Sunday, March 4, 2012

Shawn Williston!

I first met Shawn shortly after the millenium. I started hanging out with a new group of friends (who I now consider family) and every Saturday night we would meet at Cheating Joe's house to party. Every Saturday it was the same ole thing. Cards until about midnight, and then guitars and singing until the sun would come up!

I would play guitar here every Saturday and very often I had Shawn sitting to my left singing to every song I could play. I think of him as the human karaoke machine.. He knew every word to every song I could play! (This was 90% 90's music).

It has been a long time since we have been partying at Cheating Joe's but every once in a while the old gang make it back there and it is always a pleasure to talk music and play music with Shawn.

He sure knows his shit when it comes to 90's era music in particular. He is has great opinions and seems very educated in his passion. He shares these opinions and passion on his very own blog, . I encourage you to check it out!

I used to see Shawn most times when I went home to visit Miramichi as he worked at CD Plus in the mall. Unfortunately the last cd store ceases to exist in Miramichi. But never the less, every once in a while I bump into Shawn and it is always a pleasure to shoot the shit about music.

Name: Shawn Williston

City/Town: Miramichi


Music director/midday announcer at CFAN (1999-2002), assistant manager at CD Plus (2004-2008).  Currently working in a non-musical retail position to pay the bills and moonlighting as founder of the Sound Bites amateur blog in my spare time.

Martime Vinyl (MV) - What do you collect? Vinyl; CD’s; Cassettes; 8 tracks; bootlegs; music memorabilia; magazine; etc..

Shawn Willison (SW) - I've been far too late to the vinyl party to take a run at building that side of my collection to the point I'd like it to be at, but I do make a point at adding pieces to my collection, especially when they're different or interesting.  But I've been curating my ever-expanding CD collection since I got my first CD player in 1990, so I can't really stop now. 

MV- Do you prefer one audio format more than others? (example: vinyl more than cd’s)

SW - For me personally, I totally see how a lot of folks prefer the sound of vinyl, especially these days when Cds are so loudly mastered while their vinyl counterparts are mastered properly.  That said, I still prefer a well-produced and mastered CD over vinyl.  That's just me.  When you have an album as perfectly executed sound-wise as Nine Inch Nails' “Downward Spiral”, the kind of album that you listen to almost twenty years after the fact for the hundredth time and can still hear things going on you didn't hear before... I mean, to me, that's the pinnacle of digital recording, and that CD is a true benchmark in sound quality that still floors me to this day.  It's the kind of album that sounds good no matter what format, but they really took advantage of the CD's full potential there.  It's a shame the loudness wars had to ruin it all.

MV - What is your favourite genre of music? Some of your favourite artists?

SW - In my mind a true music fan is someone who keeps an open mind, and is always looking to expand his or her palette.  I think one of the main reasons I turned out like that is the timing of Muchmusic.  It started up when I was 8 or 9, right when I started to become interested in music.  And I'd watch it religiously, hours a day growing up.  I'd subject myself to anything and everything, soaking it all in and loving the discovery aspect of it.  That said, as I got to high school and the 90's alternative (a.k.a. “I refuse to call it grunge”) movement started happening all around us, that's when I started realizing that music was a lot more than a pleasing tone or a good beat.  Some of those songs transcended what they were sonically and started speaking to me on an emotional level.  And I honestly feel bad for people who don't love music in the same way I do, because that moment of pure revelation hasn't happened to them... yet.

As for my favourite artists, Pearl Jam have been at my top of the heap for most of their existence.  There was a brief moment on June 30, 2002 where, right after a show in Halifax that culminated in thousands of us walking down the street singing the National Anthem, The Tragically Hip took top spot.  In the afterglow of that timeless moment, I told my buddy I had a new favourite band, and immediately regretted it.  I can't quit Pearl Jam, even if their output is a little spotty recently.  They are the only band whose music has both saved my life and almost killed me.  But, that's an incredibly long story for an incredibly long other occasion.

Getting back to my earlier point, my favourites at any given moment beyond Pearl Jam fluctuate.  When you keep an open mind and try to find the good in a number of different genres, being a music buff never gets boring.  It also gives me plenty of new music to buy instead of a bunch of reissued, remastered cash grabs from the olden days.  There's always something coming out that I want to listen to, and there's always a band I've never heard before waiting in the wings.  There's still nothing quite like the sense of discovery when you hear a band for the first time, and they drop your jaw.  At 35, I should probably be screaming at teenagers to “turn down that crap” and holing myself up in my room with my Pavement records.  I don't know, maybe I'll get there someday.

