Record Collectors

Record Collector: Matt Ford, aka variant_coverage_blog

Matt Ford cut his punk rock teeth just outside of Ottawa, Canada. In his younger years, he spent time playing bass in a number of bands, most notably Miles Between Us (Think Fast! Records). In 2006, Matt moved abroad to begin his career as a teacher. Since then, he’s lived in Poland, Slovakia, Switzerland, Australia, Slovakia (again) and now Germany, where he teaches academic writing at a technical university.

When he isn’t travelling around Europe running marathons, watching hockey games, drinking coffee or hanging out with his fiancée and their cats, he hunts down records.  Recently, he started up an Instagram account, Variant Coverage Blog, to showcase his collection, and meet like-minded individuals. Welcome Matt to the Record Collector club.

How long have you been collecting records?

The first record I ever got was back in 1984 when I was 7. My dad took me to the mall and got me the LP of Born in the USA. I had recently seen a clip of Springsteen performing the song on the TV show, Entertainment Tonight, and I was hooked by that piano motif. I would say I probably got off on the right foot because he’s still one of my all time favorites. That said, I mostly collected tapes and CDs from that point until I got interested in punk rock in the early '90s. xThat’s when I realized the importance of the punk 7” — which often contained exclusive tracks. The first one I remember buying was by a cool pop-punk band called Sinkhole, or perhaps "Disconnected" by Face to Face — so that would be around '94 or '95 that the real collecting (in terms of vinyl) began.

 

Atari - Skate Tuff ~ Siton Records - 1999 ~ Live photo cover version- hand numbered /250 I was inspired by a recent post by @xmypathx and decided to add a post of my copy of Atari's Skate Tuff EP, which is a different variation. Atari is a band that is often overlooked, but was very much an important part of the youth crew revival that went down in the late 90s/early 00s. Upon first listening, you might notice a few things: slightly corny lyrics, constant voice cracks, and musical parts that were not exactly tight at times. Now, that might sound like I'm trying to bring up the negatives, but actually these are the exact things that I think gave Atari their charm. Besides, YOT has all of those things, and they might be the biggest hardcore band of all time, so... This record has a number of cover variants, and mine features a live shot with numbering out of 250. I have no idea if it was a tour press or record release or what the story is... maybe just for the sake of having another version for the nerds like me to scoop up? Let me know in the comments if you have any information about that. I did get the chance to see them live once- back in 97 or 98 at one of the first (maybe the first) Posi Numbers fest. It was only one day back then, but they packed it full of great acts, and Atari were basically a local band, as the fest was an hour or so from their home of Kutztown, PA. Their set was energetic, fun and put a smile on every face in the house. GO! #atari #sitonrecords #hardcore #straightedge #sxe #kutztownstraightedge #teamworkrecords #pahardcore #oldschoolhardcore #youthcrew #skatecore #sxevinyl #hardcorevinyl #jazzjune #vinylcollection #vinylcollectionpost #seveninch #nowspinning #recordoftheday

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Where/how do you usually find your records these days?

When I got into really collecting music, it was all about hitting the shops and spending hours just flipping through the records. I still try to do this as much as possible these days, but some shops make it so hard to support them. I don’t know how many times I’ve visited one only to find outrageous prices. I do understand that there are costs involved and that a profit needs to be made… but on the other hand I also used to run a distro and I keep a close eye on label websites, so I generally know when a shop is crossing the line. If I can buy the same record from the label, and it’s cheaper, even with shipping costs included, why would I bother going out to the shop and wasting my time? Still, there are a lot of great ones out there that are fair and I will support them first. I also try to do some browsing when I travel (which ends up being 2-3 weekends per month). The only catch is that I usually travel with my lady, and she doesn’t share my hobby, or even really understand it, so I try to keep the shopping short and sweet rather than rummage through every bin (like I would probably do on my own). Plus, she’s a much bigger passion of mine than any record, so I’m not exactly sacrificing anything by spending more time with her! 

