We interview music alumnus and founder of Bikini Waxx Records, Gerd Tammist, about his inspiring creative journey.
Running a record shop from your living room isn’t the most conventional thing to do, but that’s exactly what makes Gerd Tammist a notable member of the music industry.
As both a former dBs Berlin Music [now Catalyst Music] student and an avid record collector, it was only a matter of time until Tammist had to share his passion for the underground with like-minded listeners by opening Bikini Waxx Records.
In this interview we discuss the story behind the record shop’s humble beginnings and get a snapshot of the formation of an underground music community that just keeps growing.
Above: Gerd Tammist (left) collects records to sell from the Colombian border
How did you begin to explore the underground electronic music scene?
I guess for me the magic happened around 12-13 years ago when I started regularly listening to Radio 2’s (Estonian radio channel) weekly shows Vibratsioon (Raul Saaremets aka Ajukaja) and Tallinn Express (Rulers Of The Deep aka DJ Meri and P. Julm). So these 3 gentlemen have influenced my journey in this field.
What was your first experience of buying underground vinyl?
Madis Nestor, the guy who runs Biit.Me record store today in Tallinn used to have a small shop called Dancemix back in the day. I bought all my first records from him.
Starting a record shop from your home is an unusual thing, what first gave you the idea?
I have always enjoyed exploring and finding killer tracks. I could do it for hours and hours. It’s the best thing to do. There was a period in my life where I just had to know every release that came out. So I have been spending a lot of time going through new and old stuff. Starting a shop was a way of sharing my world with other people, and meeting the people who share the same world is an inspiring thing. The reason it started in my living room was due to a lack of resources, and a willingness to add something new to an old concept.
When did you officially open Bikini Waxx Records? Did it take a lot of preparation?
Bikini Waxx Records was officially born at the end of 2013, the same year I moved to Berlin. Yes, it took 30 years. *Laughs
Bikini Waxx is an interesting store name, where did it originate from?
For people who are not related to the vinyl world it may sound totally random. A long, long time ago they used wax in the process of making the master from which all of the vinyl albums were made. So thats why a lot of people say wax when referring to vinyl records. Where Bikini Waxx came from, I have no idea… from the stars. I was sitting in a U-Bahn station and it just struck me. Also most of the record stores have really boring names, sorry!
Did you found Bikini Waxx on your own and currently run it solo, or is there a team?
Yes that was a solo project until a few months ago when a physical store was opened on Manteuffelstrasse 48, Kreuzberg. There are two other guys on the team now, Kim and Yannik (also a former student).
How do you find interactions between you and your customers differ from other record shops? Do you find them to be more intimate because a lot of those people used to visit your home to buy records?
Yes. Due to the nature of the environment we may assume that the relationships with customers were deeper and more personal than in conventional stores. Kim and Yannik, the guys who are part of Bikini Waxx Records today, were also my long time customers, for example.
Customers seem to make a big effort to visit your store whenever they’re passing through Berlin, do you feel that there is a developing Bikini Waxx community?
The modest answer is I really don’t think the project has ever been or is at the moment big enough to talk about communities in this sense. I have not thought about it like that to be honest.
If there is a Bikini Waxx community, have you hosted any community events?
Since changing the location, we have thrown some in-store events already, yes. More will follow for sure.
How did you find originally promoting your store without a storefront on the street? Did you rely on word-of-mouth within the underground community?
Word of mouth definitely works. I have never been a big fan of promoting the shit out of it. I have chosen to follow a bit more painful path of letting things develop naturally. Discogs has also always helped bring in new customers.
You’ve got records from well-known labels and almost completely unknown artists, how do you source your stock and keep it interesting?
Buying is an art for sure. You need to find the right balance between different genres, but you should never try to please everybody. For me the most important thing is to be honest and keep it real. As I mentioned before, selecting records for the shop is my way of showing the world who I am and what I believe to be important to share. If you follow this philosophy, the selection will be unique automatically.
What’s the weirdest reaction you’ve had from people finding out that Bikini Waxx was in your house?
I cannot pick out any one in particular, but people were usually very surprised that someone was willing to do it from their home and offer tea etc.
Above: Straight from the living room: Bikini Waxx in 2014
I’ve read stories about memorable experiences in Bikini Waxx, such as buying records in candlelight when the electricity had cut out, what have been the most memorable Bikini Waxx moments for you?
Haha. I am sorry to disappoint you, but this candlelight story is a myth. It never happened. I guess the best moments have been meeting the people who I am still very close with. I remember all of my friends’ first buys or records they came to pick up. It is strange to think that because of having a certain release in stock, paths can cross between future best friends or partners.
You’ve recently opened an official record shop and said goodbye to the in-house Bikini Waxx set up, what made you make that move?
I had to move back to Estonia because of personal matters. So the only option of keeping the project alive was to find other rooms and open a physical store, which had been a small dream anyway.
How will the dynamic of your record shop change now that you have set opening times and more of a standard set-up than the quirky in-home set-up you originally had?
Clearly more people visit the place when you don’t have to make an appointment. But I want to make it very clear that we have tried our best to keep the same atmosphere and vibe than it used to be and I think we have managed to achieve that pretty nicely.
What have been the most exciting and irritating things you’ve experienced whilst bringing Bikini Waxx Records to an official store location?
The possibility of hosting private in-store sessions is obviously amazing. We have got a perfect place for that. Also if people like Daniel Bell, XDB or Vakula buy records from you it brings a smile to your face, you can’t deny that. But irritating…mmm. Someone stole one of our Gemini’s records from the second hand collection lately. That was messed up!
If Bikini Waxx keeps growing, what’s next for the brand?
We have been discussing putting music out and starting a label. Also trying to set up a small distribution company, but this is all in the future. I try to concentrate on making the record store run as smoothly as possible. The rest will come naturally.
Last but not least, what are the top lessons you learned from launching a record store, things you wish someone had told you before you launched Bikini Waxx?
Actually I consider myself really lucky that there has been no real advice before or during the journey. The trial and error method combined with using one’s intuition have proven to be the best tools for me so far. There is no right way of doing things. That’s the lesson. Do things, even if they seem silly or unreal and don’t listen to other people too much.
You can find out more about Bikini Waxx Records here.