Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Doom is it!

Over the past several years I have been impressed with the amount of thrash, doom, and sludge metal that has become 'popular'. Bands like Mastodon, Baroness, and even newcomers Howl or Black Tusk, have rapidly become the 'it' bands amongst metal fans. I will be the first to admit my admiration for metal, but it must have a killer drummer-or I turn my back. Metal is groove, and if you don't believe me you need a quick dose of any Pantera album.

So what happens when you take a bunch of consumer hungry metal fans and the re-submergence of record collecting? COLOURED LP'S!

Labels such as 'Relapse Records' have been around since the 90's, and have always had limited runs of their albums, but they rarely sold out. In 2002 I would use Relapse.com as my sole provider of metal new releases. I would buy an album a month after it was released, and I would still get an album limited to 500 pieces of vinyl.

Fast forward 8 years? Baroness albums on their third and fourth pressing. Same with Mastodon. And- to hit the collectors bank account even further, they were pressed in multiple colours. Below you can see a few of the recent Mastodon and Baroness releases.

The quality of artwork is most impressive. Baroness front man John Baizley has created all of their covers, as well as many other metal bands. Isn't it about time? Besides the odd filth oriented band, metal has produced some wonderful lyrics in its tenure. Epic covers to match these bold themes are to be expected. Like the power of Maiden, Megadeth and early Metallica covers, Relapse has done some top notch work.

Many of these LP's have held their value, and many early Mastodon albums can catch quite a bit on Ebay Let's just say that I'm glad to have started collecting before this recent wave of intensity!

Currently listening to:

Howl: Full of Hell
Black Tusk: Passage Through Purgatory
Baroness: Red Album
Baroness: Blue Album
Mastodon: Remission

Many thanks to 'Qua1l' from TMCC who hooked me up with these LP's.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

When did it stop being about the music? – How Alan Zweig’s film Vinyl clarified what a collector truly is.

In 2000, a Canadian documentary filmmaker named Alan Zweig produced a film on digging culture, appropriately titled ‘Vinyl’. Though this film played to sold out audiences in film festivals across the country (most notably TIFF), it never received a DVD release. Existing only in parts on torrent sites, with the odd clip posted on Youtube, I found it an extremely difficult item to find.

About 6 months back I met a musician through Craigslist who was selling his record collection. In his collection I found plenty of UK Zeppelin and Floyd pressings, and I expressed my gratitude to him for providing me with records I didn’t have. His response, which is characteristic of non-collectors, was ‘But, wait, you already have this album? Why do you need the UK pressing?’. I began to explain my interest in record labels, and how countries could potentially press records differently, sometimes include a bonus track or an outtake. But let’s face it, 9 times out of ten, I just want a second copy with another country listed.

The musician and I got talking about vinyl culture, and how he had a friend who had 3 copies of Metallica’s Kill ‘Em All. I refrained from telling him that I just got my 17th pressing variation of Kill ‘Em All earlier that week. (Deathbydigital.com) ‘Oh, Have you seen ‘Vinyl’?’ he asked. As it turned out, he taped it from TV back in 2001, coincidentally one of the 3 times that it ever aired on Television. Yadda Yadda Yadda, he pulled out the second VCR, and my dub from a crappy TV source began. It had taken me 6 years to find this film and of course I found it when buying records in the basement of a stranger.

Zweig’s film is tough to digest. After about a half dozen viewings, I have come to believe his thesis is ‘it’s not about the music’. As he repeatedly tells his interviewees this, they promptly respond ‘It’s not?’ The subjects in the film are portrayed as lonely bodies, existing as voids. Zweig infers that this void needs to be filled, and the ‘filling’ of choice is not important. Clearly this is a commentary on Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and from his choice of subjects, many fit the part.

I should mention that I know several of the people in the film. I remember speaking to Ron about this film. Ron’s reputation precedes him. Having collected his whole life, Ron’s knowledge of pressings, primarily of Brit pop and rock from the 60’s and 70’s is unreal. Lets just say, I have never been to a record show where, a) Ron wasn’t there, and b) there wasn’t several people asking him questions on LP’s. I also like Ron because we are both record collecting high school English teachers (Now that makes for an exciting combination)

Ron argued with Zweig during the whole session, and this is not the first person I heard that had confrontations during the filming. Zweig entered with a thesis, and those who know a thing or two about documentary filmmaking might note that this is frowned upon if you want to gather unbiased footage. Though several of these people are sick (imagine a man with records stacked so deep you can barely move in his own washroom), there are a lot of healthy collectors out there, who understand that life truly is about balance. Even though I am fairly certain I don’t like this film, it’s the only one on the topic, so it will have to do.

