Kathi Sheasby loves music. No, like really loves music. Not only has she worked on the record label side of the business, she's also a contributor to Down for Life music magazine, and in her spare time, she goes to a ton of shows. I know this because I'm a follower of Kathi's Instagram page, but the reason I'm profiling her on the site today is because she's a vinyl enthusiast who has some really cool stuff in her collection.
Get to know Kathi in the latest Record Collector entry.
How long have you been collecting records?
Forever...and I happily blame my family! My parents both shared a love of music and I’ve been surrounded by records as long as I can remember, with my aunties and uncles being massively into music, too. One of my earliest memories was my dad holding me up to show me a record spinning around on the turntable and saying ‘’Music! Music!’’ I remember being so confused if ‘’music’’ meant what I was seeing or what I was hearing… I was about 3 or 4... I totally remember not being able to communicate my confusion!
Every week my dad would buy my mum a 7” single whilst out fetching the Sunday newspapers (typical English!) so there would always be some discussion in the house about their new favourites and discoveries. When I was 4, I was given a little red, plastic self-amplifying record player that had a carry handle and my first ever 7” which was the theme from E.T.. which, thankfully I still have!
At age 9 or 10, I’d spend my pocket money on Madonna, Belinda Carlisle, and Beastie Boys records, then during the '90s, my auntie took me to some gigs where I fell head over heels with live music and especially punk rock—the genre synonymous with my favourite format! I would buy my records at the gigs from the American, Canadian, and European bands who rolled through our city, and started hunting down the '80s american hardcore classics in the record shops. When I was 16 I started working in a record shop myself, and during the '90s it was actually cheaper to buy the vinyl version of a record than the popular CD version—for instance I recall Epitaph albums retailed in the UK for 10.99GBP for the CD and 8.99 for the vinyl. A 16-year-old still has limited funds but I made getting hold of music a massive priority, as did my close friends, so we would decide who would buy a particular release and then make tape copies for each other, so between us we would get to hear as much as possible.
Since those teenage days, I have never, ever stopped buying records. I continued my career in the music industry so that made getting records at cost price easy for a number of years, and I’ve been involved in the licensing, production and product management process of releasing records.
Funnily enough, though, I’ve never considered myself an proper, real Record Collector. I’m basically just music fan who has a lot of records. Vinyl is a format that has always been my favourite, however, it has always been alongside whatever other format is popular at the time.. such as tapes in the '80s, CDs in the '90s and early '00s, I even had tons of minidiscs that I’d dub my vinyl onto… now that was laborious as you had to manually create the spaces between the tracks. During the past 10 years I’ve used Spotify Premium for on-the-go access and as a tool to hear new stuff before purchasing on vinyl. In that respect Spotify has replaced tape trading for me. It’s funny and fascinating how technology changes our methods of consuming music, but it just so happens that in my case vinyl has always been ubiquitous.
Where/how do you usually find your records these days?
I love to go out record shopping. Hop on a train, plane, whatever. I’ve grown up with the notion that Saturday afternoons are best spent digging around a real record shop, unless you happen to be at work in one! When I lived in Leicester, I’d travel to other cities such as Nottingham and Birmingham where there were a whole bunch of great shops, which UK readers may remember: Selectadisc, Way Ahead, Tempest Records, some cool little second hand places. Visiting Tower Records at Picadilly Circus in London was always a heavenly experience! Whenever I’m on holiday or travelling, I make sure to seek out the local record shops in advance. I find it just as important as trying the local food! It’s also interesting to see how record shops vary in different cultures. The most impressive shop I’ve spent a few hours in was without a doubt Amoeba in Hollywood… I get cravings for that place! It’s just immense, overwhelmingly so.
