Heavy Metal Collectors: An interview series
Part 24: Jason Borton (Oregon, USA)
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 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?
My interest in metal began with classic rock bands. When I was in elementary school, my mom introduced me to artists like Van Halen, Journey, Heart, Toto, Ted Nugent and Aerosmith. At the time, I was maybe ten years old, and the internet was a pretty new phenomenon, so obtaining physical copies of albums that I wanted to hear was my only option and it quickly developed into a mild obsession. I grew up in a small town in Oregon and had virtually no friends who were interested in rock or metal, so I learned about ‘new’ artists by watching VH1 specials and raiding my parent’s record collection.
I eventually started picking up vinyl and cassettes at yard sales of artists I’d heard of like Ratt, Accept, W.A.S.P. and others, and it spiraled from there into more and more extreme metal. By the time that I was in high school, many of my friends were downloading music; it pissed me off that they weren’t supporting the artists that they liked, so I made it a point to buy as many albums as I could. It was at this age that I developed a keen interest in playing the drums, and my almost psychotic focus on collecting and listening to metal grew to include creating it as well.
How big is your collection?
It’s hard to say; if we are talking about strictly music rather than merchandise and promo items, I’d guess I have around 5,000 pieces split between the three formats.
Can you give us a break down? (Vinyl, vs. Cassette, vs. CD vs. digital)
You know, I never download anything! I grew up in the era of CDs, so that format is close to my heart. I probably have something like 4,000 CDs.
When I was really young, nobody would have paid air in a jug for extreme metal records, so I had good luck buying vinyls at thrift stores and record shops that nowadays are worth tons of money; back then I paid two or three dollars each for first pressings of Iron Maiden, Exodus, Possessed, and so on. So I’m not really a guy who buys new vinyl, it’s so expensive and I think of vinyl as being a retro thing so if it’s not vintage I usually don’t go after it. That being said, probably 700 of my albums are vinyls.
As far as cassettes, that’s a small demographic consisting of maybe 300 pieces, most of which are insanely rare live bootleg performances that I’m convinced even the bands themselves don’t own. I own maybe two hundred bootlegs, many of which are from bands in their nascent stages, for instance: Exodus with Kirk Hammett in February of 1982, the second-ever Morbid Angel show, Death rehearsing/demoing “Leprosy,” the Metallica joke band Spastik Children live in 1986, the first Megadeth show.
Then there’s Metallica, Iron Maiden and Megadeth on every freaking tour they did from 1980-1990, and a bunch of weird ones from bands like Whiplash, Legacy, Hallows Eve…bands that are really cool to hear live because they weren’t doing huge tours and weren’t seen live by everybody and their brother. I also have some legitimate tape-trader-era demos that are extremely difficult to locate, specifically I own all three original, first run Deceased demos which is cool because they’re probably my favorite band ever.
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?
Some of my friends would tell you I’m a quantity guy rather than quality haha! So I’m counting every dang piece, even if it’s three of the same thing over three formats, although I usually avoid doing that for the sake of expense. It’s funny, I have a friend who buys a first run copy, in every available format, of every album he has. He also makes a lot more money than I do and can afford that kind of shenaniganry, Not me!
When you collect certain bands, do you buy all of their stuff such as Live albums, EP’s, Compilations, box-sets etc?
Oh man, I would LOVE to do this. Champagne, taste, beer budget, unfortunately. I salivate over expensive earbooks and box sets loaded with useless extras and then buy the standard jewelcase edition during the label Black Friday blowout sale just like every other schmuck out there. I’m definitely a conundrum because I’m an OCD completist like a lot of collectors, but I’m also kind of cheap. I will say that my recent obsession is Japanese editions; I’m selling off a lot of my US and European pressings and putting the money towards the Asian editions.
How do you organize your collection if at all; by genre, Chronologically? Alphabetically?
Not genre, that’s too much work even for me; who even knows what subgenre some bands are in? Are you gonna split up releases, like put early Arcturus in black metal and later Arcturus in Avante-Garde? Is that even a genre? No, I just do it alphabetically, then by year of release. You’re liable to find Abominable Putridity next to AC/DC. My wife also has a large collection and we collect together, so there’s N’Sync next to Napalm Death, Spill Canvas next to Soilwork, and that is just fine with me! It’s all music that we enjoy and it is a bond that we have.
Do you insure your collection?
