Jeff Ogiba – Brooklyn, NY
Words by: Jeff Ogiba & Eilon Paz | Photos by: Eilon Paz
When I first really started collecting records like a madman I would go with my then roommate to a local record shop every Sunday and spend over $250 each visit. One of the memories of those days that stuck with me was witnessing a man flipping through the new arrivals section at the store. The man had to make a comment to himself about every single record he saw while browsing. I vowed to never be a guy who got to the point where I was talking to myself. In an effort to prove to myself that I am not that dude, and to give myself a chance to stop and smell the roses, here is an interview that Eilon asked me to do with myself.
A: My name is Jeff Ogiba. I am a lover of many things: happy relationships, good times, true friendships and records.
Q: Where did I come from?
A: Some time ago, near the end of the 1970’s two disco lovers met, and at a Christmas party they announced that they were “going home to make a baby boy”. Almost exactly nine months later this baby boy arrived.
Q: What do I do?
A: I do as much as I can with music. I write about music, I buy music, I play music, I sell music, I produce music, I love music. I am especially fond of records in an almost spiritual sense. Since i have an intense sensitivity to things be it art, my allergies, my mood swings, or my hypochondria, my life constantly takes wild turns. I could tell stories for days about intense scenarios I somehow find myself in regularly. I basically try my best to follow my heart and be decent even when it’s not always the best option. Records are the perfect solution to appease my hunger for intensity. Records are the closest thing to a human relationship that I’ve discovered so far. I’m not on drugs.
Q: Why do I love doing this?
A: As I was saying, I feel a real human connection to music. It’s almost a religion to me. I feel that everything we experience and everything that is and ever was is made up of vibrations and the relationships among each other. Records are emotional vibrations on file. All music either has emotion within it or it evokes emotion as a result of the vibrations we receive and perceive. To me that is as ultimate as it can get next to loving or caring about a person or a pet. I love the hunt for records, I love the find, I love making them mine. I love putting on a rare punk single from 1977 and feeling convinced that I was old enough that have been there. I love putting on a psych LP from the late 60’s San Francisco scene and feeling atop a golden field without caring about the true troubles surrounding me in 2012. I love the excitement of an unpredictable be bop jazz ensemble session in an imaginary smoke-filled club. I love to escape. Sadly, the real world continues whether you chose to acknowledge or not. Just ask my landlord and the debt collectors!
ESG and anything 99 Records is great by me.
Q: If I didn’t make a living off of records what would I be doing?
A: I’d either be a full-time hustler in the gambling circuit, or a third baseman for the Yankees.
Q: Any notable record scores to discuss?
A: I consistently find records worth around $500 bucks each every few months. One was at a stoop sale, one was in a donation, another was at a thrift shop. Two copies of Frankie Zhivago’s The Age of Flying High and one copy of John Danser’s Danser’s Inferno. One of the Zhivago’s was sealed, the other autographed.
The new Grass Widow LP is one of my current favorites. Great job, ladies.
First press Rough Trade Galaxie 500 LP complete with dog-eared corner more than likely courtesy of a wild night I don’t remember.
Q: How did this all start?
A: This all started when I was a kid. All I wanted was to hold onto the cherished nostalgia of growing up in a happy family. I really had a great upbringing and although my family endured a few terrible crises including a house fire on Christmas of 1988, we’ve always remained close and functional. I think it was around the time of the fire when my entire perception changed. I was still pretty young and impressionable so to lose everything you owned as a kid and to almost lose the closest people to you makes you develop a sense of fear for losing things. Those days following the house fire are the oldest memories I have of having a really close emotional connection to physical objects. I needed to focus on the good in everything I loved and it eventually grew into this passion for surrounding myself with things I was afraid I’d lose.
Of course it’s had its consequences too, but after spending my early teenage years living off of flipping used action figures and comic books I somehow started taking music more seriously. It was then I found the most perfect object: the record. The record had every element I needed to stay happy, like a medication that upped my endorphins and made my dopamine levels teem. I could touch a record, see the record’s artwork, hear a record, feel a record, and collect a record. They were perfect.
Some random soundtracks, A copy of Tarkus peering out from behind the first stack, and an incredible George Harrison bootleg that I blast at 3 am on the regular.
Q: Where do I see things going?
A: I see enterprises, warehouses full of records and me with a clipboard screaming at some dude for not being careful when fork lifting a skid up onto my storage racks.
Q: What kind of records do I collect?
A: I started off buying punk and indie records as a kid and they it just blew up in all directions. I like all the various 80’s “waves” of rock music, I’m into good metal, and hard rock, I like a ton of jazz and blues, some country, surf rock, psychedelic rock, weird experimental stuff, instrumentals, disco, hip-hop, funk/soul, soundtracks, novelty, and more.
