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Herb Sundays 24: Eothen Alapatt
The Now-Again founder back in Connecticut reflecting on records of his youth and extrapolating. Art by Cina.
Eothen Alapatt (known to many as “Egon”) is a person of extreme musical taste but that’s not all. Ask him about pizza in New England, any varietal/year of wine, and probably a bunch of other stuff and he’ll deliver. My playlist request found him in his birth state of Connecticut, “talking with my mother, father, and uncle (my mother’s brother), about records that they had around, the ones we listened to when my siblings and I were kids, and I just flowed from there. Obviously, we weren’t listening to Molly Drake or unreleased Richard Marks, but my uncle sure did think that Al Manfredi reminded him of Karen Dalton.”
Eothen runs a small constellation of labels: His imprint Now-Again turns 20 next year and has been one of the driving forces in the reissue movement of the 2000s. Eothen has been pivotal in the work of Madlib with whom he runs the Madlib Invasion label and released one of the year’s most acclaimed records, Sound Ancestors which is a block of Madlib tunes edited, Arranged and Mastered by Eothen’s dear friend Kieran “Four Tet” Hebden. He made a name for him as a major force of the Stones Throw label, who along with visual master Jeff Jank and founder Peanut Butter Wolf, captured a zeitgeist moment (and has stayed strong) with the apex of digging culture, in the work of artists like Dilla, Doom, and Madlib.
I was looking for the right word for Eothen and struck upon “enthusiast” quickly. It was only after re-reading a few interviews with him that I found confirmation in his own words. “At the moment, I look for records that just strike a chord in me, for whatever reason. I think that, after a certain point, an enthusiast starts looking less and less for words to describe what he’s feeling and more starts reflecting on that feeling. The connoisseur does the opposite. I firmly consider myself an enthusiast.”
I've always seen Eothen’s work in music as the product of a greater urge, to capture what's good, about the moment or the past, and hold firm to the good moments in life: the wine and the music, and most importantly the people. Stories that might otherwise not be told sit at the center of his work. The word “lifestyle” is used often these days but I wouldn't want to live in many of the ones presented online, but Egon's version is like a psychedelic David Axelrod song, or the dream of West Coast where you can drive forever and that couple that lives next door, well, she's a painter and he's a retired jazzman. They all really know how to live.
His Instagram is unmissable. Part diary/travelogue, intercut with record sleeves and wine bottles that look like they've been plucked out of a crate thrown from the Titanic. Travels in old cars, to meet old legends, and drink fine wine. If you're into "old stuff" it can be jealousy-inducing to the extreme. But in a world that seems to seek division, from our senses, his shared life is all about joy. The pleasure of seeing an old friend, sharing stories, connecting, that’s what it’s about. But it’s not just for show. When Paxahau gave allowed us the privilege to curate a stage at the Movement festival for our Ghostly 20th anniversary we of course asked Madlib to play. Sure enough Eothen pulled up with Karriem Riggins and some crisp white wines and Champagne in tow.
Part of the lore of Egon is his record collecting and cross-country (here and otherwise) digs. In a pre-Discogs world, sourcing music meant relationships and building trust. "I’m very conscious of this passion of mine which has given me everything that I’ve ever wanted." It's like an un-racist Indiana Jones movie, the scores are shared and often saved from extinction. The journey stretch across Ethiopia, Zambia, India, Brazil, and more. Instead of museum-ing his finds, he helps re-bring them to life. He holds a monthly sale at his Rappcats space from folks like DJ Shadow or Chris Groove Merchant offer very special sales.
But this is just a start. You’d do worse than continue forward with his own 1000+ song playlist. The hunt for the next moment is a forever thing.