Established in 2010, Factory Records is one of the OC’s best kept secrets. Whether you’re a certified wax-head or just a rookie looking to round out your collection, Factory’s got something for everyone. Shattering the elitist music-snob archetype, Dave Noise (Factory’s owner) won’t roll his eyes if you come in asking for Beatles reissues. And if you’re in need of suggestions, he’s well versed in just about every genre imaginable—everything from “space rock” to “mutant disco.” And with the money you’ll save not having to pay shipping online, you can treat yourself to a few gems from Factory’s fabled Bargain Bin (pictured below).
After swinging by the shop and talking to Dave, you can tell he’s guy who genuinely loves what he does. But don’t think he takes it for granted. In fact, he’ll be the first to tell you that such privileges don’t come cheap. Back in ‘91 he opened Noise Noise Noise Records (now the stuff of local legend) to instant consumer acclaim. “Noise3 just killed it in the 90’s,” says Dave, “I was able to buy a house in a middle-upper class Costa Mesa neighborhood, paid my taxes and bills, had that financial security so many others wished they had—hell, I even had a pretty fat retirement fund going…and then I fucked it all up.” By 2003, Dave had fallen heavy into drugs—to the detriment of his shop. “It was obvious to everyone around that I was fucked… Folks abandoned me and store en masse.” In 2006 he hit rock bottom—“I was broke, in and out of jail, and after skipping out on 5 months’ rent at Noise3, out of a shop and a job.” But with the support of his friends and family, he eventually got his act together (read Dave’s full story here—seriously, read it!). Shortly after, he opened Factory Records. “I opened the shop with some reluctance,” he says, “wondering if I still had my any game left in the record world, and doubtful that a store could thrive in this day and age… But I did, and it has.”
LWF: Factory has such a well-rounded selection. There seems to be something for everyone. Where do these records come from? How are they chosen?
DN: I want my shop to reflect what I myself would want to find in a store: variety. Just recently, some girl bought a Current 93 album, an Earth album, a Jimmy Smith album, and a bunch of 70s coke-rock, and I thanked her for buying such a mix of stuff. If I was only selling the Pink Floyd and Black Keys records I normally sell to people all day long, and no one bought a cool bag of stuff like she did, I’d be bored silly and should be working at an office cubicle somewhere because at least I’d have health benefits. Also, just the other day, a kid, probably no older than 17 or 18, bought a David Axelrod album. I was stoked! Most kids his age want to buy a TSOL patch to put on their backpack.
I get my stuff by any means necessary, but most of it comes from people bringing in collections to me. I’ve always had amazing luck with this, and am very fortunate in this way. You won’t find me battling jackasses on my days or mornings off at swap meets or thrift stores or yard sales or auctions. Ebay and those dumb TV shows have turned everyone into wanna-be pickers—and those shows make it seem so fucking easy! They need a show about how many times you strike out compared to the few times you really come up. I spent enough years tweaking my brains out chasing that elusive crate of gold, and it’s just not worth it to me. That lifestyle wears one’s soul out. If you can do it for a hobby, it’s fun, but I find no joy in digging through the endless shit that every other storage warrior in town has torn through just to stay alive. I know these resources are there if I get desperate, but besides a casual visit once in a blue moon, with no expectations, I stay away. And the thought of going blind staring at Craigslist waiting for the word “records” to pop up? No thanks. It’s like looking for a needle in a haystack, and the haystack is made up of some great-grandpa’s easy listening records that someone looked up on Ebay. I have a few secret tricks that I use to get good records in the shop, and these methods take work, but I’m pretty confident my years of experience allow me to stay ahead of the game by doing what I do.
I order new stuff too, but it’s not much compared to the used vinyl in the shop. New vinyl doesn’t have the same markup as used vinyl, and you’re stuck with it if it doesn’t sell. But I do take risks to keep the selection unique. I’ll order stuff that I’ve never heard of just because it sounds cool, and I know certain customers are willing to trust me if I suggest they buy something. I have to keep Factory Records very balanced…I have to have all the Doors and Beatles and Black Keys and Led Zeppelin and Radiohead and Pink Floyd that the masses want, but I have to have something different from the other shops. I want people to be, like, “Oh, I found the new Myrninerest ‘Journey To Avebury’ 12″ EP at Factory”. This is the new project from David Tibet; it’s a soundtrack to a Derek Jarman film, and so far, I’ve sold a few copies and I’m stoked because I’m sure only a few shops in Orange County are brave enough to touch something like this, and I feel so much better selling this than another damn Misfits record. Of course, I get stuck with some gambles. I just started a section called “Factory Records Greatest Misses”; it’s a section under the normal racks where I mark down new vinyl since I can’t send it back. People are just discovering this section and love it.
