What made you start collecting records?
My initial exposure to vinyl came through my mother’s collection, which she amassed through her youth in the late ‘60s and ‘70s. Her favourite band was Queen and she bought albums or singles as they were released largely by mail order. The first vinyl I consciously remember hearing at home was her “War of the Worlds” DLP while following the story through the booklet as well as continually staring at the fantastic artwork on the gatefold sleeve! I was really besotted with the sound, feel and presentation.
Sometime later, she also introduced me to Alice Cooper “Alice Goes To Hell” and “Welcome To My Nightmare” LPs both of which combined that sense of narrative with creepy rocking music. All three records were essentially on permanent loan to me by the time I had my first record player around the age of 15 years old and remain in my collection today even though she is still alive!
Do you remember your first purchase?
Growing up in the ‘80s and ‘90s, cassette was the format of choice. I began borrowing original copies from my older cousins and friends from school to feed my craving for more heavy music. My first purchase was Metallica “…And Justice For All”. Over the next twelve months, I continued buying original, albeit often second hand copies, of cassettes from friends. Iron Maiden, Motorhead and Slayer. I was reluctant to waste money on CDs as they tended to cost another 50% more than brand new original cassettes and without a part-time job in my early teens itcould have easily been a month between buying albums unless somebody else was culling their collection.
But it did mean that there was time to really absorb the music of each and every one. You know, playing them repeatedly on an old twin cassette deck by day as well as on a personal stereo when going to sleep at night for weeks and weeks at a time…Even without my own turntable, I began browsing the vinyl stands in a local independent record store that had been recently recommended to me. I was stunned at how much was available, boxes and boxes of second-hand titles in mint condition, the same price or often cheaper than the cassette albums I had been buying.
Comparing the detail of the artwork against small cassettes sleeves, large inserts with lyrics and my memories of those earlier experiences with the format, I thought it was time to take the plunge. Sepultura “Beneath The Remains” LP! Shortly thereafter, I was speaking to my cousin’s friend while waiting on the bus home from school. He told me he had two copies of Metallica “Garage Days Re-revisted” 12” so I promptly agreed to call round to buy that spare. As I gradually amassed more and more vinyl as my preferred medium for music my parents bought me a turntable for my bedroom…
How long have you been collecting?
Over twenty years now. My parents were genuinely surprised when I started buying LP’s just as they were making the transition to CD’s. They were even more surprised when I started ordering new albums in the post from overseas like my mother had done twenty years before me. Anyway, this pattern has continued throughout my twenties and thirties, as well as raiding local independent music shops, record fairs and mail order lists as often and as thoroughly as I could…
What sort of music do you mainly focus on?
My focus has always been based on Hard Rock and Heavy Metal although I have continuously had an experimental streak too. Back in my teens, whether we were buying albums locally or by mail my friends and I agreed to purchase different albums so that we could compare and share by way of blank C90 audio cassettes! Those albums that thoroughly impressed would obviously need to be bought as a personal copy further down the line. But again, it did make the most of our limited budgets. In this way, I took a punt on strange gems such as Paul Chain “Alkahest” LP or Ved Buens Ende “Written In Waters” DLP. Back then, the majority of my burgeoning vinyl stack would have been built around Black Sabbath, Judas Priest and Venom LPs. You know, the classics. But there are always gaps though from that ‘70s and ‘80s period. In the past two or three years, I have made more of an effort tofill them in and was very pleased to source some of the old Atomkraft, Deathwish, Legend (Jersey), Raven, Satan, Tank and Warfare LPs I needed. For older original pressings, my difficulty is that there are not enough independent music stores still standing or regular record fairs locally. Sometimes whenever people have given up on the format and sell their whole collection, you can strike gold. Quite sporadic really because I prefer not to deal with unknown overseas sellers to avoid disappointment either in an inaccurate assessment of the vinyl or poor packaging for an item that cannot be replaced…
Original versions aside, my remaining efforts would be divided between sourcing new pressings for my personal collection and my mailorder. There is a certain overlap between the two although I know that not everything I like will sell. In the past few months, this has leant more towards stranger Dark Prog, Psych, Kraut and Space Rock by way of the back catalogues of Black Widow, Kommun2, and Sulatron. Some labels you can just trust as purveyors of good taste!
