The Singhs:
The TVD First Date

“Ever since I was a young child, I’ve been addicted to vinyl.”

“I’ve always had lots of records….at one point I had 10,000 or so. The funny thing is that I can remember where and when I bought most of them. Perhaps all of them, if I think hard enough. Records have taught me a lot over the years – not only about music, but about cultures and eras and languages, about styles and how they change, and about sound and vision. How technology has changed and how it has changed us.

Records have taken me to other lands, other worlds, other sounds, both in my mind and in reality. They’re an obsession, I’ve traveled the world in search of them. There’s something about the thrill of the hunt, especially when you’re digging through piles and piles of dusty platters. You never know what you’ll find! Yeah, I know a lot about collecting and rarities and monetary value – hell, I spent nearly a decade working in used record stores. While there are many factors that go into why people collect things, the bottom line is that it’s still about the music.

Those years I spent working in used record stores provided me with a greater musical education than any school could ever offer. Just imagine spending your days surrounded by thousands of records (and getting paid for it, albeit minimally), most of them unsealed and waiting to be dropped onto a turntable. Looking through stacks of LP’s and 45’s and wondering “what does this sound like?” – and then discovering the answer.

Back in the pre-Internet days, that was amazing. Now its easy to hear so much via YouTube or samples on iTunes and more, but it’s a different process. Oftentimes you’d just pick up something because of the album cover art, and check it out – out of curiosity. I started collecting tiki/exotica records 30 years ago because I loved the covers, but soon I discovered I loved the music, too.

Or there’s the hundreds of albums by Sun Ra with homemade, often hand-drawn, covers. I have a large collection of X-Rated “party records” on labels like Laff and Weird World, with lewd and lascivious covers. I own every weird synthesizer record of the 70s, like The Plastic Cow Goes Moog! and The Genuine Electric Latin Love Machine. I have hundreds of film soundtracks, mostly genre stuff like spy movies, blaxploitation, kung fu, and biker flicks. I have boxes and boxes of punk rock 45’s I bought in the 70s on DIY labels with DIY covers. Disco records, early hip hop singles, and thousands of electronic dance music 12″ singles—I’ve been a DJ for 20 years.

I’ve been fortunate that I’ve been able to feed my record addiction with a constant source of fresh product to choose from. Working in a store, you’re in the proverbial cat-bird seat, as customers constantly bring in stacks of records to sell. But it’s because of my work as a touring musician and DJ, that I’ve been able to go record shopping all over the world (I get to go to liquor stores, too, but that’s another story).

I’ve had some wild experiences out there. One of my favorites is when The Singhs (who I play with now, and whose album Science Fiction has just been released) got a deal with Sony/India, and we headed off to South Asia to tour. I had been pretty obsessed with Bollywood film music for a good 20 years or so, after being exposed to it in Indian restaurants and via UHF TV. I found something wildly intoxicating about the East-Meets-West mashup of sitars and guitars, synthesizers and harmoniums, disco/funk beats played on tablas and dholaks alongside Western drum kits and Afro-Cuban percussion, topped off with high-pitched women’s voices. It sounded to me like a psychedelic Hindi remix of Shaft or Saturday Night Fever.

During our first trip to India, I found a record dealer at a sidewalk stall in Bombay’s Chor Bazaar (“Thieves Market,” though not anymore), and after buying a number of LPs he enquired if I would be interested in visiting, as he called it, The Big Store. Did you say THE BIG STORE!?! Fuck yeah, yaar! He assigned his 7-year-old son to lead me to The Big Store. As we started walking to it, I heard the muezzin calling the faithful to prayer. It was then that I noticed the mosque we were heading towards. There were hundreds of people, it seemed, hurtling towards us, and I had lost the little kid amongst the crowd. Every few minutes I would see him jump up and yell back to me “Hurry! The Big Store!” frantically waving his hand for me to catch up with him.

We eventually made it to a small, dark, dank alleyway. He led me down it in pitch blackness, until I heard him say “ok!” A door opened and someone flicked on a hanging light bulb. I could see that it was a tiny room, stacked with records from floor to ceiling, thousands and thousands of them. Years of India’s extreme heat, humidity, monsoon, and dust had left many of them ragged – many covers had been eaten away by insects and larva, but I was there, goddamn it, and nothing was going to stop me now.

A few others joined us, including 2 of my local friends (ostensibly to do the haggling so essential in this culture.) I was given a stool to sit on and a bottle of Thums Up (betel nut cola) to drink, as one fellow put records in front of me and another would remove my rejects. A couple of hours later, we had put a small dent in their inventory. I left The Big Store with a couple hundred albums, for which I paid around 25¢ a piece. Talk about the thrill of the hunt!

I recently sat in on the vinyl mastering session of our new album at Masterdisk in New York. You know what was really intoxicating? The smell of fresh vinyl as the grooves were being cut into the acetate. It’s a scent of sweet petroleum, synthetic yet organic. “It’s probably really bad for you” remarked engineer Alex De Turk after I mentioned how much I liked it. But it reminded me of taking a new record out of the sleeve, and putting it in the turntable for the first time. The ritual of moving the tone arm and gently lowering it onto the record. An act I’ve done countless times in the last 50 years. I’m glad that artists are making records again. And I’m glad that fans are listening.”
Brother Cleve

Brother Cleve has played keyboards on myriad records and tours since the 1970s, including The Del Fuegos (Slash/ Warner Bros. Records), Combustible Edison (SubPop), Ursula 1000 (Eighteenth Street Lounge), Barrence Whitfield & The Savages (New Rose, France), The Transistors (Right Tempo, Italy), The Wheelers & Dealers (Diesel Only, NYC), and The Singhs (Redstar). He leads a double life as a mixologist, and writes about music and cocktails for Bar magazine (Hello Slovakia), available via iTunes.

The Singhs Science Fiction will be available on black or clear vinyl (2 LPs at 45 rpm) this summer, produced by Tony Visconti.

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