The next day Paz took the turntable and went back to see Phillip. “I spent like two hours with him just listening to his records. It was amazing. Just having fun, taking photos–he was totally emotional about it.” The proof is in the pages of Dust & Grooves itself. Full-page shots of Phillip, holding his vinyl and listening with joy, figure prominently in the book. If anyone has doubts in the power that music holds, these photographs stand as shimmering new proof.
A year after returning home from Ghana, Paz bought a new turntable and had it shipped direct to Phillip. Leaning back from our cafe table, his tale all told, Paz looked off to think for a beat. When he met my gaze again, he was beaming. “It was totally different. It meant something beyond our selfish projects.”
Dust & Grooves has turned Eilon Paz into a collector of record collectors, an archivist of people that don’t just love music but are living with it in the most physical way. And while he’s too humble to admit it, the project has made him a vinyl authority. He talks confidently about old Turkish psych-rock (“a crazy hot commodity”) and how crate digging will never be the same after eBay. Record collectors, with their insatiable and active approach to art, are his kind of people. He and I agreed that they’re more athletic in their listening. Playing vinyl is a manual kind of thing–flipping sides, changing records and pulling out the albums that should come next. “What unifies them is an attention to detail,” he said. “That, and they also don’t move around much. Having a collection is a pain in the ass.”
But the extra work–the “pain in the ass”–is also the payoff. “It’s not an easy way to interact with music,” Paz admits. “It’s very rewarding, though. It demands your attention and when you listen, you interact with it.”
His favorite question to put to collectors is “What’s your comfort record?” Paz explains: “It could be anything. It doesn’t have to soothe you, it could be the stuff that makes you want to jump and dance. A comfort record is probably that ‘question music’ that pulls out emotional answers.” It usually takes a while for that one record to get pulled out, but when it does Paz can see his subject change. “It’s a spiritual thing, something that brings you closer to a spiritual experience. It’s oftentimes John Coltrane, Joni Mitchell or Curtis Mayfield.”
The print edition of Dust & Grooves is more than just pixels and paragraphs–it gives readers a portrait of the vinyl community as it seeks, shelves and spins the best music on earth. The book’s first edition was released this spring and is almost entirely sold out (a few deluxe copies of the book, signed and numbered by Paz himself, are still up for grabs). The second edition, though, is coming in September and will feature an interview with Paz’s own “holy grail” collector, Okayplayer CEO Questlove himself.
Readers who have never bought a record will get inspired to start digging. Seasoned collectors will feel a push to continue. And anyone who’s retired–“cashed out”–will itch to get back in the game. The book is like a great record in that the more time you give it, the more you learn and the better you become. Paz’s work holds so much music–it almost has a sound.
Before we parted ways, I asked him about his goal. Why all the work? I had to know what Paz really hoped to get out of Dust & Grooves. He met my question with another smile, reaching for his phone to show me a text from a friend who had just finished the book: “Got inspired and set my record player back up.” It was all the answering that either of us needed.