Graham Reid | | 3 min read
Food trucks are common enough, but Benjamin James (“Yeah, Benjamin, everyone's a 'Ben', right?”) has a more colourful, diverse and musical version: Herb's Mobile Record Store.
And it's probably coming to a town near you.
Based in Wellington but going on the road in his multicoloured truck, he is bringing around 1700 records north through Whanganui, New Plymouth, Hamilton and Raglan to Auckland (see dates and locations below).
James has considerable form in the record store game: “I started Moon Bar in Newtown, I'd stepped out of Death Ray Records in Newton to do that.
“Before that I had Evil Genius in Berhampore and before that I was in Lyttelton but the earthquake smashed that. I only had that store for seven days!”
Until last weekend he was at Access Radio and until two years ago was at Wellington Museum putting on events for them.
"But during second lockdown two years ago I stepped out of that and, because I'd had four physical stores in the past, I thought it was time for my mobile store idea.”
For the past two years he's been taking the truck out four days a week in winter and five in summer.
“It's always rock and hard place with me,” he laughs. “I don't have any other options but I know I can run a record store. I could do plastering but I'm not going back to do plastering again.
“And there's no point in being a full time musician.”
And yes, he has done that too: “I played with Anita Clark (aka Motte) and Brooke Singer from French For Rabbits in a band called Ragamuffin Children but my main band was SpartacusR”.
But now it is Herb's Mobile Record Store which announces its locations three weeks in advance on his website and hits social media platforms on the days beforehand.
And what does the truck contain by way of vinyl?
“Its a curated collection, people come in and can be disappointed because I don't carry AC/DC or Guns'N Roses and stuff.
“It's more the stuff I'm interested in. I really like Krautrock so there's a lot of German electronic music, and a lot of obscure little labels from around the world.
“I like early New Zealand stuff so there's heaps of that: Ragnarok, originals of Look Blue Go Purple, Vibraslaps, Dead Famous People, Tin Syndrome and all that kind of thing. Some Braille stuff too.
“Bits and pieces from all over the place.”
When he sees collections on offer he will go through and pick out what suits Herb's or else offer to take the lot, cherry-pick what he wants and rest goes to the opshop.
“It's a tough business and maybe I need to get a few titles in here that keep people coming in.”
But wouldn't that diminish the “curated” aspect?
“Yeah but it would also mean my business would continue to survive.
“Maybe sometimes you have to carry a few LAB albums!
"I'm not going to carry Six60 but will have some LAB.”
On his brief tour north (he's done the South Island) he'll get an Air B'nB every couple of days to have a shower.
Otherwise he sleeps in the truck. Yes, there's even a hidden bed among the vinyl.
And why Herb's Mobile Record Store, Benjamin?
“When I came to name it I had a hat on with with 'Herb's Fishing Tackle' or something like that on it.
"And funnily enough Herbs was the first concert my Dad took me to when I was 8.
“So . . .”
For further details on Herb's Mobile Record Store check out his website here where there is also his online store.