Record Collectors

Record Collector: Josh Scott (Radiation Blackbody, Defeatist, Otis, Anodyne, Castevet)

Josh Scott is a record collector currently residing in Brooklyn, NY with his wife and cats. I've known Josh for a long time going back to when our band's played shows together in the late '90s and short-lived musical projects we've both played in.

One thing Josh and I always do is talk records and collecting as he has quite an impressive collection. Josh has also played bass in the following bands: Loga, Crash Activated, The Last of Crawling Chaos, Verticalson, Otis, NineNine, Anodyne, Disnihil, Castevet, and Defeatist.

He's currently thrashing it out in the hammering two-piece: Radiation Blackbody.

How did you get into collecting records?

Somewhat grudgingly, because my teenage impression of record collectors was as humorless turds obsessed with Beatles minutiae and butcher covers. But I loved going to record stores and discovering new music, so it was really just a matter of being a music fanatic with an archivist brain and a bent for completism.

The reality is I love music and want to have it readily available for listening or playing for friends, and in a pre-digital age, buying records (and taping records) was the only way.

Having friends who collected records and working at a couple of record stores in the ‘90s also helped.

From Josh Scott's music collection

What was the first record you bought with your own money?

My first records were kid records like Winnie the Pooh’s Blustery Day, Star Wars, and Great Ghost Stories. For my 10th birthday, my dad took me to Radio Shack and said I could have any two records I wanted. I chose Joan Jett & the Blackhearts’ I Love Rock & Roll and J Geils Band Freeze Frame (both contained giant radio hits).

The clerk at Radio Shack must have seen my dad coming, because he explained to him at great length that vinyl was dying, and the future was all 8-track. This guy really sold him, and I left there with two brand new 8-track tapes. Which are probably still in a box in Maine.

The first record I bought with my own cash was Foreigner 4, later that same year. Not the coolest record, but as a radio-addicted kid, I thought it was great. It’s not great.

A few years later, I taped the Sex Pistols record and Hüsker Dü’s Flip Your Wig from my cousin. It was how I got into punk.

True story of the first time I remember hearing about punk: I was listening to my J Geils 8-track and the song "Insane, Insane Again" came on. My babysitter groaned a disgusted "ugh" followed by a derisive "PUNK." I asked what she meant, and she said the song was an example of punk music and it was gross and for gross people. I wanted to be a gross person (success!). I’m going to find that song and listen to it now.

Follow-up: It’s a terrible keyboard-driven funk-adjacent song with no discernable link to punk other than the word "insane" and occasional Peter Wolf shouting. 

I continued taping records from my cousin, including the mighty International P.E.A.C.E. Benefit Compilation, which blew my 15-year-old rural town mind with the diversity and global reach of punk.

The first two punk records I bought were Punk & Disorderly, which was mainly a ’77-punk compilation, but had Dead Kennedys and a bunch of great songs I still love. The other was Sid Vicious’ Sid Sings, because I knew who he was from the Sex Pistols. I later loaned that record to a friend who let it warp in his car, then tried to unwarp it by melting over a lightbulb.

From there it was over, making lists of bands, hanging out a record stores, taping everything I could, and buying records when I had the cash. Eventually, through the process of accretion, it seems I became a record collector.

From Josh Scott's music collection

What is your collecting philosophy? What do you collect and why?

My collecting philosophy is simple to the point of being stupid: I only buy records I like and want to listen to repeatedly. The few times I tried to speculate were utter failures. As an example, I found a stack of super cheap Probot 7 inches at Virgin in Times Square.

I figured between the lineup and the embossed Away art that they would eventually be worth something, and bought three or four copies for like $10, even though I didn’t enjoy the music. I think they are worth even less today, and they sit unplayed in a cardboard box.

I continue to buy new records all the time, or work on filling gaps. I buy vinyl if it’s available, and cassette if it’s the only format (e.g., noise or grind). I generally don’t buy CDs, aside from Japanese hardcore discographies.

When I buy older records, I will try to hold out for a first press or special version, unless they’re prohibitively expensive. I only buy complete copies, and will pass on records that are lacking inserts or inner sleeves. I will buy reissues of things I know I’ll never own, or sometimes if they’ve added extra songs. Depending on the band that can be a gamble. 

I always try to keep in mind records friends are looking for and will buy them when I see them. I appreciate that a few friends return that courtesy. I mostly just want people, including myself, stoked and listening to good music. Your definition of good may vary.

Where do you find your records for the most part?

