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Week 8, 2014: Robert, Netherlands

ImageWhat made you start collecting records?
The first time I laid my hand on a record – in this case a bunch of 45’s – I was hooked. You have to know that I grew up in a rather strict, boring, religious environment. An older sister handed me down a few singles. One of them was a double A-sided release by the Dutch band Focus, with the tracks Hocus Pocus and Sylvia. Especially Hocus Pocus blew my mind. Thijs van Leer’s yodelling and Jan Akkerman’s totally amazing guitar solos was nothing I heard before. And certainly not in church, ha! It was a kind of window that made me realise that there was an entirely different world out there that was so much more exciting than the one that I was living in at the time. I found it fascinating that those little grooves could capture this kind of magic. I cherished those first records and played them endlessly on an all-in-one record player. And as soon as I started to have some funds – pocket money and earnings from summer jobs – I started to buy singles and records. It was the only way to expose myself to music, old and new. We are talking mid to late 70’s here. There was hardly any good music on TV or radio – well little has changed since then. And of course internet was far away.

Do you remember your first purchase?
Hmm, that’s a tough one. I remember buying some kids’ stuff when I was very young. I also remember buying a Dutch compilation with some early punk songs, a few cheapo’s by Johnny Cash. Records I bought early on that hit me like a ton of bricks were Overkill by Motörhead, Alive II by KISS and Unleashed In The East by Judas Priest. I must have played these thousands of times. It started my love for all things loud and heavy. Although I have a very eclectic taste, hard rock and metal are the heart and soul of my collection.

ImageHow long have you been collecting?
I started to buy records on a regular basis when I was about 15. I turned 50 last year, so you do the math…). When we moved a few years back we bought a house with a huge extension. That is where the collection is housed, including my main stereo system. So my records are safe from the sticky hands of our otherwise adorable little kids…:^)

What sort of music do you mainly focus on?
Like I said hard rock and metal and it’s offspring are the basis for my collection. But I also have a decent selection of reggae, folk, rock & roll, jazz, pop, classical, country, 60’s garage, soul/funk, early hip hop, beat, progressive, kraut rock, crooners and blues in my collection… I’ve discovered that there is great stuff to be found in almost any genre. Because I am a full time music journalist I’ve met a lot of musicians, collectors and colleagues who introduced me to all sorts of bands and genres I somehow stayed away from before. I’ve discovered that very often perspective means everything. What I am trying to say is that when you hear background stories about particular bands, eras or genres, you are halfway there. Just a few examples: I always thought that I loathed fusion, until a great guy introduced me to some fines exponents. When I worked for a newspaper I got to know the classical music reporter who told me a lot about Wagner, his favourite composer. It didn’t take me too long to buy his main opera’s. Just a few weeks ago I visited a guy who owns approximately 30.000 reggae 7”es. Very inspiring! I always make notes. And somehow it always has an impact on my own ever expanding collection.

ImageHow do you discover new music?
As described, through people I meet and hang out with. I also check out various sites, blogs and magazines on the internet. There are a few hard copy magazines that I read religiously, with Record Collector as an favourite. Facebook is another great source. Most of my Facebook friends are passionate about music. Whenever they post something that looks and sounds interesting I check it out. And since I am a journalist I get a lot of newsletters, cd’s and even vinyl records etc. from record companies. I have a limitless curiosity.

You have written two books on the subject record collecting: “Vinylfanaten” and most recently the very interesting “Passion For Vinyl”, which features amazing interviews of record collectors all over the world. What were your impressions during the process?
I loved the passion and dedication of all involved. That stands out, above all. And that’s what I wanted to capture. For example: I spent an evening with an older English gentleman who has been collecting pre-World War II jazz since the late 30’s. His knowledge, passion and dedication blew my mind. Time and time again I am reminded how huge of an impact music makes on peoples’ lives. And not always for the good, by the way. I have seen people develop health issues because of their collector’s habits. And a few marriages fall apart… And although I don’t shy away from these side effects, I want my stories primarily to be inspiring. I also read a lot of books and I always hope to discover new music of be able to understand familiar tracks even more.

Any oncoming projects you can tell us about?
I’ve written quite a few books over the years. I am sure more will follow. And I need to finish another project I am working on: an in-depth compilation of early 80’s Dutch metal, which should come out on vinyl and CD. It should be great, because there were quite a few great bands back then, many of which never made any name outside their region here in Holland. Stay tuned!

ImageWhere do you prefer to buy your records?
I love to give regular record stores my business. They are the best. Since a lot of stuff – old and new – is exclusively available through internet, I used that as a source as well. There are many great online stores out there. Also, very often bands sell their records through their own sites or at gigs. I visit flea markets and thrift stores whenever I have the time, but usually I don’t find too much I still need.