Believe it or not, I’ve actually tried and it’s very difficult to do! Even specialty insurers don’t really insure record collections; luckily my homeowner’s policy covers the monetary value of virtually everything in my residence even though the collection isn’t specifically listed on the policy.
How do you store your collection?
Over the years I’ve amassed a ton of shelving for physical storage, although it’s all sort of random and not really fit for display. It’s always been a dream of mine to create some custom shelving for each format as well as some display cabinets for the signed or sentimental items I’ve collected while on tour like posters, shirts, drumsticks I’ve used on tour, et cetera. I also back up virtually everything that I buy on ITunes and store it on a couple of classic brick IPods which I also use when I’m rehearsing drums as I am constantly learning the songs that I listen to!
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?
My personal beliefs sort of limit certain genres, oddly enough. I have thousands of albums, but I don’t listen to anything Satanic or that glorifies misogyny. Even the tongue-in-cheek stuff, it’s just not for me. I love black metal, but I don’t really have a ton of it for that reason. It’s kind of funny, actually: I have entire discographies by bands like Deceased, Symphony X, At Vance and Dark Tranquillity….but no Slayer, no Cannibal Corpse, no Deicide, no Watain. I guess that means a lot more power metal, melodic death metal, classic heavy metal. I love it all though, don’t get me wrong. To actually answer the question, I have no idea but I definitely have like 500 power metal albums!
Do you sell and trade or strictly buy?
For a long time, I never sold anything. I recently discovered Discogs and realized that a ton of stuff I had was worth a small fortune. I never paid any attention to what pressing I was buying back when I started collecting; I just bought albums and listened to them. I’m not dead set on having first pressings, and so I started selling off some of the really insane stuff that I had, every man has his price as they say. Since then, I’ve loosened my grip on a lot of items and really enjoyed selling and trading.
What is your preferred format?
CDs, for sure. The convenience of digital storage, the affordability and the universality of the format have always made them desirable to me. As much as I’m a collector, I’m not a true audiophile or someone who is going to tell you that “Deathcrush can only be listened to on vinyl because it sounds warmer.” I heard someone say that once, in real life, out loud. Huh. I thought they wanted to sound cold?
How do you track your collection? Do you use a spreadsheet or one of the on-line services or even a hand-written list?
I’m in the process of getting it all on Discogs, but dang: It’s a long process. My t-shirts are almost all tracked, I use a site called T-Shirtslayer for those.
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 have a lot of cassette demos that are hyper rare, but those are not really that easy to pin down values for due to authenticity verification. But outside of those, I’d say a NM copy of Darkthrone’s ‘Soulside Journey,’ that’s probably a 200-250 dollar item. I have or have had a few CDs in that range as well; I sold a first run copy of the Crimson Thorn debut on CD for 300 bucks last year, and I have some ridiculous CDs lying around in the 150-200 dollar vicinity.
What is your rarest item in your collection?
Iron Maiden – Maiden Japan EP signed in 1982 by ⅘ of the band.
All three first-run Deceased demo tapes.
I can’t believe I’m saying this because I hate this band, but I found a first run, hand numbered copy of “Facta Loquuntur” by Absurd in a box of used discs for like nine bucks haha! There’s like 500 of those I think. So that one will go on the chopping block at some point.
I have one of 50 black and white demo shirts that Hellwitch made in 1986 for the Transgressive Sentience demo, which is unreal!
What is the most you have paid for an item?
Outside of that Darkthrone record (which I recently treated myself to at a whopping $150 USD), the most I’ve paid for an album is like 50 bucks, and even that is really unusual for me. Most of the time, the thrill of the hunt and a good bargain is half the fun! Actually, I was thinking about how much I’d ever paid for a CD and realized it was thirty dollars: my wife wanted the Japanese pressing of “DNA” by the Backstreet Boys! My wife is also a fan of literally every genre of music including metal, and dang it, I worship the ground she walks on. Plus, she lets me spend an exorbitant amount of money and time hunting down my own musical wants, so when she wants an album, we buy it. It’s only fair!
Do you collect other non-music Metal memorabilia such as books, DVD’s, T-shirts, stickers, hot sauces, wine/beer etc.
Definitely. T-shirts are a huge weakness of mine, I probably have more rare t-shirts than anything else of value. Probably a good ten thousand dollars worth of those, it’s insane! Concert DVDs, posters, tons of old magazines…I really miss BW&BK and especially Metal Maniacs, so I have tons of those to reminisce about the good old days which I am barely old enough to remember!
What is the one item you have been searching for that you cannot seem to find?
