By Jaeki Cho (@JaekiCho)
Down in L.A.’s Echo Park lies Origami Vinyl, a record store owned and operated by Neil Schield, a record fanatic with a very dark past: For much of the past decade, Schield worked in the music industry, helping independent distribution companies score big-time deals with mobile conglomerates like Sprint and Verizon. For vinyl purists, selling ringtones and digital downloads can mean only one thing: Blasphemer!
All kidding aside, despite working for the record industry "man", Schield had dreamed of opening up a record shop since he was a kid. With dwindling sales, and vinyl plants shutting down left and right, he thought his childhood aspirations would never come to fruition, until he got booted from his job. In need of extra cash, Schield took some of his old creates out to the neighborhood, and was able to flip 40 copies in a matter of hours. His re-ignited passion was further extended when a friend offered Schield a recently bought space to rent out. So by April 3rd, 2009, 400-square feet Origami Vinyl was open for business.
Schield's 3,000 or so vinyl offerings are mostly independent music that’s either recently released or re-issue. He puts an emphasis on putting on local acts, and favors the hosting of in-stores, boasting three to four shows on a weekly basis. We caught up with the owner behind this quickly burgeoning L.A. operation, and let him wax nostalgic with our Wax Nostalgic 7 Question Survey.
What’s the first record you ever bought?
Neil Schield: I bought two records, actually. I was 10, and I bought Metallica’s ...And Justice for All, and Run–D.M.C.’s Raising Hell. I was a fan of everything. My mom and dad were really young, so one day The Cure would be on, and the next day it’d be Neil Young, then the next day would be the Beastie Boys. They were really into music. It was all over the place. I was introduced to a whole bunch of stuff. And being a kid of the ‘80s, I was raised by MTV. I had a lot of influence from that.
What’s your favorite record of all time?
Neil Schield: I would say during my teenage years, the most influential record for me was probably Slint’s Spiderland. It was this very dynamic, independent band from Louisville. It didn’t sound like anything else I’ve ever heard. They would do some loud stuff with spoken words on top. It was really heavy and dark. It was one of the early releases on the Chicago label Touch and Go. It just opened my eyes to a whole another world of music—this independent music scene that existed outside of MTV, radio, and all these things. It wasn’t punk rock. It was really slow, moody, and wasn’t fast.
What’s the most valuable/expensive record that you own?
Neil Schield: You know what? To be honest with you, I’m not a collector. I’m an enthusiast. I don’t really pay attention to the value of things. That doesn’t really matter to me. I probably have a record that I spent a couple thousand dollars on, but I would still play it. If I have something, it’s not meant to be sitting on a shelf. When I’m digging, I’m digging for a record that I really want to be listening to. Like, “Oh, this is the first print of such edition”—I’m not like that.
If you didn’t own a record shop, what would you do?
Neil Schield: [Laughs.] Well, I got laid off, so I don’t know, man. Maybe I’d still be unemployed. [Laughs.] I have my record label that I had for quite some time. It’s the same name as the shop. We deal primarily with local bands from Los Angeles. Right now, we’re focusing more on the rock side of things, but that doesn’t mean we’re just limited to that. It’s meant to fully support one local band every year, basically, a one record deal. We’ll do one band, one year, and one record, and put all our effort into that band. So, yeah, I manage bands. That’s always something I’ve been interested in doing.
Why should people buy records?
Neil Schield: To me vinyl is such a unique format. The art is so big, the sound quality is so great, it forces you to interact and listen to an entire album, rather than just throwing things out randomly. I don’t think people get that sort of experience with music. I wish more people would. It’s exciting to see 16- or 17-year-old kids coming into the shop, and buying records for the first time. I get really geeked about it, and I love that.
Vinyl will never die because…
Neil Schield: I think vinyl has proven its staying power. But I think it’s always going to be a niche format. It’ll never be widely mainstream or big. It’s meant to be targeted toward a small group of people.
Have you ever played a certain record and gotten laid?
Neil Schield: [Laughs.] Man, I don’t think so. Unfortunately, I haven’t.Origami Vinyl (Los Angeles)
1816 W Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA