December 7th, 2008 | Interviews

Dublab director Bryan “Morpho” Younce sent beatmakers Nobody, Ras G, J. Rocc and Daedalus on safari into L.A. thrift stores with orders to make new music out of five finds while the cameras filmed the whole process. The result is Secondhand Sureshots, a mini-documentary about putting new life into old vinyl. After tonight’s screening at Cinefamily, Nobody and Ras G will make beats live from records brought in by the audience, and then Daedelus will fly in from Mexico for a special live set. Morpho and Dublab’s Frosty speak now about digging in the crates at Out of the Closet. This interview by Chris Ziegler.

Since this is for Secondhand Sureshots, what’s the best record you ever scored for $1?
Mark “Frosty” McNeill (dublab DJ): My favorite thrift store score was probably finding Peter Walker’s 1969 psychedelic guitar-raga masterpiece Second Poem to Karmela (or Gypsies Are Important) on Vanguard Records.
Bryan “Morpho” Younce (director): The most valuable is probably an old Leadbelly 10″ I found in Reno, but my favorite find was the first White Noise record, which had eluded me forever and I finally stumbled across it a few years ago.
When was the golden age of thrifting records and why?
B: For me it was the early to mid-nineties, when I first started getting serious about record shopping. I found a lot of great jazz and psych stuff in those days. People were still getting rid of their record collections because they all thought CDs were this great technology that was taking over for good.
F: Today! Hidden treasures are always out there. Someone’s garage is being boxed up and hauled down to the thrift store at this very moment. Who knows what’s in the back of that station wagon? The Out of the Closet thrift store chain is especially awesome because they’re all over town and the records are only a dollar each.
What’s out there for cheap now that’s good? Like what will be people be kicking themselves for missing in ten years?
F: Super-rare records are always hard to come across but it’s all about finding magic moments hidden within unexpected sources. Children’s records are always good for that. Here in L.A. we come across nice Latin gems from cumbia to trios. Disco mega-mix joints are cool because they get really choppy and warped. Sureshot star Nobody can blow your mind at the drop of a dime with a heavy prog set mixed entirely from albums he’s found in dollar bins. I’m personally always on the lookout for awesome international field recordings. The fun part about thrifting is you never know what you’ll discover so it’s always an adventure.
B: It seems like there’s a fair amount of 1970s art rock that’s still out there. McDonald and Giles and stuff like that. Also ‘80s and ‘90s Brit rock, like Chapterhouse or Felt. I’ve had good luck finding those records in the $1 bins.
How hard was it for the producers to make good beats from thrift vinyl?
F: It was definitely a challenge due to the specific limitations of using only five unheard thrift store records to make a song. It was outside their normal working pattern but they each approached the task boldly, especially when you consider there was a camera looking over their shoulders. They really opened up their personal creative spaces for a peek inside. What’s really cool is how unique their individual approaches are. In the end they each created an amazing song infused with their personality.
Did it come easy or was it a struggle?
B: I wouldn’t say that any of them struggled, but they all have fairly different approaches to the process. Seeing the ways in which they put their personal vision and sound into the finished songs was really fascinating, and they all really stamped the tracks with their identity. The Daedelus song sounded like a Daedelus song, even though he only had these five records to work with. The same was true for the other guys. I think the struggle for some of them was dealing with a camera; most producers are used to this being a solitary process and it might have felt a little odd with a crew hovering over them. They all still rocked it though.
Did anyone use Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass?
F: Nope, but not so far off. Daedelus is especially a master of mining lush lounge joints for gems. They probably would have never used any of these records to make a song on their own
What thrift-store records can we expect to see in the film?
F: Some classy classic classical, a solo piano album, Christian organ music, children’s bedtime stories, an Iraqi percussion record, lots of Barbara Streisand and more fun.
B: So much of the thrift store experience is a crap shoot, and I think the film represents that—some really amazing discoveries and a few duds.
Will the live performances be all-thrift sets? If not, what can we expect?
F: At the screening Nobody and Ras G will rock it Iron Chef style. The audience is encouraged to bring surprise vinyl sources from home and offer them up for the guys to sample. They’ll have 45 minutes to make beats right there on stage. After the time is up we’ll unveil the musical results. Daedelus will then fly in to perform an improvised live set incorporating the sounds Nobody and Ras created.
What’s the price difference between your most-expensive good record and your least-expensive? And which one do you truly love more?
B: I don’t think I’ve ever paid more than $150 for a record, so the price difference isn’t too extreme. The cheap finds are always the most satisfying and rewarding. You never have to worry about buyer remorse.
F: I’m 100% a cheap record dude. I definitely have some expensive records but I don’t value them more than the dusty ones. In fact the beat-up thrift store records mean a lot because they’re infused with personal history. Each snap, crackle and pop tells the story of the people who cherished it before. You don’t get that with a mint condition $1000 record from eBay.