The veteran saxophonist talks to legendary record collectors including Henry Rollins, Robert Crumb and Wire contributors
"I want to get buried in a vinyl coffin, made from my collection. Viking burial style!" Mats Gustafsson has been a key player in improvised music for over three decades, and when he hasn’t been picking up a saxophone, he's been picking up records. In the spirit of giving something back, his website has for several years now been running a regular Discaholic’s Corner, where Gustafsson interviews fellow obsessives to understand and invesitgate the life of the collector. A new book, Mats Gustafsson’s Discaholics! Record Collector Confessions Volume 1 now collects ten of these interviews, with renowned music heads and archivists including Henry Rollins, Oren Ambarchi, Robert Crumb, Thurston Moore, The Wire’s Byron Coley and Brian Morton, and more.
A key inspiration for Gustafsson was the classic jazz book Notes And Tones: Musician To Musician Interviews, where drummer Arthur Taylor’s comradely rapport with his fellow players elicits details that no other interviewer could. Gustafsson’s interview style, displayed over the longform discussions of Discaholics!, is similarly fluid, sometimes probing deep into the knowledge of his fellow enthusiasts, but then throwing in more general reflections such as "Can discaholism be cured?" and "Which record is closest to sex?".
As to whether Gustafsson thinks discaholism can – or should – be cured, he says: "It depends on what you define as a ‘problem’, haha! I want them (the records) to have an impact on my life. That is for sure! Of course when it comes to various addictions, you need to have a relation to your addiction… I do have a relation to my addiction, I want my collection to get better, to inspire me. I want it alive, like a garden, trimming it every day."
The way Gustafsson puts it, the relationship to his records is about learning rather than preservation or stockpiling. "The most important aspect of my record collecting is the source of inspiration and information – it is to have a huge library of music (and literature). You can find new elements, details and structures all the time… just take a dive! It never ends, the sources of inspiration within the archive. I have rediscovered a lot of music again after many years… found many new perspectives and layers in the music."
Discaholics! is a mine of lists, obscure arcana, punk, jazz, discussion of logos and ephemera, and burning questions such as "What vinyl would trigger an earthquake?". For Gustafsson, part of the interest in his Discaholics column was unlocking new areas of interest for himself. "Learning is only possible to do from other (real) people…. the internet might be a good source of information but not for inspiration. There is a lot to learn." He enthuses about areas of music that Discaholics Corner has introduced him to, including hardcore, an area reflected in the book by Swedish punk scenster Dennis Lyxzén, and pre-war jazz and blues, as represented by venerable cartoonist Robert Crumb's renowned collection.
Some of the music covered in the book tends towards the manly and macho, and there's only one woman collector. “Yes, this IS a problem,” Gustafsson acknowledges. “In the beginning I was trying too make interviews with fellow discaholics that are interested in jazz and improvised music – just like me – and I have to say it has been almost impossible to find female discaholics interested in that music. And look at a record fair… do you see all women queuing up? It is depressing.
“It has gotten a bit better the last years… but it is far from being equal,” he continues. “We believed that the interviews included are of a huge interest, all ten of them – and we decided to publish them as is. For the Discaholics Volume 2 (to be published in fall 2018) – there will be discaholics from many other genres of music interviewed, and of course more women involved.”
The book features a fair bit of comparing sizes. So how does his own collection measure up? “Discaholics usually don't answers in actual numbers,” he says cryptically. “It is about 2.5 tonnes... or a bit more then 50 metres of LPs... and a decent amount of 7"s and 10"s…"
The book, accompanied by a bonus 7", is set to be published by Marhaug Forlag on 15 November, and includes an extensive interview with Gustafsson himself.