Monique Recknagel : I’ll show you mine…

[Editor’s Note: Monique Recknagel is the founder and owner of the beloved Sonic Pieces label, based in Berlin, responsible for bringing us those wonderful gems from Erik K Skodvin, Deaf Center, Moon Ate The Dark, Dictaphone, Otto A Totland, Greg Haines, and Nils Frahm among the many others… a truly inspirational imprint for our generation.]

How many records would you say are in your collection?
Around 500 to 600 vinyl I think.

Do you consider yourself a ‘collector’?
No, I don’t. I was collecting vinyl mainly during my late twenties to early thirties. But after starting Sonic Pieces I purchased less and less. There’s so much new music out there constantly. It requires research to find records I like, which I simply don’t have so much time for anymore. However I still get new records occasionally, sometimes as a gift, or I stumble upon something I like. But it mainly just happens, I’m not trying to find new music.

What is your playback setup like?
I share space with Miasmah, and we have more of a DJ setup at our HQ with a classic Technics SL-1210MK2 turntable and a Pioneer DJM-250MK2 mixer. Moreover, we got a pair of Klipsch Heresy III floor-standing speakers as well as RFT B3010 speakers from the GDR.

What was the very first record you purchased?
The first album I ever bought was “Debut” by Björk. I got it on CD back at that time and still listen to it occasionally. I didn’t get a record player and started buying vinyl until I was in my mid-twenties. I actually don’t remember what my first vinyl was.

Tell us about the most prized record in your collection.
It is impossible for me to pick just one record. There are several LPs that are special to me for different reasons. This is also something that might change over time. But the records that are most valuable and dearest to me are the ones standing in the Sonic Pieces section. I spent so much time with each of them, and they are connected to personal stories. And again I couldn’t just pick one of them. They only make sense as a whole. They pretty much represent my life over the past 9 years.

What makes you want to purchase an album on vinyl as opposed to any other medium?
Playing a vinyl feels like being closer to the music. When you put on the needle you kind of go directly to the source.

What are your thoughts on the “inconvenience” of vinyl?
Vinyl is heavy, it takes more space, is harder to move, more difficult to ship. Especially from the label perspective, it is quite inconvenient to have a lot of it in stock. And for getting a delivery of vinyl it is helpful if your working environment has certain features. When I started Sonic Pieces it was from my apartment at that time, which was on the fourth floor of an old Berlin building without elevator. Doing only CDs, in the beginning, worked fine. But now releasing mostly vinyl, this wouldn’t be functional anymore. Even just small runs of LPs already come on a pallet, delivered at ground level. I wouldn’t be able to move all of that upstairs on a regular basis, so in that sense it’s great we are on the ground floor now. Also from a production point of view, vinyl often involves much more trouble than a CD for example. Failures are more likely to happen during the process. And besides, it isn’t really a sustainable or forward-looking format either I would say. I still love it though!

Ever consider digitizing the collection and selling it off?
Apart from demos or records I’m working on I barely listen to digital files, and my digital collection is pretty much non-existent. I’m rather an old-fashioned person. For sure I won’t make the effort of digitizing my collection.

What album has your favorite artwork and why?
I’m fond of A Hawk And A Hacksaw covers. Although I do like most of them a lot I’d say my favourite is the one for Délivrance, the last album they did for the Leaf Label in 2009. It just has this really beautiful pattern all over in red and gold. It’s kind of timeless.

What do you look for when you go record digging?
I hardly ever look for anything specific. When I’m at a record shop I just like to browse, look at covers and eventually get surprised.

Where do you purchase your albums these days?
My favourite way of purchasing records is at concerts from the artist directly. Furthermore, I would get records at ANOST, which is also my distributor, and I like the Bis Aufs Messer record shop in Berlin. Occasionally I would also find something rare when out travelling. Japan is a good place to dig out gems.

What are your thoughts on limited editions, original releases, and reissues?
As a customer, I don’t care much about these features, to be honest. It is primarily the music that matters to me when it comes to the decision of buying a record. Sometimes if the artwork is really great, this can trigger an interest though and might be another criterion for a purchase. However, the music still has to be good.

What were the most memorable liner notes that you’ve ever read?
I’m not so much fond of long texts or explanations, I like facts. Actually, I really enjoyed what Gareth (Davis) and Rutger (Machinefabriek) came up with for their album Grower. The two listed what they consumed while working on the record together.

What record do you think you could play all the time?
Such a record doesn’t exist for me. I like change and variety. Also, my choice of music typically depends on my mood. Besides I like silence a lot.

How is your collection organized?
My collection is organized in two different ways. For labels, I appreciate a lot I have an own section. The labels are sorted alphabetically and the records for each label via ascending catalogue numbers. The remaining LPs are organized alphabetically by artist name. In addition, I have own sections for 7-inches and 10-inches, sorted alphabetically as well.

How has vinyl impacted your life?
I wouldn’t say vinyl had an impact on my life, rather music. Vinyl is just an item, music is an experience. Certain music is connected to certain times, events or memories. It transports emotions. The medium it comes from is secondary. I could imagine a life without vinyl, but not without music. And often it is most intense when enjoyed live.

What will happen with your collection when you’re gone?
I don’t have a pension plan, so most likely I will have to sell my collection before I go because I need the money 🙂