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NOAH UMAN - JERSEY CITY, NJ

Noah’s fascination with horror and ghouls softens his spot for novelty rap and hardcore punk on his WFMU radio show.

Noah Uman – Nashville, TN

Please welcome Noah Uman, a very good friend, a funny guy and has an affinity for Rap novelty and hard core punk records.

 

Q: Your name, age and where you live?

A: Noah Uman, 40 years of age. I’m currently living in Nashville, TN., formally in Jersey City, NJ.

 

Q: What do you do for a living?

A: I produce re-issues, write liner notes and host a radio show on WFMU called Coffee Break For Heroes & Villains, however I used to make ice cream for a living at Dairyland in Irvington, NJ!

The Vaughn Bodē print hanging in the background was sold to my brother by Vaughn himself at a comic book convention. I found it years later in my attic with cat piss all over it!

Q: What was your first record album? How did you get it? At what age? Can you describe that feeling and do you still have it in your collection?

A: The first album that I purchased with my own money was probably The Beatles “Rock N Roll Vol. 1”, which was some cheap compilation put together by god knows who and sold at the Heathrow Airport in London, England. This was in 1979, I think I still have it somewhere too …..The first album that was given to me was either Led Zeppelin II by a high school friend of my sisters, who I thought was one of the coolest guys I ever saw. He had Viking long blond hair and wore a tattered leather jacket covered in rock buttons. This was also around 1979 or 1980. That album changed everything for me, the gatefold jacket it came in, the heaviness of the music and the hiss and crackle at the beginning.

My dad also gave me his copy of “For Musicians Only” by Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Getz, & Sonny Stitt, which I didn’t get until years later.

 

Q: What prompted you to start collecting? What age did you start? Was there a specific time or event in your life where you recall transitioning from just a lover of music to a collector of music as well?

A: Not exactly sure when I got into collecting records, it was sometime in the very early 1980’s but there was always a love for sound. My mother always brings up a time when I was young and don’t actually remember, I was in the garage shaking a piece of sheet metal and was so enthusiastic about it too. Maybe that’s just the caveman in me…

An early event that sticks in my mind was walking to the original Vintage Vinyl record store on Springfield Avenue in Irvington, NJ. I would take my weekly allowance there and purchase something new. A few albums that really kick started my desire to collect records were Iron Maiden’s debut and The Dead Kennedys “Plastic Surgery Disasters”. The covers were so cool and weird. At the time I was also a massive metal head with long hair, however I looked more like a pretty girl than a menacing thrasher…This was around 1982 or so. I also remember seeing Black Flag’s records a few years later at the same store and those covers really blew my mind. So I guess early on it was the album art that really attracted me to want to own records.

 

Q: Where did your initial interest in music originate? Family? Friends?

A: Music was always being played in my house. My father loved to listen to WBGO Jazz 88 and had a Jazz club in the 1970’s called Boomers on Bleecker Street in NYC. The scene with Curtis Mayfield singing on stage was filmed there. My mom was really into a lot of folk music like Scottish singer Alex Campbell, Woody Guthrie and his mentored strummer; Ramblin’ Jack Elliot. My older brother was heavily into new wave and hip hop so I got an earful of everything.

 

Q: Why vinyl?

A: Vinyl was pretty much all there was when I started. My parents also had a pretty large collection of their own. When cassettes did become popular I hated them for a million reasons and just could not get into the format.

 

Q: Do you also collect CDs?

A: I don’t purposely collect CDs, but have an awful lot of them. When I was in college I had internships at several record labels; EMI, Blue Note, Matador, Caroline, and Astralwerks. The payment you got was pretty much in CDs which you could also trade with people at other record labels. I remember having stacks of CDs just for trading and selling at the various shops in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, Joe’s Compact Discs, Sounds, Venus Records and Kims. I would even see other label people at these same shops doing the same thing, people who were head of departments, making a little extra loot.

There’s also the convenience of the compact disc. I didn’t have any more room at the time for vinyl and to be quite honest, I didn’t care what format the music was on either. I’m sure I’ve offended some purists out there, ha..

 

Q: Presently, are you focusing on any specific genre in your collection? Are there other factors you consider when buying records- Producer? Pressing years? Artist of the album jackets?

A: I’ve never been an elitist when it comes to music, it’s all beautiful. Hip Hop, Country, Rock, Jazz, you name it and I’m sure there’s some tunes in that genre that I like. When rummaging through thrift stores or record shops (a rarity these days), I do tend to look for specific musicians or record label names etc. I don’t have to own the first pressing of something either.

