To celebrate the launch, we caught up with co-owner and musician Nic Warnock to talk about the independent music community, Sydney’s underground music scene, and the pivotal role Repressed Records has played in it.
Each season, we celebrate our favourite independent music stores with our Record Store World Tour: a collaboration series that pays homage to those championing the survival of independent music by putting cultural integrity and quality before profit.
This season we joined forces with Sydney-based institution Repressed Records, purveyor of independent and underground titles from Australia and around the world for almost 20 years. We chatted with co-owner, musician, and independent music aficionado, Nic Warnock about the history of the iconic store and how it’s moulded culture in a small corner of the world.
Can you tell us a little about your background and how you got into the music scene?
There wasn’t really a music scene in my hometown of Cairns in the early 2000s. As a teen I got into Hip Hop which was my first exposure to musical counterculture and paved the way for all things to come. Discovering The Stooges and The Saints was a real breakthrough, which led my friends and I to print our own license to play music without the know-how or ability we previously thought was required.
I moved to Western Sydney for university and soon after lucked out by getting a job at Repressed Records when it was located in Penrith. I made a friend at uni who shared a similar appetite for weird music and soon enough we were travelling into the city every weekend to find out what was happening here and now.
We discovered lots of little enclaves of music and nudged our way into those communities. Since then, I’ve played in numerous bands, booked lots of shows, helped coordinate a few tours for overseas bands and run a record label. Repressed Records has remained the consistent grounding force.
What’s the history of Repressed Records?
Repressed Records began its life in Penrith in 2002, where it did great until the local JBHIFI opened and made it tough. The store moved to Newtown in 2008, which was also a shift in focus to facilitating a more specialised music selection. We’ve dabbled in putting on shows, from tiny instores in our old Newtown location, to the Sydney Opera House. Hard to believe the store will be 20 next year!
“While we focus on all types of music, and that all music is connected, I’d say we’re most known for supporting independent music or more specifically the subset of independent music with a Do It Yourself (D-I-Y) ethos.”
While D-I-Y is generally associated with Punk, and how it allowed many more people to participate in music communities, the same streak of egalitarianism and focus on creative communication over success can be seen in many areas of contemporary music. From Metal, to Folk, to Experimental Composition. We certainly have a local, here-and-now focus, but enjoy having those new records sit alongside a nice range from different times and places!
What's a typical day at Repressed look like?
Well, typical days don’t really exist at the moment with lockdown. Operating solely online has been challenging, but the community support has been endearing.
During lockdown one of us will get to the store by 10am, check the online orders, pick and pack orders, then organise contactless pick-ups and local deliveries.
We’ll then think about orders, write about records we’re excited about, do boring admin stuff and think of ways to make being a record store in lockdown fun and exciting for both us and our customers.
There are photos to be taken for instagram and sometimes videos. Last thing that gets done on a typical day is that we deliver parcels to the inner west by foot or by bicycle. It’s a free service we have going at the moment.
What's the best thing about running a record store?
“Having the ability to shape and mould a small corner of the world. Being able to offer a service that people really seem to appreciate, and being a part of a network that allows ordinary people to participate in music.”
“We’ve had celebrities Elton John and Henry Rollins shop in the store, unfortunately not at the same time. Elton bought 70s glam, Henry bought the weirdest and wildest of the Australian underground.”
What does the Sydney music scene mean to you?
“As lame as it sounds it’s a very large part of my self worth and sense of purpose! For example, I made a pretty good moussaka for dinner the other night. Unfortunately it did not bring me anywhere near the amount of fulfilment I’d feel from booking a sparingly attended show with four near unknown bands in the basement of a venue that smells bad.”