 

Elliott - If They Do ~ Initial Records - 1999 ~ White vinyl /400 One of the biggest regrets I have as a showgoer would be skipping an Elliott gig back around the time this record came out... for no reason other than in my head I had a percieved moral obligation to not attend EVERY gig that was happening in my town. I was an idiot, obviously... and the same line of thinking made me miss a Jawbreaker gig about a year or so before they originally broke up. Again... idiot. While I regret not catching the show, at least I can appreciate the numerous great recordings these guys have. This 2-song 7" came out between their brilliant LPs- US Songs and False Cathedrals, and in some ways acts as a bridge in the progression of their sound. The earlier stuff was a bit more technical hardcore influenced emo rock, whereas they began to move to a more anthemic, ambient indie rock band. The two songs here combine some elements from both sides. Side A's "Waiting While Under Paralysis" has guitar stylings similar to earlier recordings, but with vocals that seem somewhat in the middle of a transition. The bridge part certainly reminds me more of False Cathedrals. Side B features a more adventurous track- "As Arson". This tracks in at over 5 minutes, and manages to take the listener in many directions. It starts with heavier riffing contrasting Chris Higdon's trademark vocal stylings, before slaloming between quiet and more desperate borderline screaming parts in the middle of the song. Just when you think the song may be coming to an end, they throw you a curveball with an entirely different part that winds the song down rather softly. I can't say these are my favourite Elliott tracks, and with only two songs it's hard to get into the vibe, but definitely explore their entire discography if you haven't already! Also- my labels don't seem to match the actual songs (sides a/b mixed up). Anyone else have the same with their copy? Intentional? #elliott #initialrecords #louisvillehardcore #emo #emocore #emovinyl #indierock #indievinyl #revelationrecords #fallingforward #vinylcollection #vinylcollectionpost #recordoftheday #coloredvinyl

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I do also browse eBay, and keep up with what’s going on there. I try to never overpay for any record though- no matter how much I want it…and eBay is full of buyers willing to overbid for records they could get cheaper on Discogs, and sellers who try to rip you off with brutal “Buy it Now” prices. For example, there’s one guy in Germany who’s been trying to unload a Guns Up! maroon Outlive LP for 40 Euros. Nothing against that band — I played shows with them and they were cool guys and a good band, but nobody… NOBODY likes that band that much… I mean, c’mon! The record is worth maybe 50% of what the seller is asking… and it’s been listed on eBay for months now… thankfully nobody has been desperate enough to pick it up. That said, I have managed to find some deals on eBay, but my rule is to always calculate the bid plus shipping and not go over the average selling price that is listed on Discogs. I don’t need anything so much that I will allow myself to get ripped off.

 

Berthold City- Moment of Truth~ War Records- 2018~ Clear blue with "regular" cover /400 In the weeks before this 7" came out, I had seen a barrage of social media posts promoting it. I slept on it a bit, and didn't do a preorder, but managed to pick up one of these while in Berlin a few weeks ago. I didn't know much about the band as they are pretty new to the scene, and to be honest, I first had the impression that they were British punk rock hooligans because the band name sounds like a football team to me. I thought maybe it would be some kind of street punk... but the cover art suggested hardcore, so I was a bit unsure if they'd be good or not. Later, I read somewhere that "Berthold City" is the name of a font... which is actually a pretty original way to tag your band... a nice change of pace from bands naming themselves after Judge lyrics or something like that haha. I later came across an interview in which the band said they didn't want to use their past projects to create hype... but the sticker on the front of the record might suggest otherwise. Either way, the previous bands might give you a bit of context. There is definitely a bit of a West Coast vibe in some parts... I do hear subtle shades of Internal Affairs in some of the riffs (though I prefer the B.C. vocals) and Chain of Strength in the faster part of Enough!... but on the other hand, some parts remind me a bit of Right Brigade or at times even a modernized Warzone. I like that the music here is pretty diverse and you can easily distinguish the songs from one another. I'll definitely be spinning this often. Finally, you'll notice that the hype sticker on the outer sleeve says "straight edge"... but then how can this tobacco shop in Germany be explained, hmmm? Something you care to share with us, gentlemen? ����❌❌❌ #bertholdcity #warrecords #hardcore #straightedge #sxe #youthcrew #oldschoolhardcore #vinyl #vinylcollectionpost #coloredvinyl #punkvinyl #hardcorevinyl #strife #internalaffairs #allegiance #finalfight @berthold_city @warrecords

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The other place I like to look is at flea markets. In Europe, they are really common, and a good place to find some cool stuff if you have time. I do have to flip through a lot of old Euro stuff that I’m not always interested in, and there’s a lot of stuff that will probably never sell because who really wants a banged up copy of a Nana Mouskouri LP, right? But, there are gems deep in the mix, and of course you can bargain a bit, which is half the fun. Finally, I go to a lot of shows and try to support the touring bands directly. I used to play in bands and I know how much every sale counts when you’re on the road, so that’s my preference. Plus, that way you can often get the cooler limited tour presses and that kind of stuff that is always cooler to own if possible. You’ll know me at the show — I’m the nerd walking around with a cardboard LP mailer to protect my purchases [laughs].

