Organizing one's record collection is a very personal experience, which helps give the collector a sense of solace, making the whole listening experience a much more enjoyable one. It almost feels like you’re arranging your musical memories into nursing homes, each LP waiting to be discharged at ease. Now is a perfect time to arrange your collection so let us dig into the mind of collector CK on how he arranges them.
So CK, let us start with a little about yourself, and how long have you been collecting records?
I am a happy husband and a father of a 10-year old boy. I started to fall in love with music after discovering my dad’s cassette tapes when I was 8 years old. The music from Michael Jackson, Bonny M, Elton John, etc just brought out my long-lasting passion for music. Collecting music in its physical form has always been my greatest love. I started by collecting cassette tapes in the 80s. Saving all my pocket money to buy that new album from my favorite band had been a repetitive cycle in my growing up years. After that, like what everyone did at that time, I moved my attention to CDs. It was only till 2012 that I started my vinyl records collecting journey. A good friend of mine was buying a new turntable and I followed him, and it ended up that I got one too for myself. I still remember the first record I have purchased - Nirvana “Nevermind” and since then the desire to own more records just grew stronger and stronger.
Seeing that you have built up a huge record collection over a long time, how do you care for each record individually in terms of storage? I.e inner sleeves and outer sleeves. Where do you usually source them and how important are they to you.The records are like my babies. I take great care of every single one, putting the vinyl records into anti-static inner sleeves. I do prefer to house them in the Mofi premier inner sleeves but as they are not cheap, I will have to be selective on which one goes into the Mofi sleeves and which one will go into the cheaper rice-paper alternative sleeves. I generally do not prefer to use paper sleeves as they tend to create scuff marks after taking the record in and out. I have also housed the records in a 5mil plastic outer sleeves.
What kind of storage do you use to hold your records? The Ikea Kallax seems to be the most popular one for collectors but yours have such a Hogwarts feel going on and we love it! Could you share where did you get them and any advice for storage?I have used the Kallax for years and they are really good shelves to use for any collectors. However, when I moved to my new place 3 years ago, I realized my childhood dreams of having a tall record storage shelves where I can climb up a ladder to store or pick my records. The shelves were designed by me and built by a local carpenter. I was inspired by a Japanese shelve design where they have this roller mechanism to pull the cover out and lay it down to form an album cover display. I love the concept and discussed it with my local carpenter to build one using a similar approach. The challenging part of the project was the ladder as I wanted to have a single ladder but ended up with two as the movement of the ladder from one side of the shelve to the other side (my shelves are in an “L-shaped” structure) required more space. After all, I am incredibly pleased with the final product!
Speaking about ladders, we were wondering how do you choose which LPs remain at reachable levels and which ones go up to higher levels. Is there a crate for “new arrivals” etc.Generally, those records that I am very familiar with or I would think that I will listen to less often goes higher up the shelves. I have placed most of the box sets up on the higher shelves as I can locate them easier. The rationale is I do not want to be searching for a particular title or browsing through the titles while on the ladder. I do have a “new arrivals” crate but it is outside in my living hall, next to my sound system. It can store around 40 records. I keep them there so that it is more accessible during my listening session.
How then do you organize your records? Some people like to arrange it via genres, alphabetical order, moods for certain periods, or even eras. Which do you prefer, is it a combination, and how does it make sense to you?
I have recently made some changes to my organization. I have grouped them in different forms, first I have alphabetized the Funk & Soul, Jazz (Instrumental vs Vocals), Heavy Metal/Punk and Hip-hop (these are regardless of eras) titles. Next, I have grouped the records I associated them with the eras (the 80s, 90s, and beyond 2000s). I just grouped them based on which era I started to listen to them, this means I will have a Depeche Mode “Delta Machine” (released in 2013) in the 80s section as I have always associated Depeche Mode as the band I listen to in the 80s. I have also grouped some of the series I have collected together, like the Late Night Tales, Peel sessions, The Mood Mosaic series, Now That’s What I called Music, etc. There are also specific artists or bands that I am fond of collecting, like Miles Davis, Prince, The Housemartins/Beautiful South, and these are placed separately. I have also organized the rest in “Classic Rock Bands” (e.g. Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, etc), “Classic Male Artistes” (e.g. Paul Simon, Billy Joel, etc) and “Classic Female Artistes” (Joni Mitchelle, Dusty Springfield, etc). Last but not least, I have my “Mofi Titles”, “Soundtracks”, “Chinese Music” and “World Music” sections.
Mobile Fidelity Section
Recently we just learned that mono cartridges will be damaged when used to play stereo records. If so, do you separate your mono records from stereo? Since we are at it, which do you prefer anyways?
I don’t separate my mono records from the stereos. Currently, I do not have a mono cartridge but I am very keen to set up a turntable with a mono cartridge after hearing the beauty of a mono record played on a mono cartridge in a shop at Adelphi. The challenging part is my current turntable does not support two tonearms and this means either I change my turntable, or I will have to get another one for mono. I am still thinking about this at the moment.
Lastly, how often do you arrange your records and what does it mean for you? It’s a long process but I've got a feeling that it must be a therapeutic one, looking through each cover and the memories they entail. Maybe could you also share a particular section of your collection that you find yourself always going back to the most?
I must be honest that I can be a little messy when it comes to organizing and arranging my records. I tried to do it after every listening session if I can so that I will not misplace them after some time. It can be quite frustrating if you want to listen to one album for some reason, but you cannot find it in the section you thought you have grouped it under. Yes, it is indeed a therapeutic one to look through each record cover and many of its music will bring back specific memories of my life. My record collection is like a time machine, it has the power and the ability to transport me back to the time. As I grew up in the 80s, I must say that the music from the 80s will have the fondest memories for me in my collection.