Riho Grossi plaadikogu

Collector Riho Gross: autographed vinyl is more personal

Riho Gross is a vinyl collector whose hobby includes collecting autographs to his drum and bass records.

When and why did you become a collector?

I became interested after high school, when I discovered music stores like Kosmos Control in Tallinn. That was back in 1997-2001, when I was exploring there. Since I didn’t really have a lot to spend to afford vinyls I had to settle with CD’s. The biggest influence at the time came from friends and acquaintances. Among them were DJ’s who made way for me to get more familiar with DnB underground and vinyl scenes. Parties, vinyls, turntables - it all seemed so wicked!

Do you remember what was the first record in your collection?

Probably a Full Cycle Records release. I can’t really recall, whether it was Roni Size or DJ Die’s album.

Do you have only drum and bass records in your collection?

Basically yes, 99% is drum and bass. Some other stuff as well.

But why drum and bass? What captivates you with this style of music?

I have thought about this, why do some people listen to one type of music and why do I like this style. I didn’t really have anyone around me push me toward it, so why drum and bass. I used to listen to a different kind of music on the radio, things that weren’t played in the daytime in ‘94-’95, and that just caught my ear. It was a totally different world. And of course Koit Raudsepp and Raul Saaremets, who did those shows played an important role.

About how large is your record collection? How many of them are autographed vinyls?

I think there are about 2000 and about half of them are autographed by now. My collection is up on Discogs, that way it’s easier for me to keep track of what I have and what I don’t.

How have you managed to get so many vinyls signed? Did you ever need to go outside of Estonia to get one?

In Estonia, it is pretty good to live in this field of music. It’s so firmly rooted and a lot of artists are brought here in Estonia.

The more I was collecting records and hearing different artists, the more the idea of collecting autographs on them seemed good. At some point I just went and asked for them. Our events in this scene are fortunately small-caliber, everyone knows everyone and in many ways this all became possible thanks to all the contacts. Promoters are mostly the same group of people and now they know, like “oh, that’s the vinyl guy again”. I’m also captivated by the idea that everyone can buy records, but the autographed vinyl makes it a tad more personal.

What are some of your brightest memories of meeting an artist and asking them for an autograph?

The first few times, when you manage to even get an autograph, but the more special ones are with those who have blown up or become mainstream. The likes of Chase & Status, Netsky, Wilkinson, DJ Fresh and perhaps Rudimental in a way as well. You have to go through more trouble since they are bigger stars, they have their demands and so you have to know someone who knows someone to get you there.

Chase & Status show at Eesti Näituste pavilion was pretty odd. The event had a huge crowd, it felt like getting an autograph was impossible. They had their own security guy, who seemed a little frightening at first - this huge dude with a serious look. So there I was waving with my hands until he came to talk to me. Turned out he gladly asked the artist if they are willing to sign the record - and they were. That guy turned out to be a really nice person, he even handed me his card.

Are the artists surprised that someone is coming, asking to sign a record here in Estonia? What is the general reaction like?

Definitely, in most cases they don't see it coming. It’s probably more common in England and other countries. But reactions are positive, most of them have been here several times and remember my face. Allegedly I’m in someone’s so-called good-list there, so if I ever go to the UK, then they would invite me to events. Over the years, I’ve gotten to know a few of them more and so I don’t have any problems with it.

Who’s autograph you are missing, but really want to get?

In my bucket list, there's Spirit, but that won’t happen, sadly he passed away. Calibre is the other one in my bucket list, I’ve gotten some from him, but I still have unsigned ones. Ideally I would have Photek’s signature on his 'Form & Function' album. I would also like to have an autograph from Paradox, that guy is a drum king. A lot of people don't like his “dry” sound that much, but I always buy his vinyls when possible.

How do you prepare yourself for an event?

I prepare the records I’m going to take with me. I choose an amount of records, one’s I think are more important for me, it also depends on where the event is at and how I’m going to get there. If there’s like several dozen records, then the records themselves stay home and the sleeves are enough. Lately I tend to leave the vinyls home, maybe someone spills their drink on them, steps or sits on them, you forget them or something else. The promoters who already know have given me a chance to meet the artist before the party, to look at the records outside the party setting.

Do you also have Estonian drum and bass vinyl records?

There are some. From the well-known ones, Sound In Noise and Dzheimz & Ninja of course, theirs are signed as well.

What are your favorite places for purchasing vinyls?

