Digger: There do seem to be some people who
are involved in movements who are purists and, like you say,
are in a time-warp and don't want anything new.
Sean: It's very retro and there's nothing
wrong with retro but you've got to have an open mind about
whatever you're into. So just because it's not Northern Soul
doesn't mean it's not a good record. That's not everybody,
because a lot of people from the old Northern Soul scene went
into the modern scene and that's a different scene as well -
still soul music but a little bit more progressive and up-front.
Digger: A lot of Mods became
Skinheads and back again.
and I like that. I like the whole diversity of music and when
I DJ I play a very mixed set. I don't want to just play
Northern Soul, I like to add Latin, Mod Boogaloo and Ska and
it hasn't GOT to be soulful either. I do like such a vast
range of music, from Punk to Indie to...
Digger: Matt Monro?
Sean: ... No. (Digger laughs) Anybody who's
talented from Tom Jones to Shirley Bassey, Elton John to
Frank Sinatra, T Rex and Bowie to The Sensational Alex
Harvey Band. I love characters and great personalities. I was
just reading an article about Alex today and he wasn't a great
singer or anything but he was a monster on the stage - a
massive personality and you couldn't take your eyes off him.
He was never a pop star either and never made it really big
but he was a fabulous entertainer.
Digger: People like Dylan arguably couldn't
sing but what a wealth of great material.
Digger: Did the DJ'ing go in tandem with you
collecting these records?
Sean: I got into DJ'ing in the eighties but it
was only when I really started buying and selling records. It
was because I needed to afford to buy DJ'ing records, so I put
some of my records to one side which were the better ones and
with the rest it was a case of selling those and making a
profit. And what profit I made went straight back into the DJ box. And,
to be honest, it's still no different today. Even though I do
very well with the records, I still don't take any pennies out
of it - it all gets put back in.
Digger: Funding your habit?
Sean: Yes. I've got a vast range of stuff
because I can afford to buy them, you know. From £5 to £5,000,
if I want something I use the records money, so although it's
run as a business it's still really just a massive hobby.
Digger: Who are the typical people coming in
and buying your records?
Sean: Today, I've had them from Sweden and Finland.
Obviously UK and mainland Europe, Australia to New Zealand to
Digger: You were doing it
before The Internet. How did that work?
Sean: Well even then everything was done on the computer and I
had a list sent out to people. I also used to go out to venues
as well. I stopped doing that about two years ago - 1) because
it's not worth doing it because you know you're not going to
sell enough 2) I can't be bothered and 3) I got records
stolen, so the combination of all three made me want to do it
Digger: What are the holy
grails, for other collectors and for you?
big records I've got are an Eddie Parker I'm Gone on Awake
Records which I paid £5,000 for and Del- Larks Job Opening
Queen City Issue £4,500 - they're not my favourites but they
are the most valuable. I've got all the Rare classics - The
Rita and the Tiaras, All Williams, Damon Fox, Hamilton
Movement, Tomangoes and The Salvadors.
Digger: Do you always hold out for mint
Sean: Sometimes you can't. Eddie Parker,
for instance, you'll
get in any shape or form because there's probably no more than
a handful in the world, never mind the country. Luckily it was
in good condition. Generally I want good condition because I'm
looking at resale.
Digger: Can you tell us about the other stock
in your shop?
Sean: Everything from 45s, LPs and CDs and
memorabilia, which includes an array of keyrings to books to
stickers to football annuals, membership cards, towels. I
always wanted to cater for a £5 person a month to a person
spending £100 or more a month. I never wanted to distinguish, because Northern Soul's
quite snobby and some people would only sell original records.
They had to be this or they had to be that. For many years, I
was selling car stickers, which some people see as tacky but
there was a market for it. I used to go to scooter rallies and
Northern Soul rallies and there was always a market. And the
more I could sell, the better records I could buy. That's what
I've done for years and It's still based around my record
collection. I used to be paid by the RAF and now it's my
pension only, but this money I don't see as my money anyway - it's
for stock and for reinvesting.
Digger: You're almost like the custodian of
these items for a while and then they go on to another home.
Sean: Yes, yes. And that's what I want. I don't want
anyone's money to be honest. I'd rather they have one of my
records and give me another one back. I'm quite happy having
records as opposed to money - the money doesn't mean anything
Digger: We might be going that way with the
way the economy's going. We might be going back to barter.
Sean: Yes. I do get a lot more of that now.
People saying "You've got a record I like. Any chance of
trading?" And I say yes because it's important to turn your
stock over. You have to have new things. I mean, I buy stuff
sometimes at record fairs and I know I'm not going to make
anything out of it but it's nice to have it on the website. It
looks good and it's not all about making money. You win some,
you lose some. I bought records in the past and lost £1,000
on them because I bought them at the wrong time and sold them
at the wrong time. But the next day, I'll make it up with
something else. It's always made money, it still makes money
but that's not an interest to me. Put it this way, if I didn't
do this I'd have to get a proper job.
Digger: Perish the thought.
Sean: I'm doing something I have loved since
the age of sixteen and I think that's a great way to live.
Digger: I agree. What are the best and most enjoyable
aspects of what you're doing?
