Record Store Inquiry: Wombleton Records

Wombleton Records | by Nathan Solis
Wombleton Records | by Nathan Solis

Boutique vinyl shop is an accurate descriptor of Wombleton Records. They’re not tossing doilies or serving tea, but the amount of care that goes into the shop’s selection is a bit daunting. Owner Ian Marshall and wife Jade Gordon have themselves a specialty shop, in which they curate their selection, they comb the mane to a certain direction and if you don’t like it well they hope you’ll come back.

Wombleton’s shop has a plethora of rare, used vinyl, and in some instances the pattern can be found, someone else’s collection was up for grabs and Marshall snatched them up, a rare occurrence in nature as a collector abandons a genre and dumps their vinyl crates.

Most of my purchases at Wombleton’s occur in stages of ‘Wow, I remember this’ to ‘Will I ever see this again if I let it go today?’

Portishead, Miles Davis, George Harrison and a Bob Newhart comedy album were all procured at Wombleton’s, making for interesting conversation when checking out at the register.

It’s not rocket science, but the passion in Marshall’s words makes you think twice about vinyl stacks.

What does it mean to you to sell records?

It’s awkward, because I’m not crazy about the selling part. Hanging out in the shop, chit-chatting, not for me. But I like buying records, I love the records themselves and I’m proud of the selection we put out in the racks at Wombleton. I think we’re filling a void in the market; bringing stuff over from England and Europe. There were not enough originals around to supply the demand which is one of the reasons why I started the shop. I would amble around the local shops looking for something I wanted to buy, money burning a hole in my pocket and would end up seeing the same tired old titles everywhere. It was really hard work and kinda frustrating finding something interesting; which I think is the reason why so many had flocked to ebay for the bulk of their purchasing. It was like the shops were out of step with what their customers were looking for. We’ve tried to fix that a bit and bring back the excitement of seeing something different, unusual, rare or really desirable when you’re flipping through the bins.

Your last job?

I still have it. My primary job is that I’m am an agent for old television footage. Music performance footage primarily. I license it in small increments to new productions. Music-oriented documentaries on the BBC and that sort of thing and shows like Biography or Unsung. The owning a record store thing is a sideline, because I was spending a bunch of my free time on it as a hobby for thirty-some years it was time to “go pro”.

Marshall
Marshall

Some people say that records made a comeback recently, others would argue that they never really left. How do you see it?

For used records, I see it as they never really left. They couldn’t leave. There were billions upon billions manufactured between 1950 and 1993 or so, cluttering up attics and basements and old shops. During the “lost years” there still was always a die-hard culture of collectors who wanted vinyl, myself included and lots of my friends. And in regard to dance music and DJ culture, even new vinyl never ever left. I mean 12″ singles- that has been a constant thing since disco right up until today. People forget that somehow. It was hugely popular the whole time, the 90s & 2000s included. Maybe not with wedding DJs, though; they did go all CD mixer! Those years that major record companies stopped producing LPs for their mainstream artists, roughly 1994 through 2006 or something. That’s when the pricing peaked on a lot collectible vinyl like Northern Soul and all of that. In a way it was bigger than ever in that pocket.

What does your personal collection look like?

It’s huge and random, less fancy than the stuff at Wombleton. With lots of novelty music, 80’s teen movie soundtracks, comedy LPs, Huey Lewis grade-dollar bin stuff and classical mixed in with all that; Go-Betweens, Smiths, Joy Division and Krautrock type stuff we specialize in at Wombleton. I also like 45s a lot, and have 25,000 of those. I probably lean more toward 1960s & 70s in my personal collection whereas Wombleton is known for 80s/90s for the most part.

Rarest or most prized record?

I’m sure I’ve sold it off. I treasure the crud, the mixed up junk. Alexi Sayle LPs, obscure Jonathan King productions, scratchy Jamaican rocksteady 45s, off-brand unknown poppy UK new wave singles… That’s me!

What makes your shop unique?

