I’ve been friends with Walter Daniels for years, and before we recorded our new album on 12XU I did an oral history interview with him about working at Sound Exchange, the legendary Austin, Texas record store, for the local historical archives. Since our in-store at End of an Ear celebrating the release of our new record is this week, I thought it would be cool to share the interview with ya. Unfortunately, all that’s left of Sound Exchange is the Daniel Johnston mural on the side of the building, but in its heyday was a major epicenter for punk rock and rock n’ roll in Austin.
I did this interview when I was working at the Austin History Center, the historical archives for the city of Austin, and for Travis County, Texas. Unfortunately, for a city that claims to be the “Live Music Capital of the World,” music-related material is not a large part of the collection at the AHC. They do have the papers of Tim Kerr in their manuscript archives, which is pretty cool because you can pull out a box of old Big Boys and Jack O’ Fire t-shirts. Tim’s collection also has a lot of Xeroxed flyers from early punk shows, which are great to check out. I got them to add copies of Ben Snakepit’s comics when I was there, too, so future generations will know what it was like to be a punk-rock loser in Austin in the aughts. But generally, music-related stuff is under-represented in the AHC’s holdings.
I wanted to do this interview to add some more music-related material to the AHC collection, to better document Austin’s punk rock scene, and to document a bit about the record store scene in Austin, as well. Records stores were/are an important part of any healthy music scene. And at the time this interview was conducted, things were looking kinda bleak.
When I was working at the AHC was also when everybody stopped buying CDs, and downloading and torrenting files was making the music industry collapse. This interview was recorded in 2010, after record shops in Austin like Sound Exchange, the Austin location of Tower Records, 33 Degrees, and Sound on Sound had all closed in rapid succession. So, please forgive the bits of gloom and doom that pop up regarding the future of the record trade, things didn’t look too good at the time.
In 2010, nobody could have predicted that vinyl sales would have picked up as much as they have today. Four years later, things have turned around a bit, and Austin record stores like End of an Ear, Antone’s, and Breakaway are thriving. But this interview is still an interesting look at Walter’s time working at Sound Exchange, and at the Austin music scene in general.
Walter also gets to bitch about being the only guy around who liked both punk rock and roots music, and how Charlie Rich got no respect from the punks! If you want a little window into why Walter and I get along, share the same mindset in many ways, and how a record like Dead Mall Blues makes perfect sense to us, even if nobody else gets it – this interview is a great place to start!
3106 Daniels, Jeff (PDF)
This interview is in the holdings of the AHC, so if you ever go there in person you can ask for a paper copy, or to listen to the original recording, too!