Tell anyone you’re going to open a shop in London mid-pandemic and they’ll probably tell you you’re a lunatic. But that’s exactly what Francesco and Alex did when they moved their record store Hidden Sounds to Ridley Road in July 2020. Tucked away behind the market, Hidden Sounds is... well... hidden. So what possessed the pair? Interviewing record store owners around the world, their shared passion for connecting people through music and, of course, their large record collection. We had the chance to sit down with the dynamic duo who are putting their stamp on the East London music scene.
Rachel Edwards: What was the idea behind Hidden Sounds?
Francesco Ferrari: We were travelling just for fun and festivals and we had this idea to film our travels. We wanted to make a documentary. The idea was to interview the people we were fascinated by… DJs, record shop owners, record collectors, club owners. We went to Paris, we went to London… (Laughs) okay we live in London, we went to Berlin, we went to Amsterdam and we created these little episodes where we were just interviewing people and asking questions on video.
Alex Pato: We wanted to make a short series of documentaries, to meet people in the music industry and find out what their experience of the music industry in that city was.
F.F: We were spending a lot of money on records because while we were doing it we were buying records. So we ended up having a huge collection of records back from these trips and we thought what are we going to do with these? We started doing pop-ups in different places in London and that’s when the idea came to open our own record store.
A.P: We opened in Bethnal Green for six months and then we had to leave at short notice. We got this space through ‘Netil radio’ who were going to move here actually. We spent a week looking for other places until randomly a friend of ours came to the shop and was ‘like why are you so sad guys?’ and I explained everything to him and he was like ‘oh that’s great I have my studio in this place and they’re looking for a record shop to open there and join the community’ so we were introduced to the guys and yeah...
R.E: The rest is history! So when did this happen, around a year ago right?
A.P: Last July!
R.E: I can’t believe this happened in the middle of the pandemic.
A.P: We moved literally in the middle of lockdown so it wasn’t that easy either. But the space has a bar, an event space, a space for people to live and work and a real sense of community.
R.E: How did you guys first meet?
F.F: I studied architecture and he studied interior design. I was more into indie rock and he was into club music.
A.P: But we got introduced by this guy who wanted to make money out of us for making parties. And we started to do parties together without that guy and then-
F.F: - We became friends!
R.E: So where do you get the records from?
F.F: Our own collection.
A.P: We never had that much money in our lives so the only way to start a business is to use our own money. And if you want to sell records you need to get rid of your own records.
F.F: It’s quite a work of detachment! But once you let go of your favourite ones it starts to get easier. It’s a circle, it might come back.
A.P: Now we’re building our own collection from scratch.
R.E: Do you guys listen to records all the time at home too?
A.P: No. I’m not like one of those record nerds who only listens to records and who’s like ‘oh you listen to mp3, that’s shit’.
F.F: At home I don't wanna touch records anymore… We got to know a lot of interesting people in London, DJs who might sell part of their collection to us when they’re updating.
R.E: Do you like being on Ridley road?
F.F: It’s fun because it’s very engaging and it’s very musical - it’s not just fruit and vegetables! There are a lot of interesting people.
R.E: What do you think the best thing about the music scene in London is?
F.F: The variety! There’s a lot of options.
A.P: It’s a big melting pot - you can never get bored. Whatever you’re into you’ll find something.
R.E: Do you have any guilty pleasures when it comes to music? Maybe some chart music?
A.P: No I don’t think you can have guilty pleasures when it comes to music, if you like it you like it.
R.E: You feel guilty if you listen to Taylor Swift or something?
F.F: You feel guilty if people look at you.
R.E: I feel ashamed of myself if I listen to Taylor Swift - I judge myself!
A.P: Sometimes when it’s super loud in your headphones and you’re like I hope no-one hears me… but I like it. But you shouldn’t feel guilty.
F.F: You have to be honest with yourself. If you try to get to the point of just responding to people's tastes then you make a mistake because you’re never going to be honest with your work. I think it's the same when you do music if you try to think of the response -
A.P: -If you try to do everything that he does or she does and you want to sound like them you’ll never sound like them but you’ll lose your authenticity.
F.F: That's why it takes a while to work out what your vibe is with music and then when you’re sure about it you can put it on a record or whatever, you put it out! But you don't need to think of the response of the public about what people want - so what?
A.P: At the end of the day what sells is authenticity, it's not what other people are doing or what other people like.
F.F: That's why for most artists it's very difficult and it takes a long time, most filmmakers and musicians take a long time to find their identity and then put it on whatever form you want to put it on. Music, film, whatever...
R.E: What’s one sound you’d like to hide forever? You never want to hear again?
F.F: The sound of aluminium foil.
A.P: He’s got this thing which is very weird, he’s scared of aluminium foil.
F.F: I think my mother used to give me this chocolate that used to melt in my bag but I still wanted the chocolate so I ate it with the foil paper inside and it was stinging my mouth and I was suffering.
R.E: You should probably get therapy for this...
F.F: (Laughs) It took me a while to realise it was that.
A.P: I don’t think there's a sound that I really hate, but there's music that I hate. The new US music right now, over-compressed sounds. All the popular music from the US I don't really like. Music purposefully made for the masses.
R.E: What would the soundtrack to your life be?
F.F: Something cheesy and romantic for me but also upbeat… Fleetwood Mac, something from them.
A.P: ‘Love love love’ by Danny Hathaway *starts singing love love love*
R.E: You should do a remix of the two songs. What advice would you give to someone who wants to start their own business in London from scratch?
A.P: London is a beautiful city but it doesn't give you anything so you need to work hard for everything you want so we did.
F.F: Yeah obviously you have to work hard but as long as you have an idea of what you want to do and you’re able to manifest it and talk to people about this idea things are going to happen. That's what happened to us, we were just talking about what we wanted to do and it happened.
A.P: Yeah totally, don't be scared of losing money or face or dignity.
F.F: You can do it, do it man, do it girl. Just go out and do it.