Luke Sardello is so much more than just a veteran DJ. Sardello is the epitome of an old school Dallas vet, but he is also a music connoisseur, curator and part of the brains behind Josey Records. As a DJ he’s largely associated with house music, but — as a crate digger of the highest order — his extreme depth of knowledge makes him able to execute techno, electro, funk 45s and a plethora of music microcosms. As such, he goes deeper than the vast majority of active DJs. For this week’s mixtape, Sardello dives into the world of minimal synth, Italo and oddball ’80s tunes.
Dallas Observer: How did you get started DJing?
Sardello: I started DJing in 1988 when a junior high friend, Derrick Wright, introduced me to house music and techno. He had been working for Bill’s [Records] for a couple years and turned me onto this new music that I had never heard before. There were radio tapes from Chicago (WBMX, WGCI) and Detroit (WJLB) that had made their way to Dallas through friends and we were hooked, trying to find all these records that we were mesmerized by.
How did those records wind up at Bill’s?
Bill’s was the first store in Dallas to start carrying underground house and was ordering direct through Gherkin and Barney’s in Chicago. We started taking trips to Chicago and Detroit in 1990 and discovered that disco and electronic disco records coming out of Italy were the pre-cursors to house, so it was a natural progression to start buying and collecting that stuff too.
How was this mix made? Is there a particular theme for the track selection?
I have a wide variety of musical tastes and it took a while to decide where I wanted to take the mix. At first I considered a mix of records that emanated from Dallas, whether it be soul, hip-hop or house. I thought about doing an all-45 mix, as I’ve been doing the Fresh 45s night with JT Donaldson. Ultimately I went with this mix of new wave, Italo disco, minimal synth and all-around ’80s weirdness. I grew up in the ’80s and it’s always had a place in my heart. If I’m not doing a house or 45 gig, I’m likely playing music like this.
You’ve been a vinyl collector for years. How has it changed since you started collecting?
My primary focus in the ’90s was buying records to DJ. I was hunting down and calling record stores all over the country looking for records I was hearing on tapes. At the time, buying records as a collector wasn’t even a thought. Towards the end of the millennium, though, I started noticing that some of the records I had been buying were worth some money. [But] connecting with collectors was obviously far less easy then. I was getting sales lists from people that placed ads in music magazines or was calling shops in Chicago. I was taking long road trips to Chicago and New York.
How did you get into the retail end of things?
EBay started coming into prominence in ’98 and it became apparent that records had value. Yes, I wanted to DJ and was buying records for that, but I also started buying records that I knew had value. I started studying and put in countless hours of research. I started buying records for the purpose of selling them; initially the thought was to sell records to pay for the ones I wanted to keep.
When did you decide to turn that into Josey Records?
I started noticing a trend in 2010 that I was starting to see a new group of people at some of the places I was buying records … I watched it for a couple years and by then I had accumulated thousands of records. One of my best friends from DJing throughout the ’90s was Waric Cameron and we started talking about opening a record store. There were a few large collections we had a line on and coupled with some of the stuff I had we decided to open Josey Records.
What are your plans label-wise in the near future?
The plan label-wise for Josey will be sign acts that we really believe in and have longevity. We are DJs, but the label won’t necessarily be DJ-based music or electronic music. We’re also interested in distribution and we’ve already started handling a couple of labels through our A+R Record Manufacturing plant in [the form of] JT Donaldson’s New Math Records and Ben Hixon’s Dolfin Records.
Has running a record store changed your listening habits?
Yes, I definitely pay much more attention to new music that’s coming out. As one of the buyer’s at Josey, I’ve come across a lot of great music that I might not have otherwise discovered. Working with the great crew we have at Josey has also translated into learning about music I didn’t know or hadn’t given much thought to before.
What new music has been catching you ears of late?
I see a couple of different movements that are exciting to me. One is the new funk stuff that’s coming out of labels like PPU in D.C. and Mo Funk in California, who are doing an ’80s soul/funk thing … Ben Hixson’s Dolfin Records is releasing music down this path too and we’re excited to be pressing and distributing it. The other thing I see happening that I really like are R&B projects like Kaytranada and Anderson Paak that seem to incorporate a number of different things into their projects that all tie together to make a really interesting listen.
What gigs do you have in the near future?
At the moment I’m doing the Fresh 45s gig once a month and have been having a lot of fun with it. 45s offer a challenge to DJing that bring back those initial feelings I had when I got into DJing. Each DJ in the crew brings their own style and there’s a sense that you’re playing for those guys as much as you are the crowd. I think that drives all of us to make sure we bring our best to the party. I’m not a vinyl DJ that’s opposed to digital by any means, but having to pull a vinyl set where you can only bring so many records is a challenge that I get excited about.
1. N.O.I.A – Night Is Made For Love
2. Marie Davidson – Exces De Vitesse
3. Baricentro – Tittle Tattle
4. Starflight – Dance To The Beat
5. Q – The Voice of Q
6. Maxx Mann – Bloody and Blue
7. Ohama – Where Do You Call Home?
8. Neon – My Blues Is You
9. Tik and Tok – Crisis
10. Expansives – Life Without You
11. Peter Richard – Le Planete Nous Regarde
12. A Number Of Names – Skitso
13. New Musik – The Planet Doesn’t Mind
14. Ryuichi Sakamoto – Riot In Lagos
15. New Musik – While You Wait
16. Yellow Magic Orchestra – Key