The creator of Elka the inquisitive cat, movie buff, record connoisseur and all-round good guy Emmet O'Brien is the next egg to fry beneath the scathing record store day interview spotlight...
When not writing scripts, making movies, envisioning children's books (check out The Moon Fox), there's a good chance Emmet O'Brien is out buying records, browsing through the undusted shelves in search of a good pun - - or at the very least he's talking music with whoever's close enough to listen. I check in with Mr. O'Brien as part of the 'vinyl countdown' to Record Store Day 2013.
Emmet: Not to turn my back on my local brethren 'cause Ireland has some pretty sweet record stores of its own but my favourite is located in Toronto or "Toronno" as the locals call it. It's called Sonic Boom, it's featured in the Scott Pilgrim film and it's where I found a plethora of great stuff. My visit beefed up my Mountain Goats collection and it's where I got my cherished Guided By Voices Vampire on Titus t-shirt. Why it's special to me is that I was visiting my brother over there, he lives outside the city and now whatever music I bought at that time is tied into that lovely trip. It's when I met my nephew properly for the first time so that's a pretty special reason. Ha is it Sonic Boom or Saccharine Boom or what I hear you ask!
What do you get from local independent record stores besides the obvious?
I bet this is the answer everyone gives but some thing's just can't be talked around, it's the browsing. It's the tactility. It's about finding something unexpected. I have this habit of having certain artists that I always automatically check but being the completist I am, it's usually fruitless.
One time a few years ago, I was idly checking the REM section and I noticed a version of Dead Letter Office that had a white border, instead of a black one so I was intrigued. I turned it over to discover it was a special German release and it had two bonus tracks, including a live version of an early song, 'All the Right Friends'. It was a nice surprise and I'm sure it's something you could have picked up on-line but there's no magic or discovery to that. So it falls rather flat.
What is the last record you bought?
It's been out a while but I caught up on the latest GBV album The Bears for Lunch and I also managed to track down an early Marbles record, Pyramid Landing (And Other Favourites), the Elephant 6 enthusiast was happy with that one. I plan on picking up Daughter of Cloud, the new Of Montreal rarities record but the recent trajectory of that band has turned me off a bit. If we're talking on-line The David Nelligan Thing's new album [Dark Matters] is worth paying for, after you've streamed it here of course!
How has a record store benefitted your life/current job etc.?
Hugely beneficial in many aspects of my life and employment. I used to review albums for a few broadsheets and gigs for websites and I'm a DJ so a place like Plugd has been incredibly helpful. Also getting to chat about music is important. I'm very much of the philosophy that you share a passion like that, rather than hording it for some weird "exclusive club" vibe. So record stores anchor my love of music and keeps it vital.
Do you visit record stores when you head off on holiday? What is the weirdest (or simply most original) record store that you have ever visited?
As I said there was Sonic Boom Toronto but one of the things I really enjoy is visiting record shops when anywhere new. As for weirdest I remember a very eclectic store in Copenhagen where very rare bootlegs of obscure stuff sat comfortably next to the Now series. I saw NOW 5 and whatever system they were adhering to in that shop, it sure wasn't the alphabet!
What would you say to a young music lover who has never visited a record store before?
Take chances sometimes. Sometimes I take chances on records based on aesthetics or interesting names and I've been burned but it has also reaped great rewards. It's harder to be totally ignorant these days, most people can check things up on their phone or get a feeling for what a record could be. But I'd rather risk failure when trying something new.
Oh and another piece of quick advice. Influences may not translate to affection.What I mean by that is that there have been so many times I've heard an artist I admire express that some other act is or was an influence and it's easy to be naive and think to yourself "If I like X and they like Y, SURELY I'll like Y" and that is very often not the case and that's fine. It doesn't mean anything about the band or artist you love and you don't have to force yourself to like stuff out of respect or uncertainty. I think that's important for younger fans to know!
Describe your last record shopping trip.
It was probably heading into Plugd and chatting to folk. I eyed up a Velvet Underground singles vinyl boxset. I think I flirt with buying that every time I head in. Severin says "not yet" though...
What record store rituals do you have if any?
Well if I'm bored and just idly browsing I play a little internal game with the bands based on word play and the like. Those who know me know that I enjoy that sort of thing, making up fictional biographies for people based on puns, so I try and combine bands in my head for interesting combinations. So for example, "Talking Radioheads" and their album would be "Stop Making Bends" or "Young Marble They Might Be Giants" and their seminal release "Colossal Flood". Silly things like that. Does that count as a ritual or is it a really lame thing? Hmmmm...
What does Record Store Day mean for you?
It's nice because there's a buzz around it and we all know that with the rise of the internet (I know this is in writing but indulge me a cantankerous old man tone here) we need to support physical copies of things as artefacts. Mp3s don't have liner notes and they don't get dusty and dusty liner notes are like my favourite thing!
April 20th 2013 will be the sixth annual record store day. Any fond memories from previous Record Store Days that you would like to share?
Well last year I got a pink tape. Not a euphemism, it was a release by When Good Pets Go Bad and even though I'm not an advocate for this return to cassettes as much as others are, I did love supporting my friends and feeling like they had just made me a special (if brief) mix tape. The ol' sweethearts that they are.
Have you got eyes for any special RSD releases this year?
Ha, the Bob Dylan 'Wigwam' vinyl! I'm a Dylan die-hard and this attempt to use nostalgia and appreciation of an old format to rehabilitate an utterly forgettable Self Portrait cut makes me laugh. I won't get it obviously, due to limited copies and availability issues but the idea of it tickles me. The album should be renamed Self-Deceit'.
If you owned a record store, what would you name it?
I always did want a Dylan themed store called 'For a Few Bob More' but let's see:
- Sounds, Like (for the Cork folk)
- In for a Penny, in for a Sound
- Bass-ic Desires
- Ok Consumer
- Needle and the Percentage Done
See the above shop names for reasons why I'd be terrible! My constant quipping might affect shipping! Otherwise I think I'd make a good record store owner for the social side, I have an interest and I'm eager to explore new sounds etc. As a businessman though, I would fall down, that is not my forte at all!
For more on The Moon Fox visit:
- Record Store Day takes place across thousands of independent record stores on Saturday, 20th April
- For further Record Store Day content click here
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