Last Collector Standing: Jimmy Winkeler of the Conformists on Recording New Tunes with Steve Albini, Vinyl Fidelity and His Crush on Louise Post
(The number of chain-record stores nationwide has dwindled. However, St. Louis has become an unlikely safe haven for indie record shops -- and for DJs who prefer to spin the black circle instead of scrolling their iPods. In this weekly column, we'll focus on personal portraits of St. Louis' record aficionados -- and the rooms where they store their treasures. Meet the last collectors standing. Know a collector who deserves the spotlight? Email us.)
Although popular music continues to redefine itself again and again, vinyl records conform to the tastes of each new generation of music lovers. Fittingly, Conformists bassist Jimmy Winkeler appreciates the love of vinyl, and what it means to buy a record in the age of digital music. Meeting up in his Tower Grove apartment after his Father's Day festivities, we chatted about Winkeler's grade school crush on Veruca Salt's Louise Post, recording with Steve Albini and the Conformists' own 7-inch single with an endless locked grove.
Last Collector Standing: What's your earliest musical memory?
Jimmy Winkeler: Crap... [Laughs] I used to play Poison songs on a tennis racket while listening to Flesh & Blood. I was probably ten. That's my first musical memory.
What's the first album you bought and why did you buy it?
The first record I bought was Veruca Salt's American Thighs. The reason I bought it was specifically because of the song "Seether," and I had a huge crush on Louise Post.
Who was from Webster Grooves, actually.
I did not know that. I know her and Dave Grohl dated for a short time, and that made me jealous.
The first album I bought on vinyl was... taking it back. It was Nirvana's Bleach and I bought it from, sadly, Hot Topic. It was when I was a teenager. It was after Nevermind had come out, but [Hot Topic} did the retro thing. Like, "Oh, we know this band." I was like, "Okay cool, I like Nirvana. I'll buy that."
I used to play records on a little Fisher Price record player. I thought it only played plastic records, but it turned out it would play real vinyl. It sounded like crap, but I was so in love with the concept of it. It got me started on the whole thing.
When The Conformists approach recording, is there a different mentality recording an individual demo song versus recording a set of songs that you have the intention to release as an album?
Oh yeah. A demo we will record with virtually anyone who says, "We will do this for cheap or free." Then we'll record a demo with them. We'll take whatever we have in the works and put it down on tape, but if we plan on actually releasing it, then we go the whole nine yards and spend exorbitant amounts of money. That's relative, though, because in the general scheme of things, recording something is always very expensive. But depending on who you are, that can have various meanings. For us a lot of money is somewhere around twenty-five hundred dollars, but for other people, that's just the tip of the iceberg.
We only record when we feel we have an album's worth of material. That can vary; usually it revolves around thirty minutes, because we feel thirty minutes is the perfect amount of time to get your point across without letting it drag. Plus, you have to think that the audience you're pandering to is most likely only going to give your band at most thirty minutes of their time.
This is the reason why vinyl fell out in the first place, because vinyl takes time. You have to actually sit down and listen, and give your time to it. [With] a CD, you can skip to your favorite track. On a record that takes considerably more energy, and there is a whole process. You have to find the track on the vinyl. So, when we do a record we think thirty minutes is probably the ideal amount of time.