27 Nov The Collector Series: Chris Retro’s vinyl records collection
The Collector Series: Chris Retro’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 firstname.lastname@example.org. We have Chris Retro for this week feature, read below.
Name: Chris Retro
Location: Currently I call Berlin my home.
Size of collection:
Oh man. I think guys who brag about how many records they have is akin to the size of their schlom or something lol (kidding)
No, collecting’s a real passion that people who don’t ‘get it’ will never understand fully (sadly)
Record collecting is a life long pursuit, an obsession, a must, digging, searching, collecting, playing, mixing and displaying records on repeat. Forever.
And also a life’s journey through sound, like a soundtrack to your life that is as personal as it gets, and can exactly pinpoint pop culture better than any time capsule can, as the encapsulated music that vibrates through the stylus and through your sound system yells and screams loudly of the rebels from days gone by.
You can feel the pain in the lyrics, the shear blood, toil, sweat and tears that went into making, producing these tracks on each and every slate.
Taste, culture, life’s experiences, timelines and more all add to the culmination of black plastic sitting in my front room.
How many? Hard to say.
I mean it’s music, and no matter the format, from cassette tape, to compact disc, to lovely vinyl, to MP3 and digital music, ones collection ebbs and flows over time.
Tastes change also, so once I was listening to rave music, hard house and banging trance, breaks, and drum and bass, now I’m listening to stuff like Miles Davis, classic hip hop, Late Night Tales, DJ Shadow and Bonobo remixes and loads in between (Balearic ye?)
And I think as I get older, some of the more ‘disposable disco dubs’ that I had and various ‘DJ Tools’ that made crowds go wild on Hedonistic dance floors back in the day, have kind of made way for newer music these days, with a good cull of tunes every now and then that make way for new wax, things like hip hop oldies and various club classics alike, like Chicago House and so on, to fill the gaps of tunes that were either lost, stolen or traded and bartered from record boxes in dark corners of DJ booths on hazy nights out and 4 day weekend benders if my memory serves me right, lol.
Tell us a bit more about yourself:
Former international DJ and music producer. Some say Renaissance Man, but I’m just a lover of the arts, mostly music and photography, as well as filmmaking too.
I’m British but I live in Berlin, where the music and record shops are everywhere, so it’s nice to see that finally vinyl is making a huge comeback (although we collectors and DJs know that it never really went away to begin with)
In moving to Berlin, I’ve taken up [street] photography these days, in my new guise as Chris Retro.
But my music has never left me (I even transported all my vinyl all the way across the continent, as its unthinkable to imagine being without it)
I think once you have a passion for something, then it never really goes away. A selfless lifelong pursuit and as we used to say in the DJ booth, just one more!
What started your interest in music? Is there any interesting story or history behind it?
I’ve always been obsessed with music, always. I used to drive my parents freakin nuts with what my Dad used to call the ‘jungle drums’… And that was all the way back in the early 80’s man!
No internet, no mobile phones, strictly offline and it was great. I remember saving up my pocket money to buy 7″ records every Saturday from Woolworths. Riding my bike miles and miles to get those discs was a joy, really. Waiting until my parents were out to play them as loud as I could over and over again 🙂
And I think it’s in the blood.
My great Grandfather was a conductor for an orchestra at a theatre in Manchester, waaaaay back in the day, providing the musical score to the early silent films. So maybe this was all kismet? As I’ve just always been drawn to music from an early age.
It’s funny, as I can’t play an instrument to save my life, but I instinctively know which song is right to set the mood and tone.
I can’t play the violin, but I can mix music, build a set, arrange and play sounds together and produce and remix tunes with a creative edge.
I was always the one glued to the radio every Sunday night, finger on the pause button, ready to record the various shows coming into the radio back in the early 80’s.
An early inspiration to me was listening to a local Manchester DJ called Stu Allen, man, that guy was on fire.
He had 3 shows on a local radio station, a Hip Hop show, a soul show, and a house music show
So naturally this was new music to us, and I was hooked!
It was a fantastic time for music coming over the England from America, like all the very first early hip-hop and electro back then sounded so fresh, US imports were hot, and the very first ‘dance music’ records from exotic places like New York and Chicago and beyond.
I didn’t know it at the time, but I was right in the middle of a huge explosion of youth culture, and the ‘2nd summer of love’ in 1989 where harder edged dance music was coming in waves and starting a gargantuan musical revolution the likes of which had not been seen since the 60s.
Exciting times to be a skinny kid with a serious vinyl addiction.
As Danny Tenaglia (famous USA DJ) once said in one of his tracks :
“Music is the answer
To your problems
Keep on moving
Then you can solve them”
(*Source : Danny Tenaglia and Celeda : Music Is The Answer (Dancin’ And Prancin’)
Twisted records 1999)
How long have you been collecting?