I play bass guitar better than any other instrument I mess with so Mingus is a bit of a hero to me.
Q: When was the first time I spent a bunch of money on a record?
A: I remember saving up a bunch of money to win an auction that the artist Pushead had up on the internet back in the early/mid 90s. The internet was really silly and simple then so to bid you would just e-mail Pushead your top offer and a few minutes later, refresh the website and he’d add the new updates and show who was in the lead. I bought a copy of Sunny Day Real Estate’s Spade and Parade / Friday split 7” for $120.00. He sent the record to me and included a letter and a copy of the Septic Death 5”. Sadly, I needed the money a few years later and sold the Septic Death record but I still have the Sunny Day Real Estate 7” along with a bunch of other versions of it now.
Here is one of the first records that meant something to me. Spent all my allowance on this one when I first got into collecting.
I bought it directly from Pushead (who did the cover art) and it’s numbered 10/10. The record is by the Seattle group Sunny Day Real Estate. It includes two early versions of the songs “Friday” and “Spade and Parade”. I managed to hunt down a few different versions of this obscurity but this10/10 edition is the rarest I’ve come across . It includes foil and felt inserts and a hand die cut jacket and was pressed on pink marble wax.
Q: Is there a record I can always go back to?
A: Yea, and that record is Disintegration by The Cure. I got really into The Cure as a super young kid in 80’s when the older, cooler neighborhood kids played them for me. I would eventually evolve into an awkward teenager and continue to listen to them during most all my intense times. They were good for being alone, meeting a girl, missing a girl, etc. Their album, Disintegration is a wonderful example of the versatile music experiences that the group can provide. I’ve been listening to that album for over twenty years now. Makes me feel pretty old.
I like most things by The Cure, even groups who do minimal covers of the group’s songs
Q: How much fun is it to find strange records?
A: I love finding strange records. “How To ___” records are some of my favorites. “How to Quit Smoking Without Using wIll power” , “How to Relax your Conscience” and various LPs on ESP, Bird Whistling, stuff like that. I also love records that claim to be scientifically processed to provide a drug-like listening experience like PATHAGORN and such. Wild stuff.
Semi-obscure Star Wars ESB LP. One of about 50 Star Wars related records I currently own.
Q: My collection is a mess. How do I even know where anything is?
A: My collection grows rapidly since (without even mentioning the record shop which attracts collections) I can’t stop honing in on records when I am out and about. This leaves me with a massive “new arrivals” section (which essentially means the entire living room floor area, and a semi-alphabetized shelving system). I also have records I’ve collected such as soundtracks and certain children’s records that are boxed up at my parents’ house in New Jersey. At one point I actually had my collection in three different states: New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York. I don’t organize my home collection by genre because I like to keep my options fresh and based on the artist before the style… As in, I don’t want to disappoint myself if I am in the mood for jazz and I go to a jazz section and pick out a Charles Mingus record when I was really in the mood for Pharaoh Sanders. I might actually pick a different genre over a different artist of the same genre to satisfy my mood. I also have an insanely vivid memory (which has been both a blessing and a curse) which allows me to remember a general area where any one record might be. It’s like a wacky filing system in my brain. If you saw my desk at the shop you’d understand. I totally got this from my mad scientist father who taught me never to move or clean his work areas because he knew where everything was at all times. I never believed him until I got a little older.
Q: Did anyone influence my love of music?
A: I would say that my parents were the biggest influence on me musically. My mom carted me around in her car as a kid and would blast 70’s and 80’s pop and R&B. I learned to sing in her car, listening to mostly top 40 kinda stuff. My dad is a complete audiophile and has had high end audio equipment for decades. I used to see him play Dark Side of the Moon and Zeppelin II with his eyes closed in our family den. He would set the levels perfectly and slouch back with a cocktail. He told me recently that he has Close to the Edge by YES on reel-to-reel. I sort of need to experience that. He also used to love Laserdics. When new people would come over he’d throw on the Top Gun Laserdisc and set his stereo up so the jets would feel like they were soaring past your head. We had a party in the mid 90’s and someone stole the Top Gun Laserdisc. He was devastated. Ten years later at another party we had at his house, we were cleaning up in the morning and the Top Gun laserdisc just reappeared. It was propped up where is was on his wall unit ten years earlier. To this day, no one has confessed to this and it makes me insane to wonder what kind of adventure that thing had been on all that time.
An original double LP colored vinyl copy, autographed by all of Smashing Pumpkins. Reminds me of when they were a good band.
