The Collector Series: Laura Damian’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 Laura Damian (@laura_damian) for this week feature, read below.

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Name: Laura Damian

Location: Alba Iulia, Transylvania, Romania

Size of collection: Around 140 records. It’s small, but it’s mine, and it’s slowly growing. There’s time.

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Tell us a bit more about yourself: 31yo urban planner with an acute passion for music, both old and new. I grew up in communist and post-communist Romania, where access to music and culture was a pain when I was young. I have been in a constant struggle to catch up with the things I missed out on back then, ever since I got my head together. In love with all quality visual art and love to combine my rookie photos with music and lyrics, hence my Instagram account, where, many of my followers know that I don’t exclusively post photos of records.

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What started your interest in music?
Is there any interesting story or history behind it?

Well, I often debate this topic with some of my music-loving friends, but in my opinion, the love for music, that feeling I get when I listen to something good, the goosebumps, the chills up my spine, the shivers and shakes, all of these are somehow in my DNA, passed on to me from my father, who is just like me (or, better said, I am just like him).
Of course, a love for music can be induced by the context in which we grow up in, by our parents, our friends etcetera. Still, that visceral urge, that passion, I think that’s a genetic thing.

So that’s where I got my interest in music. From my father. (I also have a brother, he is just like me, obsessed with music, has a huge collection and DJ’s exclusively on vinyl in his free time, in a couple of Bucharest clubs).
The fact that when I was a kid, there was (quality) music playing in the house all the time, had a huge impact on my love for music. Also, my dad has a record collection so I was introduced to vinyl from a young age. But during the communist regime it was so very hard for him to get records, because they censored everything. My dad tells me stories of how he would get together with friends and listen to records or magnetic tapes. It was very hard for them to have access to new music, yet their passion is what kept them going. And whenever he would manage to travel cross the border, he would come back with a bunch of new records to play for us.

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The censorship from those years has affected many generations, including mine.
When we finally had access to music, vinyl was pretty much fading away. So I mostly listened to music through MTV and VH1.
In the 90’s (when music television was still decent) I would spend hours daily looking at / listening to music and it was all I needed. I loved it, I craved it, it was all I could think about. And back then, MTV and VH1 were playing some good tunes. Oasis, Blur, Peter Gabriel, Eric Clapton, Queen, Massive Attack, Michael Jackson, RHCP, Metallica, Radiohead, Prince, REM, The Cranberries and many, many more.

Of course at that time, I was just a kid, so I also listened to the questionable pop music being shown on music channels (I’m not gonna name any names here because, face it, you all know what and who I’m talking about :D), but the good music is the one that stuck to and with me for the long haul and has shaped me into who I am today.
This may sound like such a cliche, but music for me is like air or water or food, I just cannot envision myself living without it. It is a HUGE part of my life.

How long have you been collecting?
I have been collecting records since late 2015.

What does your collection mean to you?
My collection is the materialisation of my biggest passion, music.
It gives me the chance of actually touching and holding some of the things I love the most. Physical contact is, in my opinion, highly underrated as of late, whether it’s between humans and things or between humans and humans. Sometimes, a simple hug can mean the world to me, so having the possibility of hugging some of my most beloved albums might sound silly or childish, but it’s actually very soothing. In this day and age, when the reality surrounding us is becoming more and more virtual and immaterial, my record collection is one of the things that keep me grounded. The ritual of taking a record off the shelf, placing it on my turntable and letting the needle drop just gives me a serene feeling of detachment and distraction from the daily grind. It’s a beautiful and personal routine that clears my head and helps steer my mood in the desired direction. It’s a really good kind of therapy.

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What’s your philosophy behind collecting records and how has that evolved since you started collecting up until the present day?
Well, I haven’t been collecting for that long, but I know what got me started was wanting to give something back to all those artists who have made music that changed my life. So I started by buying records at concerts I went to, because I wanted to support the emerging artists which have had an impact on me and who struggle in this vast sea of music being released every day.