A couple of years ago I was checking out the little town in Spain where my grandmother comes from, and I saw a poster for a skate store with a vinyl section. It wasn’t a shop you could just walk into, though, you had to call the guy who was running this skate and punk store from his front room! He literally had rails of skate stuff and a vinyl section running through the middle of his front room! Additionally, being a hardcore/punk lifer, I’ve bought tons of stuff from distros and band merch tables at gigs. I do use Discogs on a daily basis, but it’s more for browsing and associated nerdery. I have a pretty small wishlist on there but it seems an impossible undertaking for me to list everything. I use the Discogs app, too, mostly for cataloguing my collection as I love having a sortable overview. I think it’s pretty neat that you can access all the details of your record collection details whilst on-the-go. In terms of trades, I am utterly useless at them. I just find it hard to let go of anything I bought and obviously considered worth buying at some time or other. I rarely sell any of my vinyl, but I had a ridiculous offer for a first pressing Brand New Deja Entendu I’d imported from the States, so I let that one go as it meant a whole load of spending money for more records. Oh and of course, in the '90s I was pretty fond of punk/hardcore mailorder.
What is the most you paid for a single album, where/how did you obtain it, and what was it?
Funnily enough, I can’t recall paying more than about 30EUR for a record, ever… although if I go record shopping I usually buy a few items at the same time. I think the day I really splash out on a record has yet to come… am curious myself what that might be. Most probably it will be something Bad Brains, Judge, Cro-Mags or Smiths-related. I’ll never, ever own Chung King, though, that’s something I know and fully accept [laughs].
What is your most prized record and why?
This is what I consider an impossible question for me since there are so many different kinds of memories and times attached to so many of my records. I suppose if I had to choose I feel most attached to the ones I bought in the '90s that I struggled most to get hold of. Most recently I was incredibly humbled when my good friend Vique at Revelation helped me out with the Jon Bunch Forever Sensefield 3xLP release which I simply would not have been able to get hold of otherwise.
Is there anything that frustrates you about the whole record collecting scene?
It is a little frustrating the prices are so much higher nowadays for new releases, which I can understand if there are high production costs for elaborate packaging, but that is not always the case. I’d also like to see more bands involved in their own reissues, as many license partners pump out as many releases as possible without the luxury of time and effort to create a package that suits the artist, sometimes cutting corners with the production such as not creating an inlay sheet or whatever else a fan would love. I fully understand it’s really a luxury position for a label to take the time with planning the details if they have sales targets to meet during certain periods of the year, but now there are many DIY labels who manage to strike a fantastic balance between creating a commercially-viable item and with the care and attention that a band or artist deserves and whilst still respecting release deadlines—it can be done so it’s disheartening to see a release that appears to have received minimal love and attention!
I also think twice about buying a vinyl reissue if the audio master used was a CD. Otherwise, since posting more records on Instagram, I’m super pleased to be collected with great people with the same interest! I decided to do the #circlesjrad17 vinyl challenge, with no expectations that I’d even be able to find matching items in my collection, but it went really well and was super enjoyable. Funny, as at first I thought, “pffff, who really gives a crap about seeing the records in my collection," but now I’m so pleased I started sharing this stuff on the ’gram!
Which albums are still on your want list that you've had a tough time tracking down through the years?
I have a never-ending wishlist, but I’m not particularly pro-active at hunting down specific releases. That said I do have my eyes open for records I rarely see around, such as Antidote Thou Shalt Not Kill. I still want to complete my Bad Brains and Cro-Mags collections with the few studio albums I’m still missing, and there are still many essential albums I simply don’t own on vinyl (can you believe I don’t own any Slayer or Metalllica on vinyl!). There are still so many Dischord releases I want to get hold of, fill the gaps in my Revelation collection, and I decided recently I’d really like to collect the John Peel studio session recordings since picking up a first pressing of the Napalm Death Peel recordings. Overall, though, and this relates to what I mean about not being an official, grown up, full-fledged Record Collector. I rarely take the ‘’completist’’ approach to the records I obtain, so you’ll rarely find multiple pressing variants of one 7” in my collection. Although I am toying with the idea of starting with a couple of my all time favourite Revelation 7”s… watch this space!
Follow Kathi on Instagram.