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Darren O'Connor, owner of Vinyl Solution, wanted to open the greatest punk-record store ever, so he did.
How long has Vinyl Solution been around?
Almost 20 years. I started out in LA before that, right out of high school. I fell in love with collecting records. My friends were peddling dope; I figured I needed to start peddling records to keep my record habit up. Things came tumbling down in LA, so I ditched it, hid away for a little while, and then moved out here in '88. I was serious about opening the greatest punk store ever.
What's the typical Vinyl Solution customer like?
I don't really know. Just hopefully streetwise, real people who still believe in walking into a shop and talking to a guy who still loves the music like they do and pushes the stuff they want to get and has an interest in the art form of it. A lot of my customers that I see every day I know very well. It's like Floyd the Barber in The Andy Griffith Show. I don't know about an average because it's all over the place. Each person is a totally different kind of creep. Some people come here for the shirts; other people come here for the discs, some for the collections. Other people want to open their minds and try new music. Other people are DJs and just need their fix.
With the music industry in flux and lots of local stores closing, how has your business been?
It's been petering down pretty hard. I would never recommend it to anybody who didn't go in it for the soul. It was great in the '80s and early '90s, or, as we call it, "before Green Day broke punk rock." And eBay came in and slaughtered the fun and games of hunting around and getting goodies. Times have changed a lot. Directly to the main vein, or the source—the label—is what most people know and can do now.
How has Orange County been as a home for your store?
Huntington Beach is like a small town compared to LA. Everyone knows you. If they like you, everyone is on your side. It seems way more neighborly. When I moved out here, I wasn't into it. But when I opened, four kids came in the first day. By the first weekend, it was, like, 50 kids in here. Word must have got out that there was a new record store. It was the craziest welcome I could ever imagine.
Have any current local favorites?
Thee Indigents out of Fullerton are the best. I like the Harbortown Saints, the Fag Hags. There's some terrific stuff going on.
Do you sell rare stuff you come across on eBay?
No. If anyone says, "I've seen this go on eBay," I say, "Well, buy it. It's on my wall for $30. If it's worth $70, go sell it on eBay." If you don't want to sell it to me because you think it's worth $70, sell it on eBay. Why don't you do the work? I just want to have fun and sell my goodies. I like selling $70 records for $30 or $40. I like hearing a store wants $100 for their MDC record when I thought it was worth $40. So I'll sell it for $40. I don't even look on eBay because I don't know how to use a computer like that. I try to make sure that we're not selling for more than eBay. But there's stuff worth more here than on eBay because we're in Orange County. A Social D. record is probably worth more at my store than [on eBay] because there are people in Orange County that are going to want to find that and be able to say they got it at a record shop. You're kind of embarrassed if you buy an Orange County record on eBay. You don't want to brag if you bought something on eBay anyway, but you really don't want to brag if you paid a lot on eBay for a local band.
So that person-to-person aspect, as well as finding a record yourself, is still the big appeal of a brick-and-mortar record store?
Yeah. It's like getting laid. You get laid, and it's fucking great. You went to a pub, wherever, you're in an alley, and you get a blowjob—it's fucking great. You can always jack off and look at pornography on the Internet. You can always buy whatever you want on the Internet, but it's not the same feeling as when you go out and get it. The streets are way wiser and always going to taste better than the hand in the corner. It's fantasy or reality. What do you want to do? And a lot of people are happy with their fantasy. And my customers like having someone to talk to. They have some flavor, some personality to them.
Vinyl Solution, 18822 Beach Blvd., Ste. 104, Huntington Beach, (714) 963-1819; www.myspace.com/vinylsolution.