Also, I really wanted to own (in physical form) some of the albums that have had a huge role in shaping, shifting and steering the historical evolution of music.
I don’t really buy any albums without having listened to them in advance. All the records in my small collection are records that really mean a lot to me, and that I truly love.
I never was and never will be an impulsive buyer or a preorder type of person.
So yes, I do stream a lot of music online, but my favourite albums will eventually make it to my physical collection.

Share with us your current top records and tell us a bit about them – why they are your favorites?
The problem with answering this question is that, usually, I don’t really buy records right after they are released. I like to let them sink in and if I really love them, only then do I buy them (because, damn, vinyl is expensive).
So, since I don’t really own many recently released albums, I’m going to answer this question by mentioning my favourite 3 records that I own on vinyl + one honourable mention and, also, my favourite album of 2017 (which I will very soon possess on vinyl).

Steven Wilson – Hand. Cannot. Erase (2015)

Because, ever since the first time I heard this album, I felt like it was written just for me. I relate so much to it, it’s scary. And beautiful at the same time. It also made me dig up an album I had forgotten about. “The Incident” by Porcupine Tree. And, with a little help from a couple of dear friends, I delved into this new found universe that is the music of Steven Wilson and Porcupine Tree, and I was never the same again.

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Pink Floyd – Wish you were here (1975)
Seeing as this was the first Pink Floyd album that I listened to from beginning to end, it clearly means the world to me, as Pink Floyd is my favourite band.
I cannot pretend that I would have fully understood the world of Pink Floyd if I had discovered them earlier in my life. And even though my dad would play PF all the time in the house when I was a kid, I only began to grasp the genius of this band in my late 20’s, after attentively and obsessively listening to their whole back catalogue.

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Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Chasing yesterday (2015)
As if I needed more proof that Noel is an amazing guitarist, singer and songwriter, in 2015 he released this gem of an album, filled with beautiful, honest, raw and at the same time powerful rock and roll. This is, most likely, the most spun record in my collection. Packed with heart and soul, with skillfully constructed songs, sentimental lyrics and beautiful melodies, it’s in my opinion one of the most uplifting and inspiring records ever made.

Israel Nash – Rain Plans (2013)
I’m going to slip one more album on this list as an honorable mention, because it’s one of the records I keep coming back to, over and over and over again. And I feel Israel Nash needs more recognition because he is just beginning to show us what he is capable of.
This complex and skilfully layered album, with Nash’s beautiful wailing voice on top is just pure soul food for me. I slide right into the state of melancholy and apathy it gives me, and I just love it when a record does that!

Steven Wilson – To the bone (2017)
I cannot help adding this album to my list, even though I do not yet own it on vinyl. Seeing as I’m going to see him live in Vienna this February, I did not order this one online, because I really want to buy it from the concert.
Now this, this masterpiece of a record is my top favourite album from 2017. And I have to mention I absolutely loved it right from the first listen. Then, it took several listens to understand it and really absorb it. And although many fans were a little skeptical, I knew Steven would not and could not disappoint. Once again he proved that he is a genius, drawing inspiration from top 80’s albums, venturing in a somewhat unfamiliar territory and creating this concept album about the current state of the world, about love, hate, happiness and sorrow, all entwined in a contemporary progressive rock work of art!


Was there ever a record which you regret not buying?

Living in Romania actually means that access to record stores is really limited. There are no record stores in my hometown, so I don’t do much record digging or actual record shopping, and I mostly order my records online (which is actually a pain, because I end up paying heaps of money on shipping instead of on actual records).
So, when I go abroad, I usually search for record shops and buy some stuff I like at that moment.
Thus, having regrets about records I didn’t buy is not a thing for me, because I mostly shop online and at occasional local vintage fairs. Although, I must confess I regret not buying a Calexico record I saw in a shop in Vienna a couple of years back. I looked at it, I even have a random picture of me holding it, but after browsing around for a while through the record store I was in, I forgot about it and ended up buying something else.

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Any tips for other record collectors out there?
Seeing as I am quite a beginner at record collecting, it’s hard for me to give any advice because I have limited experience.
I can only say:
Buy records with the music you love, and you will then love it even more.
Buy timeless classics that you will always enjoy listening and never get bored of.
But also, buy records from emerging artists you admire, because they need our financial support in order to produce the thing that makes us happy – their music!

Check out Laura via:

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