Learn about the group's mission, and some of the records that changed Andrew's life below.
How long have you been collecting records?
I’ve been collecting records since I was around eight years old. As a kid in the '90s, records were not exactly the most common way to consume music, but what were was cheap. CDs were expensive, and I didn’t exactly have a lot of money. My best friend and I would literally dumpster dive for cans, and then cash them in at the local grocery store for 5 cents a piece.
At the end of the day, we would have maybe 5 or 10 bucks each, and we could go down to the local record shop and get a nice handful of records. I started out buying mostly classic rock like the Who, KISS, Led Zeppelin and the Beatles.
Sadly, I don’t have any of those records anymore, as my original collection was left behind in Kentucky after I moved home to New York. It wasn’t until 2015 that I began collecting again, and since then it’s ballooned to around 4500 or so albums, spanning all genres.
Tell me a bit about Vinyl Junkies and your mission.
Vinyl Junkies has actually been around since 2011, and was started by my friend, Sam Pennacchio. He’s one hell of a guy! You may or may not know that with nearly 25,000 members in the Facebook group alone, it’s the biggest vinyl related group of its kind.
Around this time last year, Sam almost had to shut down Vinyl Junkies, for a myriad of reasons, and it was around that time that myself, my wife, Angela, and a few other loyal Vinyl Junkies reached out to Sam and offered to help. This grew, and more people joined the cause through Patreon. Over the last year or two, Sam had been broadcasting pirate radio shows via YouTube. When the pandemic hit, Sam made the decision to broadcast day in and day out, and has been doing so for over 200 straight days. No days off.
He figured that with people sitting at home, and afraid, maybe he could do his part and give them an outlet. In that time, Vinyl Junkies has grown from the largest group on Facebook, to a growing entity across all platforms, but that’s the least of what we’ve done.
In that time, we’ve built an astonishing community of friends who truly care about one another, and do for one another for no other reason than to be altruistic and kind. One of our own, saw her father pass away due to complications from COVID-19, and that night we crowdfunded over 500 dollars for her to use for whatever she wanted.
In the thick of the riots, we decided to stand together, and over the course of two evenings we crowdfunded over 2000 dollars to be donated to the Bail Project, and this fall we plant to fundraise once again for Dans la rue, another charity near and dear to Vinyl Junkies. If you aren’t familiar with the Bail Project, or Dans la rue, I urge you to check them out. They’re doing some good work for people who simply need help.
Anyway, where I come in, among other things I do to help the community is, my wife and I started a weekly newsletter. It began as a small offering which would have an article, usually written by me (Tales from the Stacks), and Member Monday, which is community initiative, where my wife interviews one of the members of our community, similar to the way you are with me now.
Over time, its grown and we have 4 or 5 people who write for us now, myself included (I’m the editor), and while its not Rolling Stone magazine, it’s a well-oiled machine that we are proud of. If you can remember any of those old-school indie zines from yesteryears- it’s like that.
The newest development is I took a shot in the dark and started asking artists and industry people for interviews, and to my surprise, its been a huge success. I’ve had the opportunity to interview the likes of Dylan Baldi, Andrew Rossiter, Bruce Kulick, Frank Turner, Jenn D’Eugenio, Melinda Colaizzi and more!
I am proud of some of the work we have done to help shed light on the inequalities women in the industry face, and I take pride in knowing that we have given people a voice and an outlet to channel their art through writing. Some would point out that this is fantastic exposure for Vinyl Junkies and myself, and while that may be true, the real intent is what it’s always been- to foster community and bring people together.
2020 has been an awful year. There is no two ways about it. So, it’s important to focus on the positives, and try and draw as much positive light in as humanly possible. That’s my intent, and that is what I hope I am able to accomplish.
Where/how do you usually find your records these days?
I have always been, and am a big fan of supporting independent businesses. This year in particular has left so many small businesses with their doors forever shuttered. It’s horrible. When it comes to vinyl, I try and avoid big box retail. I order online from Vinyl Junkies, and directly from artists Bandcamp pages, or through the labels/artists website. All that aside, most of my records are still purchased through brick and mortar stores.
I live on Long Island, and am lucky enough to be surrounded by some heavy hitting stores (Looney Tunes, High Fidelity, Record Reserve, Record Stop, Needle + Groove), and so I make every effort I can to go out and support these places, and I am never disappointed that I do.
Some of my fondest memories as a collector are the ones with my wife or best friend in record stores.
A big part of why we do this is for qualitative experiences. We’re searching for something tangible. That starts in record stores. I’ve gotten to know the owners and people who work there. It’s about community. So, now more than ever, with some of these places hanging by a thread – get out and support your local stores. They need you!
What is the most you paid for a single record, where/how did you obtain it, and what was it?
So, the most expensive record in the collection, was actually purchased by my wife, Angela. The album in question is, The End of Heartache by Killswitch Engage. We had to get it from a seller in Germany, as OG pressings don’t really exist here in US. That album cost around 300 dollars shipped. It was sealed, and she loves it. She grew up in NYC and loves that late '90s, early '00s hardcore scene. It’s a fun album.
As for me, I’ve got some expensive ones, but I believe the most I’ve paid is around 200 dollars for a sealed copy of KISS Symphony: Alive IV, which was also sealed. I purchased it from a cool store here on Long Island called Innersleeve Records. I am a diehard KISS fanatic, and will buy anything KISS. It was essential and I needed it. Zero regrets.
