Margaret Barton Fumo – Brooklyn, NY
This post must be one of the most unique posts ever published in Dust & Grooves. The obvious reason, in case you guys haven’t noticed yet, is that Margaret is the first female collector featured here. yes, yes, it strikes me how few female collectors are out there. maybe there are more than meets the eye, but I have to say that tracking them down has not been an easy task.
Margaret lives in Brooklyn, NY. She greeted me at her place with a fresh batch of muffins, straight out of the oven. Great start for a lovely & nerdy photo/musicsession. Margaret’s focus is on Psych and Prog Rock and she also hosts a radio show on East Village Radio named: No Pussy Footing. check it out when you need a fix for some Psych soulful music.
Q: What do you do for a living?
A: I work for Joel at Tropicalia in Furs in the East Village. Sometimes I write for film magazines. I’m recovering from years of arrested development spent in graduate school.
…….. STOP!! before we go on with the interview, here is a little update from Margaret, since this interview took place a while back.
Well, I stopped working at Tropicalia, only because I found another job where I can make more money, but Joel is still my #1 fuzz brother and Tropicalia will always be my favorite record store…I also dropped my radio show after three years on East Village Radio and now I just DJ for fun, at bars and parties, for friends, etc. DJ’ing for radio is a really special thing when you have the freedom to experiment, play downtempo or weird/long tracks, or just bullshit on the air–but DJ’ing out is also great when you can really tune in to the crowd, get them dancing and sometimes catch their reactions to new sounds. So I like to DJ here and there, but so far I haven’t committed to a regular night to keep it fun. Plus I’m small, and carrying heavy records around is a real pain.
The big thing that happened since these photos were taken was a devastating fire in my neighbors’ place. The fire department came to stomp it out and completely destroyed my apartment in the process. They ripped out every window and all of the ceilings, covering the whole apartment in debris. I came home and it looked like a hurricane had hit the place. Of course my #1, immediate concern was my records. Then my record player and my video projector. Everything else could have gone to shit, for all I care. And luckily my records were saved, just really dusty and burnt-smelling. But that first night we weren’t sure what was going to happen, if the place was going to collapse or looters would come in and steal shit or what. The Red Cross came and deemed the place unlivable and I was running around trying to make Sophie’s choice picking which ones to “save” and freaking out. At first I was pulling out the more expensive ones, but cheap ones are valuable too, and you just can’t choose. I would have felt incomplete with just a selection, since a record collection has an identity of its own, as a whole. And our collections represent us, in a way. They represent the different facets of our interests and tastes. I’m really grateful that I ultimately got to keep them all. Apparently the fire department carried the hose up to our place but decided not to use it. If they had, my records would have been ruined. So I feel very lucky. Now I live in a better apartment in BedStuy, and my collection is much bigger! I’m still going….
Q: What was your first album? How did you get it? At what age? Can you describe that feeling? Do you still have it?
A: I can’t remember exactly. My first records were from my dad’s collection-I remember loving this record of the Oscar Peterson Trio doing songs from West Side Story- ha! I still have it, too. Let’s say that was my first album.
Q: What was your Initial interest in music? Did you have any influence from your family? Or perhaps your best friend?
A: I definitely inherited my appreciation of music from my dad, who is an obsessive jazz man. Though his enthusiasm kind of worked against him as I was growing up, because I hated jazz as a kid. It was non-stop jazz education in my household, and I wasn’t having it. I love my dad, and I’m so grateful to him for shaping me into the music nerd that I am today. But I wouldn’t open up to jazz until I reached my early twenties and heard John Coltrane’s Infinity album, the one that was released posthumously with Alice Coltrane’s tacked-on arrangements. Then I started to dig into Pharoah Sanders, Don Cherry, Archie Shepp, Sun Ra etc. It’s typical of 70s psych/rock fans, but I love that stuff. And now I like a lot of earlier jazz too. So thanks dad.
