6.1 - Cratedigging 101 - Own Your Distortion

On the uppermost level, cratedigging is when music lovers check out record shops, garage sales, and thrift stores to dig through piles of second-hand vinyl for unexpected and rarities. On a deeper level, the thrill of the hunt is to find something so profoundly personal, and you’re best left not to ask the hunter what they are looking for - you’ll never understand. There are certain cuts of Blonde on Blonde and Rick James albums that may not be worth much on the commercial market, but they mean everything to the person looking for them. 

On the deepest, most serious level, cratedigging is the process of unearthing the DNA for a rhythm you are addicted to. Cratedigging is the hunt for the origins of something divine. 

DJs have long since been in the practice of collecting massive volumes of music. It is their job; it is their life. They have to fill hours of empty air with a specific vibration to create the perfect mood. Their libraries of music are studied to find ways to mix into the right mood. Other DJs and producers are on the hunt for the perfect beat or hook to pull from a record and sample.

Where some build music based on the samples, others spend a lifetime taking them apart. You could spend months picking apart the delicatessen of samples that went into The Beastie Boy’s Paul’s Boutique.

Musicians have been cratedigging for nearly a century. The means and modes change from one decade to the next. Who of us hasn’t recorded a song off the radio or burned a mixtape from our Napster library? Services like Beatport give musicians and DJs a platform to directly share beats. In the age of Pandora and Spotify, we’re all passively crate digging.

Finding the extent of your idea is about active cratedigging. You are actively hunting for the origins of what you love. 

You can find anything on the internet. The trouble is, we’ve done a terrible job of cataloging what is out there from one iteration of the net to the next. The internet is democratic, so we allowed everyone to collect, tag, categorize, and organize whatever they want, however they want. For lack of better terms, the result is the modern-day internet - and it is a fucking mess. 

Then again, so are most second-hand record shops. 

While there are countless ways to organize and add to your perfect streaming collection, cratedigging is largely an analog experience. You’re getting dust on the fingers. 

-Fatboy Slim

Cratedigging is one of the most important things I do as a writer. It is the exact opposite of skimming the headlines and scrolling through the feeds of stuff I like. It’s the chance to nerd out and go deep - to step off the ledge of something you like and seeing how weird things can get. By the time something is mainstream, it’s old.

By the time it hits theaters or the best seller charts or is a recommended read, everyone knows about it. The ideas that seem the most original are likely stolen - your job as a cratedigger is to find out where they are stolen from.

Start Your Dig

It starts with noticing. 
It starts with seeing the sort of thing most people would be passive about. The one-off headline, the event that is dismissed as weird or coincidental. Maybe it is the thing that keeps you up at night.

Under it all is the root of something strange.

Within every lie is a kernel of truth, the trick is figuring out what the kernel is.

Other times, it comes from within. Notice what comes up in your freewriting. What are the things you keep putting down in your notes app? Is there a term or phrase or event that keeps coming up? 

Go deeper. You're digging. There will be a lot of dirt and trash and stuff you can't use.