Elektric Voodoo,
The TVD First Date

“Growing up in Lawrence, NJ, a suburb that borders the town of Princeton, really shaped who I am today.”

“Most people know Princeton because of the University, which is one of the most prestigious academic institutions. But many people don’t know that across the street from the University is a record store, Princeton Record Exchange (PRE), arguably one of the greatest record stores on the planet. For me, living ten minutes from PRE was a dream. I had easy access to a constantly evolving collection of amazing and affordable vinyl during my formative years. This record store had a profound impact on my life and career as a musician.

My vinyl obsession started when I was 14 as a result of growing up in a diverse musical household. My mother has sung in the church my entire life, mostly as a cantor. My older brother Chris is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, singer, and producer. My parents had a small and well curated vinyl collection that fit into one cardboard box. It contained mostly classic rock LPs like Jimi Hendrix Are You Experienced, The Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s…, The Doors L.A. Woman, along with some outliers like Esso Steel Band Front Street.

I still have those records today as my parents let me keep whatever I wanted. In contrast, Chris had a far more esoteric collection that included lots of industrial and gothic folk records like Einsturzende Neubauten Funf auf der nach oben offenen Richterskala, The Legendary Pink Dots Hallway Of The Gods, and Current 93 Soft Black Stars.

Before I was in high school, I didn’t have my own record player, so I would browse through my parents’ and brother’s records. I became fascinated by the artwork and liner notes and mesmerized when I heard my brother playing his records in his room. The sounds, visuals, and inclination to copy my older brother encouraged me to buy my own record player. Back then, I was able to purchase one for $10 via a classified ad in the local paper. From there, I knew it was time to build my own vinyl collection.

The first time I went to Princeton Record Exchange was my freshman year of high school, the night before Thanksgiving. I had been hearing of PRE for a few years from Chris and his friends. I admired their taste in music and wanted to experience this place they kept talking about. So once I had my record player, I knew exactly where I would go to further explore the world of vinyl. My memories of my first visit are a bit hazy, but I do remember a couple things clearly. One of the first records I bought there was Mystic Man by Peter Tosh. It’s not my favorite record of his, but it has some good songs and I still own it.

As I walked through the aisles I also remember seeing a handful of posters of the band Ween. I never heard of them before, but as a 14 year old boy who had recently hit puberty, I was particularly intrigued by the poster with their album cover for Chocolate And Cheese, which features the torso of a woman with her chest peeking out of a red shirt combined with a wrestling belt with the Ween logo. As you can imagine, it made quite an impression on a 14 year old boy like myself. For the next 2.5 years I saw this poster every time I went to PRE but still had no idea what their music sounded like. Funny thing is; I soon learned that Mickey Melchiondo (aka Dean Ween) had previously worked at PRE.

My brother’s friend Todd eventually introduced me to Ween’s music in 2001, the summer before my senior year of high school. Todd was driving me home after we played a gig at a bar near Rutgers University. I was already feeling pretty cool as an underage kid who had just hung out at a bar with a bunch of college kids. I then had my mind blown as we listened to Chocolate And Cheese from start to finish.

Ween quickly became my favorite band. Almost one year later, I saw them in concert for the first time at the Terrace Club, an eating club (Princeton’s equivalent of fraternities) across the street from PRE. My friend Evan was there with me and we chatted it up with Dean Ween after the show. He was very friendly but our conversation was cut short when he noticed one of the clerks from PRE standing behind us. They clearly were friends and had known each other from Deaner’s days working at PRE. After nearly two decades of going to Ween shows, one of my bands played the late night show at High Sierra Music Festival in 2017, immediately after Ween’s headlining set. It was surreal to see where I was at that time and think back to my days browsing the aisles at PRE, staring at Ween posters. It was a full circle type of moment.