John Coltrane-Infinity. Sometimes I find the string arrangements on this album a little too sentimental, and sometimes I don’t. It’s nonetheless unique, and it encouraged me to give jazz music another try.
Q: Why vinyl? You mentioned that you started with CD’s and moved to vinyl. Can you remember that period? What do you think made you collect only vinyl?
A: This is going to be a short timeline because I’m still young (29). I listened to some of my dad’s records as a kid but I started out buying tapes. When I was 13 or 14 I bought a few dubbed cassettes and a paperback copy of Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange for 50 cents at a stoop sale, and one of the tapes turned out to be The Velvet Underground & Nico album. For years I had no idea what the hell I was listening to on that tape, but I loved it. Needless to say, The Velvet Underground and Anthony Burgess totally rocked my world in the 8th grade! I guess I started collecting music heavily in my late teens, when I started working. At first I would spend all of my tips from the coffee shop on CD’s at the record store down the block, then eventually started digging into the record boxes on the floor. Now CD’s are just a pain in my ass and an eyesore in my apartment.
Q: I don’t know if you noticed, but you are the first female collector featured here in Dust & Grooves. any insight on that?
A: Of course I noticed! And I feel very honored! First I want to say that this blog is already an amazing collection in itself, because all of the people featured on it are different. My favorite thing about Dust and Grooves is seeing how different people store and organize their collections, value their records and share stories. Not everyone on here is a professional DJ, but everyone sincerely loves music. It’s great! As for the girl-record collector thing, there are a lot of us out there but we’re still a minority. It always annoys me when people assume that my knowledge of music (or film) is stilted because I’m a girl, but on the other hand, until more girls wise up and start getting into more male-dominated hobbies like record collecting I can’t really fault guys for being surprised when they find out that I do actually know a thing or two about music. I hate being looked at as an anomaly or gimmick but to a certain extent I am. I know that just being a girl made my radio show more appealing to the higher-ups at the station but other DJ’s and listeners ended up reaching out to me because they liked the music that I was playing. And I hope that your readers will like my contribution to your awesome blog.
Q: So you are into Prog Rock and Psych. How did you get into this specific genre. Can you trace it back to the source?
A: It all ties in to years of working in retail, I have to say, and having a lot of listening time on my hands. I spent about 5 or 6 years working in a small used bookstore in Philly, where I was usually by myself. (R.I.P. Big Jar Books, by the way). So I would listen to music alone in the store all day long. At a certain point I started to get sick of lyrics and got pretty deep into guitar jams and extended instrumentals. There were already enough words in the books in the store. Then I started to get into the more “progressive” sounds, although that term is of course subjective. Prog rock became a new thing for me, and it just clicked. And introduced me to a lot of other genres along the way.
Jerry Moore-Life Is a Constant Journey Home. This is an excellent folk-rock album. Soulful singing with nice guitar playing by Eric Gale. An uncharacteristic album for its label, ESP-Disk.
Q: What’s your digging habit in these digital days? Do you go out to dig in basements and fleas, or are you an eBay expert? Has things changed for you since the web days?
A: I’ll admit that I am an ebay expert, at the risk of coming across as a loser and going against the digger code of conduct. I guess I’m not really a digger. I’m a researcher, a seeker, and a browser (sorry for the zen-speak). But anyway, I didn’t really consider myself a collector until I hit ebay and “the sickness” that I see every day in our customers at Tropicalia kicked in. Before people got into downloading music I would use eBay as a learning tool, browsing through certain seller’s stores and then researching particular albums using that piece-of-shit Allmusic guide site, hoping for an abbreviated audio clip or two. So I bought a lot of albums-both of the albums by the psych-pop band The Moon because I caught sight of the covers on eBay and then looked them up.
I had to put my Netflix account on hold a few months ago, because my bank account balance was especially low and I wanted to be able to bid another $5 on a record. That’s a little sick, but I won the auction! Of course I’ve always made the rounds in record stores and occasionally flea markets too, but my favorite discoveries tend to come about through sharing and trading with friends and other DJ’s at the radio station, and from building friendships with other record store owners and employees who offer me recommendations or kindly set things aside for me that they think I might like.
