Saturday, August 7

IV The Polymath - Interview

Interview With a Digger Part 2
IV The Polymath

So, what got you started digging? The first time I went to a record store was like 1988 or something.

When I was growing up, my mother had a real dope collection before our basement flooded. I would take the records up to my room one at a time & listen to them. She put me on to cats like Herbie Hancock, the O’Jays, Isaac Hayes, Wes Montgomery & others. Initially, it made an impression, but didn’t influence me musically until later on. I started thrift store shopping in 1997, & started collecting seriously a couple of years ago.

When I started digging I just bought any record I saw from thrift stores that was less than two dollars and after a few years, I ended up with 90% junk. What technique or advice would you give a guy just starting out digging to avoid having a bunch of shit records?

Word, I was the same way! I was hitting the thrift shops hard & buying anything cheap that wasn’t a Streisand LP. Eventually I realized that most of what I had was garbage AND all scratched up. It’s hard to tell people just starting out to not buy all the terrible records tho, because looking back – that was part of the learning & having fun. On the other hand, it’s NOT fun to carry all that wax to the dumpster after you realize it’s time to step your game up.

Ha ha.. very true. It was sort of a learning process. And, good work on avoiding those Streisand records. Dollar bins all over the world seem to be wastelands for her records.

You said in an email that you’re “broke” but “dig at least 3 times a week.” Yo, that statement describes my life for the past 10 years! I’m gonna get that tatted on my neck or something. Do you feel like you dig too much sometimes? Any weird rituals that you do that make you think you might be addicted to digging?

I don’t feel like I dig too much, but some people might think so. Some days I’ll walk into a shop with a dollar in quarters & be in there for 2 hours.

A dollar in quarters? two hours?? That's a sign that you dig to much!

Every time I go digging, I find something that I never knew existed. The other day, I found some Christian Folksy-pop record called “Armageddon is Coming.” Is it just me, or is digging a never ending quest? I’ll never have all of the records in the world!

You said it man – it really is a never-ending quest. There’s always something crazy out there that you didn’t know existed. I love stumbling upon new stuff. There is a local Goodwill store that rarely ever puts out new records, but I still try to check there every couple of days just in case. A couple months ago, I came up on about 50 Northern Soul 45s in mint condition. A lot of them were DJ promo copies too. Those types of days are what it’s all about to me.


Without getting too intellectual, what do you think it is about Hip Hop that it needs sampling? Like, I was watching an interview of Bob James, and he was saying that his motivation for recording something like say, “Take me to the Mardi Gras” was different than when some rap producer flips the sample and that he didn’t compute why his music was a part of the phenomenon of rap music. He said he initially viewed it as “theft,” as did James Brown at first. What is it about these records that Hip Hop producers (and rappers) find so attractive?

I was playing drums, piano, guitar & bass for over a decade before I started sampling, but for some reason, there is just something indescribable about the experience of taking a sound from a record, putting it into your mpc & turning that sound into your own instrument. To do what we do (& do it well) is not as easy as people think. As for the second question I think we love JB so much because his records are straight up funky. And Bob James just makes great music.

Bob James is ill, and as I remember, James Brown "made up" with Hip Hop eventually. But I don’t understand why they don’t understand Hip Hop music..It’s a post-modern art form created by poor Black Americans. I mean, jazz, blues and soul had very similar inceptions: Poor black people appropriating musical standards and creating something different. There is no difference between a trumpet and a turntable.

And…what’s your favorite Bob James record?

I’d say One, but I really like Two as well. Also, his arrangements for Grover Washington Jr. are amazing. Mister Magic is one of my favorite records of all time.

One is the illest, but I had nightmares about that cover for a week straight after I copped it.

How many records do you own? Any 45’s?

I’m down to about 2,000 now. I just moved to a different state & ended up having to get rid of quite a few because they wouldn’t fit in my car. I’ve got maybe a hundred or so 45s. I really love them, but they’re hard to find in good condition.

True. Wait 'til you hit the 7,000 mark. I'm currently purging anything in my collection that's less than a vg+ (that's not super rare).

