Back in 1993, underneath the stairs in an old emporium situated in Cardiff’s Castle Arcade, Catapult Records was born. Nineteen years down the line, it’s become an institution for music aficionados everywhere. The MMP sat down with manager Simon Thomas to learn all about one of the city’s famous music stores.
Over the years, Catapult has developed a great reputation and following, would you agree?
Being humble about it, I suppose so. We love what we do and we’re in a great place within the community to serve what our customers want.
One thing that’s drawn that interest are instore sessions, something Catapult has become synonymous with. When did they first come about? Did you foresee their success?
They’re natural for a store like ours so we’ve always done them. I’ve got photos in my office dating back to ’97 with LTJ Bukem. They’re great and we’ve had so many memories with people filling the store to the brim. Record Store Day last year was memorable with Nu:Tone and Logistics, followed by Bonobo a few weeks later. DJ Vibes in the late ’90s was amazing and then we can fast forward to High Contrast in the new store – which was probably the best received we’ve had.
How important are they for the store?
They’re fantastic. For older audiences it’s a chance to see a DJ in an intimate environment, which you can’t get in a club, say. For younger audiences, it’s about nurturing them, especially if they’re too young for clubs. They get to come see and meet their idols. For a retailer, they remind us why we do what we do. It’s not all about the money but the passion.
For a while now the digital age has been seen as an impending threat on the high street, particularly vinyl. Is this something you’ve felt?
Not really. A lot’s been cooked up about vinyl in the media, but we’ve not seen a dip in sales. We deal with people who live and breath music so know about the quality of sound, and know that vinyl surpasses mp3. Electronic music has only developed. Nowadays software and equipment is more affordable. People can make fantastic music from their laptop.
So the digital age has done quite the opposite to what people might believe?
For certain sides of music, the digital age has been a kiss of death. For us it’s been a blessing.
This summer you’re hosting a DJ School. Where did that idea come from?
So many people come in, buy a CD or be with a friend who’s buying vinyl. We get into conversation with them and then learn that they’d love to get into either listening to records or mixing them. It might sound easy, picking two records and putting them together, but it’s not. People are after a starting point, so we’re getting together with two great DJs – Cally from Cally & Juice and Killer Tomato. We’re trying to get it accredited.
Last year you launched the record label, now this year it’s the DJ School. What’s next?
There’s so many things that you’re going to see coming through Catapult in the next year that we’ve been talking about for years. As well as expanding the record label, we’re launching our own clothing labels, which will be coming out over the next few months. As a retailer you’ve got to be imaginative and start to expand your product portfolio. It’s an exciting time.
Words: Morgan Applegarth