Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Vinyl: A Testimonial | As this is a blog dedicated to vinyl, Jon asked us to talk about the role of vinyl in our lives. For most of our band life, the 5 of us have been pretty darn broke, so suffice it to say that record collecting, not to mention an actual turntable, has been a luxury just out of reach of our grubby hands. Some things have changed, thankfully. ;-)
However, here is our personal testimonial about vinyl. There is an ugly green dumpster perched right on our front lawn (don't ask about the property value of our apartment, we're just renting heh). So naturally, it's the dumping ground for all of our neighbors who are either cleaning house or moving. It's not always the most beautiful sight, but for foragers like us, it's a treasure trove. It's like having your own personal Goodwill on your front lawn actually.
So one time Em hit the jackpot, and she found.... nuh-UH! A Sony Turntable!! The needle was a little busted but the black circle - it spun. And spin the black circle we did :) A good friend of ours helped us get it repaired, and now we've started a budding collection of records, including Talking Heads, Led Zeppelin, Electric Prunes, Pet Shop Boys, Joy Division and Crosby Stills Nash & Young. It's a piddly collection so far, but Suz fawns over it every now and then, the way she sometimes fawns over some cool new shoes that she's really excited about... only this is way better :)
As far as Exit Clov, we have a couple releases coming up in the near future, and we're seriously considering pressing vinyl only. Should be exciting!
Q+A With KEVIN COOMBE (DC Record Fairs, DC Soul Recordings)
Since Memento Mori, unfortunately, is not going to be available on vinyl, we decided to feature friends of ours who are doing some good things for the vinyl community in the District. You might know Kevin Coombe as one of the partners in crime behind the events, (as well as the guy featured on NPR and WashPost for his personal archiving project DC Soul Recordings and DJ gigs.) He graciously let us pick his brain.
Psst - if you haven't been to one of these Record Fairs, you're missing out! We've watched the events grow, even though the turnout at the first one at Civilian Art Projects was already pretty mindblowing. It was jam-packed with people, mostly vinyl geeksters with huge satchels slung around their shoulders to carry their records, and very excited looks on their faces. The next fair is coming up soon - Feb. 14 at Black Cat, with DJ's like Eric Hilton (Thievery Corp), Geologist (Animal Collective) and Ian MacKaye (Dischord). Certain to be a Love fest.
EC: We're always fascinated by the idea of a group of 'kids' getting together, hammering out a vision and just making shit happen. It sounds like this is what happened with the Record Fairs - you're coming up on the 4th one and it's probably the biggest one yet. Can you tell us where the idea came from to do these events, who was involved, how it all transpired and what your goals were in doing the event?
Kevin: The idea came when Neal Becton (Som Records) and myself became frustrated with another record fair in Maryland. This fair was not well organized, and furthermore, it was lacking in fun and atmosphere. A large & brightly lit showroom space filled with nothing but cafeteria tables and record dealers, might sound luxurious for the hardcore digger types that would dig in the web of a giant spider if the right record was there. But for the average adults that want to cruise somewhere nice, and the younger generations that're often in learning mode (and are looking for an exciting scene), it's something more that brings the new heads out and old heads back.
We feel we've added that element by utilizing interesting locations, marketing to non-vinyl heavy audiences, commissoning unique and collectible promotional posters per show, local celebrities, fantastic DJs, good food, and serious drinks (our signature has been the Bloody Mary).....far beyond the cold slice of pizza and soda record fairs often offer. And our team works beautifully; we all discuss each stage in process, but specifically we have Neal scouting spots, dealing with venue owners, and overseeing general operations, Jon Meyers (The Vinyl District) heading up massive promotions, contracting for design work, and securing the tables for the event, Chris Knott being the go to man for any project or job we need done quickly and done correctly, and myself securing the record dealers, determining the layout of the venue, and coordinating w/ the DJs & celebrity entertainment.
EC: What do you think is unique to DC historically, culturally that lends itself to an event like this? We've talked about the "punk spirit" of the event before, because it's open to everybody, it's all ages, it has a bit of an underground feel, it's safe, and people are just gathering to talk music, hear music, trade music. Plus the $2 cover is really reasonable.
Kevin: There are certainly many aspects of DC that are unique. I know I can't discuss them all, and so I'd rather stick to the topic at hand and give some examples of DC's music past & present setting itself apart and explaining how that relates to the Fair. The direction of the DMV music scene has resulted in artists and genres that are undoubtably noteworthy. Go-go is especially unique, so getting its godfather aka Chuck Brown in the second Fair was very important to us. The last Fair featured poster art designed by an artist/imaginary music hero who is very much a DC only phenomenon.....Mr. Mingering Mike.
