PHOTOS: Anne Struwe Christensen
Vinyl is definitely back. It’s slow return as a dominant physical format has revived (for some) the absolute passion and pleasure of loading the racks with thousands of pieces of musical history. On the cusp of this year’s Record Store Day, I did what any decent vinyl Junky would do and go around for a whole day and chat to the main players in the ‘black’ arts of owning and running an independently owned and operated record shops.
Admittedly I am an absolute record freak. Not only do I love just hanging out in these all very individual and quirky joints, but also I have travelled literally around the world and visited some very abnormal purveyors of Lps. Sadly, in the 2000’s, many of my favorite record stores in the US and Europe became forever extinct. The cause: many different factors – but some of the main ones being: downloading, corporate chain stores, economic despair, cost of production, city gentrification, Amazon.com, and just plain bad luck. It looked for a while that the indie record store was nearly gone. In Aarhus, we talked to two survivors of the famine, and one new kid on the block trying to make it work for all the right reasons. We talked about RSD, their own shops, their personal collections, and I did a little sleuthing in their stock on the sales floor for what I call “The Neil factor” – where I noted what Neil Young albums they had laying around, either new, used, or “rare” (meaning: out of print, limited editions, bootlegs, deleted items etc.) just because everyone loves Neil Young that buys albums right?
What I found were three absolutely charming and genuinely interesting shop owners, who both loved music, and loved selling the good stuff to their customers. It was a good day. Here is the transcription.
Stardust – Klostergade
Situated inside what looks like an absolute fairy tale of a building in front of our city’s monastic center, Stardust is a welcoming and cozy café and record shop, slinging great coffee and light eats as well as loads of new and used vinyl. The racks are neatly organized and rock and indie are very well displayed among antique furniture and natural light from the courtyard.
The pusher: Juha Tamminen (with wife Jette Lykke)
SOA: How long has Stardust been around?
We opened four years ago. 10, February 2010 with my wife Jette who is also my partner here.
SOA: What was this building before it became a record shop?
Before us, it was Natursk, a kind of organic health products and cosmetic treatment place, and before that it was a furniture upholstery workshop.
SOA: how did you come up with the concept to become both a record store, and a café?
During the 80’s I had a record store in Finland when I was studying together with my friend. It was really tough, and I thought that it wouldn’t be easier nowadays with physical music sales. Then I thought: I like coffee, so I wanted to have a kind of place where people could meet up and enjoy some of the good things that I like – good coffee, wine and music. That is basically what it became.
SOA: did you think that if you sold both coffee and drinks as well as records that if one or the other didn’t really pan out, you could still survive – like a kind of insurance?
Definitely, I thought that the café would help in starting up the business. It takes time to build up the stock and to get people used to buying records from us. The café part was absolutely necessary at first to help the other part along.
SOA: Yeah it was looking a few years ago like the indie record store may not even make it. Back home, my local record store that I had been going to for 20 years just closed and that was it. It was a part of my identity, and that was gone. Over here now it seems like people are going back to buying vinyl again. Why do you think people are buying records again?
It’s just a nice experience – I don’t think personally it has anything to do with sound quality. I know a lot of people think that the vinyl sound is better, but for me its an emotional experience where you have a physical product that you handle and kind of prepare yourself to receive the music by putting the record in place and dropping the needle – you are more aware when you listen and want to listen than when you have (mp3’s). With digital – you are just overwhelmed by what is available. With a vinyl record you have a way to become more selective.
SOA: so it’s a commitment?
SOA: Record store day. How many years have you participated in RSD?
All four years. The first year we had two releases (laughs) – then it’s been growing and growing!
SOA: Has RSD made more people aware of the shop, getting new customers to come back through the years?
Yes. That’s the main thing actually. Its sort of difficult to plan the purchasing for the record store day, and to look at that one day alone, it doesn’t really make sense to look at the turnover and everything that you put in to that day, but on the whole as far as marketing when you look at the whole picture, you get a sense that you’re getting new customers and they’re coming back.
SOA: Tell us about what else you have planned for RSD, anything else special besides just records?
We have live music, five different artists playing during the day starting at noon, some special sales offers during the day, it all depends on what we will receive from record store day.
SOA: Now I’d like to know a little bit about your personal collection at home. Wanna put a number on it? How many records do you think you own?
Before I started the shop I had about 1,500 LPs, but the second hand stock was my prided collection, so that all went into the rack. I haven’t counted recently but I have four meters (of full shelves) or vinyl – so it’s coming back! Slowly.
SOA: what was the first record you ever remember buying with your own cash?
