Northside Records occupies a unique position in the landscape of Australian independent record stores. Owned and run by the enigmatic Chris Gill, Northside has grown over its 15 years of operation to become a focal point for groove based music in Melbourne, and Gill as a facilitator for events and releases in the local soul scene.
“I started it because Melbourne didn’t have a very strong soul scene back in 2001-2002, like maybe one or two bands. Now there would be kind of 40 or 50 and that whole row is all local soul bands on 45,” says Gill pointing at one of the store’s racks. “So we’re in a better place now than we were.”
Gill has done more than offer a place for local acts to sell their wares; Northside Records also operates as a record label, putting out new releases by the likes of The Seven Ups and Saskwatch, as well as reissuing forgotten funk/soul/jazz albums from years gone by. This is all fed by Gill’s enthusiasm for the genre and the culture in general, a sentiment that makes the store itself a destination for the likeminded.
“It’s very difficult to maintain and continue a retail store in town but I think, so long as you know why you’re doing it - you’re doing it predominately for the culture, for culture’s sake - then you’ll survive and you’ll keep going,” says Gill. “The store is great because once you’re in this store, you’re standing next to people who also like music. So you’ve got that thing in common initially. The amount of customers I have that are musicians is amazing, because of course, all the musicians get the ten per cent musicians discount. Often musicians will meet other musicians, or musicians will buy other musicians’ music, not only to support, but to check out and to see where they’re standing amongst the music of Melbourne.”
“The amount of times that you’ve been in here and I get to introduce different band members to one another from different bands, and collaborations that spring from stuff like that. We had Kate Ceberano in here and she needed the funk, so we hooked her up with The Bamboos and I think a project happened. All sorts of manner of musicians are brought together.”
Although they maintain a strong focus on Melbourne releases, the store’s range and reputation extends much further, a position that is aided and complimented by Gill’s longstanding radio show on 3RRR, The Get Down.
“That helps a lot in terms of spreading the word about - of course music from all over the world - but we do make a point of shining the light on local stuff,” says Gill. “When artists come through town we go out of our way to let them know they’re being supported here and that there’s other bands who also like what they do, and to show that other bands, local Melbourne bands, are doing the same sort of music as them.”
The store frequently holds in-store performances from both local and touring acts, and in the past has hosted appearances by George Clinton, Mulatu Astatke and Kurtis Blow. Gill is in the midst of organising the next big event to be held in the shop, Record Store Day.
“Record Store Day 2017 is the ten year anniversary of Record Store Day, it will be a big one. Every independent record store in the world gets a party on Saturday April 22nd,” says Gill. “Northside will be doing a 45 with Allysha Joy, the lead singer of 30/70, she’ll be performing as well. Cookin’ On Three Burners will be launching their latest 45, which is an original song, and then a cover of Metallica’s ‘Enter Sandman’ on the flip.
“We’re going to have Briggs from AB Original do a signing in the store. AB Original are going to be launching the black red and yellow version of their album, the coloured vinyl so that’ll be great,” he says. “Of course they’ll be lots of record releases on the day. We’re also doing a re-issue of an amazing 1979 Australian and Japanese co-production called Hiroshi and Claudia, sort of disco, soul, jazz kind of freaky record. And then they’ll be releases from all around the world we’ll get in at the time. We’ll have lots of DJs throughout the day and two, three or four bands performing on the day.
“We’re also going to be re-publishing the eighth edition of the Diggin’ Melbourne map as well. The map is a collection of all the independent record stores in Melbourne and a little blurb about each one. Like with the cycle of life, stores are born and stores die, so we’ll be updating that, so when you want to go on your tour on Record Store Day, you’ll know exactly where to go.”
Northside Records are located at 236 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy, Melbourne. For more information head to northsiderecords.com.au.