Justin Moran-Abel is a 38-year-old California native. Currently, he resides in San Francisco with his fiancée, who puts up with his record collecting obsession, as well as his “princess of a cat,” Brody. Brody is affectionately named after Brody Dale of The Distillers. When he’s not watching hockey, collecting records or working, you can find him promoting Slim’s San Francisco and a Bay Area white trash-themed bar, BUTTER.
Most importantly, he’s Modern Vinyl’s June Collector of the Month. With an impressive collection of at least 3,000 records, with lots of punk and classic rock, Moran-Abel has been collecting since his high school days.
Tell us about what you grew up on. In your application for COTM, you reference a lot of punk and classic rock albums. How did those genres help shape your musical tastes today?
My earliest real music memories go back to watching MTV, when they still had videos! I remember seeing what appeared to be a crazy man, with the biggest hair I’d ever seen and what I thought were the coolest tattoos ever. That man was Axl Rose and that video played a massive part in my music obsession that has lasted to this day. After seeing that video, I got as into the ’80s Los Angeles scene as my mom would let me: Guns N’ Roses, Skid Row, Motley Crue. I remember heading to a record store in Chico and buying Appetite for Destruction on cassette. Being excited, I asked my mom if we could listen to it on the ride home. It was about midway through “It’s So Easy” when Axl Rose belted out, “Why don’t you just…FUCK OFF!” My mom, having heard this clear as day…quickly turned to me and asked, “What did he just say?!” I did what any 10-year-old kid would do, and came up with the first lie I could think of: “He was talking about his duck mom….he has a pet duck.” WHEW! I saved myself there! It wasn’t until we arrived home that I opened up the cassette and pulled out the artwork. I remember tearing off the panel with the cartoon robot raping the woman and hiding it under my mattress. I knew there was no way in hell I’d be keeping that tape if she found that!
A few years later in life, I took a summer babysitting job for my uncle and he introduced me to the wonderful world of Black Sabbath. There was something that drew me into their raw, fuzzed out sound; something I’d never heard before. This is when Ozzy still scared the shit out of kids, each of which had their own version of the bat head biting story. Something about their music felt rebellious and dark, just the fuel an angst-filled kid needed at the time!
It was also about this time that I discovered bands like Black Flag, Bad Brains and Minor Threat. I can’t even remember what led me to their music. My guess would be that I saw the T-shirts enough and dove in to see what their music was all about. Some of the purest and heartfelt music I’ve ever heard is some of the early punk stuff. It was more than music; it was a way of life. The things these guys sang about you believed in; you wanted to be a part of. Discovering these bands really played a massive part in who I’ve become as a person, far beyond the record collecting aspect.
You’ve been collecting records for about 20 years now. What age did you first get hooked on vinyl?
I actually remember the very first record I bought with my own money. Its a Guns N’ Roses bootleg called Rifle Totin’ Florists. I’m guessing I had to have been about 11. I still have it! It has a naked girl on the back with a gun and holster. It was sex, drugs and rock and roll, all in one record.
I really got into record collecting in high school. I would skip class (sorry grandma!) to walk to the local Goodwill at least once a week and dig through their bins. This was before the revival of record collecting really hit and you could still find absolute gems! This wasn’t the overflow of Barry Manilow and Johnny Mathis LPs that seem to be in every thrift store now. I built so much of my collection early on at that Goodwill. Zeppelin, Doors, Beastie Boys…so many of the LPs I still cherish today were purchased there.
If you have kids (or are planning to have kids in the future!), will you pass on your collection to them and instill a love of the vinyl medium in them?
Absolutely! No kids for me as of yet, but I recently became engaged. One step at a time! My fiancée is also an incredibly artsy person. As large as my collection is, she still asks that we have two squares for her collection, so she doesn’t have to dig to find what she wants to listen to. I imagine our kids will be introduced to music and the art of vinyl collecting at a very young age. I have also been a big autograph collector for years. I just imagine how cool it would have been if my parents had handed down signed Doors and Who LPs to me, so I want to be able to do that for my kids. I’d say I have at least 300-350 artists that I’ve collected over the years. Lots of time spent in front of clubs after shows. Thankfully, I’ve found a girl who puts up with my crazy obsession and understands.
What are some of your prized possessions?
Always a tough question! I have several pieces that I hold near and dear. All various music genres really.
American Nightmare — Background Music.
Black with a purple cross. This variant was limited to 100 copies and made available to family and press. American Nightmare went through a lawsuit not long after releasing this album and were forced to change their name to Give Up The Ghost. The album was repressed with the name change. At the time, the originals went through the roof price-wise; this version being the most sought after.
Glassjaw — Coloring Book EP.
Hands down one of the most unique albums I own. These went on sale to the public as part of a ticket sale for a show at the Paramount Theatre in New York. 120 completely unique one-offs were made. Random combinations (120 pieces) using yellow, orange, green, red, blue and white. The vinyl separates into a 7″, 10″ ring and 12″ ring and came framed with a hand-numbered sticker on the back of the frame. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen, and for a long time I never thought it would come to fruition. As you can imagine, these sold out in no time flat. I bought mine on the secondary market (via eBay) for what I considered a reasonable price. It was over a year before they were actually produced! Thankfully I had an honest seller who kept in contact with me the entire time and kept good on his end. I couldn’t believe when it finally came in the mail. I opened it up, and lo and behold, I ended up with #120/120…last one in the line. Probably not one I’ll ever play. Seeing as each one is unique, I look at it as a piece of art.