I bought four records: Pink Floyd’s “The Wall”, Gentle Giant “Interview”, King Crimson “Red” and Utopia’s “Oops! Wrong Planet”.
SOA: So I guess prog was big in Finland!
SOA: We’re going to talk about dealing with the second hand side of the business – people obviously come in and sell you some of their collections, or swap and trade their used records for yours, or store credit. I was wondering if you ever get some records that come in from a collection that you think: “Oh…No WAY – I’m taking this for myself!”
Well not the whole collection, but there are some records once in awhile that I really want and I’ve taken home…
SOA: anything in particular?
It would be the King Crimson records or Gentle Giant, but in most cases I’ve gotten them as re-issues at home.
SOA: When you take in so many used albums, you must see a bunch of really really shit ones. Can you tell our readers what to leave at home if they want to trade with you? What are you tired of telling people you can’t take in to stock?
Lots of 80s records like Elton John, Billy Joel, Danish rock like Shu-bi-du-a: that’s almost every collection that comes in.
SOA: so just keep those, throw them away or donate them!
Ha – yeah.
SOA: Final question: if Stardust were burning down right now, what would you save? (besides the cash)
….WOW……uh…Daniel Lanois – “Acadie”.
The Neil factor:
Rare: 1 (“Re-ac-tor”)
Opening on record store day: 8:00.
(NEXT BELOW THE PICTURES: BADSTUEROCK)
Badstue Rock – Badstuegade
“Badstue” as it’s known is a serious piece of national history. For over 40 years, this tiny low ceiling shop has been pushing vinyl, tapes, CDs, DVDs and music related books to music to downtown Aarhus through generations. Recently taken over from the original owner by our local hero, Bjorn, they have been slowly taking away CD space and putting out a growing sock of new and used vinyl. It’s a seriously good place to geek out on local underground music, and has some pretty tasty second hand turnover these days. You gotta love Badstue – the original article with the history to prove it.
The Pusher: Bjørn Lyden
SOA: Tell us a little about yourself, where are you from?
I’m originally from Sweden. I moved to Denmark in 1992, my mum is Swedish, my father, Danish.
SOA: How long has Badstue been open?
It’s been open since 1973, when the previous owner started it. He wanted to retire a couple of years ago, which created the opportunity for me to take over the shop and continue his life’s work really.
SOA: but you had been working with him together for several years getting the hang of the place?
Yeah, I’ve been here since 2003, over 10 years.
SOA: Since Badstue has been around for so long, I guess you have pretty much seen it all – Vinyl, Tapes, CDs, and now moving I guess back to a lot more LPs. Why do you think people are more interested in vinyl again?
Back in the day of course, there was only vinyl, but more and more, CDs became a big seller through the 90s. I noticed though that there was still quite a demand though with people coming in and asking for vinyl over the years. For a while we didn’t have any LPs in the store because Mick (the previous owner) had opened a second shop – Dandelion, for vinyl, but he’s sold that as well. Everyday though people were still coming in and asking for vinyls, so we could definitely see that there was a demand on the rise. I’m happy to say that since we’ve re-introduced vinyl in 2012 it’s definitely been a big thing for us and it’s become a big part of our sales. I feel it was the right decision to bring LPs back to the shop.
To answer your question though: it seems like we have this generation now that has almost grown up without either CD or Vinyl – like a digital generation so to speak – I think they are beginning to open their eyes though to vinyl as a work of art – with the huge cover and inserts and posters that are quite nice to look at. Many would feel that this is quite different from the digital formats in that it has more of a dynamic sound. People will still use the digital options on their phones and iPods, but they want to feel the nice feeling of listening to vinyl on a record player, listening to the album as a whole because when you listen to an LP you tend to not skip through songs, make playlists and that fragmented way of listening in favor of that ‘whole’ listening experience.
SOA: do you maybe think the younger generation has attention span issues? That we can stream almost anything…
Well I’m sure that there are tests that would prove such results. The Internet and digital (formats) are so great because of so many possibilities, but I don’t think that many people use it for the more ‘in depth’ experience. Many of the young kids though want to listen to the old classic albums – which are albums and they’re meant to be listened to like old Beatles albums, Doors, Pink Floyd – when these were made there was a big focus on the album, with track order and the art. The album (format) is so strong I believe because I guess you could argue that you could download a record, and just burn it out onto a CD – with LPs though it’s a little more complicated and of course tough to do on your home computer.
SOA: Record Store Day – how long have you been participating in the event?
For the last 3 years, so this is our third time doing it this year!
SOA: is it getting bigger and bigger each year?
