In this new interview piece, Andrew Orlando (Black Army Jacket, Reservoir Records, Monkeybite zine) chats with Bobby Egger, the owner of Vinyl Conflict. The Richmond, VA-based record store carries a ton of the different kinds of music covered here on No Echo, so definitely hit it up if you're ever in RVA. —Carlos Ramirez
How did you get into collecting records?
My parents both collected records, so they were around growing up. It was something I was aware of and was interested in, I think they got a fair share of childrens music and soundtracks for me growing up so those are really my memories of what was playing around the house. They personally collected jazz, and a lot of it sounds mega familiar when I play it now, but I wasn't really into at the time, I just wanted to hear the Ghostbusters soundtrack endlessly.
What was the first record you bought with your own money?
It's hard to pinpoint exactly which would be the first record, but I remember getting a bunch of records at my first hardcore show. I grew up going to the Vans Skatepark in Woodbridge, VA. I made friends with people my age, and got friendly with the staff and other skaters eventually. I specifically got into bowl skating which was like a kind of unattended area that just a core group of people went to. Some of the dudes (Chris Jordan and Doug Quinn) who rode bowl had a skateboard company called Wolfpack Skateboards. They at some point started a label called Team Jaybird, and released a CD for their friends band, Dead Serious.
Basically they pushed this CD on all these kids at the park and it was the first time I had really heard proper hardcore. I heard plenty of punk and had even been to some bigger type shows by this point like Warped Tour or like Rancid or Dropkick Murphys shows, but "hardcore" was just like different I could tell immediately. So one day at the park, the dudes are passing out fliers for the next Dead Serious show, and I'm like begging my dad to drive me to Richmond to check them out, and he agrees to take me and my friend Chris to the gig.
I still remember all this like it was yesterday, we get down there, line up the block at a club called Twisters. I've never seen so many tattooed people in my life, and I'm seeing all my friends from the skatepark lined up. Everyones like coming up to me and my dad being like, "Yo, make sure he's not at the front," which made me naturally want to see whats at the front. Anyways, we mostly spend the show at the back. Which is where I saw all the merch tables, and immediately my dad noticed all this vinyl at each table. He's like, "You should really consider collecting these, it's like the ones we have at home, and it's really hard to get these days."
So I remember spending all my money getting 7"s for each band playing the show. I can't really remember if these in fact were the first records I bought, but they certainly spiraled the obsession. Those records would have been Count Me Out Few and Far Between 7", Shark Attack Blood in the Water 7", American Nightmare The Sun Isn't Getting Any Brighter 7", and the Barfight 7".
Tell us about growing up and DC, did Dischord and the like have a big impact on you?
I grew up in Alexandria, I was able to take the metro into alot of the first shows I was getting into at the Black Cat, 930 Club, and Nations. In Northern Virginia there really wasn't many clubs at the time I was aware of, mainly Jaxx which pretty much did local showcases, nu-metal and all the '80s bands everyone forgot about at the time but are legendary these days. Between the few record shops I was really interested in that would carry underground music, the Dischord catalog was always fairly stocked and available, so hearing Minor Threat was pretty easy and mandatory. I just remember seeing the same shirts and patches on everyone at all the shows and quickly wanted to immerse myself in what was going on, so Dag Nasty, Gray Matter, and the Flex Your Head comp were all next at some point.
I think what really inspired me and my friends was the sense of attainability the Dischord scene had. In high school, a lot of young musician look to the rockstars and dream of making it big, playing these massive venues and becoming famous. We went to some of the same schools as these Dischord musicians, we could play at these little holes in the wall just like they did back in the day, we could record ourselves just like they did, and we met so many kids from the surrounding areas who were doing the exact thing at their school or in their town. My circle of friends in my actual high school I attended was very small, but when we all got together we had something really cool and special.
I was also really interested in the continuation of the scene I had seen at that Richmond show, so I was checking out more hardcore shows at the local shop in Woodbridge called Hi Fidelity mostly, unless I could figure out how to get to the DC shows but those we're at venues I didn't quite have access to at my age yet. So I was trying to go see Worn Thin, Striking Distance, Brace, Desperate Measures, Count Me Out, Time Flies and ended up seeing a lot of cool touring bands in process.
What is your collecting philosophy? What do you collect and why?
I would say it starts with supporting what's in front of me and what i've had the chance to check out. If I'm at a gig and the band is good, I'm typically gonna pick up a record before a shirt. As the collection has grown, it's shifted more into what I'm researching. I'll get into a certain scene, band, or subgenre and really dig in hard, so I'll attempt get most anything I can come across on the topic.
I started with like the DC Scene, then more specifically Dischord, from there I've dug into the Fountain of Youth catalog and then the Limp catalog and so on. It's really neat to see where not only the label but also how the scenes shifted, I've listened to a whole lot of records that I sold immediately after, but thats what feels accomplishing to me collecting.
I collect punk and metal all over the map, but I additionally collect hip-hop, surf rock, reggae, Italo disco, DC go-go, and all sorts of other stuff. Some of my bigger concentrated punk collections include Dischord, Crass band/label, Dangerhouse, and Devo's discography and bootlegs.