As long as I can remember really. I remember playing some of my lovely late aunts Earth, Wind and Fire and soul albums back in the day in Germany on her tiny home stereo, in front of all my uncles and family and such, and thinking that this was the best feeling in the world, playing records to people and making them dance. Fantastic.
So that was it, I yearned for my own record collection, so I started going to record stores as often as I could to build my own music library.
At that time at school in my era, all the other kids were listening to Pop stuff and the whole New Romantic (synth pop) stuff, like The Human League and Spandau Ballet, and that seemed to be the norm, where people would have slow dances to etc., but for me, this new sound coming over from America was much cooler, I was listening to the likes of Grandmaster Flash and Afrika Bambaataa (and the Soul Sonic Force) early Hip-Hop and electro records.
Then of course we had early ‘House’ music straight from Chicago and New York, so I was in my element fully. Wow, what a time for music.
Just as the whole acid house and rave music explosion was happening, with all the innovative sampling and so on, it really was a fantastic time to be alive.
I was at the right age for it as well, and lucky enough to be living in Manchester at the time, where we had Europe’s first super club, the now legendary (and infamous) The Hacienda (Faç 51) which was seminal and instrumental in kick-starting the UKs fascination with dance and electronic music.
What does your collection mean to you?
Well, actually the whole world. Some records I have had since I was a kid, some records were given to me by long lost lovers and friends, and I love how they are time pieces of memories, like a musical time capsule.
I’m saddened that I don’t have as many records as I did back when I was DJ’ing though, as I’ve displaced quite a lot of them over the years, which is heartbreaking.
But of course over the years, with services like discogs, and now your ace app and marketplace, it’s so much easier to fill the gaps of ones collection, and keep up on missed platters and find new gems.
I just love how music can be a friend, and can keep you busy and in deep thought and emotion.
What’s your philosophy behind collecting records and how has that evolved since you started collecting up until the present day?
Well, as an old dude, I grew up in the 1980s, so vinyl was really the only format you could listen to and play music on back then.
I remember going to my Grandparents house and digging out their vintage 78s vinyl records and putting them on an ancient record player in the lounge and playing over and over again and driving everyone crazy.
Later on, it was always a nice thing to do, go out to the record store and spend half a day rummaging through new slates trying to find rare cuts and coming home with an armful of new music.
So I think even as new musical formats have evolved, vinyl always seems endlessly romantic, if not a little cumbersome.
You can actually have something tangible in your hands to look at whilst listening to the music play, which is really nice.
And that to me means more that any digital format ever.
When you listen to a really good recording, it pours right through you in the room, right as the recording and reproduction was meant to sound.
The audiophiles amongst us will often lament how warm and proper vinyl sounds to today’s modern formats.
Of course sound wise there isn’t any comparison at all to the rich and warm sound of analogue (and never has been)
I watched the slow ‘death of vinyl’ in the late 90s into the early 2000’s, where DJs were in favor of the new and incredible CDJ (digital turntables)
This sparked the whole ‘CDs VS Vinyl’ war, which still rages on today.
Records shops closed, DJs were out of work and went into rehab or prison, distributors went bust, Panasonic Technics stopped making their flagship Technics SL 1200 series of DJ turntables (and even dismantled the machine that cut the metal platter) and everyone grumbled about the slow ‘death of vinyl and club culture’
But then, slowly, the Internet revolution began, and the once demise of the records as a format became popular again, and people started collection, playing and trading vinyl again, and they even started making Technics turntables once again, and many online portals cropped up, like whosampled.com and more, and of course instagram, YouTube and social media helped greatly in spreading the word and getting older, unheard gems out to a new global audience.
So it’s lovely to see the renaissance again as the format is gaining favor with the younger generation.
As far as my collecting goes, I don’t think it changed so much, in fact the opposite, what with online portals and new record shops cropping up everywhere, things like #vinyloftheday and #hashtags and the invention of a global ‘record store day’ I think it’s easier to find and acquire music than ever before and get bitten by the vinyl bug.
How has it changed? Well the way we buy and consume music nowadays has changed of course.
You can surf from your home and search for those gems online, so that’s opened up a new way of shopping.
The way people listen and buy new music will always fluctuate, and I’m glad that new tech companies are producing turntables and record labels and publishers are repressing old albums for new ears to enjoy.
Viva vinyl forever! 🙂
Any interesting story about your record collecting adventure? Please share.
As I used to DJ in the 90s, when we used to beg, borrow and steal tunes.
I used to have to soak my records in the bathtub so I could peel the paper labels off then and write a title in marker pen totally different on them to stop the train spotters and other DJs from nicking (stealing) them!
We also used to trade records for beers, or if you had a double, sell it or trade it for an unreleased white labels.
Because if you imagine we had no Internet, so no way of searching for a certain records title, so it was all very exclusive. So you’d have to hustle to get the best slates for sure.
The DJ with the hottest, most exclusive records was really revered.
Different times than now of course.
Share with us some of favorite records and explain why?