Absolutely! The first record store day was shortly after I took over the shop. There was quite a harsh rumor going around town that Badstue was closing. This was partly because people were used to seeing Mick here and as soon as people heard he was retiring people were putting 1 and 1 together and thinking: ‘well there’s not much sale in physical music, he’s stopping so that means the shop must be closing!’ which it wasn’t. What you have to take into consideration is that Record Store Day had not been really celebrated in Denmark as much as it had been in other parts of the world – a fairly new thing in Denmark, as it started in 2006 or 7, but we wanted to participate here – get the releases and do something extra. The first year we didn’t really have to possibility to do as much as we were quite busy with the changeover. Last year it was great though and we are doing some great stuff this year with concerts, and we’re putting out something like 300 second hand LPs (in stock) and opening early at 9:00 and hoping to get as many of the RSD releases as we can, and from what I hear – we will.
SOA: you’re also one of the arrangers of Pop Revo festival – how dis you come to start that? Tell us how that all started.
It came about when I met my good friend Nikolaj whom co-organizes the festival. We met here at Badstue when he was in asking for a band called “Clientele” and he was quite amazed that I actually knew who they were! He hadn’t met anyone in Aarhus who knew who they were. From then on we just got to talking a lot about music and being all nerdy about it and realized that we had quite a bit in common with our music tastes and both felt that we were sort of missing something in Aarhus or that something wasn’t quite being represented here: that was the motivation to start a festival back in 2004. Since then its just developed really, loads of people coming and going, but the constant there has been Nikolaj and I. We work together on the bookings with Nicolaj doing quite a lot of the business work as he has his own booking company in Copenhagen – putting on hundreds of shows a year there, so he has huge connections to the bands booking agencies which allows us to put up some of the names we have at our festival.
SOA: you’ve always had fantastic line-ups in my opinion!
Thank you very much! We were just two young guys…or younger guys (laughs) than now who were just writing to their favorite bands via emails and what-have-you…it was quite amazing how willing people were to come here and play. It was a bit of a different time then as well. Things have changed a bit in that field as live concerts have become more attractive and more in demand.
SOA: especially in Denmark! It seems like every band in the world wants to stop by and play. Is it because people have more money to spend on concerts or?
That’s certainly one of the factors, but it’s a unique experience. You can’t download an experience – the feeling of the crowd and hearing it. I think that unique experience is what people are looking for and the big reason why concerts are selling so quickly and why there is such a huge demand for concerts.
SOA: now we’re going to speak a little about records. Being such music fan – you must have quite a big personal collection? How many records do you think you own right now?
I actually do not have a number! It takes up pretty much two walls, and that’s the LPs! Then I have CDs as well. At one point I put all my Cds into binders because they were just taking up too much space with the jewel cases. Now I’m quite regretting that!
SOA: what was the first LP you ever remember buying?
(instantly) I do remember! I was 6 or 7 years old and I got money to buy an LP in a record shop. I had a very very difficult time choosing one of course, but I ended up picking up Prince “Purple Rain” and I have to say: still one of my favorite albums – just a great great album, and I still have it in my collection.
SOA: When the shop takes in used Lps from customers, is there anything that you think: okay I’m taking this straight home for myself?
Ahh – I have to say that happens more and more rarely. I’m pretty much here for work though. I can always find records that I really want that could probably be quite rare albums – but in that case I would probably prefer to sell them in the shop. It’s a good thing to have a rare record in the store, even just to show off and bring people in. I’m generally more of a music lover than a record collector in a sense. There is a collecting aspect to it – like when you collect anything such as stamps or whatever – that the collecting aspect becomes more of a passion than what you’re actually collecting! Know what I mean? I wouldn’t like that to happen to me, so for now it’s for the shop.
SOA: when customers bring in trade-ins though are there any really shit ones that you keep seeing every single time? Ones that you could maybe advise our readers just not to waste their time dragging in from home?
There’s almost always shit ones! Its not very often that people come in with collections where I just go ‘OH!’, no first press Captain Beefheart “Safe As Milk” – ha…that never happens, most of the time though its people with pretty crappy collections…I mean….its mostly things that have sold in big numbers in the 80s. many of the records that people were buying in the 80s haven’t really aged that well
SOA: Roxette, Billy Joel….
Yeah you get in so many Billy Joel albums, they are just impossible to sell. It changes though – like 10 years ago, every day I would get in a copy on Fleetwood Mac “Rumors” and it was impossible to sell, but now when I get it in to the shop I sell it instantly! History has sort of been revised for them I guess so that they are cool now. Same thing could happen to Billy Joel…you never know!
SOA: one last question: if Badstue was burning down right now – what would you save?
