Tucked away in the corner of the Urban Spree Art Galerie is the latest brain child of Josh Murphy, the venue’s music curator and all around nice guy. A vintage Temp-Rite refrigerator has been outfitted with a modest mixer, table, and stacks of boutique vinyl releases from Berlin labels. The mobile music-box has been dubbed, “The Smallest Record Store in the World.” We spent an unseasonably beautiful Berlin afternoon chatting with Josh to find out what the hell is going on here.
HOW DID YOU GUYS COME UP WITH THE IDEA? WHAT WAS THE INSPIRATION?
Like most great ideas, it was cooked up pretty early in the morning. The idea was to showcase a physical manifestation our curation of the musical program here. The smallest record store is based on two things: either bands that have played here and who’s records we’ve bought directly, or local label curation like Aufnahme + Wiedergabe, that we’re working with currently. We work with them based on the fact that we’ve done countless shows of theirs here. Most of the bands that we’re putting into the record store have either played here already or are booked to play here in the future. So it was a pretty easy step, ya know? Everyone had merch, we wanted to find a way to make a physical representation of our concept and curation here. Because Urban Spree isn’t a venue that takes just any show. You can’t just write me and say, “I want to play here,” like a lot of venues in Berlin. As long as their rent is covered, basically anyone is allowed to play. It doesn’t work like that here. There is a specific concept and a vision. The idea was to put that together, to take our favorite parts and put them in a physical store. And obviously it was a pretty easy step for us since we already have the gallery. Urban Spree is a collective and community space. We have the gallery, we have the bookstore, and we have the concert room. The gallery is open 12-19:00, the concert room opens at 20 or 21:00. We’ve got a period of a couple hours during the day where Urban Spree is closed. Except for the summer period. So it’s a way to link the two together. The record store is situated in the gallery. It’s open during the day, you can come see, whilst looking through the books or whatever, stop and check out the records to get a taste or feel of what you might find at nighttime here. So it’s a way to put the two artistic mediums together.
Just how small is the collection?
At the moment, it’s about 50 records, but obviously the number will fluctuate. Given the type of labels that we’re working with, they’re not just going to be continued pressings. Some of them will be, but others, once they’re sold out, that’s it. It won’t continue to grow with everything being constantly restocked. We’re going to keep it fluid and ever-changing. The next label we’re going to take on is Grautag, then Instruments of Discipline, and then Fleisch. All of which are Berlin-based. To give you an idea, Fleisch just has five releases. Instruments of Discipline have a few more. Aufnahme is probably going to be the staple of the store, since they’re of the size that allows them to repress. But even so, they’re not doing it often. There could be a gap of two years between pressings.
So the core concept of this project is “boutique”?
It’s boutique but we will push more. I reckon we can probably fit 100-200 releases in there, before it gets too messy.
You mentioned to me before that you’d be applying for status in the Guinness Book of World Records. Does that refer to the volume of the space or of the number of records?
This refers to the size of the actual space. We mostly looked into this because we thought it would be funny. There is another store in Alabama about the size of two phone booths that holds the current record. I’m not sure if this is something that we’ll ever follow up on, or if it’s just for comedic value. But yes, technically the smallest record store in the world.
Who specifically is curating the selection? And what’s the process for curating?
It’s me (Josh) and Nico. Nico is my booking partner here. We’re running all of the curation at Urban Spree. We work with carefully selected bookers and promoters who present things to us. Within that, we have our own production company called “Milk Me.” Through this we’re doing coproductions with some of these labels as well. The curation falls in line with our musical concept. It has to be exciting and it has to be underground, celebrating the home of little-heard music. I don’t want to say anti-mainstream…
But basically anything you consider good?
Exactly! Because saying ‘anti-mainstream’ means buying into that bullshit or validating it, and our whole concept is about not buying into it. So how are we curating it? It has to fall in line with the vision of the venue. That’s the most on-point answer. It doesn’t have to be genre-specific. That’s important. They have to have played here, or they have to be part of a local label that hosts nights here. It becomes community-based. The cool thing about this is that we can couple the curation of the store at a specific moment with events. For instance, on 1st December Instruments of Discipline have a night here alongside Aufnahme + Wiedergabe. The record store will be moved into the merch area of the show. That in turn will be the launch of their guest curation spot of the store.
Do you have any personal favorites that are in the collection right now?
Since the record store is on wheels, do you have a list of places that will be hosting it other than here? And how often do you want to move?
We’ll have to see. We just started this in the summer, or what there was of it, so we’re just getting our feet now. The plan is to start a few more stores in other cities. We’ll set one up at La Station in Paris and another at La Vallée in Brussels.
And you’ll be making independent stores for each of these?
Yep, exactly. We’re going to call them one, two, and three. And after that we’ll be looking at other record markets and festivals around Berlin, like the punk record market at Cassiopeia. But honestly, we’re just starting to look at these things. For now, It’ll stay where it is in our gallery.
The smallest record store in the world can be found inside the Urban Spree Art Galerie. Open Tuesday-Sunday, 12:00 – 19:00 at Revaler Str. 99, 10245.