Dash the Henge: The Camberwell record store and community ally to outsider artists.

The deeply misguided idea that we can take continuously from artists without giving back should totally incense anyone in possession of a beating heart and functioning brain.

Words: Ingrid Marie Jensen | Photos: Lou Smith

Zsa Zsa Sapien of Meatraffle has just finished painting the pink-lettered sign over the shop front, the vinyl (both new and vintage) has been stocked, Warmduscher recently christened the shop’s performance space with a window-rattling surprise set, and the doors of Dash the Henge are officially open to the record-buying public.

Dash the Henge records is the brainchild of Tim Harper, Nathan Saoudi and the talent agent Rebecca Prochnik. They took over the Camberwell-located shop in mid-September, from Rat Records, a much-beloved neighbourhood landmark that shuttered during the pandemic. Loath to let the space become yet “another chicken shop,” they crunched the numbers and enlisted the help of local cronies, including members of Fat White Family and Meatraffle, to promote and operate the store. Dash the Henge promises to be not only a space where, “everyone should find something that they want and can afford,” but a place for outsider artists to get their records stocked and for fledgling bands to hone their skills at open-mic nights. (The shop shares a core manifesto with the record label Dash the Henge.)

As the streaming era ushered in a hyper-accessibility to hundreds of genres of music and tens of thousands of artists, listeners were suddenly disconnected from the idea that if you wanted to hear a piece of music, you’d have to buy a physical copy of it, both getting your sonic fix and supporting the artist, creating an equilibrium which has since been destroyed. The deeply misguided idea that we can take continuously from artists without giving back (I’m looking at you, Spotify) should totally incense anyone in possession of a beating heart and functioning brain. A community that fails to support its artists fails to support the most vital element of its own continuing existence, because artists, as Brian Destiny has said, are indeed the “bedrock of the community.” The soullessness of streaming services robs not only the artist, but the listener, of much of the dimension that a profound musical experience imparts, and there’s no better place to remedy this spiritual imbalance than at a record store.

The first time I heard Fat White Family’s epic ketamine-disco track, “Feet,” I couldn’t stop dancing, and then I couldn’t stop playing it again and again. This went on till I collapsed, basically, on a deserted basketball court across from the Catholic school at the end of my block in Louisiana, a couple of priests having lunch in the bleachers, watching me with bemused curiosity. It was such a powerful piece of music that I couldn’t sit still, and gladly ran the chance of being taken for a fool by priests to obey the thrall the song had (and still has) over me. I hadn’t reacted to a piece of music that viscerally since I was five years old and first heard Henry Gray play “Blueberry Hill,” on a rickety old upright piano that he still managed to make resound with boogie-woogie voodoo. If I hadn’t gone and bought the record immediately afterward, as I did that day on the basketball court, I would have been betraying an unspoken sacred trust.

Art, no matter the form, is generative. It’s about love in its purest form. And if you don’t support love, you don’t support anything, you’re lost in the cold vacuum of the inner reaches of outer space, and it’s very hard to come back from that point of no return. So, think of a band or an artist whose work has moved you, and go buy it—whether it’s a single, a digital EP, a vinyl LP, books or merch. Go down to Dash the Henge in Camberwell; you’ll find what you’re looking for.

Dash the Henge is located at 348 Camberwell New Road, London SE5 ORW, directly across the street from the Old Dispensary.

Photos in order of appearance: Clams and Ben (main) – Alex White & Chris OC – Dash the Henge – JOANIE, Pregoblin, Nathan Saoudi.