Interview conducted by Ralph Sullivan.
Q— Mr. Boldren, you are currently in possession of one of the largest collections of vinyl records in the world.
A— That is correct.
Q— It says here that your collection numbers over 2.7 million individual vinyl records. How does one amass so many records? Were you making a conscious effort of it?
A— Not really, no. As far back as I can remember, music’s just been the air I breathe, literally. It was just a natural progression, I suppose.
Q— How long did it take you to accumulate this many records?
A— A couple decades, easily. Buying a couple dozen or so records a week, it adds up pretty quickly. I like to think of myself as being a regular music lover, just like anyone else; I’ve just taken it a bit farther.
Q— You’ve spoken on several occasions of your collection being—and here I quote—“a national treasure,” and “a wonder on par with any pyramid you’d care to name.” Do you stand by these statements?
A— I do. Music is sacred, and what I have in my possession is a repository of cultural knowledge, the likes of which we may never see again.
Q— But your collection—including, it would appear, many albums of which you own the only remaining copies—is not open to the public.
A— Why would it be? Vinyl is sacred, too. If you let every brat with an mp3 come through grabbing everything and smudging it all up, you decrease the market value.
Q— So you intend to sell some of these albums in the future?
A— No. What gave you that idea?
Q— Well, you were talking about market value, and I assumed…
A— You don’t have to have it on the market to be invested in its value. It’s not just about having it, it’s about other people wanting it.
Q— All right, then… so, what first got you into vinyl?
A— I guess, when I was a kid, I really liked being able to own my music, you know? Back then, everyone would listen to songs on the radio, just sort of cluster around, and I hated that—being forced to let other people in on the listening experience. But when I got a vinyl record, it was mine. I didn’t have to share the album with anyone else, and that really appealed to me.
Q— Why not just get your own radio?
A— The radio stations always had terrible taste. Even back then, I figured I could do better; I mean, why let these people dictate what I’m listening to when I’ve got better taste than any of them?
Q— Which leads nicely into my next question… do you ever feel that the record-collecting community is growing overly elitist?
A— Never. Music should be elitist, I think. It’s just a fact that a guy with a record collection is, objectively, a better music listener than someone with a—god forbid—CD collection. I mean, what would that even look like? (laughs)
Q— Do you own any CDs, Mr. Boldren?
A— I bought one once on a bet. Threw it away the next day; the sound quality was just atrocious.
Q— Atrocious in what way?
A— Too bright, too clean. Digital sound in general, it just makes everything sound so sharp, you know? Music needs to be rough, it needs to be messy. On vinyl, everything just sounds so much warmer.
Q— What do you mean by “warmer”?
A— It just sounds warmer. Either you hear it or don’t. That’s the problem with music listeners these days: they don’t care about warmth, or humanity. CDs and synthesizers—easily two of the most damaging inventions of the 20th Century.
Q— Not a fan of electronic music, I take it?
A— Can you even call it “music”? I mean, music is real people on real instruments, playing real songs. All that stuff is just noise, as far as I’m concerned.
Q— So, returning to the subject of your record collection…
A— I often do.
Q— How many of them have you actually listened to? Just a rough estimate would be fine.
A— All of them. Every single one.
Q— 2.7 million? Mr. Boldren, I generally like to defer to my subjects, but I’m not sure what you’re saying would be physically possible.
A— Well, I’ve listened to most of them. Does it really matter that much?
Q— Just curious. Let’s see… what is the album you’ve bought most recently?
A— Edgard Varèse’s Poème Électronique—original recording.
Q— Isn’t that an electronic piece?
A— Sure, but it’s not synthesized.
Q— What do you mean?
A— There’s real feeling behind it. Varèse is following in an older tradition, a more classical tradition. He was all about atmosphere and ambience—he didn’t care about all the percussion that dominates today’s stuff. The stuff nowadays, it’s just four-note grooves repeated into oblivion. Varèse, what he’s doing is… it’s just different.
Q— I’ll take your word for it.
A— You should.
Q— Would you encourage others to take up record collecting, as you yourself have done?
A— Not everyone. You really need to have a proper appreciation of vinyl to be able to listen properly; just why it’s better than other formats. Some people, it just goes in one ear and out the other. No understanding of sound quality, or music theory, just nothing at all.
Q— Like the circle of fifths?
A— Right—a great album like that would just be lost on those people. But if you stand for the sanctity of music, understand that it’s not just some commodity to be passed around like a ten-dollar whore, then by all means, I would encourage it.
Q— And on that note, it looks like we need to be wrapping up now. Any final thoughts for our listeners?
A— Yeah, I’ve got one… Fuck digital audio as a technology, as a format, and as an industry, and if you want to continue to support digital music, then fuck you too.
Q— Very eloquently put. Thank you for your many insights, Mr. Boldren.
A— You’re welcome. I’m sure it’s been a pleasure. Now, if you’ll excuse me, there’s a mint-condition Neu! 1 in the next room just waiting to go on the turntable. Are you going to be listening to anything later, Mr. Sullivan?
Q— A few cassettes I ordered. I really think they’re making a comeback.