 

I had the pleasure of seeing @fotocrime last year on their European tour. They'd just put out a 12" EP, and honestly, it was probably the best record of last year IMO. The songs get stuck in your head, and even if they are rather dark, I always feel empowered after a listening session. Best of all was that even though I was already a fan of some similar sounding bands, Fotocrime prompted me to go deeper, and I've really expanded my overall tastes as a result. Anyway, I was super stoked to find out that a full length was coming out, and had been holding off on pre-ordering it because the shipping to Europe would be insane...though I am tempted to jump on a test pressing...hmmm maybe. Anyway, today I learned of a Euro pressing from @goldenantenna and jumped on it- 100 on red/white split...don't sleep on that, pals. Comes out May 18th, but there are already some teasers out there on YouTube and the band's Facebook site, and they sound as incredible as I'd have hoped. Really stoked to get my hands on this soon! #vinyl #fotocrime #goldenantennarecords #posthardcore #darkwave

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What is the most you paid for a single record, where/how did you obtain it, and what was it?

Like I mentioned above, I my general policy is to never overpay for any record, so you’re not going to get a cool story about me dropping 500 bucks or anything.  Honestly, I think the most I’ve ever spent is about 25-30 Euros.  A few months ago, I got a 2nd press of Alone in a Crowd for about 25 (it was part of a package deal) from a guy selling his 7 inches through a Facebook group.  Also, I was recently in Denmark and visited a shop, where I picked up the Record Store Day 2 x LP Soul Asylum live- but that is a double LP and everything is a bit expensive in Scandinavia.  I think with the conversion in currency, it cost me around 29-30 Euros.

 

Enough- Discontent~ Assault Records- 2013~ Preorder press on green opaque /158 Every now and then I like to take a risk on a band I know almost nothing about and just see what happens. It reminds me of when I was a teenager- going to record shops and picking up stuff from bands that maybe you saw on a show poster or a t-shirt one time, and hoping for the best. For me, picking this 7" up on Ebay not long ago was one of those risks. Of course, the cover art did kinda lead me to believe that this was going to be a hardcore band of some kind, so I knew it had a good chance of at least be OK in my books. Also, this release is on Assault Records out of Germany, which has a pretty solid list of releases, so it was a calculated risk. I gave this a spin for the first time just before posting this, and it's a pretty decent release. Certainly, I think most people would call it "old school hardcore", and that's fair, but definitely more along the lines of the second wave of bands in that genre. There's also a splash of melodic hardcore punk mixed in, and I might compare it to a band like For the Living (which I realize might be a bit of an obscure reference for some... but check them out). I don't know much about the band other than they are from Tennessee and down with the edge... if you know more, post something in the comments. #enough #assaultrecords #hardcorevinyl #hardcore #sxe #straightedge #punk #punkvinyl #coloredvinyl #youthcrew #oldschoolhardcore #vinylcollectionpost #vinyl #seveninches

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If you had to pick one record label you feel had/has the best track record of quality releases, who would that be and what are some key titles you love?

This is the hardest question you ask the collectors!  The first thing that comes to mind is Revelation because they’ve been around for so long and continue to release some great stuff.  I also have a deep love for old releases by Dr. Strange, and Youngblood has put out some amazing stuff over the years too. But, I think that probably the most consistent label for me is Bridge 9. For me, this label really has no releases that I wouldn’t want in my collection (though of course there are some I like more than others). The resume of bands is incredibly strong for those of us who appreciate traditional hardcore punk music, and when they branched out into other genres, it just meant more great releases.

