Tracy Wilson kicks all kinds of ass. Not only does she front the excellent indie rock/pop band Positive No, but back in the day, she sang for Dahlia Seed, a group who recorded a cover of Voivod's "Missing Sequences" that is the stuff of legend. A native of New Jersey, Tracy has been living in Richmond, VA for years now, keeping busy with Positive No and also indulging her lifelong vinyl obsession.
This Record Collector piece has been a long time coming.
How long have you been collecting records?
The first record I purchased was in 1982 (The Go-Gos) and the ritual of record shopping nearly weekly has continued ever since. I don’t like calling myself a collector though. I consider myself a super fan of music. Sure, I own a lot of records but my obsession with music isn’t about a competitive need to own everything or obsess on original pressings. I keep buying records because there is so much to discover and fall in love with. Music connects me to different places in time, people, and cultures in a way that I feel enriched and enlightened by. I fall in love with songs and records daily and I find it thrilling to know that even with my insatiable hunger to listen to music all day, every day, I will still never hear it all. No matter how serious and dedicated you are to music, there is an infinite amount of art out there to stumble across. If you are willing to open yourself to a wide variety of genres, there is no end to the journey of discovery. To outsiders my room of records looks like a collection but it is a scrap book to me. These are not just items on a shelf or data on a spreadsheet, they represent a personal journey that has been unfolding slowing for 35+ years.
Where/how do you usually find your records these days?
It feels like cheating to buy everything off the internet. If you have money and the will, it is possible to find nearly all your dream records but that doesn’t really interest me. I like talking to people about music in real life. I enjoy the tactile experience of shopping in a record store and bringing home not just another record but rather a piece of that shop, a memento of a city or town, and owning a souvenir from that day. As stressful as a crowded record fair can be, I also love that social environment of seeing a community of people what share a common thread of a love of music. I learn so much from talking to others and getting to hear highlights from what excites their ears. I enjoy hearing how others ended up on whatever musical path they are following as it is a constant reminder that music tells a story so much bigger than itself. It connects different kinds of people in a way that I feel like I really need more than ever.
I am also a part of a few different private social media music groups. These communities were created by passionate music fanatics and are a constant source of inspiration. The sort of choose your own adventure path I take in music discovery is mostly fueled by humans — not just some music streaming site’s algorithm which in the end is designed to profit their business model. I rely on friends and acquaintances who I have grown to trust in my music world bubble. I depend on them to keep sharing the music they love and look forward to the stories they sometimes share behind a record because it often adds a whole new layer of meaning to a piece of music I thought I knew. I am forever learning new things and I thrive upon it.
What is the most you paid for a single record, where/how did you obtain it, and what was it?
The most I have ever paid for a record was the Lee Hazlewood The Stockholm Kid LP. It was somewhere around $80 and the only reason I paid that much was because I didn’t work out the math from EU to USD correctly. I typically don’t pay extraordinary amounts of money for records. I am not a wealthy person so I cannot afford to drop $100 for one single 7” I really like. I don’t care about original pressings or feel the need to own multiple versions of the same record. I know it is taboo in a lot of circles to play an LP when you DJ out but if that is the only way I can afford to own a certain song I love, fuck it and fuck elite record collecting rules.
If you had to pick one record label you feel had/has the best track record of quality releases, who would that be and what are some key titles you love?
This is a tough question for me to answer. Half of my adult life was spent working in indie music distribution and retail helping to get their music out into the world. Depending on the genre (from exotica to post-punk, from twee to cosmic jazz) there are hundreds of labels that I still follow and deeply respect. In many cases these that aren’t just businesses putting out cool records, they are longtime friends who have been in my life so long that they are a healthy part of my DNA.
The only label that I ever collected everything I could get my hands on was Sub Pop during their early years. My two favorite all-time bands on the label are Hazel and Mudhoney. Their “Losers” Singles Club was a very big deal to me in the late ‘80s through the mid-‘90s so for probably a good 10 years, I owned more of their releases than any other label’s. I still have yet to put all of my collection into something like Discogs so who knows what label I own the most of now — the answer could be comical and ridiculous. Honestly, I like so many different kinds of music that I don’t like to get bogged down with just one label or genre.
Of everything in your current collection, what is your most prized record and why?
Willie Parker’s “I Live the Life I Love” 7” was gifted to me by now husband early on in our dating years. I first fell head over heels for this song because it was on the Shakin’ Fit comp from 1992. Kenny found the single in the bins at Other Music (RIP wonderful NYC store) more than a decade later, he remembered how much I loved that song, and bought it for me. Just like that, the most upbeat song of all time became an anthem of our happy life together. I should add here that he too is a crazy music fan and we both collect records which is both great a little dangerous because there is no voice of reason to say pssssst – you probably don’t need that Moog records about trucking or dub versions of church hymns.
Is there anything that frustrates you about the current record collecting scene?
Life is too short to worry about what others do or how they do it. I don’t need to own one record in every color it was ever pressed on from every country it was released in but if that makes you happy — you do you. Music is such a weirdly personal thing that try not to judge how people experience or collect it. Some people are hoarders and never shed a record but records cycle in and out of my life. When I fall out of love with a record, I like selling/trading/ gifting that record to someone who will appreciate it more than I do. I do not buy music as an investment or treat it as a commodity. The real value for me is how music makes me feel, not some random, ever changing resale value. I will leave the numbers to accountants.
Which records are still on your want list that you've had a tough time tracking down through the years?
When I hear something in a DJ set, a radio show, in a movie, or out in about somewhere that wows me, I try to capture that piqued interested in Discogs. I also have a minor brain injury from an old accident that makes my short term memory pretty unpredictable. I rely on these saved searches to remind me of what I am looking for because I couldn’t possibly remember them all on my own.
Here are a few of my random wants that I will probably never be able to afford:
Yvonne Fair, Say Yeah Yeah / Straighten up 7”
Tammy St John, Dark Shadows 7”
Umas E Outras, Poucas E Boas LP
Serge Franklin, Les Grands Vents 7”
The Trees, The Christ Tree LP
Linda Van Dyck, Stengun / Oriental Boo 7”