An Interview with Matt Kessler of Too Many Records

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In 2014, I lost my entire record collection. It’s a story I’ve told many times, and it’s not worth rehashing now. That said, the end result was that in 2014, I was left with no turntable, no speakers, no reciever and most importantly – no records. Discouraged, I gave up on the hobby. At the time, rebuilding it seemed insurmountable. Oh, how wrong I was…

In 2015, my now ex-wife encouraged me to begin rebuilding my collection again. Looking back, I am not sure she understood what she was getting into (OK…I know she didn’t), but never-the-less, the collection was reborn. As I sit and reflect on where it stands today, I find myself also looking back on how I got here. At the time of this writing (New Year’s Eve 2020) I have nearly 5,000 records that span across every genre imaginable (and also across all the walls of my one-bedroom cottage). When I first began collecting, I found that the record game had changed. Prices had gone up, reissues were now plentiful and there was suddenly a plethora of online resources available that never were before. In the “old days,” I would search eBay and my two local record stores (Looney Tunes and High Fidelity) for new finds. Now there was an app called Discogs where not only could I catalog my growing collection, but I could buy records too. The whole world was opening up, but I was still a bit confused. Enter Too Many Records.

I first discovered the Too Many Records YouTube channel in 2016, and have been steadily watching it ever since. Not a week goes by where I don’t check in with Matt’s channel to catch up with and enjoy his latest videos. I found Matt’s channel at the perfect time in my journey. If not for his eclectic taste and informative, everyman style, I never would have dove into Vaporwave, Amibient, Modern Classical and Indie Hip-Hop. I also personally found Matt very relatable, as we are around the same age, and so his insights and advice truly stuck with me. I guess it was nice to hear the information from a peer, if that makes sense. Anyway, Matt’s channel without a shadow of a doubt has assisted in my musical tastes becoming truly boundless. Yes, it’s true that I’ve always had a thirst for musical discovery, but Matt and Too Many Records certainly have given me a helpful push to lands previously unknown to me, and for that, I am thankful.

So, today I’ve got Matt Kessler “in the house,” and I couldn’t be more thrilled. Matt is truly one of us- just a dude who loves music, records and sharing his passion with the Vinyl Community through his medium of choice (video). Matt is one of the good guys within the VC and his channel is a true asset to music lovers and collectors of all ages and stages. I urge you to check out his channel here and subscribe to his weekly videos today. Matt also has an official Too Many Records Patreon here, where you can directly support his work. He is truly deserving of all our support for his hard work and contributions. That’s all for me, for now. Enjoy getting to know Matt. I know I did. Cheers.

Andrew:
Matt, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us. Tell us about your back story. How did you get into records?

Matt:
I’ve always been a music person. Growing up, my dad was playing Pink Floyd, Simon & Garfunkel, Peter Paul and Mary, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, and all sorts of Doo-Wop constantly. Around 8th grade I discovered my own taste in music which manifested in some edgier things like Linkin Park, Blink-182, and Eminem. I always enjoyed discovering new bands and around college I really started appreciating listening to the full album rather than skipping around on a playlist of songs. I purchased my first record, The National – Alligator as set dressing for a short film I wrote and acted in that was inspired by the album, and immediately I fell in love with the idea of vinyl. It wasn’t until a year or two later that I bought my first turntable and started listening to records on a regular basis, and at that point, it was all over. I’ve always had an over-the-top addictive personality when it comes to my hobbies, especially collecting things, and I took off on the vinyl runway at full speed and never looked back.

Andrew:
You’ve been running the Too Many Records channel for some time now, and I have to say – I’m a big fan. Tell us how that started. What gave you the idea, and how did it become what it is today?

Matt:
It started as a channel with Sandy Valles. She was impressed by my encyclopedic knowledge of genres, artists, and albums and thought I should make a YouTube channel to show off my collection. I had a background in acting, so the idea seemed really fun. The concept was for the audience to view my collection through her eyes as I talked about different aspects of music that I loved and that I hoped others would love. It grew pretty nicely from nothing, but eventually Sandy went and booked Queen of the South on USA Network and our schedules made it impossible to shoot on a regular basis. I wanted to keep growing the channel, though, as it had become my baby, so I changed the name to Too Many Records and went solo. I still have had (and hope to continue to have) guests (including Sandy) periodically, so that’s been fun.

