stephen o´malley interview

Mar.18, 2014

Stephen O’Malley

Discaholic interview –  2013/ 2014

 


Are you an official discaholic? Is there such a thing?

I have many -aholics which I try to survive… discaholoism is a form of obsession and pleasure. I have a friend who was a heroin user for many years, went through the worst typical junkie periods etc but he survived and cleaned up eventually. He has been VERY sober for a few decades now, save his allowance of intense record collecting. This is a form of healing and therapy, and he inspired this perspective in myself. When we’ve discussed this he has said «well at least I’m not spending my money on junk»! Unlike alcoholism, you cannot take a pill to make it feel like you’ve «had enough» with music. It’s like trying to pour the ocean into a chalice.

Do you need help with it?

What I need help with is organizing and storage of my collection in a useful, ordered way instead of the piles of chaos which invade every corner of my habitation.

When did you start collecting?

Probably age 12 with my discovery of speed/thrash and the fact that you had to honor and cherish these jewels if you had the fortitude to unearth them. Once I found underground mailorder and tape trading collecting became an obsession, love and full priority.

Was vinyl the first thing you collected?

No, I collected comics for ages as a youth, then cassettes (both published albums and tape trades)… then CDs. I am a child of the 90s, vinyl didn’t enter seriously until the late part of that decade. The exception is probably 7 inches.

 

What was the first piece of vinyl you got? Can you still feel the vibe from it? the excitement?

Although we had a lot of LPs at home in my Dad’s collection (John Fahey, The Who, Zep, Jeff Beck were and still are favorites), and I was buying a ton of tapes before… I think first was given Prince’s soundtrack for Tim Burton’s «Batman» and loved it. It’s not very impressive but I’m not embarrassed by that fact any longer. Just learned recently that the Arkestra was the band on much of that LP.

What gives you the buzz? Do you still get the buzz?

Let’s put it this way: my postman climbs a lot of stairs each week because I live on the fourth floor of a walk up. It’s endless… I love music and it’s a staple of pleasure and regularity in my life. The discovery and unlocking of the structures/stimulation is killer. Putting on music does something crucial to my brain and the environment… seems like such  simple, obvious solution to many problems or mood issues.

 

How do you buy your records mostly nowadays? on tour? eBay? Local shops?

We have Souffle Continu here in Paris who I’ve manage to trick into a trading scheme, passing them my own releases for credit at their store. This is an important relationship. I buy tons on discogs actually, not so much ebay any more… I guess the whole bidding thing is boring. If I just want the record I’ll just buy it and will if I can find it, afford it, don’t want to gamble. I love record shopping on the road, that and finding great meals are what it’s all about anyway. Checking out local shops and talking music with the people I’m traveling with, meeting locally, getting advice (usually very good or very bad) and blowing too much money on records and dinner. Also this turns right into stories of peoples experiences with the bands, musicians, histories etc. In Copenhagen last week the promoter spent an hour talking about early Neubauten concerts there (the first two times) where they threw molotov cocktails into the audience.  I used to trade a lot more through the mail and sell records/run a small mailorder but have come to the point that I dont have enough brainpower to manage that each day any more.

How do you measure your collection? Meters? Kg´s? numbers?

Boxes. Because I have a storage space in a warehouse in Ivry filled with all of my possessions pre 2007… the year I moved to France. There are many score boxes of music (LPs, CDs, tapes) which have sadly been hibernating uncracked since February 2007. There are also a lot of speaker cabinets and amplifiers, gear in this space, and books. Transient issues.

How do you sort your collection? Alphabetical? Genre? Chronological?

The collection at home is a mess… mainly sorted from recently purchased/acquired to oldest acquired. I live in a small flat with my lady… she is super into books and I am too in addition to albums. We are moving soon though to a bigger place and I dream about proper shelving/organization then. I do manage some subsections here and there like Annette Peacock section, 60’s/70’s electronics, Hindustani, important composers or research items, CD boxed sets, Faraway Press titles. I have a big Haino section in my NYC stacks… a lot of live bootlegs I got from an old trader named Scott Slimm (of aRCHIVE label) as well as all the official releases etc.

