Billy Brown on Sonic Youth, Record Store Day, and Drunk Reggae Fans
In early January, Rolling Stone reported that vinyl sales had increased fourteen percent over the previous year with around 2.8 million units sold, making 2010 the best year for vinyl in recent memory. DJ Billy Brown is part of a new generation of music fans choosing records over CDs or MP3s. Brown's vinyl habit developed in earnest when he got a job at Slackers CD and Games three years ago (he also works in Production at the RFT). Last Collector Standing ran into the Brown in line at Vintage Vinyl on Record Store Day waiting to pick up some of the exclusive releases. A few days later we were at his South City home looking through his collection and discussing the resurgence of vinyl.
Photo by Jon Scorfina
Last Collector Standing: What is the last record you bought?
Billy Brown: The last record I bought was James Blake on Record Store Day. I got to Vintage Vinyl a little bit after 10 a.m,, when they opened. I didn't know what they were going to have. I was exciting not knowing if they were going to have this single or that single. I ended up with most of what I wanted, but it took almost two hours in line. It was the most docile line I've ever been a part of. No aggression in that line. Nobody worried about people butting. It was really just a nice line experience.
When did you start collecting music?
I've been collecting music for as long as I can remember. I had a cassette Walkman when I was four or five years old. I would listen to my parent's cassettes and make tapes of their CDs. It was always either Billy Joel or Pearl Jam or Led Zeppelin. My Dad was really into Led Zeppelin and Bruce Springsteen. I would just listen to the same Billy Joel album over and over again for a week.
I think listening to a lot of Bruce Springsteen really young shaped who I was musically. Also, my family had a subscription to Rolling Stone. Reading Rolling Stone got me into a lot of stuff. Like when Jerry Garcia died, that got me into the Grateful Dead because that's all Rolling Stone wrote about. Reading Rolling Stone made [the music] more interesting to me. The same thing with Notorious B.I.G. I bought that album after I read about it in Rolling Stone after he was killed.
I love going into the one room in Blueberry Hill because I remember every cover. "Oh yeah, the one where No Doubt is dressed like doctors." That's where I first heard about Pavement. That's where I first heard about Jimmy Eat World. That's what got into the Replacements was an article I read in Rolling Stone comparing them to other bands I liked. I miss that about music journalism between Rolling Stone and Spin. I still read them both but I think they've kind of lost touch, especially now where a blog can have a story up in seconds where with Rolling Stone you have to wait a couple weeks until the next issue.
Nowadays everything is so instantaneous. You can find most things you want to know about music in seconds by just jumping on Youtube. Yet do you think having that waiting period for Rolling Stone lent any additional meaning to learning about music because it wasn't so instantaneous?
There was that, and there was also kind of a pressure. I bought [this] CD, so I better like this. Now I download music and if I like something I buy the LP. I like it as a previewing mechanism. I think there might be a lot of stuff that is being thrown by the wayside because people are so quick to digest something new, decide if it's good of not and then move onto wants new next. The whole blog thing is self-perpetuating with that.
What was the first vinyl record that you purchased?
I've always had a passing interest in [collecting vinyl]. I started collecting seriously when I started working at Slackers, which was about three years ago. The first thing I remember being super excited about getting was Joy Division's Unknown Pleasures. I got the repress of that the first time I went into Apop. That's one of those things where I went in there on a whim and that's what really got me into all my favorite albums [on vinyl]. I started getting stuff I like as it comes out because I work at a record store.