Andrew:
One of the things I enjoy about your channel is the emphasis on some of the genres that often times don’t get the attention they deserve (Vaporwave, Underground Hip-Hop, Ambient and Modern Classical). Tell us what got you into those genres, and why you think it’s important that we focus on them as well.

Matt:
Ha! It’s funny that you should say that. I think one of the biggest criticisms I get on my channel is that I talk about niche genres TOO OFTEN. I sometimes wonder if my channel would be 3x the size if I focused more on Classic Rock, Indie Rock, and Pop music. And while I do enjoy those genres, I really do find myself getting lost in some of the more obscure stuff. I fell in love with Downtempo electronic music when I was introduced to Blue Sky Black Death and Tycho, and faceplanted down the rabbit hole for years. Those artists led me to discovering the entire Vaporwave scene, the underground Hhip-Hop and Lofi beat tape stuff, and then stripping even more away I found myself enamored with the simplistic beauty of a minimal, but beautiful Ambient and Modern Classical record. While Ambient isn’t IDEAL to listen to on vinyl because any imperfection on the record becomes ten times more noticeable, I still enjoy throwing one on while I work or relax. I think that it’s important to focus on those genres because, well, no one else really is. There are a million videos talking about how good Billie Eilish is, but how many are discussing the nuanced genius of Eluvium or Flamingosis?

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Andrew:
I’m kind of piggy backing onto my last questions here. You’ve got interesting taste in music, and I can personally say I’ve discovered a lot of cool music through your channel. How has your musical taste evolved over the years to where it is today?

Matt:
As I mentioned in the first question, it has definitely gone through phases. I think it started off heavy into Classic Rock/Folk stuff and Doo-Wop, and then morphed into this Hip-Hop, Pop-Punk and Nu-Metal phase that most people had around 14 years old. When I decided I was too cool for Linkin Park (which, funny enough, I’m heavily back into again now that I’m in my 30s) my favorite band became The Killers, and I was really enjoying that Indie/Alt Rock stuff for a while. In college, my roommate (who is one of my best friends and also the man behind two of the albums on the Too Many Records label) introduced me to Radiohead, Andrew Bird, and The National and from there my tastes just continued to spiral in all directions. The most exciting thought is that my favorite album is one I have yet to discover, and I approach every new listen of a new band with that in mind.

Andrew:
You made a pretty big move in the last year from California to New York, and again this year to Portland, OR. What was that like moving all those records? How many do you have now? Do you have any tips for those of us who might be moving with giant collections?

Matt:
It’s a nightmare…but it’s also not as bad as people think. Records are fragile, but not AS fragile as their reputation would lead you to believe. The big takeaway is that HEAT isn’t as much of a problem as direct sunlight and improper storage is. If you put them in small U-Haul boxes and pack them tight enough that they won’t shift but not so tight that they will warp from pressure, and don’t stack them more than 2 high, you should be fine. The problem is finding someone to DO the move if you don’t want to do it yourself and not charge an arm and a leg. People say moving sucks, but most people haven’t had to move with big record collections so they really have no idea just how bad it can be.

Andrew:
In watching your channel over the years, I’ve come to learn that you’re very honest when it comes to the state of the industry. Whether its pressing quality, RSD issues, or price gouging, you’re always very informative and honest. Why do you feel that’s important?

Matt:
I think that integrity is important. It’s easy to pretend everything is amazing and try to be super positive and complementary to all entities in a given industry, but that isn’t always the truth. I want to give labels and companies and artists the benefit of the doubt, but if they are doing something that I find to be subpar or grimey, I have a platform and I feel like it’s my duty to share my opinion with my audience. They may not agree with me, and that’s fine, that just comes with the territory. That being said, people seem to be more interested in the things that are wrong with the industry rather than the things that are right. People like the drama, and while I don’t like to manufacture it, I won’t shy away from an exposé of sorts because it’s almost guaranteed to be a well-received video.

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Andrew:
Is there anything within the industry that you would like to see change for the better? What improvements would you like to see that you feel would beneficial to us all within the vinyl community?

Matt:
I think, as I talked about in a recent video, the pricing needs to regulate itself. Retail vinyl prices are at an all-time high and it’s becoming extremely expensive to collect at the rate that I, and many people who watch this channel, do. I think dollar signs in the eyes can only go so far before you start to tip over the cliff edge and start to lose overall profits due to pricing people out, and if the industry keeps slowly climbing like this, it could risk the bubble popping. I also think that a major issue over the past few years is poor quality control. More often than ever I’m seeing reports of brand new records coming with sub-par audio, scuffs, warps, small spindle holes, and other things that could be caught during many stages of the process. Taking the necessary care throughout the entire record creation process from the mastering to the physical pressing to the packaging will cause people to take note of your label and continue to support it. There are some labels that I’ve straight up stopped buying records from even though I’m a huge fan of their releases because it’s too much of a crapshoot whether or not I’ll get a record that sounds terrible.