Going to record stores is my favorite thing, but the past year has obviously not been great for that. And in general, most things are sold out before they even reach a store, so I’ll just order directly from the label or the band.

Lately I’ve been ordering from Nerve Altar, P2, Blast Addict, Malokul, and Anthems of the Undesirable. Since they are also distros, it’s an excellent way to find several things at once.

For local stores I spend most of my time at Material World. Adam always has something good on the wall and in the bins, new NY punk demos, and his Bitter Lake stuff. Generation is cool, though I barely make it to that side of town lately. I do like seeing Ron [Grimaldi] there.

Otherwise, touring was always the best way to find things because every town had different stock, things I would never find in NYC or Boston. I would compile lists of record stores and addresses for each town we played in and try visit as many as we could before load-in. Double Decker, My Mind’s Eye in Cleveland, both Armageddons, Vinyl Conflict, and the hundreds of small nameless record stores that dotted the American (and European) landscape.

My most vivid memories of touring are usually the stores and records I bought, even more than the shows themselves.

I will occasionally use Discogs for older things I don’t think I’ll ever find in the wild, like the Revök tape or Japanese Strawberry Switchblade records, or if something weird and cheap shows up. There’s a guy with the same name as me who put out a couple of LPs in the 1980s that I want to get, but they go for $50+ and I don’t have any idea what they sound like. Without Discogs I’d have no idea these existed. I haven’t used eBay since 2004 or ‘05.

We all have one record that we sold that we completely regret, what is yours?

I’ve gone through a few purges where I sold off a lot of dead weight. I can’t really think of anything I sold that I’m too upset about, since I’m such a hoarder for records I like. Back in the ‘90s I gave a roommate a stack of original Death in June records, a band I don’t like. I vaguely regret it now only because if I’d saved them, I could have given them to my wife. But he was stoked, so no real regret.

I do regret not saving a copy of the Anodyne Summer 2004 Tour record covers I screened. I liked the design, there were only 25 copies, and I try to keep a copy of every weird version I make of things. 

What I regret the most are all the records I passed on. Coil’s Scatology with the postcard at Kim’s in the mid-’90s for $14. It was the end of my visit and I didn’t have any money left. A $20 GG Allin record somewhere in Oklahoma. A stack of old punk records that had just arrived at In Your Ear, like Fang, MDC, Agnostic Front, Big Boys, etc., along with the first four Metallica records for $10 each. Endless records I can think of that I skipped for lack of money or time, or sheer stupidity. Those are the ones that haunt me, more than anything I sold.

From Josh Scott's music collection

What do think about the values of rare punk records skyrocketing? Do you think the bubble will burst?

Everything is available online, and most things in physical form as reissues or collected discographies, so the music itself is accessible, which is the important thing. The higher priced classic punk collectibles like early Dischord, Killed by Death, and Misfits 7 inches, those have moved into the realm of objects; the prices are insane, but they’re like rare art or artifacts.

To see the wild increase in price of garbage records based no discernable merit, is a joke. I can’t imagine the bubble will last much longer. But the classics will continue to increase. Which I don’t have a problem with since the music is still available otherwise.

I remember being a teenager and visiting Kids Will Have to Pay [laughs], I mean Kids Will Have Their Say, and seeing Misfits and other rare shit behind the counter. Marveling at the fact someone might pay $700 for a 7 inch. A few years later separate people connected to that store told me a few of those were boots being sold as originals.

From Josh Scott's music collection

What’s the most you ever shelled out for a record?

It’s funny, because the most I ever spent on a record wasn’t even for me, it was a birthday present for my wife. 

The first expensive record I bought was an unplayed copy of Big Black’s Headache EP in the body bag, with 7 inch and all inserts. I already owned the normal 12 inch version and the Heartbeat 7 inch separately, so I wasn’t missing the music, just that specific object. It was $40 in 1996 or ‘97 money, and I debated internally for an hour while looking at other records.

I finally decided I should get it. That’s probably the point I became a collector. I knew the clerk from spending so much time in the store, so I asked him if he’d go down on the price at all. He kindly let me have it with no tax. I am still incredibly happy I decided to buy it.

The most I ever spent so far was for the fourth Gauze record, which cost me $80 in 2006 or ‘07 from a Japanese mailing list I used to be on.

The most expensive record I bought for cheap was a mint copy of the original Vile Solution LP (I already had the gatefold reissue). I found that, a few hip hop 12 inches, and a handful of books, including a second edition of John David Jackson's Classical Electrodynamics at a library sale in the town where my parents live. I was sweating when I approached the old guy in charge of the sale. He took the pile and looked through and said, “Two dollars.” I had a five in my pocket, so I handed it to him and told him to keep the change.

