In Conversation with Mike Wale
Since opening its doors in 2016, Skydiver has garnered a reputation as home to some of the best records in Melbourne. For that we can thank Mike Wale and his two co-owners, Tom Moore and Mark Free. Skydiver’s vast collection includes new and secondhand records and tapes spanning house, techno, italo, ambient and more. The three friends also regularly host intimate in-store sessions and record launches for local artists, fostering a supportive environment fuelled by a communal love for music. We sat down with Mike, who also spends his evenings DJing under the name Orca, to discuss record-digging in Japan, his own personal collection and his future plans for Skydiver.
What is your name and what do you do?
My name is Mike Wale and I co-own and operate Skydiver records in Collingwood.
When did you first start to DJ and what brought you to do so?
My interest in musical styles started changing from listening to mostly band orientated music when I was about 16, to starting to collect records by 19 and beginning to teaching myself to DJ around the same period.
What was the first record you purchased?
It’s hard to remember exactly but I believe it was ‘Beat Dis’ by Bomb The Bass, a trashy UK freestyle/house record that I bought for the cover from an op shop.
What was your dream career as a child?
Probably to play football professionally ha... then skateboarding at a later age. Anything that didn’t involve working in an office.
If you could make a drastic career change now, what would it be?
I’m pretty happy with where I’m at currently. If anything, I would love to be able to travel and collect records for Skydiver full-time while running the store from afar or maybe even open a second store one day.
Who are you currently listening to?
It changes on a daily basis but lately record labels STROOM and 12th Isle have been putting out a lot of great music. Australian label Efficient Space is putting out a lot of great stuff too.
Where are you buying vinyl for your own collection?
I usually pick up stuff locally from record fairs & flea markets, aside from when I'm travelling abroad. I used to buy a lot more online via websites like Discogs and eBay but I prefer finding things in the flesh, it's a bit more fun that way and you can end up finding records that you've never heard of before or records that you've been looking for forever.
If you were a film, who would direct it and why?
Larry Clark or Harmony Corrine. I’ve always felt they’ve both portrayed various sub cultures in society well via film.
What motivated you to open Skydiver?
I felt that there was a bit of a gap in the market for the kind of music that my friends and I collect and play. That being said, there are a lot of other great stores in Melbourne and they all kind have their own niche which is probably why the music scene here is so vibrant.
Out of all the records in Skydiver, which album artwork do you enjoy the most?
It’s hard to say as different records come and go every week, but out of my personal collection I’d probably say Japanese artist Hiroyuki Namba’s ‘Who Done it?’ or 80’s Australian synth pop band Arvo’s ‘Oriental Exotique’.
If you could have three artists/DJ’s play in-store, who would they be and why?
That’s also a hard question as I've already seen a lot of my favourites. We tend to use the store as a space for local artists to launch their own releases in order to create more of a community environment and also give back to the people who support us. But if I could choose any person, past or present it would have to be Ron Hardy (RIP).
What is your favourite travel destination?
Japan for sure. Record shopping there is incredible.
On Japan, do you have any tips for those looking to buy records there? Any favourite stores not to miss?
Disk Union is a must for everyone but there are so many great stores depending on what you are looking for and how much time you have on your hands. In Tokyo, EAD and General Record Store were a highlight for me but if you're headed to Osaka, Rare Groove and Revelation Time are a must as well.
What do you enjoy most about your career?
Working around something that you are passionate about is a major plus but being able to show people music that they may have never heard or even thought about listening to before is a pretty nice thought.
Finally, what does the future of Skydiver look like?
Doing more events with local and international artists and hopefully expanding to a bigger space in the not too distant future.