Thee Wild Billy Childish box…no touching.

A handful of tasty singles by Thee Milkshakes and one Headcoat!

Q: Do you have a run of a label or artist in your collection where you are either working on or have completed collecting an entire catalogue of output?

A: I don’t really have any vices, don’t do drugs or smoke cigarettes, was never really a big drinker so collecting records by Billy Childish was the closest thing. I have every album, 7” single and band that he’s recorded with, and every compilation that all of his bands have ever appeared on. Funny enough I didn’t really associate myself with the “collector” title until Miriam Linna of Norton Records said to me; “I’ve never seen that Childish record that you have there before”.

43 spoken word poems by B. Childish, released on Australia’s Dog Meat Records in 1992.

One of Billy Childish’s many blues records. Was not easy to find in America at one time. Hangman Records 1987

and yes…some more records by Billy Childish.

Billy Childish “Witness Against Myself” single, released on Amphetamine Reptile in conjunction with an art show / solo performance he did in Minneapolis. Pressing of 200.

Original painting by Bill Hamper aka Thee Wild Billy Childish 1989.

Q: I see you have a pretty cool collection of rap novelty records. How did that obsession start?

A: As a kid I always liked comedy records, from the actual content to the cover art. When I got into rap music, the first groups I connected with were The Fat Boys & Run-DMC and a little later on; The Beastie Boys. All three of them rapped about food or at least mentioned it, which was funny to me.

This record was MASSIVE in England, there are also several different versions by other artists.

Who thought it was a good idea to get athletes to make rap records? The LA Lakers “Just Say No” Vs. The Chicago Bears “The Super Bowl Shuffle”

There was also all the comedians and non-rappers that were jumping on the rap bandwagon; Mel Brooks, Rodney Dangerfield, sports figures, random people that rapped about TV shows, or things that were popular. It was a real craze for a while, to hear people who had nothing to do with rap music, make rap records. Most of these records are just so awful that I MUST have them!

Acetate of “It’s Good To Be The King” by Mel Brooks & the commercial copy. WMOT Records 1981.

Do I write one of those “I pitty the fool…” lines to this pic? Columbia Records 1984.

T’s single & the press release. Thank you Jason Slack for that one.

Promo slides that I found in my copy of Rappin’ Rodney by Rodney Dangerfield. RCA 1983

 

While I was doing my radio show; Coffee Break For Heroes And Villains on WFMU, I started to end each program with the “Novelty Rap Record Of The Week”. I even made a CD compilation that was a premium for their yearly fundraiser called “Not Bad Meaning Good, But Bad Meaning Bad”, of all novelty rap songs. It was dreadful but one of my favorites too. Amazing cover art by Mark Shatzberg.

 

Q: How often do you get out digging for records these days? Do you find yourself doing more digital digging on eBay or do you still hit the fleas and basements of people’s houses? Or do you have a vinyl connection where someone is doing the dirty work and selling you choice pieces?

A: To this day, wherever I am traveling, I always try and hit the shops in search of music goodies. However, since I’ve been producing re-issues in recent years, eBay is easiest to find archival material. I know it’s lame but it’s really practical.

 

Q: Tell me a little bit more about your work with reissuing music. Do you think your affection for vinyl has opened more opportunities for you to have this kind of job?

A: I was always a huge fan of Norton Records and Sundazed. They would put all this great music into a time capsule loaded with photographs, concert flyers, quotes, liner notes, label art etc, basically how reissues should be. Being a lover of music, vinyl and archiving has put me in a good position as far as work goes. I know the market, I know the history and if I don’t I learn it. I show up and follow through.

Reagan Youth ‎”Youth Anthems For The New Order” (R Radical Records 1984). The album jacket folded out to this giant poster. 

Q: I’m guessing being a collector does have parallel lines with producing re-issues. Lot’s of research job…

A: Definitely. It’s all about connecting the dots, finding those materials and piecing together a cohesive collection that tells the story of that particular artist or recording. However, it must be done with class, there are a lot of record labels that do it half-assed just to get billing and get another product out. They’re the ones who are ruining it for fans and for themselves.

 

Q: How do you organize your collection?

A: When I first started, all of my records were in chronological order as I purchased them. Which is insane but I could tell a very simple diary of my life that way. After a few years it didn’t work anymore. Now everything is in alphabetical order and semi genre specific, pretty uptight right?

Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers “A Night In Tunisia” (RCA 1958). A real favorite of my dad’s and mine.

