Record shopping with Soundgarden's Matt Cameron

In February 2015, Classic Rock photographer Ross Halfin was working with Soundgarden during the band’s Australian tour. On a day off before a gig in Melbourne, drummer Matt Cameron wanted to go record shopping, so Ross took him to one of his favourite stores – Vicious Sloth Collectibles.

What’s so great about this record store?

Ross Halfin: They have collectibles that you’ll never find anywhere else. Everything in that shop is mint condition. And the people working there know everything about records. There’s Pete and Ange Stathopoulos, they’re Greek Australians. Ange can tell you anything Metallica-related, and Pete can you anything Led Zeppelin-related. And there’s also Greg, who’s the punk expert. If you want to know about records, ask them. They know.

When you and Matt Cameron went there, what did you both buy?

He bought a whole load of Bowie albums. He’s a big Bowie fan and collector. The first show he saw was Bowie on the Station To Station tour, when Matt was thirteen. He also bought a Gene Krupa album. I bought loads of stuff. Black Sabbath Vol.4 Australian pressing, a Mott The Hoople white label Japanese promo for The Golden Age Of Rock ‘N’ Roll. Pete also gave me a Zeppelin single, Whole Lotta Love, it’s on the green Atlantic label and it’s got three T’s in Lotta. I told Jimmy (Page) about it and he bought it off me.

You made Jimmy Page buy one of his own records?

Well, once you give people something for free, it never ends. He also bought a load of Zeppelin vinyl off me last week – some of them Spanish, with different laminated covers. I feel I should let him have the Zeppelin records because it’s his music if he wants to collect it.

You and Jimmy still go to record fairs together – what kind of stuff does he collect?

He buys a lot of old rock’n’roll, or stuff that he played on. He can’t always remember what he played on because he was fifteen when he started. He also buys a lot of Zeppelin, and he likes world music.

What are the best record fairs in England?

The one at Olympia in London, and Reading is also really good. In London, the record fairs are great, but all the record stores are run by wankers.

How many records do you own now?

I’ve got about five thousand albums, plus a couple of thousand singles. I had a clear-out of all the albums I’ve got doubles or triples of. I’ve got more of The Who than any other band. A lot of Led Zeppelin as well.

Who has the best Zep collection that you’ve seen?

Pete at Vicious Sloth has got the best and biggest collection of Zeppelin records. When I was there with Matt Cameron, Pete showed us a signed Led Zeppelin II, from the only time Zeppelin played Melbourne, which was in 1972. Pete got it from a guy who was a security guard at the venue at the time. He also has a pair of John Bonham’s drumsticks. Matt was very impressed. In fact, he was so impressed that after the Soundgarden show at the Festival Hall in Melbourne, all of Faith No More were there, and Pete was there, and Matt Cameron made a big thing of telling all of Faith No More that Pete has the best record shop in Australia.

Is it the best record shop in the world?

It’s definitely one of my favourites. Also in LA I go to Freakbeat, which is in the Valley, it’s excellent and not over-priced.

Do you ever buy records on eBay, or is that not so much fun?

The problem when you buy something on eBay is you’re not looking at the record properly. I would only buy records from Japan on eBay, because the Japanese always looked after records. A Japanese ‘VG’ (Very Good) would be ‘mint’ in English. But if you’re a real collector, you love going to record shops.

And when you’re in those places, flicking through the racks of vinyl, do you get lost in your own little world?

Of course! That’s why you can spend hours in a record shop. I once went with a girlfriend to the record fair in Olympia and said I’ll just be ten minutes. An hour later she was pretty pissed. But I didn’t care. I found some great records that day.

Visit the Vicious Sloth website.

All pictures: Ross Halfin

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Paul Elliott

Freelance writer for Classic Rock since 2005, Paul Elliott has worked for leading music titles since 1985, including Sounds, Kerrang!, MOJO and Q. He is the author of several books including the first biography of Guns N’ Roses and the autobiography of bodyguard-to-the-stars Danny Francis. He has written liner notes for classic album reissues by artists such as Def Leppard, Thin Lizzy and Kiss, and currently works as content editor for Total Guitar. He lives in Bath - of which David Coverdale recently said: “How very Roman of you!”