Aside from introducing me to Ween, I love PRE because the quality and quantity of their vinyl inventory is exceptional. They consistently have a diverse and robust selection that spans across all genres, including but not limited to jazz, hip hop, rock, funk reggae, world music (organized by country), classical, electronic, blues, folk, etc. In addition to having a large selection of classic artists that I love (John Coltrane, Funkadelic, Public Enemy, etc.), I can regularly find obscure records that you’ll never see at most places. PRE seems to consistently buy entire record collections, which are often massive. So they consistently have a constant influx of “new” vinyl.

The selection that PRE offered, coupled with the influence of my older brother and his love for more experimental music, opened up my mind and ears to all kinds of incredible music that most teenagers didn’t have access to or didn’t know about. When I was only 14, Chris turned me on to artists like Can, Sun Ra, Lee Scratch Perry, and Acid Mothers Temple. I could easily find their records at PRE, along with thousands of other artists who were outside of the mainstream. This nurtured my curiosity and love for music and art that pushed boundaries.

In addition to having exceptional quality and quantity, the prices at PRE are unbeatable, a rare combination to come across. I didn’t realize this until I was 18 and started living in other states and regularly going to other record stores. At PRE, you can consistently find original pressings of amazing records that are relatively affordable. Even their budget bins have an excellent selection.

Looking at my vinyl collection now, I see lots of awesome records (original pressings) with the PRE price tags attached. Here are just a handful: Funkadelic Cosmic Slop $6.99, Funkadelic One Nation Under A Groove $2.99, Television Marquee Moon $3.99, Iggy & The Stooges Raw Power $7.99, Hendrix Band of Gypsys $2.99, Miles Davis Bitches Brew $4.99, and The Temptations Puzzle People $1.99. From what I’ve seen, these same records might be at least $20-40 at most other record stores, maybe even more expensive. That’s probably part of why PRE has stayed in business so many years and is always busy every time I go there.

As much as I love consuming vinyl, I haven’t bought much of it over the past 10 years. The challenges of being a full time working musician have tightened my budget and have made collecting vinyl not as affordable for me. From 2010 to 2018 my primary method of obtaining new music was from going to PRE once a year and buying lots of CDs, as they also have an awesome selection of budget CDs for under $5. For nearly a decade, I resisted the transition to streaming platforms, trying to hold onto my love and commitment to physically exploring new music in a record store. But in 2019, I finally subscribed to Spotify and that’s changed everything with how I consume music.

As an artist, I’m not a fan of Spotify. As a consumer, I’ll admit that Spotify is an excellent tool for discovering music. With a busy schedule and limited budget, the convenience of being able to access millions of songs anytime, for a set monthly price is nice. However, the joy and excitement that I feel from hunting for records in a record store is completely absent from using streaming platforms. I’m an advocate for record stores and I love that vinyl consumption has seen a resurgence in recent years.

Princeton Record Exchange was one of the main sources for shaping my overall musical sensibilities. My love for music began there, and that eventually blossomed into a career of performing, touring, and recording. As I write this, I’m looking at the cover of Telescope, the new record from my band Elektric Voodoo. It’s a dream come true to release a vinyl record that reflects so many of my influences: afrobeat, psychedelic rock, funk, soul, jazz, pop, samba, Afro-Cuban rhythms, etc. The vinyl selection at PRE helped me develop a rich and diverse musical foundation, which would ultimately enable me to connect with the immensely talented musicians in Elektric Voodoo and create our brand of genre-bending music.

I’ve also seen PRE have a significant impact on many other people close to me, especially my brother Chris. He has a vinyl collection of over 3,000 records, many of which are from PRE, which would inspire his creativity as a recording artist. Since 2018, his music has been on over 20 vinyl releases with Cadabra Records, a niche label that marries spoken word style readings of experimental cult fiction stories with music and incredible artwork. They have some of the most beautifully packaged vinyl releases I’ve ever seen.

I hope Princeton Record Exchange continues to thrive, giving younger generations the opportunity to experience the joys of collecting vinyl from one of the best record stores on Earth. Just how it helped shape me into the musician that I am today.”
Matt Bozzone

Telescope, the third full-length release from Elektric Voodoo arrives in stores on August 20—on vinyl.

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PHOTO: NATHAN HENNING

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