by Chris Burrell // @Chri5B_
Max Ochester, Mt. Airy native and owner of Brewerytown Beats, lived all over before coming back to Philly and setting up shop at 29th and Girard in Brewerytown. This month marks the one-year anniversary of his shop being open, so I sat down with him at Sarah’s Place for a beer to talk about his love of vinyl, selling records to Q-Tip at age 14 and why moving sucks when you’re a vinyl fiend. His one-hour ALL VINYL set from the EMM is rad and gives you a glimpse into some of the electro funky goodness that he carries in his store.
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CB: Did you have record stores before?
Max: No, this is the first record store that I’ve done. When I moved back to Philly, I handled art for four years and worked odd jobs. Then, it got to the point where I had enough records and said, “I’m just gonna do it and see what happens.” I started looking on Craigslist. There was one guy in West Philly who worked for a record label for about 15 years and had amassed this huge collection of stuff. He had really good taste and was selling it all because his wife got a job in upstate New York. I went over to his house about four times and eventually, bought everything that he had. He was giving me a great deal and I probably bought 600-1000 records each time. By the end of it, my basement had about 10,000 records and that was enough to fill the crates in the store and open up.
CB: Some people move around with their collections. Any vinyl head knows that moving with records is an absolute pain. Was your collection always in one central location?
Max: No, it definitely wasn’t in just one spot. I brought around 500 records to the Caribbean and left about 100 there. From the Caribbean, I moved to Seattle and started collecting heavily. Then, I moved from Seattle to New Orleans and spent about $500 shipping on media mail to move 12-15 crates down there. When I moved back to Philly, I had about 1000 pieces and drove down in a van and picked them all up. Moving is the biggest pain in the ass when you have records. God forbid you live on the third floor and have a shit ton of records. I’m looking to move to a new place where I can build out a record room and it has to be on the first floor; that’s one of my requirements for a new house.
CB: What were the regional fluctuations in what you were finding?
Max: Down in New Orleans, you’ll see Meters records that aren’t as scarce as they are up here – supply and demand, basically. I witnessed Questlove in a crazy bargaining process at a record show I put on in Philly that was like that. The record was a really funky Herbie Hancock offshoot and Questlove was trying to talk the guy down from like $400 to $200. He finally got him down to $250 and bought it. Six months later, I visited my friend in Seattle and saw the same exact record on the wall in a store for $20. It was just more popular out there and I guess there were more copies of it. So yeah, there are definitely regional differences in what you see.
CB: I was talking with one of the guys we had on the marathon who’s an old house head and bought at Funk-o-Mart, 611, etc. What have you seen over the years in Philly as stores have come and gone?
Max: All those were thriving at one point. It was Armand’s, 611, Funk-o-Mart and Sound of Market (they just closed I believe). Those were big time spots for DJs to go. Since I left, it seems like everybody’s kinda gone down the tubes. My personal opinion is that people don’t know how to do stuff online. That’s the only way I’m making it now. I’ve got Discogs and eBay accounts (both named “BrewerytownBeats”). There’s a whole philosophy to them both. On eBay you put out your premium shit, start out at low prices and wherever it goes, it goes. You kinda just gotta give up on caring if you make so much money. Discogs is a whole different game. You put out cheap stuff, you put out good quality stuff and people will buy it. I got guys down in Brazil right now that are buying 30 records at a time, but it’s like $2-5 records. Just today, I got Peanut Butter Wolf buying something and a couple weeks ago I sold to Onra from France. I looked on Wolf’s want list and he has like 30 to 40 things, all amazing shit. It’s cool to recognize that those people are looking at your stuff.
CB: What were your music tastes growing up?
At first, I listened to more of the hair metal stuff: Def Leppard, Poison and all that bullshit. I remember in 8th grade, everybody in my school was like, “What the fuck are you listening to that for?” Eventually, I got into De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest and all that. At that same time, I had a neighbor growing up who was a record dealer and sold to the hip hop guys in New York. When I was 14, he asked me to come and help him move records. I walked into a show in New York and literally every hip hop idol that I ever looked up to was buying records from him. I was selling records to Q-Tip, Kid Capri, Diamond D and Pete Rock. The guy that I worked for, David Ozenbaugh AKA Ozy, knew that these guys were serious because they’d spend a lot of money, but he had no idea who they were. I started hipping him to the fact that, “Hey, this is Q-Tip,” and he got really into it and knew all the samples he sold. Ozy knows what other people don’t know – I’ve watched him pick up a dollar record from somebody’s crate then walk four tables down and sell it for $300. That’s when I started listening to the samples in music I liked.
CB: Do you ever see demand spike for a sample after a track blows up?
Max: The “Bound” sample – I had two copies of the 45. I put one online for $12 and it was bought immediately and I was like, why? Then I heard the Kanye song and I put the next one up for $40. I appreciate the knowledge of knowing where people get their samples from. I also enjoy the hunt of finding the sample because some things you’ll find very easily and some things will take you forever to find or hit you hard in the wallet. You’ll see it pop up on eBay and you’re like, “Ugh I could spend $60 or I could take my girl to dinner.” Most record dudes will spend $60 on it.
CB: What’s the most special record you have in your collection?
That would have to be the Windows album by Jack Wilkins. Jack Wilkins was a jazz guitarist who had a couple albums, but this one album was his super funky soulful jazz album. In the early 90s, I watched Q-Tip buy the album from Ozy, later sampling it for “Sucka N—-” off Midnight Marauders. I looked for the album forever. Everywhere I went, I would always make a point of asking for that album, but they never had it. About 3 years ago, my whole family got together for Christmas and did our presents. Then, my aunt came up to me at the end of it and handed me a box and is like, “Here, this is for you.” She and my girlfriend had gotten together and bought it for me – fifteen years later, I finally had it. I didn’t even listen to it when I got home. I left it on the shelf and didn’t touch it until I got interviewed by some other guys. I told them it was my favorite album and put it on to listen, not even knowing if it skipped, but it played perfect.
If you’re a record collector you MUST make a trip out to Brewerytown Beats at 1207 N. 29th St.
Brewerytown Beats was one of the many local businesses that supported the 2014 Electronic Music Marathon.
You can support WKDU, Musicopia and The Village of Arts & Humanities by heading over to wkdu.org/emm and buying station merch or making a donation.
All the sets from the EMM are being posted over at our Soundcloud – thanks for your support!