Q: Tell me a useful record storage / shelving tip.

A: If you’re really serious about records, stay far away from milk crates. They waste space and bend. It’s all about shelving. I like to keep everything very clean and organized, plastic slip covers on the records with nice jackets that are sensitive to oil from the skin. I know.. you don’t have to say it!

 

Q: What do you look for in a record?

A: A new friend! The excitement of getting that record home and playing those tunes for the first time. Or discovering something you never heard before that’s moving.

 

Q: What is your partner’s reaction to this vinyl obsession? Is there a spot dedicated to your partner in your collection?

A: My wife thinks it’s pathological but contained. There’s not really a spot in my collection for her 20+ records, she keeps them in the closet. ELO, Earth Wind & Fire, George Benson and Loretta Lynn pretty much rounds out her stash.

 

Q: Regrets: Have you ever had to sell your valuable records? any regrets?

A: No real regrets, I did have to sell quite a few to help with the move from New Jersey to Nashville. In the end, it’s just stuff…but it’s stuff I NEED.

 

Q: Do you have a philosophy or routine when you enter a store with tons of vinyl for sale?

A: If I’m with somebody, I usually ask them to give me a few hours. Other than that, just flexing my fingers at speeds much faster than a normal human.

 

Q: Out of your great collection, there must be a few records that you can always go back to time and time again. Name a few of them and why they are special.

A: There are quite a few, but I’ll keep it short. I love these kind of questions by the way, they always set the grounds for a good mix tape.

 

-Big Country – Big Country (PolyGram Records 1983)

-Our Lips Are Sealed – Fun Boy Three Chrysalis Records 1983)

-Yo! Bum Rush The Show – Public Enemy (Def Jam Recordings 1987) – My older brother worked for RUSH in the early / mid 1980’s and turned me on to so many of their groups. A few years later, PE was one I discovered on my own and when I heard this single, it changed rap music for me. It was like rap had been attacked by punk rock in the best way!

-Roadrunner – Modern Lovers – This song always felt like a real love song for Rock & Roll.

-Last Kind Words – Geeshie Wiley (Paramount Records, 1930) – This song is shattering, haunting and so beautiful at the same time.

-Wearwolves In London – Warren Zevon (Asylum, 1978) – A real staple in my childhood, growing up with AM radio blasting from my sister’s room. Still a great rockin’ tune!

-Penitentiary Blues – Bessie Tucker (His Master’s Voice, 1955)

-The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society (Reprise 1968) – One of the most beautifully crafted albums of the late 1960’s, I will never get tired of these songs and it always puts me in a good mood!

 

Q: Is there an album that gives you goosebumps? What connection do you have to this album?

A: Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys and It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back by Public Enemy.

 

Q: What is it about these albums?

A: It’s almost cliché to say either of these albums are handing out goosebumps. For most of my youth I was not the biggest Beach Boys fan. It was really my girlfriend at the time, who became my wife, that turned me on to the magnitude of Brian Wilson’s brilliance. The multiple layers of sound, and the soothing of their voices is what heaven should be like.

Public Enemy’s second album is a whole other circumstance that is similar to Pet Sounds on an audio level. It’s very punk rock, just like their first album, and there are songs here that still to this day make me shiver with the bumps.

 

Q: Can you name a few of your favorite album covers?

A: Dead Kennedys – In God We Trust, Inc (Alternative Tentacles Records 1981). This superb Winston Smith cover always managed to piss off the right people!

Black Sabbath – Mob Rules (Warner Bros. 1981) – My wife summed it up well. ‘Upon first glance it’s terrifying, at second, it’s even more terrifying’, Definitely one of the creepiest album covers of all time.

Any of the Iron Maiden albums drawn by Derek Riggs

Hasil Adkins – The Wild Man (Norton Records 1987) – For some reason the cover sums up how wild Hasil was. His eyes rolled up towards the heavens and his hand stuffed up some girls skirt, maybe he was the normal one and we’re all bizarre?

Wes Montgomery – Day In The Life (A&M 1967) – The cover always makes me think of my father because he used to play this album quite a bit. My dad also LOVED to smoke cigarettes!

Dead Kennedy’s “Bleed For Me / Life Sentence” 12”, Alternative Tentacles, 1982

More DK’s 12” singles. Too Drunk To (Cherry Red 1981) – which my dad bought for me, Holiday In Cambodia (Cherry Red 1980). This is the band that really propelled me into the collecting world of vinyl

Q: Did you have any covers that scared you as a child?

