Andrew Winistorfer, housing a collection of approximately 1,300 pieces, certainly lives up to his billing as senior editor over at vinyl subscription service and music magazine, Vinyl Me, Please. Winistorfer took lead on the organization’s recently released book, 100 Albums You Need in Your Collection, while also penning listening notes to a Vinyl Me, Please classic reissue of John Lee Hooker’s It Serve You Right To Suffer. You can find all his writing, here.
So, how’d you initially get into this world? In your application you gave the majority of the credit to locating your dad’s record collection.
When I was about 6 or 7, my parents’ last turntable — which was an all-in-one jobber with a tape deck and radio — was handed down to me when they got their first CD stereo. I had it for a few months and only used it as a tape deck — my favorite tape was Prince’s Batman soundtrack — when I remembered that my parents had a box of records somewhere in the basement. It was during spring break, so I asked my mom if I could spend the day digging for them in the maw of our basement. She told me yes, with the caveat that there might be a box I’m not supposed to see. I end up finding what was left of my parents’ records in a box, and knowing that my dad always said his favorite band was the Beatles, I took his four Beatles records out of the box, and left the rest. I still remember sitting on the end of my bed, playing the Blue greatest hits package, and how the world stopped when I heard “Across the Universe.” I broke the stylus a couple weeks later — it was the early ‘90s and getting one wasn’t an easy proposition in small town Wisconsin — so we threw it out and the records went back in a box (70 percent of that box is now part of my collection).
I got way back into record collecting when I was 19, at the record store to buy Aha Shake Heartbreak on the day it was released, and was shocked that they had a vinyl copy. I didn’t know new records were being made. I bought the CD and the record, went home, and asked my parents what happened to that old turntable I used to have in my room. I had completely forgotten I broke it. I went to Best Buy and bought the only turntable they sold in 2005, and have since collected about 1,300 records. Oh, and that other box in my basement? My dad’s collection of ‘70s Playboy magazines, which I hid in a different corner of the basement and would show my friends on every sleepover.
What did your parents listen to growing up? In your house, how was the appreciation of art pushed? Obviously being a music writer, being a longtime collector, something had to have clicked growing up.
My parents had a really wide ranging taste in music, and I always say it helped me do my job now because my parents were, philosophically, just like Vinyl Me, Please: they were genre agnostic. My mom loved Prince, Simply Red, Pavarotti, and country music. My dad loved Chicago, Patsy Cline, Alan Parsons, and Peter Gabriel. They both loved the Doobie Brothers, Lyle Lovett, and Michael Jackson. I have a lot of sense memories tied to music that involve sitting in the backseat of a van driving somewhere, listening to one of my mom’s driving mixtapes. She started with tapes, then made CDs, and now is making iPod playlists for my dad and her’s commute everyday.
And as far as the appreciation of art, they were incredible parents for that. I remember watching stuff like Apocalypse Now when I was probably too young to watch, but my mom wanted to teach us about the movie — which she loved — and the Vietnam War. My parents treat music and movies and good TV as important, enriching things to your life, which I’ve obviously taken to an extreme length.
How have you built throughout the years? You have about 1,300 pieces; do you find yourself building primarily from new, from the secondary market, thrift stores, what are we looking at here?
It’s a real mixture, for sure. When I got back into records at 19, my collection was built via my parents’ records and then all my aunt and uncles unloaded whatever I wanted from their collections to me (my dad has 7 brothers and sisters, so that was no small amount of records). A big chunk of my collection comes from two stores: Strictly Discs in Madison (where I live now) and the Yard Sale in Laurium, Michigan, a thrift store that has like 40,000 records for really cheap. I’ve probably bought something like 100 records from that place when we visit the U.P. of Michigan every summer.
I am someone addicted to the feeling of finding a record that’s been on your list forever just in a stack at a store, so I usually avoid Discogs and eBay. I don’t want to cheapen the experience of the record store; otherwise, why not just listen to everything on streaming services? That said, I will buy stuff on Amazon, and I get a lot of my new stuff from the VMP store. I’d say my collection is probably 40/60 for new stuff to old stuff.
If someone were to flip through your collection, what would they be surprised by? What artist would show up the most?
