For The Love Of Vinyl: Ryan Shaw

For The Love Of Vinyl is a new blog interview series with record collectors from across the Globe. First up, we speak to Ryan Shaw, A&R Manager of Eclectic Avenue Records and a vinyl collector & DJ for over 20 years. Ryan is also the man behind MasterSounds, a small company based out of the UK producing DJ friendly vinyl weights.

Photo via MasterSounds

Photo via MasterSounds

1. Where did you grow up? How did you first get involved with music?

I grew up in Halifax, England, and got involved with music when I was pretty young. My parents always had a record player and loads of vinyl from Fleetwood Mac to Motown. My brother started bringing mix tapes home which really fasciated me why the music didn't stop between records, I remember the tapes were from 89 onwards, clubs and raves such as the Ark Leeds, Hacienda Manchester and Fantasia with DJ's such as Graeme Park, Sasha and Carl Cox.  There was a local shop called Audio Vision which sold DJ setups in a box for £350.00, I was 13 and at that time it was a lot of money for a kid to have lying around but I became obsessed with wanting turntables! I think over the space of 3 or 4 months I nagged my parents so much that I was able to clear out my savings account and wrap birthday & Christmas into one to be able to get the setup. No one else in School had decks or anything like that, so they were reluctant. I remember it so clearly, 2 X KAM BDX-180 belt drive turntables and a KAM GM-25 2 channel mixer, plus small speakers and all leads. I remember it took me days to work out how to wire it up, then we used to take weekly trips to spend my £3.00 spending money at the local record shop called Rotate, they had a sale section with records starting at 20p. I had no idea what I was doing. I then acquired loads of records via my brother and best friends Dad and I was off. 

Photo via Mastersounds 

Photo via Mastersounds 

2. Tell us more about your MasterSounds turntable weights. How did you come up with the idea and what inspired you to start it?

The family business has always been in design engineering and manufacturing, so I have been around metal and how to work it from being a kid. I was working in a (now sadly closed) record shop in Leeds called PlayMusic in 2004 where I met Bonar Bradberry, we were both obsessed with vinyl and spent lots of time digging for gems. In-between that Bonar mentioned he had seen a record stabiliser and we both did some research but then I moved to London, started working in Phonica Records and the idea fizzled out. I moved back from London to Yorkshire in 2009 and started working back at the family business.  It was the time when MP3's were really hitting record sales, thus many turntables were being ignored in DJ booths leading all sorts of problems when playing vinyl. It kind of just started there with me wanting to find a solution to a problem. I did more research and we had metal turning facilities at work so I started working on samples and testing them on the weekend when I was DJ'ing. I remember my first batch I made 6 and had some friends try them out and they loved them. It just grew from there really. As I started to make more I wanted everyone who bought them to have something special, thus ensuring each turntable weight edition I now do is limited. I do all the packaging and posting myself, I hand stamp the tags and white each edition number on there by hand.

Photo by Mr Mendel via Mastersounds

Photo by Mr Mendel via Mastersounds

3. How do they actually work? Is it magic?

Haha, not it's not magic at all. Turntable weights, vinyl weights, audio stabilisers or whatever you want call them have been around in hifi circles for decades. How a turntable weight works is it lowers the noise floor of a signal, by doing this it increases the sound stage which means you hear more of the music. People always ask me if there are other benefits, for an audiophile decreasing the noise floor is super important, whilst I always tell DJ's that I have designed my turntable weights to give more stability and control when spinning records. They reduce needle skip when cueing, plus really help when you get those annoying dished and warped records. My weights have a specially designed anti-slip base which grips the record enabling you to cue up a track without touching the vinyl, using the weight like a volume nob, some DJ's hate finger prints on their precious wax and use this method which is pretty cool. I always say to new users to use weights for a few weeks, then take them off and realise what a difference they make. 

4. You’ve had support from great DJs like DJ Harvey, right? How did Harvey discover your turntable weights?  

Yes it's really cool that Harvey and many other DJ's I respect are using the product. We were chatting and it just happened from there really.

5. What attracted you to vinyl?

I think it goes back to being a kid. Records were always bought and played and we always used to get told off for scratching the needle across them! Records are so tangible, you learn to look after them and (I) became obsessed with collecting them.

6. When did you start collecting records? Do you remember the first record you ever bought?

My 1st record was New Kids on the Block - The Right Stuff, I still have it somewhere! As I said above I was pretty young, 13. I am 35 now and still manage to spend far too much on them!

7. Would you still buy it today?

New Kids on the Block? Erm let me think about that...

8. How do you organise your records? Alphabetical? Genre? 

I used to be completely OCD as regards organising my records, when I bought a new 12" I used to cue it up with a click track in reason, then work out the bpm and add a sticker to the top right hand corner. I would then pack my record bag starting from slow stuff at the front working to the faster records at the back. As for organising now, I tend to just do it in genre, I used to work from 0 to 10 then AA to ZZ but I would then forget where things were, I have tried loads of things over the years like piles for new, piles for old etc...

9. Do you collect other stuff?

I have always had a foraging and collecting mentality, I used to collect novelty rubbers, then I started collecting skateboard stickers, then loads of other bits and bobs over the years.

10. Favourite record right now?

Ikebe Shakedown - Stone By Stone on Ubiquity, really infections funk, breaks and rhythm.

11. Favourite guilty pleasure record?

Far too many to list.. Oh go on then, think the worst 80's night ever and you will be somewhere close.

12. Which artist makes you want to have their whole discography? Why?

It's really difficult to say one artist, I think it depends on lots of factors. One day I may say Miles Davis the next Apex Twin.

13. Favourite record shop worldwide? 

Ah that's a tough one, there are so many amazing shops I have visited on my travels. I absolutely loved the shops in Tokyo, whilst Phonica London is fabulous, I love the fact that there is a really great DIY record shop vibe again, people setting up and doing something they love be it with new vinyl or pre loved gems. I think the record shop is a really important part of the vinyl and music culture, you meet like-minded people and create friendships and bonds that for me, keep growing.

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