You might know Graham Scala from Bleach Everything, Harmonic Cross, Souvenir's Young America, Forensics, and a slew of other musical projects. While a new Bleach Everything album is currently in the works, he recently released music from Interstitia, a solo project that finds the Virginia-based multi-instrumentalist exploring the ambient side of his influences:
By looking through his discography, Graham is obviously a man with eclectic musical tastes, so it's no surprise he would make for a great addition to our Record Collector club.
How long have you been collecting records?
I started buying them around age 13 or so—close to a quarter century ago. This was the period in the early- to mid-'90s when you could hardly give records away. I recall being in the store and wanting a Ramones CD that was 20 bucks but then seeing the first two on vinyl for two dollars each. Seemed like a no-brainer. It also helped that, as I was diving headlong into as much weird music as I could find, my parents had a great collection. I would spend hours going through the boxes of records they had in the back room of the house, taking in all sorts of music—from bluegrass to free jazz, from ragas to ambient. I think the experience of venturing into this unfamiliar territory with all the accompanying sensory elements (the dusty smell of the decades-old record jackets, the visual element of the large artwork, the sonic imperfections of surface wear and dust, etc.) helped instill in me the idea of music as being a holistic, multi-sensory experience rather than just some sounds you put on in the background.
Every now and then I’ll go to play a record, get a small whiff of that old record smell, and have this Proustian sense of being transported momentarily to that room in the back of our old house.
And this is one of the things that’s kept me roped in. Humanity, for the majority of its existence has relied heavily on ritual (generally, though, not always religious). And in an increasingly accelerated secular world we find fewer and fewer ways in which to incorporate some personally meaningful symbolic actions into our lives. Listening to records carries that sort of weight for me. There’s a process—going to the shelves and finding the right thing, carrying it to the turntable, gingerly removing the album and placing the needle down—and in that process lies the appeal. In an age where the bulk of the history of recorded music is available to anyone with an internet connection, having to put in a little work lends the experience more meaning.
Where/how do you usually find your records?
I lived in Richmond, VA for the better part of the past two decades and I fully believe that it’s one of the best cities in the world for buying records. For a place that’s not huge there are at least a dozen stores that will not only have really amazing inventory but won’t charge what a store in New York or San Francisco would. Places like Steady Sounds, Vinyl Conflict, Deep Groove, and Plan 9 (to name a few) supplied me the vast majority of what I have.
My wife and I moved to Asheville, North Carolina about a year ago which has curtailed my purchasing substantially. It’s an exceptionally expensive city in which to live which both cuts into my income and the free time I’d have to sit around listening to music. There are some good stores here—Harvest, Static Age, Voltage—but at this point I’ve been downsizing pretty substantially and probably sell ten records for every one that I buy. The experience of moving to a different state with two thousand records made me realize I really don’t need that many. I’d rather have 500 albums I absolutely love than a couple thousand that are kinda interesting or maybe have a good song or two.
What is the most you paid for a single record, where/how did you obtain it, and what was it?
I think it was the original German pressing of Can’s Tago Mago, purchased at Steady Sounds in Richmond for 80 dollars. Worth every cent.
What is your most prized record and why?
Tough question because I have sentimental attachment to a lot of them for a variety of different reasons. But if my house was on fire and I could only grab one record I’d say probably the first press of Negative Approach’s Tied Down, both because it’s one of the best things that genre every produced and because there’s no way I’m ever going to find it cheap again.
Is there anything that frustrates you about the current record collecting scene?
I don’t really have much to do with any sort of scene around it. I love records, I love buying them, I love hoarding them. But every time I get roped into a conversation about them with some other nerd my eyes glaze over. I can’t imagine how those conversations sound to somebody who’s not interested in records.
Would it be nice if labels didn’t indulge the Beanie Baby collector mentality where deliberately limited shit gets bought just to be resold for ten times as much? Sure.
Would it be great if Record Store Day didn’t clog up the pressing plants with 180 gram reissues of Herb Alpert and Bob Seger albums that never needed to be reissued in the first place and will be flipped by eBay resellers who never set foot in a record store any other day of the year, thus preventing smaller labels from being able to release their music in a timely fashion and wasting precious natural resources because someone with a Crosley loves how “warm” it sounds? Yeah, why not.
But when it comes down to it, I have actual concerns and frustrations I deal with every day from chronic knee pain to traffic jams to the exorbitant cost of living in Asheville. Record collecting frustrations rarely—and barely—register. If I can buy a thing I like I will and if I can’t I’ll shrug my shoulders and listen to it on Spotify.
Which records are still on your want list that you've had a tough time tracking down through the years?
There are so many. I keep a running list on Discogs and it’s a couple hundred deep. That said, if anyone wants to get rid of any original Wipers records, krautrock deep cuts, or Sister Nancy One, Two, get at me.
Follow Graham on Instagram.