Q: Name some holly grails from your collecting history.
A: Gal Costa’s second album. It’s not only an amazing Brazilian record, in my opinion it’s one of the top psych albums. Her backing band (Os Brazoes) uses their incredible musical talents to freak the fuck out, and her screams and vocal improvisations are amazing. Joel gave me an original copy in mint condition for Christmas, and I nearly passed out when I took it out of the bag. What a great boss! Maybe he thought I would take a break from draining his psych and prog stock afterward, but so far that hasn’t happened. In general though, original Krautrock albums are pretty tough to find because (in my opinion) in addition to the rarity factor, they carry a wider appeal within the whole 70′s Psych/Prog/ Whatever genre. They’re percussion-based and have cooler sounds that appeal to people who like other types of music, like Hip-Hop or Indie Rock or whatever. I mean, I’ve seen kids breakdancing to Can in the subway! Krautrock is just cool like that. I have some nice original Kraut albums, really gained through careful collecting over time. Because those are the types of records that burn upon ebay and sell for absurdly high prices.
Gal Costa’s second album! One of my favorite albums in my collection.
Gal Costa’s first album! This is an early 80s reissue, and I’m okay with that. I hate to be prissy about reissues, but I can’t help it. Originals are always better.
Terco. Nice Brazilian heavy prog. Great riffs.
Tom Ze-Estudando O Samba. This album is so great I don’t know what to say about it. There’s no one else like him.
The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band were a mediocre band with some really corny tracks, but I love them nonetheless. They’ve got a fascinating back story that you can read about here:http://members.chello.nl/cvanderlely/wcpaeb/history/wcpaeb1.htm
Q: I know that every “your favorite” question is a tough one, but try to remember. Can you name a few of your favorite album covers?
A: I’m partial to colorful, folk art-looking covers, like T2′s It’ll All Work Out in Boomland and the British band Nirvana’s The Story of Simon Simopath . Eddie Hazel’s Game Dames and Guitar Thangs is another favorite. Some of the packaging from the 70s is really out there. The hippies got indulgent. The poster insert for Donovan’s Cosmic Wheels is just ridiculous, and Hawkwind’s giant foldout cover for Spaceritual is something else [photos 21-23]. It’s the perfect artwork for a pinnacle space rock album!
T2-It’ll All Work Out in Boomland. Heavy prog-psych monster. The drummer, Peter Dunton, is also the singer. According to Youtube, he’s currently living in Thailand and performs with a new formation of T2 in a local bar- alright Peter!
The guitarist Keith Cross (later of Cross & Ross) was a teenager when this album came out and he shreds like nobody’s business. Why does he look like he’s wearing a wig in this photo??
Nirvana (the British psych-pop band)’s first album-The Story of Simon Simopath.
It’s got a wimpy sound, but I like it. They infamously sued Kurt Cobain’s Nirvana.
Eddie Hazel-Game Dames and Guitar Thangs. I didn’t have much money when I bought this album, but I had to have it. Sometimes you have to make sacrifices for Eddie Hazel.
Donovan practicing his transcendental meditation in my bed.
Hawkwind’s giant foldout cover for their live album Spaceritual. This cover was clearly made by and for people using drugs. Boobs in space.
Q: Is there a specific musical instrument that attracts you when listening to music?
A: Fuzz guitar. E-bow-ed guitar playing. The mellotron (obviously). The harmonium, all kinds of synths, the mini-moog, hammond organ, moog taurus bass pedals, the Gizmotron! Slap bass is also a guilty pleasure of mine. Prog-sounds vary depending on the sub-genre. If you really want me to get specific, Mike Oldfield’s guitar solo on Robert Wyatt’s Rock Bottom album kills me. “Little Red Robin Hood Hit the Road” is the track. It’s three slightly different versions of the solo layered over each other.
