Utopia Records is the undisputed home of all things heavy metal in Sydney Australia. Stocking a large range of vinyl, cd’s, dvd’s and metal related merch. To celebrate Record Store Day we caught up with Utopia veteran Paul to get an insight into his experiences working at the iconic metal store.

SCENEzine
Firstly can you give us a brief history of how long Utopia has been around and how it started?

Paul
Utopia started in 1978 which, as we always like to brag, is two years before both Iron Maiden and the Dead Kennedys released their debut albums. It started due to the original owner asking for jobs at all the inner city stores back in the day (Anthem, The Record Plant etc) and being turned down by all of them. He then imported a few boxes of records for himself and his friends and the seed was planted. He loaned some cash from his Dad and found a business partner and they found a TINY hole in the wall in the Challis Arcade, Martin Place. When he decided to take the store in the Heavy Metal/ Hard Rock direction he was basically laughed at by all the other store owners, ironic that Utopia is still alive and very well but every single one of those other stores went out of business many years ago.

Utopia Records

SCENEzine
Record Store Day is not too far away. Are you surprised how popular the day has now become?

Paul
Not really surprised as I still purchased vinyl myself right through the CD era and could never really understand the choice of convenience over quality. I like album artwork, I like gatefold sleeves, I like the interaction with the product and the turntable. When I was a kid I would always play my older brothers Vertigo label albums just to watch the swirl label spinning. I do believe all the hype and limited issues has helped it become such a big day.

SCENEzine
The list of Record Store Day exclusive titles has recently been released. Is there any that your hoping to have in stock on the day?

Paul
I’ll let you in on a little secret, most stores order nearly everything and cross their fingers hoping for the best. I guess the three of the biggies for us this year will be the Iron Maiden, Metallica and especially the Radio Birdman release.

SCENEzine
Do you have any tips for people to have a great record store day?

Paul
Visit stores and look at all the records, it’s not just about the RSD exclusives in my opinion. Don’t get angry if you miss out on something, it’s not the end of the world if you don’t get that One Direction 7″ Picture Disc haha. Interact with other customers, you may just make some friends and learn about an artist you never knew.

Utopia Records

SCENEzine
Utopia has had a lot of bands do in-store signings over the years. Do you have any favourites?

Paul
Well they are all special for a variety of reasons but three in particular stand out for me if I think about it.
We had the Deftones on the Around The Fur Tour and the bassist Chi Cheng (R.I.P.) and I got on like a house on fire, kindred spirits I guess…
Slayer back in the day was just amazing, over 1000 insane kids lined the city streets chanting SLAYER for hours. Just before we opened to the public Jeff Hanneman (R.I.P.) and I had a epic pen lid fight with the rest of Slayer and the Utopia staff ducking and weaving as we exchanged fire until one of us proudly stood victorious. A hilarious and surreal moment.
The Ghost instore two years ago was such a personal thing for me because I haven’t loved a band like I love this band in years, in fact the last band that hit me this hard was Dillinger Escape Plan and that was nearly twenty years ago.

SCENEzine
Without naming any band names did any in-stores not go to plan?

Paul
Well over a 38 year time span we have had the odd last minute cancellation and dire turnout but hey, not everything is going to be huge.
We did have a drummer from a certain band come in and not smile once the entire time he was in the store a while back, a real wet blanket. He is from a band that appeal to our younger fans but I really got the impression he wanted to be in Radiohead. Then again, he may have eaten a bad prawn or something…
The two in-stores we have always wanted but never had are Iron Maiden and Slipknot, they would both be absolutely beyond massive! Hopefully one day…

SCENEzine
Can you tell us about some of the rarest autographs you’ve ever come across?

Paul
Well, I’ve been working in record stores since 1989 so there is almost nothing I haven’t seen. One particularly nice piece was a Led Zeppelin album with six signatures, the original four in pen from the 70’s and then both Page and Plant signed again in bold marker from the 1990’s, kind of their way of saying, “Yep, this is the real deal!”
I personally have a fully autographed Rush album cover, that’s pretty rare.

SCENEzine
Utopia has had some big names just walk into the store to shop. Can you share any cool stories?

Paul
There are just so many. Musicians, actors, famous sports people (half of who we don’t even recognise), politicians etc etc etc. It is a buzz to be at work and all of a sudden you are talking to Henry Rollins, Billy Joe Armstrong, James Hetfield or Sebastian Bach. Gives you something to talk about when you go home at night…
It was pretty funny when I was at the counter one day talking to two members of Ghost about what we were going to do that night and some kids run in and ask me if I know where Ghost are staying while TOTALLY ignoring the members of the band who were talking in thick Swedish accents right next to me.
Another killer was when I was talking to Malcom Young and some guy comes up and interupts us to show me a photo of a Gretsch guitar he had just bought because he is a massive AC/DC fan and Malcom plays them. I said “why don’t you show this bloke?” pointing to Malcom but the guy didn’t recognise him and just walked off in a huff.

Utopia Records

SCENEzine
Vinyl has become hugely popular worldwide in the past few years. What are your thoughts on the resurgence of vinyl?

Paul
I love it. Anything that gets the human race out from behind a computer and living life vertically again is a positive to me. I mean everyone just says it’s hipsters this and fad that but that is hardly a truthful summation in any regard. I think bitterness and raining on other people’s parades to mask your own inner unhappiness is the true sign of the hipster.

SCENEzine
What are some of the holy grails of vinyl that every one is trying to find?

Paul
It differs from person to person. Beatles, Kiss, Tool, Pearl Jam, Elvis, Venom, Tully. What I find more interesting is all the amazing music people leave behind whilst searching for something that someone else has deemed amazing or rare. Some of my favourite records of all time I scored for next to nothing. Every time I flick through the T section in any store and see the Tubes – Remote Control sitting there for ten bucks or whatever I just say to myself “What the f#ck is wrong with everybody?”

SCENEzine
The metal genre is one of the most loyal in the music world. Why do you think Metal fans seem to be more passionate than others?

Paul
I’m not sure that statement is even true but if it is maybe it is because of the simple fact that so many people f#cking HATE Metal so much. Let’s face it, it’s an outsider’s pastime. You are never going to delight everyone by turning up to a big party and throwing on Manowar, Cannibal Corpse or Insect Warfare.
Those dance music fans are equally passionate as far as I can tell, sticking all those questionable drugs up their bums to make that stuff bearable to listen to for eleven hours in 100 degree heat whilst chewing on their own gums off and ‘showcasing’ their steady diet of steroids and little tins of tuna bodies in teenie tiny pink singlets. Now THAT’S dedication hahaha.

SCENEzine
Lastly can you leave us with a message to Utopia’s loyal customers who are excited for Record Store Day?

Paul
Come and visit us and Sydney’s other great stores like Resist, Red Eye, Radio Free Alice, Repressed, Revolve, Record Store (why so many R’s?), Birdland, Egg, Vintage Records, Hum etc etc etc
I’ll leave the final word to the keyboard player from Spinal Tap…
“Have a good time all the time”

Utopia Records

Links:

https://utopia.com.au/

http://www.recordstoreday.com.au/

(interview by Christian Ross)

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