Piper Street Sound,
The TVD First Date

“Without any carpentry skills to speak of, I found myself emptying my ‘guest bedroom’ of all furniture in order to build enormous shelves, floor to ceiling, to store thousands of records, mostly for Latin American electronic music labels, combined with some of my own Reggae productions in the horde as well. Why not? This was during a pandemic, so it wasn’t likely that we would be having any guests staying with us anyway. How did I get to the point where I would have a whole room of my house dedicated and filled with vinyl, not to mention a vinyl collection in the living room and my parent’s walk in closet too?”

“My first experience with vinyl was through my parents’ record collection. Mostly ’60s and ’70s rock. The usual suspects for their generation were Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, Jimi Hendrix, things like that. It wasn’t a very large collection, but I really enjoyed something about the process of selecting a record, putting it on the turntable and hearing it come out of the large Kenmore speakers. This was in the era of the battery powered boombox, somewhere between the decline of tape and vinyl, and the domination of the CD, so my parent’s stereo felt quite impressive and powerful in comparison to the little speakers on my little boombox.

The stereo was in the same room as the family library, a room without a TV, with a large west facing window, and it received nice afternoon sunlight which lay in rectangular pools on the carpet. I liked bathing in these and reading the record jackets as the music played, and absorbing the information in the liner notes as best I could. I enjoyed panning the music from left to right, especially on the more drastic stereo mixes, and messing with the graphic EQ on the stereo receiver. This was an epiphany!  I could alter the sounds coming out of the speakers. On some mixes I could even remove (Ringo’s) drums, or some of the vocals, just by shifting a little slider from left to right! Some proto-inkling of a remix concept was growing in my mind.

Around this time, I was growing interested in playing guitars, so my Dad surprised me with my first bass guitar on my 12th birthday. He also bought me a Music Man amp, which was quite large and heavy. I put it upstairs in my room, which was separated by a flight of stairs from the stereo and record collection. If you have ever tried to play an electric bass without an amp you know that it is very hard to hear. Especially if you’re trying to play along to another sound.

Luckily I found out that there was a 1/4” hi impedance microphone input in the stereo receiver and I realized I could plug my bass into this. This was truly amazing. Suddenly I could play along to records, and even achieve a dirty fuzz sound by overloading the preamp. I spent a lot of time playing along to records, very badly at first, but a little universe of sound was starting to form, growing out of my interactions with these musical discs, which I had inherited the use of, but had no part in purchasing. Feeling somewhat like a ship without a rudder, I decided to take part in the process of buying the records that I would be playing along to.

Long before most of my friends were interested in buying vinyl, I had an interest in the process. Because there wasn’t a CD player in my parents’ set up, if a piece of music was going to be beamed into this special zone of sound exploration, it needed to be on vinyl. At this point in time I was growing interested in punk and post punk music and luckily a good bit of this was available on vinyl. Though I lived in the suburbs of Atlanta, there was a local shop that had a good selection of punk albums.

If I remember correctly, on Tuesdays when new albums came out, after school, there was a long line stretching across the store. In front were teenagers and young adults waiting to get albums. I didn’t go in on these days. Too intimidating. Slouching into the shop on other days I realized that I could get the free mail order catalogs of small labels, on the counter of the shop, take them home and order what I wanted from the safety of my home, away from the intimidating opinions of older more experienced music fans who often populated the shop. I remember eventually psyching myself up to have the guts to actually purchase something that I had selected in the shop, because getting to the register and out the door felt like passing through a gauntlet of older music guys’ sarcastic, judgmental eyes and comments, to emerge outside with my plastic bag clutched in my sweaty palms was joyous.

Years passed, I kept playing bass and guitar, played in bands, and started recording practices on 4-track. Punk led me to ska, and ska to rocksteady and reggae (thanks to bands from this period in the ’90s like the Slackers that represented a real love of, and feel for, vintage Jamaican music, rather than the cliche 3rd wave ska-punk that was so prevalent). I kept collecting music throughout this period, though much of it was on CD, or taped onto cassettes (super low quality ones from the dollar store), and by 1999 or 2000, I started buying music online through a new service called e-music. I used these downloaded mp3s, and taped tapes as placeholders in my collection, and would search for the music in physical form when I had the chance.

