Morgan Carpenter is a 36-year-old Canadian musician currently living in Minneapolis, MN. Married with two young sons, he works as a Maintenance Electrician for the railroad and has active in the punk and hardcore since the mid'90s. Morgan is currently playing in the darkened D-beat collective known as Hive, and he also keeps busy with several one-man projects he does at home.
A massive music head, Morgan is also a vinyl enthusiast, so get to know him and find out what some of his favorite wax finds are in the latest Record Collector piece.
How long have you been collecting records?
I began collecting records in 1995, shortly after I had started immersing myself in underground music. At the time the CD was king, but records were still being made affordably for small bands to do. I was drawn to vinyl’s timeless quality, and because the mainstream had all but declared vinyl dead, just finding an album or single on vinyl seemed like something you had to work to find. Much like just finding out about underground bands in general. This was about 5 years before the Napster/digital music explosion, so we were still buying records based on reviews in zines, band names in "thank you" lists on other records, and tape trading. Now, while I don’t have a “wall” of records, I like to maintain that about 95% of my collection is punk/hardcore/metal, and I’ve stayed away from things like using a hundred flea market copies of Frampton Comes Alive as visual filler.
Where/how do you usually find your records these days?
I largely still maintain the same mindset for obtaining records as I did in the mid-'90s — I really just like getting them at record shops and directly from bands at their shows. I suppose it’s easy to come off as elitist or a snob when I say this, but it’s really to be a collector with an impressive collection nowadays. First with eBay and now with Discogs, everything is right there for a price. I won’t lie and say I’ve never bought anything off of either site, but my point is that kind of takes the fun out of collecting for me. I love having stories or memories attached to my records, even if it’s just about seeing a band or meeting someone new. Like everything else in the digital age, it loses some of the mystique buying up a collection, or a discography, or just rarities online. Yes, the point is buying a piece of music and listening to it, but there’s a romantic side of me that feels like the format is owed more than that.
Specifically though, I have the luck in living in a city with (in my opinion) the best punk/hardcore/metal record store in the country — Extreme Noise Records. EN has been open and completely volunteer run for nearly 25 years, and is such a staple in the scene here in Minneapolis. They have volunteers there who are both veterans of the '80s/'90s, as well as teenagers so they are able to stock the store with a wide gamut of records within punk and metal. I feel very fortunate to be able to be a regular there and remain connected to the scene and be exposed to new bands by way of human interaction in that sense.
What is the most you paid for a single record, where/how did you obtain it, and what was it?
I’m pretty guilty of scoffing at steep record prices, especially when it’s records that came out “during my time” that I just didn’t pick up. Rather than buying something up at a collector price, I usually just wait and hope that I eventually find it through a mutual friend or connection. Truth be told, about 75% of the time I listen to music it is digitally and in my car, so most of the time I can still enjoy a record without the immediate satisfaction of holding a physical copy.
That being said, probably the most I paid for a record was an original pressing of Stikky's Where’s My Lunchpail? on Lookout! Records. In the latter half of the '90’s I was a complete fiend for West Coast power violence and anything closely associated. While Stikky predated that movement, they laid some of the groundwork. Probably around 1998 I was tape trading with someone, and saw he had an original copy on his trade list. This was right around the time that Sound Pollution Records had reissued the album, but I wanted the version on Lookout! because it was such an early and oddball release for them (Lookout! Records #6). Anyway, I think I paid somewhere between $75-100 for it. Which, is not incredibly steep by today’s standards, but as a teenager in the '90s, it felt like I was buying a house.
Matching that, a few years ago I picked up a first pressing of the Dropdead/Crossed Out split 5” on Crust Records for about $70 at Extreme Noise. A record that was a little before my time but was a white whale for me for years. I got it home, and my record player won’t even play a 5” without retracting.
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?
I’d have to go with Slap A Ham Records. Besides admiring his work in bands, I loved the way Chris Dodge ran the label and the attitude he took with extreme hardcore. The reputation as helping pioneer a genre aside, he ignored the rules of record labels and just put out what he liked — and that ended up being noise rock to gore grind, and everything in between. Quantities stayed relatively small and collectable, and things never went stale. I worked with Chris briefly in the late '90s when I ran a small distro out of my parents house, and Slap A Ham was one of the labels I would wholesale directly. He was a genuine guy who wasn’t out to get rich or famous and wouldn’t fuck anyone over.
In addition to the label, the Fiesta Grande festivals that Slap A Ham put on were legendary to a time and place that was so integral to establishing extreme hardcore, or the household name power violence (two words). I never made it out to one but still get goosebumps watching old footage of the shows and listening to the Fiesta Comes Alive comp LP. I even have a tattoo of the MITB skull wearing a sombrero that often appeared on Chris’ flyers for the shows.
