Read my recent piece featured in the Japanese Book – Rare Groove from P-Vine Records and Ele-King Books. The book is written in Japanese so I’ve included the English text here for those who would like to read it. You can find the book at P-Vine’s Official Store and Japanese online outlets.
I grew up in the suburbs of Reading, Pennsylvania one hour outside of Philly and 3 hours from NYC. I started DJing in 1995 on a pair of used Gemini 1800 turntables, a Gemini PMX Scratchmaster mixer, and a half crate of records. The GZA “Shadowboxing” Fugees “Fu-Gee-La” and Junior Mafia “Get Money” were some of the first new singles I had. For me and the DJ’s I aspired to be it was all about vinyl. My parents’ funk/soul/rock records were cool but at the time they weren’t exactly cool to DJ with. Collecting my own records quickly became vital for survival in the DJ game. I didn’t just have to have records, I needed the right records, I needed constant new shit, classic shit, and everything in between shit. That is what got me digging.
I hit every record store I could get to. In NYC: Fatbeats, Beat Street, Rock n Soul, A1, in Philly: Funk-O-Mart, Sound Of Market, Footwork, and Armand’s to name a few. I bought mostly underground and classic hip hop, house, and reggae/dancehall. That all changed when I started working at Armand’s Records while attending college in Philly. It helped form the foundation of my DJ career and expand my musical knowledge. I began buying more reggae/dancehall & funk/soul 7”s eventually becoming a record buyer for the store. The access to new releases, white labels and test pressings was awesome. Label reps would regularly drop off promos. Every a-list DJ who was in town would shop there. Pulling records for legends DJ Jazzy Jeff and Biz Markie was a big moment for me. Quest Love of The Roots once dropped off a box of white labels he pressed for “Thought At Work” with the uncleared sample of The Beatles “Hey Bulldog.” A few years prior while at Footwork in Philly I got a copy of The Roots “Organix” that Quest signed with a big caricature of himself. Rich Medina and Bobbito owned this spot and you could always find joints in there.
After college I traveled more and started digging in new places. San Francisco’s Amoeba Records had gems everywhere, Chicago’s Reckless Records, Record Breakers and Gramophone Records, Amsterdam’s Waxwell, Rush Hour, Distortion Records, and Record Mania, as well as Belgium and London stores all had great digs. The Thing in Brooklyn was a different animal. A thrift shop/record store with a few hundred thousand records completely unorganized and dirty. Gloves and masks recommended. A real dig. I pulled hundreds of want list records and unknown gems between 2006-2019. Mr. B Wacka “Traffic Jam”, Infected Mushroom “The Gathering”, Chill Rob G “Court Is Now In Session” test pressing were just a few treasures found there. Never an easy dig but few are.
Every digger has a regret or two. Passing on sealed copies of this or that or later learning you had a mega rare 7” in your hands. In Maine, there’s an unmarked warehouse along the roadside in the small rural town of Corinth. It’s out there both figuratively and literally. The business name is Maine Record Sales. I got access to this beautiful monster from my father-in-law who knew the owner. The warehouse is mostly store close out stock, label overstock, promos, and untouched inventory from when record shops or labels were dead or dying throughout the decades. It’s a rough looking barn from the outside but just inside is a maze of record boxes in 6 foot high columns. Rows and rows and rows of boxes. It’d take years to sift through them all. Pick your spot, dig, and come back another day kind of place. That’s just the downstairs. The upstairs is mostly off limits. At least one million records. I’ve spent countless hours up there scouring alphabetical archives of Rock/Blues/Jazz LPs and random less organized walls of 12”, LP, and 7” dead stock items spanning every genre. Sealed or mint original copies of GZA “Liquid Swords”, Boogiemonster “Riders Of The Storm: The Underwater Album”, Gang Starr “Daily Operation” and “Hard To Earn”, De La Soul “De La Soul Is Dead” and “Stakes is High” LP promos, ATCQ “The Low End Theory” UK original, Metallica “Kill Em All” (Megaforce), Anthrax “Among The Living”, Depeche Mode “Music For The Masses”, and Faith No More “The Real Thing” were just a few of the early finds. I’d earmark records as I dug. At the end of the day the owner and I would walk down the aisles going over each selection. “This one is $5, this is $10, this is $20, this is expensive, this one is not for sale” was the normal dialogue. No discogs price searching, just straight up knowledge on each record. I regret passing on what at the time were good priced copies of vinyl gold. I’d either reached my limit or assumed I could get it later.
I love a well organized and curated record store with equal parts new and used records. It’s become difficult for stores to have a steady inflow of used inventory with record prices and popularity the way they are now. Within the last 10-15 years a digger could scoop $1-$5 bin records of common classic rock albums, hip hop, and disco/funk/soul that now go for $15-$50 or more today. I’ve become more selective and strategic where I spend time and money. Still, the unknown and randomness of a dusty dig is the most rewarding record buying experience. It takes patience and discipline. I’ve been in over my head quite a few times. Warehouses with pallets everywhere, mountains of boxes, and only so much time and money to dig. Leaving boxes untouched leaves a sense of curiosity. What could’ve been in that one?
About Gregg: I’m a 27 year veteran DJ and record collector that splits time between NYC and Pennsylvania. I’m very fortunate to have music as my passion and career although my number one priority is being a Husband and Dad. I hold a weekly residency at The Folly in NYC’s West Village and perform throughout the city and beyond. GreggNyce.com is where you can access everything from mixes to bookings and @greggnyce all across social media platforms. See you at the record store. – Gregg