For me, the Top 3 Bridge 9 releases would be:

  1. American Nightmare s/t 7” (this was the first real release from the band, and they were still dorky hardcore kids that didn’t take anything for granted. I was fortunate enough to play the record release for this, and picked up a copy. The music is raw and intense, and the packaging is really cool as well.
  2. Right Brigade/A Poor Excuse split 7” (Right Brigade are one of my favourite all time hardcore bands, and with such a short lifespan, every release is important. Maybe their release on Stillborn is better overall, but this is a classic release from the B9 glory days.
  3. Strike Anywhere, Iron Front (I’ve known these guys for a long time, and I love all their releases. I think Iron Front gets overlooked a bit because it came out late in the game, and their early releases are so strong that it’s almost expected that later stuff would not hold up. Actually, I think this might be a contender for their best full-length and there's not a bad song on here.
 

Various - A Strange Records Compilation ~ Dr Strange Records - 1992 ~ Single sided pic disc with grey back /1800 I've had this in my collection for probably close to 25 years now, but just gave it for a first spin right now. I've long been a fan of most of the Dr Strange roster, and picking this up back in the day was an easy choice to make. This is something like one of those 90s label samplers, but not in the ultra cheap CD format, but rather a much cooler single-sided 12". Most of the tracks are found elsewhere on regular Dr. Strange releases, and this is a pretty good representation of their early releases- Face to Face, Guttermouth, and Rhythm Collision are the bigger names here, but also Jobbernowl (I know nothing about them), 12 Pack Pretty, and the Bolsheviks. All the tracks are pretty good- I was happy to "discover" Jobbernowl all these years later, and am curious about the rest of their catalogue. Also, these Bolshevik tracks are not at all what you might expect- very soulful and heartfelt melodic punk (their name used to give me the impression that they'd be more 77 style street punk). I have the 12 Pack Pretty 7" on Doc Strange, but to be honest, these comp tracks are better. Of course, this label went on to later release more excellent stuff like The Bollweevils, Schleprock, Ill Repute, Man Dingo, Brown Lobster Tank and many others. What's your favourite Dr Strange release? #drstrangerecords #facetoface #rhythmcollision #guttermouth #jobbernowl #bolsheviks #12packpretty #skatepunk #skatepunkvinyl #punkrock #punkvinyl #poppunk #90spunk #vinylcollection #vinylcollectionpost #recordoftheday #nowspinning

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Of everything in your current collection, what is your most prized record and why?

This might be cheating, but I would have to say the records by my own bands over the years. If I had to sell my entire collection tomorrow for whatever reason, I would keep all the stuff by my own bands. It’s by no means rare, or anything that most people would even care about that much, but for me it’s something important. But, just in case that answer doesn’t count, I guess I would have to say that Springsteen album I mentioned earlier. Not only is it a great record, and the first one in my collection, but also I always connect it with my dad because we bought it together. He also had a big collection, and has a passion for music, but we rarely overlap in our tastes— he was a big country guy in the '80s, and now listens to a lot of Celtic-type stuff — both genres I cannot get behind. But, in a way, my dad buying me the record acted as him getting me into music in a way he could understand, and from there I definitely branched off in my own direction, but the passion for listening to music is something we share.

 

Bruce Springsteen - Born in the USA ~ CBS Records - 1984 ~ European pressing with red labels This is the first record I ever owned... OK, not this Euro version, but a Canadian pressing that I still have at my parents' place. I wanted to post this yesterday, because it was father's day and my dad got this for me as a young child... but he's not in Instagram anyway, so I suppose it's not the end of the world, right? Back in 1984, I remember my parents were watching Entertainment Tonight on TV after dinner one night, and there was a feature about Springsteen. They closed the show with a bit of a live performance of Born in the USA. I was 7 years old, and up until that point, most of my musical tastes were children's performers like Raffi. Seeing that video of Bruce really changed my course. I thought it was maybe the catchiest song I had ever heard. Over the next few weeks, it came on the radio in the car a few times and I was feeling it over and over again... to the point where my dad and I were out shopping in the mall one day in Cranbrook, British Columbia, and we came across the LP. My dad kinda knew he had to buy it for me, and I don't think it was a struggle for him because he also didn't mind Springsteen. My dad was more of a country music guy in the 80s, but came from a rock background, and appreciated the storytelling that Springsteen delivers. At that time, it was all about the music for me- I was too young to understand the concepts behind the lyrics in most of the songs... something I appreciate much more now. Last year, I came across this Euro pressing on eBay for a steal, and jumped on it. My other copy was far away and rather banged up after years of play anyway, so why not have a copy I can spin now, right? Some might argue it's not Springsteen's best, but for me, it will always have a special place on the shelf. #brucespringsteen #springsteen #bornintheusa #theboss #rockmusic #80s #classicrock #classicrockvinyl #rockandroll #vinyljunkies #vinylcollectionpost #nowspinning #recordoftheday

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Is there anything that frustrates you about the current record collecting scene?