We all have one record that we sold that we completely regret, what is yours?
When I first took over the store, I sold off a very large chunk of my collection to get the shop stocked up. I've also do a healthy purge about once a year. I really try not to trip out on letting go of stuff. Theres a couple of instances where I have let go of special records and had something special happen in return. An example of that would be a few years ago a kid came into the shop with his mother, he was looking for Black Flag Damaged, we didn't have it in stock at the moment. That was the only record this young kid wanted at the moment, I could just see the defeat in his eyes when I kindly declined that the item was in stock. His mom was trying to be cool and find something else and he just wasn't having it.
At the time we still lived above the shop, so I told them to hold on for a minute and I ran upstairs and grabbed my old copy. I sold it to him, and told him that if he ever was not interested in punk anymore, he had to give it to someone of his current age. The next day in the shop someone came and sold us a copy of Damaged on Unicorn with the anti-parent sticker (which at the time was the first time I had come across it). I try to remember these sort of instances whenever I need to let go of something.
Tell the readers about Vinyl Conflict store.
Vinyl Conflict was opened in 2008 by Brandon and Lauren Ferrell. They also did No Way Records, and Brandon played in many notable Richmond groups such as Government Warning, Direct Control, Wasted Time, and plenty more. When Vinyl Conflict opened it was the only other shop in town other than Plan 9 which at the time had already been open almost 30 years. Vinyl Conflict has always been and is a shop focused on carrying DIY punk and metal. We try to order with labels direct as much as it's possible, and no label is too small. We enjoy being able to pick up demo tapes off local bands just getting started over ordering from major distributors carrying pop titles.
I took over the shop in 2012 and continued to keep the shop steadily growing each year. We are tucked away in the residential neighborhood of Oregon Hill, which only has a small handful of businesses and a couple of restaurants (best in the city). The shop is fun because it's totally off the grid and you can miss it if you don't know what your looking for, but it's been there 11 years now and doing better than ever. Theres a part of me that wants to grow into a bigger space, but really if you've been to the shop, you know how special the building it, it's well over 100 years old and just has a special charm and energy to it.
How about the label side of your business?
The Vinyl Conflict label exists to release titles for local bands. When we first kicked off there was only a handful of Richmond labels, and now a days there are quite a few more. At first we we're mostly releasing 7"s, but in the last few years this has simply gotten too expensive, so we've reverted over to releasing tapes so we can release more titles in a timely fashion.
The point of the label is to showcase the diversity of Richmond's scene, while giving local bands something they can sell at their merch table and take on tour with them and not have to come out of pocket. We've recently been releasing local Richmond hip-hop and even started a side label called Fantastic Damage, thats specifically Richmond hip-hop releases.
As of the moment we have 25 titles on the Vinyl Conflict label, and a handful that are about to drop very soon.
How has being a record store owner shaped your collecting habits?
I think the major switch for me has been deciding what to keep and let go of. I'm always on the hunt for more records and in a perfect world I'd love to keep more of what I bring in, but I try to keep things fair for the shop and not just horde the good stuff. Sometimes I'll opt to upgrade a couple copies out of a nice collection, rather than keep new records I don't have yet. I do try to keep things I see less often, and let items I know that will turn over quite quickly go on the shelf.
I also try to do an annual purge of records that are not being listened to, I'll review it all, the process is slow but I try to start over once a year, and I think it's really exciting to let go of cool stuff and see how excited people are when it hits the shelf. The store has unfortunately made me want to own rarer items, and attempt to track down the unfindable, but I still get just excited flipping through another shop and finding a $3 record I've wanted for a while.
It seems like Richmond, VA is the perfect place to have a “punk/metal/HC” centric store? Tell me about the Richmond scene for records and music.
If going to shows is something you are interested in, this is quite the hotbed for sure. Richmond has multiple thriving scenes going on at once. You walk around Richmond and just see people wearing band shirts everywhere you go, it's intense. There's so much going on in Richmond music-wise, it probably deserves its own article ::wink wink::
I think what makes Richmond special is it's very centrally located on 95 pleasantly just a couple hours from Washington and Raleigh. For touring bands it's a direct hit if your headed to NC, Atlanta or Florida. Even if your headed west, it's a good spot to make on the way before heading to Nashville or Austin.
If your into buying records, there's literally almost a dozen spots for you to pop into regardless of what style of music you may like. It makes for great digging and most of the shops are fairly friendly with each other, so there isn't a weird competition going on, which is rare in most cities.
What are the records that really mean something to you in your collection?
I think my Dischord collection holds a strong sentimental value, not only because its some of the finest era of punk recorded, but also because the history of the label kicking things off and the assembly of it and all. You can really see that they cut these covers and hand glued them, wrote little notes on the cover, or the dust sleeves. Jagged edges from being cut with scissors, miscentered labels, and all the special imperfections which can't be replicated on purpose.
