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Celebrating National Record Store Day: Employees at Houses of the Holy

If we are to continue on this road of easy access, what’s at stake? Do we, at the risk of villages without magic, burn our witches? If all is Ziploc’ed, packed away and tidy, then what goo will seep into the crevices of the underground?

It’s as much a part of growing up as having your first wet dream: You, the sloppy, sincere, inquisitive, adventurous youngster, enter a record store filled with questions about the sounds in your head, and risk embarrassment at the hand of that oh-so-knowledgeable, too-cool-for-school record-store employee. You ask who sings that “Greenleaf” song, and soon discover Black Sabbath by being led to the “B” rock section. You have now learned a life lesson (nearly) as valuable as mastering fishing in order to stave off starvation.

Will you ever forget your first Tastemaker Messiah, whose denim jacket you coveted for years? It doesn’t matter if she was snotty with pink riot-grrl bangs, who led you to your desired aisle with enough attitude to freeze a zombie in its tracks; or a kindhearted, dreadlocked stoner in a Bad Brains T-shirt who bobbed his head to a rhythm only he could hear. They had answers. They knew. They’d heard things you’d never imagined.

National Record Store Day is April 18, and its stated goal is not only to bring to light the glorious nature of the brick-and-mortar retail experience but also to illustrate why neighborhood record stores’ vitality is good for the community — and one of the last, best refuges from the doldrums of corporate sonic homogeny. Even Coachella, which celebrates the live-music experience, is honoring its recorded-music allies; its on-site shop is being operated in conjunction with National Record Store Day (though any fool dumb enough to buy vinyl in the desert needs to spend a little more time with his/her Tastemaker Messiah). With, in recent years, the continued resurgence in vinyl sales, and with the arrival, in Echo Park, of a new vinyl-only store, Origami Records, the tiny shops that could are working to weather the troubled economy. In honor of this grand holiday, we asked some of our favorite record store–worker musicians to share thoughts on the vinyl life.

 

Employee: JUAN VELASQUEZ

Band: Abe Vigoda

Instrument: bass

Record store: Amoeba

 

What’s the best thing about working in a record store?
For me, because I buy a lot of vinyl, it’s cool to find stuff that you’ve been looking for for a long time, and you meet a lot of people who are just as nerdy about music as you. So it’s fun to work around people like that and always be around music.

What do record stores offer that getting music off the Internet doesn’t?
You can’t download a vinyl record, and you can’t find everything on the Internet. If you buy CDs, I can see that, maybe, but a lot of people here just buy vinyl. They just want the physical object and the artwork and have it big — and you can’t have that on your iPod. So that’s the best part: It’s just nice to have it as a tangible item.

Craziest/best story about working here?
This one time there was this paranoid-schizophrenic woman who was having a fit and I still had to ring her up as she was screaming about the government, and she would just, like, give me CDs, and she was yelling in my face and just totally insane, so that was kind of funny.

Do you remember what she bought
I do not remember. I was just trying to get her out of here as fast as possible. Oh! And one time I got to ring up Björk, and that was really cool. That was my favorite day.

 

Employee: SHAN BEASTE

Pseudonym/Band: Zombelle, The Sandinistas.

Instrument: all

Record store: Amoeba

 

Are record stores still a vital part of the scene
They are extremely important.

Entertainment’s important; it’s a part of everyone’s life. Especially with the war and the elections and the intense things that have happened in the past few years.

People crave something to get their mind off the horrifying things that occur in the world on a daily basis. Some people turn to reality TV, and some people turn to music; I kind of appreciate both of those realms, but music definitely helps me more.

Craziest/best story about working here?
I don’t know, there have been so many great things — my co-worker Daniel dressing up as a cat and handing out candy canes on Christmas. I met David Lynch — and that was, like, the highlight of my life.

 

Employee: ELVIN ESTELLA

Band/DJ: Blank Blue. “I’m also known as DJ Nobody, and I make instrumental hip-hop.”

Instrument: guitar, sampler, turntables

Record store: Poo-Bah

 

What’s the best thing about working in a record store?
For a musician, the best thing about working in a record store is that the records are awesome and you get first pick,

 

and also you can go on tour and stuff, and record stores are pretty lenient with you leaving if you need to.

I think it offers a little getaway that you can come to as long as you want to, and invest your time to kind of get away from the world. Records — which are the old vinyl discs — I think there is just something so precious about them. How big the artwork is, and what era they were made in, and the design.

Are record stores still a vital part of the scene
Oh, yes! I think record stores are like libraries for music, and I don’t think people are really thinking about that right now because we are so amassed with stuff, because everything is digital, but all that music that was manufactured in that brief time, although we think was a long time, was pretty brief, it was only about 30 years of vinyl. That stuff all needs to be catalogued so we know what Americans were doing during that time. I think it’s really important and no one really seems to take it seriously, but eventually people will; they will start to look at it more as historical artifacts rather than just these pop records or whatever.

Craziest/best story about working here?
The only thing that ever stands out is the night we had to kick out this crazy homeless lady; she likes to come in and dance and sing with the headphones on and take the record players off of the stand. Usually we are pretty tolerant, but one night we had to go crazy and she got crazy back at us. I can’t really put it into words except that she screamed at me and her eyes got really big, and it was awesome!

 

Employee: “People might know me as DJ RHETTMATIC, and I represent the world-famous Beat Junkies and Visionaries and a couple other crews.”

Instrument: turntables

Record store: Fatbeats

 

What’s the best thing about working in a record store?
Vinyl, and me personally being a DJ and a producer helps me keep my ear to the streets. Especially because I’m very busy and I’m very lucky to be active in my career, it basically helps me keep seeing what cats are really into these days. Even though, with technology and the Internet and whatever, cats are downloading ... the main essence of being a good DJ is having a good, extensive record collection.

What do record stores offer that getting music off the Internet doesn’t?
The experience of looking for and researching a record. The fact that with today’s technology, if you know the name, the genre, you type it in and it’s there, but you don’t have the essence of when you find something — what we call “digging”: Regardless of what type of genre, you find the actual perfect beat, break, sound, whatever, and discover it and feel like you’re the first person to find it. And then when you really get into it, to actually hold the material and read the credits. I love reading the credits. I love looking at the artwork and seeing how much hard work, and the concept that went into it. The Internet doesn’t give you the same experience of actually going out there and just really looking for days, months, years until you find that record. It’s the actual hunt. It’s the journey of not only finding the record but the process. It’s, it’s ... it’s fun! And when you buy the record, you can remember the memory of when you bought the record, and it brings back nostalgia.

Craziest/best story about working here?
I have too many stories.

 

Employee: GED GENGRES

Band: Pocahaunted

Instrument: drums

Record store: Freakbeat

 

What’s the best thing about working in a record store?
The records. Flexibility, going on tour. They’re very understanding about me not being able to be here all the time. That’s really good.

What do record stores offer that getting music off the Internet doesn’t?
The experience of being able to find stuff you didn’t know you were looking for. Before the Internet, you would go into a store and look around and buy things based on the cover or whatever looks cool. Finding things you wouldn’t know about otherwise and having it be more of a personal experience as opposed to having somebody else tell you about it.

Craziest/best story about working here?
We have a lot of crazy customers who come in. We’re right off a bus route, and we get a lot of people just off the bus and a lot of insane characters. Whenever we have the 99¢ sale, the 99¢ room just gets filled up with absolutely insane people, and you can’t even walk by there ... the smell and the noise and —

 

L.A. Weekly: The smell? What kind of smell?

G.G.: The smell of the unkempt record collector! It’s pretty amazing.


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