Most of them are ordered as new from the internet. Redeye is the one with the best selection, then Juno and Horizons, with those three you can order everything. You can also order from Bandcamp, not as cheap, but you can find things that you can’t buy anywhere else. I can also buy from the labels web store, but if I have many orders, then I can’t support the label directly because of financial reasons. The postal fees have gotten so big over time, that I buy everything from one place together. Bigger and more known stores mostly guarantee a better delivery time, than regular people for example, those who sell at Discogs’ or Bandcamp.

What do you base your purchases on?

With a new release I always prefer to buy it new. If it’s a second hand, then it depends on the cost and the state of the record. I don’t buy things at random. Even the same artist can have tracks so different, that some may not appeal to me at all. With albums you can’t really choose, but it has happened with singles.

Are you willing to pay more for a colorful limited edition record? Have you ever bought something just because of the design?

As a collector and not a DJ I don’t really care, colored one is visually cool, but I tend to prefer black. I’ve heard that the colored one’s have poorer sound quality, but maybe that's a myth, I don’t know. Maybe there’s a point to do it as a collector, they are always pressed at a smaller rate and they cost slightly more, so if you want to make money off of it, then yeah, maybe. 

I don’t think I would buy something based only by design, but then again, if the artwork looks cool, then why not.

Where do you store your collection and how do you organize it? Have you developed your own cataloguing system, how do you find what you need?

I think this is the classic question to anyone who has ever had a bigger contact with vinyls, but I don’t have a specific system at the moment. Records are kept on shelves if possible and usually together. Since from time to time I need to find specific ones to have them signed then keeping them in boxes is not really useful.

When I started collecting them then it was a bit easier, the system came by itself. Good Looking Records releases stand out with their recognizable black-yellow edge, if many of them are side by side etc.

Do you listen to your records or you prefer to preserve them by playing them as little as possible?

There has to be a designated spot for that, at someone’s with a large living room, then why not, but it started to take up too much space for me and I don’t have such a listening place, so sadly I don’t get to hear them that much. I’m more into collecting, even if I’d listen to them from dawn till dusk then I probably still wouldn’t be able to use them as much as a DJ playing his records at parties.

Which vinyls in your collection are the most valuable to you?

Based on autographs and emotional value then definitely signed records from Marcus Intalex, something you are no longer able to get. Then there is 'Sick Music 2018' collection that came out under Hospital Records. I’ve gotten most of the artists sign it over time and now it looks kinda cool because of it.

Have you bought more than you have sold?

Whether it’s for better or worse, records tend to come at this point. I haven’t sold any yet, but I reckon I’m going to have to do it at some point.

With autographed records, if you have your name on it, then people don’t want to buy it and it lowers the value. “To Riho” I mean, if I’d only think about money, then that would have been a wrong choice.

Which ones are your rarities? Something collectors want, but are unable to get from anywhere?

“Unable to get” is a relative term - you can definitely still get it used, only for a bigger price. One example from my collection is Mist:i:cal (Marcus Intalex, ST Files, Calibre edit.) 'The Eleventh Hour'. If I look at my Discogs’ then S.P.Y’s 'Dubplate Style' 7x10” is pretty high value by now. I think it was pressed a limited amount. Then there’s Hybrid Minds’ 'Elements' album, it’s priced at a high value for some reason. Dimension’s 'Jet Black (Extended) / Whip Slap' is also a rare one and even more so, since I have it signed. From the more popular things Wilkinson’s 'Afterglow' and such.

What’s your dream vinyl, something you want, but haven’t gotten for some reason?

This is a relatively easy question for me. Roni Size and Reprazent, 1997, 'New Forms' album. I have to admit with shame that I haven’t got it. I bought the CD, when I was a freshman, with money I had collected and set aside from my allowance. That record has always been special for me. I listened to it from start to finish and then again endless times. In 1997 that record also got a Mercury award in the “Album of the Year” category, over several A-list UK artists.

Definitely V Recording’s 1999 'Planet V' massive 8x12” collection. To add to this then RAM Records’ pioneer Andy C & Fiora 'Heartbeat Loud' single. How that record is such a rarity and why it almost costs 100 euros, I can’t figure out. I mentioned that to Andrew personally last time he was here in Tallinn and he was quite surprised. He took a photo with his phone when I showed him the price online.

From Estonian artists I don’t have Lu:k. That should come out on vinyl ASAP, so we can all get it into our collections.

Have you ever thought about your purpose with this hobby?

I think every hobby is strange, weird and personal and quite often you can’t really explain why you do it or what’s the purpose.

You don't consider stopping collecting vinyls any time soon?

Hopefully not, but probably at a smaller scale than now. (Thanks BREXIT - NOT!)