I first met Sanders Chase one sunny Sunday afternoon after shopping on Melrose at the Fairfax High school market. I peeked my head into his shop and I was blown away by the sheer number of records. There seemed to be thousands of them packed in from floor to ceiling.
Immediately, I was greeted by Sanders who began interrogating me. Who was I? Why was I in LA? Where in Australia do you live? Why do you live in Melbourne? What do you do? The questions felt as though they would never stop. So, when he found out I was a filmmaker and gave me the usual line, ‘ Oh, you should make a film about me.’ I screamed, ‘Yes, yes I will! I will be back tomorrow.’ I left, googled him and found out I wasn’t alone. His overbearing customer service style was how he normally interacted with people and he received mixed reviews. Well, one star on Yelp to be precise. Some people loved him other hated him calling him an asshole, fat and abusive. Reflecting back on my own experience, I did find him abrasive, relentless, but curious and kind at the same time.
For two days, I filmed with Sanders and his lovely Archivist, Henry. The two of them are the classic odd couple. Henry is mild mannered with a mind like a matrix, according to Sanders. He keeps track of the nearly 500,000 records and together they both have an encyclopedic knowledge of music.
Sanders explained that he is on a crusade against digital music. Since the early days of the CD, Sanders has been a vocal opponent to the digitization of music. It degrades the quality of the sound and lacks the visceral quality of the analog music. He believes technology is dumming us down and we are losing our connection to our musical heritage. Sanders feels its his job to share his music knowledge with everyone he encounters, but before he can do that he has to get to know them a bit. Get under their skin because often they don’t even know what they like. So, he interrogates, challenges, insults whatever it takes to drill down to the their truth.
Sanders Chase is a relic from a bygone age where people talked to each other when they entered a shop. When younger people sought out there elders for information and listened. Now we have Wikipedia, so we don’t have to converse with someone to find out the name of Donald Byrd’s first album. The information is the same, but the connection is lost and the understanding that music is our apart of a shared history isn’t truly realized.
In the end, I understood that he was right about a lot of things. He reminded me that if you believe in something you have to be courageous enough to get up and fight for it every day no matter the consequences. So, I am grateful that I walked into The Record Collector that Sunday afternoon and was reminded the importance on questioning your assumptions and challenging the status quo.