Record Collectors

Record Collector: John Mather, aka Johnny Seven 

Johnny Seven is a record collector who grew up outside of Detroit (with stints in Ohio). He eventually joined the US Army and was stationed at Ft. Hood, TX near Austin where he started going to shows and bought his first hardcore records. After getting out of the service, he moved to Denver, CO in ’87 and started playing in bands.

Throughout the years, Johnny's played in Crestfallen, Still Left Standing, The Nervous, and Negative Degree. He’s traveled all over the US and Europe with The Nervous, not to mention all the record swaps he attends worldwide. This guy has seen it all and he’s been buying/collecting records since the '70s, when he bought his first KISS record.

Johnny's still in the game after all these years and I can attest that he’s one of the best at it. I’m glad to call him a friend and I’ve always admired his collection and approach to this crazy hobby. So, enjoy…

How did you get into collecting records?

That’s a good question, when I was young I used to play my parents’ records so I think the fascination started there but they didn’t really have anything cool so I mostly just listened to the radio. I loved the big guitar sound of hard rock and would sit at my stereo for hours waiting for the first riff from a favorite song then I’d hit the record button on my tape deck. I made these mix tapes that were full of mis-starts, bits of the next song and DJs talking over the fade outs at the end, they were great [laughs].

The only records I had at that time were these popular compilations on K-tel records that would have a bunch of shit songs but one of them had KISS' "Rock and Roll All Nite," and that was the seed. I ended up being obsessed with KISS, so I had to have everything I could find including posters, toys, and magazines. Looking back, it wasn’t much of a collection because at that age I had limited funds and no way to get to any real record shops.

Later on in middle school, I had a best friend who was also obsessed with music and was an actual collector with a real audiophile setup complete with dust brush and an anti-static gun, it was so cool. He really only collected Beatles, Stones, The Who, and Bowie but he had everything by these bands including tons of bootlegs. He hated KISS and would almost never let me play my records [laughs]. We listened to those records over and over until I ended up really getting into the Stones and the Who which led to me buying more hard rock and then the new metal emerging overseas that I read about in rock magazines.

I started buying every record I could get my hands on, going to shows and getting involved with other like-minded kids, it was pretty exciting. Even though I bought lots of records, I didn’t see myself as a collector, I was just buying music I liked that wasn’t on the radio and I kinda had to have the record to listen to it. I don’t think collecting was even on my mind but then later on when I started getting into hardcore and then punk.

I was trying to go back and buy stuff I missed which led me to Goldmine ads, classifieds in MRR and then the early days of dial-up internet so I guess that’s when it really started.

What was the first record you bought with your own money?

KISS Alive, that was the first. Around the same time that I got that K-Tel comp with KISS on it some “cool” kid at school was talking about KISS being his favorite band. I, of course, acted like I was totally into them even though I only knew the one song. He wanted to come over and hang out and I knew not owning any KISS records was gonna make me look stupid so I got my mom to take me to Sears where I ended up buying my first LPs.

He never came over but I ended up obsessed with KISS anyway [laughs].

What is your collecting philosophy? What do you collect and why?

Not really sure I have a philosophy besides "buy everything I can afford" [laughs.. Maybe I should have had a better plan early on so I wouldn’t be still chasing some of the big guns I failed to buy over the years. In the '70s/'80s, I mostly just bought new records as they came out, but in the '90s I bought tons of used records but wouldn’t buy anything priced much over $20.

If I had the chance to buy one record for $500 or 25 records for the same price I would always go for the volume because it was always more fun sitting down with a stack of records than one expensive record. I, of course, now wish I would have bought more expensive stuff but I guess many of us feel that way [laughs].

I collect mainly hardcore, punk, and metal. The time period when I got into hardcore was life changing so I am obsessed with and mainly collect hardcore and punk. I also have a smaller (not really that small [laughs]) NWOBHM and early thrash collection that really takes me back to discovering music that I felt was all my own at a young age.

Where do you find your records for the most part?

These days I buy almost exclusively from friends, record expos and swaps. I do a little eBay and Discogs but I still kind of hate buying just one record so I usually find something I really want and try to add to it, if they don’t have much more I want I usually lose interest. I used to go to every record shop I could squeeze in on every trip.

My poor wife has been dragged to hundreds of record shops often cutting into time we could spend doing other stuff, I’m grateful she put up with my mania for so long. These days I limit my shop visits so that it’s fun but doesn’t take over the trip. 

We all have one record that we sold that we completely regret, what is yours?

I really don’t have one of these. I did sell almost all of my records two times. I got sick of moving records every time I moved so I sold most of them to a record shop at a buck a pop. Years later I went to dig out a record I knew I had and realized I had sold it so I bought everything back. Later on when CDs became a thing I started selling all my records again thinking I could reduce the size of my collection by replacing most records with this smaller compact format.