Bronx — Bronx I. The Bronx are hands down one of my favorite bands of all time. I don’t know of any dudes who love what they do quite as much as these guys. I’ve built a friendship over the years with them and I love seeing them continue to expand on their talents. They have several incarnations of the band now: Mariachi El Bronx, The Drips and Pounded By The Surf, just to name a few. All of them are unique. All of them are amazing! This is he Bronx at their rawest. Released on Tarantulas Records in 2004 on grey marbled vinyl. It’s become quite a difficult find.
Dr. Dre — The Chronic.
I have an original pressing of this that Dre signed for me back in 1999. Don’t think there’s much more explanation needed!
Bobby Darin — Twist with Bobby Darin.
Another signed piece I recently acquired. I feel that Darin had one of the greatest voices in the history of music. He had the ability to swoon like Sinatra, yet had the rebellious side of Sid Vicious. If you listen back to some of those records, his bands were so incredibly tight musically. Their time changes and rhythm were unmatched at the time and overshadowed only by his voice. Darin was basically the punk rock kid of his day. He’s one artist I really hope stands the test of time. I feel that so many of the artists from previous generations are forgotten over time, and this music deserves better. I bought this from an old timer in Vegas who acquired this from Darin a few years before his death. It represents a little piece of music history to me…what used to be.
NoBunny — Love Visions.
Pink marbled copy on Bubbledumb records. One of 200 pressed. Hand-pasted covers. A full-fledged DIY album! Nobunny recorded the majority of this record in his kitchen. It’s tripped-down garage punk at its best. An homage to the Ramones all the way down to the cover of the album.
The Deftones — Adrenaline radio-only promo. Not sure the exact number of copies of these; I’ve heard as low as 100. Released in 1995, a time when new music wasn’t being pressed onto vinyl. This has since been repressed multiple times over the last few years, but this copy is something special to me.
If there was impending doom on the horizon, what are the top five records you would grab? Why?
As for the first five albums I’d grab in a time of disaster, I really don’t know. It’s too hard to say. I’d grab my gal and my cat first, then probably the first five titles I thought of at the time.
What is your favorite album of all time? Is it hard to find on vinyl?
Once again, I go back to Guns N’ Roses. I can still remember watching that video like it was yesterday. Being the first band that I really, honestly loved, I think that Appetite For Destruction will always hold that spot in my heart as my favorite album. In terms of a straight forward rock and roll record, it might be one of the best ever. Are there albums I listen to more now? Sure. But it is one record I will always go back to.
I ran into Steven Adler at the San Francisco airport early one morning a few years back. I was immediately transported back to a 12-year-old kid. I think I managed to get out that he played drums on my favorite record of all time. But for all I know, it was mumbled gibberish. He was very cool about it. Thanked me and took a photo. I’m not star struck often, but this was definitely one of the exceptions!
With the boom that is currently happening in record collecting, I feel that most titles are getting easier and easier to obtain due to repress after repress. I do have an original pressing of Appetite For Destruction with the aformentioned banned rape cover. I also own a copy of Live ?!*@ Like a Suicide, which they put out on their own before signing to Geffen. Both of these are quite sought after and have shown a resurgence in the collectors market given their recent reunion.
Where are you located and what are some of your favorite record stores?
I live in San Francisco, California. I think that most who collect records know all about Amoeba Records. It’s massive —although not quite as big as the Hollywood Amoeba — and there is always something to find. That being said, there are some amazing independent record stores in the Bay Area that I would highly recommend to anyone traveling through. 1-2-3-4 Go! Records is absolutely amazing! It’s probably my favorite shop in the Bay Area. They have had a shop and label out of Oakland for several years, and have recently opened a store here in San Francisco. The staff is what you want in a record store. They know their shit across the board, and aren’t the pretentious assholes you get with some record shops. If you are in the San Francisco store ask for a guy named Andrew; the guy knows his stuff!
Recycled Records — This is located on Haight Street, down about five blocks from Amoeba. If you weren’t looking for it you might miss it. Found some incredible gems in here throughout the years.
Thrillhouse Records — A punk store run by punk kids volunteering their time. Amazing selection of local and national punk and metal bands.
Grooves — A store you’ll want to give yourself a good amount of crate digging time in. Large selection of used rock, soul, jazz, funk, reggae…you name it. Not sure if he’s still there, but if you wandered in on the right day, Kelly Stoltz (Sub Pop, Third Man) would be behind the counter manning the ship. Always a good conversation with that guy.
When you travel, are there any places you always hit up for records?
The first thing I do when going on a road trip or vacation is open up the phone book (or Google) and search for local record stores. It’s my favorite thing to do when I’m on a trip. There’s something about the unknown of wandering into a shop you’ve never been into before. It’s a brand new treasure hunt!
