An Interview with Joe Macchia of Needle + Groove Records

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Needle + Groove Records is one of the newer stores for vinyl on Long Island. They’ve been open for about three years, and in that time they’ve really become my go-to spot for hard to find and/or rare 60s and 70s Hard Rock and Psych. That said, they do carry basically any genre you can think of, and their stock seems to be growing by the day. The store is clean, inviting and comfortable. The stock is always in fantastic shape and you’ll be sure to find interesting things each and every time you go in. What’s also awesome about Needle + Groove is the staff. For a long time, Amanda Schutzman (whom I interviewed here and who Women In Vinyl interviewed here) was the manager, but several months back, Amanda turned things over to Joe Macchia and he’s holding it down and keeping Needle + Groove at the top of the heap. As you’ll learn in this interview, Joe is a great guy and one who has a tremendous passion for music and vinyl. Joe is also a professional chef, which you will learn more about here as well. Joe’s personal history with both music and food, as well as how he has intertwined the two is truly interesting. You can learn a little bit about Joe’s career and passion as a chef here. I really enjoyed getting to know him better, and I believe you will too. Before we dive in, I would like to direct you to Needle + Groove’s website here. Lastly, don’t forget to check out Joe’s radio show here. “The Hi-Fi Dream Machine” broadcasts live on Friday nights, at 8pm Eastern Standard Time, via Bay Area station 103.3 WWRO. Once you’ve finished there, dig into this interview with Joe. Cheers.

Andrew:
Joe, thank you for taking the time to speak with us. This last year has been rough, right? How are you holding up during this seemingly ever-raging dumpster fire?

Joe:
Ah man, my absolute pleasure! Yes, this year has created unusual circumstances to thrive. “Raging Dumpster Fire” could quite possibly be the best way to describe the process, hahaha!

I will say though, after several months of practice, I feel my best strategy is to handle everything day by day. Plenty of reasons to stay positive!

Andrew:
Tell us about your backstory. What was your musical gateway so to speak?

Joe:
Hmm, where to start? One of the basics to know about me is that I am a born and raised New Yorker. Most notably, I am a professional chef. My career has spanned over 15 years and allowed me the opportunity to work in cities such as New York City, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, México, and more. I have spent the past few years focusing on start up for my own small business, called “Pizza Boy USA,” where I make handmade sourdough pizzas to order and anchor the menu with a smash cheeseburger that was regarded as one of the BEST BURGERS in NYC for a couple of years (2016-2017). The entire concept for the business was fueled by the power of music, even the name of the business is after an old song from 1952 by the famous Italian American lounge singer named Lou Monte. The relevance of this is that when I would host events, a live band or turntable was a necessity. Create the vibe and enjoy yourself. However, sad to say – with the inception of pandemic lifestyle, rules and regulations –  it seems the landscape of a dining experience has changed (for potentially ever?) – so needless to say, I’ve had to adapt! 

Music has always been an integral part of my life, fostered in me by my parents, who are Rock ‘N’ Rollers and regular concert-goers (when that was still a thing). My music taste has subtly changed over the years, I am 37 years old, and have had many unique experiences that have all shaped me and my taste. I would say my interest in food and world cuisine has been somewhat of a lightning rod in the exploration of music. Eating an ethnic meal often unlocked stories about the culture I would find myself entertaining. So for many years, I’ve found my curiosity expanded as I worked with various cultures’ ingredients and decided to dig a bit deeper into the corresponding music scenes within a particular time frame (60s and 70s) across the globe.

Andrew:
You’re the manager at Needle + Groove here on Long Island. Tell us how you got the gig there. 