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?
You know, this is an incredibly difficult question, and I could go a hundred different ways with it. I’ve always been a fan of Sub Pop, but I’ll stay away from the larger labels as that seems too easy. There are a lot of labels putting out really outstanding work these days. Fat Possum, Colemine, Third Man. There are some other indie labels who have a great roster of talented artists, but struggle with quality control.
As hard as this is, I am going to go with Org Music. There are a few reasons why. First, they are incredibly consistent. Their packaging is always really solid, and done properly. Its workmanlike and that is something I can appreciate. Second, their mastering is second to none. Their records are dead quiet, and the soundstage is off the charts. It's what you expect and want from the format.
Third, the quality control is second to none. Org is done by music lovers, for music lovers and it shows.
With Org, you get records that are flat as a pancake. Even labels and properly sized spindle holes. Lastly, I’ve gotten to know Andrew Rossiter a bit, and he is a reflection of what that company represents- pride. Org takes pride what they put out, and what they put out is simply stellar. They stand behind their work. It’s a great roster of indie artists, coupled with top notch reissues done right.
What more can you ask for? If you haven’t checked out their Würm Exhumed release, or their Black Lion reissue series, you are sincerely missing out.
Of everything in your current collection, what is your most prized record and why?
Again, this is insanely hard. I have to break this down. My favorite album of all time is Abbey Road by The Beatles. That album is perfection, and for me, nothing will ever better it. I’ve got a first UK pressing of the album on Apple Records, and it is truly one of the best sounding records in my collection.
Next, Songbook by Frank Turner is important to me. I love Frank Turner, and overtime my wife has grown to love him as well. She surprised me with this album one day a few years back, and while it may seem like a simple compilation, it’s an album that I hold near and dear to my heart for personal reasons, and thus, I could never part with it, and never will.
Lastly, there is A Love Supreme by John Coltrane. This is my second favorite album of all time, and I have a first press in mono, which is sort of the be all end all for me as a jazz fan. Anyway, there used to be a great shop called Iris Records in Jersey City, which has sadly closed down. It was located in what basically amounts to a ghetto, which is something my wife and I did not know when we ventured over there for the first time.
On this day, I was rooting around in the store, and suddenly came upon this first press in mono of the record I had been coveting for so long. At 150 dollars, it was comparatively cheap to what I had seen it advertised for in the past, and I had to have it.
I was going through my stack, trying to decide what albums I was going to give up so that I could afford the album, when suddenly, my wife picked it up and bought it for me when I wasn’t looking. I was obviously very happy.
My wife is amazing. I mentioned earlier that this shop was located in a dangerous neighborhood, and I wasn’t kidding. On the way back to the car, we walked by a real live crime scene, with a dead body under a blood spotted sheet, and a young police officer questioning a crying family. I mentioned before that we do this for qualitative experiences. If that’s not qualitative, then I don’t know what is!
So, it’s a tie between those three. I simply can’t choose.
Is there anything that frustrates you about the current record collecting scene?
I remember a time, and it wasn’t all that long ago, where I could go into a record store and get 20 good albums for a dollar or less a piece. No one wanted them. Those days are over. FOMO is a big problem. Scalpers are a huge issue. All of this adds up to rising prices, and lower quality. I see vinyl subscription services suddenly hiking their prices up by 30-40 percent, but to what end?
You would think at these price points we’re seeing, that record labels, and subscriptions services would be focused on brining the heat, but unfortunately many of them aren’t.
Far too often I pay 30 dollars for a record that is warped, scuffed, or has a tight spindle hole right out of the shrink. The vinyl resurgence has given us the gift of more vinyl being available, but we are also seeing greed pricing people right out of the hobby as well. I’ve heard talk that the bubble with burst, but I don’t believe that for a second.
Yeah, eventually the hipsters will get tired of it, and I think subscription services that take advantage of its members will end up folding, but records aren’t going anywhere. The fact is, the real vinyl people, you know, the ones who actually love records, have always been here, and are always going to be here.
I do think that we could come to see this an elitist hobby though. If prices keep rising, some people are simply going to get priced out, at least for a little while.
All that being said, things always have a way of evening out. Hopefully the cream will rise to the top, and what we will be left with is fairly priced records, that aren’t trashed before we even play them.
Which records are still on your want list that you've had a tough time tracking down through the years?
I’ve gotten pretty good at tracking down my most wanted records, but the side effect of this sickness is there always seems to be new wants! All jokes aside, some of the ones that have been stuck on my want list for seemingly forever are, the Beatles – Let It Be…Naked, the Cure – Wish, Joey Bada$$ - 1999, Junko Ohashi – Magical, Oasis – Familiar to Millions. I could go on.
Anyway, all of these can be had, but they’re expensive. Like, really expensive. I keep hoping for a repress of them all, and I think eventually some of them will be repressed, with the exception of Magical. That one may be out of reach, but who knows? If these aren’t repressed, I’ll just have to wait and pick my spots with them.
I’ve learned overtime, though, that everything seems to get a repress, or I’ll eventually run into it and get my chance. That’s my advice to all collectors- if you see your “grail” in the wild, don’t hesitate. You may never get that chance again.
Head to the Vinyl Junkies website for more information on their mission.
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Tagged: record collectors