What’s your favorite genre and artist in that genre?

Jazz without a doubt. There are too many great musicians to just pick one, but Grover Washington Jr. & Roy Ayers are right up at the top. I’ve been buying a lot of Ronnie Laws lately as well.

What genre do you hate? Don’t be afraid to be a hater…I’m a hate on Country, Bluegrass, Dancehall, Reggaeton, Big Band, Techno-Rap…well, I kinda made that last one up. But if there was Techno-rap, I’d hate it!

Haha man some of the new stuff is starting to sound like slowed down techno rap, but that’s a whole other conversation. I don’t like Big Band either – anything before the late 50’s really. Same with country.

You ever dig “outside the box?” I’ve been buying a lot of Lesbian-folk and Sesame Street records. Meg Christian and Cookie Monster, yo!

Cookie Monster is always a good choice. Remember when Alchemist made that Cookie Monster beat? I’ve got most of the Disney movies on wax & some Sesame Street 45s. Also got some Transformer & G.I. Joe 45s, lots of stand-up comedy, poetry LPs, etc. I’ve got some joints about talking to your kids about safe sex & stuff like that. A lot of movie soundtracks too like The Godfather, James Bond & all that. Oh yea & some really nice 45s from India.

How many of the so-called classic hip hop breaks do you own? What’s the most that you’ve spent on a record?

If I had to guess I’d say maybe about 50-100. But as far as breaks in general go, it’s way beyond that. The most I’ve spent on a record is probably only about 20 bucks on Dick Hyman’s “The Age of Electronicus.” I do a lot of digging in Buffalo, NY & also in Indiana so things are a lot cheaper. When I go to NYC, I see all of the joints I get for 2-6 bucks for 15 bucks and up. I’m blessed in that sense.

I'd like to hear that Dick Hyman record. I have the "The Electric Eclectics of.." record. Dope.

I’m a Historian, so the annals of time are significant to me. The times (and technology) dictate the type and quality of music made...this may be a layup, but, is there a specific year (or decade) that you look for? If so, why? What about that year or years attract you?

Absolutely. It’s all about the late 60’s and early to mid 70’s for me, because most of that stuff is real funky & raw. In the early 60’s the recordings weren’t as good & in the 80’s they were too polished. A lot of my favorite artists fell of in the late 70’s & early 80’s. You mentioned technology & I agree. I think that some cats were so excited about the new technology available to them that they got carried away & became a sign of the times. Don’t get it twisted though because there were some dope records from the 80s too.

Oh yeah. The 80's had some ill music!

Are you a traditionalist when it comes to digging or do you have e-crates? As the proprietor of BeattheBrakes blog, I don’t think e-digging is terrible. What’s your opinion on the difference? Does one help or hurt the other? Do you dig on ebay?

This is a sensitive topic so I’ll try not to say too much, but no I don’t e-dig. I don’t believe there is such a thing as e-crates just as I don’t think you can physically store your vinyl in itunes. I will say this though – cats finding samples online is better than not doing it at all. On one hand I dislike it but on the other hand, it’s better for people to be doing some form of music than none at all. And that’s how I’ve come to accept it. If people are enjoying themselves & feeling like they are part of something than that’s dope.

The only record I’ve bought off of ebay was Y Society – Travel At Your Own Pace, which was actually the last one that Tres had in stock. I do have another website I buy from occasionally when I can’t find something I really want. I don’t see anything wrong with it.

Word up. I understand. I don't think e-digging is horrible because it's turned me on to a lot of music that I would have otherwise never got the chance to hear. That aspect of Internet digging has actually made me a better crate digger, which I appreciate. I started this blog with the hope that people would want to go out and find these records that they download here. I do e-dig but I've clocked countless man-hours in record stores for at least 2 decades.

What’s the farthest you’re travelled for a record? Have you dug outside of the USA?

So far I’ve only been digging in Philly, Massachusetts, Indiana, & all over NY. My man Junclassic took me to A-1 in NYC a couple months ago. Haven’t had the luxury of digging outside of the USA yet, but my Godparents let me hold a bunch of DOPE 45s & 33s from India. Not just Ravi either, but some real crazy stuff.

