Regina’s vinyl vanguard

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X-Ray Records is one man’s labour of love

Kelly Malone
Contributor

A long, long time ago, in the Mesozoic era of music, vinyl was the king of the record store. With the technology’s advancement, from CDs to the MP3 format, it was assumed that like the dinosaur, vinyl would become extinct.

Yet, unlike the unfortunate dinosaurs, vinyl has not been damned to the discount rack – somewhere between the Smash Mouth and Hoobastank CDs. Instead, vinyl has improved its quality in sound and appearance, and is not only surviving but reclaiming its former glory in the digital era.

Vinyl fans typically fall into a few categories: the collector, audiophiles (obsessed with the sound), indie kids (obsessed with anything they perceive as “indie” – whatever that means), and DJs. More people are joining the vinyl revolution each day. The vinyl resurgence may seem like a subculture or trend to the majority of digital society, yet even in Regina it continues to grow steadily.

Locally, the man in the know and with the supply is X-Ray records owner Dave Kuzenko.

X-Ray Records opened its doors in 1987. Kuzenko had moved to Regina from Saskatoon where he was already well-acquainted with the record sales business from his work with Records on Wheels. The store’s original location was at the Scarth Street Mall, but in 2004 Dave moved his business to the World of Trout building at 2323 11th Ave. In 2009, he moved to the basement of the same building, which is his current location.

Walking down the stairs to X-Ray records you are instantly struck by the feeling that you have found something exceptional, special, and underground. Keeping true to the basement form, Kuzenko has backed away from the usual spectacle of chain CD stores and has kept everything sincere and simple. A few posters adorn the walls amid flyers for upcoming or recently-played shows, but the starkness of the space allows for the amazing array of records to have their much-deserved spotlight. X-Ray is completely run by Kuzenko, and his devotion to music means that he works six-day weeks without time off. X-Ray is a true labour of love.

Music is obviously very important to Kuzenko. The first vinyl he ever bought was a 7-inch single of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Bad Moon Rising,” and his first full-length record was Led Zeppelin II. Even before he began purchasing records, Dave was set up for a life in music.

“My dad used to build his own stereo equipment, all the stuff was there for me to fall head first into it. I got hooked from a very early age,” said Kuzenko. His upbringing promoted him to begin his own vinyl collection, which lead to the ideal career: a record store owner. Kuzenko said, “I have always sold records, I collected vinyl as a kid, I collected it religiously.”

Through Kuzenko’s long-running career as a record store owner in Regina he has experienced the death and resurgence of vinyl first hand. He says “when I opened the store all that we had were records – it was 99 per cent records and 1 per cent CDs – and over the course of time and the history of the business it has completely turned around. Now it’s turned again, 75 per cent of my stock is vinyl again.”

The reason for the flip is the internet and the digital music scene. If you are solely into digital music then it is far easier to get your music for free and without ever leaving your computer, but if you’re a vinyl lover then you actually have to come to a store and spend money. Vinyl’s higher cost is due to the fact that fewer places actually press the vinyl now. There are also a lot of smaller boutique labels, and in a lot of instances the recordings and packaging have become nicer for the collector’s market. Most labels also include a free MP3 download with the purchase of the vinyl record.

Kuzenko believes that people would rather spend the money on vinyl because of the sound. “Vinyl has a warmer sound, a real music sound.”

Collectors all suggest different reasons for their love of vinyl. Collector Joanna Graves said that she collects because “it promotes me to interact with my music. I am more aware of what is playing because I have to pick it up, put it on, and flip it over. With my iPod I am likely to flip from one track to the next, but with vinyl I sit down and really take in the 30 minutes of music the way that the band intended.”

For whichever reason people choose vinyl, Kuzenko is happy because “the resurgence of vinyl is probably the only thing that has saved the mom ’n’ pop indie record store; without it, these days we would have almost nothing to sell.”

In the digital era the real spirit of music is often lost. We have lost the anticipation and excitement of waiting for the day you can get a new album, put it on, and lose yourself in the artwork as the spinning world of the record’s music releases you.

Kuzenko thrives on the life of that experience. “Pretty much to this day the only thing I think about for any length of time is music. This stream I work within, I’m always listening, and every now and again I will become a little despondent and it all starts to sound the same, but then all of a sudden I will get nailed with something that is new and really gets me going, it ebbs and flows like that. Life is short. You like what you like – you listen to it when you want to listen to it. Don’t let anybody ’dis you for liking what you like.”

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