As much as I despised Alan Zweig’s approach to filmmaking, I still struggle to deal with ‘It’s not about the music’. I am a Metallica completist. A completist needs not only one of every album from a band; they need one of every variation. To a seasoned collector, this could go as far as one for every country, or in my case, every variation/pressing from every country ever (650 Metallica items and counting). This clearly can’t be about the music. I can’t hear the difference between half of these pressings, and Metallica rarely releases albums with bonus tracks to persuade the collector. Whereas my new Zappa collection is attempting to just get one of every major album (still a tough feat!)

When I first bought an album that I already had- I became a collector. A subject in Zweig’s film called himself ‘someone who accumulates a lot of records’, and that can not be me. I buy with precision. I look for minute details that most ‘accumulator’s’ couldn’t care less about. I suppose collectors are interested in the history of a pressing and how a labels history guided the history of a band. After all, this is what led me to spend 100 dollars on a LP I already had simply because it was a first pressing void of a barcode.

With this in mind, a collector could hate music, just as a hockey card collector could have no relationship with the game. As much as I will never understand this, I now know what Alan Zweig was after; a group of people who liked owning music more than they liked listening to music. And as he was trying to find this paradox in people who truly loved music, his film comes across frustrating and baffling. I have met collectors who simply own and don’t listen, but lets just say they’re no one I would hangout with.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

6 Inch 'Single'?

Let's face it, there are a lot of 'hip' people into record collecting now a days. The record companies have been faced with the task of catering to this new market by creating a series of one off, limited run, hand numbered, coloured and splattered and even shaped records.

But for those who arn't familiar with a time known as the '80', these gimmicks are not new.

Today I popped by Vortex Records to look through their latest acquisitions. Though I didn't purchase any lps, I did look through their box of 'unsellable lp's'. This box, which many record stores have, will have piles of records in the 1 dollar to 'beat-up-piece-of-crap' condition. Though I normally don't keep something in this terrible shape, I just had to. A 6 Inch 45 RPM record!! Now I have seen a few 8 inch records released over the past few years, perhaps a punk band trying to be anti-establishment against the industry. Regardless, you don't see many sizes other than 12", 7", and the occasional 10".

No label whatsoever, this 6 incher is really odd. Most likely it came from a talking story book, to be played along side a book to help a 1st grader learn how to read. This particular 45 is void of any paper label, and has raised letters: B2 PECULIAR PENGUINS and B1 MICKEY THE MAIL PILOT. I can only make assumptions for the time being as it is so beat up it would wreck my stylus, but I would put my money on it being a late 50's/ early 60's children's book. There are many misconceptions about record pressing plants, as many believe they can only do certain sizes and in a circular shape. I love having friends over and having them see a square record, or a shaped disc that can only be played in the centre rings. Here are a few gems from my collection-

This is a flexi-disc. It's called that because of how it behaves- it flexs! Firstly, they sound like crap. It is a piece of vinyl so small it could be folded in half like a piece of paper. With grooves this small and shallow, it's no wonder every flexi-disc won't deliver any quality. But it sure was convenient. Many music magazines would adopt this form as a way of giving a quick, cheap musical sample to their readers. Similarly, Instructional Guitar and Drum magazines would include solos, and lessons. This one in particular is a Russian pressed Metallica 4.5 inch bootleg, with one song (The Call of the Ktulu) pressed on one side. This format often won't be thick enough to support two sides of music. Russia has recently developed a tradition of forgery in the music industry, and this pressing is an example of their cheapest output- The Flexi Disc. At the end of the day, most consumers would prefer something of better quality, so the flexi disc in bootleg form is only for the collector.

This '7 inch' single has always been my favourite! With some points extending 9 or 10 inches, this Metallica single is for Jump in the fire which was also released in several colour pressed LP's. The ironic thing about this pressing is the pricing. One of these would set you back $30-$60 on an average day, but if you find the un-cut test pressing of it, you are looking to pay over 10X's that price!

This single was found at a garage sale in Scarborough from the collection of a Juno Award winning pop singer. He had only 4-500 LP's, and I grabbed about 35 off of him. I think I was popping on a Rush single from his stash, when I realized that another record was in there. Finding such a cool find in the middle of a Rush LP that was equally as cool as only paying this dude 50 cents a record!