Interview and Photos by Eilon Paz
first met Sam at Tropicalia in Furs during one of those impromptu parties that would just start out of nowhere. We smiled at each other and said hi a couple of times throughout the night but said nothing—we were both pretty wasted.
I can’t really remember the circumstances for our next meeting, but this time we did manage to exchange a few words beyond the smiles. I do remember her vibe: happy, excited and totally kicking ass—and nerdy, which I love. We talked about music, Brazilian records, and her plan to rob Joel’s magic Brazilian Psych 45 box. I promised her that the next time I was on the west coast, I’d make the trip to document both her and Eric’s collection.
Since then, our friendship grew stronger and deeper. Sam became a contributor to the Dust & Grooves project and an essential force in the making of the Dust & Grooves book. She came to ALL of our book launch parties, stood up for us and played the best music ever.
Her loyalty and dedication struck a chord with me. Our egos would sometime collide. She would speak her mind without filtering while I bluntly dismiss any form of politeness. But this is exactly what made our friendship strong as a rock. I’ll take a feisty non-compromising in-your-face friend any day. Thank you Sam for being such a cool, loving and caring music nerd. Thank you Eric for being so cool and such an easy-chilling man. I’m really proud to be part of your circle of friends.
Who are you guys??
Sam: When I figure that out, I’ll let you know…
Eric: A guy that likes music, duh.
Tell us how each of you started getting into music and into record collecting.
Sam: I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t obsessed with music but I didn’t really get super serious about collecting until later on. I went to boarding school so hoarding things wasn’t practical because you’d have to lug it all home with you at the end of the year. Also the school was in the middle of nowhere in Montana and the nearest record store was like 80 miles away, so, you know, there was that. When I graduated high school and settled back in Oakland, that’s when it started getting serious.
Eric: Punk. When I was a bad teenager I’d travel around the country, partying and going to punk shows. 7-inch records were cheap and easy to bring back with me.
How did you guys meet? Was it music that got you guys together?
Sam: We met in 2008 while Eric was working at the coffee shop around the corner from the flower shop where I worked. I went in one day before work and noticed a cute dude wearing a Dungen t-shirt behind the counter. They’re one of my favorite bands so I chatted Eric up and started going into the coffee shop more often and we talked about music a lot and quickly became friends. Then, you know, one thing led to another, and here we are. Thanks Dungen!
The Shangri-Las – Leader of the Pack. Eric has a thing for bad girls.
Show us both of your first ever records.
Sam: Growing up, I listened to classical music and hits from the 1950s because that’s what my parents listened to. Judging by what I listen to now, that probably seems hard to believe. But I still love classical music, it’s phenomenal. It’s wild. My dad is an encyclopedia. I mean, he probably knows every single piece of classical music ever written. He can identify anything, even with only a single snippet from the middle of a movement to go on. It’s amazing! I love listening to him talk about it and I love to listen to it with him. Anyway, when I was young, I really loved the opera Don Giovanni. My dad had a beautiful box set from 1960 that I listened to and looked at a lot so he basically gave it to me. I’d say that was my first record, or at least it was the first record I was ever obsessed with. I can’t remember the first album I bought on my own but it was probably awful.
Eric: The first record I bought was “Quit Talkin’ Claude” by Crimpshrine or at least that’s the first record I remember buying and being like, “FUCK YES.”
Erich Leinsdorf & the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra – Don Giovanni. Crimpshrine – Quit Talkin’ Claude…EP. A nerd and a cool guy. Opposites attract?
Do you remember a specific record that you bonded over?
How long have you been married?
We’ve been together for 7 years, married for 4.
What’s playing right now on your turntable?
Sam: When these pictures were taken a few years ago, I’d just gotten the beautiful Bunalım compilation that Shadoks put out and we were listening to that when Eilon walked through the door. As we write this, we are listening to an incredible band from Sweden called Life, the Swedish version of their super heavy self-titled album from 1970. I scored an unplayed original copy while record shopping in Stockholm last year. The English lyrics version is rarer and I have an original copy of that too, but I prefer the Swedish one.
