Social Encore: Vinyl thrives in Hawaii
BY JERMEL-LYNN QUILLOPO / Special to the Star-Advertiser
I remember sifting through vinyl records at a family members home as a kid and having that music play in the background at family functions. It’s evident there are fewer record stores in Hawaii, but there are a few keeping the culture of vinyl alive.
CRATE DIGGERS AT HEART
Hawaii DJ Chris Kam, also known as DJ Delve, grew up in the 1980s and early 1990s when hip-hop and skateboarding were gaining in popularity. To Kam, hip-hop music in its purest form had a beat, a style and a sense of originality. The DJ aspect intrigued him because a good portion of hip-hop songs he was drawn to were created by samples of songs looped in by a DJ. The source of these samples were found on old jazz, rock and reggae records.
The creation of new music from elements of existing music drove him to find records the artists sampled from in order to understand music references intertwined within the songs. Finding those records opened a number of music genres for him.
“Finding records was the beginning to my never ending search and love for music in general,” he said.
Kam learned how to DJ the old school way, carrying crates of records and physically switching them out to transition from song to song. With the majority of music now in the digital world, Kam doesn’t have to carry crates of music but said the aesthetics is the key to differentiating passionate DJs.
“Today I think it’s great that there are so many computer programs and controllers to mix music,” he said. “But at the end of the day, it’s about the love of music and if you have a passion for mixing the music you love properly.
“I think the fault of computer software and controllers are the functions that allow for the technology to mix for you. Therein lies the art of DJing being lost.”
About The Goods brand director Riana Stellburg was always interested in music. She was gifted a bunch of 12-inch vinyl records from Kam to help jump start her record collection. Her boyfriend (and mentor) Robin Taclas, aka DJ Revise, encouraged her to learn how to DJ. She said learning how to spin with records is not only the basis of DJing but also the building blocks on the path of becoming more appreciative of the music in it’s entirety.
Stellburg recently spun an all-vinyl set and had to lug around two heavy record bags — and that was just for an hour and a half set. It’s rare to see DJs carrying crates of records these days, but she said when you do come across a DJ who does, the appreciation of the time and skill brings you to a different level of gratitude.
“I love seeing DJs spin vinyl now, especially in clubs,” she said. “You really have to choose your records carefully and know your music collection thoroughly. I’m not talking about what artists/songs you have but more like when the kick or snare goes in, when does the chorus hit, etc.”
“When a DJ spins a vinyl set, you know that they put time into searching and curating their collection.”
VINYL: THE COLLECTORS ITEM
Vinyl collector JJ Sabangan has bought records for more than 20 years and considers the process of finding great ones like a treasure hunt, digging for lost art. He admitted that a lot of time and effort going through dozens of records can be tedious, but when you find one record that you’ve looking for, it’s all worthwhile.
He said for many, there isn’t really a right way to look for records but for anyone who wants to explore the vinyl world, start researching what type of music you like, the reputation of record labels and even producers. Sabangan said by starting small, you’ll eventually learn along the way more about music, the influences it has on the way other musicians create their sound and most importantly, will change the way you appreciate music.
“An example I can give is artist Mos Def,” he said. “I knew he was from New York and I knew that a lot of his influences were jazz and blues records and because of that, I started to listen to other influential blues and jazz artists as well.”
Some of the things he appreciates about vinyl records are that it’s a tangible object and that it is the closest thing that you have to listening to live band without being at a concert.
Sabangan said collecting vinyl has gotten a lot more expensive. He notices places like Urban Outfitters trying to make vinyl records more available and added he has mixed emotions about how people will interpret music and the vinyl culture.
“I have mixed emotions because I’m happy that there is a mainstream place that sells them and that more people can collect vinyl, but then again there is a specific niche of people that buy records because they appreciate the art form and appreciate the music,” he said.
For example, traditional vinyl was created with whole albums on them. With mainstream retailers only selling singles and with people being able to download music, the entirety of a musician can often be misunderstood.
“Back then, you could only buy vinyl records that had entire albums on them. When you look at artists like Michael Jackson and his ‘Off The Wall’ album … the credibility of how great a musician you were was based off of how great your album versus how great your single is,” said Sabangan. “That is what differentiated you from being a great musician and a one hit wonder.”
STAYING TRUE TO VINYL
About The Goods has a section dedicated to vinyl records annexed by the Secret Record Store. The Secret Record Store is a pop-up shop created by John Friend and Kevin Cruze. It travels around Hawaii and helps connect different crowds of people who are into different styles of music, from Latin to rock.
SECRET RECORD STORE
» Where: Downbeat Lounge, 42 Hotel St.
When asked to compare the sound of a vinyl record versus something that can be digitally downloaded, Cruze said people need to understand vinyl records have a rich quality to them because it is an analog medium.
“Records are an analog medium that was evolved and refined to be played, in some cases, on a sound system designed to fill up a big dance hall or auditorium,” said Cruze. “Digital sound files were designed to be used on computers with portability in mind. When classic music was from converted to digital rom vinyl, some of the expansive stereo effects that were originally put into the music, became flattened and lost to the ear.”
Cruze said records are experiencing a bit of a renaissance because people want a physical product that identifies things such as a favorite song or album.
“One of my greatest finds is a record called ‘Placebo Years’ by Marc Moulin … On that album is a track called ‘Humpty Dumpty’ and I would have never found it if I didn’t go looking for vinyl records,” he said. “What some people need to understand is that not all great music that are out there are available digitally. There are many songs that can only be found on vinyl and the only way you will be able to listen to some great music is by looking for it.”
Jermel-Lynn Quillopo is a multi-faceted, energetic individual with experience in both print and broadcast journalism. “Social Encore” aims to tell diverse stories about Hawaii’s food, events and people; share your tips with Jermel via email or follow her on Twitter.