Q: How do I survive?
A: My business partner and I pay ourselves modestly so we can keep the quality of the shop up. This means less fancy dinners in our personal lives and more exotic record purchases at the shop. I’m beginning to convince myself to live within my means and not be an idiot with money, so that’s helping a bit. I think I’ll make it.
Q: How could I be doing this on my own?
A: I have a huge support group. The Ogiba family are an incredible breed of people. My mother Mary, father Richie and brother Greg have all supported me from the second I told them I wanted to get wild with records and business. People like my cousin Christopher and my aunts and uncles on both sides have put in physical work for me out of sheer support. My Nana gave me money, told me I was stupid for having tattoos and then passed away that Thanksgiving. Life is crazy. R.I.P. My grandfather on the other side of the family hand typed me a letter telling me how proud he was of me for my situation. My friends are always offering to help too and that means a lot. The Santoros let me couch surf for a good while and also made it possible for me to eat at several times, so that made things much easier. The whole Smith Street Tattoo crew opened their doors to me and made me feel really welcome as well. My girlfriend Steph took care of the cat for a year, paid some of my bills, and fed me while I was scraping to get the shop open. In addition to that, Steph has been super supportive of my lifestyle and believes in me as I believe in her. That keeps me going. A note to the record people: When you find a guy or girl who can deal with your record hoarding lifestyle … do whatever you can to keep ‘em!
One of my favorite Blue Note LPs. I love jazz drums and latin drums so this record is pretty perfect.
Sealed Jandek records. They sound better this way.
Q: Who would i like to see Dust & Grooves interview soon?
A: I’m pretty siked on everything and everyone Dust & Grooves has covered so far. I just want to continue to be surprised at all the different varieties of collectors out there.
Q: Are there any personal collections I’d like to personally see?
A: I think I’d get along great with Biz Markie. I’m a collector freak like him, I beatbox better than anyone I know, I’m a clown/prankster, and I’m also on an endless quest for rare 12″s. Hopefully we’ll run into each other soon.
Q: Anything I should tell the readers?
A: If you love music and records, keep going. If you are considering getting into them, do it. Recent generations of music lovers have been getting a bad rap for having a lack of appreciation and support for music and musical artists. Take it back. True freedom lies in freedom of expression. Respect it, share it, keep it alive. Stay human, stay free.
How can you find me?:
on Twitter: @jeffogiba
on Vice’s Music Channel “Noisey” www.noisey.com
at Black Gold , 461 Court Street Brooklyn. blackgoldbrooklyn.com
Thanks for reading all the way down to this part.
Yes…Record buying is a real job
Early on that day I joined Jeff on a record buying trip way down in Brooklyn. Was it a fun trip? yes! was it a little painful and heavy on my soul?? yes. Did Jeff score some cool records? yes. Was the lady who sold us the records was doing it without regrets? not sure. was it business?? Here are a few question I asked Jeff to ask himself in regards to being a record buyer.
Q: How did I start selling records?
A: Well it’s all about flipping. I do it with everything: clothes, collectibles, comics, action figures, and so much more. Identify something interesting and make your move. It’s like playing the lotto but you always win. At one point I was just like “well, I really like music and records and there seems to be a market for it”. That was the beginning of the lifestyle I now enjoy. It took about five solid years of really trying at it to get it and ten years of flipping records to be at the top of my game (it’s been continuing to get gradually better and better since then too).
Q: What makes a good record dealer?
A: A good record dealer knows how much to pay for a record and how much to sell it for. The actual secondary market value is an important point to base value, but the skill is in keeping everyone happy. Good business is when both parties walk away smiling.
Q: Is that always the case?
A: Sadly, this is not always the case. I had a guy call me once to tell me that his friend bought the exact copy of a rare jazz record that he had sold me. He said: “Not only did it have my name and address still written on the back cover, but it had a price tag of $50.00 on it! How much were my records really worth?!” It’s those times where I have to break down the classic story of how I have to pay overhead at the shop and pay myself a salary. I had gone in on a call from the shop to make a purchase of 3,000 jazz LPs, many of which were incredibly strong titles. I dropped A LOT of money, so a $50 record should not have made any difference to the guy but it happens. Another pretty insulting situation that goes down a lot is the “Well I saw it in an online auction for more than you are offering me”. I generally end up explaining that I do have to make a little money when I buy, afterall it’s not going into my personal collection and I’m not exactly trying to break even. I’m super polite though, sometimes too polite because I don’t feel like I really ever have anything to lose with bailing on a collection other than upsetting the seller. You get tested a lot by people. One guy who denied my offer for his collection asked me how he should “go about making the maximum amount of money for his collection and for records (he) may potentially see when out and about”. I got a little snarky and told him that his best bet was to hunt down a time machine, travel back in time ten or fifteen years and then do nothing but buy and sell records. He looked confused when I said that so I took it one level further and said to him: “I look forward to running into you at that time”. Zing.
