Spectacular Majestic-Heavy Metal Collectors: An interview series Part 16:  Ken Escobedo

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Spectacularly Majestic!

Heavy Metal Collectors: An interview series
Part 16:  Ken Escobedo (Illinois, USA)
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’.  In 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 super-fan 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?

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…Before I answer this question, it should be noted that I am the ninth of ten children. I have 6 older sisters and 2 older brothers. Having a family that large, one can only imagine that musical tastes varied largely in my family as it still does to this day. I was exposed to hard rock in the late 70’s at a very early age from one of my older sisters. She seemed to like the heavier side of music at that time. KISS, VAN HALEN and AC/DC were some of the bands I remember hearing on a consistent basis from her bedroom or the “Community” turntable, which was located in the Family Room. I have fond memories from my childhood, especially on Sunday mornings. I would wake up on Sunday mornings to the aroma of skillet fried bacon, onion flavored fried potatoes and roasted coffee, along with the “community” turntable playing records by Crystal Gayle, Ann Murray, Charlie Pride and Jerry Lee Lewis. This was pretty much my parents Sunday morning playlist. They were HUGE country western fans. After breakfast, it would be the kids’ turn to spin records. One side of a record per person so everyone got a chance to hear their favorite record. I would usually pick a KISS record from my sister’s collection to play.

However, my own musical tastes would not be realized until the summer of 1983. I was 12 years old and was asked by of my older sisters to take a walk with her to the local department store, Zayer, not far from our house. I accepted, as I did have some money burning a hole in my pocket. My parents installed great work ethics into all of us at a very early age, so I had a paper route at that time and did receive weekly pay from it. So with a few bucks in my pocket, I was off to Zayer. I anticipated buying a toy or gadget of some sort. However, nothing seemed to stand out in the toy isle, so I figured I’d save my money for another trip. Before leaving the store my sister stopped by the music section to check out some records and 8 tracks. For no reason really, as I was not interested in buying a record, I started thumbing through the records in the bin next to my sister. I did see some familiar covers from KISS and AC/DC, but one particular album cover caught my eye. It was like nothing I had seen before on an album cover. I had no idea what it was and couldn’t even make out the band name. I pulled the record out of the bin to gain a closer look. My sister looked over to see what album I was examining. Immediately I was told to put that record back and that it was “Devil Music”. She also warned that our parents would be highly upset if I were to bring home a record that contained “Devil Music”. Out of pure spite and because of my rebellious nature I walked the record up to the cash registers for purchase. My sister glared at me as I made the purchase, but there was nothing she could do. The money I spent on the record was my own money made on my paper route, so it was mine to spend how I chose. My first official record purchase. I had absolutely no idea what I had just purchased. Later that evening, it was turntable time sharing. I was so excited to finally get to hear my purchase. Since arriving home with my new album, I suffered a barrage of teasing from my siblings about my “Devil Music” purchase. So when it was my turn to spin, I anxiously put the record on and turned up the volume. Have you ever heard the sound of disappointment? Well, it was this record. It was absolutely awful. I didn’t even think it was real music. My siblings laughed at me and teased me. One of my sisters was so appalled that she left the family room. Of course, to save face, I listened to the entire first side and proclaimed I liked the album, when in reality I thought it was horrible. The ensuing days led to more teasing of my “Devil Music” purchase, but I stayed the course, always claiming to like the album and playing it at every opportunity given. After several listens and several examinations of the cover and lyric sheet I began to find myself drawn to the albums mystique. The sounds it emanated began to make sense to me. Until one day, it stuck and I actually started to like the record. I didn’t have to pretend anymore. Oh, what was that record??? It was VENOM’s Welcome To Hell. My first really journey into the world of heavy metal. It’s been nonstop for the last 37 years. I don’t think metal heads chose metal. I think metal choses us.

How big is your collection?

I’ll round the number of each format up, 1900- vinyl records, 3500- CDs, 700- 7 Inch EPs/45 RPM, 950- Original cassettes (this includes demo tapes), 520 Dubbed Cassettes (mostly acquired from my tape trading days in the early 90’s), 200 CD-Rs (from my CD-R trading days in the early 2000’s). I have an external hard drive filled with mostly demos, but I do not have them documented so I’m not sure how many demos I have there, but it’s a lot.

 

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

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 don’t have a lot of duplicate copies of the same band on different formats. There might be a handful like that in my collection, but for the most part once I buy a format of a band’s album, EP or demo I typically will not buy another format of the same title. If I do have the same title from a band on different formats, each format is documented, so I guess I count each format.

When you collect certain bands, do you buy all of their stuff such as live albums, EP’s, Compilations, box-sets etc? 

Not necessarily. If I’m really into the band, then YES, I will try and purchase every release by that band, but sometimes bands re-release albums and EPs that might have bonus tracks. If I already have the original, I typically will not buy the re-release. As for live albums, it depends on if it’s a limited press or something like that.