The record shop that had the biggest influence on me was Wuxtry in Decatur (Atlanta). I worked in a vegetarian restaurant next door to this shop for several years, while I was going to college at GSU, and I would basically get paid on Friday and walk next door and spend almost my whole paycheck, sometimes my whole paycheck on music there—luckily, I had student loans to cover my rent and I could eat for free at work.

I had a very influential older friend, a great drummer named Davis Petterson, who encouraged and spurred on these reckless financial activities with his unrestrained music consumption, justified by an endless well of musical knowledge he possessed. We would get jacked on too much coffee, and then spend a couple hours in the shop each week. I ended up getting a second job in another kitchen, so I had some money for other things besides music! Exhausting hours of work and school, little sleep, little food, but totally worth it.

Through these years I dug into dub and roots reggae, all kinds of international music, electronic music, experimental music and lots of older R&B and jazz. One saving grace financially is that I never really got into buying reggae 7”s. At the time that I was beginning to be interested in these little addictive cookies, I had proceeded to the point in my own music production that I was increasingly buying music gear to create my own reggae and dub music and couldn’t spare those kind of funds for singles.

I formed a dub reggae band, called KingRat, where I mixed the band onstage as we played, like a live dub remix. I met Dave Hahn (Dub is a Weapon) during this period and we retained a friendship over the years. (He graciously connected me to Carter Van Pelt who has been really supportive of my recent reggae productions.) I quit school and started touring as ‘Dub Engineer’ with a band called DubConscious. When I stopped touring, I was smitten by the ‘Cumbia Digital’ sounds of ZZK Records, I started blending electronic and Cumbia elements into my dub productions under the name Piper Street Sound.

Adrian Zelski of DubConscious and I brought Chancha Via Circuito and El G (Grant C. Dull, label head of ZZK Records) to Atlanta for some shows. I was supposed to open for Chancha as Piper Street Sound but was poisoned by a Chalupa a few days before while on a brief tour with another project, then prescribed faulty medicine at a minute clinic, accidentally overdosed on this medicine, and was hospitalized for several days unable to sleep, drink, or eat. I survived, came home and hosted Chancha and Grant for a couple of days at my house, and maintained friendship with them since. I think my frail-gaunt-post-chalupa-hospital-morphine-haze impressed upon them my dedication to music (or something).

Within a few years I was a stay-at-home Dad, running a small recording studio, occasionally playing shows, and interning at ZZK. In 2014, I started managing the label alongside Grant. I handle the direct to customer fulfillment for ZZK as well as digital content management. Through this process I kept recording and producing music as Piper Street Sound, building up my home studio, and meeting a lot of producers and labels, many in a similar vein to ZZK, most based in Latin America or expatriated to Europe, and they needed D2C fulfillment too.

By 2020, I was holding the stock for more than 10 labels and my personal vinyl collection grew in the process. Even before the pandemic I had been abstaining from stepping foot into vinyl shops for several years, while I am filling my studio with the necessary preamps, compressors, tape delay units, spring reverbs, spring reverbs, and spring reverbs, that I need to complete my studio and get that sound on my productions.

I intend to return to in person vinyl shopping soon, with strict (likely ephemeral) vows to limit myself to reason, frugality, and shelf space. Having released my first 7” last year (“Small Plate” ft. Addis Pablo), with another being pressed now (“Black Eyed Peace” ft. Andy Bassford), I feel I have come full circle from my days of listening to vinyl and soaring through an imaginary musical place; to pressing transcriptions of my imaginary musical place to vinyl, hopefully opening this internal dimension into a co-imaginary, meta-personal musical place in which others can soar.”
Matt Mansfield

“Black Eyed Peace,” the new EP from Piper Street Sound ft. Andy Bassford is in stores now—on vinyl.

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