Hi-Voltage Records in Tacoma, Washington — Unreal store! Top five I’ve ever been into, hands down. The quality of their selection is amazing. Everything from new and old stock Pacific Northwest bands (The Wailers, The Sonics!) to obscure psych rock and punk stuff. I am visiting family again in October and am going to dedicate half a day in there! Last visit I walked away with an original Wild Man Fischer LP and a fully signed copy of Turbonegro’s Party Animals.
Park Ave Records in Orlando, Florida — Had the chance to stop in last year on my way from Florida up to South Carolina. It was pissing down rain, but well worth the trip! Great imports and back catalog of rock and punk. Awesome staff.
London. Just London. All of it! My carry-on item for the flight home was about 35 pounds of LPs.
Just recently, I popped into a store in Vista, California called Standards. It’s a small store, but it has a really solid selection. Will definitely be returning next time I head to Southern California
Are there any interesting stories about how you acquired some of the records in your collection?
A few years back I had a bet with Matt Caughthran of The Bronx. My local San Francisco 49ers were playing his beloved New Orleans Saints in the playoffs. I think the bet was some kind of test pressing if I won, vs. me buying the band beers for the night on their next trip through San Francisco if he won. I was a happy camper when the 49ers pulled it off. I ended up not collecting on the test press, but instead he was able to get me into a show that they played with Rocket From the Crypt and Suicidal Tendencies in a small venue here in San Francisco. It was put on by Converse and the only way to get in was to win tickets, which I didn’t. Needless to say, I considered the bet paid in full! Thanks Matt!
What are some of the white whales you’re still on the search for?
The thing with record collecting is that there is always a white whale. There always will be a white whale! There are a few on my list that elude me to this day:
Nirvana — “Love Buzz/Big cheeze.” Debut 7″ on Sub Pop records, hand numbered to 1,000. The difficult thing with this 7″ is that there are so many bootleg copies of it now. You really need to know what you are looking for or you’ll get taken. I’ve only ever seen one copy in person. It was at the Amoeba in Hollywood and they were asking $10,000! Needless to say this was out of my budget, and ridiculously overpriced (it normally sells for about $2,000 – $2,500) but apparently it wasn’t too rich for someone’s blood. It was gone the next time I was in the store.
Pentagram — S/T. An incredibly scarce doom metal record. Was repressed a few times with the title “Relentless.” Original pressings are tough to come by.
Downset. — S/T. Only pressed in Japan one time in the early ’90s.
What are some of your thoughts on Record Store Day? I realize it was back in April, but RSD always manages to pull out some interesting releases!
I think any collector has their takes on RSD at this point. I think it’s an amazing idea on the surface and a great way to expose kids to record collecting. Unfortunately, it’s become a big money day for secondary market sellers. People go specifically to sell at an unreal markup, and that’s a shame. My buddy and I have camped out in front of Amoeba Berkeley the last four years. We are those guys, because there is always something on the list you want. And I refuse to pay the secondary markup.
This year I grabbed the MnMs record from Burger Records, a handful of the Japanese and UK garage rock comps, the Deftones B-sides, Albert Hammond Jr., The Silly Symphony Collection: The Skeleton Dance/Three Little Pigs, and the Sublime LPs to name a few.
Tell us about your audio system. Are you the type of listener that subscribes to the “warm” vinyl sound or what do you think vinyl adds to the experience?
I have the Technics 1200 with a mish mash of equipment from local thrift stores. I get a blast heading into Salvation Army stores and Goodwills looking for deals to upgrade my system. I’m always tweaking it. I currently have everything going through an old Sony receiver, some vintage acoustic speakers and a massive sub woofer.
I love the art of listening to vinyl; running your fingers across the spines until one jumps out at you. Pulling the LP out and placing it on the platter, gently placing the needle to it. I believe that album art is so much more powerful and effective when its 12 x 12, as opposed to a CD. There’s something about holding a gatefold in your hands and reading the liner notes with the soft hissing and popping in the background. I sound like a fucking hallmark card.
From our last COTM: As a collector, at what point would you refuse to pay for a collectible record that you really want? And do you think the one you already have is worth the price you paid?
Well, clearly the $10,000 Nirvana 7″ was too much! Hell, the $2,500 it sells for on average is probably too much, but I do see myself paying that for it some day.
I recently sold a radio-only promo of Sandi Sheldon’s You’re Gonna Make Me Love You that ended up going for about $1,800 in auction, which totally blew my mind. It was a bidding war between a buyer in Japan and one in the UK.
I’ve paid $200 or $250 before. Im sure to many that’s outrageous, seeing as you can get most actual music in CD form for $5-10, but those people don’t have the bug. They don’t understand what it is to be a record collector. They don’t have that memory of Axl rose from 1987 that changed their life.
If you could toss one question in the COTM pool, what would you ask?
What is your take on the state of record collecting as it sits today? Do you think there is a ceiling on it? Do you feel the multiple color variants and limited runs of most titles are going to flood the hobby eventually? Do you feel that represses of rare titles are a good thing or a bad thing in terms of collecting?
A big thanks to Justin for participating. You can apply to be our collector of the month, below.