Other than the wallpaper and lack of records and posters being plastered all over the place, it’s that the bins are chock full of stuff we’ve flown in from other countries. We carry multiples of original press UK post-punk, britpop, reggae, prog, European glam & cosmic disco records that you very rarely see at any other shops in LA (or America for that matter). And we keep that stuff coming in by the thousands on a regular basis. It’s not just a few choice things here and there. It may be overkill but it’s unlike the inventory of any other store. People from all over have come in and recognized us for this fact and spent a lot of money and to others it just looks expensive and esoteric and they leave empty handed. We’re not for everybody and we don’t want to be. And there’s fifty other stores around LA, many of which specialize in other areas and do a much better job than us in a given area. Gimme Gimme down the street is a much-better all-purpose used record shop; quick turnover, lots of new stuff, a great selection in all genres. Mount Analog is great for all the lastest and greatest, limited and hard-to-find new releases.And I’m where you go if you want an original by The Fall, TV Personalities, Desperate Bicycles, My Bloody Valentine or Pulp or a pricey Nick Drake record or something.

What is your background in music and how do you think it helps in the record selling business?

It’s been a lifelong obsession of mine, I’ve been spending all of my pocket money on records since I was 5 years old. Then through the ensuing years I worked at record stores, played in bands and DJ’d and eventually wound up in the archival music footage business. I regularly shop for records all over the world and I know what’s out there and where to get it and how much it’s worth. People may knock our price tag on a copy of say, a Neu record or something, but I’ve been all over Europe and have seen what they go for on the international scene at ten shops and five record fairs; really recent up to the minute info. If you think you can just walk into a German charity shop and grab Neu 2 for five euros or something, you’re wrong. I’ve got to struggle and work to get these records at a price with room for some profit. And you can check around at Utrecht or shops in places like London or Tokyo and see a lot of the stuff we carry for double the price. I get my costs down by making quantity deals, buying in bulk. I’m not sitting behind the counter at Wombleton with a Quinzo’s sub waiting for people to show up with tatty Jethro Tull LPs. I’m out there flying around, hustling and negotiating, risking my money, investing my time to get those nice records together in our bins so people can have a safe harbor from the likes of Pablo Cruise at Wombleton.

Could you recommend an album that needs to be listened to on vinyl?

I’m not a big proponent of the “it sounds better on vinyl” theorem, I honestly can’t hear the difference myself; people who go on and on about that are delusional. I like records for the prominent artwork & the textural, hands-on appeal. But, yes, there is an LP that comes to mind. I’d recommend that “closet mix” of the third Velvet Underground album which was accidentally pressed on a lot of early UK copies of the record. I try to bring a few back on each of my trips. It sounds a little more rockin’ and rough hewn and it’s really not that expensive (yet). Anything on vinyl, played loud on a system with not-tiny speakers with a beer in hand is heaven for me. If you’re going to have some tiny Bose system or a light plastic turntable designed for making MP3s, you’d be better off with an ipod, probably.

Now some record labels include a free digital download with their LPs. Do you think this defeats the purpose of selling a physical copy?

No, because the digital copy is intangible. For me it’s akin to radio play. It’s out in the airwaves and it doesn’t exist and you don’t “own” anything. Can you sell your copy of the MP3? Not legally, no. So you don’t own it. People like me, who want to own things, will want the physical copy and the MP3 thing is a handy bonus for the car or listening on a computer in the background while you’re working or something. But back in the 1980s when Billy Idol was on the radio every five minutes I could have been happy just flipping the dial and hearing “Rebel Yell” whenever I wanted for free, but I wasn’t happy with that. I wanted to own it and I bought a copy. That’s how it works for me and many others, I’m sure. People who exist on electronic devices alone will wake up one day wondering where all of their family photos and letters and cards and collections of music, etc. have gone. They’ll be in some dead, outmoded computer and they will have nothing. And sure, most of that stuff is just clutter and junk that we collected over the years and it weighs us down, but on the other hand the computer-y approach is sterile and boring and cold for people like me. Many people today are living in some futuristic nightmare! Your computer owns all of your stuff, you pay computer companies to lease back your memories! Yikes!

Will cassette tapes ever see a rise in popularity?

They’re back already. It’s great for young people in LA with their crappy 80s used cars. And there are many new tape-only indie labels happening, and people making mix tapes again and all of that. Burger Records has sort of made their name doing limited releases and reissues on cassette. For me there’s not much money in selling used cassettes, unless you’re dealing in ultra-obscure DIY originals and some C86 stuff that was only released on cassette initially and that sort of thing. I buy a smattering of cassettes abroad for the shop of the sort of titles we specialize in, like Blur or the Cocteau Twins or whatever just for variety’s sake and to cater to the growing tapehead lobby that’s sprung up.

