Hazy summer selections from a Paris digger.
We've all heard the phrase 'a DJ's DJ.' Raphaël Top-Secret might be a digger's digger. "Many roads lead back to Raphaël when it comes to great discoveries," says Jamie Tiller, the Music From Memory cofounder who collaborated with Raphaël on 2017's Uneven Paths, a compilation of oddball pop rescued from record bins across Europe. Raphaël cut his teeth as a DJ in the early '00s, playing in small Parisian bars alongside Quentin Vandewalle, AKA Zaltan, who now runs the Antinote label. He then had a stint living in Brussels, where he would wake up at 5 AM some mornings to dig at the Place Du Jeu De Balle flea market.
For Raphaël, finding and sharing music is his most enriching outlet for artistic expression—more so than production, which he's dabbled in with original tunes and edits for labels like Antinote, Macadam Mambo and Non-Collective. (His edit of Tohon Stanislas's "Owhaaou!" appeared on Hunee's recent compilation for Rush Hour.) His RA podcast exudes a kind of summer-afternoon languor, from the opening tune (a beautiful slice of lovers rock by Annette Brissett) to the end of its breezy progression through dub, R&B, downtempo, boogie and house.
What have you been up to recently?
I've been playing a bunch of very cool gigs: Corsica Studios, Lente Kabinet, Love Potion in Stockholm... I'm very happy at the moment with my agent Oli (from Warm Agency) who does an amazing job with my bookings. I'm also working on new music to be released, productions and remixes that I'm very excited about.
How and where was the mix recorded?
The mix has been recorded in my living room where my music equipment, records and gear is actually set up. I've only used vinyl because I didn't own a CDJ at the time. (I do own one now.) My mixer is a Rodec BX-9 and I've recorded through my Roland R-05, it's a portable recorder, I have it with me all the time, it's great.
Can you tell us about the idea of the mix?
My idea behind the mix was to build a smooth flow between tempo and genres. Starting with nice lovers rock, R&B and downtempo to get into the mood, then softly going to the club side with the boogie, Italo and house records which can be related to the underground NY and Chicago sounds from the '80s and early '90s. That kind of late-afternoon set that you could hear me play at some festivals over the summer.
Where does the Top-Secret part of your DJ name come from?
I'm attracted by what is not obvious, and what is not common to find. I like what is hidden, I like mystery and I love to be surprised. When I chose the name I was around 19 years old, and at that time I was just thinking that it sounded serious and cool, ha!
You're known as someone with the ability to unearth tunes that have disappeared from everyone's radar. Can you shine some light on your digging process?
I'm just staying curious and I do my best not to get bored or be boring. I just love looking for records and I think that's the most important part of success. Then the taste has to be developed, and this could take more than a lifetime. For me it's all about finding those special tunes that will have a unique effect on my personality; tunes that makes me feel something higher. Sharing them with the people is the most relevant way I've found to express myself intimately—maybe even more than writing songs actually.
What are you up to next?
I have a couple of festivals to play this summer, and an Asian tour planned in September. Jamie Tiller and I will play Boiler Room at Dekmantel on August 4th, and I'm finishing some music to be released. I'm working with a friend on a very exciting street soul/R&B record that we produced here in Paris, romantic as hell of course. I can't wait for this to be ready. I really hope you enjoy the mix and wish you the best summer!