Joe:
Yes, I am proud to say I manage this great little record shop located in Lynbrook, Long Island called Needle + Groove Records. The opportunity developed as a result of the advent of the pandemic forcing me to put my small business food service project on the shelf, seeing as how I would predominantly host events at dive bars, motorcycle repair shops and live music shows – and as we all know, public gatherings are no longer allowed. So, it took me some time to get my legs under me and one of the things I love to do to instantly reinforce my good mood was to find myself digging at the shop on regular occasion. The beauty of digging at Needle + Groove is that the stock changes often, and I was always finding serious record collecting dreams in the bins.

Shortly thereafter, lockdown started and we were confined to our homes, small businesses shuttered and keeping a positive mindset was on the ropes day to day. That’s when the light of my life named Amanda Shutzman changed everything. She was then the current manager of Needle + Groove Records, and knowing what a loyal fan of the shop I was, we stayed in contact through lockdown and she would physically drop off records to me at my house! What a legend; she really saved me.

As infection cases dropped and somewhat stabilized, small businesses started to open their doors again. I had often dreamt of working in a record shop, as I am an avid collector and have no problem being fully immersed in my passions. With the pandemic relenting, and my food service future laced with uncertainty – I awkwardly mentioned to Amanda about my interest in becoming a part of the team. I thought at bare minimum, I would help Amanda establish the shop and be that extra set of hands she needed for so long.

I take all the work I do seriously, but mindfully choose to lead with positivity and good vibes. It may come as no surprise, but I was given some insanely detailed (and patient) training from Amanda, and I now find myself managing the shop as Amanda has moved on to other incredible opportunities (however, she still very much helps me and is an integral part of everything that makes Needle + Groove great! And we love her so much!). It’s really been a fantastic and rewarding process. I am eternally grateful for Amanda and Larry Melilli (the owner of the Needle + Groove Records) for taking a chance on me!

Andrew:
When did you know you wanted to work in a record store? What do you love most about it?

Joe:
I knew I wanted to work in a record store back when I lived in Red Hook, Brooklyn. I found myself spending most of my free time with Bene Coopersmith, the owner of 360 Records at 360 Van Brunt Street in Red Hook. There is nothing quite like the vibe in that shop. Conversation topics would wildly range from the commonplace to the other side of reasonable. Haha. It was always a blast and the customers really made that possible.

I’d say that’s ultimately my favorite thing about managing Needle + Groove. It’s the customers. They are the reason I love what I do. Helping them find the tunes they are looking for, or inspiring them and their ears when I have the chance. I will also say that the pandemic has also taught me the value of human interaction. The act of working in the shop fills my week with good energy and stories, most of which are the unknowing gifts my customers bestow upon me by being musically curious. Hell yeah. Bottoms up.

Andrew:
What do you love most about music and why? What does it mean to you?

Joe:
Music has the ability to change the script for the better, and it is as simple as dropping the needle. It has the power to heal, comfort, motivate and inspire. My life has an ever-developing soundtrack. For each moment, I could find a song to convey the emotions of the memory. It’s a gift and a curse. Hahaha.

As far as music’s meaning to me, beyond managing the record shop – I currently host a radio show on 103.3 WWRO. The show is broadcasted out of the San Francisco Bay Area every Friday night at 8pm Eastern Standard Time. It’s called “The Hi-Fi Dream Machine” with Smokin’ Joe (that’s me) – and I honestly revel in the opportunity to ignite a Friday night for all my listeners. You can access the show on the stations website which is www.1033wwro.com. On the show, I cover topics that paint a picture of culture and music from the Psychedelic era, more aptly the late 60s and surging into the 70s. I specialize in everything from Psychedelic Folk and Baroque Pop to Doom Metal and Hard Rock. It’s an audio adventure for your ear holes. I guarantee it.

Andrew:
Let’s talk about the state of the music industry a bit. What are a few things you would like to see change for the better?