 

I admit that I do like this type of mess because every time I get some time at home to look through it and spend some afternoons and evenings swimming in the music I find shit I totally forgot about, or do not know where it came from or what it is. There is a kind of luck logic to it but my lady does get annoyed frequently as she cannot find anything without spending 20 minutes searching.

How would a soundtrack to one of Richard Serra´s black and round paintings sound like? Who would play on such? Isn´t  that serie of paintings all about vinyls and grooves?

I like this point of view on Serra… definitely haven’t heard that before. Since many of his paint stick drawings have highly politicized titles, or named after great humans, I have always heard them as more of a very high powered electromagnetic or strong/waek force or gravitational field.

 

What was your first release at all on vinyl?

Burning Witch «Towers» on Slap-a-Ham recorded 96 and released in 1998. Thank you Chris Dodge. It still blows my mind as Albini recorded it (first album he recorded in Seattle apparently) and it was on that cult label!!! I also think that the sound quality of the production on this record is one which we possibly haven’t been able to reach since.

Can discaholism be cured ?

I wonder if record  label directors or record store owners are trying to do this or if that is more like a alcoholic opening a bar or a coke head opening a nightclub. Purity through complete and total immersion?

What record can set off a war?

Come on dude. I note the fact that the theme music of the US middle east military actions of the past 20 years seems to have been highly informed by death metal. That seems so fucking obvious but is too sad at the same time. It validates the worst stereotypes.

 

There have been some fallouts resulting from mid-period SABBATH. I like that SKINNY PUPPY is suing the State Department for use of their music in Guantanemo.

What record would create peace?

«Live in Toronto 1969»

 

 

What record has changed your life most dramatically?

For the best ?

For the worst?

Definitely (maybe?) one of my own… but I’m not sure which. Several of the SUNN O))) albums represent obvious psychological issues/states when looking in retrospect… and many were not very good ones. «Monoliths & Dimensions» opened so many doors in my mind and possibilities in the world. I think that was a giant step for the better personally and artistically. Even if it’s not my favorite album I’ve made, personally and creatively.

Describe a perfect shopping/ hunting day!

I love record shopping in Tokyo. People seems just made for it and there are so many possibilities of discoveries, STILL. discUNION Tokyo crawl in the morning with a surplus of tour money… then stumbling upon a yet-unknown (even to the locals) or recently opened shop on an upper floor of one of those mini-skyscrapers. Maybe a guy trying to get clean of his -aholism. Udon lunch in Shinjuku just north of the station (you know the place). Maybe pop in to AIRS to see the recent live boots and look at the photos of other recognized AIR vistors/fellow explorers of sounds. Then hop over to Volcanic Tongue right before closing: getting loaded up by their weird/intuitive tastes and hilarious conversations and then hauled over to Brew Dog for apero! Watch the skies for crashing police helicopters. Then back to Dan’s in Shinjuku for some asparagus and hangs with Jim, Enju and Shun until the end of the night.

 

 

What records do I wanna steal from your collection?

Ah come on… that’s lame and dishonorable.

I once realized that one of my prior bands was doomed when I had to witness the act and justification of an to-remain-unnamed bassist stealing a host’s sacred Beefheart LPs out of a house we were generously given to crash in after a show.

What record do you wanna steal from the discaholic website?

How do you steal an LP from a  website? But do you have any G.I.S.M?

 

Lathe cut, cassette, flexi, reel-to- reel or 8 – track… what is the best alternative to a regular vinyl release?

Lathe cuts are silly… I say I love cassettes but never/rarely listen to them any more (no car)… probably fucking CD for me actually. I still pick up tons of shit on disc. It’s true that a lot of forms of music work on this longer format including raga, which I love, and long form compositions.

Do you have a favourite tool/ knife to open your packages (eBay/ trading parcels arriving w the mail)?

I have a PROEDGE Xacto knife which has done the honors for as long as I can remember. I think I acquired that thing in college.

 

Do you have a routine / method  opening the packages – or do you just eagerly trash it all open?