How do you discover new music?
My patterns have not really changed. It still comes down to word of mouth, reading zines or online blogs and scouring mail order lists for appealing descriptions. Gigs and festivals too. Of course it is now possible to stream so much music online although I rarely allow myself more than one song as a teaser. For me, an album should be experienced from start to finish on my stereo!
Where do you prefer to buy your records?
I prefer to buy albums in person at stores and fairs. But as previously explained, my collection would be infinitely diminished if it were not for mail order services and who can resist the excitement of 12” by 12” packages delivered to the front door?
How is the Irish scene these days compared to the time you got into it?
In the early to mid ‘90s, I was too poor to travel to gigs in Belfast or Dublin. By the time I had my first job in ’97, there were no local gigs to speak of. The Troubles were raging on and foreign bands were too nervous to come here. But as I began to make contact with Irish underground bands by writing letters I discovered that there were smaller underground gigs scattered north and south if willing to travel. In April ’98, I helped Waylander run a bus from Portadown to an unlikely all-day event in the Folkhouse in Abbeyleix. Some seven or eight bands were on the bill and I still have the poster we used to encourage people to book a seat on it. Many of the friendships I made that day connected me to the heart of the underground and those faces remain active to the day as bands, promoters, distributors and labels.
From that point on, I travelled to as many gigs as I could and bought demos or albums available at them. The home-grown bands generally leant towards Death Metal although the lesser-known Graveyard Dirt, Thy Sinister Bloom, Arcane Sun and Scald forged a sound of their own. In the next couple of years, bands began to start travelling here again. Solstice,Waylander and Warning on the “New Dark Age” tour were all phenomenal. Cathedral hit the Rosetta Bar in Belfast a matter of weeks later and Anathema in the following spring. The same bills went to Dublin too although as a considerably larger city it would also have drawn larger bands such as Morbid Angel. Dublin always had more appetite for extreme sounds whereas Belfast has to this day more of a preference for Hard Rock.
There was a great network of records fairs around the country during that same period as well as a few independent shops in every town. Between Bangor and Belfast, I had more than enough opportunity to blow all of my pennies on old and new records. It is perhaps what I miss most from that era because of the range of titles concentrated in single shops or halls and at very affordable prices too. There was so much that was new or unfamiliar and it paid to take risks on covers that promised good music. By the guts of ten years ago, much of that infrastructure began to crumble and it was obvious how much less vinyl was circulating here hence the need to begin turning to overseas sellers for older titles. That lack of availability had a detrimental impact on the number of them I continued buying so the balance gradually shifted to newer albums or re-releases of classics almost all of which would have been sourced in England, France, Italy and Germany.
Any special relationship to Irish heroes Thin Lizzy? (one of my fave bands!)
Hmm, they were not one of my big bands when growing up and I still feel that many of my international friends love them more than me! Perhaps if I were ten years older it would have been different. “Vagabonds of the Western World” remains my favourite album and I would have loved seeing them on tour way back then. It’s always a blast when Slough Feg or Argus covers the band on their Irish tours too. From a local perspective, the Horslips possibly made as much of an impression on me because I loved that blend of traditional music and mythology with Hard Rock! Anybody out there still listen to “The Tain” or “The Book of Invasions” LPs?
Name three records that are special to you, and tell us the story of how you got hold of them.
Looking back at my teens, I was knocked for six by a song called “Master of the Universe” by Hawkwind. I knew nothing of the band and had heard none of my friends enthusing about the music. So began my personal journey to hear more. Whilst their ’70s albums particularly struck a chord, it was the “Space Ritual” Volumes 1 & 2 that remain firm favourites. I bought the second vinyl first in a very small local record store in Bangor. I loved the colours, the artwork and the way the gatefold spine was at the bottom rather than the side. More importantly, the music was so damned raw, heavy and spaced out. It was years later before I found the companion DLP and cannot remember exactly where I purchased it. But as it was already part of my collection when I moved to my first house in Belfast, it must have been from a record fair or independent store thereabouts. Again, killer artwork, which was made all the more special by some very strange ink drawings on the inner sleeve. They must have been tripped out visions of the music and I have spent as much time lying on the carpet staring at them as I have the actual gatefold sleeve. Hawkwind’s performance here possibly edges it for me.
