For The Love Of Vinyl: Jamie McCue (Silent Season)
For The Love Of Vinyl is a new blog interview series with record collectors from across the Globe. Today I spoke to Jamie McCue, a vinyl collector & DJ. Jamie is also the man behind Silent Season, a wonderful DIY ambient and techno record label based in Courtenay (Canada), a small city in the wilderness of Vancouver Island's Comox Valley. The unique sound of the label grew out of the connection between deep ethereal music and the natural beauty of Vancouver Island’s rainforests.
Listening to Silent Season is listening to music that speaks to the soul and soothes the mind. It's not just a beat and some melodies, it is life unfolding and storytelling at its finest. Trust me. Just listen to albums like ASC's sublime 'Time Heals All' or Purl's beautiful 'Stillpoint' and you'll suddenly find yourself in the middle of an imaginary rainforest, just walking, absorbing music and nature.
1. Where did you grow up? And how did your start getting into music and into record collecting?
I grew up in a small town on the Eastside of Vancouver Island, British Columbia called the Comox Valley. Back then it was a small industry town primarily for logging and fishing. It’s pretty far from any major city like Victoria or Vancouver. Growing up here it felt musically isolated.
When I was younger my uncle had a fancy 70s hi-fi stereo system and a turntable he used to play me. He had plenty of records, mostly classic rock stuff like the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, Bob Dylan, etc. When I got older we’d make trips to the city where I’d visit the music store at the mall. Music stores at the time sold albums on tape, vinyl and CD. I’d say from an early age I was interested in music, mostly 80’s stuff I heard on the radio.
In my early teens I got into skateboarding where I discovered punk rock. Thrasher magazine played a big role in helping me find new bands through reading articles and interviews with other skaters sharing what music they were listening to and i’d try to track it down. I remember going to our small town music store and asking for these obscure bands and them just being like wtf is this kid asking for. I loved searching for alternative sounds, music no one here was listening to. Hunting down new sounds eventually led me to the hardcore scene. In high school some friends and I started a punk band which evolved into various punk/hardcore bands over the years. Through playing shows and visiting other cities I was able to meet new friends visiting the Island from California and Seattle. We’d trade records, swap tapes and belongings. Learning about new music and culture along the way. Somewhere along the line I ended up with a copy of HeartattaCK zine from California which was pivotal into learning more about DIY, punk and hardcore culture and music. The founder of the zine Kent McClard offered wholesale record orders so I started ordering 7”s from him at Ebullition Records to sell at shows and to friends. I’d order 3-5 copies of different records that looked interesting. This was pre-Internet so there were no samples to listen to before ordering. As it was mailorder I had no idea how they’d sound but the writeups and artwork gave me enough insight to try them out. At punk shows and in highschool I used to walk around with a box of 7”s, tapes and homemade stickers to sell. I loved it. I knew it’s what I wanted to do, I was hooked on collecting and selling records since this experience in high school. To this day there is nothing more exciting than getting a box of records in the mail.
2. How did Silent Season get started and what really sparked you into getting the label going?
Silent Season got started in 2007 after moving back to the Comox Valley from Victoria, B.C., shortly after our daughter was born. I’d spent previous years in Victoria DJing and collecting records and in a way it felt like time to slow down and focus on new project. Now that I was DJing less I wanted an outlet for music and at the time netlabels were popular. The downside of netlabels was generally lower audio quality but with all the new music to discover it didn't matter. I was able to find excellent new music for free and thought this was an interesting way to release music into the world. I followed labels like Thinner, Realaudio, Epsilonlab, Instabil, etc. and figured hey, I should try running a small netlabel. At the time I was a moderator at mnml.nl and met a few artists like Rasmus Hedlund who were posting tracks they were making. With a desire to dig for artists and music I came across Segue and was intrigued that he was from British Columbia. Generally i’d email artists telling them about this new netlabel called Silent Season to see if they might be interested in releasing an ep or an album. That’s more or less how things got started. Slow and steady, one release at a time we built a small community of listeners, many of whom I’ve been fortunate to become friends with over the years.
3. Silent Season releases deep music through various formats (CD, digital and vinyl). How do you usually decide on a release format?
At the time many of the labels I was interested in were releasing limited edition collectors CDs, usually like 20-50 copies. After doing the netlabel/digital thing for a few years I wanted to make a handmade, limited edition CDr with custom packaging. As I really disliked traditional plastic CD packaging and inspired by DIY aesthetic I sought out recycled materials for the packaging, which was and still is very important for the label. Initially I made 50 CDr copies, stickered and numbered them to sell through the Silent Season website using a Paypal button. This was before Bandcamp and Soundcloud so promotion was mostly through forums like Discogs and mnml.nl.