Condition means the most to me. Whenever I dig, I meticulously check the condition and if it’s not shiny as a The Streaker’s unit, I will not cop it. How important is condition to you? Let’s say you found a beat-to-shit copy of The Honeysuckle Breeze by Tom Scott, do you cop it?

Condition is definitely important. Most of my stuff is VG+, but it depends on the record & the price for me. I bought the Black Oak Arkansas break for a buck not too long ago & it didn’t look great, but it plays well. So yea I would cop the Tom Scott if it were only a dollar.

How do you store your vinyl? How do you protect it from warping?

I try to keep them all in the plastic sleeves & not to overstuff the crates. I also try to avoid stacking them on top of one another, but it gets crazy in the middle of a session when you’re looking for a horn or something.

You have any weird or interesting digging stories?

I’ve been waiting for this question haha. When I first started chilling with my homie & partner in rhyme Jondis, we found a guy on Craigslist who intended to open a record shop, but ended up deciding to leave the area instead. He had 1100 records in alphabetical order – even had his little homemade price tags on there. We met him at a warehouse & bought the whole lot for 200 bucks. There was some garbage as expected, but there were a LOT of good LPs. We went through them one box at a time, pouring them all over the floor & doing an every other pick type of thing. Big up to Bobby!

Other than that it’s just the usual stuff like hiding my favorite joints in the country section until I can afford them so no one else can buy them.

ha ha...all diggers think alike! I remember hiding a copy of Faze-O's "Riding High" in the country section cause I didn't have the 10 bucks to cop it!

What do you hit first: dollar bin, new arrivals bin or the wall joints?

New arrivals for sure.

I hit all three at once. How? I walk into the store and start feverishly pointing at the wall joints, instructing the record dude to pull several of them off. As he turns his back to grab them, I unearth a scarecrow filled with packing peanuts with my exact outfit on and lean it against the new arrivals bin so it blocks anybody from getting to it. Then I quickly run the dollar bins, grab all the shit I want, then go back to the new arrivals stealthily replacing myself with the scarecrow. By the time I get done and back to the record dude at the register, I got like 400$ worth of records. Works like a charm!


What’s the illest record you’ve found in the dollar bin? I found 2 og Axelrod records (Innocence and Experience) in a 1$ bin.

Damn that’s a good find! I’ve found a lot of good 12-inch singles in the dollar bin. Acapellas & stuff like that for scratching, but the new shop I’ve been going to doesn’t have one. I did get Bob James One and Two for 2 bucks there though.

What record label do you collect that never disappoints?

CTI. They are probably the most consistent to me.

Speaking of labels, Folkways or Kama Sutra?

Not a huge fan of either, but I’d have to go with Folkways.

You need to fuck with some Kama Sutra! They have Heeeeeeat, my friend!

Another two of my Holy Grails are Galt McDermot’s “Shapes of Rhythm” any Black Patti 78s. What are two of yours?

Nice choices. Mine would have to be Fred Wesley & the Horny Horns “A Blow For Me & A Toot For You” & my Cymande records.

I was faced with a dilemma in a New Orleans record shop once…what you would have done in this situation? Record store dude has 3 wall pieces: “Electric Mud” by Muddy Waters, “Kites are Fun” by The Free Design and “Times Have Changed” by The Impressions. Mud for 50$, Kites for 45$ and Times for 40$. All are VG+. Which one would you get?

Electric Mud no doubt.

Well....since I already have both white and black cover copies of Electric Mud and a reissue of Kites are Fun, I copped the Impressions record. Then grabbed the pre-“II The Extreme” Vanilla Ice record for 6 bucks.

Cop Electric Mud!

Last and final question…when I die, I want Shirley Scott’s “Love is for Lovers” to be played. What record do you want played when you’re on that slow descent to your abode in Hell?

One Note Samba. The ’62 Getz/Byrd version.

Good choice...Thanks.

Check my review of his album, Drum Machines Have No Soul below!