“Noise” James ran Noise Noise Noise Records in Costa Mesa,
Calif. for fifteen years, earning him a loyal following of record collectors.
Since Noise’s closing in 2006 he has held record sales in the driveway of his
parents' home in Costa Mesa, worked for another
local record store, got clean, and in April 2010 opened up Factory Records in Costa Mesa.
might be one of the smallest record stores around—about the size of a one car
garage—which even Dave will admit. But like anything that’s genuine, it’s
what’s on the inside that counts. He frequently has parking lot sales where you
can find all kinds of gems for spare change. I’ve pulled some pretty amazing
records from his store and can honestly say he carries a very eclectic mix of
music. Like the song goes, “You wanna be where everyone knows your name,” it’s
nice to walk into a shop and get that Cheerstreatment. And if you fancy a
beverage, there’s a bar less than a bottle’s throw away.
I chose to interview Dave because, for one, his record store is the closest one
to my house, but more than that, he’s a good guy. If the person behind the
counter has nothing to say about what I’m buying or has that too cool vibe
about them, I’m not motivated to come back. Dave genuinely seems to like what
he does so it makes for a good experience.
Ryan: When did you open the shop?
Dave: In April 2010.
Ryan: What made you decide to
re-open a record store?
Dave: My landlady runs the
barbershop here and I’ve know her boyfriend for years. He came over to the
record store I was working at and asked if I wanted to open up my own record
store again. I asked him where and when he told me I was like, “No way, that
place is too small.” But I ended up going over and poking my head in and
started to picture how I would set it up. Also I still had all the old racks
from Noise, so that part was pretty easy.
Ryan: What’s the best part about
owning a record store?
Dave: I get to wear whatever I want,
listen to whatever I want, and I get to make my own hours. Which is great
during summer because I work six hours, close up, and hit the beach, so that’s
probably one of the highlights. While other people are stuck in a cubicle all
day wishing they were having fun, I’m at the beach.
Ryan: What’s the worst part?
Dave: Just all the little stresses
that I can’t push off on other people, like when something breaks or fall
apart. I’m responsible for everything. There’s no manager to unload all that
stuff on. But there’s not a ton of terrible things about doing this, otherwise
I wouldn’t be doing it.
Ryan: What was the first vinyl
record you ever bought?
Dave: When I was a kid, my mom gave
me Beatles records and my dad had early Johnny Cash records. Then I started
going to garage sales and bought different records. I got a butcher cover—one
of the most rare Beatles records—when I was about ten or eleven years old for
fifty cents at a garage sale, which later got stolen when I turned into a
tweaker. There was a record store across town called Music Market, which was
the record store. The first record I remember buying was The Specials eponymous
record with money I saved from my paper route.
Ryan: Does your shop specialize in
any particular genre or format?
Dave: I do a ton of classic rock,
which is the thing that keeps the doors open, like Pink Floyd, The Beatles, The
Doors, and Led Zeppelin. We’ve got a really healthy jazz section. But you name
it and I’ll stock it. I love having a wide variety… reggae, prog, psyche, and
dancehall, punk, the weird metal stuff.
I like selling the weirder stuff. You can go into chain stores now like
Target and Kmart and buy records, but I want to have the stuff that you’re not
going to find in there. That’s what I’ve always been about. You go into Urban
Outfitters, you’re not going to find most of this stuff.
Ryan: A lot of record stores start
as labels or eventually become labels to help local bands. Tell me about the
records you’ve put out in the past.
Dave: At NNN, I had a record label
called InstaNoise. It was myself and a guy named Lob who used to work at Vinyl Solution.
We did quite a few records, mostly 45s. It was a lot of pop punk and some
hardcore. We did a Sublime 45 that sells for hundreds of dollars now, and a
band called Homegrown. They became really popular. We also did some dub, some
funk stuff. Basically, if we liked it, we put it out.
Ryan: What happened to Noise Noise
Dave: People loved that shop. The
last couple of years were just a drugged up nightmare, but, for the most part,
it was just amazing. But, basically, I got evicted and the landlady put in one
of those massage parlors. You know you’re fucking up when you get the boot and
they put one of those in. But it had a legendary run. We were the store to go
to for fifteen years.
Ryan: What are your thoughts on
Record Store Day?
Dave: You know, I always hate it and
pull my hair out beforehand because it’s such a stressful mess. It’s a ton of
work, you know. Then, literally, the day after, I count the money, I’m like, “I
fucking love Record Store Day.” It’s killer. Part of the reason I can have this
lazy summer is because of RSD. I’ve been going on vacations and going to the
beach everyday and short hours and it’s because of RSD, so it’s rad. It’s a month or two before you start
stressing, wondering if you’re going to get this or that, and I’m screaming at
my distributors and they all think I’m an asshole. I think everyone screams at
them so they’re used to it, but I feel like a dick because I’m not normally
like that. I always kiss ass afterwards and they tell me not to sweat it. It’s
part of the routine. Literally, the last two Record Store Days in April have
been the best days ever and I’ve been doing this since ‘91.
Ryan: Okay, so I have a bunch of
scenarios written here and I want you to tell me what soundtrack would best
suit the situation. Hype music.
Dave: AC/DC” If You Want Blood.”
Ryan: Scare customers away.
Dave: Usually I’ll just go to the industrial
section and just grab some weird noise record. Something that I don’t even know
what it is. I’ll just grab something and turn it up. The yodeling records don’t work anymore; people
are drawn to that.
Ryan: Panty dropper.
Dave: Funk and Soul, but Barry White’s
probably the dude for that. Nobody wants to hear some skinny white dude singing
to them. You gotta get the brothers out for the panties to drop.
Ryan: Dance party.
Dave: The Phil Spector '60s bubblegum
stuff works best. Once it’s midnight and everybody’s liquored up, just throw
the basics on and it’s a dance party.
Ryan: Knock boots.
Dave: You gotta go back to all the
funk and soul stuff.
Dave: I don’t cook, so whatever’s in
the CD player on my way to Wahoo’s.
Ryan: Make your neighbors think that
you’re playing Nintendo at full volume.
Dave: Nineties techno records like
Aphex Twins or any of the Warp Records stuff.
Ryan: Body surfing.
Dave: Nothing. I go out there to get
away from all this shit. I just want the sounds of the waves. I want it as
quiet as possible.
Ryan: Who’s the most famous person
you’ve had come in?
Dave: I’m horrible at recognizing
people. At Noise, Stereolab came in, Jonathan Richman came in; that was pretty
rad. Sublime came in. A lot of DJs like the Beat Junkies. They were all just
kids coming into the shop back then and now they’re doing all these big things.
Ryan: What’s the best place to eat
Dave: I always ask what they like,
but my favorite place is Wahoo’s. I love, love, love Wahoo’s. I’ve been going
there since the ‘90s. It’s the original. It’s still in that old house. Tell em’
Dave sent you.
Ryan: What advice do you have for
anyone out there who wants to open a record store?
the best thing is—you have to be in business to make money not to be a museum. If you have all of the cool
stuff on the wall for a ton of money, it’s not going to sell. You have
to get a good reputation. My main asset these days is having an amazing
reputation—which is weird because I look back and go, “Whoa, I’m this fucked up
junkie who ruined this store (Noise Noise Noise).” But, for the most part,
people know I’m a polite guy, I’m fair, and I’m willing to negotiate. I get
people who saw a review on Yelp and they say they heard I was the guy to go to.
You can’t get better advertising than that. Reputation is huge. And you have to
have the ability to let things go.