I have a fairly large Devo collection, and it's becoming harder and harder to find something new, but I really love the character all their albums and bootlegs have. I don't listen to a ton of "live" albums, but theirs are cool because they would have some sort of theme going on their tours, which would modify their set lists and it's fun to listen to how that will change a live show (one tour they had treadmills on stage they were walking on during the set and thats a fun one to listen to).
Also, my Warzone first press holds sentimental value to me, not because of its scarcity or monetary value. When I was first kicking off taking over the shop, and old friend of mine who had a lot of influence on me when I was young, hit me up about buying his collection. He had absolutely stellar stuff, and told me to be fair with him in buying the collection. I paid him about as good as I could at the time, and he was very happy with the situation, once the transaction was finalized, he went in the other room and pulled out the Warzone first press, said he didn't want to sell it and gave it to me for taking good care of him.
I'm not gonna throw their name out there, but if your reading this, yes I kept it and I'll never forget that. Instances like that have really shaped how I handle everything I do in this business, you can't fuck around with people (that goes for the seller too you bastards).
Tell me about your trips to Japan and the record scene there.
Shopping for records in Japan has slightly changed the last few years and I can only imagine how much its changed in the last 15 and 20 years. I only went for the first time in 2014, and ive been 5 times since then.
What I find most enjoyable is going over with an open mind and being able to shop for my store while keeping an eye out for myself, too. Japan has been importing records heavily since the '90s when the bubble burst and everyone was getting out of the game in the United States, so naturally a lot of these collections have stayed in Japan and are only becoming available for sale as people are selling them now. You can really never tell what the next trend is going to be, or what everyone is going to be letting go of.
I really have a deep love for Japanese hardcore, and unfortunately it seems a lot of other people do from all over the world. Each trip its a bit harder to find the rares in the shops, but the records exist out there! It seems like every single neighborhood has a shop, and some of the bigger neighborhoods have a shop on almost ever block, its just fun to go get lost in it all, you literally don't know what your gonna stumble upon, you have an equal chance finding some 1981 Japanese hardcore flexi as you might find your friends bands' 7" that no one back home seemed to have a copy of anywhere.
In the most recent trips we have been taking more time to talk with the employees and ask for recommendations. My wife, Melissa, speaks a bit more Japanese than me, she also collects records, and we DJ events together. The amount of wild Japanese new wave that came out is so cool, so much of it hasn't been uploaded to YouTube or Spotify, so having someone make a recommendation and play it for you in the shop is a special and fun experience. It’s fun for both of us since we can sometimes pull records for each other to check out other than just finding stuff for ourselves. I've been slowly learning some basic Japanese and its really made the entire experience so much more fun!
What do think about the values of rare punk records skyrocketing? Do you think the bubble will burst?
It's wild to watch, it's basic supply and demand and I think actually making these records available to people online is whats driving these prices up. Like seriously, if there were no eBay or Discogs to base the pricing off of, and people attempted some of the prices they do, these people would be stuck with the records. But when you see the last one went for $300 and it hasnt sold in 5 years and the next person puts it up for $500 all of a sudden this price seems correct. Meanwhile, the copy that sold for $300 5 years ago was for a charity auction or something. The prices will literally just go up until people are unwilling to pay the price.
What’s the most you ever shelled out for a record?
Antidote Thou Shalt Not Kill 7" $500
What are your top wants that on your list?
- Big Boys, Frat Cars 7"
- Authorities, Soundtrack for Trouble 7"
- any Septic Death stuff I don't have yet (plenty)
- Infest, Slave (Off the Disk press LP)
- Koro, 700 Club 7"
- Flower Travellin Band, Satori LP
- Shitlickers 7"
- but pretty much any American, Scandinavian, Japanese hardcore I don't have yet. Hit me up!
Is there anything that really bothers you about the collecting scene?
Absolutely, I think the internet has given people a false sense of how rare some of these records are (both directions). I think some records are insanely rare and impossible to get and people don't seem to have any level of appreciation for that and want it now and for less. And vice versa, some things are mega common but people are attempting to hold onto high prices because they saw it sell for a certain price somewhere once. I think what's cool about shopping in record stores (online too if your sticking to one shop's store and not the endless database) is seeing the curation of what's been brought in, be it ordering new albums from labels or the used collections that have either been tracked down or brought in by customers. It's why I drive hours out of the way to hit a store that I know puts a lot of effort into their craft, you will likely find something special.
I think building a relationship with who you are buying records from is very important, and learning you can trust their pricing because its based off of the knowledge that the items they choose to carry are worth the prices they are asking. What the hell is the difference between a $20 and $30 record at the end of the day if you need to look it up on your phone and not buy it from anyone.
Do you plan on growing old with your records or do you have an exit strategy?
Yes, I buy everything with the intention of keeping them. But im going to continue to let go of unlistened records and other ones just taking up space. I can assume with time my tastes will change and buying will become pickier, but who knows, maybe not. If the right opportunity ever arose I wouldn't allow my collection to weigh me down.
What’s a record or genre in your collection that might surprise the readers?
My close friends wouldn't be surprised, but I have been collecting all the nu-metal albums I had in middle school on CD. So, stuff like Limp Bizkit, Kid Rock, Static-X, Powerman 5000.
Tagged: record collector