I generally try to abide by the concept of "ethically sourced" record collecting (term courtesy Sam McPheeters), which just means not paying out the ass for records. Of course, my limit has been increasing since even mediocre records sell for exorbitant prices these days. I also like trading records with friends, especially since I have a couple hundred RBB records sitting around.

From Josh Scott's music collection

Name a record or records you can’t live without?

It’s not crazy rare, but I don’t think I could part with Wrong by Nomeansno. I bought it shortly after it came out, at Dr Records in Orono, ME, and it’s still probably my favorite record most days. I’ll also mention Napalm Death’s From Enslavement to Obliteration gatefold with 7 inch as that’s another favorite I can’t live without.

From Josh Scott's music collection

What are the top records on your want list currently?

My number one want, that I’m pretty certain I’ll never find, is the acid-etched metal cover version of Big Black’s Bulldozer. I saw it on a mailing list once around 1994, and even then it was $450, more than twice my rent and a figure unimaginable to my broke and unemployed self. I do know someone who has two copies, so Mike, if you’re reading and want to get rid of one.

I would also like to find an original copy of GISM’s Detestation, which I’ve been searching for since I heard “Endless Blockades for the Pussyfooter” on the P.E.A.C.E. comp; an original Nomeansno Mama; or the first Mercyful Fate EP on Rave-On with the white border.

From Josh Scott's music collection

Is there anything that really bothers you about the record collecting scene?

The loss of local record stores and the standardization of high prices due to the internet. As in expensive records are expensive everywhere because the prices are based on Discogs or eBay, instead of what the local economy will support. When I’d travel in the ‘90s, different towns would have different selections and prices.

For example, things were super cheap in St. Louis or Phoenix that couldn’t even be found in Boston or NYC. I miss that surprise of finding a holy grail for nothing because no one in that specific town cared. Now all secrets are out.

I remember being at this gross egg restaurant/ record store in Greenpoint in the mid ‘00s. I was in there once perusing their greasy-fingerprinted egg-stink records when the guy behind the counter, some record in hand, turned away from his computer to his chicken-chested chum and said, “We’re not putting this out, it goes for $70 on eBay.” I was unreasonably disgusted, though I did find a cheap copy of the Fall’s Hex Enduction Hour there. I think it’s a computer repair place now.

Another thing that is annoying is the manufactured scarcity of current records. I don’t mean deluxe editions or die-hard versions, which I sometimes buy. I always try to make cool handmade covers for test presses and would make special tour covers when we’d go out, so I get it. But when the entire run is 100 copies and you know they’ll sell 1000+, that seems pigheaded and dickish.

What do you foresee for the future of vinyl and collecting?

The future is likely that most of these things will be burned for fuel, except those rarities traded among elites as cultural artifacts for food and ammo and clean water and healthy gametes.

Do you plan on growing old with your records or do you have an exit strategy?

My only exit strategy is to die and let some poor bastard haul my beshitted corpse and all my physical media into several fiery dumpsters and hopefully sink them to the bottom of the sea. Otherwise, I have most everything listed in Discogs and my wife has the password, so she’ll at least be able to cover my funeral expenses and buy a bottle or two of Veuve.

What’s a record or genre in your collection that might surprise the readers?

It won’t surprise anyone who knows me, but I collect early Madonna records, as in up-to-and-including Erotica. I have four copies of her first record as I was searching for both versions of the song "Burning Up." The initial pressing of Madonna has a longer synth-based version (4:48), and all subsequent pressings have a guitar version (3:41). I was trying to determine the variations based on time listed on the label.

I finally found a copy at Record Archive in Rochester, NY with the 4:48 version. I returned home and put on the record and could not tell the difference from my other copy. I figured I must be deaf or stupid, but a little more research showed that I had purchased a club copy (as in 14 albums for a penny), with misprinted labels.

I eventually found a perfect copy for cheap at Superior Elevation in Brooklyn, after confirming it was the correct version. The fourth copy a friend gave me for no apparent reason. I envy your white vinyl version of Like a Virgin.

From Josh Scott's music collection

Possibly the only surprise would be that I own a purple vinyl version of Taylor Swift’s Folklore 2xLP, with the "Betty" cover, that I think is reminiscent of the cover of Helmet’s Betty 2x10 inch.

From Josh Scott's music collection

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Tagged: anodyne, radiation blackbody, record collector

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