I carefully slice the tape over the overlapping flaps of back/bottom of the record mailer and hold my breath nervously while I carefully try to cleanly slice the tape on the sides of the box. If I can do this without losing my agility it is very very satisfying. Next I place the mailer flat on our dining table and extract the album, nervous about any bends or dings (but those alone won’t spoil the record for me). There usually aren’t any worth fretting about (but I had one of the most discouraging vinyl mail order experiences ever lately: preordered the latest SABBATH from Warner in UK. the record arrived bent in half! I dont know how this happened as the box was totally fine. I was bummed. Sent it back and still have yet to receive a replacement or refund. Anyway…) One thing I hate is when people additionally wrap albums in bubble wrap and then put too much tape on it. Its hard to cut that open carefully. Also when the record is «protected» like this but is in a polysleeve the polysleeve gets warped or stretched…. annoying. People, please just use those cardboard corners and 30cm cardboard slugs!

Are  there any competion, vinylhuntingwise, on a tour w Sunn O)))? We understand that there are other discaholics in the group?

Or do you simply just share?

Not really too much in the way of competition but we have had some problems in Japan running in to the 70s jazz bootlegs section. Usually we are too obsessed by our own interests at the time though. Greg is a fucking discaholic but also abuses amazon prime at home to satisfy his cravings. He is obsessed with amazon and has loyalty/points accounts etc. Attila is the guy with the cheapest MP3 player you would find at a Polish airport kiosk filled with bad industrial MP3s.

Is trading records the most fun you can have with your clothes on?

Is trading records the ultimate intimacy?

Not really, probably because I want to keep everything I have… even the disappointments!

 

I used to trade with that Belgian record flipper guy Ulixes and got some great stuff (again trading for my own titles, test pressings etc)… but now I don’t like to do that, and try to resist the Faustian urge. I get jealous sometimes when my own records are then resold for a big markup. It’s a paradoxical attitude though… cannot mark up one’s own releases but would gladly trade them at record flipper value for Organum 12»s etc.

 

 

What is the first section you hit, while arriving to a vinyl shop, where you have never been before?

Wow, that’s a tough question… usually I get either attacked immediately by vertiguous obsession or confusion, depending on where I am and the size of the shop. I would say a safe bet is that I’m a sucker for tables full of «new releases» and «reissues» or possibly the recent «used» LPs from the week, etc.

Secondly?

My teenage taste leads me to «experimental» or «metal» as a distraction for a few minutes.

Thirdly?

Either whatever the «world music» / «folk» («fork») section is or contemporary/electronics.

The section where you would never look in?

 

Dance.

What is your favorite record shop in the world?

Can only answer with Nostalgia. I loved Second Time Around in Seattle in the early 90s. (but A-musik in Cologne also rules)


Why?

STA/Seattle: Young age, found so much crucial shit there, and that was a good period to haul the obscure metal releases. They also sold guitars and bongs.

 

A-Musik: my taste matches very closely to what they have and good new discoveries are always made there.

 

Favorite city for vinyl hunting?

Tokyo. There are also a lot of Japanese musicians, bands and composers I like to discover over there or track down release by when I’m there. NYC used to rule, before it started to be shit. That’s the story of that city on most topics. It’s still the greatest city.

How is Paris these days, when it comes finding good shit?

Meh. Souffle and Bimbo are fun for new stuff.

 

BUT!!! Dame Blanche is fucking great…. but expensive. That’s my fave place to bring out of town heads. As are the record fairs. I am away too often to get dialed in on the fairs/markets though… they happen often. When Whitman is in town my radar gets realigned.

 

 

Give us a list of your 5 favorite:

darkest vinyls:

ABRUPTUM first album (Anti-Mosh 004) and FUSHITSUSHA (PSF 3 / 4 and 15/16) rule this category in all aspects.

brightest vinyls:

Benjamin Britten «A Ceremony of Carols Op. 28» (ok, I only have this on CD).

Sun Ra vinyls:

I only own reissues but have hundreds of albums from torrents (sorry!)…

Most erotic album covers:

I’m totally into Annette Peacock at the moment.
There are a lot of funny erotic sleeves out there from the 60s; the «My Pussy is for Daddy»  (BEACON-305) sleeve being a prime example.

Also please find attached a recent favorite 7» sleeve by Sandro Becker. We can all relate to this cover I think.

Metal albums:

Here’s attached is a photo collage of one of the stacks instead… and the «to listen» crates and etc. I like to pose some of my fave covers and albums on the wall… nothing was changed for this photo.