Sean: Just getting to know about records,
artists and songs. You think you know a little bit about this
music and then you start doing it full-time and realise how
little you do know. Every single day I'm learning something.
Somebody asks me about a record, or I have to do some research
and check the bibles I use to tell me the guide prices and
check The Internet. So I'm learning all the time and its just
fascinating. I love the music industry and the people
Digger: Do you like dealing with the public?
Sean: Yes. When I used to do it face-to-face I
used to get all the characters and that was a really good
social thing as well as working. Getting to know people who
buy off you. I miss that because I'm working from home
now. I'm not seeing them and I'd rather buy records than sell
them. I'm always on the look out at record fairs and people who
are selling collections.
Digger: The Internet has changed the scene. I
can remember looking for rare soul imports in north and south
London specialist vinyl shops in the seventies. I'm sure most
of them have gone now.
Sean: There are still a few about. I've got
quite a few in this area who I go and see. It's all about
networking and they might have some stuff I want and I might
have some stuff they want and we can do some bartering. Like
you said, there's a lot more of that going on now. Money's
Digger: What you offer is democratic because
you've got high-end items for people that can afford them and
some more affordable stock for the average client who can't
afford a lot.
Sean: It's surprising what people buy. When
you offer something at the right price, it sells. The rare
stuff tends to go for what it's worth but I do a lot of stuff
at £30, £40, £50 which I'll sell a bit cheaper than the book
price. So I sell a lot of that stuff because it's priced
right. And it's all part of my calculation of percentages when
I buy stock as well. You've got to base it on percentages and
have a philosophy about what you're doing, and I've got mine. I
think what I do works well, so you don't make anything on your
low-end stock but you turn it over and make £1 here or £2
there - it's nothing, but at the top-end I make 50% of a third
and a third on £100 is £33 and with £1 or £2 on a lot of
things it all adds up.
Digger: It all goes towards the target,
Sean: Yes, and there's people that just
want memorabilia - to buy a car sticker or a magazine from
you, so as far as I'm concerned they're all the same. I'd
rather have somebody spend £10 with me every month than
spends £100 and that's a one-off.
Digger: Some people would make a distinction
between their customers, even without realising it, but that £5
person may become a £100 person. You never know.
Sean: Yes, exactly and a lot of people do
that. I get a lot of DJs buying from me. They trust me and
know I've got a good ear for it and I'm an honest guy and try
to help them as well. They start off at £10 or £20 purchases.
Then, when they get the bulk, they are looking for the special
buys and that £20 becomes £50 and that happens quite a few
times with people.
Digger: It doesn't look like vinyl's going to
die any time soon, does it?
Sean: Not for the time being. I think it's
as strong now as it's ever been, even though the economy is as
it is there are still people out there buying vinyl. And young
kids are buying vinyl as well, and I think the eighties and
nineties is starting to go up in value now. As for the
Northern Soul scene, I think eventually it will crash and burn
because there'll be no demand for it. In another twenty years'
time I can't see any demand because you're not going to get a
rush of young kids coming into it. Although you do see young
kids about but they're only in little pockets. When I go to
Stoke - that's one of my residencies and the biggest
all-nighter in the world by a mile, you do get about fifty
young kids in there and they can dance as well.
Digger: You've got all the people that were
there the first time just standing around the outside watching
them. It's become a spectator sport!
Sean: Yes, they can't do that anymore.
They're all fifty or sixty plus. The guy who won the dancing
competition at the Blackpool Tower - he was eighteen. Until
the last couple of years it's always been someone in their
forties or fifties, and these young kids have been getting
into it by watching some films about it and via their parents
Digger: It's good Sean. So what about the
Sean: I'll just keep doing this until I
can't. I don't know how long it will last. I've been out of
the air force since 2006, so I've been doing it for five years.
What I have done is I've made a subconscious effort to
diversify and I'm even diversifying into pop now. Stuff like
Bowie and I've even put pop singles on the website. You just
never know whether they'll go. They're not costing me
anything, only my time to put them on the web page. So, if I
could do this for another ten years that would be fantastic.
Digger: I don't see why you shouldn't be able
Sean: And because I don't take a wage from
it, it's probably something I could do until the day I die to
be honest. I still think that because I have diversified and
gone into different areas. Whereas a lot of Northern Soul
dealers just stick to Northern Soul and don't look at other
music. I go to record fairs now and I buy a right mix of
records. If I think there's something unusual, something a bit
different then I think "I'll have that." Buying Bowie singles
is something I wouldn't have done, but he's a tremendous
artist. It wouldn't matter who it was, if it was a demo or an
acetate or it was priced so that I thought I could make
something from it. Even if I can't it's still worth having and
putting on the site. It's making the site different to
Digger: That's your USP.
Sean: Yes, I don' think there's another
site like mine in the country. There may be bigger for
Northern Soul but they don't have the diversity I've got. I've
also got the knowledge of all the Mod, the Ska, the scooter
and soul scene and not many have got that because they're into
a narrow part of the scene. I've done it all and I've been at
the top end all of the time so I think I've got the experience
to deal in that and be comfortable with it as well.