Public Enemy’s Chuck D: ‘Why I’m Backing Record Store Day 2014’

With this year’s Record Store Day (April 19) fast approaching, we spoke to Chuck D about his stance on the event. Here, the Public Enemy man and Record Store Day Ambassador outlines his vision for the future of music retail:

“I come from DJ culture. We DJs recognise the importance of records and the importance of music culture. Independent record stores have enhanced the curation of records and music as it’s matured. The stores we musicians were influenced by are places that breathed life into us as music-makers, as well as music collectors. And that’s why the survival of record stores worldwide is so important.

Everything is there on the internet – everything. But if you don’t know how to read the internet and interpret what’s there, then it’s useless. The record stores are our curators. They’re GPS systems to guide us through what’s out there on the internet – they help you into understanding what is what.

Being this years’ Record Store Day Ambassador isn’t about a romantic vision of vinyl returning and having an upsurge. I think it’s about letting record stores know that they can be independent and be flexible enough to adapt to any kind of technological blizzard that comes. I’m not offended by seeing an ad with “LP, CD, DL” on it, but I think that the survival of record stores is as much about paying attention to the past as it is the future.

Independent record stores must be able to spread their wings and to show their flexibility, and also keep the soul and the thrill of it all. It’s beyond just going to a record store and getting vinyl: it’s about going there and being able to pick up content, data, collectibles, lifestyle, relevancy.

I think the key is understanding the change of the language. People ask me, ‘Chuck, man, what new music are you into?’ And I say, ‘Well, I’m into this new Big Joe Turner, from 1957. It’s new, because I never knew! It’s new to me. You can’t force-feed a public into saying what’s new and what’s not – especially not now. John Sebastian from The Lovin’ Spoonful is new to a critical mass of people. T-Rex is new. Phil Lynott is new. I think record stores can work in conference with people making these discoveries, and help them to find more and more.

The record stores are sonic libraries that can offer the curation that the record companies cannot and will not do. That’s why I’m a big fan of the idea that every independent record store should have its own digital radio station. And since they’re independent, even if the laws say ‘No’, then that’s the new pirate radio stations – record stores being their own digital radio stations. So that’s my first rebellious stance as Record Store Day Ambassador – trying to get every independent record store to have their own radio station.”