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

My entire collection is organized first alphabetically, then chronologically. I tagged each dubbed cassette and CD-R with numbers so those formats are organized in a numeric order.

Do you insure your collection?

I looked into that several years ago. The issue is that that I would have to put a monetary value on the collection before the insurance companies can give me figures on premiums. It would just take entirely too long to go through my entire collection and tag prices. At one point I did give the insurance company a guesstimate of the collection value and the premiums were outrageous. So NO. I don’t insure my collection.

How do you store your collection? 

My entire collection is located in the basement of my home. I had the basement professionally finished and custom shelving made for the vinyl records and CDs. Most of my collection is several feet above ground, which I purposely designed in case of flooding. I also had a backup sump pump put in with a battery backup in case power went out during a storm. It’s cool and dry. I also have a humidifier and a de-humidifier installed so I can control the climate. This all keeps the entire collection curated.

 

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? 

I do not have a breakdown of my collection by metal genre, although that would be interesting to see. My PASSION is in Death Metal. I play more Death Metal than any other metal genre. My collection is 99.9% METAL. There might be a handful of items that are not metal, but it’s pretty much all metal. There are some days, I just want to hear heavy metal or black metal, but Death Metal usually takes the center stage.

Do you sell and trade or strictly buy?

I never sell. I’ll trade with friends as long as it’s an even trade and of corpse I still buy lots of metal today.

What is your preferred format?

Black Vinyl. I know my collection would not foster that answer as I have more CDs than vinyl, but in the late 90’s and early 2000’s we lived in a CD world, so I purchased a lot of CDs. The last few years have seen vinyl making a comeback. I love the sound of popping vinyl on a turntable. I always try and get black. I just think black always sounds better than the colored vinyl.

 

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 logged my collection on a spread sheet about 15 years ago. Within the spread sheet I have worksheets for each format (vinyl, Eps, CDs etc.) At the beginning of the calendar year I start a new worksheet for new additions and at the end of the year I sort the new additions in based on format, alphabetically.

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. )

I honestly have no idea. I don’t really look at the value of items in my collection. I have used Discogs to look up some things, but I don’t do that for every item. I post pictures of things I listen to on social media and lots of times I get responses back that the items are worth a lot of money. I have been told that the original BURZUM records from the 90’s and some other black metal vinyl I own from bands like SATYRICON go for $1000 or more per record. I would think those would be in contention for the most valuable, but again I would honestly have no idea.

 

What is your rarest item in your collection? 

Not sure. I’m not the type of collector that uses value or obscurity of an item to mark the collection a success. Not that’s there is anything wrong with that, but I collect metal because of my passion for the music. I really have no idea what the rarest item is, although I do have the original press on MERCYFUL FATE’s “Nun’s Have No Fun” EP on Rave On Records and it’s signed by all original members. King Diamond even put a special little note on it that reads “Nun’s Do Have Fun”. The signatures might make that one a pretty rare piece.

 

What is the most you have paid for an item? 

I honestly wouldn’t have been able to answer this question, but 3 years ago I was in a used record store and found a great copy of the Raging Death Comp LP on Godly Records. It had a $50 price tag on it. The record was in very good condition, but I pointed out the flaws to the clerk at the counter and was able to get the price down to $40. That’s probably the most I’ve paid for a record in the recent past. I have purchased box sets that were more than $40, but that gained me a few records and other goodies inside the box. For one piece, $40 has been the highest purchase that I can recall.

 

 

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

YES. I have lots of DVS, VHS, stickers, posters, flags, banners, fanzines, magazines, books and of corpse shirts. I’m a metal head with a passion and obsession for metal so I collect whatever I can.

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

There is a death metal band from New Jersey called MORTAL DECAY. Before they were MORTAL DECAY they recorded a demo under the name MACABRE and the demo was called Interment from 1991. There is a YT video of the entire demo, but I would love to own a copy of it. I have never seen it for sale anywhere.

Why do you collect Metal music?  

It’s a passion and obsession. I couldn’t imagine what my life would be like without metal.

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

That would be up to my wife and son. Although my 14 year old  son is not into metal, he claims he would not allow the collection to be sold off, whether it be in pieces or in its’ entirety. He claims that he would keep the collection and pass it down to his children and grandchildren so that the collection forever lives. Not sure that will happen, but that’s what he says will happen right now. Haha

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.

Collect for passion, not fashion. Cherish the music you purchase. Study the covers and music. Curate your collections so it can be shared with future generations. Use your collection to inspire the younger generations.


 

A little bit more about Ken…

Ken was heavily involved in tape trading back in the early 90’s, helped with a few fanzines back then as well. In the late 90’s he was involved in Metal Merchant Records and Lost Horizon Records. From 2000-2003  he also ran House Of Death Records.  Currently, he runs a You Tube channel called Ken’s Death Metal Crypt and is the vocalist of the death metal band UNNATURAL.