Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Interview. Dave Ignizio of Square Records.

I've known Juniper and Dave for a really long time.  A REALLY long time.  I originally met Juniper when she was still in high school through some mutual friends.  But, I didn't meet Dave until shortly before they left Akron.  It sucked when they left.  That was some time in the early/mid '90's.  Juniper is, hands down, one of the sharpest ladies I know and Dave is one of the most laid back guys around.  They also both have great taste in music.  So when I heard they were opening a record store in Akron I was excited and knew that it would be a success.  Plus, I was glad that that they came back to Akron.  My visits to the store are in fits and starts depending on when I have time and cash, but still have somehow managed to spend an inordinate amount of time pestering the proprietors.  There is rarely a time that I stop in and don't find something that I want to get in my grubby hands.  I have spent many hours in the store talking with Dave (and Juniper, when I am fortunate enough to catch her) about anything and everything music...  And all the while Dave grins with the patience of a slightly put upon father.  It is with that same patience he shares with Job that he answered a couple of questions...

Lets get the blatantly obvious out of the way first; Give me the basics; how did this all come about? When did you open? How long have you been around?

We opened in August 2003. It kind of came together because my wife Juniper and I had recently moved back to Ohio after being away for a while. We'd been kicking around the idea of opening our own business for awhile. Both of us had worked at several small businesses through the years and that was something that was appealing to us. We ended up opening the store with our friend Geoff after working on a game-plan for a few months. The location in Highland Square opened up and we had to jump on it. We probably weren't really ready, but we really wanted to be in that neighborhood so we just went for it.

You mentioned not really being ready; How confident were you when you opened the store? What were some of your concerns going into this?

We didn't really know what to expect. But, I guess we were young enough that we didn't really care. Obviously we wanted to succeed, but I don't think we had any clue whether or not it would be successful. What we knew we wanted to do was open a record store that focused on vinyl . At the time, there really wasn't a shop doing that. We wanted to have a large amount of used vinyl and carry unique new stuff on CD and vinyl. Mostly we wanted to carry records that were kind of overlooked by larger stores in the area. When we opened we really didn't have that much stock. I look at pictures from our opening week and can't believe we tried to open a shop with as little as we had. Luckily for us, people really came out and supported us anyway. We knew there were people around Akron and surrounding cities that were interested in different music, but we didn't realize just how many.

Was there any model that you followed during the planning stages? Why Highland Square? I know Juniper grew up in or near that neighborhood...

I wouldn't say there was any specific model that we followed, but like I said we lived away from Ohio for about five years. We lived in Colorado and Virginia. So we went to a lot of shops in Denver and Boulder. Denver had-still has, I think-a few great shops. The ones that impressed me the most were Wax Trax and Twist and Shout. There was a Boulder version of Wax Trax that wasn't much bigger than Square Records. If I had to say any shop influenced me it would be that one. It was in our neighborhood and it was a place I could count on to go to every Tuesday and pick up new releases and often times a good used record or two. Reasonable prices on new and used stuff. That's always been important. Collector shops are not interesting to me. Nothing's a bigger bummer than walking into a shop and finding records priced above eBay value. Those Colorado shops had good records and they weren't an arm and a leg. Then when we moved back to Ohio, we were living in Lakewood and found out about My Mind's Eye. Charles at MME helped us out immensely when we were getting our shop started. I think his shop is the best in this area and it was a model for our shop in a way. Mostly, just how he does business. I always respected the way he runs his shop. There's a certain integrity to it that is kind of uncommon. So I suppose that our shop might be kind of an amalgam of those three shops in particular with little bits and pieces of all the other indie shops I've been to here and there throughout the country.
There are a few other stores in the area now that sell vinyl - how do you differentiate yourself from these other stores? Is there even a conscious effort to do so, or is it purely organic?

No I don't really try to be different. We just kind of do what we do. In a pretty major way our customers have defined our store. There's plenty of stuff that I don't listen to personally in the shop, but if enough people mention it to me, or special order it, it becomes sort of a staple in the store. I try and stock a lot of stuff that I do like, but it's usually in smaller quantities and sometimes it'll sit there for a while til someone buys it. But it's still important for me to have those kind of records in the shop. Vinyl has obviously taken off in a pretty major way in the last few years. It used to just be certain genres that were keeping it alive, but it's gotten to the point that just about everything is coming out. It's hard keeping up with that and still keeping what we carry within our nebulous idea of what's appropriate for our store. I think we've managed to become more mainstream and more obscure in our offerings at the same time. I think that's a good thing.

The store is pretty diverse and you have a good grasp of the stuff you carry - has anything come in that you previously disliked that you found yourself actually enjoying?