Of course! But I always find it a hard thing to choose from so so many favorite tracks, albums, 12” and more, so let me go over to my music corner right now and see which gems I can share with you :
Manuel Göttsching – E2 – E4 – 1981
If you had to define early German electronic music, way before its time, ten this early emotional piece by Manuel has it all. Its seminal and timeless all in the same time.
Bonobo – Migration EP – Ninja Tunes 2017
Simon Green in his Bonobo moniker really is a masterful producer. This EP is fantastic, fusing elements of electronica, lounge, dub and hip hop into one album that takes you on a journey.
Break Dance (Electric Boogie) – Sugar Hill Records 1983
All the way live to 1983 Yo! Popping, locking, spinning and break dancing! This joint is where it all started. This rocked many a party. Word
Young MC – Know How – Delicious records – 1988 Island Records
Sampling the great theme tune from Shaft by Isaac Hayes, this track is the definitive hip-hop gold standard that puts others in the shade so there.
Moby – Go! – Instinct records – 1991
The ace Richard Melville Hall in his Moby guise, with his seminal breakthrough track that samples both Loves Gonna Get You by Jocelyn Brown (1987) and Laura Palmers Theme by Angelo Badalamenti (1990) from weirdly out there cult TV show Twin peaks, this rave tune is reminiscent of the early 90s sampling heavy rave culture. A pure Classic.
Haçienda Classiçal – Sony Music 2016
As mentioned earlier, the Haçienda club in Manchester was seminal for kick starting the super star DJ careers and UK club culture period, so nearly 30 years after the club was opened, they decided to get together with a few of the DJs, artists and owners to make a live show and album, and recreate a few of the dance tunes that were so memorable and special to that club and dance-floor and the people who frequented it. Timeless.
Late Night Tales – Cinematic Orchestra – LNT 2013
I love the LNT artist compilations, what a great idea to piece together tracks that the artist love, in a laid back format to license some classics, like the ones of this EP. Classic.
With tracks from Björk, Flying Lotus and the seminal La Ritournelle from Sebastian Tellier, this album is a strong favorite on my turntables right now.
Bonobo – Black Sands Remixed – Ninja Tune 2012
Featured twice in my top list, as Simon Green really is one talented mofo, and this album stands the test of time with some, with remixes fro track like Eyes Down, All Forms and Black sands, this album is simply dope.
GURU – Jazzmatazz Vol 01 – Chrysalis Records 1993
The late, great Keith Edward Elam AKA GURU (RIP) created his first solo album fusing backing tracks from Lonnie Liston Smith, Branford Marsalis, Ronny Jordan, Donald Byrd and Roy Ayres, together with clever rhymes and produced by his sidekick, DJ Premier, this album is seminal and groundbreaking at the same time. Peace Yo!
Nas – illmatic – Sony Records 1994
Nasty Nas all the way back in the day. As a lad growing up in Manchester, I dreamed of going to New York, and this album transported me there without so much as a plane ticket.
I don’t think any other rap artist can come close to defining the New York sound that he did back then. Classic.
Soul II Soul – Vol 2; A New Decade – 10 records 1990
Led by DJ Jazzie B, Soul II Soul was one of the most innovative dance / R&B outfits of the late ’80s, creating a seductive, deep R&B that borrowed from Philly soul, disco, reggae, and ’80s hip-hop.
Leftfield – Leftism – Hard hands 1995
Neil Barnes and Paul Daley were Leftfield and created this bass heavy seminal album that sways from dub electronica to deep future drum and bass. Class
Seven Grand Housing Authority ‘The Question’ – Olympic Records 1993
Terrence Parker was behind this 12”, and if you had to define 90s piano house music, this was it.
I remember Tony Humphries playing this at Ministry of Sound back then and getting a full on ovation after his set, Mad.
Mind to Mind – Music is my life – Premium Records 1997
This used to feature heavily in my DJ sets back in the 90s, with a full on Dutch trance monster, this tune used to rock the shit out of dance floors all over the place.
On one matey.
Lustral – Every time – Hooj Tunes 1999
‘Every time I close my eyes, I see your face’
My favorite mixes were the Mike Koglin trance Mix, and even the very sunny and quite rare Man called Adams Balearic mix was a great end of the night record.
Of course I could go on and fill up several pages of tracks here, but these tracks come to mind, I hope you will look them up on YouTube and listen to them?
Any tips for other record collectors out there?
Follow your heart, don’t follow trends.
If you buy trendy music that’s ‘too’ cool, it will date quickly and you will have heavy doorstops in your house.
Have an open mind musically and don’t rely on media dictating trends.
Nowadays, it’s nice to see a very lot of older music is being repressed on super 180-gram heavyweight vinyl (which sounds awesome) so you can build a music library starting with a few solid classic albums that will last the test of time.
Try and listen to new music, perhaps slightly out of your comfort zone too, as tastes change over time, and if you find some older tracks you don’t play as much, trade them in for newer versions or new artists music.
Keep on keeping on.
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