LWF: What’s your greatest find? What are you currently digging for?
DN: My greatest find changes day by day. I’ll come across some far out electronic record with a wild breakbeat and be in love with it for a day or two, then something new will come in the door, and I’m off and running with that. I had a dude bring two crates of records into the shop the other day: one crate of really nice, basic, easy-to-sell punk and new wave, and a crate of grandma’s easy listening albums. I made him an offer, he took a breath, and I knew what he was gonna say: “I think I’m gonna keep the box of punk, but I’ll sell you the easy listening records”. This happens often. Instead the guy says “I’ll never listen to the punk stuff ever again, but I’d like to hang onto the other box.” So he took the crap that would have broke my back hauling it to my parking lot sale, and I spent two days listening to some of the awesome punk rock I grew up with, making my money back (and then some) at the end of that second day. For those two days, that crate was the greatest find. Of course, as I mentioned earlier, I’ve had three Beatles Butcher Covers come in over the past few years, and a Beatles ad-back cover. These are some of the Cadillacs of Beatles collectibles. So when these float in, I’m stoked. One of the Butchers came in with a ton of other rare Beatles, and a bunch of first press punk, a sealed Germs LP, a number of Dangerhouse 45s, and much more. The guys that had it were, like, on the way to the Goodwill and decided to see if they could get any money. I could have given them $30 and they’d have been stoked, instead I offered them $300 and they were in heaven—just blown away. The last Butcher Cover I got, the kid had a big stack of junk plus the Butcher. I asked what he wanted, and he said twenty five or thirty dollars. I gave him $80 and just made his day. But he made mine. Butcher Covers are “greatest find” kind of records. But there are so many greatest find records, and I’ve had too many of these days to list.
And what am I digging for? Besides all the rad types of records I’ve been describing above along with the usual shit that pays the bills? Nothing for me, really. I have zillions of records already. Not that doing drugs was good for me, but when I was wasted, I bought tons of albums for myself, and then totally forgot what I bought. I can go to storage and open boxes and be, like, “I own this? Fuck yeah!” So I go digging in my own storage unit and don’t have to spend any money. I do buy a handful of albums every week for myself though…mostly off the radar new releases or reissues. Nothing too particular; something will just sound neat and I’ll buy the whole album for myself. I guess I do have one holy grail that’s eluded me for over a quarter century that I would drop some money on if I could find it: at a high school dance in the 80s, I heard a version of New Order’s “Subculture” with female vocals. I’ve never been able to find any info on who did this record, but it’s out there somewhere, so that would be a huge “greatest find” for me.
LWF: What’s trending these days?
DN: At Factory Records, the trending topics are #blackfriday #recordstoreday #dollarrecords #parkinglotsale (Record Store Day’s Black Friday event and our same-day $1 record parking lot sale), #blackgoosetavern #tacotuesday (our new neighbors the Black Goose Tavern, who are bringing back Taco Tuesdays to our little shopping center), and #factoryrecordsdavenoise #instagram (self-explanatory I hope).
LWF: Why is there such an enduring interest in vinyl? What’s the allure?
DN: You know, this is one question I’ve never been good at answering. Some people love the sound quality, but I can’t weigh in on that because my hearing sucks. I’ve always said if you put me in a room and played a record and then a CD or digital file, there’s no way I could tell them apart. I can enjoy the music but I don’t have the ability to appreciate every little nuance like some freaks do. Our audiophile section at the shop is labelled “Pretentious Audiophile Bullshit”, because that’s how I feel about that stuff. You can play me David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust on one of those paper-thin Dynaflex records from the 70s and it sounds great to me. The cover art on a record is definitely a draw. CD cover art sucks and I don’t own an iPod but I guess you’d have to stare at a little thumbnail of the cover art on that. Fuck that! I want cover model Sandy Warner on Martin Denny’s “Primitiva” album at 12″ x 12″. I certainly love vinyl for DJing. I’m no pro DJ, but I’ll throw down some tunes at a bar here and there, and I have a few crates of beat up old rock and funk and reggae records that I don’t mind thrashing around to make the crowd move. I think the idea of putting thought into what’s gonna be played and hunting down those songs on vinyl and hauling them into a club and making a crowd move says a lot. Any dolt with a laptop can hunt down any song anyone wants to hear, which, for me, steals some of the magic. I guess if you’re DJing a wedding and need to be prepared, the laptop is a good thing, but I like the randomness of a few crates of vinyl in a club.
