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Dave James, owner of Factory Records

Dave James, owner of Factory Records

Published by Leonardo Calcagno

In collaboration with Kaneshii Vinyl Press

Who are you and your current job 

I’m Dave James, and I own Factory Records in Costa Mesa, CA. I’m 49, recently married, a pug-dad (2 one-eyed pugs), spend a lot of my free time obsessing on Project Runway and can be found at San Diego Comic-Con every year cosplaying as Boba Phat.

My record shop is named after the band New Order…it was their record label they were on in England. They’re a band I really love and have loved since the mid-80s. “New Order Records” just didn’t sound right, so I named it after their label. It’s easy to spell and remember. The shop’s been open 8 years, but I’ve been working in record stores since 1988. This year marks 30 years of my doing this. I opened my first shop – Noise Noise Noise Records (also Costa Mesa) – in 1991 and kicked ass with it for a number of years, then got strung out on dope and closed up in 2006. I took a few years off to get my shit together, but stayed in the game doing sales out of my storage unit and working at another local shop for about a year, then opened Factory Records in April 2010, which makes this shop 8 years old. So, honestly, this shop is kind of a continuation of Noise Noise Noise, but with a different name for a fresh start.

Doing what I do comes naturally to me: I always loved flipping through my mom and dad’s records as a kid. They had Beatles, Johnny Cash, Neil Diamond, Ray Charles, Lou Rawls, Barry Manilow…those were the first records I remember digging through. I remember my dad had a Lambert, Hendricks & Ross album and I thought he was into Jimi Hendrix until someone schooled me. I got a paper route when I was ten years old, so I’d be up at sunrise on the weekends to deliver papers, and I’d hit the garage sales early in the mornings and scoop up cheap records. Beatles and Rolling Stones records were what I really loved to find. As I got older, I took my paper route money to this amazing independent record store near my house, Music Market, and would buy stacks of vinyl. I got a job there in 1988, and the rest is pretty much history.

My wife Lisa and I also have a record label. It’s named Noise Noise Noise Records (after my old shop, which got its name from the song by The Damned), and we’re in the process of getting our fourth release, an e.p. by The Legendary Pink Dots named The Tunnel to shops in time for Record Store Day.

In which city are you located?

Costa Mesa, CA.

What musical styles do you specialize in?

We have just about every genre you can imagine somehow represented in 400 square feet of space. Our money makers are the rock classics from the 60s through the 90s. We’ve got a really solid jazz collection, and a small but well-curated prog rock/Kraut/experimental selection. I like having the ability to stock a unique mix of slightly oddball music thanks to the money I make selling dozens of copies of Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours.

Can you give a small tour of the music scene in your town?

I’m not gonna lie: At 49 years old, I don’t go out much to shows at all anymore. It’s not for lack of things to do, though. The Observatory, which is actually about ten feet outside of Costa Mesa’s borders, is an amazing venue that holds (I think) around 1200 people, and books a variety of indie acts that rivals any club in Los Angeles. Local heroes The Growlers put their infamous Beach Goth festivals on the map at The Observatory. There’s a more intimate venue in town called The Wayfarer that rose from the ashes of the legendary Detroit Bar…this is a great place to catch local bands and smaller touring bands.

Costa Mesa was also the home of one of the most notorious punk rock clubs in the late 70s through 1981. It’s worth a visit to Wikipedia to read about this place. It’s probably for the best that me and my young and easily-influenced brain never went there.

What’s it like working in a record shop? (explain)

It’s great in that there’s no dress code, I can listen to whatever I want for six to eight hours a day, I talk about music with cool people, talk shit on Donald Trump a lot (I don’t think many Trump fans work or shop in indie record stores), and pretty much lead a working life that is the complete opposite of the water-cooler-talk, suit, and tie, The Office life that petrifies me.

I love the chase: always looking through boxes for that holy grail, never knowing what someone is gonna walk into the shop that’s been hidden in a dark garage or closet for decades.

The downsides are toting around heavy-ass boxes of records all the time, not making a ton of money (don’t open a record store if you wanna get rich!!), I get talked to about music by a lot of weird people (record stores are freak-magnets), and having to break old ladies hearts when they think their collection of Tommy Dorsey 78s or tattered Elvis 45s are worth thousands of dollars.

Then there’s the stress of Record Store Day: Packing a good month’s worth of work and sales into a few days. It’s always agonizing, but afterward, I always thrilled with the end result. And it’s amazing making so many people so happy.

What mind-blowing album are you listing right now? 

Right this moment, I have Joe Simon’s Drowning In The Sea Of Love LP (Spring Records, 1972) on. I won’t say it’s mind-blowing, but it’s a pretty epic representation of early 70s funky soul. The first batch of answers to this interview was answered as Japan’s Obscure Alternatives (Ariola Records, 1978) played. This is a pretty mind-blowing record right here. It’s a glammed-up post-punk winner that still sounds fresh after 40 years. I might even put it back on after Joe Simon.

What does it take for an indie record shop to survive? 

I’ll keep it simple here, but to me, I think an indie store’s survival really depends on a keen ability to procure and sell used vinyl. New vinyl doesn’t have an amazing profit margin; it gets marked up 40 or 50 percent above cost, may or may not sell, and generally can’t be returned to the distributor. With the used vinyl, it’s like…well, here’s an example from yesterday: I gave a lady $75 for about 100 LPs and 100 singles. She was stoked. Her husband told her to throw them out, but she brought them to me and was tickled pink to get seventy-five bucks. The first four records from her stuff that I priced totaled $135, and then there was a bunch of $5 to $15 stuff, and then a little stack of $1 records for my next parking lot sale. And I haven’t even touched the 45s yet.

And then, to get the word out about this cool new used vinyl, I’ve really learned how to use Instagram (@factoryrecordsdavenoise) to my advantage. And it’s not through a bunch of shitty, spammy ads. It’s by sharing my personal life (nothing deep; just fun stuff I do) along with record store posts. It’s not a “factoryrecordscostamesa” IG page; it’s Dave of Factory Records’ page (the Dave Noise is because I’m known as Dave Noise through my Noise Noise Noise shop) with the business mixed in.

And participating in Record Store Day is a no-brainer. Factory Records orders a TON of the RSD stuff and we make a huge event out of it, but even if you’re new to the game, get signed up on the RSD site…get on their map…, bring in a handful of the releases, and do something cool, like a parking lot sale or bring in some rad fresh used vinyl. Record Store Day is GREAT exposure for an independent record store that makes any effort to get noticed.

What does Record Store Day, mean to you and your business? 

Tons of work, tons of anxiety, being super exhausted, but in the end, a little richer and really happy with the end result, and really happy to make others really happy. For about a week and a half before RSD every year, it gets super stressful and I say I’m not gonna do it again, and then afterward, I’m on top of the world.

Tips for musicians launching an album?

Best tip I’d give a musician? Ignore any advice Dave James has to offer because he really has no clue as to how to launch an album (but I’ll be happy to sell it for you once it’s out).

5 local musicians to check out!

Church of Sun, Baast, Mesa Lanes, the Friends Of Friends Network, and Dahvid.

Guide to Costa Mesa [Ca] x Dave James 

Café | Thunderking Coffee Bar

Restaurant | Pancakes-R-Us

Shopping | The Orange Coast College 

Grocery | Eastside Mini-Mart

County Fair – The Orange County Fair


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