Dave Wilkinson of
Wax Trax Records:
The TVD Interview

For over 30 years, Wax Trax Records has provided Denver with a caring and passionate home for music lovers and vinyl enthusiasts alike.

Wax Trax began as a record shop in Denver, Colorado opened by Jim Nash and Dannie Flesher. They sold the store in 1978 and, in November of that year, opened a new one under the same name in Chicago, Illinois in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. This store would become the center of the New Wave, punk rock, and industrial music scenes in Chicago. Though the original owners moved their idea for Wax Trax! Records to Chicago, Dave Stidman and Duane Davis bought the Wax Trax record store in Denver and have kept it alive since for 34 years. Wax Trax, then and now, is one of the greatest music stores in all of Colorado.

I spoke with long time Wax Trax employee Dave Wilkinson to ask about his store and the state of the record scene here in Denver. Dave is an important part of the Wax family, and is one of the many factors that make Wax Trax worth visiting.

How long have you worked for Wax Trax in Denver?

I’ve worked at Wax Trax for just over 12 years. A good many of my co-workers have worked here for over 20 years.

What sparked your interest in working with a record store and/or in music distribution early on?

I’ve always had a strong interest in music, but I think the first idea of wanting to work at a record store was when my dad took me to Wax Trax when I was 10 or 11 years old. I was pretty sure it was the place for me. All the cool posters and other music related items that had been collected and put on the walls and ceilings in Wax Trax were just so cool! And then as I was old enough to drive, I’d skip school and just hang out in the shop and around the other shops on Capitol Hill.

I spent a year working at Angelo’s CDs and Tapes just to be able to have that as experience on my resume just so Wax Trax would hire me.

Do you collect vinyl records yourself?

I do. I think I started to get into vinyl when I was 17 or 18 years old. That was at a time that the CD was still the main medium for music. My parents had vinyl and I had some records as a really little kid, but growing up in the ’80s, tapes were the mainstay.

What is the most prized item in your collection?

I think it would be a toss-up between X’s Los Angeles LP and Iggy and The Stooges’ Funhouse LP.

Have you seen growth in interest for records recently?

The interest for vinyl over the last few years has totally exploded! I think Mp3’s and downloading have squeezed out the CD, but people want something to put their hands on and relate to when they spend money, and I think thats where vinyl records come back into the picture. Sure, they are a pain in the ass to move when moving to a new place, but vinyl seems to have a soul. And I think the advent of digital download codes being packaged with new LPs is a fantastic new trend.

How would you describe the state of the “local record store scene?”

I think the scene is really good for a city/state that isn’t on either coast. In Denver alone there are 3 or 4 different local record shops within a short distance of each other. And there is Growler Records on Sante Fe and Black and Read in Arvada and Absolute Vinyl and Albums on The Hill in Boulder.

Being located in the heart of Denver, you’ve seen local record stores come and go. How is it that Wax Trax continues to maintain its composure during difficult economic times?

I think we’ve always had a core group of regular customers, as well as having such a huge reputation as an awesome “underground” record shop. I think even during tough economic times people will still find a bit of disposable income, and that usually can afford a CD or two or a few used LPs.

We never got heavily into the mode of having everything relate to some price points dictated by ebay or the market in general. We still just want to get the music to the people.

What can customers and music lovers expect when coming to Wax Trax?

I think they can expect a truly genuine “record store” experience. We have tons of old-school street-cred. and have the classic underground vibe. We are the Original Gangsta’s of the Denver local record store scene. There is something totally unique and classic about Wax Trax. We certainly don’t have the Barnes & Noble type feel.

What do you foresee for the future of record stores in Denver, Colorado?

Ya know, I’m not sure. It’s not like we can start selling groceries in our shop the way grocery stores sell CDs at the check-out lane.

What can local and/or visiting music lovers do to help their local music store scene?

Just make visiting our local record shops a family thing. Stop by after hanging out at the park, or whatever the weekend activity may be. The best thing people can do is instill an appreciation of record stores in their kids.

Wax Trax Records, 638 E. 13th Avenue, Denver, CO  80203

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