There are a lot of arguments for the love of vinyl, and while I don’t know specifically why I’ve been fascinated by record albums since I was ten, I’ll support any reason anyone has that keeps wax alive.
LWF: Will the 8track or audio cassette ever make a comeback?
DN: 8-track, I doubt it. There are folks that collect them, and even a few souls who utilize them for the music itself, but there are not enough 8-tracks left on this planet in useful working order to support a comeback. Cassettes, much to my surprise, have made a bit of a return. When I closed Noise3, the only cassette buyers we had left were tweakers with unkempt beards pedaling around on old ten-speeds with battery-operated Walkmans. Then I open up Factory, and I get these dudes with shaggy beards with funky yellow Walkman tape players on ten-speeds looking for tapes, but they’re not tweakers, they’re hipster kids who have suddenly found vinyl too mainstream. There’s a whole cassette culture out there. My neighbors at Mesa Music Services across the parking lot have a label called Lavish Womb Recordings and probably 98% of their releases are cassette-only. My friend Todd who runs that shop gave me an old tape deck and I use it all the time. I don’t sell tons of tapes, but I move a handful a week and it’s a fun item to keep around.
LWF: Can you offer some good rules of thumb for the aspirant collector?
DN: Well, for all my swap meet and garage sale hating, those places are a fun place to get started. Don’t expect any gems after sunrise, but you can get lots of good, basic stuff for a buck or two (or less!). And always offer them $10 for “the whole box”. It often works, and you can bring all the leftovers you don’t want to Factory Records for store credit. And let’s not forget about the Factory Records World Famous Cheapo Bin. I keep this stocked with $1.99 or less vinyl—people LOVE this section! It’s a great way to start a collection, and if you do it on a Tuesday, you can get cheap tacos at the Wild Goose Tavern across the way. For ten bucks you can eat and get some new tunes!
Don’t be afraid of worn records. Most will play just fine, with some minor crackle. If this crackle bugs you, stop buying records RIGHT NOW and just stick with iTunes. And a little scuff does not equal a skipping record. I often see rookies inspecting a beautiful looking album, and mistake a light scuff for a scratch. I want to grab them and yell at them (I never have) and make them understand records are fucking durable!! Just keep them out of the hot sun, because if they warp, your record is RUINED!!
When I have someone new coming into the shop buying records for the first time, wanting to buy half the store, I recommend they slow down, and only buy what they can listen to in a week or two’s time. Going apeshit right outta the gate leads to burnout. Savor the visit, and leave with a reason to come back. (This benefits me, too. Duh.)
And lastly, avoid those $80 record players you can buy at the big box stores like the plague. I won’t name names here, but on the rare occasion someone wants to return a record for skipping, I ask if their player is a such-n-such brand, and it almost always is one of those cheap players. And I’ll play their record in the shop and it plays just fine. Buy a Sony or Technics or another brand that has stood the test of time. You can get a great new turntable for $150, $200. Spend the extra money and you’ll be much happier. Ohhhh, also…put plastic outer sleeves on your records. Just do this.
And shop at Factory Records as much as you can.
LWF: Do you have any other interests/hobbies besides records?
DN: I love cats. I’m typing this with my cat Tigger on my lap. And one of Tara’s cats just pooped out 5 kittens a month ago, so I’m having fun watching these little things grow. I love bodysurfing. I’m no big wave rider, and it’s too cold for me now, but I am in the water from like April to October at least a few times a week riding two to five foot waves. Being in the water is where I get to relax and get away from things. I like watching the Lakers, but they haven’t inspired me too much yet this season. I have faith though, and I’ll get hooked as usual. I love Project Runway, and haven’t missed an episode in years. I love anything to do with Star Wars, and have been enjoying all the buzzing about the new movies that are in the works. And, oh, speaking of Star Wars…I’m a world famous A-list cosplayer under the name Boba Phat. I travel to different Comic-Cons in costume and run a Facebook fan page and have thousands of awesome fans who love to stop me for photos and free stickers when I’m dressed up at the cons. It’s the closest thing I’ll ever be to being a rock star, with the added bonus of being able to take my mask and costume off at the end of the day and be regular old anonymous David James, the record store guy from Costa Mesa. Check it out: www.BobaPhat.com
LWF: Thanks Dave. We’ll be seeing you soon!