Wombleton Records: Facebook, Blog, Twitter
5123 York Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90042
(213) 422-0069
Genres: Krautrock, 80’s, 70s, some obscure European LPs, Bob Newhart comedy album

Record Shop Inquiry: Mount Analog

Inside!
Inside!

Counterculture peers out from storefronts in my neighborhood in the form of working class businesses. Art and culture are the norm now and it’s a bit startling, though still taking its baby steps, but certainly growing.

At Mount Analog things go down, sounds emanate from its storefront.

Satanic literature litters a table, while a slew of niche soundscape, dark wave, glitch, noise and trap albums breathe out their colorful, sticky sounds onto Figueroa Street. Every visit to Mount Analog is not a search for the familiar, but a discovery of something new. Sure, it’s uncomfortable walking in with a few bucks in pocket, starring at album covers, wondering what exactly this will sound like. There’s a listening station, there are employees on hand, everything is working in the customer’s favor. I suppose that’s part of the metaphor of climbing a mountain. Philosophize all you want, it’s a record shop with a niche appeal. But they’ve sanded down all the rough edges, presenting a bazaar of sound oscillators, old VHS tapes, handfuls of out of print books or new NEW cassettes.

Mount Analog is going to get the typical comments of being weird for the sake of weird. I get it. People want to point at the strange new shop. Across the street is my dry cleaners. Life goes on.

Other times I step into Mount Analog I’m in awe of what I find and wonder why my life isn’t filled with more dark folk sounds, long, drawn out notes filling my home with its black licorice appeal.

Zane Landreth and company have themselves a boutique that’s as important as the neighborhood botanica. It’s all mystical until we ask “What’s this?”

Here’s Landreth with the 411.

What does it mean to you to sell records?

I sell records because I want to share great music with people, and turn them on to new things!

Your last job?

I work in music management, which i still do in addition to running Mount Analog.

Some people say that records made a comeback recently, others would argue that they never really left. How do you see it?

I think that for some it has made a comeback, we have customers who are just getting into collecting vinyl. We have others who have been lifelong collectors. Personally, I never stopped buying vinyl.

What does your personal collection look like?

My personal record collection has gone through ups and downs, I have gone through massive hoarding stages where I wanted every good record ever, and other times where I get rid of the things that I don’t listen to, and only keep the essentials. Right now my personal collection is in the middle. But I also cheat and count the shop as my personal collection, because I’m here more than I’m home!

Rarest or most prized record?

I’m rather fond of my Psychic TV collection which includes some pretty special pieces…some pretty rare ones too.

Zane Landreth
Zane Landreth

What makes your shop unique?

I think that the curation of the shop is what sets us apart, every record, book, movie anything in the store is in here for a reason, to help tell a story, to help paint a picture. We are quite passionate about what we do and the products we sell, and we believe in all of them, and even like most of them!

What is your background in music and how do you think it helps in the record selling business?

I come from a touring background where I was a sound engineer and tour manager, after that I moved over into just plain management, I also throw parties, shows and events. I think that all of this has given me a pretty good perspective on what people are interested in, it has helped show me that there is indeed a market for all of the weirder stuff that we carry in the shop, and that way I know that someone else besides me will be interested in it.

Could you recommend an album that needs to be listened to on vinyl?

As opposed to digitally? or just an album that needs to be listened to in general? I think that people should listen to Flaming Tunes by Gareth Williams and Marie Curie. It was released for the first time ever on vinyl last year by Blackest Ever Black, and it is a bedroom pop masterpiece. I think that the lo-fi warmth of the recording comes across perfectly on vinyl. But it’s such a great record (and it’s out of print) that I would encourage anyone to check it out no matter what format they can!

Now some record labels include a free digital download with their LPs. Do you think this defeats the purpose of selling a physical copy?

No not at all, you can’t listen to a record in your car, you can’t go on a jog with a record. I think that the beauty of records is the ritual that goes along with listening to a record, to playing a record, the seat you sit in, the act of putting it on, the size of the sleeve, how your collection looks all lined against the wall. I think records are a beautiful thing, they sound great, they look great, and they are fun!

Will cassette tapes ever see a rise in popularity?