Andrew:
Shifting gears here, in the last year you started the TMR record label through QRATES to great success. Why drove you to do that, and what you are looking to do with it in the future?

Matt:
It has been an amazing experience, overall. Getting to take the music of my friends and people I admire (often overlapping) and helping them put it on vinyl that looks and sounds amazing is a dream come true. I had purchased some records via QRATES before and the quality was pretty awesome, so I figured it was a good, risk free way to utilize my passionate audience and my penchant for sniffing out great records that have widespread appeal, and it pretty much took off from day one. With 7 sold out releases and the 8th getting ready to sell out any day from now (as I type this), I couldn’t have asked for more. Working with Gotta Groove Records and Heath at Wax Mage for this most recent release has been a real treat too. Getting to have my own Wax Mage variant for a release I’m making has been a goal since day 1, and I’m hoping that this is something I can templetize moving forward with my future releases. I have some great ones lined up, and I can’t wait to see how big I can grow this thing.

Andrew:
I know this is a broad question, and many of us who watch your videos will know this, but for those who might be new, who are some of your favorite artists? What’s your favorite genre, and why?

Matt:
We can break it down into a few categories. I love Hip-Hop, and my favorites there are Kanye, MF Doom, Kendrick, Lil Ugly Mane, Biggie, and Eminem. I’m also a big fan of Grunge, with Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, and any Chris Cornell related project topping the list there. My Indie Folk artists like Sufjan Stevens and Jose Gonzalez are right up there too. And in terms of general Indie Pop/Rock, Vampire Weekend and The National are just the best. I also talk a lot about Ambient, Lofi Hip-Hop beat tapes, and Vaporwave, but those are genres I enjoy in general as atmospheric background music rather than having artists that I really follow their careers as deeply as I would the aforementioned genres. People seem to think that I’m not big into classic stuff, but that’s only because I don’t talk about it as much on the channel. I love Doo-Wop, Simon & Garfunkel, and Pink Floyd quite a bit.

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Andrew:
We know you collect records, but beyond the collecting, what do records mean to you? More so, what does music mean to you in general?

Matt:
The reason I collect records is because it grounds me in a world that is increasingly digital and ethereal. We’ve lost so many tangible things in favor of digital interactions and cloud based storage, and I think that’s sad. There’s nothing like holding an album in your hands and looking at the art, or reading the liner notes, and that’s what vinyl lets you do in a way better than any other physical media out there. It deepens your appreciation for music by forcing you to take time to physically set it up on the turntable and flip it when the side is done and give it infinitely more attention than throwing a Spotify playlist on in the background and letting it passively ride out. Now, there’s a time and place for that stuff, don’t get me wrong, but for me, the greatest joy I have is listening to a record on wax and really LISTENING to it. Our attention spans are so fleeting these days. Vinyl helps me slow down and appreciate things more. Music is such a positive force in my life, it’s nostalgic and transportive and brings me back to specific moments, years, people, or places in my life’s story instantaneously. It’s also a wonderful escape if things are ever overwhelming. It’s like comfort food for your ears, especially if you get a well recorded analogue record and can just close your eyes and feel like you’re in the room with one of your favorite musicians.

Andrew:
What are some albums you don’t have, but hope to find one day? Are there any albums you’ve given up that you wish you hadn’t? Are you like some of us who purge records only to rebuy them again?

Matt:
I definitely have frequent culling of the collection. Sometimes you grow out of things or bought things out of FOMO and realize that you don’t really need it. When you’re limited by space and funds, you try to prioritize the albums that are special to you and/or the ones that will actually get spin time on the table. I don’t often purge and rebuy, but it has been known to happen. I’ve definitely sold my share of records that I wish I hadn’t; it’s hard to know which records will get an inevitable repress and which ones will stay out of print forever. Like Frank Ocean – Blond, which is jumping up in price $100 every 2 months it seems, and is nearing $1,000 in the aftermarket. I had it in my shopping cart on Black Friday 2016 and passed, and it’s my biggest vinyl-related regrets. Other big wants on my list right now are the Soundgarden – Superunknown 320 pressing from Germany, Aphex Twin – Selected Ambient Works Vol 2 (original press with all the tracks), Westside Gunn – FLYGOD (another one that won’t ever be repressed and the price is well into the $1,000s), and there are many, many others. My want list on Discogs has over 1,000 things on it…it’s a trip refreshing it throughout the day to see what pops up.

