Words and photos by Rafe Arnott, except where noted.
Heads bowed in concentration, eyes silently appraising LP covers as they flip past, a quick glance around would reveal other record shop patrons similarly focused on the album racks.
While this reverie seems a constant no matter where one travels – or where records are sold – many parallels end there. The walks of life that led these individuals in search of music are anything but uniform. But, it is a shared devotion that ties this fraternity together across the globe. An appreciation for rare Sudanese tambour recordings of the early 2000s is a bond that can be shared whether you’re in London, San Francisco or Djibouti. That’s always been the beauty of music, it transcends borders and is only dependent upon taste.
Conversations in record shops, concerts or clubs can revolve around albums, instruments, music genres – intimately delving into the minutiae of an artist, band, or a selector’s knowledge of rare grooves. And whether one is a DJ, recording engineer, producer or bus driver, there is no predeterminate for loving a certain type of music. Often, the stories of how the people came to buy the LP at the record store, boot fair or charity shop can be as interesting as the artist who made the music. It is these stories that Record Culture Magazine focuses on – in print form only – taking readers into the homes and studios of the musicians who are featured on the albums, the people who are running the record labels that produce the albums, and those who are buying and playing the albums. This circle of creativity is ouroboros-like as listening to music usually inspires the making of music. Touting itself as “a biannual print publication that shines a light on the people intrinsic to niche music communities around the world and their intersection with art, fashion, and culture,” it is easy to understand the appeal of its focus. These are people who love LPs just as much as you or I.
Photos below: Record Culture Issues No. 2, and No. 5. Images courtesy RCM.
Karl Henkell, Record Magazine's founder and editor-in-chief, took time out to answer some questions via an email interview with Resistor Mag after putting the latest issue – No. 9 – to bed.
Resistor Mag: Who is Karl Henkell, could you describe what his relationship with music is like?
Karl Henkell: “I’m German-Australian, and grew up in Melbourne, going back and forth to visit family. Before I started Record, I was a writer for online publications and just a fan looking to go deeper into the world of music. It felt like a crossroads, either go further down the road of this thing I’m interested in, or go off and do something else with my life. It really felt like an either/or decision. Doing the magazine forces me to stay on top of new music, which I really enjoy.”
Resistor Mag: Describe Record Culture Magazine. How did it come about? Were you inspired by other publications?
KH: “Record Culture Magazine is a biannual print publication about music. It consists of around 10 in-depth interviews per issue with people from around the world whose lives are intertwined with music, whether as DJs, musicians, record label founders, or in more unexpected ways, as art curators, or fashion runway sound-trackers and the like. In 2016, it somehow felt like the right moment to start Record. I was living in Chinatown, New York, and would pop by shops like McNally Jackson and Mulberry Iconic, which stock practically everything, and I wasn’t seeing what I wanted to make. The music section was quite empty, and there was a literal gap to fill — the only music magazines I remember seeing on the shelf were Rolling Stone and The Source. A few feet away the fashion section was literally exploding with titles. I was inspired by the fashion and culture magazines on the other side of the shelf, ones like System, Purple, 032c, Apartamento, The Paris Review and the like.
Resistor Mag: I really enjoy the content, the format – it couldn’t have been easy to assemble such a creative group of journalists, photographers and artists to produce the magazine.
KH: Thanks. When I started the magazine, I was in touch with many of our current contributors already through other jobs, and some were friends from living in Melbourne, Paris, and New York. When it came to starting the magazine, I was leaning heavily on these contacts that I already had. Since then the magazine itself draws particular people in, and many of our contributors have come about by meeting them at a launch party we threw or they’ve gotten in touch on email.”
Resistor Mag: RCM focuses on voices described as “intrinsic to niche music…” What does the editorial process for interview selection look like?
KH: “There’s a few factors in choosing who we approach. It’s a bit of a jigsaw puzzle. We want each issue to offer a cross-section of people from around the world, so hearing from people from many different places is important. We see the magazine, and the musical world we cover, as an interconnected whole, so we look at those we’ve featured in the past, and often there are breadcrumbs we can follow, and it’s a case of hopping from one stone to the next. A lot of the people we feature are involved with dance music and experimental music in some way, however we like to keep things open and veer away from that every now and again. I see each feature we do as a portal into another world, and in that way it’s always an interesting process.”
Resistor Mag: The website is a portal to content found only in the magazine’s physical pages. Was the idea to be print-only from the start? Were digital editions ever considered?
KH: “Our website, at least for now, really only functions as a shop. The idea was always to make a print magazine, and the digital side of things didn’t really come into it. There were reasons for this, one being that the music communities we talk about were already well covered online through websites like Test Pressing, Resident Advisor and many others. Doing something digital would have felt like adding to a noise that is already at fever pitch. Doing a print magazine felt like swimming in open waters. While the two seem to be related, I think they are actually really different propositions. Printing a magazine is a bit like pressing a vinyl record, in that there’s no going back.
Doing something digital would have felt like adding to a noise that is already at fever pitch. Doing a print magazine felt like swimming in open waters."
–Karl Henkell, Record Magazine founder
Photo above: Record Magazine intelligently fills a select niche in current print magazine offerings for record collectors.
“Before starting the magazine I had been a writer and editor for online publications, and when I started Record, I wanted to move away from the digital world. A lot of these websites were fading away, as online ad revenue dropped off, so doing anything digital felt like it would be really hard to maintain. In making a physical magazine we had something to sell, which is how Record sustains itself.”
Resistor Mag: Has the pandemic affected putting together and publishing the magazine?
KH: “The pandemic has made the process a lot more digital actually, funnily enough. Many of our interviews had to be done over Zoom this time, rather than in-person. The restrictions caused by the pandemic have made it harder to schedule photo shoots at times, especially as these happen at interviewees homes and studios. With a bit of extra patience though, we’ve been able to keep making it in much the same way.”
Resistor Mag: Magazines, like records, can be collected. Is it your hope that Record will be considered a defining catalog of work , like Coltrane’s Prestige output?
KH: “It’s hard to compare Record to an artists catalog of work, I don’t think we’re in quite the same league. Hopefully for print enthusiasts, we hold a place in their heart. We do hope that people hang on to each issue. We try to make them as collectible as possible, and we consider it more like a book, as something with a timeless quality, that you can dip into from time to time.”
RCM is hosting the Record Art Auction with 12 one-of-a-kind pieces by Júlia Brandão made from upcycled Record merchandise which will be auctioned off on Instagram @recordartauction. 100% of proceeds go to Sonic Arts For All! The Auction Starts April 1st, 12pm CET / 6am EST / 3am PST and ends April 4th, Midnight CET / 6pm EST / 3pm PST.
For more information on Record Culture Magazine, to order merch and to subscribe, go HERE.