How long have you been working as The Turntable Doc?
I really started in 2010 when I had a bunch of turntables sitting around that I’d found at thrift stores. The “vinyl revival” hadn’t really gotten started in earnest at that point. I got a bunch of turntables at thrift stores and fixed them up and then I took them to—my friend Jerry Williams runs the Carrboro Record Show—so I took them to the show and people just snatched them up. The guys from All Day Records came by and asked, “Hey, do you fix records?” and I went “I guess I fixed these, so I guess I do?”
How did you learn how to fix them?
My older brother would walk around the house and take everything apart and I would walk around with another screwdriver and figure out how it went back together.
You mentioned the vinyl revival—what have you noticed since that time, in terms of people’s consumption habits?
There’s shops popping up all over the place, so I’d say it’s still working. I look at it this way—there’s this joke in Men in Black where they say, “Now I’ll have to buy The White Album again!” In that joke, physical media was still a thing. We went from physical media to MP3s to streaming, and I think people just went, “Hey—I don’t have anything!” If you’re a fanboy of some band you just love, you want an artifact. I’ve seen people go to record shows that didn’t have turntables and buy records.
I’ve got an LP from 1950 that sounds fantastic. We’re talking about a 73-year-old technology—it’s unheard of that something can last that long as a viable technology product. It’s unheard of. They sound great, they look great. They’re aesthetically pleasing to people—I just don’t think they’re going to go away.
HBO has recently retired some shows suddenly. It seems like there’s a growing awareness that things online might not last forever.
That’s a big deal! People are going to start snatching up DVDs to make sure they have stuff, maybe. People like artifacts.
What are common mistakes people make with their turntables?
I wouldn’t say this is a turntable thing but it is a record thing: cleaning records. It makes a gigantic difference and there’s some simple, low-frills ways of doing it. I have some ways listed on my website, and then you can buy an expensive machine to do it, too—I have an expensive machine. People will listen to records and go, “It’s all noisy and crackly!” But actually, if you clean a record, that gets rid of 80 to 90 percent of that, unless the record is really trash.
Do you remember the first record you bought?
Yes. Elton John’s Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy. I still love that record.
What is the record-collecting community like, in your experience?
Obsessive. Really nice people that are obsessed.