It wasn’t too long before I decided I needed the records back, and, of course, both times I ended up buying a couple thousand more records than I had before [laughs] I mostly regret records that I could have bought but didn’t but we all have those don’t we?

What do think about the values of rare punk records skyrocketing? Do you think the bubble will burst?

Well, I suppose it was bound to happen. When fans of a certain type of music get older, have a bit more disposable income and want to own some of the stuff from their misspent teen years the prices usually go up. There’s always been those guys that overprice everything but you always had other options and could laugh at those guys when you found it cheaper.

Now with the technology available there is definitely more information, shill bidding, price fixing, and smart investors gaming the collector market driving up the prices but there’s also buyers now willing to pay so it’s a little crazy. I’m not interested in speculating or flipping records so some of my top wants are gonna really set me back, fortunately I know some like minded sellers that still sell reasonably priced records… these people are my heroes [laughs].

I think a lot of hardcore, punk, and early metal was kinda undervalued for years so I don’t think they’ll ever come back down but the bubble may burst on some of the stuff that has gone ridiculously high without any real providence 

What’s the most you ever shelled out for a record?

Hmm, oh boy. You know I’m married, right? [Laughs] It’ll definitely be one of the top wants listed below feel free to get in touch to separate me from my paycheck.

Name a record or records you can’t live without?

There are so many records that I’m personally connected to in one way or another, that mean so much to me. The list is long and it would be weird to not have them but I guess ultimately I could live without most of them. I have so many records that I can’t possibly listen to them all before I die but I do have them if I want to listen to them and that’s kind of what it’s all about to me.

What are the top records on your want list?

Oh man, I’ve passed on some big dogs over the years that I really regret as well as a few I’ve never even had the chance to buy…

  • Fix, Vengeance
  • Necros, Sex Drive
  • Zero Boys, Livin’ in the 80’s
  • Big Boys, Frat Cars
  • DV8, Learn to Say Goodbye
  • The Eat, Communist Radio
  • Joy Division, An Ideal for Living
  • Misfits, Cough/Cool
  • Child Molesters, Hillside Strangler
  • Big Black, Bulldozer (metal etched sleeve)
  • GG Allin and the Jabbers, Bored to Death and 1980’s Rock N Roll
  • Insults, Stiff Love and Population Zero
  • Terveet Kadet, Rock Laahausta Vastaan and TK II
  • Stains, John Wayne (1st press)
  • Victims, Television Addict
  • Anti-Cimex, Anarchist Attak
  • Razar, Stamp Out Disco
  • Reactors, Seduction Center
  • Legal Weapon, No Sorrow 12-inch
  • Wild Hairs, S/T LP

…all these come to mind, there’s a lot more but these are the top.

Is there anything that really bothers you about the record collecting scene?

Yeah, I guess so. It’s getting to be a very expensive cut throat hobby and everyone seems to be an “expert” these days. I suppose there’s always been experts on any given genre or band and there’s always been flippers but now if you have enough money, credit or are smart enough to play the market you can run with the big collectors. I used to search and search and even buy stuff that I knew nothing about that looked like it could be good, it was an adventure, a treasure hunt.

You could find records everywhere that were rare and cheap if you were obsessed enough to dig, it was fun and relatively affordable. Some collectors these days have small collections that are nothing but high dollar want list shit. They don’t buy great records that are relatively cheap because they aren’t worth mentioning to most serious collectors. Maybe that’s the better way but I feel like there’s something missing… or maybe I’m just an angry old man [laughs].

Also, It’s not fun to me trying to be the first one to snag something up for sale on Discogs or Instagram. I just can’t be bothered to look at my cell every 10-15min all day to beat out the other collectors and yet I keep trying, haha. I was also really shocked that most of the biggest Punk and Hardcore collectors aren’t actual punks. I don’t know why that was so shocking but it was to me [laughs].

What do you foresee for the future of vinyl and collecting?

I think it’ll always be there, people have been fascinated with records for a long time. They’ve tried to replace them with 8-tracks, cassettes, and CDs and vinyl is still the king so I don’t think it’s going away anytime soon.

Do you plan on growing old with your records or do you have an exit strategy?

{laughs] Yes and yes. I certainly don’t want to go to the grave with all these records and my kids could care less about any of the music I listen to so there will be a time to sell. Right now I’m still buying and enjoying it but will probably start letting go of stuff after I retire to finance travel.

What’s a record or genre in your collection that might surprise the readers?

I absolutely love the sound of electric guitars but I have a small collection of early rap, mostly from NYC, and a few others from the West Coast. Even with a lack of guitars, I was fascinated by those big beats, how tough it sounded and how the lyrics spoke from the street level. I went to a few shows and tried to hang out in the few clubs doing that sort of thing but ultimately wasn’t into it at the same level as my other interests so it hasn’t grown as much over the years.


Check out Johnny's vinyl finds on his Instagram page.


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Tagged: record collector