On the Scene
It's the Vinyl Countdown!
Records are cool
When Albuquerque glam band The Foxx went to put out its first release in 2004, it needed a label. So, naturally, bassist Zac Webb started his own enterprise, a vinyl polymer-only affair cleverly known as Vinyl Countdown. More than four years later, he's released six albums that include his band as well as rare sonic items found during record collecting adventures. Next month he will release a double gatefold LP by one of the first L.A. punk bands, Black Randy and the Metrosquad. The album is called Pass the Dust I Think I'm Bowie. He's also soon to release an album by early '80s Kentucky power-pop band Sgt. Arms, and just last weekend signed one of Australia's first DIY punk bands, Last Words. Zac and I had a chat about the record biz over drinks.
So, Vinyl Countdown is a pun on the Europe song, “The Final Countdown”?
Yes, what else could it possibly be?
Do you like that song?
I actually love that song.
Yeah, I do. Seriously.
Do you like the band Europe?
No. No, but I like that song.
What's the idea behind the label?
Initially it started as a mock label, and when I started having more spare cash it became a way for me to put out really weird, obscure stuff that I had turned up from record collecting. Basically, it's just a reissue label. There's no real format—it's just ’60s, ’70s, early ’80s punk, psychedelic, glam, power-pop—just stuff I like.
Are there other people in the world doing this sort of thing?
There's one label that's doing almost exactly what I do in New York right now called Radio Heartbeat. He's kind of my competition. I kind of hate him when he puts out a record because he always puts out what I want to put out. I mean, there's not a lot—there's a lot on the obscure psychedelic end of things, there's a lot on the punk rock end of things, but this weird glam, proto-punk stuff—it's untapped.
You have a really huge record collection, right? How many do you have?
I've never counted. I think there's, I'd guess three or four thousand, something like that. I don't know.
“Lonely single men throughout the world. I have customers everywhere.”
Do you have an absolute favorite?
That changes on a regular basis. I would say there's no absolute favorite. The Only Ones, followed very closely by the the Television Personalities. I would actually say as far as a favorite record goes, the first Television Personalities record.
And what kinds of bands are those?
Just really early, weird punk rock. It's not really that simple. It doesn't sound like anything, that's why I like it. I mean, they didn't call it punk rock, they just played music.
Is that why you like Suicide?
Yeah, I love stuff that doesn't sound like anything. That's kind of my life quest: to find bands that don't sound like anything.
By “not sounding like anything”; do you mean not sounding like anything else or that it sounds plain?
For the time period, they just kind of didn't give a fuck. They just did what they wanted to do and made music, and got classified as glam or garage or whatever. But really, it's just some homeless dudes making sick jams!
Have you seen some really amazing record collections in person?
Nothing too out of control, nothing crazier than mine. Which is crazy, but in the collective scheme of things, not that crazy. The thing is that the serious hardcore record collectors are total recluses who would never let you see their record collection—where you wouldn't want to go into their house. So no.
There must be a lot of amazing records to be had in this town, what with all of the flea markets.
There are amazing scores. That stuff just sits there. There are records that I can think of in stores right now that are amazing records—totally obscure, totally weird, you'll never see them again—and they're just sitting there. If I didn't buy them, I'm going to buy them. And I know they're going to be there, that's the thing. I could leave them sitting there for a month, and they're still there.
Do you think rareness is something that's inherently cool?
Yes and no, not because it's rare. There's this potential in rare records that nobody's ever heard this, and you're on to something that's gonna blow everybody's minds. With Caspar Giles McCloud, and especially The Marbles—I mean, that stuff never came out. I don't think it's cool because it was rare; sometimes stuff gets passed over. In the case of The Marbles, they kept turning down deals. Blondie used to open for them, and when Blondie would play the crowd would leave and come back to see The Marbles—they were the big band. But Blondie took the right record deal, the Marbles kept waiting for the big one—the really great deal—but it never happened. It doesn't mean they're a bad band, they're a great band. So, I don't think so. I don't buy into that snobbery, but I kind of do.
Who buys your stuff?
Everybody. Lonely single men throughout the world. I have customers everywhere.
Do you have advice for someone who wants to start collecting? What kind of stuff they should get?
Anything you think looks interesting. That's how I do it. Certain time periods—that label from 1971, I know it's going to be amazing and it is. If you see a cool cover, chances are it's going to be a cool record. And the Internet is beyond useful. You can have a better collection than I do within 24 hours with the Internet; it's amazing.
Zac Webb's favorite record label is probably Red Star Records. He also likes Flying Nun, Stiff Records, Chiswick, Mute, Mushroom and Rough Trade. To get in on Zac's vinyl action, visit vinylcountdownrecords.com.