Celebrating Record Store Day . . . Worldwide
Saturday, April 20, marks this year's Record Store Day, a celebration of independent retailers in which bands offer special releases and fans flock to local record stores to purchase music the old-school way. In celebration of Record Store Day, our writer Chuck Armstrong is sharing his firsthand account of a trip to the Hammer Muzik shop in Instanbul, Turkey, while on vacation there in January of this year.
Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to travel to Istanbul, Turkey. While I obviously was excited to experience the rich history of the area, the day I booked my flight I started to research local record stores in Istanbul. Record Store Day's official website piqued my interest by describing one Turkish shop as "the one and only Metal Shop in Istanbul." Thanks to the discovery of Hammer Muzik, my search was over.
It didn't take long for me to find Hammer Muzik on Twitter and start conversing with the shop. I appreciated the prompt and thoughtful replies, and felt energized when the store's Twitter entity told me, "You will be welcomed, brother."
After spending a few days doing the tourist thing in Istanbul, I was ready to find Hammer Muzik. Thanks to the continued Twitter relationship, the store gave me simple and easy to follow directions to find their location. On Thursday morning of Jan. 24, I set out on the adventure I had been looking forward to for months. Hopping on the ferry to Kadıköy, a district in Istanbul, I could hardly contain my excitement. When the ferry docked, I was the first off and within 10 minutes, I found myself on one of the coolest pedestrian streets I had encountered in this foreign land. I found my way to Hammer Muzik, which is located in a building full of several small stores selling books and music paraphernalia.
It didn't take more than a few minutes for the lone employee in the small shop to look at me -- I clearly look like I'm not from Turkey -- and say, "Are you the American from Twitter?" With that, Enis Kizilkaya and I struck up a friendship, one that was started 5,000 miles through a social media site and one that is based purely on our mutual passion for music.
While I was there, Enis and I chatted about the history of Hammer Muzik, among other things. He's worked with the store since November 1998, and before that he was just a regular customer. It turns out the store, which began as a small music shop, is now an independent record label. Enis has been with them for over half of their life.
Not only has Hammer Muzik survived for over two decades, but it seems to be thriving. What sets it apart from other music shops in Istanbul? "Music wise, we specialize in heavy metal and rock. That's the biggest difference," Enis said. "We are the only metal shop around and I proudly say we carry a good selection of stuff within the genre...We try to work with as many labels as possible from all parts of the planet. We carry stuff from mainstream bands like Metallica and Iron Maiden to very extreme acts like Dying Fetus, Deeds of Flesh and Pig Destroyer."
Aside from the merchandise and the label side of the business, there's no question that Hammer Muzik's success can be attributed to the environment the store creates for the people who come in and shop (Enis refuses to call those people "customers"). "The friendly and honest atmosphere in the shop and our relationships with people beats any other store around," he told me.
I can attest to that friendliness. During my time at Hammer Muzik, every single CD or record I showed a slight interest in, Enis cracked it open and played a couple tracks for me to hear. By the end of my visit, I left with a decent haul from all Turkish acts, and a couple from Hammer Muzik's label: Pentagram (Enis was sure to tell me this is not the American band), Comma, Mekanik, Soul Sacrifice and Sakatat.
Even after my visit, the friendship with Enis continued. When I walked in, Enis was spinning a record that sounded like metal perfection to me, but I didn't know what it was. He explained it was from his boss' personal archive and was not for sell. The record? Reverend's 'World Won't Miss You." As soon as I got back to the States, I started searching for it, but couldn't find it locally. I eventually stumbled across it online and ordered it. As soon as I received it, I snapped a photo and Tweeted it to Enis and Hammer Muzik. It didn't take long for Enis to not only respond, but post the photo of my record on Hammer Muzik's Facebook page, along with a message.
Around the end of January we got a message on our Twitter account. It was from Chuck Armstrong from the USA and he was telling me he will be in Istanbul soon and was asking how he can come to our shop. We replied and he was here in a few days. When he came, I was spinning Reverend's 'World Won't Miss You' record from 1990 off the archive of Haluk Atakli, the founder of the shop. That was the first time I was hearing that album. That is a great record and I myself got introduced to the band that day as well. And the question, "What is playing right now," came from Chuck. I showed him the LP and he wanted to purchase it, but it wasn't for sale. That day I played him a bunch of Turkish bands' CDs and he purchased those he liked and went back home. A few days later he shared the picture of our shop on the Facebook profile of Record Store Day, through whom he found our shop, with nice, complimentary words regarding our place.
But more importantly...he found the Reverend record and bought it...Metal shops are super places where you can get introduced to super albums. \m/
Hammer Muzik is the epitome of what all record stores should be like. Enis and the store crew understand that music is more than just an MP3 you buy from iTunes or steal from a torrent site. Music is a way of life, and for many, is life. With Record Store Day set to take place on April 20, many music fans will hit the streets and support their local record stores. But don't let the support end there; build relationships with the store employees (and if you're an employee, build relationships with the people who support the store!). RSD comes around once or twice a year, but we should treat every day like it's Record Store Day.
In New York City, we saw Bleecker Bob's shut its doors on April 14, 2013, after 40-plus years of service to the Village. Less than a week before RSD, we were reminded of an unfortunate fact: record stores cannot survive on nostalgia alone and need our support.
"Nothing can replace the music in the format you can hold in your hands and the atmosphere of a record store where you can socialize with people of the same musical taste as yourself," Enis explained. Who can argue with that?
While I wish I could be in Istanbul supporting Hammer Muzik on RSD, I will be camped out in front of New York City's Generation Records in the Village, and plan to hit other shops in the city. I know I'll be joined by thousands - hopefully millions! - of other like-minded individuals in New York City and across the globe.
To wrap this missive up, I want to share one final thought from Enis about the state of music.
"I don't think it will ever be like the late 80s or early 90s when metal was so big. Bands like Testament and Overkill were on major labels and albums were very well promoted. It wasn't uncommon to see a Sepultura video on MTV's daily rotation. Sales were high. But now, even though sales are lower, it feels like more albums come out every single day, and that might be a good side of the technical evaluation of the industry. We try to support music in any form we can by selling stuff and also buying for our own collections and going to local gigs. I hope the music and record stores will always be around because they are the most beautiful things in the world."
Join me in supporting those beautiful things on Record Store Day, and every other day of the year, too.