Is this interview too long?

It’s definitely not too short.

 

What new gems on vinyl will see the light on Ideologic label in the future?

There is an Ai Aso LP coming out next month. She is a great songwriter from Tokyo.

We are planning on doing LPs by  PITA, Attila and NAZORANAI later this year.
Also a 7xCD box of Ákos Rózmann’s «12 Stationer». I would love to do that as a vinyl box but simply do not have anywhere near the correct resources or attentions to make that idea work successfully.

Any 7 inch ideas for the label?

No, too expensive. I also prefer the album format for many reasons the main is which the sense of attention required to mentally digest the format.

What Scandinavian vinyls are you looking for, at the moment?

You know what is silly? Colored vinyl. I used to love it, was fun to release albums on colored, but these days I prefer black… I dont care about collector value at all, just the classic black vinyl. We still use colored vinyl as a marketing tactic though, people love it. Ok some solid colors are not bad like white… also solid colors in transparents can be appropriate if the music is so luscious and sweet… that you want it to be candy.  Transparent orange is pretty nice. I like total clear vinyl too sometimes. But the absolute worst is this splatter coloring system that GZ made popular. Looks like fucking vomit after a night Robotripping or on the NyQuil or a god damned slurpee… arent musicians horrified and embarrassed to present their hard work with a barf coloured splatter LP? Disgusting.

 

I also love LP labels. Maybe you dont know this but I’ve been designing record sleeves for bands and musicians for almost 20 years now (?!)… some for the worse, and some bad ideas for sure, but also some for the best, with some accomplishments and good efforts and even a few which I am proud of. Over the years I discovered that the LP labels were often the best part of the design and also the part I enjoyed the most. These can be even more important than the sleeve since they are after all the part you watch when you put the record on the deck. They are in that way more intimately connected to the music than the sleeve (also an opinion on the color of the vinyl).

I love the polysleeves too and like to make sure that as many of the LPs are in them as possible. I have some mylar ones with the heat sealed edges for some of the more important LPs. Somehow these polysleeves clean up the collection a lot… and they create a sense of calm amongst the chaos of the collection at the same time.

 

 

Do you work with a wantlist ?

Too disorganized.

 

I just checked discogs right now and noticed that I have a want list with 98 items on it. But that’s just a matter of clicking a button and receiving reminders when said item is available… nice system.

What is highest up on that list?

It’s not organized that way… There is a THRONES cassette I have been after for a long time, on the Punk In My Vitamins label I think.

What does Fylkingen records means to you?

Intricately tied with EMS studios and the venue both of which I love to visit, hang and play at… it’s very cool there is a record store in the venue again, right next to the bar. They even have space to place your pint next to the record bins in the shop! That is very very thoughtful and humane.

What single vinyl release got you going to start play the guitar?

Maybe Melvins «Bullhead» or «Lysol».

 

 

What vinyl makes you wanna stop playing the guitar?

I get discouraged from my mediocre playing so-called «styles» on a frequent basis, often wonder why to bother. Especially when I have the miracle of finding myself not only in the same room but on stage with people like Haino or Lucier. Too close to the flame sometimes? Illuminates one’s multiple shortcomings and inefficiencies, naiveté, but on the other hand I get super excited by listening to music which sends fucking lightning into my cortex and spine… too many ideas to give up. It’s the curse of Icarus.

Who do you wanna see get interviewed in this serie of discaholic interviews?


You should contact this guy Fabio I met in the beautiful Rio De Janiero. He is doing Supernut records and the guy has 30000 LPs in a two bedroom apartment, takes visitors buyers by appointment only. Nuts. I am told he is the expert on Tropicalia in Rio but is also a metalhead and stoner rock (bad taste) fan. Found a lot of great Brazilian psych records when I visited him as well as long wanted Walter Smetak LP and a Suya indingenous music LP… and some Clementina De Jesus LPs one of which I am going to put on right now…

What record is closest to sex?

Takehisa Kosugi «Catch Wave». Also original Japanese vinyl versions of «Pangea» and «Aghartha».

Which one is no sex at all?

Manowar’s catalogue. Or maybe Megadeth is worse?