Cassette tapes HAVE seen a rise in popularity! We have released 6 different cassettes and there is even a cassette store day now!

Mount Analog: Twitter, Facebook, Blog
Address: 5906 1/2 N Figueroa St, Los Angeles, CA 90042
Phone:(323) 474-6649

Record Store Inquiry: Origami Vinyl

Outside Origami
Outside Origami Vinyl in Echo Park | Photos by Nathan Solis

Origami Vinyl, in its narrow slot on Sunset Boulevard, uses all available space to its advantage. Records flank from all sides, origami cranes hang from the ceiling and up those steep steps sits the loft.

The shop’s one and half story setup was nonexistent when they moved in says Origami Vinyl’s proprietor Neil Schield. Providing a stage was a real magic trick says Schield. Either they built one on the ground or up on top. Fortunately for all of us bands play from the second story, thus proving that Origami Vinyl elevates music.

With my last visit Schield convinced me that China’s P.K. 14 is putting out some solid post-punk material. The whole continent might not be putting out music of this calibre, but it’s comforting to know that the Fugazi wave has crashed into that part of the world.

Like most vinyl shops I have to contain myself from spending all my money. But, and this a big butt, Origami Vinyl curate a specific selection of both local, hardcore, shoe gaze, and probably everything that was written on a high school notebook in the 1990’s. That curation means that Origami Vinyl aims for quality and not quantity. I’m not going to find Astrud Gilberto, but I will be able to support local bands like Dunes, Roses, Deap Valley and plenty of local labels. Here are the deets from Neil.

Neil Schield
Neil Schield

What does it mean to you to sell records for a living?

It’s a dream come true! Something I’ve been wanting to do since I was 17 years old. I feel like the luckiest guy in the world

Your last job?

My last job was the head of mobile business development for IODA, which at the time was the largest digital distributor of independent record labels.

Some people say that records made a comeback recently, others would argue that they never really left. How do you see it?

I see it both ways. For us that are old enough it has always been a part of our lifestyle. For the younger generation its discovering an entirely new medium and hearing music differently than what they had been accustomed too.
What does your personal collection look like?

Its small by collectors standards. About 3000 records. I am constantly weeding out things I don’t listen too. I’m not a completist or collector. I’m more of an enthusiast. I don’t care if a record is worth hundred of dollars, I’ll DJ the crap out of it. For me it’s meant to be listened to, not sit on my shelf. From a genre standpoint I have lots of pre wwII blues LPs, late 70’s post-punk, mid to late 70’s LA punk records, 80’s Synth and New Wave, 90’s hardcore, post-hardcore, grunge stuff, and modern everything. There’s a little of classic rock, jazz, weirdo stuff all mixed in too. I can be all over the place really.
Rarest or most prized record?

My newest prize is my Yuzo Kayama LP. Sweet 60’s Japanese Surf Garage Rock.
What makes your shop unique?

That’s hard for me to answer. It’s an extension of myself and all the people who work here. We’re all friendly, easy-going, ambitious people. We host a bunch of free in-store performances, boast a huge local band section, are very involved in our Echo Park community, and take pride in our curated stock. Oh and we have a shop dog named Ali, that is pretty famous these days and love giving people high-fives!
What is your background in music and how do you think it helps in the record selling business?

It starts with my parents taking me to concerts and playing records for me at a young age. When I was a little older my mom would take me record shopping and that became one of my favorite things to do. In my teenage years through college years I played in bands and went to tons of shows. Once out of college I started to throw my own shows, became a booking agent, then jumped in to the label world. Music is in my blood, it’s all I’ve ever known or done for a living. I think those experiences have allowed me to put this all together to make a cool, fun, and different type of record store than what many are used to.
Could you recommend an album that needs to be listened to on vinyl?

One of the best sounding records from the modern era has got to be Beck’s “Sea Change”
Now some record labels include a free digital download with their LPs. Do you think this defeats the purpose of selling a physical copy?

No I think that is a huge reason why vinyl has enjoyed an overwhelming resurgence.
Will cassette tapes ever see a rise in popularity?

I don’t think so. They’re totally fun and economical. I’m just not so sure they have the long term appeal as an LP does. We’ll see though…

Origami Vinyl: Blog, Facebook, Twitter, Online Store
Address: 1816 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90026
Phone:(213) 413-3030