The Dust and Grooves Project – Live from NYC

On a hot and sultry evening in SoHo NYC at the Botanica Bar, a local hangout with a house special Ginger and Lime drink reminiscent of Jamaica (not Jamaica Queens, thanks), things cool  down inside with the music being played by a dozen or so Guest DJs as I grab the attention of Eilon Paz, a photographer with a passion for music, whose work has been published worldwide.  This very personal and ambitious project came about as a means for Eilon to combine both passions.

He aims to capture in “the most intimate way” the vinyl collections and the colorful and unique personalities of the collectors, as well as documenting the history of vinyl and the musical heritage represented therein.

The project starts out with friends who have large collections of vinyl referring their friends to Paz, and has grown exponentially through word-of-mouth, blogging and social media.

Paz says that he is a vinyl lover to the core, “looking for something to do and this clicked…” and when asked about the difficulty of finding other vinyl aficionados with large collections, he muses, “It’s not really hard – you get one person who has a nice collection, usually they tell their friends, who tell their friends- and that’s it – like it’s a network. Once I started blogging about it, then people started approaching me.”

He has already photographed and interviewed about 45 collectors, not all who have been published – yet (Paz says they will be published at some point). When he finishes his 30-city U.S. tour sometime in 2013, he expects to have at least another 35 profiles added to the book.

Not the average collectors

The possibilities seem endless. Could there be two books? Paz says it’s a hard chosen selection, and not everyone makes the cut.  It’s not just generally large collections of vinyl per se that he’s after – he’s more interested in collectors with a “point of view” as well as the “diversity” of the collectors. So he’s not necessarily looking at the obviously folks: DJ’s, music reviewers and people from the music industry who one would assume would have huge (and mostly freely acquired) collections of vinyl. Paz wants to present the whole range of collectors, from “people who live in the basement” to high-profile collectors.

He’s looking for so-called “normal” everyday people with a passion for vinyl who have managed – thru buying, on eBay, garage sales, inheriting collections and whatever means necessary – to garner huge Hoarder-type record collections.

“A lot of times, this is how it starts – with the younger generation,” Paz continues, “whose parents give them their old collections.” He’s also been fortunate enough to find a lot of older people who “stick with their collections. Usually – “it’s a man’s world” – it’s the fathers that pass their collections – and their knowledge – onto their kids.

Not necessarily audiophiles, either

Pondering whether the passion for vinyl translates into being an audiophile, or at last having kick ass analogue gear on which to play your precious collections, Paz makes it clear that high end analog gear is not the main thing he’s looking for. “It’s totally random,” he says. For many, probably the more serious collectors, of course they clean and maintain their records as one might expect. At the other end of the spectrum are the Hoarders who are infected with collector-mania, so for them it’s more about quantity rather than quality.

“I’m sure on this trip, now, in the U.S., I’m going to find a lot of audiophiles, because I’m already getting a lot of messages from a lot of people who describe their collections, but they’re also describing their set-ups.”

Paz and his crew haven’t yet decided on their itinerary but they’re going to start going through “major hubs” including New Orleans, Chicago and Los Angeles, and from there, they will branch out into the smaller towns, to really remote places where he hopes they’ll discover some interesting treasure troves of collections. The road trip was planned for September but has been delayed in order to make the book will be even better and bigger. (Note: They just reached their secondary Kickstarter goal which will allow a Hardcover edition.) And apparently there are some “new, positive” developments that he couldn’t speak about. However, when the suggestion that the trip leant itself to being recorded by a camera crew with an eye towards some kind of series … Paz smiles: “You said it.”

So be on the lookout for a “Dust & Grooves” reality show next Fall.

Live report and photo by Lois Long