Eventually as the CDs started to sell well I increased the numbers to meet demand. Selling them out never felt right so I tried to make enough for everyone to get a copy. Of course this led to the desire to release music on vinyl. Given my geographic location makes producing and selling records very challenging. There were no pressing plants in Canada, expensive shipping, no distributor, etc all were hurdles that are still challenges faced today. The first record was 100 copies and featured 4 artists I admire. I screenprinted the covers, sold directly to fans at a loss but loved the whole process. In fact I was hooked and eventually figured out how to make it work. Silent Season is now on our 11th vinyl release today.
We’re currently exploring some special vinyl releases for the labels 10th year anniversary next year including a vinyl box set compilation by ASC.
4. What attracted you to vinyl as a record collector? And as a record label owner?
I was attracted to having to physically take the record out of the sleeve and and put it on the platter, while sitting there reading the liner notes or booklets, and looking at the pictures, to me it was all part of the experience. I also enjoy collecting records that come directly from artists and labels. Records with notes scrawled on them shared from the artist or label. I like numbered records and cds because someone actually touched it. Having ordered the cd or record online this makes it feel more like a human to human transaction. You don’t quite get this satisfaction from downloads.
As a label owner, I think records are like time capsules, you can listen to them, recall associated memories, make new memories, feel them, smell them. Having a physical artifact is a much different experience than streaming an mp3. I enjoy the process of making and releasing a record because it’s challenging and gratifying. Also rewarding knowing only a few hundred people will share the same collectors piece.
5. Do you remember the first record you ever bought?
The first record I bought was the Breakdance album on K-tel in 1984. The record came with a instructional poster on how to breakdance. I used to study it and work on my moves.
6. Would you still buy it today?
I found a copy at a Zulu Records in Seattle a few years back and still put it in the crate for the right party. Its got some good cuts on it by Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five, Twilight 22, Alex & The City Crew and Freeez. Interestingly without being aware of it I think it sparked my interest in electro, oldschool 808 sounds.
7. How do you organise your record collection?
I always feel like my record collection is a mess. After moving into a new house last year I swear it took me almost a year to get it back into some sense of order. Typically I organize them by genre (ambient, techno, reggae/dub, house, downtempo etc) and inside of genre they’re organized by label and artist. However, the records I play at parties typically get stacked into a party pile which is pretty messy. Unfortunately they are usually more beat up and tattered. As much as I love collecting records, some are more suited to staying at home, clean, organized and on the top shelf, while others are meant to get used, abused and dirty. This is the yin/yang of collecting and djing.
8. Do you collect other stuff?
Since my early skateboard days I’ve loved collecting stickers. Stickers are the only other thing I collect besides records and cds.
9. What’s playing right now on your turntable?
This summer I’ve been listening to a lot of Cymande, specifically their first album of the same name. Also their 2nd album called Second Time Around. For me this is perfect summertime music. I love their deep funk style influenced by calypso, jazz, reggae, soul and rock.
10. What’s your current setup at home?
My current home listening setup consists of a Realistic STA-2000 receiver, 2 Klipsch KG4 speakers, and 2 Technics SL-1200MK2 turntables, Ortofon Concorde needles and Sennheiser HD25 headphones. For DJing I recently picked up a Taula 4 rotary mixer made by Can Electric in Barcelona. It’s a lovely little 4 channel analog mixer and super fun to play on.
11. Which artist makes you want to have their whole discography? Why?
For a long time I kept up with Deepchord and Echospace records but after years of buying and lots of money later I decided to slow down and invest that money into Silent Season records. I still buy whatever record I can afford at the time. I’ve got a few nice signed records from Stephen Hitchell. I respect everything he does with Echospace. I love their sound, style, and the ability to buy the records directly from the label.
12. Favourite record shop in Canada?
Unfortunately my favourite record shop in Canada closed a number of years ago. Boomtown Records in downtown Victoria was where I basically discovered electronic music. Scott W at Boomtown steered my electronic music interests for many years. I owe him a kindness for opening new doors for me. It all began when he passed me Maurizio M4.
The good news is there is another great shop in Victoria called Ditch Records which sells new and used records. I almost always come away from there with a bag full and few hundred dollars short.
13. Favourite record shop Worldwide?
My favourite record shop worldwide is probably Juno Records, even though it’s an online shop I find more than enough records there to keep me happy.
P.S.1 Liked this interview? Tweet it
P.S.2 To find out more about Silent Season upcoming mixes and releases, check: https://soundcloud.com/silent-season
Photo credits: Jamie McCue
Posted by: Miguel Ferreira
Founder & Selector at That Special Record. Miguel writes interesting stories about outsider electronic music & vinyl culture.