Alex Rodriguez has one of the coolest jobs in the world. As the official supplier and curator of the record stores at Coachella and FYF, he’s never in short supply of amazing stories and slick vinyl. When he’s not managing the Glass House in Pomona though, or backstage at some of the world’s best music festivals, he’s traveling the country searching for the perfect albums for the ultimate pop up shops.
Documentary poster for film via Life Is My Movie
This year, documentary filmmaker Vincent Vittorio joined him on his epic journey of discovery. They traversed the hidden landscapes and countryside’s of America, finding all the best records, and giving us a hint of what’s to come for the beloved format. We were able to chat with the pair as they made their way across the Midwest for the new documentary, Record Safari. The film chronicles Alex’s amazing journey from LA to Texas and back, with about 15 states in between. Travel enthusiasts and music maniacs are really going to dig this one. Here’s out interview.
Phillip Gutgesell for The MAT Mag: In our last interview with Alex, we were talking about how he has this incredible story and job where he travels all over the country collecting the best records for the best festivals in America. We wondered if you thought about making a documentary or a travel show based on what you do because it’s so incredible not to share. You’re finally doing that now and we’re curious how it all came together.
Alex’s interview in Coachella’s magazine at the Coachella record store
Alex Rodriguez: I wasn’t so much thinking about doing something like this. I’d been offered reality television and I turned that down. I always assumed that if I was going to do anything it would be documentary style. I want it to be real but I wasn’t looking for someone to do a documentary on me. If anything, I tend to be on the private side of a lot of what I do. You can follow my Instagram and see I’m in nature but you don’t see a whole lot of what I’m doing.
I randomly met Vincent at a hotel in upstate New York that we were both staying at. We got to talking and he heard I was from Los Angeles. It just seemed like it was meant to be.
TMM: Yeah that’s great how everything just came together like that. Speaking of things coming together, we love your website and the fact that fans can track your journey across the United States. How many states have you been to so far and how many do you still need to go to?
AR: California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan… I don’t really have an amount I need to get to but as many as I can get to is great. I have to be in Texas by the end of the month so that’s going to dictate where I get to.
TMM: How much longer are you going to be on the road for on this current trip?
AR: Probably for another two to three weeks. It’s a five to 6 week trip.
TMM: Now are these records for anything in particular? Are these for Coachella or a general collection?
AR: Yeah it’s for Coachella 2018.
TMM: Oh wow that’s great that you’re starting so early! You mentioned you’ve traveled to a lot of states already. What’s one of your favorite underappreciated states that people might never think to travel to?
AR: I definitely think Minnesota is an awesome state. I think a lot of people don’t go to it because it’s so north and out of the way to get to other states. If you’re traveling to the Midwest you just wouldn’t go that north. Minneapolis is a really cool city and it’s known as the Portland of the Midwest. Similar vibe and look.
Alex in Portland by Vincent Vittorio
TMM: Can you tell us more about the company behind the documentary?
Vincent: We focus mostly on social issue docs. We have a few that are more of the storytelling cinéma vérité follow the group of fans style.
The company itself, is based in Los Angeles. We have docs from refugee crisises to prison reform and our main goal is making topical issues to reach large audiences. We have unique relationships with Netflix, iTunes, television broadcasters.
TMM: Do you know about when this documentary will be out?
Vincent: Right now we’re in production and we aren’t trying to put restrictions on when things will be complete. We’re following a journey and going to be looking at what we have at the end of the month. We’re going to decide November what we’re thinking for distribution.
TMM: How can people get involved? Can they donate or follow Alex on social media?
Vincent: Yeah definitely. Follow Alex on Record Safari and there’s a mailing sign up on the website so people can be notified about the completion of the film and the trailer. Follow us along the journey on Instagram.
Alex in front of Kurt Cobain’s childhood home
TMM: How big is your crew right now?
Vincent: Right now it’s Alex in his car, we’re in a vehicle behind him. I’ve got an assistant direction, Claudio, and a director of photography, his name is Michael Amico.
TMM: That sounds like a really fun roadtrip. We’re gonna ask Alex some more questions about records now because he really is the master.
TMM: On your current trip, what’s your favorite record store that you’ve been to or are about to go to?
AR: Hard to pick a favorite but I’ve done the best so far in Fargo, North Dakota at a place called Fat Cat Antiques. I lucked out and walked in on this huge sale and they had amazing stuff.
TMM: How many miles are on your car right now?
AR: 188,000. It’s a four year-old car. Most people’s car’s have 40,000-60,000 miles on them if it’s 4 years old.
TMM: We’re sure your insurance company is really happy about that.
AR: Yeah…it’s not cheap.
TMM: Have you had pretty good luck with driving so far on all your past trips?
AR: Yeah, once I broke down in Southeastern Oregon and I had to get towed to Boise. It took 3 days to fix. Another time I was driving from Eerie Pennsylvania to Pittsburgh Pennsylvania and a snowstorm happened so I spun out a lot. Ended up in a ditch, had to wait for the tow truck to pull me out of a ditch. In four years, that’s all that’s ever happened to me in my 11 road trips across the United States.
TMM: Now, more about the records. Los Angeles was getting ridiculously hot. What temperature are records just starting to melt?
AR: It’s more direct sunlight. It’s way hotter than the temperature of the air. Just keep them out of sunlight.
TMM: When would you say records were manufactured to be the highest quality?
AR: There’s so few pressing plants in the world right now and they’re putting out so much. I feel like the quality of the vinyl has gone down because they’re producing so much with such little equipment.
60s and 70s probably had the best quality of presses. You’ll get a brand new record now and the whole press is warped. The packaging can be cheaper and it’ll shrink and warp the record. We’re in a bad quality time right now but they’re working with that. We’re about to visit the new Third Man record plant in Detroit. Hopefully with new processes and presses popping up you’ll get less problems.
TMM: You’ll see a lot of trends like virgin vinyl where it’s not recycled material, and higher weight vinyl. Is that a good way to offset production problems?
AR: I can’t tell much of a difference between the weight but it makes it more durable from breaking if you drop it, or protects it better from warping in the sunlight. That doesn’t have much to do with the quality of the vinyl though. This is just based on what I’ve experienced personally and what I’ve read but there doesn’t seem to be a real sound difference or quality difference.
TMM: Have you found some particularly amazing albums this trip?
AR: Isn’t every record amazing? Every one of the records has its own thing. Even if the music is terrible, every record has something special about it. Every record has hope. Every single person that put out a record had hope that someone would listen to their music. They hoped that someone would enjoy what they’re doing and what they’re saying. Every record I’ve found so far is amazing.
You can follow Alex and crew as they continue their journey across the United States by checking their website here