A: Second Step by Aztec Two Step (RCA 1975), or maybe a Klaus Nomi album that was in my house growing up.

Q: I guess they built your endurance to collect these ones here. What’s the story here?

A: The truth is I always loved horror movies, monsters, ghoulish things just like any other kid growing up, so I gravitated to those type of records. With punk records during the Reagan era. the majority of them were politically based, even if it was just the cover art and a few songs. The records that I’m holding in the photo are all political statements for the most part, using haunting images to drill the point in. The Dead Kennedys were so effective with it, that Al Gore’s wife; Tipper brought a whole witch hunt against them because her and her P.M.R.C. (Parents Music Resource Center) goons were too stupid to read between the lines, or just not being able to read at all.

 

Q: Have you ever had a favorite record stolen from you or damaged to the point of being unplayable? Have you replaced it?

A: I had one of the rarest NYC hardcore records stolen from me. The worst part was I purchased it from one of the band members of this group in the 80’s when he came across a stack in his basement. I can’t say the name because I know who took it, and one day I’m gonna get it back.

 

Q: Tell me about a dollar bin record you would never part with!

A: The Steve Miller Band – Greatest Hits 1974 – 78 (Capitol 1978)- It’s the perfect collection, actually I would part with it, because I’m sure I could come across it again for the same price…

Plugs 1, 2 & 3 created and drawn by my brother Michael. De La Soul’s 3 Feet High And Rising. Tommy Boy Music 1989.

Self portrait of Michael Uman. S K I N N Y

 

Q: Have you ever kept a particular record purchase secret from your partner?

A: I just don’t tell her when I sneak more albums into the house.

 

Q: Do you have any digging buddies that you share your spots with or do you go out solo?

A: I share all of my spots, no point in hiding that info, we’re all going to die one day and can’t take these plastic slabs with us.

 

Q: What about a mentor? Have you had or still have a role model for collecting records? someone who gave you inspiration, thought you a few things, exposed you to unknown records?

A: The first time I had really seen a collection of records other than my parents or brothers was my main man; E da Boss of the duo Myron & E. He had crates of records that I had never heard of, this must have been in 1985 or so. Prospect Street forever! One of my closest friends; Sandy Lieb also had an amazing rock-n-roll record collection in high school. I knew she had good taste in music, so basically I would write down the records she had, then go out and buy them. Those two people and my brother were real record mentors in a way. Another person who I have to mention, who is a mentor in a different way, is Bill Adler. When I got into producing reissues and teaching hip-hop, it was Bill who shared the passion, taught me how important this all was. He was one of the few people who knew rap music was going to be something more than a fad. He archived all these original articles, promotional photos, recordings, while it was unfolding. Who knew back then? I really look up to him in that regard, and he’s a super swell person that is dear to my heart! ILL BADLER!

 

Q: Tell me about the most unlikely place or time you found records?

A: Across the street from the Hells Angels NYC Chapter house on East 3rd, I found a box of 70’s punk LPs and wondered why was I the first person to rescue them?

 

Q: Can you recall a record store/digging spot that has closed down and you lament? What was your best score there?

A: Oblivion Records in Union or Irvington, New Jersey, can’t quite remember, it was on the border of those two towns. I met Megadeth there in 1986, the store was about 8 feet wide and maybe 20 feet long, but very cool and the owner, Death Metal Dave was real nice. I also miss the original Vintage Vinyl on Springfield Avenue in Irvington a lot.

DJ Olive of WE™ & Toshio Kajiwara used to throw this party at Tonic on the Lower East Side of Manhattan called PhOnOmena (originally Radical Anxiety Termination). I guested there a bunch and these were the sort of records I would play.

Q: Tell me a particularly sad record story.

A: Several years ago there was a disaster flood upstate where my mother lives and about half of my record collection along with my dad’s jazz records were in their barn. The water was about 4 feet high in some spots on her property so you can imagine what happened.

Hip-Hop, Jazz, Punk you name it. Also, boxes of fanzines that can’t be replaced and photographs from growing up, it really sucked!

 

Q: Tell me about a record that has healed heartbreaks. Name one that made them worse!

A: Any LP by The Modern Jazz Quartet always puts me in a better mood. I got to see Milt Jackson once in the 1980’s with my father in Newark, NJ. When we walked in, my dad passed the stage and waved at the band (Billy Higgins, Cedar Walton and some others). They practically stopped playing to chat with him.

