The Collector Series: Ben Sumner’s vinyl records collection

The Collector Series is a photography and interview project documenting vinyl records collectors in their most natural and intimate environment. Want to get featured on #vinyloftheday? Send us a photo of your records collection and a few words about your records collection to diana@vinyloftheday.com. We have Ben Sumner (@vinyl_ben) for this week feature, read below.

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Name: Ben Sumner

Location: Denver, Colorado

Size of collection:
5,000 LPs, 3,000 45s, thousands of CDs, a few hundred 8-tracks and about 5 laser discs. The records have been whittled down over time from a potential hoarding situation by only keeping the cream of the crop. There’s a lot in there from traditional folk to avant-garde, early classical music to the electronic pioneers, from all over the world.

Tell us a bit more about yourself:
I was born and raised in Muswell Hill, London, which at various points in time has been the centre of the musical universe. Since then, I have been a recording artist, record producer, rabid music fan and perhaps most importantly, a father of two gorgeous daughters. I have lived in London, New York, New Orleans, Texas and Denver, Colorado. I live in a dreamy, romantic world of records and books which is much better than reality.

What started your interest in music? Is there any interesting story or history behind it?
I think the main catalyst was having parents and older sisters who were into cool music, which not only ignited my interest, but also gave me a huge head start in hearing about more obscure artists. Along with obvious things like The Beatles, Bowie, Stevie Wonder, Springsteen and Pink Floyd, by the time I was 13, my sisters had turned me onto Hawkwind, Gong, Frank Zappa, The Byrds and bands like Deep Purple and Roxy Music who no one else in my school was listening to at the time. I credit the soundtrack to “Easy Rider” with turning me on to 60s underground music, during the time of Duran Duran and Wham!

How long have you been collecting?
Ever since my heart was opened to the deep beauty and meaning of music, I wanted to own the music. Luckily for me, this was just before CDs came on to the market, so I started buying vinyl. By the time I was 15, I had more records than my parents!

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What does your collection mean to you?
The collection is deeply meaningful; a physical manifestation of my very being. Without it, I wonder if I would still be myself or even exist!

What’s your philosophy behind collecting records and how has that evolved since you started collecting up until the present day?
I collect music that I love, from artists, labels and movements that attract me. I have tried my best to get as close to first pressings and country of origin as possible, but it’s not always realistic. If I am going to invest some serious money in a record, it must be something I love. Needless to say, I love a lot of music from a lot of different kinds of people and places, but the main focus has been music from my home: England.

Share with us your current top records and tell us a bit about them – why they are your favorites?
I have something like 300 top 10 favourite albums of all time, but there are a few that always rise to the top. Here are three. The Incredible String Band’s “The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter” feels like a connection to some ancient mystical England. It’s a place where I live, at least in my mind. Laura Nyro’s “New York Tendaberry” is the most inexplicable work of genius ever committed to vinyl. Even though Joni Mitchell is probably my favourite musical artist, this record by Laura just leaves me in utter disbelief, asking myself how such a feat was possible. Like The Incredible String Band, this album gets better and better the more you listen and get enveloped by it. When I listen to great records, part of the appeal is the human connection I feel with the artist. Perhaps the closest I have ever felt to another person through a record is with Brazilian singer Milton Nascimento. His collaboration with Lô Borges on the classic double album “Clube da Esquina” is one of the greatest albums ever made, so I’ll go with that.

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Was there ever a record which you regret not buying?
Thinking back to some of the rare albums I saw on the walls of record shops in London in the 80s and 90s, it makes me cry! I saw AMM, Open Mind, Blossom Toes, Megaton, Mellow Candle, Bill Fay, Leafhound, all UK originals for a fraction of their current value. I did, however, buy many, many albums in that era that have become virtually unobtainable in the current market! So, no regrets.

Any tips for other record collectors out there?
Don’t waste your money on cigarettes, booze and drugs! Save your money and buy records instead. Then, buy what you love!

Check Ben out via:
Instagram
Bandcamp

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