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Neil Schield :: Origami Vinyl

Neil Schield :: Origami Vinyl

Words by: Chelsea Green

Photos courtesy of: Neil Schield

Is there a story behind the name of your record shop and label, Origami Vinyl?

The name Origami is inspired by my dad. When I was a kid, he would travel to Japan upwards of six times a year. Every time he came home, he would bring me some sort of toy or fun gadget, often origami papers. When I was 10 years old, our family was flown out to Japan, as a gift by my dad’s employers and it was my first trip out of the country. Because of these little presents and our vacation, I became obsessed with Japanese culture.

Fourteen years later, my friend and I were fantasizing about starting a label and had a bunch of names jotted down on a piece of paper. Around the same time, my friend Jess Phelps sent me an origami crane mobile, so added the name Origami to the list. The name was chosen but the label never materialized. A few years later, I decided to give the label dream another go, and put the name to work.

How did Origami Vinyl start? When did it open?

Origami Vinyl started as a dream in high school. My mom and I would go record shopping as early as I can remember. Once I graduated college, I started my own business as a booking agent in the music industry. That led to online marketing jobs at Interscope and digital media strategy at Sony, Infospace (Mobile Content), and IODA (Indie digital distributor). I was on a steady rise in the online world and it made me think the future of brick and mortar was in serious doubt. I shelved my dream and thought of it as more of a fantasy that would never happen. As my career started to grow, the economy started to shrink and the music industry began to decline rapidly, which led to me being laid off at two jobs within a matter of two years.

Down and out and not sure where to take my career, I had a yard sale to purge some things I didn’t need, including a bunch of LPs that my parents had given me that I didn’t really listen to. That yard sale changed my life. Within hours I had sold nearly 40 records and was amazed by how many people were interested in the records I didn’t want. An old man who lived across the street came over in amazement that I had records. He had a little building in front of his house that used to be a storefront. I made some joke to him that he should let me rent that front building out and turn it into a record store. He laughed and said no. But something in me started to think that maybe it wasn’t such a far-fetched idea. A couple weeks later I really started to give the dream much more thought and approached the old man again. He politely declined, but I was determined to figure this thing out. I went down the street to my friend Jeff’s bar, El Prado in Echo Park. He asked me what I had been up to and I told him about my subsequent layoffs. He asked what my next plans were, and I said I was having this crazy idea about opening a record store. His eyes lit up and he told me that he and Mitchell Frank, who also co-own The Echo, had just purchased the building next door to The Echo and were looking for a tenant. The record store would be perfect there. The next morning we met at the space and shook hands on it. Within nine months, on April 3rd, 2009, the shop opened its doors.

Record Store Day is awesome. It’s really brought a whole new level of appreciation to independent retail. To be quite honest, I’m not so sure some stores would survive the year if it weren’t for the droves of people that come out on that day to spend their hard earned dollars on some records.

What type of music does your store specialize in?

We focus on independent music and local music. Our genres are all over the place: Indie Rock, Indie Hip-Hop, Soul, Electronic, World, Psych, Post-Punk, New Wave, Experimental, Goth and Industrial.

Who’s on the Origami Records label? What’s coming up?

We have Summer Darling, who we released their Self-Titled album in July of 2010 and who are currently writing their follow-up. We also have Future Ghost, who just wrapped up the recording of their debut album with Pete Lyman (No Age, Male Bonding) that should be out early next year. We are also working with Black Flamingo and NO on potential 7’s

What does your personal vinyl collection look like? When did you start collecting? Take us through the history of your love affair with records.

I have a very modest collection of about 3,000 records and 7’s. I’m not much of a collector to be honest. I prefer to own records that I want to play. So I stay away from the temptation of being a completest.

When I turned eleven, I was given my first turntable as a Christmas present. The first two records I bought were Metallica’s “And Justice For All” and RUN DMC’s “Raising Hell”. It wasn’t really ’til I moved out of the house at 17 that my obsession started to take place. I was frequenting a lot of hardcore and what was considered emo shows at that time. Most of these bands were into pressing 7’s and I caught the bug of collecting. Towards the late 90’s, I discovered raves and Drum and Bass music. DJing became a big part of my life and vinyl was obviously central in that movement. I started a 12’ label with a collective of DJs called Phunckateck in San Francisco in 2000 and pressed five or six 12’s. That’s when I became knowledgeable on the production aspect of it and started to gain a lot more appreciation for all the work that goes into making a record. Since then I have always bought records when the option was available. Around 2005, independent labels came up with a genius idea – package a free digital download with the LP. At that point, I stopped buying CDs completely and moved solely to wax.

It is exciting to see kids buying music again and getting excited to about owning something. It’s really special.

What are your thoughts on the resurgence of vinyl in the past few years?