I’d say my top 5 releases by the label were (in chronological order):
- Crossed Out/Man Is The Bastard split 7”
- Discordance Axis/Plutocracy split 7”
- Hellnation, At War With Emo 5”
- Fiesta Comes Alive compilation LP
- Burned Up Bled Dry, Cloned Slaves for Slaves 7"
Of everything in your current collection, what is your most prized record and why?
It’s tough to narrow it down to a single most prized record. Here’s my Top 3 and why (in no particular order):
BNU, Quickdraw Richy Rich 7” on Heart First Records
I don’t even really like this record, but it was the first punk record I ever bought that kicked off my collecting. In 1995 I bought it off of a merch table at the Halifax Pop Explosion music festival during a record label summit. It was mostly Canadian labels with what was hot at the time, which was catering more to grunge/indie, but I guess Heart First was there and I just bought it unheard off of their table. I didn’t even have a record player of my own yet, and just used my father’s. In hindsight, I wish it was the Japanese arm of Heart First there and I had been exposed to Japanese hardcore even earlier.
Black Flag, Damaged on Unicorn Records
This was my most sought-after record for years, and was a gift from my wife about 10 years ago — she never told me what she paid for it. This is the original Unicorn pressing with the Anti-Parent sticker. Not necessarily a rare record by pressing standards, but what makes this one so special not just that it was a gift from my wife, or how integral this record was to my development as a person and a musician — but included with it was an original press package originally sent out with the record. Including a press release on the record, complete with coffee ring stain!
Spazz, S/T 7” on Slap A Ham Records
Besides Spazz being one of my favorite bands of all time, this particular record is prized because it was a new, unplayed copy I got directly from Dan Lactose from Spazz, more than 20 years after it was released. I had never known Dan, but had mentioned on Instagram about trying to complete a Spazz discography. He caught wind of it and offered up an original unplayed copy from his personal collection. Again, an amazingly humble guy and fellow collector who recognized that itch. This was specifically what I mean when I say that the connections and stories you build through collecting are sometimes just as valuable as the records themselves.
Is there anything that frustrates you about the current record collecting scene?
Like I mentioned earlier, it’s very easy to amass a staggering collection quickly today. Online resources are great in connecting with other collectors, but it’s almost too easy. When you’re dealing with punk and hardcore, the majority of these releases are made in such small numbers that it’s practically a commodity among would-be friends. I really hate dealing with money, and obviously value comes into play when you’re dealing with records that are now 10, 20, 30 years old. Just like a car or a house or anything —- value is just based on demand, and while Discogs is a good resource for information and history on records, it’s an unfair snapshot of perceived value, and sadly that’s how the majority of records are priced for collectors nowadays. Maybe I’m cheap or maybe I’m just a hopeless romantic, but when it comes to punk and hardcore it’s kind of sacred ground for me. I don’t want to make large amounts of money off of a record I bought on a whim and out of sheer luck it’s now ultra collectible…because often the would-be buyer is just a nerd like me.
But that’s the ongoing battle -— keeping business out of punk and hardcore. Keeping it pure. Record collecting has become one in the same — now nerds like us who are in our late 30s and 40s and have a little bit more income to spend can be preyed upon because of our incessant nostalgia. When it comes down to it, records are just STUFF like tvs, cars, baseball cards, or whatever. A flood or house fire can wipe it all out in a heartbeat, and if you don’t have your own stories and memories attached to them, what’s left? Record collecting is first and foremost about the love of music and (in pertaining to punk and hardcore) giving support back to bands and labels who have provided me with happiness and inspiration for decades — not values and dollar amounts.
Which records are still on your want list that you've had a tough time tracking down through the years?
I’ve been actively trying to complete the discographies of both Spazz and Slap A Ham Records over the last 3-4 years. A lot of which I still have my original copies when they were released, but because both entities put out a lot of material in a relatively short amount of time, I couldn’t buy up everything as it came out. As well, it was incredibly hard to get records in Eastern Canada during the '90s. With Spazz, I’m only down to their splits with Rupture, CFDL, and Subversion which aren’t incredibly hard to find…but, I still need the ultra rare Blasted In Bangkok demo tape and the Funky Ass Lil Platter 1” non-record. I’ve admitted to myself that I may never acquire either of those, but I keep my hopes alive. The journey is as fun as the destination.
When it comes to the Slap A Ham discography, I’m probably 60-70% of the way there. During the 2000s, a lot of the stuff became a lot easier to acquire but I didn’t have the foresight (or means) to take advantage. The rarest releases I need would be the Spazz 1” mentioned above, the Ham Slappin’ Hits cassette which I believe Chris just gave away to friends, and the original flexis by Melvins and the Infest/PHC split that started it all.
Follow Morgan on Instagram. You should also check out Hive (Bandcamp), Prey for Death (Bandcamp), and Prison Shank (Bandcamp).
Tagged: record collector