Our latest book in the Attack Magazine online store is ‘Around the World in 80 Record Stores’. We caught up with the author, Marcus Barnes, to find out more.
Attack: Simple question to kick things off, what made you decide to make the book?
Marcus: I guess it was mainly inspired by working in an industry that is still very much centred around records; digging for them, playing them to packed clubs, talking about them, producing them… so many of the DJs I have interviewed and hung out with are big supporters of vinyl, so that was the initial trigger. On a wider scale, of course we all know vinyl sales have been creeping back up and I thought it would be interesting to showcase a range of shops worldwide that have become cultural hubs thanks to their love for music, many of whom have survived the decline in vinyl sales and stayed true to music in its physical form.
What was the most surprising thing you learned in the process?
That there are a hell of a lot of shops still out there selling records! Honestly, when you start asking people about their favourite shops you end up with tons and tons of suggestions. Lots have disappeared but there are many still representing vinyl. I’d say it was also surprising to learn that there are no more vinyl pressing plants in the whole of India and that all physical versions of Bollywood soundtracks are actually manufactured overseas. Crazy considering it’s such a big place, you’d think there’d be at least one left…
What was the most challenging aspect of completing it?
Finding the time! But I also struggled a bit to try to be fair and balanced in my selection. Even though 80 is a large number to play with, there really were so many great shops I couldn’t include for one reason or another.
Surely there were more than 80 stores around the world? What helped a store make the cut?
Well, yeah as I said, there are loads! Sometimes it was something as simple as being a new shop on the map. It was important that there was balance throughout the book: prominent shops, lesser-known ones, smaller ones, megastores, shops off the beaten path, specialists, generalists… all of them were important in their own way. I wanted the book to appeal to a wide cross-section of people from entry-level vinyl lovers to purists.
Which one is the quirkiest?
Definitely Casarao Do Vinil in Brazil. It’s a vintage mansion full of records, with much of the original interior still intact; pink walls, chandeliers, old paintings… they have six dogs running around and a crazy selection of reclaimed and donated records from all over.
You mention your mum in the acknowledgements, is she a record collector?
She was yeah, sadly she got rid of all her records a long time ago before I would have cared. I’m a child of reggae, my mum loved the music and my dad was part of a sound system. I remember the Greensleeves artwork vividly from my childhood. She didn’t have loads of records, it was more tapes, but I definitely remember those old record sleeves and her bass-heavy hi-fi system with big old wooden speakers booming out the reggae vibes.
How’s your own record collection looking?
Pretty good actually; a few years I didn’t own a single piece of vinyl. I never DJ’d and I didn’t have a record player – I just listened to stuff online and on CDs. When I started learning how to beatmatch I realised that the only way to learn properly was on vinyl; it’s fundamental for anyone who calls themselves a DJ to at least be able to handle vinyl. Once I got the taste there was no looking back; I bought a record player for my partner in crime a few years ago and now we’re always adding new music to our collection. The latest stuff I got was on a trip to Kiev, from my mate Vlad – while my other half got gifted some new releases from Caroline International (the music distribution service).
Any other books in the pipeline?
Yeah, a few ideas are coming to fruition; I’ve always wanted to co-write a biography and that came my way over the summer, also in Kiev. So I’m now working on an autobiography for a prominent music industry head. On top of that I’m working on a couple more projects that should see the light of the day in the next year or so.
Your favourite turntable of all time and why?
Without question, it’s the Technics 1210. It’s ubiquitous for a reason; a classic in terms of design, functionality, affordability and performance. Probably a very predictable answer but I reckon 99% of the people reading this will agree with me.
You’ve been a busy man with your own battles with Keep the Faith. How did you find the time and focus to get this over the line?
Ever since that whole debacle, I think I’ve generally been more focused and grateful for the life I have. I could’ve gone to jail if the verdict hadn’t have gone my way, so I always remind myself how lucky I am to be here and doing what I do. Practically speaking, I simply said no to any work proposals for a couple of months and minimised my workload, keeping myself afloat with my retainers and giving as much time as I could to the book. Most days I was up at 5.30am; cold shower, meditate for an hour, healthy breakfast and cracking on with the project.
Where do you sit on the vinyl resurgence? Is it an encouraging resurgence for dance music or a bit more complicated than that?
More people than ever are DJing, that’s a fact. There’s that funny cartoon lampooning the future where someone’s dying and the person trying to save them is asking for a doctor but everyone around them is a DJ. It’s not that bad yet, but there are a lot of people getting into it and going out to buy records. DJ culture has certainly fuelled the rise in vinyl sales and dance music is obviously flourishing at the moment, so there’s a correlation for sure. I do think it’s more complicated though; and deeper – the old cliché about people wanting to own something physical rings very true. Vinyl offers a more personal, organic connection to music.
Tapes too are having a resurgence. What do you think?
I’ve got a collection of over 300 tapes, mostly recorded from radio between 1995 to around 2004, so I’m all for it. Tapes were my big love when I was a kid; I couldn’t afford vinyl. I became a whizz at fixing them using a tiny screwdriver and slivers of Sellotape. I’d stay up all night long so I could record Fabio & Grooverider on Kiss FM on Fridays, then later on Radio 1 – their two-hour show didn’t fit on a D90 obviously, so I’d have to stay awake to make sure I could catch the whole thing every week.
Give us a few tips for starting a record collection.
Sometimes it can be as simple as just asking people to buy you a couple of records as a gift for a special occasion. They don’t have to be expensive either, you’ll get some brilliant bargains in charity shops if you’re up for a good rummage. Some people like to go out with a target list to keep their digging mission-focused, but I like to have a chilled day of it and just see what comes up. Depends on how you’re feeling really. Most important is to get yourself out there in the first place and start rifling through what’s on the shelves, then you’ll get a taste for it, gradually refine your approach and work out what suits you best…
Recommend us 3 records any serious collector should have.
Tough one, I don’t want to try and be ‘cool’. Loads of people will disagree with my choices but here we go:
‘Around the World in 80 Record Stores’ is out now and available at the Attack online store priced at £9.99.