Other albums we’ve been listening to lately that are currently crowding the record player:
Träd, Gräs och Stenar – Mors Mors / Svenska Kaputt – S/T / Ingegärd Nordell – Känsla / Asoka – S/T / Pisces – A Lovely Sight / Free-Son – Banguelê / Emitt Rhodes – Mirror / Keith Mlevhu – Love and Freedom / Bo Hansson – Ur Trollkarlens Hatt / Modern Sound Six – S/T / Brown Acid: The First Trip (comp) / Life on Earth! – Look!! There is… / Blo – Phase II / Burning Witch – Rift.Canyon.Dreams / November – 2:a / Corrupted – Paso Inferior / Satanic Warmaster – Carelian Satanist Madness / Dust – S/T / Racionais MCs – Raio-X do Brasil
Bunalım – Self Titled. One of the most important bands in the Turkish underground rock scene. A damn good compilation.
Tell us about the progression of your collection, before and after you got married.
Well, it’s gotten bigger. It’s certainly doubled in size since these pictures were taken. We’re a team so it’s nice to have double the searching power (and funds).
So, is your collection completely merged or are you still keeping private sections?
It’s completely merged. When we got married, we combined our collections and sold the duplicates. It just seemed like the most logical thing to do.
Seriously, where’s the pre-nup agreement?
Haha. You’ll have to ask our lawyer about that.
Ideal marriage life, two cats, but there must some vinyl rivalry between you.
Nope. It’s all going to the same place so why bother?
Was there a record that you just wouldn’t bring into your home?
We would sooner die than ever bring a Phish record into this house.
And why is that?
I think anyone with ears knows why!
You know you’re risking your life here. Specially living in the Bay Area. You know that hippies CAN get aggressive?
Haha, that is true. A guy I know who worked for Vice wrote an article about how much Phish sucks and the backlash was quite epic. Some of the more computer literate Phish fans made hate art and tweeted death threats at him. Neither of us have Twitter but we do have a shotgun. Bring it on, Wookies.
During the life of Dust & Grooves, we’ve heard quite a few sad stories of a person’s obsession for vinyl that terminated a relationship. What’s your secret here?
Well, both of us love it and it makes us happy but that’s not really a secret. Just lucky.
How do you organize your collection?
Everything is divided by country and then alphabetized within those categories. Lots of backaches came out of that endeavor.
Erkin Koray – Tutkusu. Erkin Koray’s 4th album which features a Turkish language cover of Johnny Cash’s “Walk the Line”
Sam: Because I love music more than anything and there are zillions of records on this planet so I’ll never run out of things to find and enjoy. There are other reasons but that’s the most important. There are incredible things out there that will just never be issued on any other format and you’d have no way of listening to them otherwise. Albums and singles that never made it past a first puny release for some reason but should have, geniuses left in the dust, you just never know what you’ll find! No other format has that wide a range or as much mystery and promise. And not just aural possibilities, there are endless packaging possibilities too. Interactive gatefolds and pop-ups, posters, holograms, colored vinyl, etched discs, picture discs, unusually shaped discs, band photos, lyrics inserts, secret messages in the dead wax, then the chance you might find notes or pictures stuffed in the jackets by former owners… Nothing else could ever be as magical, not even close.
Eric: Because I’m insane.
Is there an artist or a label you’re trying to complete?
Sam: I’m very picky so I’m not much of a completist. I do actually have every record on the Swedish label Gump, a subsidiary of Metronome, which came out with really fantastic stuff like Mats Glenngård’s solo album Kosterläge and Sogmusobil’s Telefon – but there are only 8 titles on that label and they’re all rad so it was a pretty reasonable goal, even though they are all pretty rare and it took me a few years.
Eric: I’m on my way to completing Lee Hazlewood’s discography. We were in Sweden a few months back and were able to grab a few Sweden-only releases for pretty cheap. You just don’t see that stuff here. Other than that, a few things I’ve either completed or am trying to complete are any music projects Eric Wood (of Man is the Bastard) is or was involved in, Thin Lizzy, Corrupted, releases with artwork by “Morbid Mark,” Sacramento rap from 1989-1999, and the Slap-a-Ham label.
Sam, what’s up with Nick Cave?
When I was 14, The Boatman’s Call had just come out and my mom’s best friend Pete (more on him later) gave it to me for my birthday. It really stuck with me. I listened to it on repeat and then I started looking for all the prior Bad Seeds albums and the Birthday Party too. Now I have every LP, EP, and single he’s ever released or been a part of. Even the live albums and I never buy live albums. I love the soundtracks he has done with Warren Ellis. In my opinion, he’s one of the greatest songwriters of all time. He’s certainly one of the greatest performers of all time. His arrangements are fantastic, his voice is out of this world, and he just does what he wants. He’s awesome, in the true sense of the word.
