Last year I interviewed filmmaker Pip Piper. This Easter his new film The Vinyl Revival is released on DVD and it seemed like a good opportunity to catch up with him and find out why he is fascinated by vinyl records and the shops that sell them.
More info about director Pip Piper and Blue Hippo Media here.
What were the first and last records you bought?
Bit more difficult to remember the first one! But I am pretty sure it was Elvis’ ‘Easy Come Easy Go’, a 7″ single, I was probably about 11, so 1975 and I bought it from a record shop in Kenilworth, a 5 mile cycle ride from where I lived. The last piece of vinyl I bought was a second-hand album, ‘Octoberon’ by Barclay James Harvest. The last new piece of vinyl, which is what I buy the most was IDLES’ amazing first album ‘Brutalism’, which shows my eclectic taste.
There seems to be so many flaws and limitations with a vinyl recording, is this part of the appeal?
I am not sure I would agree with so many flaws, it’s a different format for sure and has its limitations like all formats. However, it’s organic, it’s analogue. Its restrictions help to create the sound, not deter it. I think the appeal is so much to do with all that plus it’s physical, it’s tactile. It’s an artefact with more to offer than even the music, which personally I think is a warmer, more natural sound.
Is this one of the many fronts where analogue is pushing back against the digital “smart” world we live in?
I think what comes across in the film is that there is a much bigger story at work here. A story where more and more people want to connect for the first time or reconnect to what feels more “real”. That could be shopping local, using independent shops, smaller live gigs and vinyl is definitely part of all that I believe. What’s encouraging is not so much if analogue is winning against digital, it is that it is finding a complimentary place often where digital helps to create the “analogue” connection. It is not about which is better – it is about choice and ensuring we do not lose forever the elements of living that offer so much.
Do you think ten years ago, we could have predicted the vinyl revival?
I don’t think you could have, no. When I made ‘Last Shop Standing’, we thought it was to be a film about the complete demise of the record shop and that of course at its core was connected with the decline of vinyl. When we made that film back in 2012, we saw the first emerging signs of growth but the reason 6 years later I came back to make ‘The Vinyl Revival’ was that the explosion of vinyl and growth of indie record shops was just amazing and I wanted to document that.
What can you expect from a visit to a record shop? What makes them special?
Well it can be varied obviously, but almost bar none you will find people with amazing music knowledge and a willingness to chat. You will find a treasure trove of records often new and second hand. They are places you need not rush, places you can explore, go on musical adventures, ask to listen to stuff you’ve never heard before and ask a real person questions. You can discover a community who shares your passion. If you go to them you know what I am saying, if you haven’t, then look for where your nearest one is and go, now!
In making the documentary, what was your favourite moment? What surprised you?
What continually surprised me was discovering just how many young people were both getting involved in actually running record stores and selling vinyl professionally but also just becoming fans of it, some even before they owned record players!
In terms of favourite moments, chatting with the legend that is Ade Utley from Portishead in his Bristol kitchen, playing his favourite record and staring into space as he recounted he had probably played that record a 1,000 times while telling us the story behind the tune was mesmerising. Being with the band Cassia in the recording studio as they discussed with their producer just how they wanted their debut album to sound, excitedly knowing it would be released on vinyl was fascinating too.
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