Tell us a bit about your perspective regarding the Dutch record scene today. Are there many stores left?
Just like elsewhere in the world many stores have closed. I dare to say that most of the good ones are still there, though. A few have even opened in recent years. So there are still fantastic record stores in major cities like The Hague, Amsterdam and Rotterdam. I also dare to say that these places are more interesting to visit for a vinyl shopping trip than – let’s say – London or New York. These places are turning into vinyl wastelands. I also need to mention the bi-yearly Utrecht record fair, which is worth a visit.

Please tell us about one of your purchases that gave you the goose bumps!
I have a soft spot for weird records. That’s why I really wanted to add the first album by The Shaggs to my collection. People interested in their amazing story should Google their name. It’s basically a three (and later four) all girl band – all sisters – that were sent to a studio by their father, because he believed they were great. ‘Let’s cut them while they are hot’, is what he is believed to have said. The had cheap gear, no talent whatsoever and hardly ever practiced. But miraculously they came up with a truly unique record on which they compensated their lack of skill with a naive sort of passion and a musical language that is completely of its own kind. It was one of Frank Zappa’s favourite records and music guru Lester Bangs claimed they were better than The Beatles (and The Stones too). So there… The thing is that most of the original pressing of a 1000 copies vanished without a trace. Approximately 100 were send out to labels, deejays and journalists. Years ago I bought my copy from a deejay from the Boston area. He made me bleed, but it became more expensive over the years. A sealed copy went recently 5000 dollars. But that’s not that matters most to me. I truly believe that I have an important piece of history in my hands when I pull it off the shelf.

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Name three records that are special to you, and tell us the story of how you got hold of them.
That is a very tough on, because I would love to mention 10, or 50, or a 100… Anyway, I picked a few records that did strike chord with me over the years. First we have KISS Alive II. I bought it in a regular record store in the late 70’s, while still at high school. KISS blew me away, right from the start. The bombs, the fire, the blood spitting, those great rocking tunes, the lyrics about sex, the costumes, the painted faces…I mean, what more does an impressionable 15 year old need? And I like to add that I still like KISS. I went to quite a few concerts and last few years I finally got to interview both Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons. They both appeared to be nice people, BTW. And just the other day I purchased the first official vinyl release of their Psycho Circus album.

An album that made a similar impact was the first Ramones album. You have to know that in my middle class environment people thought that Supertramp, The Eagles and Yes were the shit. My schoolmates even tried to dance to progressive rock at school parties. Can you imagine that? It’s a sight that I never really recovered from. Anyway, the Ramones album came out. I heard a few tunes on Dutch Radio and knew this was what I was subconsciously waiting for all these years. It was like a bomb that destroyed all the bull shit with one big explosion. I first bought a regular edition – a Dutch pressing on Philips. I later managed to get an original 1976 US test pressing; I got it in a record store in Rotterdam, Holland. It’s still one of my most dear possessions. I need to add that over the years I truly learned to love Supertramp, Yes and The Eagles as well – I won’t dance to it though.

And off to the third one… Hmm… I could mention albums by Slayer, Metallica, The Who (Who’s Next), Can, Faust, 13th Floor Elevators, Fairport Convention, Nick Drake, Mayhem, Albert Ayler, Miles Davis, Golden Earring, The Beatles. But I will wrap this up with Cromagnon, because it’s a relatively new discovery. The great thing about internet, and especially YouTube and Facebook, is that I get in touch with a lot of knowledgeable people who point me to records that somehow escaped my attention. Such as the late 60’s US garage/psych band Cromagnon. Their debut is a truly mind blowing album on the great ESP label. Let me just mention the opening track Crow Of The Black Tree, it’s a relentlessly rocking track, driven by a fuzz guitar and a bag pipe. It’s heavy as hell. The high pitched vocals make it sound like an evil black metal track, only over a decade before Bathory, Venom etc. reared their ugly heads. I got the original (with B/W sleeve) through Ebay. Great sounding reprints (with colour sleeve) are widely available. Dear reader, do yourself a favour and get one!

ImageAnd finally: what do you see in the future of record collecting?
I truly enjoy the current revival of vinyl. I can only hope it will turn into something more permanent and less of a hype. There a few points of concern from my part: vinyl prices are way too high, the market is flooded by releases right now, Record Store Day is blow out of proportions and has become a commercial monster, and people should stay away from those cheap Crosley players. Yeah, I know they look neat and are cheap, BUT it’s junk and they will destroy your precious vinyl sooner or later. It is worthwhile to invest in a decent turntable, like a 2nd hand Thorens or a brand new entry level Project. Vinyl needs a little investment, but it’s worth it. Your vinyl and your ears will be grateful in the end.

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