Q: Where do I draw the line between being a music lover and businessman?
A: A few things make me draw that line. One is when I really want a record and actually have to weigh out whether it’s worth owning or trading for cash. I guess the main separation between being a music lover and businessman is when you can see the records objectively and know that as much as you want to own some of these records, you just have to wait until the time is right. The doors are wide open, they’ll be back.
Q: What was my first major score?
A: A couple of my friends and I bought a collection off of a celebrity back in 2005. It may not have been the first score for any of us, but it was the first of that caliber. I personally scored a mess of post-punk test pressings, acetates, autographs, one-offs, and rare pressings – the kinds of records you never let go of if you love the groups because you know you’ll never see them again.
Q: Has record buying ever put me in danger?
A: It totally had me in some dangerous situations. The problem with danger is that it starts to make the record game fun, and any vinyl fiend knows what it’s like to take some gambles to get that one mystery record that HAS to be in the collection. I’ve been in crazy basements, middle of nowhere mountainside homes, done cash handoffs in super sketchy places, dealt with way too much cash and somehow I’ve always pulled through.
One story, that I’ve never told, that was pretty weird and dangerous occured after I got a call from “Mike” and “Calvin” of Fort Lee, NJ. Mike told me he had 70,000 LPs in a warehouse that he needed to move very quickly for $10,000. My friend and I agreed to go check out the collection to find out if we needed to pull some big money out for a big collection. We figured if it was worth it we’d just take over the monthly rent on the unit until we were able to move it all. We drove up this winding hillside road in Fort Lee and as we pulled up I asked my friend if he thought we might end up getting robbed. We were talking about big money and it was late and pretty dark and quiet. Just then a Japanese motorcycle soared up the driveway and stopped right in front of us. The guy revved it at us while another man on the back of the motorcycle jumped off, and keeping his helmet on he walked right up to my face until he was about two inches from me. Then he just turned around and they both took their helmets off to reveal a couple of whimpy white kids. They showed us the records, we inspected them into the wee hours of the evening and then ended up not being interested. Before those helmets came off I thought for sure a gun was going to come out. In retrospect it was pretty dumb of us to mess with a collection like that without feeling it out in the daytime first, but it all worked out.
Q: Do I sometimes feel guilty when I come up on a great collection and get a great deal?
A: I have only felt true guilt a few times after the fact when I was back at the shop or my house with a collection and discovered that I had underpaid by a lot for a collection (usually based on one single record) Most record dudes would laugh all the way to the bank but I’ve actually gone back to people to throw them a couple hundred bucks when I scored records worth big bucks. That was early on in my buying though, so my purchase prices don’t generally slip like that these days and therefore I don’t really deal with any guilt. I’ve felt bad about buying record collections off of “retiring” punks or people who have lost loved ones. It’s always sad to deal with widows or grown men who tear up when they sell your their late wife’s Doo Wop collection. I always put extra effort into being fair to those people although paying for a seller’s story/situation can get costly.
Q: What about the common reactions or patterns I notice with sellers when I go out to buy a collection?
A: I see all kinds of patterns and reactions when buying. I’ve had people request to spend a few extra minutes alone with their records, I’ve seen people cry, I’ve had people try to pull things back out of collections after the deal was made. I’ve even had people call me back to tell me they’ve changed their mind. That’s never a fun one to handle. There are a ton of other reactions people have but it’s generally a personal nostalgia or hesitation that predominantly occurs.
Q: The emotional record buys?
A: I guess other than feeling bad for people who are selling the collection of a family member or friend who has passed away, the other feeling is the exact opposite of that and is absolute excitement. Here’s a memory from an early exciting record buy: I got a call from a gentleman in Westfield, New Jersey. Westfield is famous in legend for being stocked with large private record collections. He tells me he has about 200 rock and roll records in “perfect shape”. I head over there, ring his bell and he invites me down into his 60’s mancave of a basement. There in the corner is a rack of more like 250 records as opposed to his estimate of 200. He looks at me and says “I need $150 for everything”. I respond: “Ok, let me take a look at what you have before we talk”. (ensuring that it’s not the Streisand catalog). But no, it’s gold through and through. All early pressings of classic rock and psych records, import Beatles, Stones, and staples of the like. Then I see it: A mono copy of No Way Out by Chocolate Watch Band on the Tower Label … untouched and in gorgeous shape. I’m so stunned and excited that I fumble for the money, pay him, and start recklessly carting some crates back up the stairs and out the front door. On the second lap up the stairs and to the car all I could think about was how great that night was going to be with that record blasting and my feet up. It was at that moment when I abruptly slammed into the den wall and put a hole in it with the corner of the crate I was carrying. The man was basically in tears. “You gotta watch where you’re gooooiiinnnnng”. I apologized but blew it off to get out of there. I was too siked. I drove off and pulled my car into some convenience store, grabbed some Ho-Hos to celebrate with and starting flipping through the crates right in the parking lot. That’s the kinda stuff that keeps you in this game, but the desperation I heard in that man’s crying voice is now basically etched into my soul.