All of the singles Nick Cave did with the Bad Seeds. Birthday Party and other projects not pictured.
Eric, what’s up with Thin Lizzy and Man is the Bastard?
Well, Man is the Bastard was one of those bands that I’d see as a kid that was my absolute favorite. Their skull logo was my first tattoo. Ha! The music stuck with me and when I got more into collecting, I decided I needed the entire discography, side projects, bootlegs included. Currently, I have almost everything minus a noise floppy disk.
I don’t have a big Thin Lizzy story. They just fucking rule.
Thin Lizzy – Fighting. Depending on which pressing you buy, you either get Thin Lizzy looking ready to fight or debating whether or not they really want to.
Man is the Bastard / Bleeding Rectum – Self Titled split LP. I also collect anything with artwork by Morbid Mark, so this technically counted as two things to check off my list. The artwork for the Neanderthal 7-inch in the previous picture is also by Morbid Mark.
Show us a record that opened your eyes about a specific band or artist
Eric: Down to Earth by Jimmy Buffett, his first record. It’s just a good folk rock record, not like all the sandy, coconutty, light rum infused, sunburned, parrot head soft rock that people think of when they think of Jimmy Buffett.
Chubby Checker – Self Titled (originally released as Chequered!) This is a kind of janky 1976 French reissue of Chubby Checker’s psychedelic record that’s much cheaper and more readily available than the 1971 original. The order of the songs is different though.
Let’s take a walk thru your odd and quarantined section
Everybody loves a good novelty record, or at least they should, especially for display purposes. A lot of things look way better on the wall than they sound on the turntable. We have a nice selection of novelty records but not for any particular reason, mostly just because they are hilarious.
We’ve got some good picture discs and unusually shaped discs, but also sermons, self-help records, hypnosis records, sound effects, animal recordings, astrology lectures, old radio shows, altered covers, all types of Christmas records…the list goes on. One of the best picture discs we have is Wilding / Bonus Pleasure Signals, an awful prog record. These 2 guys are waving flags in what at quick glance looks like dunes or some sort of alien landscape but upon closer inspection is a row of fine naked ladies. In other important novelty record news, we have completed our years-long quest to find every LP with a Whipped Cream and Other Delights parody cover.
Wilding/Bonus – Pleasure Signals. Horrible jazz fusion with only one redeeming factor: the cover, as represented on this picture disc that was one dollar at Amoeba.
Bruce Willis – “Secret Agent Man (James Bond is Back)” 12-inch. Shitty celebrity vanity projects are one of my favorite things. I also have a collection of celebrity workout VHS tapes. Bruce Willis hasn’t done one of those yet, though.
Gefilte Joe & the Fish – Hanukah Rocks EP. In addition to the title track, these bad boys (the self-described “world’s only senior citizen, Jewish rock band”) get down with some clever parody songs called “Matzoh Man,” “Walk on the Kosher Side,” and “Napper’s Delight.” It also serves as the world’s only Jewish Ninja star.
Queen Samantha 2 – “Sweet San Francisco” b/w “What’s in Your Mind.” I collect any record referencing San Francisco and anything with my name on it so this one was too good to pass up, even though it’s just mediocre disco.
Weird Al Yankovic – “Eat It.” The cheese stands alone.
Was there a particular person who inspired you to collect records, a role model in the art of record collecting?
Sam: My mom’s best friend Pete is like my uncle and he is an amazing artist who loves music as much as I do and has impeccable taste. I’ve known him for my entire life and he is who I credit with saving me from a Top 40 existence. He introduced me to Nick Cave, Tom Waits, Television, Sonic Youth, The Residents, Blonde Redhead, and tons more fundamentals to build on…then I took it from there. I owe him everything for that. He still gives me mixes every Christmas and on my birthday.
When I was 20, I happened upon a record shop that had just opened in the East Village called Tropicalia in Furs. I spent the next 8 hours with Joel Stones – he was playing record after record for me (Tim Maia’s Racional records, Caetano Veloso Araça Azul, Tom Zé Todos os Olhos, and A Banda Tropicalista do Duprat, to name a few) and blowing my mind! I knew about Os Mutantes at the time but not much else and he sent me blasting like a rocket into the galaxy of psych and funk and soul from Brazil and all around the world…and I haven’t been back since. He knows it all and guides me in the right directions. He has so much energy and soul and the biggest heart. We even convinced him to DJ our wedding because he is the best DJ in the world and I wouldn’t even think of having anyone else do it.