Q: Tell me about a dollar bin record you would never part with?
A: Queen II. I think I payed $2 for it at a record store in Brooklyn. My ex played it for me back when I first started to get into prog. I was skeptical then, and maybe a little scared of it. A few years later, the $2 price tag made it a low risk purchase, and I went for it.
Queen II - I’ve played the entire black side on my radio show on two different occasions. Sorry listeners, I hope you made it through.
Q: Tell me about a closed down record store / Flea market you will grieve all your life!
A: EAT Records in Greenpoint, without a doubt. Now it’s just a restaurant, but it used to be my personal favorite-the selection was always interesting even when the stock was low, and the prices were very fair. It also provided me with an invaluable set of friends when I first moved to New York a few years ago and was living nearby. It’s where I met my friend Jeff Conklin, who introduced me to East Village Radio and is the most fun person to DJ with, ever. Doug Pressman, who used to sell records there, now has a great shop in Williamsburg called the Record Grouch, and I’m anxious to see what the previous owner Casey Block decides to do next. I’m behind him 100%.
Q: Tell me about a record that’s too weird to believe, even for a die-hard record fiend?
A: I’ll tell you something that’s weird to believe – this one track on the Osmond brother’s Brainstorm album, “Gotta Get Love.” It’s completely unreal. Mormon prog-psych at its finest…that’s not saying much, but you get my drift.
The Osmond’s-Brainstorm. I went through a big Osmond’s phase a while back, digging as deep as I thought I could looking for gold-well apparently I suck at this because it was just recently that my friend Doug Mosurock turned me on to “Gotta Get Love.”The rest of the album is trash. Michael Lloyd (formerly of the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band and the American band The Smoke) produced this, and their Crazy Horses album. I couldn’t wait to find it in a dollar bin; I bought this album immediately for $2 from a Mormon on eBay.
Robert Fripp and Brian Eno’s No Pussyfooting. Frippertronics, man! Very cool layered guitar loops. I can’t remember where I found this, but I know that I bought it based on the cover alone, without having heard the music. My radio show is the namesake of this album.
Captain Beefheart’s Mirror Man. I guess you could call this a progressive blues album. “Kandy Korn” is great. I’ve given up on trying to keep the cover in good shape-I’d rather enjoy listening to it than let it sit there quietly and look pretty.
Q: Who is the weirdest character in the world of digging?
A: Oh boy. There are too many, and it’s amazing how closely they resemble the characters I had to interact with when I was buying and selling used books. It would be rude to talk about specific people, but there is one guy worth mentioning, because he’s actually very nice and often pleasant to deal with…he’s just obsessed with collecting Rudy Ray Moore albums. He has to own every Rudy Ray Moore album ever made, down to the last naked boob. Other record store employees in New York probably know who I’m talking about. I’ve also heard stories from my Brazilian friends about a guy who only collects Gal Costa’s India album…you know, the one with a closeup of her cameltoe on the cover. He must wallpaper his room with that cover or something.
Q: Who has the toughest record collection that you have ever seen?
A: My friend Cesar has the toughest record collection that I’ve never seen. He lives out in the Bronx, so I have yet to make it out to his place, but I know for certain that his collection is painful. I have him to thank for introducing me to Catherine Ribeiro a few years ago. After he gave me mp3 rips of his personal copies her music grew on me slowly and I recently bought an entire lot of her records from a seller in France. Though I still need a copy of Ame Debout, one of my favorites. Super weird shit!
Catherine Ribeiro + Alpes-Paix. French, political, progressive-folk! What else? This lady is a true “acquired taste.” I’m hooked!
I love this 45 by Birth Control, a German prog band that’s very hit or miss, mostly due to their awkward English vocals. This single, “Hope,” isn’t on any of their studio albums, and was released instead as part of this cool “Progressive Pop” series on the German label Ohr.
Margaret the Prog Lady
Host of “No Pussyfooting” on East Village Radio