It is almost impossible to highlight the most special Paul Chain vinyl in my collection. My love affair began with the “Alkahest” LP, which I purchased directly from Rise Above when they ran a genuinely eclectic and affordable mail order. Thanks to a tip from a friend, I bought the “Ash” MLP (yellow logo with black vinyl) from I cannot remember where. By then, my thirst for Paul Chain was insatiable. I began blindly hunting for any other titles because without making a purchase I could not hear the songs. Do bear in mind the LPs were rare and the CDs often rarer still. Through Black Widow, I sourced quite a few more originals such as “Detaching From Satan” MLP and “Highway to Hell” Picture Disc. When I bought in bulk from Quasar Records at the time their shop was closing, they included a surprise signed test pressing of “Whited Sepulchres” LP! The remaining albums and singles were generally sourced from private collectors in Italy. The “Opera Decima” 3LP boxed set and “Violet Art of Improvisation” DLP in particular took quite some time. However, the “King of the Dream” 12″ with Sabotage on the reverse possibly provided the most elation because it was the very last one I needed and the building atmosphere on that song, the very first time I dropped the needle, reaffirmed the genius of Paul Chain and his cohorts throughout the collective’s many guises. Sanctis Ghoram RIP! As an aside, I am genuinely pleased that so much of the back catalogue has since been rereleased at affordable prices so anybody with a passing interest can now listen to Paul Chain. It is perhaps a pity though that so many came at once after being long out of print because it takes time to absorb and the demand seems to have been somewhat overestimated by labels. Very much a sign of the times. Not sure I understand the merit of expanding “Alkahest” to a DLP to mirror the CD edition with almost a fourth side of silence for the short hidden track. Or the artificial construct of “Vivid Eyes in the Dark” LP from the “Relative Tapes” boxed set. If anything, surely it should have been part of a bigger vinyl boxed set than the way it was presented without any explanation? But with Paul Chain no longer involved, of his volition, it should not be that surprising these imperfections have crept into being.
Lastly, it has to be Revelation “Salvation’s Answer” LP. As teenagers, a friend and I took a punt on a couple of albums from our local record store. He picked this one from the racks, I opted for Stillborn “Permanent Solution” LP and we made cassette copies of the other vinyl the following weekend. While I was enjoying mine I instantly preferred his find. The music was young and raw. Slow and heavy then prone to unexpected bursts of speed. But it was underpinned with melancholy. Honest and very human. In the midst of Death and Black melee of the early to mid ’90s, it was a breath of fresh air. Doom proclaimed the large round sticker! Doom that recalled the roots Heavy Metal and Thrash. Combined with that alternative pointy logo on the insert, photos of a very young band and the thoughtful lyrics it made a deep impression. Over the years, I tried to buy or trade it from my friend. He never would let it go. In fact, I’m not sure he actually ever said no. My request simply met with silence. Later still, if memory serves me correctly, Oli Richling, the Doom Dealer, bought old warehouse stock from Rise Above included this long sought for record. As I was flying to Doom Shall Rise that spring of 2004 and he agreed to keep a copy aside for me to purchase at the festival. Needless up say, I was very happy walking down the Chapel steps with it in my hands again. A formative album from my youth and a band whose sixth record (only their second on vinyl) I would release the following decade.
You have been running Pariah Child for a long time. Please tell us about your label!