While working on the Dust & Grooves book, I became friends with Eothen Alapatt from Now-Again Records and I have learned so much from him too. He’s the only other American I know who is as obsessed with Swedish psych as I am and, as we all know, he has exquisite taste. There is hardly anything more fun than hanging out with him and Joel drinking wine and listening to records! They are fantastic people. I’m really lucky.
Eric: Not really. When I was a kid I was just kind of doing it for no real reason and now I’d probably say Sam is my inspiration just to impress her once in awhile and trick her into thinking I’m still cool. Oh yeah and Joel did turn me on to Brazilian gangsta rap so I guess there’s that.
Sérgio Ricardo – Deus E O Diabo Na Terra Do Sol and “Aleluia” b/w “Deus E O Diabo Na Terro Do Sol.” This was a wedding present from Joel Stones and is one of the most meaningful records in my collection. (The story behind that is much too long for a photo caption, however!) These are the rare soundtrack records to Glauber Rocha‘s film Deus E O Diabo Na Terra Do Sol, obviously, which translates to God and the Devil in the Land of the Sun. The film was a key part of the Cinema Novo movement, which was very focused on socio-political themes in 1960s Brazil.
The Microphones – Blood. Eric lived in Portland for awhile so he has a soft spot for Pacific Northwest bands. This collection of field recordings is pretty cool and has a hand painted cover. I bought this for him when we were first dating because he had lost his copy and I was trying to impress him.
Tim Maia – Racional Volume 2 A great record from Brazil with a great backstory. I learned about this from Joel when we met and managed to get a decent copy for 90 bucks soon after – quite a bargain! The sleeve is not perfect but the vinyl is in super good shape and that’s all that really matters to me. Thanks eBay!
Do you focus on a specific musical genre at the moment?
Sam: A couple of years ago, I discovered Träd, Gräs och Stenar and the Baby Grandmothers and that inspired me to dig deeper into Swedish psychedelic music and Progg from the 1970s. Progg is not to be confused with progressive rock because it’s not really a genre per se, it was a revolutionary musical political movement. There is a lot of prog in Progg though. Some of my favorite psych falls into the Progg category but I love all of it, political or not. I love the beat and garage stuff from the 1960s, the hard stuff from the 70s, the folk stuff, the weird stuff, all the crazy psych, the whacked out prog, everything! That is pretty much what my collecting life revolves around. Unfortunately it wasn’t my true focus yet when these photos were taken so my most prized gems aren’t pictured. I do have an above average knowledge of Brazilian and Turkish psych too but it’s not as extensive.
Eric: Ditto on what Sam said. Other than that, I’m having a hell of a time just keeping up!
Where do you acquire your vinyl these days?
Sam: For my main wantlist, I usually rely on personal dealers and discogs/eBay because most of the things I need are little known even in their countries of origin so they were definitely never exported! Of course I still go to record stores though. There are some great shops here in the Bay Area like Groove Merchant, Explorist International, and Stranded. When we’re in LA, I always go to Permanent Records and I love hanging out with Ian and Elden at Wombleton Records. My best friend lives in Austin and whenever we visit her, I have to make sure to schedule some time to go to Breakaway Records. And obviously spending a day at the Academy Annex is a must when we are in New York. In Stockholm, House of Oldies and Nostalgipalatset are fucking amazing.
Eric: While I still go to record stores or dig through piles of dirty, dusty, sometimes moldy and water damaged records at flea markets or in people’s basements, I end up buying most of the good records the same way as Sam. It’s kinda sad but usually anything I’d want at a ‘normal’ record store, I already have.
Barry Gibb and the Bee Gees – The Bee Gees Sing and Play 14 Barry Gibb Songs. This is the Bee Gees’ first full length album. It’s comprised of their already released singles and 5 new songs, all written by Barry Gibb, who I think is really great songwriter. We both really love early Bee Gees stuff. And I have never seen such white teeth.
What’s the unlikeliest place/occasion you’ve ever found a record?
Sam: I found a Rolling Stones album among my dad’s records and that is about as unlikely as anything could ever be in the history of the universe. He has no explanation.