There are about half a dozen, actually!
Cematery – Up From The Grave Demo (this is my absolute, ultimate holy grail!)
Soilwork – In Dreams We Fall Into The Eternal Lake Demo
Deceased – One Night In The Cemetery
Mickey Ratt – Drivin’ on E
The County Medical Examiners – Fetid Putrescent Whiffs Demo
Why do you collect Metal music?
I’ve always been a “collector” and a completist in a lot of regards, and heavy metal is what does it for me so it’s not a huge leap! It’s probably a little anticlimactic, but I have a mild form of autism! I love metal music, it’s in my blood and I’ll never give up listening to it, but my over-the-top OCD collecting is definitely a little mental haha! It’s a soothing way to put the outside world on the backburner for awhile: put on an amazing record and organize stacks of discs, put them in sleeves, clean them, enjoy every facet of them: not just the music, but the whole artistic statement that a physical record makes. Albums are truly time capsules and you can’t appreciate what the artist intended for you to experience at the time that they wrote and recorded those songs in any better or more complete way then holding that album in your hands, reading along to the lyrics and looking at the artwork.
In a morbid and Metal question, what do you plan to do with your collection when you die?
Best question of the interview! There’s a verse in the Bible that says “Where a man’s treasure is, there his heart will be also.” You can’t take it with you, and with that in mind, I try to keep a proper perspective on the importance of collecting and sort of ‘hold on loosely’ so to speak, because when I die, it could all end up at Goodwill. To prevent that very thing from occurring, well…in the deep, mist-shrouded woods of Northern Oregon, beneath the light of a gibbous moon, I made a pact in blood that when I die, my friend John Gentner gets my collection. Or maybe we loosely agreed to that, I can’t seem to remember the exact details. Maybe it was the three gin and tonics? Or a loss of blood? Anyhow, John owned a small heavy metal record shop for many years which is how I met him and I love him dearly and think the world of him. There is no one who would treat my collection with the respect it deserves more than he! So, providing that my demise doesn’t result in a major financial burden for my family…John, it’s all yours!
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.
Anytime I hear someone say “Final Thoughts,” I always think of John Tardy puking his guts out on the mic. Well, I operate a weird Facebook page related to my collecting habit called “One Item From Jason’s Metal Collection Every Day.” Pretty self-explanatory, you can check it out at: facebook.com/jasonsmetalrarities.
As I mentioned previously, I’m not only a metal fan but also a pretty decent extreme metal drummer. I have my own YouTube channel where I do covers and have a second Facebook page dedicated to my drumming (www.facebook.com/drfillgood). I play in a number of bands locally, and I have had the amazing privilege of touring with or filling-in for several bands that I grew up listening to, namely Jungle Rot, Arkaik and Exmortus. I’ve been able to tour alongside and meet so many musicians that I love and respect, and I’ve always had the presence of mind to bring along some albums to have signed! Many of my favorite items are records that bands have inscribed just for me, and that means so much more than what I can ever put into words. I once helped out Exciter at a gig where they didn’t have enough drums and Dan hung out with me and wrote me a note on my copy of “Kill After Kill.” Things like that really satisfy me as a fan and a musician.
Touring also means that I’ve had a chance to shop for records all over the place, and I’d like to mention some of my absolute favorite places to buy or that I have bought records, because collectors talk mostly about their collections and not their sources!
So here goes nothing: Yesterday & Today Records – The Dalles, OR; Mobius Records (RIP) – Hood River, OR; Metalhead Records (RIP), the Mallternative, Bach n’ Rock – Astoria, Oregon; Everyday Music, 2nd Avenue Records, Music Millennium – Portland, OR; Ranch Records, Boomtown Records (RIP) – Salem/Bend, OR; Zion’s Gate Records, Silver Platters – Seattle, WA; Off The Record (RIP) – Yakima, WA; The Long Ear Records – Couer d’ Alene, ID; Waterloo Records, Encore Records, Cheapo’s Records (RIP) – Austin, TX; Zilla Records – Las Vegas, NV; Amoeba Records, Rasmussen Records – San Francisco, CA.
If any of these places are in your vicinity, please go support them as I fear they will soon be a thing of the past. If you’re interested, check out these links to bands that I am playing with or have recorded with, and enjoy!
Finally, a huge thanks to Josh for this amazing series; reading the interview with Martin Popoff was a total joy and I can’t believe that I’m doing the same interview as him! Cheers!
(Me drumming some Immortal)