MV - How big is your collection?
SW - My CD collection is at about 2000 now, which doesn't include stuff I've pawned, lent or had stolen over the years.  If I had it all back, that number would easily double.  But, then I'd have nowhere to put it all.  And I'd have some truly awful blemishes on my record (Vince Neil solo albums, anyone?).

My vinyl collection is pretty modest, maybe a hundred or so not counting 45s.  I'd had a handful sitting around from when CFAN cleared out all their records, but I didn't start really going after it until I'd added a couple of Pearl Jam vinyls.  Since then, I've gotten most of their records save for a couple of out-of-print titles that cost a couple hundred bucks on eBay.  Now that I've seen how costly that side of collecting can become, I've hesitated on going for it full bore.  But I've also started buying vinyl by the artists I care most about while it's a new release whenever possible.

MV - Do you concentrate your collection on one or more artists in particular?

SW - If I like a band, I try to get all of their albums, but the only bands I'm super serious about collecting are Pearl Jam and Nine Inch Nails.  Pearl Jam because they're my faves and NIN because Trent Reznor did the genius move of numbering his releases and calling them halos.  As a collector, I kind of took it as a challenge.  For anyone up on how the Nine Inch Nails catalogue works, I am proud owner of all 27 halos, plus a couple of extra odds and ends.  Other than that, if a band puts out something cool and interesting, I'll try to snag it.  Some of the Record Store Day releases have been too intriguing to pass up.  Last year, I managed to get the reprint of Nirvana's “Hormoaning”, so I was pretty excited about that.  This year, I'm really looking forward to the Mastodon/Feist split.  However, I have a feeling I'm not the only one, so I might have to camp out.

MV - What is the first album you remember purchasing? Do you still have it?

SW - I owned some truly awful stuff when I was a kid, hand-me-downs from my older siblings and whatnot.  But the first time I put down my own cash for an album I was 9, and it was Dire Straits' “Brothers in Arms”.  I really wish I could say I had street cred as a 9-year old, but if I'm being honest I bought it because the “Money for Nothing” video was so mindblowing for its time.

MV - What is your favourite item in your collection?

SW - That's a really tough one, because I want so badly for it to actually be one of my records, but it's not.  What's worse is that it's actually a tie between two items, both of which are not records. 

One random day at Spin-It in Moncton, I was on my way out of the store when I happened to look up and see a promotional mobile that Sony had put out to some record stores when Pearl Jam released “Vitalogy”.  I'm glad I caught a glimpse of it, because it definitely found a good home and I've never seen one since.

The other would have to be my Pearl Jam 2005 Canadian Tour hoodie that I snagged at their Halifax show.  It's super-rare (only 850 made), so much so that I was offered four times what I paid for it later that night when I wore it walking into the casino.  I know a lot of people would call me insane for actually wearing something with that much potential value, but I still do.  I'd never dream of selling it, so what's the point of keeping it in a glass case and depriving myself from being fashionable?

MV - Do you still actively collect or was this something you concentrated on in the past?
SW - Still going, probably stronger than ever actually.  I blame my record store days; giving me discounts conditioned me to want everything.  It's a little scary when I put it into numbers, but I still buy in the neighbourhood of 75 Cds a year, not counting vinyl or used.  One day, I fully expect A&E to be knocking on my door with the “Hoarders” crew in tow.  My loved ones will be trying to convince me to throw away my Glueleg Cds.  I'm going to let them down.

MV - What is your preferred way of adding to your collection? Shopping online? Flea Markets? Independent music stores? Etc… Any favourite store or websites?
SW - Any way and every way I can.  I prefer to buy new when there's something out that I know I want, but I also love the thrill of the hunt you get at used outlets.  It's not quite as thrilling these days because there are only so many Cds you can find around here.  So I'm buying more used Cds online than in shops recently.  In New Brunswick, it's hard to find old Superchunk albums lying around in bins.

MV - How do you store your collection? Shelves? Boxes? Your attic?

SW - I'm blessed in that I actually have an entire room to store all my stuff.  I am running out of shelf space though, so pretty soon the couch will have to go.

MV - Does your significant other support your collection? Did you have to convince him/her?

SW - It's a tough sell sometimes, but I think she understands that there are much worse things to be addicted to than music.

MV - What is on your “wish list” at the moment?

