The first time I met Mark Thompson, he allowed me to sleep on his floor but warned me not to touch anything.
His home was littered with exactly 666 handcrafted, silk-screened Sunn O))) CDs (the infamous “GrimmRobe demos”), made from what appeared to be cut-up garbage bags.
Thompson was running Hydra Head Records in Boston with his partner in crime (and ex–Isis frontman) Aaron Turner, and I was passing through on tour with L.A.-based hellions the Icarus Line. There was a captivating, deliberate artfulness to how Thompson and Turner ran their label. It left me in awe and even inspired me to start my own label.
Fast-forward 10 years to February 2009: Never mind that the entire music industry was crumbling around them and our country's economy was in the proverbial shitter — it was time to open a record store. In Los Angeles.
Their Chevy Chase–inspired Vacation Vinyl opened in Los Feliz but now resides in the funemployed war zone we call Sunset Junction, next door to Secret Headquarters (the comic book nerd's equivalent to the Playboy Mansion).
Why would anyone want to check out this record store as opposed to the Amoeba behemoth or one of the other smaller, independent record stores (like Echo Park's Origami or even Burger Records) that have popped up in L.A. of late? Two words: Pete Majors.
Majors is the store's buyer, manager and secret weapon (also singer of black metal/hardcore punk band Harassor).
Though this musician-turned–record shop curator may appear extremely metal-riffic with his epic beard and facial piercings, his well-rounded tastes will impress the shit out of you.
In 2008, while attending a Watain show at the Knitting Factory, Turner approached Majors to see if he was interested in buying Hydra Head. At the time Majors was a buyer at, yes, Amoeba, who in his words “made good money, loved the camaraderie, but had gotten complacent.”
Turner pitched Majors on the idea of teaming up to sell records via a boutique record shop that focused on the obscure releases Majors was buying online or through mail order for himself.
Today, Vacation Vinyl's inventory speaks for itself. It has everything from indie rock to different types of punk, hardcore, metal, grind, trash, power- violence, avant-garde experimental, even a bit of beat-oriented music like electro and dubstep.
Soon the store will have an even deeper section of roots selections, jazz, blues, psych and garage.
Aside from having records in stock you'll rarely see anywhere else, let's not forget all the Hydra Head releases, which are pressed on exclusive, limited-edition colors of vinyl. Which means you can bet your ass that Majors answers tons of emails promising die-hard collectors and nerdettes, “No, the world isn't going to end if you don't have Cave In's 12-inch on all-natural pistachio vinyl.”
Also, your pick of free music awaits if you can wrangle Chevy Chase into posing for a photo with the owners at the store.