Regrets! Tell me about a great record or two that got away from you.
Sam: Swedish band Charlie & Esdor’s super rare single “Då Klagar Mina Grannar” b/w “Dagen Är Över” came on discogs once but I didn’t get the email soon enough and it was gone by the time I clicked on the link. That sucked!
What other goodies have you found while looking for records?
Eric: Sexy nudes.
Sam: I found a picture of a guy kissing a foot once.
Do you collect other musical formats?
Sam: I do have a thing for cassettes. I wouldn’t say I collect them but every once in awhile, a tape like Clayt Butt comes around and I can’t say no.
Eric: Any format from Sacramento, CA.
Ian from Wombleton Records gave me this tape and it is one of my most prized possessions.
What do you look for in a record?
You know the feeling when you hear something really extraordinary for the first time? That.
And fuzz guitar.
Neil Young – Self Titled. This is a copy of Neil Young’s first album with the original mix and master, which he hated. He had the album re-mixed, re-mastered, and re-released like a year later. You can tell which copy you have by the etching in the dead wax and that’s what I’m squinting at. If you don’t see RE-1 in the inscription, you’ve got the original mix. There is a big debate about which is better. I just like the record but it was fun to find out I had a kind of “special” copy. I got it for like 5 bucks but it’s probably worth at least a little more than that.
What’s your comfort record, the one you can always go back to? What makes it so special?
Sam: If I ever can’t decide what to listen to, I just put on any record by Bo Hansson because he’s the best. In the true sense of the word, Bill Evans’ Alone has been consistently comforting me since I was a kid and continues to do so.
Bill Evans – Alone. Thin Lizzy – Self Titled. Comforting in so many ways
What’s your saddest record story?
Sam: I’ve been extraordinarily lucky. I’ve never scratched or broken or lost any important records. Some great records I have are so closely associated with bummer times in my life that I can’t listen to them anymore though, I guess that counts.
Eric: All the records left behind or ruined at shitty punk houses in my younger days. R.I.P.
Show us a great $1 bin find.
We went on a big Northern road trip in 2012 and in Montana, we found Lee Hazlewood Forty at a Salvation Army for 12 cents and a nice copy of Pharoah Sanders Tauhid for $1.50 at a church thrift store. That was pretty cool.
Pharoah Sanders – Tauhid. I wouldn’t think churchgoers in Kalispell, MT would be down with astral jazz but I guess the fact that we found this at the thrift store proves that they aren’t. At least they gave it a shot.
Let’s talk about the back room…What’s going on there?
It is obviously just another venue to display our novelty records, haha. They line the hallway trim as well. We really didn’t have very many interesting records on the walls when our picture was taken in there because we were in the middle of re-arranging everything and about to paint over that hideous wall color. God, it was the ugliest room in the house! We had been going for an all ‘50s & ‘60s lounge-y/easy listening/cheesecake record cover theme but it’s much harder to find those for cheap now than it used to be, so we gave up on that because we didn’t have enough and the things to fill it in were random. The walls are now a much less ugly color and the records on them are much more interesting, in our defense!
Surprisingly, that picture of a guy kissing a foot that I found was not discovered in this record.
What do you want to happen to your collection when you check out?
Eric: I should hope my records get placed inside my tomb so I can enjoy them on the other side.
Sam: There is literally nothing I can say that will top that answer.
Who would you like to see profiled next on Dust & Grooves?
Sam: I’d like to see the 3 Los Angeles DJs, collectors, and dear friends whom I adore: Victoria Rawlins, Nina Tarr, and Allie Teilz. Moscow-based collector of deep grooves and host of amazing radio show Javybz, Julia Rodionova. Also the great Swedish collectors I know, Stefan Kéry of Subliminal Sounds, and Reine Fiske, master guitarist. (And if she wasn’t already on here, I would say one of the most amazing women I’ve ever met, editor of the Dust & Grooves book, and host of WFMU show Sophisticated Boom Boom, the great Sheila Burgel! Check out her feature here.)
Eric: I guess that about covers it!
More Sam & Eric goodness here:
Mixes – mixcloud.com/samswig
Sam – samswig
Eric – bloodbong5150
Sam, Eric and many more vinyl collectors are featured on the Dust & Grooves: Adventures in Record Collecting book.
Please consider purchasing the book and continue your support of the Dust & Grooves project.