What do you do for a living?
I own and operate Molken Music (www.molkenmusic.com), which is a direct-to-consumer label. I manage the archives of my close friends, rock trio King’s X. I started Molken as an avenue to get archival releases such as important live shows, demos, etc. into the hands of their hardcore fans that want more than what is commercially available, so I sift through tapes, find the gems, and then do necessary post-production audio clean-up, get artwork made, product manufactured, and then sell and ship direct to the fans through the website.
I also now have a few titles of newly recorded music, namely the last few solo releases from King’s X guitarist, Ty Tabor, and also will be releasing a new Jelly Jam album later this year, featuring Tabor on guitar, John Myung (Dream Theater) on bass, and Rod Morgenstein (Dixie Dregs) on drums. We’re also selling Tres Mts. through a joint distribution deal with the Pearl Jam camp, which is a side project featuring Jeff Ament and Mike McCready (Pearl Jam), dUg Pinnick (King’s X) and Richard Stuverud (The Fastbacks).
What are your passions besides collecting records?
Writing, recording and producing music. I used to be the guitarist for a band originating from Houston known as Galactic Cowboys. I’m currently working on a solo album (aptly titled Past Due) that I’m trying to get out there later this year. Thus far, I have some help from one of my former bandmates, Alan Doss, as well as from the King’s X guys. Gene Parsons of The Byrds also contributed some great pedal steel playing which I’m very excited about too. Big Star bassist Andy Hummel was going to come down and play on a track but, sadly, he passed away last summer before he could do it.
How did you get into music collecting?
I was obsessed with music before I could walk or talk. As a kid, I was never into toys, only records. I have a sister who is twelve years older than me; she always had music blaring from her bedroom, so I was exposed to everything from Black Sabbath to Barbra Streisand. We lived about an hour north of Houston in an area that was quite rural at the time so records weren’t always easy to come across. However, I was able to find records at drugstores, garage sales and, believe it or not, gas stations.
I got my own copy of Led Zeppelin II on LP in 1972 when I was three years old and the collection took off from there. I also vividly remember getting Paul Simon’s There Goes Rhymin’ Simon LP for Christmas in 1973. I instantly became obsessed with “all things records” – not just the music but even the record label designs all the way down to things like how those old album covers even smelled!
What’s your record-collecting motto/philosophy?
Well, I have two. The first is that if you find a record that you cannot live without, get it and eat noodles for a week if you have to. Hunger is fleeting; records are forever.
Secondly, just because a newly-pressed LP is “carefully cut from the original masters” and on 180 or 200 gram vinyl does not necessarily mean that it is going to sound awesome. For a while I really got into all of these vinyl reissues of classic albums, but after I got a large handful of LPs that could not sonically hold a candle to an original pressing, I had to stop and ask myself, “Why am I wasting money on albums that I already have at home that sound much better?” I have been quite pleased with the consistency of the “From the Capitol Vaults” series and 4 Men with Beards pressings as well as many of the Warner/Rhino RTI pressings but many of the other label reissue campaigns have been extremely “hit or miss,” in my opinion. Oftentimes you can find a much better sounding original pressing of a classic album at a thrift shop for fifty cents than spending $25+ on a new, 180/200 gram pressing.
What is the focus on for your collection (genre, band, era, etc.)?
I have somewhere around 10,000 LPs, 1,000 45s, and several thousand CDs, so it’s a rather varied and eclectic collection. The majority of LPs are original-press pop and rock from the ‘60’s and ‘70’s though I also have some earlier and more recent. There’s loads of Beatles, Zeppelin, The Who, Stones etc. I also have a lot of old blues, soul, country, folk, classical, and jazz… some cool Miles stuff, like an original, mono “6 eye” Kind of Blue, Impulse! Coltranes, early ‘60’s Ornette Coleman on the black Atlantic label, some great Blue Notes, quite a bit of avant-garde stuff like Sun Ra and many BYG/Actuel releases.
What’s the No. 1 item on your want list right now, and why? How long have you been seeking it?
I have my eye on a first pressing of ZZ Top’s First Album (London Records, 1971) still in original shrink. I’ve been looking for nothing short of NM of this one for several years. Those original covers were very thick but barely had a spine, so it’s almost impossible to find one that doesn’t have any seam splits, dirt smudges, or some dude’s name scribbled all over it. Nowadays, that album is overlooked in their catalog but it’s my favorite. I wore out many a copy while learning to play the guitar.
What is your most-prized item (both in dollar value and sentimental value)?
Regarding commercial value, it would definitely have to be one of my guitars…probably the 1975 Les Paul Standard. Sentimentally…it’s a tie between my autographed copies of Jeff Beck’s Blow By Blow and Wired and also an old Atlantic German press of Allman Bros. At Fillmore East that sounds totally different than the pink US Capricorns. They both utilize the same mix but the German pressing (which I presume is the same as a UK) uses a much different master.
If money and availability were of no concern, what one item (either a record or memorabilia) would you choose to add to your collection, and why?
Now, that’s a tough question. I would LOVE to have a session acetate of Neil Young’s Tonight’s the Night. That album is raw and a mess, in the best way possible. I think it’s his greatest and I would love to hear the originally prepared version that wasn’t released….with the talking between tracks and different songs/running order, etc. Hopefully it will see the light of day on his next archival box but I wish for a proper, stand-alone release of it.
What is your method of collecting? Where do you usually find the best bargains?
I have most of my favorite albums on original US pressings and duplicates of many of them. I mainly focus on finding copies in better condition so I’m constantly upgrading. I would also like to further expand into more original or early pressings from the UK; I’ve discovered that so many of them sound amazing and also quite different. If I am patient, I can still find some great deals on eBay. I just scored an impressive copy of Dr. John Gris Gris on Atlantic (UK). It’s not a plum label nor from ’68, but rather a standard red/green Atlantic, pressed in ’72. It sounds fuller and clearer than any US Atco pressing.