Scaramanga Silk: Unknown DJ's debut record sells for £30,000

By Paul Glynn
Entertainment & arts reporter

image copyrightScaramanga Silk
image captionThe mysterious Scaramanga Silk is influenced by the likes of Aphex Twin and The Prodigy

This story goes out to all the real crate diggers out there...

An obscure single by an unknown UK breakbeat DJ has fetched a record-breaking £30,000 on the music collectors' website Discogs.

A copy of Scaramanga Silk's Choose Your Weapon was sold to an anonymous bidder for $41,095 (£30,079) in December, it was announced this week.

The 12-inch single, released in 2008, has now overtaken a rare copy of Prince's Black Album - which fetched $27,500 (£20,128) in 2018 - as the site's biggest sale.

An early pressing of The Beatles' Love Me Do, on which Paul McCartney's name is misspelled, takes third place having been sold for $15,410 (£11,279) the year before.

Scaramanga Silk, who cites the likes of Aphex Twin and The Prodigy as influences, says he would never put himself on a par with the Fab Four or the Purple One, though.

Truth be told, he thought the sale was a joke when he first heard the news.

"Someone from Discogs messaged me last week, informing me that they'd had this sale, and I thought, 'It's a wind-up, one of my mates must've must have put someone up to something' - because it just seemed farcical," he explains.

image copyrightGetty Images
image caption"How much?": Prince has been overtaken at the top of Discogs sales chart

"But then I've looked into it and got speaking to them and they were as surprised as I was!

"I'm still stunned, it's just one of those bizarre things - I'm still trying to process it."

He adds: "I did try to find out a bit more from them. They're saying they are not able to give out details of anything to do with the buyer or seller, so it's a little bit frustrating from my point [of view]. I mean, I can only speculate, which is potentially not fair."

Record-breaking records

There has been scepticism over whether anyone would pay such a high sum for a record most collectors have never heard of.

Comments on the Discogs website have speculated that Silk bought the record himself for "pseudo-promotional purposes". One collector even suggested the sale was an elaborate stunt by the street artist Banksy.

Music site Juno Daily, meanwhile, wondered if another electronic outfit and well known pranksters, The KLF, could be be behind it.

Discogs confirmed to the BBC that the sale was genuine - although they would not reveal the identity of the buyer or seller for privacy reasons.

Only a few records, by the likes of The Beatles, Wu-Tang Clan, Elvis Presley, The Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix, have ever sold for more money elsewhere.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionStaten Island's finest, Wu-Tang Clan, made $2m from a single copy of an album in 2015

The only copy of the Wu-Tang Clan's album Once Upon a Time in Shaolin was sold for $2m (£1.4m) in 2015 to businessman Martin Shkreli, who was later jailed for fraud.

Ringo Starr's personal copy of the Beatles' The White Album, numbered No.0000001, sold at an auction for $790,000 (£576,500) that same year.

'Knife and gun crime issues'

Just 20 promotional copies of Silk's self-released single were ever released. The vinyl only plays on one side, and Choose Your Weapon is the only track. The gatefold sleeve also contains a CD-Rom, an art print and a poem on acetate.

The intention was to create "something different" as "a response to the knife and gun crime issues that were happening around that time," Silk tells BBC News.

"I wanted to do something across art, music and poetry. It wasn't really what I would call traditional music release, it was this multi-angled sort of thing," he continues.

Musically speaking, the record mirrored the electro sounds of Erol Alkan, DJ Hell and The Prodigy's later work - with an emphasis on "big synth and bass lines written for clubs".

It garnered "a bit of a buzz around at the time" the DJ recalls, culminating in someone spending $654 (£478) on one on eBay.

"Since then, I thought people had forgotten about it," he added. "I've moved on artistically and I don't really make music in that sort of style any more, it was just something for that particular time."

Figure captionWarning: Third party content may contain adverts

In Discogs' review of its new most expensive record, posted on Wednesday, it described Scaramanga Silk and his music as "enigmatic" and "cloaked behind layers". His record, the site later told the BBC, is so rare that it has never previously been sold on the site.

The man himself says he would rather keep his real identity under wraps.

What we can say for sure is that his more recent work - available online, unlike Choose Your Weapon - is much more avant-garde in its rhythms. And nowadays he juggles making his beats with production work, remixing other artists and live DJ-ing around the UK (or at least he did, until the nation's nightlife ground to a halt amid the pandemic).

Broadcasting on internet radio in and around London remains a big passion, too; as well as working with students on soundtracks.

'Never in this for the big bucks'

Because Discogs' database largely consists of used or second-hand records, Silk won't actually see a penny of that £30,000 - something which he admits is "frustrating".

"Someone is massively profiting on my work", says the artist, whose average Spotify monthly listeners have risen to 195, after several days of press attention.

As one of the many creative professionals finding it "hard to make plans" right now, he is ready to pick up the phone if any "electronic royalty" or "up-and-coming artists" require his services.

"I appreciate the niche that my music sits in, but that's what I'm passionate about - sort of electronic experimental things - so I know I was never in this for the big bucks," he says.

"[But] if I can get by and put some music out that people appreciate and I can sort of connect with them on that level, that's all I've ever really wanted".

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionRingo Starr's personal copy of the Beatles' White Album sold at an auction for $790,000 in 2015

Which leaves one lingering question: Couldn't he sell his own copy of Choose Your Weapon and pay his bills for the next couple of years?

Sadly not. He no longer owns a physical copy of the vinyl, as it never made it as far as an official release.

"I only have a digital copy," he sighs. "Basically, with that record, it was a promotional thing, and then we were gonna do a more full-scale release but it just kept hitting a lot of problems.

"But at the time I was never really one to keep promos. Because I had so few I made sure that they all went out to DJs in clubs and radio [stations] around UK and Europe, just trying to get the music out and get some response."

Now, the record that was written for packed-out clubs is probably getting a lockdown spin in someone's house... somewhere.

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