By David Nilsen
Dust & Grooves, a website created and run by Eilon Paz, has been an online Shangri-la for record collectors for several years now, and Paz’s new book by the same name, which gathers the best of his site’s photography and interviews, entirely equals its online namesake. This book is an absolute delight for anyone who loves music on vinyl (or wax, more accurately).
Paz is a photographic journalist first and foremost, and his skill with a camera is what makes this book and the eponymous site so gorgeously mouthwatering for record hounds. Nearly every page of this oversized, 400+ page book features sumptuous color photography of records, their collectors, and the shelves on which they reside. Full-bleed images of rooms crammed with records, cleverly and expertly captured by Paz, make Dust & Grooves intoxicating to look at.
“It feels to me as though music is an unspoken religion and the records are its texts.” – Eilon Paz, page 9
Through his reputation as a DJ, photographer, and journalist Eilon Paz has gotten access to interview and photograph the lairs of many (most?) of the world’s most legendary record collectors. From Joe Bussard, an older man who has about 15,000 78s from the 1920s and 1930s and believes rock and roll destroyed every genre of music it influenced, to Sheila Burgel, a young woman who adores girl groups and Japanese pop 45s from the 1960s and 1970s and DJs with them every chance she gets, to Ahmir “QuestLove” Thompson, the acclaimed drummer for rap group The Roots and leader of The Tonight Show Band, Paz and his small crew of helpers show us every angle of record collecting in this book. I think what I found most eye-opening was how huge and diverse the world of music–and, therefore, the world of music collectors–really is. One collector goes after Angolan music from the 1960s while another collects Turkish funk. One collects Sesame Street records while another snatches up Italian porn and erotica. Even among American music, there is more than I ever realized: one of the collectors in Dust & Grooves specializes in 45s of black musical artists from Ohio (Fourth & Sycamore is based in Ohio), which apparently is quite a prolific genre, one I never knew existed. Another collector discusses 78s from Black Patti, a record label out of Richmond, Indiana (about 45 minutes from our office), that only operated for about 7 months in 1927.
“My uncle would give me money to go to prostitutes, but I was actually spending all the money at the Concerto Record Shop. I was more interested in music than sex.” – Philippe Cohen Solal, page 58
Paz loves music and records, of course, but is not an obsessive collector himself, which makes him objective and curious about all the many directions other collectors take with their obsessions. He stays out of the way as an interviewer, guiding his conversations but allowing his muses to talk freely about their passion. He captures these varied personalities in their own spaces as they show off their collections, spin music on their turntables, and get lost in the reverie of music.
I have a very modest record collection, though my wife and I are starting to buy more. We’ll never be hardcore collectors, but we love the physicality and sonic warmth of music coming from our little Califone 1420k. My earliest musical memories are of my parents’ Neil Diamond records in our rundown trailer living room, and my young daughter falls asleep every night to a different classical record, the calming tunes and tones drifting up the stairs to her bedroom. Music–much of it vinyl–is a big part of our lives, and though our collection will never rival those of the individuals in this book, it’s still enough to make me feel a wide-eyed connection as I flip through these beautiful pages.
If you love music, records, or just reading about eccentric personalities or looking at clever and lovely photographs, you absolutely must check out Dust & Grooves by Eilon Paz. Though his project started as a website, it feels fitting it would end up as a large, heavy book. As legendary DJ Jeff “Chairman” Mao says in the book’s introduction, “Tangibility matters.” Pick this book up today.
Dust & Grooves is available now at GPL.