This next show features many local stars playing some of their favorite records including Eric Hilton of Thievery Corporation and Ian MacKaye, 2 pillars of DC's past and present music scenes. I can't even begin to say how much impact Ian and Dischord have had, and Eric has just basically killed it as both part of Thievery Corp and in his capacity as a scene developer in DC, being that he is behind so many of DC's coolest bars. Regarding how this show differs from others in the rest of the country, see the question above about making shit happen. Those things I mentioned are important to us and certainly separate us from many of the traditional shows. The low cover charge is a result of our commitment to making the Fair about having fun, rather than about filling our own wallets.
EC: From a personal standpoint, being at these Record fairs really brought back that feeling as a teenager when you're digging through CD's or cassettes and you find the killer record you've been looking everywhere for. It's such a thrill. But kids now might not ever have the opportunity to have this memory. Do you think this kind of experience has any practical importance for the way people experience music? Or is it all essentially the same good music - just different time, different place? What's different about going to a record fair, versus just going to a store, like a Borders, Best Buy or even a mom-and-pop?
Kevin: Well, many many kids are browsing Amazon and I-Tunes for mp3 downloads right now, and I'm sure that tons of them happen upon cool remixes, or songs associated with something that they didn't know about and then can download on the spot. Nowadays, the instant gratification from downloads certainly does give people access to the same good music....but without the learning experiences of interacting with other like-minded people at record fairs or flea markets or general music stores. In many ways it's better, but in many ways it's worse. Take it with a grain of salt.
In regards to Record Fairs vs. a place like Best Buy, the Best Buy probably has a slowly changing stock of CDs and/or download stations, laid out for you, relying heavily on hits and pop music culture......and it's ultimately up to you to find something that looks good. It's a solitary activity and limited in scope. A Record Fair can feature pop too, but it will likely showcase some material that isn't easily available for purchase or download at a retail store. Another difference is that a record fair doesn't have to be such a solitary activity if you don't want it to be. Chances are good that many buyers and dealers will have information they can share with you to point you in the right direction, or maybe even a new direction. Plus, you get to buy a physical product which is cool. Owning that piece of history has got to stand for something.
EC: It's odd when you think of the mad rush toward digital, and it's happening with all aspects of art & culture—books to Kindles, snail mail to e-mail, landline phones to data phones. And then there's vinyl. It's like you have this silent legion of vinyl junkies deliberately marching the opposite direction of the masses. What is so special about vinyl, beyond just the technicalities of better sound quality, that is so important to people that they would give their left arm to walk 'backwards'?
Kevin: Well, I'd say there are a number of mixtures involved here. First, you have the old school vinyl heads & collectors that refuse to accept anything else. Why are they this way? Well, there could be many factors...... things like prior commitments to collecting as it relates to vinyl, or a true belief that vinyl really sounds better and so that's that. Then you have the old school vinyl heads that love vinyl, but are cool with digital for personal entertainment, or/and for DJing purposes. These guys may even have downsized their vinyl collection a bit. I'm one of these guys, and I feel that....if used appropriately as a DJ (using a high bit rate, not going tooooo crazy with the massive availability that's out there right away)....it can only up your game.
Next you have the old school vinyl heads that decided that vinyl wasn't for them anymore because these new digital files don't take up space, aren't heavy to load into gigs etc., and so they sold off all their vinyl. DJs that used vinyl strictly for work purposes could easily fit into this category. Then you have the opposite side of the spectrum....people coming from digital w/ limited vinyl exposure, mostly younger, that have decided that the iTunes world just isn't enough. For any number of reasons, they then decided that vinyl might be a good addition to their large music collection, keeping the digital but adding a physical element that they can touch, hold, look at, display, and use in interactions with others. We target both the hardcore guys and this big market of casual buyers for our Fair.
EC: Lastly, you're a DJ too. Have you played DJ Hero yet? Yea or nay?
Kevin: Yeah. I played it at Best Buy while waiting for my oil change. If you like controllers with all kinds of buttons and thingys that you apparently have to move and hit randomly along with the screen movements, you might like this. But if you're looking for a controller that actually mirrors DJing and gives you freedom, you're in for a disappointment. My advice is to make friends with a DJ and give the real thing a shot :)
Posted by Jon at 7:49 AM