DOXA 2012: Vinylmania pimps black wax
As happy as he is with Vinylmania: When Life Runs at 33 Revolutions per Minute, his loving ode to old-fashioned records and those who are obsessed with them, director Paolo Campana seems to have at least one regret. This is revealed at the end of an interview that touches on everything from the joy of crate digging to the beauty of 180-gram pressings to the thrill of cracking open the gatesleeve on a classic double album. Asked if he has any last words on Vinylmania, Campana doesn’t miss a beat.
“I’ll say that I hope the young generation sees the film,” the lifelong record enthusiast says on the line from his home in Turin, Italy. “For me, it’s really important, even if in the film they are really not represented. We showed, I don’t want to say a lot of old people, but…we did. Young people are really important to keep this kind of culture living. Someone needs to show them that vinyl is important.”
The message that black wax has an aesthetic beauty MP3s will never match is repeatedly driven home by a globe-spanning cast of characters. And despite Campana’s worrying, not all of those interviewed are ready for a retirement home. During the film’s 75 minutes, we meet everyone from flashtastic Japanese DJs to bookish New York archivists to a Frenchman whose out-of-control collecting leads to a horror show straight out of Hoarders.
In many ways, Vinylmania is a love letter from Campana to his 14-year-old self. The director grew up on vinyl—his love affair starting when he was just out of diapers, already fascinated by his father’s Mozart records. As an adolescent, his relationship with records became a full-blown love affair, his main obsession being the Factory releases of Joy Division and New Order. Those albums were designed by Peter Saville, who (along with the likes of Dead Kennedys artist Winston Smith) appears in the film, giving a great lesson on how much not-always-obvious thought went into art during the heyday of vinyl. Done correctly, artwork created a sense of mystique that hasn’t existed since the instant-gratification Internet and the digital-file explosion replaced brick-and-mortar record stores.
“The power of a record cover is really strong,” Campana suggests. “One of the best things about buying a record is being on the Tube or on the bus with your bag. You take a record out and look at it and begin to travel inside the record even before you have listened to the music.”
No wonder, then, that Campana never gave up on vinyl, even when shiny and new compact discs almost instantly wiped it out in the late ’80s. Today, he’s loving the way the format has roared back from the grave, a new generation learning to love the smell, the look, and the superior audio warmth of vinyl. Whether you’re talking the latest Jack White project or your local up-and-coming garage act at the Biltmore, every band is suddenly into releasing records again. Campana has a theory as to why.
“Records are an object that help connect us to a reality,” he says with a laugh. “MP3s are like cybersex: you can’t touch anything. In the film, I say that vinyl is something that you can touch—it’s like an experience with sex.”
Vinylmania: When Life Runs at 33 Revolutions per Minute runs at 7 p.m. at Denman Cinemas on Tuesday (May 8).
Watch the trailer for Vinylmania: When Life Runs at 33 Revolutions per Minute.