Rochester, NY (WROC) – Tom Kohn wanted to do something special to celebrate his 40 years in the business.
Bop Shop Records opened in 1982 and remained a Village Gate staple until it moved to its current location on Monroe Ave.
There, he continued to sell vinyl records while bringing in artists and performing live music.
This year, he has pledged to put on 40 shows to mark Bop Shop’s milestone anniversary.
This project will be crowned by the 40e Anniversary Jazz Festival the weekend after Thanksgiving with shows every night from November 25-28. For more information, click here.
Below is Adam Chodak’s interview with Tom Kohn.
Adam Chodak: You’ve been in the recording industry for about 50 years…
Tom Kohn: I started in high school when I was 16 in a record store with long hair and became fascinated with records and the story they told. Just like books. Today’s records and even now have stories to tell and that’s really important and the felt sharing was really important. I’ve never had the bug of playing an instrument that the musicians who play here find weird. I’m not so coordinated. So it was the passion all along. When I was 16, I had 2,000 records, which is crazy. Discovered garage sales and started going to garage sales. In the 70s you could buy tons of records for 10 cents, it was great.
AC: Do you still have the same passion?
TK: 100%. 110%. But like some people, it’s not just the disc, but also the music that’s on the product. I think it’s important to have touch, I mean, I don’t care if it’s a CD, if it’s a musician that I love and I can only afford a CD, I will buy a CD. I buy music. I prefer not to download, to diffuse because the artist does not touch money. And it’s confusing, at least for me, I’m older and I need something physical and tangible for this to make sense to me and I think that’s just my age, part of it . But if you download 2,000 or 3,000 songs, how do you know what you have? You don’t. You don’t.
AC: But there are a lot of people my age and younger who buy vinyl now. Where is that from ?
TK: It happened in the mid 2000s, slowly but surely some people like Neil Young started getting into it, metal bands, Pearl Jam, there was always a limited number of records being pressed and things were becoming more and more interesting and as things exploded then it became a hipster thing. And sound recordings sound better, not always, in general, but you need a decent rig to do that, though. Not the little Crosleys that people should be trashing. I knew it was coming. When the CDs came I was like Oh my god I can buy a lot of records. So I was accumulating records in the 90s. I didn’t really expect it to be so crazy. And more and more jazz artists are releasing records, some of which are very limited, others extremely limited, 300 tracks, depending on what it is. There is no specific thing that the artists or the labels do, sometimes it’s a choice of label, sometimes of the private press, today it takes a year to press it so much the factories are late. It sort of grew on its own and I try to teach people how to buy records, what to buy, what not to buy, what to avoid…
AC: How do you buy a record?
TK: With money (laughs). It’s hard for me to say because I’ve been on this end of things for so long (pointing to the cash register). Some people try to come in and buy to invest and that’s a bad idea. Buy what you like. Always pursue that. And it’s the same with books and other things, movies. Buy what makes a difference in your life. Then finally this song that did that. There are a few Turtles 45 that have done this for me and it’s like the best. corny now, but important when I was 14. And there is all that, constantly. I remember the first jazz record I bought when I was 17. It was Miles Davis, Jack Johnson and it was amazing. McLaughlin is like, wow, this is ridiculous. And it went from there. I also embraced the punk stuff a lot, but it wasn’t much different from creative jazz, there wasn’t such a big gap between those things.
AC: Do you have a prized possession? A recording?
TK: It’s not a precious commodity but there is a record that I tell everyone instantly: Oliver Nelson’s Blues and the Abstract Truth. It’s the only record I would take to the island with me.
TK: Because he does everything for me. It’s just a perfect jazz record for me. It encompasses all styles. For me, it really dives deep inside and it’s the same motivation that drives me to bring these bands to town. And some of the people who have played here are longtime friends, legends of the jazz world.
AC: And to celebrate 40 years of activity, you are organizing 40 concerts. How’s it going?
TK: A little crazy, but that’s okay. You need curiosity. You need a spark of curiosity and that’s what drives people to buy different records. That’s what drives people to listen to different music. They must first have this curiosity. There was a gig we did a few years ago with a guitarist named Pete McCann. Just a monster electric guitarist and he just does this crazy solo and there’s this kid by the counter and he shakes his head and says I have to rethink everything.