Absolute Beginners tips for record collecting from crate digger King Hippo

8th May 2019

Broadcaster and DJ Alejandro Ayala AKA King Hippo, has weaved a fascinating life, built around his love of records. He’s picked up some great tips along the way. 

His father had a large collection of ballad and opera vinyl, but after being leant Jazz records by school friends as a kid, his eyes and ears widened. Having moved from Chicago to Japan for a few years, he started to shop across the country’s extensive collection of record stores, and spotted things that he knew his friends back home were looking for. Word got around, and his career in records began to blossom. 

King Hippo has now played in various locations around the world. Now, back in the States, he hosts the Jazz heavy QC on Chicago station Lumpen Radio. We can think of no one better to offer advice on how to start a record collection. Below, King Hippo gives advice to absolute beginners on how to care for your vinyl once you’ve started digging. 

1 \\ Take it out of the sleeve; inspect it, make sure there’s no scratches on it. With practice you can feel how deep some of the scratches can be, and you’ll know that the needle will bounce right off of that or get stuck into it; some of them are superficial and very light and won’t affect play back. Don’t be nervous to ask the record store staff to play it for you if they don’t have a turntable for customers there. 

2 \\ Look at a brand new record; notice the colour, the sheen, the way it looks. Then maybe on Google, look at things that have been played to death by a DJ notice that dullness and the way the grooves look.

3 \\ Heat is one of the first things to get acquainted with, so that you’re not being ripped off by someone who thinks they’ve got something special. Put a needle on it and it’ll run across the entire thing. Heat can warp your records within minutes; records are malleable. It’ll bend it and cold will crack it. It can also warp your records if you’re playing out in the sun. 

4 \\ Don’t be so anxious to have that record. If it’s too crackly or too scratchy-sounding and you’re taking that out to DJ, it’s gonna amplify – which is nice in some cases, some people prefer the colour in the sound – but if you’re playing at a place like Brilliant Corners, it will come out super loud and might be annoying. 

5 \\ I completely agree with going to a show and buying records from the artist, showing them some love. Make sure that the artists that you love can continue to do what they’re doing. It makes the world a better place to live in. 

6 \\ Are you supporting local business with actual people that care about music and records? Various major labels are repressing records and clogging pressingplants around the world with huge orders. The record plants have to to do it ’cause they’re making huge money off of this. But it’s also delaying small independent labels like Total Refreshment Centre, or International Anthem, or First Word Records, because they’re only ordering 500 to 1000 quantity which is huge for a team of three people, but it’s nothing in terms of what the plants are getting from major labels like Sony [for example]. So you can go ahead and get that record from Urban Outfitters, but know that this is what’s happening behind the scene. When you go to a record store, you’re meeting fanatics, people who know about the records. They can share what they’re passionate about with you. This is true, real life interaction with people that care. So, yes, you can click on a mouse, buy a record in your underwear, but if you put on your pants and talk to a person in a record shop, you might discover something new. You might make a connection that will lead you somewhere amazing.

7 \\ Follow your curiosity. If you like The Beatles, start with The Beatles. Whatever it is, start there, whatever makes you feel good – just follow the path that music leads you on.

8 \\ Don’t ever think that price equals quality. Some of the best records I have didn’t cost very much. There are many reasons why a record is priced very high but ultimately you determine whether or not those tracks are good or not.

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