S+V But we both still love physical formats.
ROLLINS Oh yes, absolutely.
S+V For example, like me, you’re a huge vinyl collector.
ROLLINS Yeah, and I have a lot of CDs as well. I’m not one of those purists. Analog sounds better, of course, but a lot of the records I buy are only on CD — or cassette. I buy from a lot of independent, little crazy labels all of the time, and not all of them do vinyl.
S+V Depending on where you are on the globe, you must figure, “This is the only way I’m going to get it, so I’m gonna get it.”
ROLLINS Exactly. Sometimes in Africa or India, you’re buying bootlegs or CD-Rs. If you’re in the Sudan or Senegal, you’re just buying a cassette. In the record stores out there, you may be looking at a real record, but it’s a color-Xeroxed sleeve.
Back here, for some bands like, oh, Dinosaur Jr., I’ll buy both the CD and the LP. I buy the CD for my radio-show gig [Saturdays on KCRW], and the LP to listen to. I’m not bringing my own vinyl in for the turntable at my radio show — I don’t know where that needle’s been — so I’m happy to bring the CD. It’s still FM compression anyway.
I never loan out records, or borrow them. I don’t want that responsibility, you know? With vinyl, I’m real careful. My records only get played on two needles. And I have experts come by to check when I put on records, and I’ll ask them, “Are my needles okay when they’re being played, or are they being gouged?” And they’ll say, “No, you’re still good.”
S+V I have multiple copies of certain albums to avoid too much wear and tear on them.
ROLLINS Me, too! I get accused of being a hoarder. If I can find a good pressing of a record I like for a really good price, I’ll buy it again. With the vinyl, you can face diminishing returns. You can wear a record out.
S+V It’s a deteriorable medium. You’re cutting and slicing into it every time.
ROLLINS Right. Also, I never listen to vinyl if I’m doing anything else. If I’m working, I’ll put on a CD because that music is a disposable backdrop at that time, like if I’m in the kitchen. There, I’ll put a CD on since I’m only half-listening. Usually it’s the weekend when I feel obligated to slow down a bit, and that’s when I put a record on. And I’ll stare at the speakers like I’m watching a movie.
So I do that on weekends or some weeknight when I don’t have any deadlines. I’ll pick two or three records and go, “Okay, I’ll archive these records tonight — not four, and not one. These.”
S+V And you’ll do that with nothing else going on, either — no TV, no phone, nothing.
ROLLINS Yes. I put on a nice, clean pressing so I can really experience it and concentrate on it. And when I feel my concentration waning, I go back to digital. It’s not worth stressing out the vinyl.
I’ve grown very used to not having to get up and go across the living room, though. It kinda makes the last song on the side not so enjoyable. “Hmm, I’ll be getting up any minute now.” I don’t like my needle running around the groove of a record. You don’t know what it’s running over, what the run-out groove is doing. I’m trying to pull that needle off before that, or before it goes right to the label.
One night I did stereo and mono for [Led Zeppelin’s] Houses of the Holy. The mono vinyl is pretty expensive. And I have a bootleg CD of the mono. So I did stereo vinyl and ended with mono CD, just with that album.
S+V Man, I’d love to do that with Houses myself. Have you checked out the Bob Dylan mono box [The Complete Mono Recordings]?
ROLLINS I was just going to say I got the mono Blonde on Blonde, and I think I levitated off the ground.
S+V What kind of turntable do you have?
ROLLINS I have a Rega Planar PT-24. It’s entry-/medium-level, not a houseboat-worth-of-money turntable, but I’m not playing classical or a ton of jazz on it. It’s good for rock and indie; it’s a really nice turntable. I’ve got a couple of them, actually.
S+V What kind of overall setup are you using?
ROLLINS I have a few different setups. In the office here, I have a Klipsch system, a nice three-way system. It’s really, really nice. Klipsch, as you know, is famous for making a horn-loaded speaker sound good — a really aggressive system. You put on Black Sabbath, and you could murder those speakers, no problem.
That’s powered by a Sunfire amp that Bob Carver personally signed, and the sub is self-powered. Usually I don’t dig a three-way system, but I like this one better than anything with a subwoofer I’ve ever heard or owned. It’s the only three-way system I have, actually.
My main listening system is a pair of Wilson Sophias powered by a couple of McIntosh 500-watt monoblocks, and I use a Rega Isis valve CD player and another Rega PT-24 turntable.
I have two more systems, one with some self-powered Paradigm speakers. I usually don’t like self-powered speakers because of the low end; it sounds like you hit the loudness button on your boombox. But this one particular model — they’re so good. I love that system.
And then I’ve got one system with a pair of Yamaha NS10s that go through a Carver receiver that I use to build my radio show, and do editing. I’ve worked so much with those NS10s [nearfield monitors that studio hounds love] that my ear knows them well, and they’re very accurate. I trust them.
I’ve got so much stereo gear that I can’t bear to part with: old cords, old CD players, old receivers. My assistant goes, “Can we please throw this stuff out?” And I go [sheepishly], “Noooo . . .”
S+V Oh, how I can relate to that, believe me.
ROLLINS I’ll bet!
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