…oh…..(long pause)…..phu……first of all I would be absolutely terrified in such a situation, I wouldn’t know what to do anyway- but of course it’s a rhetorical question! (another long pause)…some of the personality of the shop is what I would like to save. It may be the most difficult thing to save. Not so much the CDs or LPs, but something that really creates the aura of the shop is the old posters. There’s Iron Maiden, Sade and The Who posters over there that were put up when those albums came out, which means they are at least 30 years old. That’s something that makes this shop look like it did in the old days y’know? So I guess I would just be there in the middle of the fire tearing down the posers!
The Neil Factor:
New: 2 (but plenty more used or rare in the back ready to come out into stock for RSD!)
Opening for RSD: 9:00
(NEXT BELOW THE PICTURES: ROUTE 66)
Route 66 – Fredensgade
Route 66 is about as old school as you can get for a record shop experience. Only dealing in vinyl, with every square inch of the property containing records, it’s actually two stores in one. The bottom rooms being dedicated to rows upon rows of new pressings, and upon climbing a very steep and narrow set of stairs a top floor packed to the hilt with vintage and second hand vinyl: Blacklight. Two separate businesses with one goal – selling the best vinyl in the world. The face of the whole operation though is a hard working and dedicated owner who will let you know exactly what is on her mind in between smoking cigarettes, putting on records on the house system, doing orders on the computer, answering phones and greeting her numerous regular customers. Oh yeah – and they also make records with their own label and pressing business called DVP – (Danish Vinyl Productions). So you could say this place is really the full package.
The Pusher: Mette Christensen
SOA: how long has Route 66 been here?
Since 1990. We moved down here about 10 years ago from our old location which was where Bruuns Galleri is built now.
SOA: how long have you been in the record business then?
The record business…that’s something else – well I met my husband in 1997 and I took over in 1999. He started it all and then we took over and opened (a Route 66) in Copenhagen.
SOA: and it’s always been just vinyl?
Yes – well for a very very short time, my husband carried CDs.
SOA: Let’s talk a little about record store day…
(jumps in) We’re in the middle of it right now! Getting all the lists of what we’re lucky to get, trying to update everyone on what they can find.
SOA: where can we find this list?
We’ve been updating it on Facebook…Facebook is like our website now, well – it’s the only one the kids use
SOA: of course record store day is getting bigger and bigger…
Too Big. Last year it was humongous, we didn’t really know how big it would be and this year is getting even better. We have to take in so many releases and you just don’t know which ones! I’ve heard about or been talking to some shops in the UK that just can’t handle it anymore. They feel forced to buy a huge stock and they just don’t know if they’re going to sell it
SOA: WOW so in that sense, record store day can work against an independent record store….
For some it can but we endorse it because it’s a really big day of festivities – but I do understand that some shops just can’t be bothered to be a part of it anymore
SOA: that’s a really different angle I guess.
Well you can’t really take that angle until after the day. A lot of labels know what the deal is now and they are just scheduling so many releases, so many re-issues or re-pressings that they could have done two months before or after, but this is now the day that they know that they can catch all the record hunters. Now there is an awful lot of re-issues rather than the funny little stuff that’s only supposed to be for the day.
SOA: Too much crap?
No, not crap, but it could come out two months later! I’ve heard of some buyers coming in and buying up a ton of RSD releases, and then selling them on eBay two hours later at twice the price. There are very strict rules though for Record Store Day; first of all you have to be an independent store – that’s why I don’t know why Fona and Stereo Studio have been accepted too – and the stores may not sell (RSD releases) online until afterwards. We also aren’t allowed to reserve items – like if someone were to say; ‘can you keep that one aside for me and I’ll pick it up later’. You have to fight for what you want and come early.
SOA: but you do think that it is bringing more business in for the shop though…
Oh it is! It surely is. Hopefully we’ll get new regular customers who have just discovered record store day. You have people travelling from all over the country. In Copenhagen especially its very big, but of course there are 1.5 million people there. You can’t do much about that.
SOA: why do you think a lot of people are going back to vinyl
Well first of all its because of the sound. These days it seems like we can’t handle it – that everything is going too fast – then there’s the aesthetics. Then of course you can see now that it costs approximately as much as a CD nut you just get a better product.
SOA: but mainly you feel its just due to sonic quality?
First of all I hope so. We have been through some years where it was a hype, but we don’t care about those customers.
SOA: just the hipsters that wanna be seen with records?
Because they don’t mean it in that field. But we have very huge titles now that are not coming out on any other format. (now) You get titles coming out only on vinyl where you get the digital download codes or even the cd as well in a new vinyl, so you have it all.
SOA: so the future is now that bands will only put releases out on vinyl and digital?
If you look through the top 10 huge artists you’ll find that’s becoming the case.
