didn’t want gain knobs, a crossfader, or LED meters - Condesa mixers really encourage you to play more based on feeling and trusting your ears and that was what I was ultimately after. 3 years on and I couldn’t be happier with the mixer.
A Condesa Carmen V at the heart of the setup!
We also know that those speakers are a fairly new addition to your setup - what’s the story there and how are you liking them?
Jordan: These speakers are incredible! I was looking at a few JBL and Klipsch models but was having a hard time finding something that would fit my budget as well as the space constraints of my flat. By chance, at the time I was searching for speakers, Kentaro (one of my favourite local DJs from the Mugic crew) was leaving the country with his family and selling a bunch of his gear. These speakers were the perfect size and fit within my budget - I had never heard of the Morel brand before, but Kentaro is incredibly knowledgeable about audio gear and if he had used them for as long as he did (around 17 years), I knew they had to be great.
Morel Octave 5.2M bookshelf speakers.
There’s a lot that has been said about ‘DJ gear’ vs Hi-Fi kit, and an increasing interest among the DJ community in higher quality components as well. Do you have a bit of a philosophy about your gear?
Jordan: I’m a DJ at my core and won’t pretend to know a lot about the hi-fi gear, it’s a whole other world. But I wanted to hear my records better and finally had the means to make that happen after playing on the cheapest equipment for most of my time as a DJ. It took a while to get here, but now that its complete, the setup just works for how I play and listen to music. I’ll never need any other turntable than a Technics 1200, and I’ll probably never use any other needles than Shure DJ carts. If it works, it works.
We noticed Maft Sai of Zudrangma Records using a vintage Roland Space Echo with his E&S rotary mixer on his 'VF Live' residency on The Vinyl Factory. Do you use any effects with your Condesa, or is it straight wax and frequencies all day?
Jordan: Straight wax and frequencies. I feel like the more experienced I became as a DJ, I used less and less effects, aside from a cheeky delay to jump between tempos. So it hasn’t been part of my style for many years. That being said, it does look super fun to mess around with outboard gear on a rotary mixer, and I made sure that my mixer had the FX sends included when being built. I’ll maybe pick up a delay pedal or something and start figuring it out sometime soon.
Straight wax and frequencies all day for William J!
How do you organize your records? Did you try a few different ways or has it been the same way since you started?
Jordan: Pretty much the same way since I started, by genre/vibe. It’s not super precise, but I know where everything is and can usually find a record I’m thinking of pretty fast. The more records and storage I get, I can get a bit more granular. For example, house music is by far the biggest single genre in my collection and I’ve got 5 shelves dedicated to it - Classic house pre-1995, classic house post 1995, modern US house, modern UK/EU house, and modern ‘house not house’ sort of stuff. Other sections are just based on feeling, like the one that has ambient, no wave, EBM, synth, and weird electronic sounds - quite disparate but makes sense to me to group those together. Also, I keep LPs and singles separated, but my collection is probably 70% singles/EPs.
Jordan: Also gotta give a quick shoutout to Discogs and their mobile app - I catalogued my whole collection on Discogs quite early on when it was only at around 200 records. Anytime I buy new records I quickly add them to my Discogs collection. Now that its over 1000 records, it has made my life so much easier being able to keep track of what versions I have, what I own, what I don’t own, etc. It has also saved me from accidentally buying a record that I already own so many times!
(Spotted: Hiroshi Sato's Orient in the bottom shelf! Available here.)
Q. Considering what you know now, what kind of advice would you give yourself when you were just starting out?
Jordan: Stop carrying 50 records in a shoulder bag!
Catch Jordan and his wax, right here at the vault for Record Store Day 2022 (Sat, 23rd Apr).
Follow William J: