Digging Vinyl with Dust and Grooves.
Dust & Grooves - A photo book on vinyl record collectors. Interview with Eilon Paz Vinyl record collecting - the guys playground?
AA. Normally, you’re the guy asking the questions for your Dust & Grooves project. how does it feel on the other end for a change?
I have been filmed once doing my thing for an Italian movie about vinyl culture, it’s Vinylmania. It was weird, but you get over it and it feels great. Feels like I’m doing something important.
AA. So you feel there’s a lot of interest at the moment in what you’re doing?
Interest is definitely getting stronger each day, getting more and more people and organizations interested in what I’m doing. I guess it has something to do with the vinyl revival or renaissance that’s going on. Also, my book project and Kickstarter has generated a lot of interest in the media.
The whole revival of vinyl feel like is gaining momentum, people are excited about vinyl again, we’re seeing people releasing material on CD and vinyl to kind of feed the market. Here in NY it’s getting stronger and stronger.
AA. Analog is obviously a big part of your life, but where is your heart. Is it in photography, music, art or collecting, just what is it that gets your adrenalin pumping?
Well, there is definitely something in the music as you can probably figure out from what I do, but also I grew up in the 80’s and I started taking photo’s probably in the early 90’s and back then it was all analog, so it was all I knew. Same thing with music, I started listening to my parents collection and back then it was all vinyl and tapes.
AA. But what was it that kept you with analog, or what called you back to analog?
I guess for music it was always there and I just remember times when I grew up in Israel. A very small town, you know like a desert town and there wasn’t much to do there. We had to generate interests for ourselves. So this is how I started to do my photography, but also I remember this is how I spent my time. Listening to music and sharing music with friends, it was like, picking out a few records and going around to a friend’s place for a listening party. We would sit together, listen to music, eat something that kind of thing. It was social and there was no other option other than to listen to music you know? There wasn’t any internet back then and it was the only way for us to enjoy this music, it was great, I loved it. I can actually remember each record that I played back then. Each record that I bough and showed to my friends and all that is ingrained in my memory.
AA. Presumably you have built up quite a large collection over a period of time?
Well, I don’t think you can call it a large collection. Back in Israel, growing up there, vinyl was was the medium but, it there was nothing like the diversity that you would have in the UK, Europe or the US. But it was what I was into so I would spend my money on records yeah.
AA. Can you tell us about the Dust & Grooves project. How did it get started?
I guess looking back at the past, there was one moment in my history that sort of shaped my obsession about vinyl. It was actually losing all my collection, all my childhood collection. By the age of 19 I had a pretty good collection, a lot of jazz and funk that i’d gained through the years. But at 19 I had to go into the army and I served in the army for 3 years. By the time I got through that for various reasons my collection had virtually gone and I decided to try and build up my collection again. Eventually after traveling around the world I settled down here in Brooklyn and suddenly I saw vinyl everywhere. You could see street vendors selling records and amazing records that would never be able to get in Israel. Suddenly I felt like I was walking in a world full of candy. So when I arrived in Brooklyn I decided I wanted to start a personal photo project and it just made perfect sense to make it on vinyl record collectors - because I could see it was a very active scene, lots of people buying vinyl, talking about it and it was exciting.
AA. To make your project work you have have to meet people, interact with people from all over the world. How do you go about finding these collectors?
I have to say that when I first started I did have to look for people. It’s not really the case anymore because now they often reach out to me and now, it’s like a closed network so friends of someone I profiled would reach out to me and it goes on like that. But in the beginning it started when I met this record collector, his name is Frank Gossner and I read a story about him in the Village Voice. He’s just a very hard core dealer, he’s one of the only guys that digs really deep and goes to Africa, around West Africa. So he had a story in the Village Voice about his adventures in Africa and the music that he collects from there. So I reached out to him and we met up for coffee and I told him about my project. You know, back then I had nothing, i hadn’t even started it. So he thought it was a pretty good idea, he said that at least to his knowledge there hasn’t been any project like that. So he took me around the East Village and he showed me around he introduced me to a few people, record stores and owners and luckily enough he introduced me to a really nice person in this business. It was a guy in a little shop in the East Village it’s called Tropicalia In Furs, it’s a Brazilian music shop and to him, the owner, he thought it was just a great idea, he went crazy for it. He really opened up his collection and showed me his favorite stuff and his most treasured items and that became the first post on Dust ands Grooves.