Most new rap music is heartbreakingly bad.

 

Q: What are the most records you bought in one go?

A: It must have been the first time I went to Amoeba Music in Hollywood, CA. I walked out of there with close to 300 albums and singles. I know that’s nothing to most, but hey I got two free tote bags and a sticker! That store is really one of my favorite places to go to, and they do such a great job as well.

 

Q: Tell me about a record you still regret not picking up.

A: It might have been in 1988, Mike Bullshit of the fanzine Bullshit Monthly (and later the first singer for SFA) was selling his records in front of CBGB’s. He had every NYC hardcore record you could think of.

The one record I wanted was the Destroy Babylon 12” by the Bad Brains. Released in 1982 on their own label; Bad Brains Records. He wanted three dollars for it, and sadly I didn’t have it. Why didn’t I borrow it from one of my friends? It was one of those records very few people knew about or talked about for some reason. A few years later I found a copy for about $5.00.

 

Q: Is there a record you feel you have been hunting for too long and will never find an original pressing?

A: Darryl Strawberry’s rap record “Chocolate Strawberry” (Macola Records 1987) or We’re The San Francisco 49ers (Megatone Records 1984)

 

Q: Who has the toughest record collection that you have ever seen?

A: DJ BrownBum or E Da Boss, both people are big inspirations to me musically.

“Records are delightful, but try to not put them in front of loved ones, and try to stay on top of social skills, oh yea, and don’t forget to wash.”

 

Connect:

www.coffeebreakradio.com

http://www.discogs.com/artist/Noah+Uman

28 Responses

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  2. OZ

    Oh my! I love this story.
    I wish i could have a guided tour around his studio!
    I loved the anecdote about The Bad Brains record in front of CBGB.

  3. Great interview and key selections! Noah Uman is a true lover of records and music – humble, funny and no bullshit. Every hip-hop aficionado should peep his Coffee Break for Heroes and Villains podcast. I miss running into this guy on the sidewalks of Jersey City.

  4. Choke

    Noah’s the Best ! His dad was the Best ! good to see the unsung record geek get some love lol.. Dust & Grooves Keep Rockin… we need this

  5. After reading this interview and seeing the photos, I have a powerful craving to drop in, browse the stacks, and play really interesting albums until I pass out. Hey Noah, when you have a listening party I will bring my own sleeping bag and some cat treats. ;)
    Thanks for the great read and massive photos. Made my day! Also enjoyed “visiting” some of the other collectors. Am looking forward to more profiles.

  6. Katie

    Sandy Lieb is like family to me and because of her, I met Noah (He and Sandy were chaperones at my post prom…. They rock.) Reading this article helped me learn SO much about him that I never knew. KEEP ON ROCKING NOAH!!! Hope to see you again soon.

  7. great interview. nice pics too… barefoot surrounded by a well-organized pile of records. thats cool that his brother did that art for De La, I have that record with the insert, a bonafide classic, artwork included

  8. Emma Katznelson

    Noah Uman, you’re the best! Thank you for writing this article about one of the best men and greatest music lovers I know. Now, let’s go eat some pie.

  9. Angela

    I stumbled on this while googling my favorite WFMU deejay. It’s great to learn the story of the man behind the voice (and with all the cool records)!!

  10. I used to listen to Noah’s radio show; Coffee Break For Heroes & Villains religiously for 7 years. It was hands down the best hip-hop show since Stretch Armstrong & Bobbito’s. Seeing these amazing photos and reading his humble interview makes us like him a lot better and miss his show a lot more.

  11. I would like to thank you for giving props to one of the most honest and humble people in this “industry.” Noah is a true luminary of music and cultural understanding and deserves this as much as anyone – a real talent from a true blood line in nyc indie music – Everyone, please recognize real talent and understanding when it is it highlighted. Thank you and please keep supporting the true indie spirit of music. Oh and peace to Jennie jen Uman!

    KARMA
    BOSTON MA

  12. Ali

    What a great interview! I didnt know we could bond over the Fat Boys, Noah! We need to do that soon! But I also really love & appreciate this quote:

    “That album changed everything for me, the gatefold jacket it came in, the heaviness of the music and the hiss and crackle at the beginning..”

    Great photos too.

  13. efd

    Great interview with a great guy! Always nice to learn more about serious record collectors who aren’t jerks. Great stuff, loved the photos too!

  14. Pingback : Ben Blackwell – Third Man Records – Nashville, TN : Dust & Grooves ~ Vinyl. Music. Culture

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