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'Dust & Grooves': One-on-one with the world's most obsessive record collectors

Hypothetical situation: it's 2008, you're a professional photographer who's just moved to the U.S., and you can't find a job. Oh, and you also love vinyl. What do you do?

When faced with that situation, Eilon Paz started a blog dedicated to obsessive record collectors and their collections. His blog, Dust & Grooves, gained so much support that in 2012 Paz was able to crowdfund a trip around the world, vastly expanding the scope of his project.

That project's now been turned into a book, "Dust & Grooves: Adventures in Record Collecting," compiled by Paz and edited by Sheila Burgel, who was also featured in the book with her vinyl collection.

When Paz and Burgel joined us on The Frame, they talked about the origins of this world-spanning project, the reasons behind their love of vinyl, and whether or not it's cheating to use eBay to find elusive records.

Interview Highlights:

Eilon, how did this project get started?

Paz: I moved to the U.S. from Israel in 2008, which wasn't such a good year financially. I just found myself killing time, looking for jobs, but nothing happened. And I found myself in record stores, just enjoying what America has to offer, and its amount and variety of records.

At a certain point, I thought, I need to do something productive with my time. And I guess being around records, I was really inspired by what's going on — I was seeing records everywhere, people selling them in the streets, lots of record stores, and lots of stuff I couldn't find in Israel. That probably inspired me, and this is how I started to realize that I should start documenting record collectors.

And did you envision this to be a book and that you'd travel around the world to do it?

Paz: Not at all. I didn't want to feel guilty about moving to the U.S. and doing nothing while spending all my money on records. So it was just a personal project.

(Editor/record collector Sheila Burgel. Courtesy of Eilon Paz/Dust & Grooves)

How did you meet Sheila Burgel?

Paz: I think it was maybe after two years in the process of publishing stories on the web.

Burgel: I had started reading his blog, Dust & Grooves, and thought, I should be on that site! There was a section where you could put yourself forward, and I also noticed that there weren't that many female collectors. And because I've been collecting for 20 years now, I thought I could really contribute.

So I sent Eilon an email: I have this many 45's, this many LPs, I've been collecting for this many years, and this is what I collect, which is 1960s female-fronted artists from all over the world, specifically Japan, the U.S., UK, and France. And we discovered that we actually live five blocks from each other. Then we set up a photo shoot and the rest is history.

How did you get started collecting?

Burgel: I moved to London when I was 18, and I had a really good friend who was a serious record collector. I remember going over to his house, we were just hanging out, and he brought out a pile of EPs by a '60s artist named France Gall.

The EP sleeves are beautiful, the colors and the texture really stand out, and he just put them in front of me and I just looked at my France Gall CD and I thought, There's no comparison here! I can't do CDs anymore, I need to dedicate myself to finding these records. So it started when I was 18 and I haven't stopped since. That was 20 years ago.

(Editor/record collector Sheila Burgel. Courtesy of Eilon Paz/Dust & Grooves)

One of the great pieces in the book is Cut Chemist, the DJ here in Los Angeles. Eilon, tell us what he converted for his collection.

Paz: He has part of his immediate collection in his house itself, but then we walked out and he [said], "Well, let me show you the stable." It's a pretty cool room.

So how many times along the way of researching this book did you say, "Oh my god"?

Paz: When I started the project, it was more like that — I'd see a huge collection and I'd go, Wow, this is amazing. But after a while, once I got more serious about it and started looking for specific things, size didn't really matter. I was actually trying to avoid big collections. At a certain point, people would say, "Oh, listen, I've got 30,000 records," and I'd be like, "Okay, well let me get your number. I might call you later." [laughs]

But people were obsessed with specific things, like there's a kid in Philly that collects only Sesame Street records. That was pretty amazing. And there was a guy who only collects The Beatles' "White Album." Or a guy in Italy that holds a Guinness World Record for most colored vinyl in the world. Stuff like that.

(Dante Candelora only collects Sesame Street records. Courtesy of Eilon Paz/Dust & Grooves)

Sheila, I have to take exception to something you said in the book. When Eilon asked where you buy vinyl these days, you said that you have eBay to thank for many impossible-to-find records. That's cheating.

Burgel: That's not cheating! So many people buy their greatest records on eBay.

But there's nothing like the thrill of digging and finding it!

Burgel: Oh, I'm so with you, but as a very experienced collector, before eBay even existed I spent years at record fairs and I found so much stuff — most of my collection is from those years. But then it gets to a point where there are certain records you really want and you know you're never going to find them. So eBay's the way. Otherwise I'll be digging forever and they'll never come up. [laughs]