Well, I have this completionist bend to me, so I own all but two of Bob Dylan’s solo albums (Together Through Life and Under the Red Sky) and am only missing one of Miles Davis’ Columbia albums (Sorcerer). My Dylan records take up almost an entire cube of one of my shelves, to the point where they have their own divider.
What’s the furthest lengths you’ve gone to secure a record?
Since I don’t really troll the secondary market, I don’t have any crazy story here. But there was the time that I bought the Talking Heads’ Remain in Light — a record I had looked for for 2 years in my early 20s — for $27 when I had $29 in my checking account. I sat outside the store and didn’t want to spend any of my money, but my friend came out and said “They have a great copy of Remain in Light in there.” I sighed, and said, “God damn it,” went in and purchased it.
And let’s get to the big ones. What are some of your prized possessions?
So, the one I have that is worth the most is Frank Ocean’s Blond, but the ones that mean the most to me are the sentimental ones. That copy of the blue Beatles greatest hits album means a lot, and so does my dad’s copy of The Graduate soundtrack, which has a message from his brothers since they got it for him for his high school graduation in the early ‘70s. I also looked for Marvin Gaye’s Here, My Dear for years, and love remembering the hunt I was on for that when I look at my copy.
Also, my two copies of Big Smoke’s Time Is Golden, since I worked really hard on the story/presentation we did, and making sure we honored Adrian was something that kept me awake at night for weeks.
What’s the white whales that haunt your dreams at night?
Right now, it’s a lot of Stax albums since I’m trying to get as many of those as possible. But I also long for a copy of Under the Red Sky that isn’t marked up to $100.
It looks like you’re located in the world of Wisconsin? What are some of your favorite record shops in that area/state?
As mentioned, I love Strictly Discs in Madison. Mad City Music Exchange is great too. As far as the rest of the state, there’s a chain of stores called The Exclusive Company, and most mid-sized cities here have one. Shout out to the one on Main Street in Oshkosh, where I bought that copy of Aha Shake Heartbreak.
Tell us about your audio system. Being involved in Vinyl Me, Please, a company that obviously releases vinyl, I assume you’ve developed an ear for a “good pressing.” What elements do you personally look for when judging sound quality?
Well, I am known at VMP as being the voice against the inclination “serious” vinyl people have against people with Crosleys, or against people who don’t care about hifi audio. When I was in my early 20s and broke, my turntable broke, and I had to use my roommates’ Crosley for literally three years. I wrote a Tumblr about my record collection listening almost exclusively on a Crosley, and it was fine. My system is, right now, a AT-LP120 attached directly to a set of AudioEngine A2+ Speakers. All I really care about is if my turntable works, doesn’t ruin my records (not all Crosleys will kill a record collection, as mine proves), and if it sounds good when I play Jailbreak when I’ve had 4 beers.
My judgement for if a pressing is good is by asking Cameron Schaefer at Vinyl Me, Please, hahahaha.
Variant collector, yes or no.
I don’t specifically search them out, but would choose a cool color over black if the price is similar.
Highest amount you’d drop on a single release (1xLP or 2xLP).
Thinking about my collection, I guess the answer is $35 for 1LP, and $50 for a 2LP.
Coolest variant in your collection.
I think our pressing of Eddie Gale’s Ghetto Music looks like a bowling ball, which I love.
Best packaging in your collection.
It’s a total cop out, but My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.
Favorite Vinyl Me, Please release.
For Record of the Month it’s Fiona Apple’s Tidal. For exclusives, it’s a rap album we’re releasing the first vinyl pressing of later this summer/early fall.
If you could ask our next COTM a question, what would it be?
Is there a record in your collection you’d be embarrassed if a romantic partner found? What is it?
And a question from Andrew Daly, our last featured collector: What is your preference in a record shop? Do you prefer a well-organized, more mainstream shop? Or do you subscribe to the theory that a mess of shop breeds buried treasure?
Look, I’m too old and too busy to spend 6 hours trying to make heads and tails of how a store is organized. If you’re not organized alphabetically by artist at least, and preferably by genre too, I’m not gonna spend more than 20 minutes poking around. If Wal-Mart stores can be organized, so can thrift store record stores.
A big thanks to Andrew for talking with us!