Q&A 021 – YAM Records

"there's nothing like jumping in at the deep end to learn how to swim"

When did the idea of YAM started? Do you remember exactly when you decided what it was going to be called and why this name?

Theo – I was in the process of starting a booking agency, or so I thought. I was trying to think of names, and had spent about a month trying to think of one. I was in my mate Peters back garden in Spring having a beer in the evening playing each other records, when I decided if any of the names from my favourite records might be appropriate. The first record that came to mind was Donald Byrds ‘Places and Spaces’ which I am particularly fond of. ‘You And Music’ is one one of my favourite tunes, and had joked a number of times about how it reminded me of many relationships! Anyways, I settled on You And Music aka YAM, a vegetable that is very popular in Peckham with the African community, and can be seen for sale all the way down Rye Lane and the surrounding area. It just felt appropriate in many ways.

What were the real first difficulties of running the shop – if there were any?

Theo – Deciding that we were going to open during the day and not just evenings and weekends. Getting stock to the shop when neither of us drive!

Tom – Yeah, and pretty much everything else! Neither of us had ever done anything like this before so it was kind of a case of the blind leading the blind. A really steep learning curve but there’s nothing like jumping in at the deep end to learn how to swim.

When I came down I saw a lot of people in a small space – everyone seemed to know each other, a sort of little community. Did you always wanted to achieve this?

Theo – This was one of the goals we wanted to achieve by setting up the shop, for it to become a place for people to meet and hang out in a music orientated environment. We wanted to help foster the hot bed that Peckham is for the music community in South London.

Tom – That was always a primary function of the shop for us; to make it somewhere people can hang out and talk about music without the pressure of buying records.

With the other two records shops around where you guys are based, Peckham Rye is becoming sort of a little island for music collectors. How supportive is the community of the area with what you do?

Theo – Everyone is very supportive. We often call each other up asking to record sleeves and bags, or occasionally drinks on a Thursday.

Tom – Yeah, everyone is in it together. We’re all friends and there’s no competition at all – the complete opposite, in fact. It’s bloody lovely.

Do you go and dig through the shops I saw around yours (all the multicultural stuff I saw around seemed very interesting)?

Theo – As in do I shop at CD Base?

Tom – Every now and then we’ll hear something being blasted out of the CD Base system and have to find out what it is! There’s a whole host of CD shops up Rye Lane selling weird and wonderful music from around the world – I think Beans and Louis even did pretty much a whole show on NTS comprised of these.

Any alternative projects that will take place coming from YAM?

Tom – We’ve got a couple of projects in the pipeline but nothing we can say too much about at the moment…

If it wasn’t music it would be You and …. ?

Theo – ..a few bottles of red.

Tom – you, and you, and you, and you…

Which is the most requested record since you guys have opened?

Theo – Al Dobson Jr – Rye Lane Vol 1

Tom – Or Chaos In The CBD – Midnight in Peckham

Now onto our ordinary questions… talking about ‘downstairs’, what’s the first thing that comes in to your mind when you hear that word?

Theo – A basement…genitals?

Tom – ha yeah, genitals. We’re real high brow…

Could you tell us about three of your most essential ‘downstairs’ tracks?


‘Almir Ricardi – Pura’

‘Joe Claussell – Drums of Ju/Ru’

‘John Gibbs – J’ouvert’


‘Theo Parrish – Goin Downstairs’ (Editor: Have a listen and buy on Juno here )

‘Etta James & Sugar Pie DeSanto – Down In The Basement’

‘Boz Scaggs – Lowdown’

Talking a little bit more about yourself, what’s the most unique or interesting experience you’ve ever had while below ground level?

Theo – Falling asleep on the Ginza line in Tokyo after seeing Jack J. I got on at Shibuya (1st stop on the line) just as the trains started up again, and was supposed to get of at Asakusa (last stop on the line) where I was staying. This journey usually lasts about 45 mins. Instead I fell asleep so hard cause of the booze I went all the way there and back again, then back again… I felt so rough by the end of it. 3.5 hours on that bloody train, and one of the worst hangovers I have ever experienced yet!

On the other hand nothing can beat going to FWD at plastic people for the 1st time, weed, incense and dub in a pitch black room with the best sound in London. One particular moment that stands out for me is seeing Kode 9 there in 2008 when he dropped ‘Darkstar – Need You’. The place went insane and turned into some kind of dub mosh pit! That was an excellent summer of music.

Tom – any night spent at Plastic People (RIP). Or getting stuck potholing at the age of 8.

If you had a basement, what would you hide in it?

Theo – Lots of red wine and my record collection.

Tom – the bodies.

And finally something that involves your creativity. Draw anything that comes into your mind when you think about ‘downstairs’ – don’t worry, it could take you up to 1 minute!

Theo – A hairy penis and balls.

Tom – see above, as below.

BY Downstairs