Q: Do I ever make friendships with the people who sell me records?
A: I have made a few friends when buying from people, but generally if it’s a person who has a steady flow of records for you, the real friend becomes the money they come in looking for, time after time. A couple of my best friends are in the buying and collecting game though that’s super cool. We just end up selling stuff back and forth to one another but I can always hop online and harass my pal Mike about some records I picked up and know that he’s actually interested in what I’m talking about. It’s like one of those times when you are finally free on a Friday night so you start scanning through your contacts on your phone and realize that many of them aren’t even really around and or won’t actually hang out anyway. It’s similar to sharing excitement about a really good record. Only a few people I know would actually care at all. Who needs friends when there are more records out there that you don’t even know you love yet!
Q: Have I ever dealt with repercussions from a seller with second thoughts?
A: It does happen, and when it does you just have to hope for the best. Some people will waste your entire day or night just to basically have you give them a free appraisal. I had this lady calling me for days after I bought her collection. She wanted me to mail her a few of the rarer 45s she sold me because she “didn’t mean to sell them and needed them back”. She was just acting nuts and there was no rhyme or reason to her calls other than to eventually succeed in harassing me. Sorry lady, a deal’s a deal.
Q: How do I process the collections once purchased, as in how do I divvy out: Store, personal, etc.
A: Here’s another trade secret I need to keep. I can make this one simple though in all fairness. Junk, cheap, regular stock, high end stock, online auction stock. On occasion I find a record I can’t live without. My wallet may come out, or I trade in some personal records that I’m tired of. I always let the house (the shop) win though.
Q: Have I ever dealt with buyers who overly complicate the transaction?
A: There are a couple types of typical complications that occur when buying records. One generally comes from the innocent, average seller. He or she either want to reschedule a million times, have second thoughts, and so on. Then comes the hustler who loves to complicate things. He talks to you while you check the records out to distract you, he scrambles your quick math by interrupting and changing the subject, etc. You can usually identify the hustler type pretty quickly and generally their game is weak if they need to resort to simple street tricks to try and fool you out of money. I don’t play that.
Q: How do I avoid being ripped off?
A: There are some signs to a collection buy that might be headed toward a derailment that are similar to a hustler’s move. One thing you can’t do is rush a buy… if someone doesn’t have time, you tell them you don’t have time. People who make you ACT NOW want to tap into your impulses and although some fun things and times can come out of impulsive behavior, if it’s business you need to protect your assets. If someone says “oh they’re all in perfect shape, trust me”, that’s generally a red flag. I don’t know these people so I’m not going to trust them. Another way to avoid being ripped off is to remember simply to “pay for the item, not for the story”. The fact that your Uncle Kenny got the copy of Let it Bleed from Keith Richards himself does nothing for my resale. Keep it for your kids.
Q: Do I see a future for myself selling records?
A: As long as I stay alive and as long as the records keep comin’, I’ll be in the game.
Q: When buying in bulk how do I deal with all the records that are not fit for resale in my store or online?
A: This is a trade secret. The most info I can give is that many of the records that are in surplus, worth only about a buck each or more, or slightly damaged end up in one of Gold Dig record sales. I’m shooting to have 5,000 Lps for the next one. More than halfway there now. Stay tuned.
Q: Are there any genres that I wouldn’t buy?
A: Surprisingly, I’ve figured out how to find the good in most genres. I’d say the only genre I absolutely don’t buy is Opera. I try to stay away from early pop vocalist stuff but I still sometimes find a few winners in those kinds of records.
Q: Have I ever ended up picking up things other than records on my buys?
A: Naturally, I am a hoarder so sometimes I end up making non-record purchases. I’ve found a record lathe, an antique mandolin, an original 80’s Black Flag jacket, books, action figures, and more. I need to focus.
Q: Do I love what I do?
A: I really do. I’m pretty poor in general, but with the people, the experiences, and the records that make up my life, I feel rich.