Ton Vermeulen is the proud owner of Record Industry, together with his wife Mieke. Before he took over the Haarlem-based pressing plant in 1998 he already knew the music industry inside out. He was a DJ, worked for radio stations and music distributors and co-owned a very successful dance label.
'I bought my first singles in the early '70s. Every now and then my parents would give me a little money, which I was allowed to spend at a local record store. I bought the singles of the bands that were very popular at the time: The Sweet, Middle Of The Road, Les Poppys and others. Around that time I hung out with two of my cousins, Marco and Peter Sloothaak. They were also into music, big time. The first one is a major fan of The Beatles. Peter, the oldest, collected 7"es. Every 30th of April - Queen's Day in Holland - we would roam the free markets on streets in Amsterdam, looking for singles. They were very cheap, so we came home with hundreds, sometimes thousands of them. We would clean them with some water and soap and then enjoy the music.
'The first record I bought from my own money was a 12" by Amy Stewart, Knock On Wood. Although my budget was still limited, more records followed, such as a great live album by Gary's Gang. In the late '70s, disco was the thing. I loved it very much – still do, although I also got to like the dance music that came after that. Especially if it has an underground edge to it.
'Around that time I began spinning records on Friday evenings in the local townhouse. It was quite successful. Usually there were 400 to 500 people on the dance floor. Thanks to Peter Sloothaak I also became involved with a pirate station in Amstelveen, Radio Klasse. We had a line connection from the studio to the transmitter, unlike most other illegal stations. This meant that when we were spotted by the authorities we only lost the transmitter - gear was easily replaceable – and not the studio.
'When I became busy as a DJ in the townhouse and with the radio station, I began to frequent the dance music stores and distributors in Amsterdam, like Attalos, Monopol Music Center and Rhythm Import. I was always looking for great, new import 12"es. At my time with Radio Klasse I worked closely with that last company, which was one of the major outlets for dance music in Holland. I played a weekly Rhythm Import Top 50 every Sunday, as compiled by its owner Peter Duijkersloot.
'It was the first time I got in touch with a professional company. Rhythm Import grew rapidly. At first it was just a tiny store. Then it became a distributor. After a while a bigger office space was needed. I was already studying to become a programmer, which came in handy when the company needed to be automated. Everything took off quite fast from then on. I was involved with other radio stations, such as VLOH Radio in Haarlemmermeer and Decibel in Amsterdam. I began managing artists, taking care of everything, from checking their contracts and booking gigs to making sure they got to the venue in Leeuwarden in time. These were hectic times.
'A few years later I met Marcel Nothdurft, an old friend from VLOH Radio, at a disco night. We got talking and it appeared that Marcel was doing something similar as myself, so we decided to join forces. We had some good years. One of our biggest successes was Give It Up by The Good Men, which was a project of the producers DJ Zki and Dobre for whom we run their management. It was released on their own Fresh Fruit label, and got high in the charts everywhere. Around 1994 we wanted to have our own imprint and started Touché Records. The vinyl was pressed at the Sony Music pressing plant in Haarlem. Touché was a huge success, in Europe and in America. We released tracks by Carl Craig, Loophole, Booka Shade, Paperclip People, Laidback Luke and Trancesetters – all underground dance. I loved working with Sony; they were efficient and delivered great quality. At the time the company planned to close its doors, we were their biggest customer. And then I took over the plant, which was 17 years ago.
'I still have all my vinyl - never sold anything. Why should I? There are too many great memories attached. They are stored in my attic now. I still have a couple of turntables. Every now and then I go upstairs, open a box and spin some of the maxi's, for my own pleasure. It's always great to hear the tracks again. I'm always struck by how fantastic they sound. Nothing beats a turntable and a well pressed 12" record.
'Once every two or three years I am asked to deejay again, usually for a private party or something like that. I don't have time to do it more often, which is okay. I still listen a lot to music on the radio. When I like something I buy it - I never download anything. I recently picked up the latest Daft Punk album, with the contribution of Nile Rodgers.It obviously reminds me of my younger days. So I suppose it's true what they say. The music you experience between the age of 16 and 25 makes the biggest and most lastingimpression. That's also why I don't buy as much as in the old days, but thanks to my work at Record Industry I am still surrounded by music every day.'
Text by Robert Haagsma, taken from the book Passion For Vinyl.