Trevor Abes: Writer

Tag: toronto record stores

Culture Hawker Chronicles: John Bowker and She Said Boom!

From the Toronto Review of Books.

Photo by Ted Best.

Photo by Ted Best.

In this series, Trevor Abes gets to know the people behind the counter at Toronto’s music stores, book shops, and art galleries.

John Bowker is the owner and operator of She Said Boom! Roncesvalles. For five years he served as board director for the Review Cinema and he is the current  chair of the Beautification Committee at the Roncesvalles Village Business Improvement Area. He shares his thoughts on book selling, community involvement and the future of Toronto record stores.

T: How did you co-found She Said Boom!?

J: I had been “seeking a situation” for quite a while, having graduated from journalism at a time when the government believed it was better for Canada to have a %12 unemployment rate than a %12 inflation rate. Eventually, I ignored all the obvious risks of not ever having run a business in my life. A few months later, me and my equally inexperienced partner Randy had signed a lease.

T: Where did you grow up?

J: I was raised in Scarborough, Birchmount-Finch neighbourhood. I moved downtown in my early 20s.

T: What kind of books are Torontonians buying?

J: Contemporary literature is, and always has been, the bread and butter of the store. Non-fiction books have taken a bit of a hit lately, probably due to e-readers.

T: What are the store’s prized possessions at the moment?

J: We have a first edition Slaughterhouse Five, and some really hard-to-find Yukio Mishima and Nabokov hardcovers. I also have The Fugs’ first record and Jodorowsky’s El Topo.

T: Share with us some of your recommended reads and albums.

J: The documentary Searching for Sugar Man, about the musician Rodriguez, and his 1970 album, Cold Fact. As for books, I highly recommend  A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan.

T: Where do you see the record store business in Toronto going in the next decade?

J: You’ve heard of the Internet? iPods? Kobos? No book or record store owner can predict what the next 10 years will bring!

T: Has anybody at She Said Boom! ever met Fifth Column?

J: They are friends. Back in 1995, when I was trying to think of a name for my store, I was playing Fifth Column’s amazing second album, All-Time Queen of the World. The first song is called “She Said, Boom” and I loved the title’s fun and energy. I asked the band if I could use the song title for my store name, and they very graciously said, “Sure!”

T: How would you characterize Roncesvalles?

J: In my work on the Roncesvalles BIA, I have always tried to give the community a feeling of ownership of our street, so that it is a public space, not just a commercial space; I believe this philosophy is part of what makes Roncesvalles such a successful main street and neighborhood.  There is perhaps no better illustration of the strong relationship between businesses and the neighborhood than RoncyWorks, our guerrilla clean-up crew.

Visit him here.

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Culture Hawker Chronicles: Patrick Grant

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From the Toronto Review of Books

In this series, Trevor Abes gets to know the people behind the counter at Toronto’s music stores, book shops, and art galleries.

Patrick Grant has his hustles. He’s been the general manager at Kops Records going on four years and he sings lead in Patrick Grant and the FleshVignettes, an indie rock sextet with soul and funk influences. He also plays guitar at The Comedy Bar for the Sunday Night Live show. Grant’s goal is to “make music that relates to both the body and the mind, to have a really groovy ass band that lets you get down, but at the same time makes you think.”

Trevor: What does your job at Kops involve?

Patrick: I do merchandising, stocking, and ordering of new product.

Trevor: Where did you grow up?

Patrick: I grew up on the North York side of Scarborough, Ellesmere and Victoria Park area.

Trevor: What kind of musicians inform you?

Patrick: My favorite artist of all time is Bruce Springsteen. I like guys who are heavily songwriting-oriented, like a Paul Simon, or in terms of newer guys, I really like Kurt Vile.

Trevor: Where’s your fascination with music come from?

Patrick: It grew through my family. My dad dropped The Boss, The Doors and The Eagles in the car all the time. Hearing “Break On Through (To The Other Side)” when you’re seven has a pretty profound influence on a kid.

Trevor: What have you been listening to lately?

Patrick: A compilation [on Now-Again Records] called Forge Your Own Chains: Heavy Psychedelic Ballads and Dirges. Tracks on this record might have been sampled on your favorite hip hop song, thought most people wouldn’t necessarily know.

Trevor: Tell me what’s so special about vinyl.

Patrick: This is a little heady, but when you’re relating to something that is a physical object scraping against another physical object to make a sound, it reacts with your body in a way that’s not necessarily just in your ears. It’s participation. People like to have a tangible physical medium when they’re consuming art. It’s the difference between going to an art gallery and looking at Picassos on your computer.

Trevor: What do you make of all this hoopla about the death of record stores?

Patrick: I don’t really believe that record stores are dying, I believe that record stores that don’t know their position and function are dying. Everyone wants a place like [Kops]. I see some record stores close because of a lack of an ability to adapt.

Trevor: Have any interesting run-ins during your time at Kops?

Patrick: There was a day a cat came up to me with a Connie Francis record he got out of our 25 cent bin, and he said, “Can you put this on hold for me? I’ll be back tomorrow to pick it up.” I asked him who I should put it on hold for. He looked me in the eye and said, “Andrew Lloyd Webber,” and walked straight out the door.

Record Store Roundup: She Said Boom! Roncesvalles

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From the Toronto Review of Books

She Said Boom! takes its indelible name from the first song on Toronto post-punk band Fifth Column’s All-Time Queen of the World. It has two locations (393 Roncesvalles Ave and 372 College St), under separate but amicable ownership, that serve two very different communities. The College store is close to Kensington Market and the University of Toronto so it caters to younger customers, mostly college students, while the Roncesvalles store gets more young families and people from Parkdale.

The storefront sign at She Said Boom! Roncesvalles is proof that written explosions are just as eye-catching as hot ones. Open since 1999, it’s one of the first businesses in Toronto to sell both books and music. “The reason was largely accidental,” says owner John Bowker. “I wanted to open a record store, and my partner wanted to open up a book store, and neither of us were able to pay the rent on a full store by ourselves. I remember wondering whether people would be willing to shop for books in a store where loudish, non-classical music was playing. Turns out, books and music worked very well together. And so obviously Chapters and Indigo stole our idea. Now Indigo sells candles.”

Read the rest here: Portrait of a Record Store: She Said Boom! Roncesvalles.

Record Store Roundup: Kops Records

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Founded in 1976 with a focus on soul music and mod subcultureKops Records (229 Queen St. West) is Toronto’s oldest independent record store. It’s known for housing the largest selection of seven inch 45s in Canada and for an abiding dedication to musical roots. According to General Manager Patrick Grant, “[Kops] specializes in unveiling to people the roots of stuff that they like. We’re trying to provide [records] that elaborate on tastes you already have.” In this way, you can walk in listening to The Fugees’ “Killing Me Softly” (1995) and walk out – with two LPs under your arm – having learned that its memorable sitar riff is sampled from A Tribe Called Quest’s “Bonita Applebum” (1990) which sampled it first from Rotary Connection’s “Memory Band” (1967).

Read the rest here: Record Store Roundup: Kops Records.

Staff Selections: Ellis Iyomahan

From The Toronto Review of Books 

Ellis IyomahanIntroducing Staff Selections, a new series of interviews from The Toronto Review of Books with the people that run Toronto’s record stores, book stores and art galleries.

The first interview is with Ellis Iyomahan, Play de record IT expert and owner of Studizzy Productions. Born in Oslo, Norway, to Nigerian parents, he’s been living in Toronto for the past four years, and has produced tracks for the likes of Susie KylieJhyve, and the late Camille Douglas.

Read it here: Staff Selections: Ellis Iyomahan.

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