Do you have any CDs
RALF BRENDGENS (HITSVILLE RECORDS)
When the fun of collecting stops
It continues, our vinyl special: After talking to the Slowboy team that sells, sells and creates covers for records in Düsseldorf about the “black gold” in the previous issue, their colleague Ralf Brendgens is now at the Line. The 46-year-old has owned the legendary Hitsville record shop in Düsseldorf's old town since 1994, has many prominent customers with musicians from DIE TOTEN HOSEN, BROILERS and Co. - and has of course been collecting LPs and singles himself since the early 1980s. In an interview, he revealed what kind of items - as well as the point at which the fun of collecting stops for him.
Ralf, you're not just a record store owner. You're also a record collector. What records do you collect?
I have all sorts of things at home: late sixties music, psychedelic stuff, early electronics - I don't necessarily have to have originals and first presses. With punk, especially English, between 1977 and 1986 it was different. Because that is my main focus. What I collect most and what I love most.
Do you also collect CDs?
No. I have nothing to do with that. I have a few CDs that have electronic music or something on them that you wouldn't otherwise get. Or a couple of burned CDs. But otherwise: only vinyl. I just can't do anything with CDs. Vinyl - that's just a completely different appreciation.
That is of course a saying that you can hear everywhere at the moment. Can you describe this very general term “appreciation” in more detail?
With an LP you simply have something in hand. Just imagine the situation: You have four people sitting at your home and playing music to them. One asks: “What is that what we are hearing?” And now imagine that the music is optionally on your PC, on a CD or on an LP. When you have the music on the PC, you point to the screen, people take a quick look and say, “Soso. Aha. All right. ”When you have a CD, you hand it to the guest, who may pick it up, turn it around once - and play it back to you. But if you have a record, then everyone looks at it from the front in a concentrated manner, turns it around, looks at it from behind, strokes it again and maybe even pokes his nose in. So this is something completely different. Like a hardcover book. People are in awe of that.
Are you a completist?
No. You cant say it like that. First and foremost, I have to be related to a record in order to buy it. I might fill up a little label here and there in terms of their releases - or have a lot of fun collecting these early punk things. Somehow musical socialization started for me. But things that I can't do anything with, I don't have them at home, just to own some series or whatever completely.
How long have you been collecting?
Since 1981. Before that - like many others - I bought the normal pop and rock records here and there. So: chart singles, the album “Live Killers” by QUEEN and so on.
And which record was the trigger for you, the magical moment that started collecting and the passion for music?
It was, in a way, Gary Numan. I saw his song “Are friends electric?” In 1979 on “Top of the Pops”. I really wanted to have it. Then in the days after the show I went into town and found a sampler that had this piece on it. It was called “Best Of New Wave” or something like that. But there were also the UK SUBS on it - and suddenly Gary Numan was almost uninteresting. I put the record on at home, sat there and just thought: UK SUBS? Wow what is that? That's a minute and a half song that is way better than Numan! And then it started: I went back to the record store, Rock On, here in Düsseldorf, looked for more English punk bands and bought the first DISCHARGE single. And then it finally blew me away. That was the starting shot.
How many records do you currently have in your apartment?
I estimate around 12,000. So 6,000 singles and 6,000 LPs, roughly speaking. And these are all things that I really like to hear. But I also hand in records on a regular basis. You know, sometimes less is more. I'd rather sell ten records that I no longer listen to - and buy another important record for the money. I don't want to hoard without end. This creates space and makes it easier to get to the important things, haha. There is also so much to discover. Music that I don't even know. I have to keep space free for that.
In your opinion, how do you go from being a music lover to a manic collector?
That happened to me little by little. First I had a hundred records. Then I realized: Oh, there are already a thousand - and it went on. But I also had phases in which I definitely didn't feel like collecting records anymore. Again and again.
I beg your pardon?
Yes. I felt bad then. Or I just had other hobbies. And sometimes it was just too much for me. That is still the case sometimes today. That's why I no longer go to record markets, for example.
As a record store owner, you don't go to record markets?
No Haha. I can't take this adversary. This elbow mentality: standing there early in the morning so that you are the first to come in. Selling records way too dearly. Honestly, I don't feel like it anymore. I don't want to have anything to do with that anymore. That is certainly also due to my job: I have so much to do with records that it just becomes too much for me. Sometimes I'm really fed up with that.
Now, back in the eighties, there was no internet. Difficult times for collectors like you. How did you get your vinyl?
I really had to go looking. Sure, these days you have the network and with two clicks you can immediately see records that you wet yourself for months back then. And that's a curse and a blessing at the same time: a curse, because this collector's instinct has been somewhat lost due to the almost unlimited availability of records and information. A blessing, because today it is much easier to get to the things you are looking for. I used to have to order fanzines from all over the world, which was not so easy in and of itself, as many were hardly available. Based on the articles, interviews and reviews, I then picked out records that might be interesting or that just looked great - and went out and looked in record stores across the region to see which ones I could find where. In addition, there were of course the first visits to London. That was a paradise. You got records at completely different, much cheaper rates than today. And I've been to the United States several times and each time I come home with suitcases full of records. Then I also used special, expensive records.