SW - My wish list is usually just whatever's coming out in the next little while, and I'm just waiting for it to come out so I can snag it.  Right now I'm most excited about new albums from The Mars Volta, Cancer Bats and Torche.  And a new female-fronted band called Dead Sara has their debut coming in April.  It's fantastic, and I'm convinced they're going to own 2012.

MV - Do you know any other collectors?

SW - In Miramichi, there definitely aren't many of us left.  It's tough going when you have to travel to Fredericton or Moncton, or buy online for your fix. 

MV - You are a fellow blooger, In this blog you do almost daily reviews on new music being released. What made you start doing this blog?

SW - Originally, it was conceived as a practical way to continue the Year in Rock tradition.  I used to burn those mixes on CD and hand them out to close friends.  Now, we're all kind of scattered about, so I felt it was easier to do a blog and let my friends listen to what they wanted from the list than mass produce Cds that a lot of folks don't even have a player for.  I gave 50 tracks I liked, and if you wanted to make your own mix of your favourites, great.  Music isn't a dictatorship, you should pick out what you like.  If we agree on something, all the better.

After the list went up in December, I decided to keep it going as a sort of information hub, in that when something comes along that I like or find intriguing, I'll share it.  Come November this year, I'll start another year in review, but I figured sharing my intel year-round can't hurt.

MV - I remember in the good ole days at the New Years party you always had a mix tape of your top hits of the year (assuming hence the name.. “yearinrock”). Do you still do this every year? Do you still have all of your old mix tapes? Kind of a time capsule!

SW - I do still have those kicking around somewhere.  And they were definitely a time capsule, something I can unearth in 20 years, give a listen to with some friends, and say “can you believe we all liked Nickelback in 2001?”

2009 was the last year that I did the traditional-style, double CD mix.  In 2010 I did the whole thing on Facebook, which was an interesting experiment.  Everyone who knew about Year in Rock seemed to be on board with it, but most of my friends list must have been thinking, “What the hell is Shawn's problem?  I don't care what he thinks about Manchester Orchestra!”

Last year, I did it all on the blog and talked it up on Facebook so that the folks who appreciated it could check it out, and it wasn't quite as obtrusive to everyone else.  I think it worked really well, but I admit that I kind of missed picking a track list, running order, artwork and all that fun stuff that went into making them before.  It was a lot of hard work, but rewarding in the end.

MV - Speaking of mix tapes.. Speaking for myself, I completely miss buying blank tapes and mixing my own greatest hits compilation. Are you with me on this? Playlists just don’t seem to be the same!

SW - I know, the kids have it way too easy these days.  You want a mix, you press a button and your iPod does it for you.  You throw a bunch of songs into a playlist, hit shuffle, and sit back waiting to be entertained.  The mixtape is a dying art form, and an entire generation of kids will never experience it.  You can't program flow.  When you've brought a group of songs together and it works just right, you really get the sense that you created something, that even though none of it's yours, you made a sum greater than its parts.  I've made a few good ones in my day, and sometimes it was more thrilling to listen to those mixes than any of the albums the songs came from.  If you can take those songs, twist their meanings, and blend them into a story, they become something totally different.

MV - Do you have a difficult time finding enough decent new releases to fulfill your blogging needs?

SW - Absolutely not.  The internet has made it so easy to create, promote and find music, there's more of it now than ever before.  It's sometimes a little harder to find it, but there are plenty of great bands doing great things on record right now.  I mentioned Dead Sara a while ago, and that's a prime example of the internet's power when it comes to music discovery.  I actually heard them for the first time in October, and almost included them on Year in Rock 2011 before I found out that their album wasn't coming out until April.  If this were the 90's, I probably wouldn't have found out about them until six months after the record came out. 

So no, it's not difficult to find good stuff these days because it's everywhere.  There just happens to be so much bad stuff out there alongside it that you have to really dig in there and filter through it.  If anything, my biggest problem is time.  My blog is very much a spare time thing, so when there's not much of it, things slip through the cracks.  If I were actually getting paid for blogging, you'd see a dozen posts every day.  And I'd still miss plenty of good music.

MV - What is your favorite decade for rock?

SW - The 90's is still king, but I think most any 35 year old man you ask will say the same thing because that's the decade that influenced our entire lives.  When you're a teen, and music grabs you in a way that you never thought possible, it makes a lifetime impact.  It's the same way those “dirty hippies” we turned our nose up at when we were young still held a place in their hearts for the late 60's; that was their grunge.  Now I get that.  And I feel really old when I listen to “Even Flow”.

1 comment:

  1. Great interview, Brad. I really enjoy reading about how different people collect, what they collect, and how they started.


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