By Robert Blood
The interior of TRAX Records looks exactly like what you’d expect from a small-town indie vinyl shop. The walls are lined with classic and new records beneath which runs row after row of LPs. A central island is buoyed by CDs, and, in the corner, rests an assortment of record players, concert DVDs, and various music-related errata. It’s cozy and unassuming.
The music playing over the stereo is familiar and behind the counter stands a friendly guy who looks a bit like Paul McCartney. Often clad in a band T-shirt, sometimes donning a suit coat, he’s all smiles and is, naturally, excited to talk about music.
TRAX Records has been at 234 S. Montezuma St. since November of 2016, but longtime Prescott residents might think it sounds a bit too familiar. Owner Daryl Halleck talks about his store’s storied history. …
How long have you been in Prescott and how long has TRAX Records been here?
Trax Records has been here since November of last year. I’ve been here since 1986, so that was 31 years in March. It’s all come full circle for me. When I first came to Prescott it was for a summer to visit family and I fell in love with it. I loved the downtown, I loved the courthouse, which looked a lot like the clock tower from “Back to the Future,” and when I decided to stay, I decided I wanted to open up a record shop. I was a huge John Hughs fan and I’d just seen the movie “Pretty in Pink” twice in the theater, so when I was trying to think of a name, I took the record shop from that movie, Trax Records. That’s also why the sign and the shop are all bright pink. I opened the store on Gurley Street next to Ken Lindley Park, and I was there for about a year. The landlords wanted to put in a restaurant and I had to move out, so I went to Prescott Valley. CDs were becoming all the rage then, in 1987/88, and vinyl sales were dropping, so I immediately switched over. I was really sad about that — I’d always wanted a record shop — but CDs were what was selling. They’re OK, but they just seem kind of plastic, and they don’t have the same sound as an LP. I kept that store, which was called Music Stop, until 2004, so that was 18 years. By 2004 it was mostly CDs. The shop had gotten too big and had more of a corporate feel, like a mall store. That’s not what I wanted to be doing. Since CD sales were going down I decided to close the store. After that, I had music in antique stores in downtown Prescott for two or three years at a spot in Penningtons. After that, I was working with mentally disabled adults five days a week, mostly driving them around, and I often went to the square downtown because the scenery is so nice. I saw the spot was open here, and decided it was time to re-open TRAX Records.
Why come back to vinyl? And why come back to downtown Prescott?
It’s everything about it. I like the sound — the depth and warmth of vinyl. There’s the artwork, the detail you can really see. And I like being able to pull out and read the liner notes and the lyrics. I’ve been through everything from vinyl, to 8-tracks, t0 cassettes, to CDs, and vinyl has the best sound. … As far as being downtown, I love getting to know the people here. The Courthouse Square is just so beautiful with the grass and trees and all the holiday stuff. When I saw the building with the exposed brick and wood floor, I knew I need to paint the place purple and hot pink. It’s all come full circle, 30 years later, coming back to TRAX Records. It’s a second chance, like I’m being reborn.
Was it just serendipity or were you actively looking to do this again?
I’d been looking for about two years. I had about 1,000 albums left over from the antique store days, and I started cleaning out my record collection. I didn’t have a definitive plan, but I realized I didn’t need whole sections of my collection. When I came up with about 2,000 records, I knew I could restock a store. We have new vinyl, too, plus CDs, videos and all kinds of other stuff. Still, it’s kind of downsized from the Music Stop days, and it has more of a small record store vibe now. … Vinyl’s comeback is really exciting. There were always record collectors back in the day, but cassettes and CDs made more sense when you were listening to music in your car. Now, it seems like people are buying records because they really like the album or the artist, and that’s the best way to pay tribute to that. It seems like people are really excited about it. Every day, people come in and tell me how happy they are that there’s a record store here or that vinyl’s back. That makes me feel really good, like I’m helping the community.
What’s your clientele like these days? Is it different than you expected?
Well, I really thought my crowd was going to be middle-aged mostly males. But, instead I’m getting tons of kids who’re 14 or 15, and some of them are coming in with their parents. I expected to sell a lot of Bruno Mars, but it’s been tons of The Beatles, Bob Dylan — all the classics. Sometimes the parents say we used to play this or that when they were young and they weren’t into it, but now that they’re older they’re realizing how great that music it. That old music has long legs. It’s cool to see that that kind of music is still being recognized and appreciated. … In the 1990s, eighty percent of what I sold was gangster rap, which was kind of sad — not so much because of the music, itself, but because it seemed like all the good, older music was going to die off. And as newer music got more plastic, downloading came into the scene. You know that song, “Video Killed the Radio Star”? Well, the internet killed off the rest of the music stars. But now, somehow, there are people in their late teens and early 20s buying old Ray Charles albums. I’m blown away by that. Old jazz and blues albums are selling, and I’m really wowed by it.
This might seem pretty self-evident, but what role does music play in people’s lives?
I think it ties into entertainment in general. You put in your work or school week or whatever it is that you do, and you want to relax with a movie or listen to music. Wherever you go, there’s music. You listen to music when you drive to a place. And music, it creates memories. I can hear a song and thirty years later, I can immediately feel where I was and what I was doing at the time. That’s one of the coolest things about music, really.
What are some of the challenges of running a record store in this day and age?
Really, stocking the store has been a challenge. Newer vinyl is really expensive. I’m still paying a couple of loans off, but I’ve got a good feeling, and things are going way better than they did the first time I opened the store downtown. When I first opened, there was Hastings and another little record peddler as competition, so I was just another record shop. The market was more saturated. Now, it’s something of a novelty. And people are responding to it. I think that’s because people understand vinyl has a soul to it, a feeling you don’t get with other mediums. And, because it’s a small town, you get to know the people who are always walking around, and it keeps things interesting.
Regardless, the technology is different now then it was then. Do you get a lot of questions about buying and using record players? Do people want those USB plug-ins to rip the vinyl mix on their computers?
I get a few kids who are into that, but it’s more people coming in that don’t really know what to do with a turntable. There’s a difference between a $50 player and something that’s more expensive, plus there’s the receiver and the speakers. You can expand on speakers, but other things can be the limiting factor. If you just want to have fun with a record player and stick it in one small room, you can get by with one kind of rig. If you want the sound that’s in the store, that’s a different setup. I’ve been adding a lot more record players and stereo equipment to the shop, and I’m trying to get new and used turntables all the time. Old tube receivers have the best sound, and I’m always looking for those.
You play in a local band, too, The Sex Toyz. Can you tell us about the band, and what, if anything, that has to do with the store?
Well, I started The Sex Toyz as a punk band in Tucson in 1984 with a friend of mine. At that time we were in the middle of a big hardcore scene influenced by the So-Cal scene. We were booking all-ages shows and had bands coming through like The Vandals and Dead Kennedys. When we moved to Prescott, there were lots of really good bands, and so we did The Sex Toyz off and on over the last 30 year with different people. Right now, in its current incarnation, we’ve been doing it with the same people for about three years. There aren’t a lot of places to play for a punk band that plays mostly originals in a small town, but we try to do shows. We also try to wear a lot of black and pink on stage, so there’s a small tie-in to the record shop. So, you know, they kind of blend together. This isn’t so much a job as a lifestyle in some ways.
TRAX Records is open 11 a.m.-6 pm. Tuesday-Saturday at 234 S. Montezuma St., 928-830-9042.
Robert Blood is a Mayer-ish-based freelance writer and ne’er-do-well who’s working on his last book, which, incidentally, will be his first. Contact him at BloodyBobby5@Gmail.Com.