Photograph by Curtis Cartier
The Vicar of Vinyl: Metamusic's Jonathan Schneiderman is a purist.
A local music store goes on the record
By Curtis Cartier
Metamusic is not an equal opportunity music store. Any record lucky enough to grace the bins of store-owner Jonathan Schneiderman's vinyl-only shop has to meet strict requirements, starting with "being really great music."
"I try to go beyond the underground and get into the way-underground," Schneiderman says. "The store is an abstraction of the mass music arena."
Since 2005, Metamusic has offered a selection of about 5,000 albums as well as professional turntables, mixers, record needles and other wax burning essentials. Aside from selling records, the shop serves as a makeshift club every Wednesday afternoon for Metaweekly, a live DJ ensemble featuring Schneiderman, a.k.a. Kamm, with 187 Soundsystem and Middleman. The three spin everything from drum 'n'& bass and hip-hop to funky house and IDM (intelligent dance music). The store also hosts a speakeasy-style club night every other Friday with a rotating cast of DJs and an underground rave atmosphere.
Inside the quaint downtown shop, bins of records sit below photos by Santa Cruz artist Ryan Wainwright that splash the walls with pastel cityscapes and black and white industrial vistas. Odd contraptions like a belt-powered paper slicer built by functional artist Nathan Goodman are perched on shelves, begging to be turned on. In the back of the store, underneath a nest of electrical wires and switches with instructions to "push my buttons," sits a 1968 jukebox flanked by two baby-blue velvet wing chairs from the same era. And in the center of the store, an iconic set of Techniques 1200 turntables belt out a constant din of tunes by bands from the Rolling Stones to Trentemoller.
"I get everyone in here, from DJs and producers to the older generation who still loves records to people who just really appreciate music," he says. "I'm like a bartender. People come in here and spill their guts to me. I find myself talking about everything except music with my customers a lot of times."
Schneiderman, who holds a master's degree in philosophy from San Francisco State, has applied his penchant for abstract thought to a business model.
"This store is about more than making money," he says. "I'd like it to be a place that people who enjoy music can come and dig through some record bins, talk about music and really feel at home."
Wax On or Wax Off?
A DJ himself for nine years, Schneiderman says his love for all things vinyl goes beyond music made for clubs and parties and is more about the quality of sound he says only comes from a record.
"The vinyl record is really the purest form of listening to recorded music," he says, dropping the needle onto Squarepusher's Go Plastic. "CDs and MP3s are really convenient, and that's why they're so popular. But nothing really compares to the quality of vinyl."
It's not just DJs and audiophiles that grace the floors of Metamusic. Jean Brewster, an 81-year-old Scotts Valley resident, pops in to have an old record of children's songs made into a CD for her grandkids.
"I didn't even know this place was here until someone recommended it to me," she says. "My husband and I have a huge record collection back home. I just can't deal with computers or downloads. I'm too old for that."
Kyle Hamood, a musician and employee at Union Grove Music Store, calls the sound from a good record player the "best way to truly hear your music."
"When the needle runs along the groove of the record, it's actually making the sound. Even if you didn't have speakers you could put your ear near the record and hear the music," says Hamood.
Even shoppers at Borders Books and Music—an infinitely more mainstream music shop—attest to the sound quality of vinyl without actually admitting they would ever buy a record. "Records are a part of history that someone can keep. I wish I had some records," says Raymundo Beristain, one of the few shoppers in Borders' CD section. "Anyone can just buy a song off the Internet. A record is more personal."
But when the latest tunes are available at the click of a mouse or the touch of an iPhone, vinyl seems like a cumbersome option.
"Why would I want to buy a record if I can just download the songs?" asks Santa Cruz resident Grant Winter. "They're expensive and a pain to find. Records are dead."
Still, Schneiderman says the market for records has survived the decline of the CD as its high quality and manipulation potential has kept customers coming in.
"I think everyone who comes in here usually at least has a high regard for music," Schneiderman says. "And in the end that's exactly what I was hoping to create."
METAWEEKLY runs 5–9pm every Wednesday at Metamusic, 320 Cedar St., Santa Cruz. A Friday night DJ set will be held Aug. 8 and every other Friday 10pm–2am. On Saturday, Aug. 9, Metamusic hosts 'Inscape, The Libra and Vilmos.' All events free. 831.466.9027.
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