Sure. When the store started I was 28, which is still young enough to be an idiot and think you know it all. I was pretty anti- any classic rock back then. I grew up listening to punk, hardcore, hip hop and indie rock stuff. Over the years I've come around to stuff like Thin Lizzy , Jimi Hendrix and stuff. Basically all the stuff that most people get into when they're 13 years old. I just didn't get that stuff when I was younger. It took awhile for that to sound good to me. And then there's just all this other astounding music that I just never even knew existed. So having a shop where I buy used records from people allows me to check out a ton of stuff I may have never otherwise heard. I mean, the list is really endless, but I've gotten much more into jazz and soul and electronic music. All just part of growing up I suppose. You expand your horizons. Either that or you just become that guy that doesn't listen to anything that came out after he graduated high school and you bitch to everyone how they don't make good music anymore or some nonsense.

Unlike Dave, Kali looks at your purchase with disapproval.
Were you really THAT anti-classic rock? You seem fairly well rounded.
I mean, Thin Lizzy, c' came late to that?

Oh yeah. I hated all of it. I didn't even listen to the Beatles or Stones. Couldn't stand Led Zeppelin. My parents didn't really listen to music in our house. My brother is five years older than me and he was really into trash metal and punk. So I would hear Metallica, SOD, MDC, Exodus, Dead Kennedys coming from his room. That's what really got me interested in music. That and hearing Public Enemy and Slick Rick and stuff like that in high school. So I just listened to that and ignored the entire history of rock and roll. Yeah, I probably never listened to a Thin Lizzy album until after we opened the store. So I was definitely learning on the job. I don't think it's that uncommon. I was just really caught up in what was current.

Name one type of music that you would never carry under ANY circumstances.

Well, not a genre, but... Skrewdriver - or any sort of racist crap.
Yeah, yeah, I know. “Their early records...” whatever.

I hate “Skrewdriver apologies”.  Their early records sucked, too.  But, that was obvious- is there a particular dislike, aside from that sort of thing, where you say to yourself "no way"?

No. I don't think so. I mean, there's stuff I don't carry. Stuff that just would absolutely make no sense to carry; yer Beibers, Kesha, what have you. But, I really don't like to be "the Judge" of what's good, that stereotype of the asshole record guy who laughs at you for buying something.  It can be true at some shops. It really doesn't matter to me what someone buys. If they enjoy it, I think that's cool. I had some guy flip out about buying twenty Abba 45's a few months back. That's great. Makes him happy. I don't care. So I don't set rules on what I carry. Especially with used stuff. I try and cover a lot of ground. With new stuff, it's a fairly limited selection. I just don't have the resources to carry everything I want to have, but I try and keep it fresh and rotate in different stuff all the time.

Are you as diplomatic when it comes to local music? How hard is it to maintain quality control and still be objective when it comes to supporting local music that comes into the store? It doesn't appear that would be a concern...

I'll take any local music on consignment.

What are you looking for when people bring in trades or when ordering? Is physical quality more of a concern than the quality of the actual music? Are you cognizant of what you take in when you take it in in relation to how it might affect the store’s aesthetic?

It's both. We pay more for stuff in better condition if it's harder to find. I'm always looking to buy good collections of punk, metal, psych, r&b, jazz. Those are kind of the bread and butter of the used section. But, I'm also happy to buy real nice copies of somewhat normal classic rock or 80's records. Different customers come in looking for different stuff. There's plenty of people coming in hoping to find Fleetwood Mac "Rumours" or a Journey record. There's also a lot of people hoping to find Dust or the Damned. Some of those things just happen to be a little more common than the others. But both are important to our shop. Of course, I always want to get more of the rarer stuff, because when people find it they're pretty psyched and it keeps ‘em coming back.

Akron has an incredibly rich, but undervalued music history. It seems that up until recently there has been a drought in the local music scene since the close of the Lime Spider - some would argue that there still is - what are your thoughts on the current state of local music.

I don't get out to as many shows as I used to, but I still see good stuff from time to time. Akron could use a couple more venues probably that would help. But, as long as we've been open I feel like there's been really good music being made around here. A lot of it is really unassuming stuff. So many bands get together play three or four shows and call it a day. Or they just play some house shows here and there. I feel like most of the best bands around here aren't really trying to "make it." They just do their thing until they're done. The Lime Spider was great when it was around, cuz it kind of felt like a "real" rock club in a way that hadn't happened around here in a really long time. And it gave local bands an opportunity to perform on that stage with really good touring bands. At the same time there was a house show space called Diamond Shiner's that was going on that I think was just as important. It sucks that both spaces are gone, but I still see glimmers. In the last couple weeks I've seen plenty of cool local stuff. Ultrasphinx, Relaxer, David Bay Leaf, Bad Trouble, Wesley Bright and the Hi-Lites. A lot more, really. There was a benefit show at Annabell's last week with nine bands and they all had something to offer. So there's good music being made around here still, you just have to make an effort to find it.

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