Collector Interview: Danny K.

Posted on July 24 2017

This week we're lucky to be sharing a peek into the home collection of a true music lover. Hifi and music are an integral part of Danny Kay's life- he writes reviews and commentary of Positive Feedback as well as other publications, and in his home and social life analog music features prominently. Danny's philosophy about music echoes our own, and regularly shares his collection with good friends over a nice cocktail or glass of wine. Danny's massive collection is organized with several sets of our stencil alphabetical record dividers, plus genre dividers.

Growing up in Vienna, Austria, you can not help but get immersed int he country’s rich history of music. Schubert, Haydn, Webern, the Strauss family, Mahler, Liszt, Bruckner, the list is nearly endless. Add popular contemporary pop and rock artists like Falco, Fendrich, Jùrgens and conductors like Karajan, Webern, Böhm and you quickly see that Austria’s contribution to world history has undoubtedly been music. It helped that music is an actual subject in high school, thus “growing up” without being exposed to any of this history is nearly impossible. Chance had it that I happened to grow up living across the street from Art Farmer and was best friends with his son George for much of my ‘teens. Even though I didn’t quite “get” jazz music at the time, having someone of his fame live literally the next house over undoubtedly left a deep, perhaps subconscious mark on me, as today I couldn’t imagine my musical enjoyment without a long list of jazz Greats including of course Art’s incredible repertoire.

Fast forward to around 2001, and another piece of the puzzle came to nearly complete my journey: writing for Positive Feedback Online, a then newly launched online HiFi review magazine, I came to meet Jim Merod, who was Art Farmer’s recording engineer for much of his later career in life. Funny how that happens, isn’t it? Even though our lives separated and we lost touch outside of an occasional WhatsApp conversation, I feel that I owe a great deal of love for music to the Farmer family. Today, I still write reviews and commentary for Positive Feedback (and a few other contributions elsewhere on occasion), though HiFi is definitely more of a hobby that I get to enjoy a great deal. I wish that more people would spend time listening to music not just as a backdrop to their life or moment, like in the good old days of HiFi’s rise in the 50s and 60s when friends would get together to listen to new albums, share some laughs and enjoy great company. As much as possible, I try to continue that tradition in my home with music parties and music sessions whenever I can. Simply put, I love music.

Size of your collection:
When I moved back to the states in 2000, I brought along around 20 odd records - somehow, these records managed to multiply and today I own around 5000+ albums.

Current top 3 albums:
Glen Campbell, Wichita Lineman (1968), Dean Martin, Dream With Dean (1964) [you must get the AcousticSounds double LP reissue!!!], Thelonious Monk, Monk’s Dream (1962)

Favorite or biggest music genre in your collection:
About equal Jazz and Pop / Rock, followed by classical

Best party album:
There’s so many… Martin Denny, Dean Martin, Tosca, Tuxedo, Thievery Corporation, Brubeck, The Style Council……….

Best album to listen to alone:
Ravel’s Concerto in G - the 2nd movement - Adagio - is perhaps the most beautiful piece of classical music I have ever heard. It brings joy, it brings pain, it’s an incredible piece of work. I own a dozen different performances; Martha Argerich with Claudio Abbado on Deutsche Grammophon is one of my favorite readings.

Last record you purchased: online: Duke Ellington featuring Mahalia Jackson - absolutely fantastic reissue by Pure Pleasure in the UK retail: Phoenix, Ti Amo - great French pop music, nicely recorded with a big, punchy bass Album you're in search of: Gene Ammons, Soulful Saxophone on the Chess label. 

Give us a breakdown of your collection: how much is used vs how much is new?
That’s a great question: I would say that probably 60-70% of my records are used; the rest are all new issues on vinyl and reissues done by Acoustic Sounds, MoFi, Impex and many other great reissue labels.

How long have you been collecting records? How did you get into it?
I think I probably started formally collecting records around 2005 or so when I bought my first high-end “record” player (a Transrotor Fat Bob from Germany). My parents listened to vinyl; my older brother is really the one who got me “hooked” on music; I remember endless nights of staying up late making compilation cassettes… many of which I still have today.

Where do you hunt for vinyl?
There’s of course Amoeba music and records in Hollywood; various other smaller retailers - I usually go to the Buena Park Record Show every other month or so. Online I buy most of my stuff on eBay / Discogs or new at Acoustic Sounds (Nate) and MusicDirect (Roger).

Lastly, I have two very special friends who also happen to be dealers in all things vinyl, Mr. Record (Robert Pincus) and Bob Donnelly (both sell worldwide, but live in LA).

How do you organize your collection? Where do you listen to vinyl?

Not so long ago, it was an utter mess across multiple Ikea Kallax shelves. As of a few months ago, through the help of a friend, I now have my entire collection neatly organized alphabetically and by genre. Of course, Koeppel Design A-Z dividers and genre dividers help tremendously in being able to find music quickly and efficiently. As I mentioned, music and HiFi is as much part of me as anything else; it’s all front and center! Really, my entire house is a big music house - my office has music, my living room of course has most of it; my bed room. Frankly, I need a bigger house. lol!

Any thoughts you'd like to share about your method of record organization, how you store your collection or use your record dividers? Fortunately, it’s really simple these days… I get new records on a regular basis; being organized, I usually drop the records off in their place by genre and alphabet.

Anything extra you want to share about your collection, set up, turntable, your equipment, listening room, plans for the future, etc?
Being a reviewer, I get offers to review gear all the time; alas, my main reference music system is built around Wilson Audio (Provo, Utah) speakers and EINSTEIN electronics (from Germany); I use dCS for my digital files and have four turntables. Yep, I have a special affinity for mechanical engineering. A Kuzma XL DC, Technics 1200G, and two vintage Thorens, one by Oswald Mills Audio and another by Tonmechanik Berlin. Rounding out these ‘tables are various tonearms and of course different cartridges, though I have yet to get a true mono cartridge for my ever growing mono record collection (it does in fact make a big difference!). Lastly, I also have three studio tape machines. My office system has a pair of KEF’s new LS50 Wireless speakers (superb!); I often alternate between my other speakers from Zu Audio (Ogden, Utah), YG Acoustics (Denver, Colorado) and EINSTEIN.

People always ask me what’s the best this, or the best that; the simple truth is that much like a fine wine, or a superbly prepared six course meal, there’s variances in tastes that make up HiFi. Of course, you do tend to find your own “best of” list at some point - I can’t imagine going back to AM radio, low bit rate mp3 or Sirius XM (yuck!), that’s for sure. I wish that more people would be able to experience a well setup, proper two channel stereo system, made up of even modest components and speakers - the sound would be revelatory compared to what you hear coming out of your average mono (!) bluetooth boombox. Some years ago, I took this to heart and started organizing music parties / sessions at my house; like in the “golden” age of HiFi, during the 50s and 60s, I invite a bunch of friends over for nothing but music, socializing and some good wine and spirits. It’s amazing that in 2017, most people have never actually heard a properly setup two channel HiFi system! So much opportunity for the future … team Koeppel, thank you for the amazing vinyl accessories - fantastic stuff!!!