SOA: I’d like to know a little about your personal record collection. It must be pretty ginormous?
No, not really. My husband and I have been in this business for 60 years (combined) and we only have about 3-4,000 records.
On a daily basis, you know which ones you want to hear in 10 years time. After you’ve heard a record about 10 times you know: this is a keeper.
SOA: what else is 66 doing on RSD besides hopefully putting out lots of records?
We have Tim Christensen as well as 8 to 9 live concerts. Tim is playing at 10 o’clock and we open at 8:00. In Copenhagen we have the live shows starting at noon and we have Per Vers performing. We’re doing a very limited 12” with him. He’s our ambassador. Record Store Day has Chuck D (from Public Enemy) and we have proclaimed that Per is our Chuck D.
SOA: the special editions are something that you are pressing yourselves
Yes. We did it last year as well with Mikael Simpson. We have our own label called DVP. We’ve always released Under Byen, Mikael Simpson, I Got You On Tape and all the solo acts associated with them as well as the previous Oh Land record and Dizzy Miss Lizzy. We press a lot of vinyl.
SOA: you’ve helped several local bands with actual pressings as well…
We just let them use our account (to the vinyl manufacturers) to get it at our prices. We want to make sure that it looks and sounds real good. We are just interested in so much Danish music that both looks and sounds great. The Danish music is some of the best in the world. We have all of the rest of the world looking at what we are doing here in Denmark.
SOA: what was the first record that you ever remember buying for yourself?
Well it was the cassette of “Thriller”. I can’t remember the vinyl because I’ve always had records from my dad. It must have been something like Duran Duran (laughs) I can’t actually remember, but yeah…Duran Duran probably.
SOA: that’s kind of shit…
Well at that time it wasn’t shit. I guess it’s because of my age!
SOA: it looks like you also sell some refurbished amps and record players?
Right now its mainly new players, but we do sell some used ones for a very fair price.
SOA: Jesus! You guys make your own records, sell new ones, used ones, help bands and sell stereos on the cheap!
We are trying to do it all!
SOA: Do you ever get used collections that come in to be sold or traded where you’re like – “I’m taking this album home for me”?
Nowadays we don’t get those very fantastic used collections come in anymore. People are just not selling their precsious vinyl. Blacklight upstairs even go to places like Germany to buy the huge collections, or look around on eBay. They source all our used stock and only deal with the used market.
SOA: but if you’re working the counter and taking on the trade-ins from people off the street you must see a lot of shite come in. what is the most shittest of the shit that people bring you.
Loads of shit! Reader’s Digest, the German crap pop hits…I think people know now that they can’t get rid of it though. We have enough Elton John and Billy Joel in the cheap section…
SOA: what do you look for then in a good trade-in?
Of course rareities and the big names. We also look for a lot of stuff from the 90s where they only printed maybe 2,000 copies of the record when something like 800,000 people wanted it. We also take stuff that didn’t sell when it was released but made an impact afterwards.
SOA: I personally buy a lot of records from the 90s that I missed the first time around or bought on CD and didn’t even know it was on vinyl – Shoegaze and Indie like MBV, Sundays, Pale Saints….
Almost everything came out on vinyl, but only in editions of 1 or 2,000. We were lucky if we got 2 copies and then we never saw it again. That’s why they are re-issuing so many titles from the 90s now.
SOA: but some people want the originals
Mostly though people just want the music, but we get the ‘hunters’ who don’t mind using an awful lot of money to get an original copy of say My Bloody Valentine’s “Ecstasy” ep. That’s not even the expensive ones – only like 6-800 krone.
SOA: one last question – If the shop was burning to the ground right now, what would you save?
Ha! I don’t know! All of our collectors stuff is locked down upstairs and those are the most expensive ones. I would probably save the new section because they could be sold the day after!
The Neil factor:
Used: 20 (solo…a dozen or so CSNY!)
Rare: 19 (some EXTREMELY rare bootlegs and limited pressings)
Opening on RSD at 8:00
So Aarhus; this writer hopes that you go out and support all of our wonderful and unique independent record stores for your music purchases. I can honestly say that it was an absolute pleasure speaking with each of the owners while they worked in their shops. Being a record freak and a music lover I was in absolute heaven whilst browsing in our pauses and after the chats. What have we learned? If you want to buy some unique and special Record Store Day vinyl, you have to get there early, as it’s first come, first serve on the day. Each shop has a list of what they are projected to have in stock on their Facebook pages that is being updated almost hourly before this Saturday. Happy hunting, and see you out there!
A big thanks to my sidekick and photographer Anne Struwe Skytte Christensen, whom I think enjoyed this almost as much as I did!