Collector Interview: TJ Swan

Posted on July 10 2018

TJ Swan is an avid music lover who has been collecting vinyl for over 20 years. TJ is now sharing his love of music with his growing family. TJ does most of the vinyl buying in his family, but considers the collection to be a family collection, because,  "Music is made to be shared. Creating little moments and attaching those emotions and memories to a song or album is just one of the many magical things about music." 

TJ uses engraved 26 panel alphabetical record dividers, quite a few genre panels, and an LP Block.

You can follow his collection on Instagram.

Brief Intro:
So, a small sample into my life... I've been a huge music lover since a young age. I started guitar/bass/drum lessons around 12 and just became addicted to everything music. Listening, writing, playing 24/7. I spent all my teenage years as well as most of my 20's in bands. But, I learned quickly being crammed into a van from city to city got old after a while and wasn't quite suitable for an introvert like myself. Then I was lucky enough that a fairly well known New England Producer/Engineer took me on as an apprentice for a few years getting me into studio recording/producing for bands. Which is what I still do part time at my own studio (when I have the time). But I've slowed that down the past 3-4 years since my son was diagnosed with Autism (non-verbal) which is when I really got more serious with collecting vinyl.

Music has always been such a big part of my life, so when someone tried to give us a list of things our child (may) never do, my first reaction (other than throw that list away) was to embrace something that had always helped me, something I loved, something ANYONE can do. Which is enjoy music. So, collecting and listening to vinyl is something I plan on us doing together as a family. And although "Beat Bugs" on Netflix has gotten him far more into The Beatles than I, I'm loving my time introducing him to the music I love and look forward to seeing what music brings him that same joy. 

Size of your collection:                                                 

How do you organize your collection?
By Genre. Then Alphabetically (by last name) Then by year of original release. Though, I do tend to bend my own rules, and overturn this sometimes by keeping an artist’s whole collection together. (For Example) Say, an artist discography expands from Soul to Blues to Country (like Ray Charles) In this case, I keep everything together in whatever genre the artist is best known for to me.

Give us a breakdown of your collection: how much is used vs how much is new?
Probably 70% was bought new / 30% used

Favorite or biggest music genre in your collection:
I've never felt like I have a favorite genre, but since I tend to categorize 70% of my collection as fitting somewhere in Pop/Rock (which is where I use my A-Z Dividers) Maybe, I do have a favorite...

Current top 3 Albums: 
Man, this is painful to do. I feel like 80% of my time on these questions were spent fighting with myself over what to pick here. By some form of miracle, I was able to cut my list down to 8 albums, and I feel like that was a huge victory in doing so. LOL You can tell a lot about a person from their record collection, and even more from what they choose to listen to the most out of it. My favorite albums may never be in the conversation for best albums of all time or anything, but these are the records that have meant the most to me in my life.

Mxpx “The Ever Passing Moment” (2000)  
Mae “The Everglow” (2005)
Weezer “Pinkerton” (1996)
Ben Folds “Rockin’ The Suburbs” (2001)
Relient K “Forget and Not Slow Down” (2009)
Counting Crows “Recovering The Satellities” (1996)
Jack’s Mannequin “Everything In Transit” (2005)
The Rocket Summer “Do You Feel” (2007)

What album do you think every new vinyl collector should own?
Here's what my suggested "Starter Kit" for vinyl newcomers would look like:

  1. The Beatles "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band"
  2. The Beach Boys "Pet Sounds"
  3. Bob Dylan "Blood On The Tracks"
  4. Miles Davis "Kind Of Blue"
  5. David Bowie "The Rise and Fall Of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars"

Best party album:
Dean Martin "This Time I'm Swingin'!" (But, anything Dean Martin, really) There's just such a fun and laid-back vibe that is so easy-going about his style and delivery that sets a great atmosphere for all dinner/cocktail party go-ers.

Best album to listen to when you’ve had a rough week:
Counting Crows "August and Everything After"

Last record you purchased: 
Superdrag "In The Valley Of Dying Stars" (Used)

Album you're in search of:

Ok, so I'm very happy with my collection, but someday I'd love to add these:

  1. Collective Soul "Disciplined Breakdown"
  2. Better Than Ezra "Friction, Baby"
  3. Toad the Wet Sprocket "Dulcinea"
  4. Bruce Springsteen "The Rising"
  5. Sufjan Stevens "Silver & Gold"

Where do you hunt for vinyl?
I've had a great relationship with the amazing people at Bull Moose Music over the years. Especially the Lewiston, Maine location crew. (Who are the BEST!) They always go above and beyond helping me track down whatever I’m looking for. So, I’m pretty loyal, and try and buy as much of my new releases from them as I can. If it's something they can't get than I order online. Either directly from the label/artist or try and hunt it down on Discogs or eBay if it’s sold out everywhere.

If I'm in the mood for used vinyl and some good ole' fashion crate digging I visit The Record Connection in Waterville, Maine.  Bob runs a FANTASTIC shop and is great to chat with about anything and everything music. If I didn't live 2 hours away, I would be there a few times a week!

How long have you been collecting records? How did you get into it?
20 years. I think I bought my first vinyl record in the summer of 1997. I was in love with anything Punk-Rock (and always will be) and having it on vinyl just seemed like the coolest thing to 14-year-old me. So, after saving up my paychecks from my summer before High School I went and bought my first turntable and sound system. Along with a great selection of my favorite bands on wax.... and I just never looked back.

Where does your vinyl collection live in your home?
Our vinyl setup/collection is in a spare room in our house. It's just a dedicated listening room. I try and listen to a few records every day. Something in the morning to get the day rolling, and then something to settle down with at night.

Do you share your collection with family? Any tips for sharing / co-mingling a collection?
Yes. We Share. At the moment I do 99% of the vinyl hunting, buying and cleaning (and most of the listening) But, I absolutely consider my collection "My Family's Collection" to share and enjoy together. Music is made to be shared. Creating little moments and attaching those emotions and memories to a song or album is just one of the many magical things about music. Why not want to share that? (Now, with that being said) It's probably a good idea that everyone who wants to listen be aware how to properly handle the records. And knows how to use the system you listen on correctly. But as long as that is known, then there should be no need for either person to unleash a Daniel Stern record scene reenactment. (from the movie "The Diner")

What is more important to you? Sound quality or building your music collection? 
I think you can work towards both. I think it's important to try and get the records you really want in your collection when they are available. If all your doing is constantly paying for limited out-of-print records, your wallet will get thin pretty fast. So, find a balance that works towards building your collection while making small upgrades to your system. But to me, it's all about the music. If your happy and enjoying listening to your collection, then it doesn't matter if it's on a $50 pawn shop system or a brand new top-of-the-line $50,000 system.

Anything extra you want to share about your collection, set up, turntable, your equipment, listening room, plans for the future, etc?
My main setup is a VPI Industries “Prime” Turntable with a Ortofon 2m Black cart. Then into my Mcintosh MA7900 Integrated Amp into a pair of Totem Acoustic Hawk Speakers. Most of my setup is bought from the wonderful company Audio Classics in New York. If you have anything Hi-End your looking into getting I suggest you give them a call first, they are the best out there.

Other than that, all my records are cleaned on my Okki Nokki record cleaner. Straight into a Diskeeper Audiophile Inner Sleeve, then the jacket into a 4mil thick outer sleeve. Then finally, stylishly organized by my Koeppel dividers on a wall full of IKEA Kallax shelves. (Ready to be listened to whenever the mood hits)