For over a decade now, when I’ve had a question about records, bands, music history, or just want to discover something cool to listen to, I contact Tom Casetta. This is a continuation of my interview with my music guru.
Tom, you mention the “whole packaging” aspect of vinyl; let’s talk about records as objects… I remember in 7th grade, my art teacher having us design record albums. The lesson was more than the fab art, but the concept of the package. Back then, albums were like books, with each track a chapter in the story; now with MP3s etc, more than a bit of that is lost in terms of the artist telling the story. Yeah, we all tried our own hand at making our own stories with mixed tapes too. (Which ties in quite a bit with the “new” concepts of curation and playlists.) But there is something about the whole package from the artist — even if that includes Management & Marketing. lol
Can you share an example of why certain objects in collection cannot be replaced, i.e.why a digital audio file cannot replace a record album?
Sure, take Freak Out by The Mothers of Invention for example. Frank Zappa thanks a number of people in the liner notes as influences and it is like a map to understanding the music of Zappa and, for me personally, it opened and blurred all these doors or genre. I was exposed to all these 20th Century composers, jazz and folk people… The record album was also two sides. And that is lost if you aren’t playing the LPs. That two-part thing acted like a chapter of sorts. It really makes certain records what they are. The killer opening track on side two doesn’t have that same effect when heard right after the last song on side one without the pause to flip the record.
You have (at least) a whopping 8,000 records — I guess that’s why you have a radio show! Can you tell me the story of your radio show? Was it inspired by your collection — or just a way to rationalize it?
I am currently doing a weekly radio program on the Internet radio station G-Town Radio called Listen Up!. Each week, I guide you through a labyrinth of music shining a beacon on the unsung, should-be-sung, and will-be-sung recordings that clutter the maze’s dusty corridors. The station is based in a Philadelphia neighborhood called Germantown and it offers diverse programming originating from this community in Philadelphia that can be shared through the wide range of the Internet.
The Listen Up! show in some ways does rationalize my record collection as it serves as the library for much of the source material of the show. I love sharing these recordings with the public and exposing them to music perhaps they may not have heard of before. I want to share that excitement, infusing my personality into the show. It’s pretty much you, the listener, hanging out in my music library for two hours.
As a DJ, how liberating is today’s digital world?
I don’t see it that much different. I still approach my shows the same way as before.
Does the digital age come with a cost do you think?
The loss of the record shop as a means to find and discover music is probably the key loss, but there is always a need for gatekeepers to help steer one through the clutter. I also think not being able to see ones music collection on display is sad as those and the books on your book shelves say volumes about who you are to me. If I go to someone’s home and don’t see any books and/or music anywhere. I ask myself, what do you do? What do you talk about? What makes you you?