Joe:
The music industry is a big place, and while there are more than a handful of topics I’d like to see change for the better, if I had to choose one in particular, I would like to see a power shift from these goliaths of the industry as major record labels to more progressive-minded indie labels. The practices of the big-time major labels are more often NOT in favor of the talent they sign, whereas indie labels are more in touch with the groups they support and practice more adequate breakdowns of sales splits, promotions and are more transparent in business dealings for the sake of the artists. Independent Labels like RidingEasy Records, Ancient Grease Records, SubPop, Mind of a Genius, Now Again, Furnace, Stones Throw, etc – all deserve credit for being pioneers of creating businesses that are FOR the artists and the music lovers – they deserve the recognition.

Andrew:
RSD. Some love it. Some hate it. What are your honest thoughts on Record Store Day?

Joe:
To be quite honest, I was never a fan of RSD as a collector, because I am one of those lunatics who somehow only covet the original press of hard-to-find vinyl. And while I still feel that way, I have softened up on my views of RSD. It’s another opportunity for people to be excited about music – for which I am always in favor of. Now that I manage a shop that actively participates in the spectacle that is RSD – I take pride in sticking to the rules and creating some suspense for the releases that are scheduled for the big day. Some first-time-to-vinyl releases and remastered recordings are worth getting in line for.

Andrew:
You deal with a lot of records, so you probably know that quality control has been an issue in the past, but to what degree? In your opinion, is QC really as big an issue as it’s made out to be?

Haha, yes I do deal with a lot of records, and I love every second of it! Some minor concerns in regards to quality control are that I wish some releases were play graded before the mass production. A few times over the past year, we have had issues with brand new sealed records that are poorly pressed, resulting in skips. One would assume the reason this can happen is that with work forces at pressing plants being sparse under the circumstances with the pandemic and quotas having to be reached, not enough attention to the details is being accounted for. Quality control has inevitably been put into question. That unfortunately puts the record stores in a tough position with having to create reasons for upset customers who are the real victims here when issues like that arise. So it’s on the labels. What does one do with several thousand records that skip? Not to mention restoring faith in the label for the sake of the consumer. A standard in Quality control is irreplaceable.

Andrew:
Opinion question. In a world dominated by big business and social media, can indie artists really, truly get ahead? How do we keep the playing field level so that everyone has a chance to succeed?

Joe:
Great question. As I mentioned earlier, I’d like to see a shift in power from big business to indie labels. And with social media being such a driving force behind sales and promotion – I do believe you will start to see that shift, if you haven’t already. Ideally, as major labels begin to lose their grip on the industry, you’ll see them start to implore some of the practices that have helped some of these indie labels rise to power. And that means advocating for the artists, less mind numbing greed, more equality and a fair shot at being successful.

Andrew:
I’ve learned that royalties via Spotify and Apple Music are a huge issue that indie artists face. What are your thoughts on that? How do we close the gap and make things more fair?

Joe:
There needs to be some rules and guidelines set in place to inspire healthy competition by these streaming services. Spotify and Apple Music pay these artists cents on the dollar per stream. I’d like to see those numbers change to create some passion and interest in the art of making music. There is no greater form of expression that has a viable impact on so many than making music. It should be held in the highest regard, now that asking “Alexa” to play a song is most people’s standard.

Andrew:
What other passions do you have? How do those interests inform your music, if at all?

Joe:
I am a passionate person with everything I put my hands on. As a chef, I use music to lead me on a path of discovery into cultures in search of ingredients to really exonerate the seasonality of what’s on the plate. It’s easy to inspire people through good music. It can change the complexion of your day just as easily as a good meal can.

The radio show is also another part of my week that really inspires me to dig deep into the crates to create content for my show. It’s a great time; I can go eat a traditional Turkish meal and then learn more about Anatolian culture through listening to artists like Mustafa Özkent, Fikret Kizilok, and Erkin Koray (who is one of the best guitarists to ever put his fingers on the strings).

Andrew:
Are you only into records? Tapes? CDs? Digital? Where do you like to shop for music? How big is your collection these days?

