Domino Sound Record Shack
New Orleans, Louisiana
Being a vast cultural spectacle likewise renowned for its excess, New Orleans is properly blessed with an excess of great record stores. First and foremost there is Louisiana Music Factory, smack in the heart and heat of the French Quarter. From the outside, the Factory might look like an unthinking, cynical tourist trap. But it’s not. The first floor is flashy with brand new CDs, yes, but the selection is the opposite of superficial. Here you will find all manner of Louisiana-related material—the latest, the greatest, the expected, the necessary, the obscure—and the utterly who-ever-heard-of-dat unexpected. The second floor, heavier on the vinyl and used CDs, gets even deeper in unpredictability.
A fairly new comer to town is Euclid Records, a hip-shaking wood structure within hurling distance of a Bywater levee and clad in eye-fetching pink and crammed to the nooks and crannies with, especially, vinyl in the 45 and 33 1/3 sizes.
We would be pleased to begin our “Record Store of the Month” department with either of these darlings—and both Louisiana Music Factory and Euclid Records will eventually get our spotlight. But for now, we happily debut our coverage with Domino Sound Record Shack, the smallest of these three gems, but arguably the funkiest and weirdest (and cleanest). Run by Matt Knowles, Domino Sound Record Shack can be loved for its emphasis on soul, jazz, and foreign music, the extraordinarily affordable prices of its wares (Knowles would rather disseminate music than stiff customers—we kid you not), and by the off-slant records and cassettes that Knowles releases on his own label. Next week, we will discuss and share some of these releases. Today, though, we just want to heartily recommend Domino Sound Record Shop as a place to visit and absorb (on 2557 Bayou Road; phone: 504-309-0871).
Our best advice is to come by in the afternoon since a few doors down from Domino is CoCo Hut, a first-rate Caribbean restaurant, perfect for lunch and also extraordinarily affordable.
Here now is a little Q&A to which we subjected Mr. Knowles.
THE OXFORD AMERICAN: Please give us a brief history of your record store.
DOMINO SOUND: Five years, always the same spot.
THE OA: Please describe the neighborhood of which your store is a part.
DS: Bayou Road is the oldest path in New Orleans. The Native Americans used it as their route from river to bayou, and it had a trading post on it way way back that now houses The Church of I am What I Am and King & Queen Emporium. The block feels more like the Caribbean than any other in New Orleans with Club Caribbean, Coco Hut (a Caribbean restaurant), and a semi-constant breeze. It also has Community Book Center, a wonderful afro-centric bookstore. Not too far from City Park, maybe a ten to fifteen minute walk.
THE OA: What does your store specialize in?
DS: Records and cassettes. It’s not too big, so it’s not loaded with filler. The racks are full, and they are, for the most part, filled with gems. At least we think. What I would think are the biggest selections of reggae on LP and 45 anywhere in the area, loads of International albums—most musical genres are represented pretty well.
THE OA: What doesn’t it specialize in?
DS: Compact discs. Modern Billboard hits. Triple gatefold 180 gram $50 re-presses of records we see all of the time and set out for $5.
THE OA: Why did you open a record store?
DS: Wasn’t that interested in the other record stores in town, they didn’t have reggae 45s and International albums for me to dig through.
THE OA: Do you remember the first record you purchased?
DS: Flipper, Gone Fishin’
THE OA: If you could change/add anything to your record store, what would it be?
DS: Running water and a bathroom.
THE OA: Are there any records that you would not sell out of some sort of musical principle?
DS: The ones I listen to all of the time.
THE OA: What is your favorite song of all time?
DS: Rotating for sure. Currently, I’d say “If You Need Me” by Solomon Burke.
THE OA: What local band or artist most excites you right now?
DS: Why Are We Building Such A Big Ship?
THE OA: Who is your favorite musician from your area, living or not?
DS: Robert Pete Williams
THE OA: What five albums, in your opinion, rank among the five greatest musical achievements of all time?
1. Minutemen, Double Nickels on the Dime
2. Burning Spear, Rocking Time
3. Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Natural Black Inventions: Root Strata
4. Crass, Penis Envy
5. Glen Brown & King Tubby, Termination Dub
THE OA: What album or song do you play most frequently in your store?
DS: Another rotating one. Lately it has been Wedding Songs, an LP I just re-released of Amharic Ethiopian wedding songs recorded in 1973.
THE OA: Name a few artists who you think are criminally underrated and who you wish people would listen to more?
DS: Calixto Ochoa, Dead Moon, John Lee Ziegler, Joseph Spence, S.E. Rogie, Staple Singers, Edna Gallmon Cooke, Ali Birra, Philip Cohran, Justin Hinds, Ethiopians, Ayalew Mesfin, The Ex, Robert Pete Williams, etc….
THE OA: Have you noticed any shifts in your clientele in recent years—different demographics?
DS: Not so much. It has always taken all kinds.
THE OA: What do you attribute the recent growth in vinyl sales to?
DS: The fact that CDs were yet another con orchestrated by the music industry. They are fragile, cold, and certainly not built to last.
THE OA: Do you think the sound quality of vinyl exceeds that of CDs? (If so, how?)
DS: Yes, it is warmer, richer, and some songs sound better with little crackles and mild pops.
THE OA: What advice would you give to new vinyl buyers?
DS: Go to record stores with a bit of time. I’ve found way more mysterious gems of unknown music looking through records than by any other way.
THE OA: What is the future of vinyl?
DS: It seems bright as long as records stay in the affordable range. They have proved themselves to be the only medium where an actual piece of music can be attained and held onto for infinity.
THE OA: THANK YOU!!!!
DS: Thank you.