As stated above, I think it all really kicked off with this idea of packaging a free download of the album with the LP. A whole new generation of kids saw a lot of value in that and introduced them to a new format, the album.

Putting on a record is such a fun and cool experience. You really have to interact with the media and pay attention, plus you get this awesome piece of artwork and liner notes, which are things that really sucked when it came to CDs, and are pretty much non-existent with digital. For us in our mid-thirties or older, vinyl never went away or died, it has always been around and for some of us is, the preferred format. But it is exciting to see kids buying music again and getting excited to about owning something. It’s really special.

Can you explain the importance of the annual Record Store Day across the country?

Record Store Day is awesome. It’s really brought a whole new level of appreciation to independent retail. To be quite honest, I’m not so sure some stores would survive the year if it weren’t for the droves of people that come out on that day to spend their hard earned dollars on some records. Like anything though, it can be improved. I’m concerned about how a majority of these products aren’t as limited as they used to be. Some items are being produced to match demand, which, in my opinion, could lead to these items losing their collectability. I’d much rather see extremely limited titles that are hard to get and maybe each store only gets a couple of each, rather than every store in the country being overstocked with units and them being left over at the end of the day.

Where can we find you spinning records? What do you like to play live?

We do a weekly night Tuesday night called Record Club at El Prado. We’ve been doing it for 2 ½ years now. It’s this rad little community night where we have people sign up to bring a record in, we play an entire side of the record and reward the participant with a free glass of beer or wine. The first Tuesday of the month is our free-for-all 7’ night, where anyone can bring in a stack of 7’s and we’ll DJ them. I also DJ at The Echo pretty frequently and have played art shows and other bars and venues throughout the east side of LA. I generally play a lot of Post-Punk, New Wave, Surf, Garage, Punk, and Post-Hardcore stuff. But really, I just like to adapt to whatever the crowd wants to hear. One night, I just played a whole set of Southern Rock from the 70’s. That was pretty fun!

Are there any surefire records that get the crowd going every time?

The Cramps “Human Fly’ always seems to do well and the Buzzcocks “Why Can’t I Touch It”. I also love playing The Beatles “Why Don’t We Do It In The Road”

Starting your collection is fun and easy. Start with the essentials, your favorites. Then go from there. You’ll be hooked in no time.

What is your relationship with The Echo & Echoplex, and other local venues? Do you sponsor shows, book your own, etc.?

We are the exclusive physical box office to The Echo and Echoplex. We also sell tickets for Goldenvoice events at the El Rey Theater and The Musicbox, FYF Presents shows at Eagle Rock Center for Arts, The Smell, Los Globos, and the Ukranian Cultural Arts Center, and all shows at The Luckman Theater at Cal State LA. Our tickets have a nominal $2 service fee compared with around $8 from Ticketweb and some godly amount from Ticketmaster.

We also present and book our own shows around town. We’ve done events at The Echo, Echoplex, Satellite (Formerly Spaceland), The Nomad Gallery, and other spaces. We also did the music curation for the main stage at the Silver Lake Jubilee the last 2 years. This past month we did our first ever show in NY at CMJ and for the last 2 years we’ve done about 8 shows down at SXSW in Austin.

What advice would you give to someone looking to buy a record player, and start a record collection?

If you have a small budget and can’t really afford to buy a new turntable (ones we recommend start at around $400), then go used. You can find a decent record player in the $150 range. It’s preferable to find a belt driven turntable over a direct drive turntable. Direct Drive turntables are great for DJs but for your home, they don’t make much sense. They sound worse and have an extra motor that could break at some point and cause you headaches. Stay away from record players that have automatic tonearms. Again, another motor is in there and it’s another thing that easily breaks. With most automatic tonearms you can’t adjust the counterweight, which could mean the needle is pressing down too hard on your record, causing your needle to wear down quicker, your records will wear down quicker, and the sound quality will diminish. Finally, do not buy record players with built in speakers. They are great for sampling or for portability, but suck for sound quality.

Starting your collection is fun and easy. Start with the essentials, your favorites. Then go from there. You’ll be hooked in no time.

Do you have any projects in the works? What can we expect from Origami Vinyl in the upcoming months?

After a lot of demand from our friends outside of the LA area, we will be launching an online store in the coming months. Our store with primarily focus on LA based artists and hard-to-find stuff. I’m not really interested in putting up nationally distributed product and try to battle it out with Amazon. Like our physical store, the online store will be highly curated. We are also in the process of creating a quarterly zine that will come with every purchase in the store. It will feature our favorite albums lists, interviews with bands, a feature with an industry expert on vinyl, and even funny horoscopes. We’re pretty excited about it and are hoping to have it ready for the day after Turkey day.

Long term, we’re planning a bunch of rad events for SXSW 2012.

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