Andrew:
Before you left California, you held the very first TMR Fest. Tell us how that came about, what it was like, and what you want to see out of the second TMR fest?

Matt:
It was terrifying. I had the idea because I was moving across the country and I had (get ready for it) too many records and wanted to help lighten my load. It wasn’t trash that I wanted to purge; there were 1,000 records in my collection that I could live without that were high quality albums that I felt like my audience would appreciate. TMR Fest was born out of an idea to do a fun event to celebrate the channel, meet people that watch it, and see some live music while also helping fund the move (and make it easier), and it went off better than I ever could have dreamed. Logistically it was jumping through a lot of unexpected hoops to get to the actual day, but once it was all set up, it was smooth sailing. The day felt like a blur; it felt like how people describe their Wedding Day. I was running around person to person making sure they were having a good time, whether it was a stranger, my friends, or people who were fans of the channel. I barely had time to stop and enjoy myself, even though it was one of the best days of my life. Seeing all 3 amazing performances, getting to do a live podcast, and meeting dozens and dozens of fans of the channel and seeing them leave with bits and pieces of my collection is something I’ll remember and appreciate for the rest of my life. As for a second TMR Fest, that was supposed to happen in NYC this year until COVID-19 hit. I don’t know what’s going to happen with it, but I have some interesting things cooking for 2021 that I’ll share with the channel when it’s time.

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Andrew:
I don’t want to start a turf war here, but….who has the better record stores? California, or New York (probably too early to gage Portland)? What are your favorite stores in both places, and how to do they compare to each other?

Matt:
The war has begun! That’s so hard to answer, but my first thought is California because it has not one, not two, but THREE Amoeba locations. If we’re talking about NYC vs LA, I still think LA will win. Huge fan of Amoeba, Rockaway Records, Atomic Records and Freakbeat. Some amazing scores over the 7 years I spent out there. NYC has a killer selection too with Human Head, Limited To One, Academy and A1. The thing that’s awesome about record stores is that they usually have their own flavor and speciality, and in big cities like LA and NYC, you can always find what you’re looking for if you’re willing to dig.

Andrew:
Once COVID-19 calms down, what does the future hold for Too Many Records? What’s next?

Matt:
Lots of things. I’ve kept really busy during this strange, depressing, and unprecedented year. The record label is going to keep picking up steam, I hope. I’m working on a book about record collecting that I think will be fantastic once finished. I have some big life changes coming up that I’ll be sharing with the channel in due time, and those changes could lead to some really interesting content for TMR. Stay tuned…

Andrew:
What drives you? What inspires you most?

Matt:
I love talking about music. It’s my favorite thing to do. Nerding out about an artist or album release is top tier conversation material, and being able to do that week in and week out on the channel has been extremely rewarding for me. I love recommending an album that inspired or moved me, and then hearing from someone who watched the video that they also loved it brings so much joy to my heart. Being able to do that on a regular basis is not something I’d trade for anything.

Andrew:
Is there anything else you want all of us here at Vinyl Writer as well as the general record consuming public to know?

Matt:
Records are here to stay. Take the time to appreciate music and it will reward you in ways you never thought possible. Music is healing and love, and one of the most beautiful and magical things we have on this planet that we have the luxury of accessing at any time. Keep exploring and digging into artists and genres you like, and never stop. That’s my best advice as a music fan. The rabbit hole runs deep.

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Want to learn more about the Too Many Records channel? Check out the link below:

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

About Post Author

Andrew Daly

Andrew has always felt himself to be a "jack of all trades, master of none" type of person. With an immense passion for music, a disposition for writing, and an eagerness to teach and share both, Andrew decided to found Vinyl Writer in 2019 as a freelance column under the column Stories from the Stacks. Over time, the column grew into a website which now features contributors who further the cause of sharing both a love of music and the art of journalism with the world through articles and interviews. While Andrew enjoys running the website, his real passion lies in teaching and facilitating others to do what they do best, and giving them the opportunity to explore their passions in the process.
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