AA. And the thing is Dust & Grooves is very much a visual thing, it’s not just about sound.
Yeah, I’m happy to be able to give it another interpretation. I get a chance to re-work on the cover art. Its also a challenge to show something visually interesting while shooting vinyl. You know, after doing this for a while it could end up being very monotonic. Like one record is like another record and another. So that’s where i try to be creative and play around with the covers and figure out how you make something new out of it.
AA. What about the kind of collectors you’re coming into contact with these days. Are they guys brought up in the days of vinyl or are you seeing a younger type of collector coming through? Put shortly, is it something that you see a generation holding on to, or are you seeing an injection of new interest?
It’s interesting you used the word ‘guys’ in your question. Let me tell you this, it is a guys playground and it’s really hard to find ‘girls’ that collect vinyl, but they are there. But for some reason it seems to be more or less a guys thing.I did actually profile a couple of girls that have serious collections, you know, interesting collections. one of them is Margaret. She collects Psyche Rock and Prog-Rock and I asked her this question. You know, how come you’re the only girl in Dust & Grooves, can you give me your insight on this? She said that we are there, but were not really trying to show off. Like we’re a little bit more discrete. With girls it’s a little bit more intimate. So maybe it’s not about the age thing you were asking me but it’s more about gender. But back to your question, yeah, a lot of people who collect vinyl they also act as DJs and i’m trying to focus on people who are not in the vinyl business, or the music business, just the casual collector. So, yes, I meet a lot of people in their 20s, but I don’t think I can give you a conclusion on whether this is a trend. There are so many old timers that grew up with vinyl and they just continue collecting.
AA. You’ve seen a lot of collections. What is the most impressive collection you’ve seen?
I would say Joe Bussard. He’s based in Frederick, MA and he collects only 78’s, that’s all he collects. Joe has an amazing basement, all the records are catalogued and his collection is mostly based around early blues music. He has stuff from a lot of rare artists mostly original recordings. This guys is completely analog. His collection even includes very rare cylinder discs. Joe would have his own radio shows, this is a guy in his mid eighties. From what I remember from the interview i did with him, he said his favorite stuff is real simple, played just on guitar and banjo. What makes his collection so impressive is just the sheer size of it. His dedication to the 78’s format and his specific genre makes it special.
AA. Do you see the collecting thing as a sharing thing, or is it just simply about building your collection as big as possible?
Personally, I think it’s both, you know. Different people go for different things. Of course you’ll aways come across the odd weird record junkie. I know some people who buy the records and don’t even listen to them, which I think is very sad. Because I do feel that music should be shared, passed on somehow. I love the dedication to the vinyl, to the format itself, but I think the most important thing will always be the music. Not forgetting the art of course, the cover art. It can be so distinctive and musicians can really make a statement with their covers. I think the art is one of the reasons that so many people are going back to vinyl. I think a great album cover really does enhance your experience. And the most important thing about vinyl is it demands your attention. You have to take care of it, once you drop the needle on the record, you have 20, 25 minutes and then you know that you have to get up and turn it over. So while you’re listening to it you know you have to be attentive, rather than just playing in the background. When you open an album you immediately start looking at it. You know, you start looking through the playlist, checking out the musicians and I think it’s just perfect like that. It makes me feel like that is how it should be.
It’s a little similar to your photography thing I guess. Yeah digital is great, but shooting on film just makes more demands of you. When I shoot for Dust & Grooves I invariably shoot digital. Simply because, it’s practical, It’s something I don’t get paid for (it’s a passion thing) and I have to get the result. But usually I take a film camera with me for my own interest. I have a Lomo and I usually load it with just a crappy colour film and I like to experiment.
What is interesting to me now is how digital is almost becoming analog. People can download apps for their digital shots that try mimic the analog look, this is really interesting to me.
Well, good luck with Dust & Grooves and thanks for chatting, it’s been a pleasure.
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