Label? I still find it strange that some think of Pariah Child in that way. First and foremost, it remains a zine. It evolved from my previous publication, Abandon All Hope. My motivation had been to hold the breach where printed zines proudly stoodin the ‘90s. I missed Reflections of Doom, Isten, Fitted Kitchens of the Living Damned and Steel Conjuring. I missed the detail, the wit and the enthusiasm. With the turning tide of the internet, communication became much easier although nothing, to this day, really replaces holding a tome in your hands. My focus was my tastes and space was not for sale as many of those who asked at the time will recall. I printed two issues under both names and circulated 1,500 copies worldwide. But the weight of handling everything alone as Pariah Child took its toll in the wake of real life. In 2009, after a silence of three years, I penned another issue, which I considered to be my fourth, after an earlier version was partially shelved and printed elsewhere. Two or three attempts to have it designed by those more able than me came to nothing so it gathered dust. A lot of dust. Then eventually a newly-forged alliance with Hell Bent For Metal under the banner of Masters of the Pit resurrected that old ghost two years ago. Spurred on, we joined forces again and we printed a brand new issue in October. If you still crave real zines, it’s 80 A5 pages crammed with lively features on varied bands such as Queen Elephantine, The Hounds of Hasselvander, Rise And Shine, The Black, The Story of Death SS Part Two and Brad Moore (Argus artist) amongst much more.
In a bid to spread the zine further and to champion the bands included in its pages, a small mailorder evolved organically around it. Very limited copies of demos, singles and albums.Ten to twelve years ago, long before YouTube or Bandcamp was taken for granted, with all manner of music only a click away, I found the underground community very willing to try what was presented almost regardless of the format or style if quality was guaranteed.Then there have been a few bands for whom I have gone that extra mile again. Eight Hands For Kali, was the first. They gave me permission to press copies of their independent EPs, “Mount Meru” and “Himalayan Necromantia” in 2005 and 2007 respectively. I manufactured 200 copies each, both of which were well received, sold quickly and requests still come for them. In 2009, when I began writing the zine again, I finally took the plunge to press vinyl when Gnod welcomed the opportunity to co-release their debut album with Pariah Child. Since then, I have pressed another five vinyl, some as co-releases, some alone, with Oresund Space Collective, Heathendom, Argus, Revelation and Second Grave. My focus has always been living bands regardless of their style. Even on paper, they are quite an eclectic horde. Earlier in the winter, the Yoshiwara Collective and Pariah Child also sent the latest album by Ogre into production as a special LP and 7” single set. This is my boldest project to date and genuinely hope it will help earn the band the higher profile they deserve when released early February 2015. While I have always favoured print media and analogue pressings, earlier this year Pariah Child took its first step into the present! I have begun to compile an archive of my written material and releases via http://www.pariahchild.co.uk so those that missed the original issues can dip into what I hope remain intriguing historical testimonies. This is really only a hint of what will come as the vaults are deep and will be gradually supplemented with new features. Of course there are some choice items for sale too although I must stress that they are not always brand new. This is not motivated as a commercial venture and I have no interest in distributing all and sundry. Instead there is a small tried and tested selection that often goes back decades because those albums made an impression and remain vital. It may often follow that I have also already written about them or will do in future. So when you think of Pariah Child, please remember it is not just another label flooding the market with an endless string of re-releases or young hip hopefuls. It is a much more personal affair that moves at my own slow pace. There has been a small yet loyal following over the years, forever cyclic, as some fall off the edge of the world only to be replaced by new faces. But each and every letter and purchase has been greatly appreciated.
And finally, what do you see in the future of record collecting?
Given the vast number of new titles and rereleases currently being pressed, month on month, it will be very interesting to see what happens when demand takes a dip. And it will. There is no hope in trying to keep pace with the machine. I have already seen quite a few people building up collections only to give up and flog the lot for whatever reasons they might have! It will do no harm to see the death of a raft of greedy labels too. We all need a little time to step back and review what music really matters. Record collecting should be about cherishing the music you love. A collection should be living and breathing. Cut the dead wood. There is no point hogging unnecessary titles. As people move on or ultimately die, plenty of titles, good and bad, should come back into circulation for more reasonable prices as tastes of the time shift. But classics will remain classics, and sure, pockets of avid collectors will remain everywhere. What intrigues me is which albums will be considered classics in ten or twenty years from now.