I think I touched on some things earlier, but there are a few others. First, the concept that collecting music is about the image and not the actual music. This is seen in many contexts, but one that especially annoys me is the various Instagram “vinyl” sites that are basically just reposts of attractive women who just happen to be topless, but with a Toto record blocking out their nipples. It’s completely strange to me, and not just because I had never realized that Toto was even remotely sexy. I don’t know, maybe it seems sexist to me, but also misleading… if anyone is getting into vinyl for the sex appeal, I think they should go back and rethink that choice [laughs].  

Another thing that is a personal beef of mine is the number of labels, online sellers or shops that give customers records without a plastic sleeve or sometimes even paper dust sleeves. This is nonsense and unacceptable as far as I’m concerned. Even more perplexing are the shops that have all the LPs in plastic sleeves on their shelves, but then actually remove it when you get to the cash. Travesty, dude.

 

Jejune/Dignity For All- Split 7" ~ Big Wheel Recreation/Soul America Records- 1999 ~ Red vinyl /? Here's a cool split for fans of 90s emo/indie. Jejune were a highly underrated band that combined quiet emo with a bit of spacy alternative rock to create a really unique sound. They had dual vocals- male and female- that worked together to really create something that stood out from most other bands of the time. Their song on this split has a bit of a Lush vibe at times- really working the beautiful harmonies with the heavy effects on the guitars. Not their best song, but still a great listen. I don't know much about Dignity for All other than they appear to be Japanese. Their contribution to this split is probably a bit more cliche, but still listenable. The guitars remind me a bit of early Get Up Kids- barely any distortion and a bit rough around the edges. The vocals are a bit off key at times- but that wasn't exactly rare for 90s emo rock. The part I like about this is the effort to expose foreign bands to new markets. I don't know if Dignity for All ever toured outside of Japan, but certainly this put them on the radar of a lot of people. If you know anything about Dignity for All, post it in the comments! #jejune #dignityforall #bigwheelrecreation #soulamericarecords #emo #emocore #emovinyl #indie #indierock #indievinyl #vinylcollectionpost #vinyl #coloredvinyl

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Which records are still on your want list that you've had a tough time tracking down through the years?

There are many, and most of them I could probably get on Discogs without much of a problem, but a lot of them are somewhat expensive, so I have been holding off. One day I will have to bite the bullet I guess… the chances of me stumbling into a store and finding one deep in a discount crate are minimal these days. My current top ten is:

  1. Face to Face, Don’t Turn Away (original pressing on Dr. Strange) 
  2. Jimmy Eat World, Static Prevails (first pressing with original cover art)
  3. Operation Ivy, Energy (first pressing) 
  4. Lifetime, Jersey’s Best Dancers (original pressing)
  5. Christie Front Drive/Jimmy Eat World split 7”
  6. Mineral, Gloria (original pressing on The Audio Concept) 
  7. Anti-Matter compilation
  8. Bane 10 Year Anniversary 7”
  9. Insted, Bonds of Friendship (first pressing)
  10. Any test pressings of the bands above, plus Suicide File or Count Me Out
 

Carl Lewis - Goin' for the Gold ~ RCA Victor -1984 ~ French pressing. A sweet (??) crate find today in Strasbourg, France. Some of you guys out there may be up to your necks in Chung Kings and the like, but do you have one of these bad boys? (Please say no) Carl Lewis is a complete piece of garbage and perhaps the best personification of the American stereotype that the rest of the world loves to despise...but then why is there a French and a German pressing of this? Oh, and I also bought some good stuff today...and this was only a Euro, so probably worth it for a good laugh, no? #carllewis #wtfisthisshit #recordoftheday #vinyl #seveninch #vinylcollection #vinylcollectionpost #vinyljunkie #saynotosteroids

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