Bay Area Vinyl Hop: Groove Merchant Records (Part 2)
Coveting that Groove Shop in San Francisco
In this segment of the interview, we asked the owner of Groove Merchant Records, Chris Veltri, about his label, reissuing music, and his recommendations for three records from his shop.
――How are you involved with Ubiquity Records that was started by the original owners of your shop?
Yes, sure. I have helped them out with a number of compilations. I produced Audio Alchemy, I did one called Trippin’, and then I did another one called Groove Merchant Turns 25. I helped out with some of the Gilles Peterson comps, and I had a hand in a number of their reissues. In addition to that, I have my own record label I am running. I haven't put out much lately, but yeah, we have a label called Re-Joint for reissues and Dis-Joint for new music. For Re-Joint, we did a lot of Latin and rare groove things: we did this 45 by the Human Race, another one with Chuck Womack, and then we did some newer sample based production stuff, disco things—club stuff.
――You have also reissued some music of Bay Area artists. What was the inspiration for that and how did that help some of the artists?
There are always musicians where you find their records and you want to find out if there is more stuff, or what their whole story is, and usually these are obscure artists. In the circumstance of someone like Darondo, who passed away seven or eight years ago, he only had three 45s that he did in the ‘70s and they are all really sought after. He was somebody that everybody was very curious about. A lot of artists are still active and you can find them; though it might take a little while. Nobody was able to find Darondo, but through a few different musicians we had tracked down, we were able to get a number on him and we found him. We set up the reissues for him and realized that there was some unreleased stuff, and it really brought his legend to a whole new audience; his music really got out there.
Sometimes these artists are not always happy to hear somebody is interested. Sometimes they are paranoid, and sometimes that was a part of their history that they are trying to forget, or there is pain around it.... But most of the time people are really excited that someone cares, because when the record originally came out, there really wasn't a lot of interest. In some situations that was kind of heartbreaking because it just didn't go anywhere. And now 30 years down the line, somebody picks up the phone and calls them out of the blue and says: “I love your record, I'd love to reissue it.” You know, most of the time they are pretty happy to hear that, and hear that there might be some money coming their way.
――Darondo’s unreleased stuff was on mag tape?
In the case of Darondo, he had some stuff that were kind of like demo recordings and he had a couple of things that were finished but never came out. LUV N’ HAIGHT put it out, technically an EP, it was six songs with all of his 45s and then there were two unreleased songs.
――LUV N’ HAIGHT is part of Ubiquity, correct?
Yes, so LUV N’ HAIGHT was for reissues and Ubiquity was for new music.
――So, do you do events? Do you spin in the City?
Yeah, I don't DJ as much as I used to. One of the new things that happened is my good friend Freddy Anzures who was the art director for Wax Poetics magazine, also a creator of hundreds of album covers, he took the space right next to Groove Merchant, and it’s his studio and it’s an art gallery. So we are starting to put on all of these great shows and the space is called Family Affair. The first show was early photographs of Prince before he was famous. Just a few weeks ago a new show went in: photographs of ERIC B. & RAKIM for the 30-year anniversary of their first record. It's an art gallery based on music, photography, and art, and we are going to be doing a lot of parties around it. The next installation going in is Michael Jackson fan art: art that was created by fans of Michael Jackson—some of it good, some of it really amateur—but very interesting. It's going to be a fun show.
【Chris’s Top Store Picks!】
■ Harumi by Harumi
I don't know much about the artist, but I have had his record before—he is Japanese. His name is Harumi and he did a record in 1968 on an American label called Verve Forecast. It is just a self-titled album—it is unique and I have always loved getting it in. It is technically a psychedelic record but it goes in a lot of directions. There is exotic music in it, and it has been sampled a bunch of times. I like the whole album, it's really interesting and you can just throw it on and jam it.
■ I Never Loved Her by The Starfires
Another record is something that I have been after and found for myself recently. It's a garage rock record by a group called The Starfires. It’s a 45 and the song is called I Never Loved Her. It’s just got really good energy to it, it's like a punk song before there was punk, and it sounds like a band I like called the Seeds—I like to DJ with it.
■ Impressions Of The Middle East by Herbie Mann
The last one is a common record that I think readers should look out for—because it is something that you can find. If it were a rare record, it would be like a thousand bucks because it has the sound of what's really popular now that people are paying a lot of money for. It’s a Herbie Mann record. The song I like is called Incense, and it’s from an album called Impressions Of The Middle East. It is just a beautiful song—like a spiritual jazz song. You can get it for 10 bucks.
――Lastly, what’s it like to be here in the store daily, and what keeps your store standing out after all of these years?
The shop itself, being located on Haight Street, experiences crazy things happening on a regular basis. [Laughs.] Even though it’s a small shop, it’s kind of a magical place because it takes on a life of its own. I see a lot of situations where somebody comes in and they find a record that sparks a revelation; I’ve had people find something and just break down in tears.
Basically, you will find things in my record store that you won't find in any of the record stores in San Francisco. We really go out of our way to find things that are rare, out of the ordinary, interesting, and we go to great lengths to find. I 100% guarantee that if you come into the store, you are going to see things you don't see on the regular anywhere.
Groove Merchant Records
687 Haight St, San Francisco, CA 94117
Hours: Mon-Sat: 12pm-7pm
Tel (415) 252-5766 USA
Interview and article by Mika Anami
Photographs by Rieko Fujii