Joe:
Well, I grew up during the peak of CDs, but currently I am only a devout record collector. It’s not that I don’t have interest in other music mediums – I just am constantly reconsidering storage and space as I add to my current collection.

I try and visit as many record shops as I can, mostly local first and foremost. I will dig at Mr. Cheapo’s in Mineola and Commack, Infinity Records in Massapequa, Human Head and Face Records in Brooklyn, or Academy Records and Generation Records in Manhattan.

I currently have about 1,600 records in my collection but as I buy, I am constantly selling and trading to create balance within my collection. I also don’t hesitate to pass along something awesome to a next gen of listeners if they are cool enough people to carry the torch. Ride on, my noble stallions.

Andrew:
What are a few albums that mean the most you and why?

Joe:
Of course you have to ask me one of the hardest questions to answer haha – hmmm, there are so many albums that mean so much to me! All different times in my life music has played a role. So now that I’m on the hot seat – I will say the first album that means a lot to me is by a progressive rocker from Spain named Eduardo Bort. His 1975 self-titled debut on Movieplay records is nothing short of a masterpiece and has carried me through many ebbs and flows of this rocky ocean they call life.

As far as another, my local pride brings me back to Long Island. I will ask – was there a better band in the Hard Rock genre at the time in the early 1970’s than Cactus? I think not. The band was electrifying. Rusty Day from the Amboy Dukes, Carmine Appice and the late great Tim Bogert from Vanilla Fudge and Jim McCarty from Mitch Ryder’s Detroit Wheels created a synergy on stage that would bring you to your knees and ultimately make you feel like you were about to spontaneously combust. Absolute legends. Smoke ’em if ya got ’em.

Lastly, I can’t answer this question and not acknowledge one of my favorite bands of all time –  The Yardbirds. Pioneers of innovative Garage Rock, they released one of my favorite albums in 1967 with Roger the Engineer. Best enjoyed as a Mono recording, it is unequivocally a record collector’s dream, and worth every penny to get your hands on a copy.

Andrew:
Last question. What aspirations do you have beyond managing the store? What does the  future hold for you?

Joe:
You have a knack for asking some deep questions. Haha. I love it. Well, let’s just say that as a chef with a small business venture in mind, I would like to fuse my world together at some point. Ideally when things get a little closer to “normal” and stabilize, I’d like to make an attempt at launching Pizza Boy USA, and working closely with people in the vinyl community. Creating events where two of my passions are celebrated publicly, my love for music and good food!

At the moment, I am giving my all to Needle + Groove records with no real intentions of moving on, but rather adding to the big picture. My customers mean everything to me and I look forward to work daily. I’ve never really had a gig like it and am grateful for the opportunity. To answer anyone’s question –  Yes I have the coolest job ever and yes it’s as awesome as you think it is. Haha!

As things develop, and we get a bit closer to normalcy –  I’ll ideally find myself in the position to host more events for ‘Pizza Boy USA’  (@pizzaboyusany) and build some notoriety with my radio show “The Hi-Fi Dream Machine” on 103.3 WWRO. (@1033wwro_fm)

I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity to answer these questions and give your readers a bird’s eye view into who I am and what I’m about. It’s been an absolute pleasure! Swing by the shop and say hello anytime. Otherwise, I’ll expect to see you at a Pizza Boy USA event with a slice in hand banging your head to the tunes I’m spinning. Keep on rockin’ in the free world. You rule. Thanks!!!

Dig this interview? Check out the full archives of Vinyl Writer Interviews, by Andrew Daly, here: www.vinylwritermusic.com/interview

About Post Author

Andrew Daly

Since he was a young child growing up on Long Island, NY, Andrew has always loved writing and collecting physical music. Present-day, Andrew is proud to share his love of music with the world through his writing, and the result is nothing short of beautiful: articles and interviews written by a music addict for fellow music addicts. Andrew lives on Long Island and works as a Horticultural Operations Manager by day and runs the Vinyl Writer Music website by night.
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