Spectacularly Majestic! Heavy Metal Collectors: An interview series. Part 7 Keir Howell

Spectacularly Majestic!

Heavy Metal Collectors: An interview series.  Part 7
Keir Howell

by JP

Inspiration can come from a number of unique sources.  The concept behind this interview series was developed over time but recently crystallized in my mind.   As the owner of a large library I’ve often pondered about the nature of collecting Heavy Metal music (Cassettes, vinyl, CD’s, memorabilia etc)  and how and why people accumulate Metal ‘stuff’.   Earlier this year (2017) Martin Popoff wrote a book called METAL COLLECTORS  which I read, thoroughly enjoyed and reviewed.  It occurred to me that there are lots of people out there with pretty massive Metal collections so I decided I wanted to chat to some of them and interview them for the site.

My concept is to, over time ask people with some pretty impressive, monster collections the same series of questions.  I’m basically stealing that idea of METAL COLLECTORS  (Sorry Martin!) and expanding into an interview series.   Lastly, the name for this series was spawned by a gentleman by the name of Ray Wawrzyniak.  He appeared in the recent Rush documentary  TIME STAND STILL.  Ray is a Rush superfan and in one particularly charming scene in the film, the  genial and friendly (but clearly obsessed) Ray shows off one piece of his Rush collection and refers to it with barely hidden glee as ‘Spectacularly Majestic’.   It was in fact ‘just’ an old piece of paper, (a Rush ad from a magazine from 1979)  but that phrase alone and his enthusiasm I feel embodies the spirit of Metal collecting, because I suspect that many Metal collectors have those same moments.    Check out the 1:30 minute mark of the video below.

If you, or know someone you know, has a monster Metal collection (in the 1000+ range) please feel free to get them in touch with me!


Tell us how you started collecting Metal!  When did you start?

I started listening to heavy metal and buying metal albums as a young teenager in 1988. It wasn’t until around 2006 that I actively started collecting, as opposed to just buying music I want to listen to.  I was going through a nostalgic phase and listening to a lot of 80s metal when I found a CD I didn’t even know I had: Metal Massacre 7.  I was so impressed by the creativity and passion of the bands on that compilation, many of whom were never heard from again, that it inspired me to search for more unknown bands from that era.

How big is your collection?

My current count is 2,543 music releases. Various artist compilations comprise 534 of these.

Can you give us a break down?  (Vinyl, vs. Cassette, vs. CD vs. digital)

That’s 1,332 records, 288 cassettes, and 923 CDs. I have a few digital releases but I don’t count them towards my collection.

How do you count your collection?  For example.  If you have say for example, multiple copies of KISS-Destroyer on the following media; Vinyl, 8-Track, Cassette, CD, and digital format do you count that as five items or just 1 item?

I only keep multiple copies of one album if they have different tracklists.  As a result, I count each as a separate item.
When you collect certain bands, do you buy all of their stuff such as Live albums, EP’s, Compilations, box-sets etc?
That’s not really something I do. I much prefer digging up old obscure bands who had maybe one or two releases (hence my proclivity for compilations!) The one exception would be my “Weird Al” Yankovic collection, but that is another story.

How do you organize your collection if at all;  by genre, Chronologically? Alphabetically?

My collection is organized alphabetically by artist, then chronologically.  Compilations (my specialty!) are in 2 separate sections: one for radio compilations and one for all the others.  These are sorted alphabetically by title.

Do you insure your collection?

It is not insured. Maybe that isn’t the best financial decision, but the less I have to deal with insurance companies the better.

How do you store your collection?

I moved into a new house a few months ago so unfortunately 90% of my collection is packed away in boxes right now. I’m hoping to get some shelves soon to hold my records.

What is your preferred genre(s)?  Do you have a genre break down of your collection?   For example  15% Death Metal,  25% Black Metal etc?

Roughly speaking, my collection is 50% traditional hard rock and metal, 15% power and prog metal, 15% other forms of metal, and 20% other genres (folk, punk, new wave, alternative, classic rock, etc.)

Do you sell and trade or strictly buy?

I used to do some trading and I’ve found that it’s generally not worth the time and effort.  Many collectors hate parting with their stuff and a single trade can take months to finalize!

What is your preferred format?

I prefer CDs for the convenience, though my true passion is for vinyl.  I only buy cassettes if that is the only format available, has exclusive tracks, or is significantly cheaper (for example, I bought Commander’s High N Mighty album on cassette for only $10).

How do your track your collection?  Do you use a spreadsheet or one of the on-line services or even a hand-written list?

I keep track of my collection in an Excel spreadsheet.

What is your most valuable piece? (not in terms of sentimental value, but in actual terms of resale value on the open market. ie. Goldmine etc. )

That would probably be Breaker’s In Days of Heavy Metal which is worth $200+.

What is your rarest item in your collection?

Hard to say as I have a lot of private pressings which were produced in very small quantities. One that springs to mind is the Best of German Metal Newcomer compilation which was limited to 200 copies. Another that is more rock and less metal, but sought after by NWOBHM collectors, is a promo-only picture sleeve version of Trydan’s Mods A Rocers. Most copies of the single, which is already hard to come by, come in a generic Sain sleeve.

What is the most you have paid for an item?

That would be $190 for an EP by the Belgian band Ritual. The only other album I have spent more than $100 on is Drysill’s Welcome to the Show.

Do you collect other non-music Metal memorabilia such as books, DVD’s, T-shirts, stickers, hot sauces, wine/beer etc.

I have a bunch of old shirts, books, magazines, and I especially love videos!

What is the one item you have been searching for that you cannot seem to find?

Two items actually, and they are Chicago Metal Works #3 and 4. I have #1, 2, 5, 6, and 7, as well as both Class of Chicago vinyl comps. However, #3 and 4, which I believe were only released on cassette, I have confirmed the existence of through conversations with some of the featured bands but have never even seen pictures of.

Why do you collect Metal music?

I’ve enjoyed collecting since I was a little kid, starting with things like rocks, coins, pewter figurines, and even old potato chip bags. In the late 90s I got heavily into collecting vintage video games and computers. Then in 2006 as I was adopting my second child I realized that I didn’t have time to enjoy that hobby anymore. Since I can always find time to listen to music, heavy metal satisfied my collecting bug without getting in the way of my family. Also, I love the thrill of listening to some obscure piece of vinyl and discovering a long lost gem!

In a morbid and Metal question,  what do you plan to do with your collection when you die?

I have no postmortal plans for my collection. My hope is that my children will be able to sell it for a fair price and that it will end up in the hands of someone who appreciates it.

Final thoughts?  Feel free to use this space to share any unique or interesting items about you and your collection and/or share ideas and advice for your fellow collectors.

The best advice I can give to other collectors is have fun with it. Don’t get hung up on getting everything by a certain band or tracking down some obscure artifact because you’ll just get frustrated and end up spending way more money than you ought.



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