Yes, of course. If I see something that I really want and have been looking for a long time, then I'll hit it.
Probably without blinking an eyelid.
Well, without blinking an eyelid. On the contrary: It twitches quite violently from time to time, haha.
As a record shop owner, are you also the kind of “he's his best customer” guy?
You have to be careful. That can happen. That's why I think of some music genres and areas of music in such a way that I am basically not looking for expensive originals. Then the umpteenth repression is enough for me. If you do it differently and start once, it quickly becomes an addiction and a bottomless pit. If you want to collect everything, then you can - to put it casually - push your butt against the lantern to get money for the records, haha. And who wants that.
Can you imagine situations in which you would sell your records?
Well, difficult and reluctant. Whereby ... I've already thought about whether sometime in my old age there might come a point where I would reduce it to a rough core with the records. I don't want to rule that out.
What was the most money you've spent on a record so far?
Phew ... Around 300 to 400 euros. But there are also things for which I would spend 600 euros or more. But those are also things that were important to me when I was 16 or 17 years old. Then I have this reference to. I've been looking for them for years. These are records with songs that gave me a tingling sensation back then and that still do that today.
Do you play these records too?
Sure, of course!
So you don't have two pieces of every important LP or single - one collector's copy and one to play?
No never! I think that's absurd! Of course, I wouldn't necessarily take valuable records with me when I play somewhere. I don't throw them around either. But to be honest: the record goes on the turntable and is good. If it comes with a scratch, then that's the way it is. Then I get annoyed for a moment - but that's about it.
Can you give a quota of what percentage of your customers in the store are “normal” buyers or die-hard collectors like you?
Difficult, you don't recognize many. But I would estimate: 20% of my customers are collectors.
And sometimes crazier than you?
Yes, absolutely, haha. For example, I know a customer who collects BEATLES LPs on a large scale. And all of them. In all possible pressings. He came in here before, pulled out a record, put the cover on, gave the vinyl back to me and said, “You can keep the record. I just need the case. What do you get for it? ”It gets extreme even at big concerts in the area. Then all of a sudden the records of the bands appearing are in great demand and their collectors come in here. That was the last time the ROLLING STONES played in Düsseldorf. That was incredibly terrible and bad. Suddenly I had the shop full of people who were talking about ROLLING STONES records and who were incredibly important to what they have at home: some have this or that record 15 times, the other 20 -times. And all of this happened at an extremely annoying volume so that everyone could hear it.In situations like this, I would love to put a sack over people's heads. I can't even look at it. You know, this is the kind of collector who is incredibly dry as dust and stuffy. Not that one of them would get really drunk and party. No, they miss one when they can hold up to the others what they have - and what the others do not have. At that point I'm out as a collector.
Even with vinyl, which is widespread today, in umpteen colors and editions? After all, you also make a living from selling it.
Correct. Nonetheless, that also pisses me off. This is nothing but fooling around and making money. I lose the fun. I don't need colored sheets with bows around them. All in all, I put it this way: As a collector, I'm out at the latest at the point where the self-importance begins.
In other words, you are probably not one of those collectors who occasionally check the internet to see how much their records are worth?
No. First of all, I usually know that. Second, it doesn't matter to me.
Then what does it matter?
The stories about the individual panels. I can tell you something about every single, about every LP that I own: when I bought it, where I bought it, what girlfriend I had at the time - and so on. When I pull out important records, I immediately have a feeling in the style of “Beam me up, Scotty!” My hair stands up. There is a film going on with me right away. This is precisely why these records have an ideal value that cannot be outweighed by money. Til today. Such records - like the first DISCHARGE single mentioned at the beginning - would be exactly those things that I would take with me to this much-touted lonely island. Even if they are only worth a few cents. I would leave any other 200 euro pressing for it.
What do you think of the current alleged vinyl revival?
Oh, I don't even know if this is a real revival. There have been records all along. But the major labels may now press a little more - including things that weren't released on vinyl 10 or 15 years ago. Ultimately, it's still a matter of good or bad quality.
Nowadays, labels promise quality especially with the 180-gram vinyl.
And that's exactly one of those things: It's not always excellent and doesn't automatically mean that you will get a good record. Some 180 gram records are a disaster. Some of these were produced for publication on CD and only quickly pressed onto vinyl. This is a wall of sound that is no fun. You shouldn't forget: in the past, music was recorded explicitly for vinyl in the studios. That sounds great, in contrast to today. Sometimes I take the trouble out of curiosity and switch back and forth between vinyl and CD. That is sometimes frightening. This happens quite often with records from modern indie bands. The things from before sound much, much better. And I just have to come back to something completely different that affects me as a collector ...
I learned something very important and very right the other day. Namely, what a good system can do. I had never really thought seriously about it before. So I spoke to a customer who told me what unique and excellent amplifiers were built in the late 1970s and early 1980s. They are not at all comparable with today's electronic products because they are much better and designed for vinyl sound. I then did some research, bought a used amplifier and a couple of speakers for just under 150 euros - and when I heard a record about it for the first time at home, I just sat there and thought: Damn it! What's this? Why did you settle for so much less for so long? That was a real enlightenment in the late collector's age, haha.
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