The role of Record Store Day Ambassador has been filled by a lot of people over the past decade but when it comes to one important criteria point, this year's may be the most qualified candidate ever: do they genuinely love record stores?
This year's musician/comedian/actor/writer/late-night-talk-show-bandleader is a definite fan, and it's not just the string of record store performances going back years that confirm it. We'll let the RSD 2021 Ambassador speak for themselves as they tell you about their history with record stores, and the records they sell. (And yes! His name is going to be on one of the brand new records you can take home from a record store starting on July 17 as part of RSD Drops: a new EP from RSD 2021 AMBASSADOR FRED ARMISEN, produced by Ty Segall! More on that and all the other titles coming soon!)
I am honored and so excited to be the Record Store Ambassador for 2021.
I've been completely lost in records for most of my life. They have defined the way I see the world and how I remember different years in the past. When I was a kid, I wasn't interested in sports or comic books. Just records. I must have been nine years old or something when my parents first started buying me albums. We were living in Rio de Janeiro, and I just assumed that all Beatles (and solo) records had Portuguese writing on the back covers. When we moved back to suburban New York, I moved on to buying them with my own money at department stores, or places like Sam Goody. As a teenager, I'd take the Long Island Railroad with my friend Kenny to go record shopping in the Village. Golden Disc, Record Runner, and Bleecker Bob's were a few of my favorites. We would focus on getting as many punk albums as we could find. British imports were especially meaningful to us. The same goes for picture discs and those gatefold single/EPs. Eventually, a store opened in Valley Stream: Slipped Disc.
As I moved to different cities throughout my life, I never stopped collecting records. That also goes for CDs. When my band would tour in ‘90s, I remember we set aside part of our budget for when we played in San Francisco to go shopping at Amoeba. On paper we couldn't afford it, but it was a necessity. I almost started listing some of what I was into, but that would just seem endless. I'm guessing all record collectors have a similar experience with lists and memories.
I’ve always loved Record Store Day. I've driven around LA on some RSDs, trying to buy whatever exclusive releases were on display. Often it was something I'd never heard of, but the cover looked cool. The idea behind those exclusives actually worked on me: A way to discover music I wasn't aware of.
Whenever I travel to a different city, I make it a priority to visit at least one local record store. I feel like I haven’t truly been to a place until I’ve done a little record shopping there. I try to keep it light so that my luggage doesn’t get too heavy, but I don’t always succeed at that. On one recent trip to Australia, I bought so many records that I had to buy one of those flight cases that DJs use.
I am so happy when I’m in a record store. It’s a time when I’m not thinking about having to be anywhere else. Sometimes there’s also a little bit of anxiety attached to record shopping. Will I remember every title I’ve been searching for? Is there a more comprehensive version of this reissue I’m looking at? Have I gone to the section of music I need to learn more about? Will all of these records fit in my bag? Why am I pretending that I don’t already have this Captain Sensible album I am getting?
I’ve tried to support record stores as much as possible while they’ve been temporarily closed. I hope you can do the same. I really can’t wait to get back to shopping in person. Really, I try to make every day a Record Store Day.
--Fred Armisen, 2021
photo via @amoebahollywood