Our second interview is Brian Bobroff. Brian is the owner of the Toronto record store, 2TheBeat. Through out the years 2TheBeat has played a huge role in building most of our record collections. Unlike other stores in Toronto, it did not matter if you played hard dance, drum n bass or even minimal techno, 2TheBeat had it.
On May 27th 2TheBeat's doors will be closing for good. We wish Brian, Mr. Brown, D-Monic, Tyco, Carlio and everyone else all the best in the near future. Thanks alot guys.
For those who dont know you, whats your name and where are you from?
I am Brian J. Bobroff and I am from the Paris of the Prairies (aka Saskatoon, Saskatchewan).
What was it like to open up 2thebeat? What were some of the challenges?
The story that leads up to the creation of 2 The Beat is a very dark chapter in my history that I would rather just move on from. However, once I decided to create 2 The Beat (on December 6, 2002) things continuously got better. It began with a desk in my office followed by a phone and internet connection. Once I had those, it was a matter of thinking about what was needed and then getting it. That was the easy part.
The greatest challenge starting out was simply to get the word out that we existed. When we opened we did not have the same amount of stock that we do now so we were not all that impressive. Our main challenge from day one was to make 2 The Beat a place that anybody could come to and feel comfortable. I am an egalitarian most of the time so I wanted everyone to be treated the same and to be treated like a friend. There are a few bad seeds that do a lot to break your spirit, but most of our customers got our attitude and liked it.
The year we opened was also the summer of SARS which definitely hurt us as from the beginning we have always had great supporters in the GTA, Southern Ontario and US party people up for a visit. We were completely on the great path and that held us back a bit. However, after time passed we were able to get a pretty secure base of folks who come in weekly or ordered weekly which made us forget about those challenging times.
Did you always want to open up a record store?
No. The thought had never occurred to me despite my entire life being somewhat near a music shop of some kind. I did not own my own turntable or records until the shop opened. In that time I have completely fallen in love with vinyl and I firmly believe that as a lover and collector of music that it is the pinnacle way to appreciate music. I understand the convenience of MP3s and other cheaper and easier to transport methods. However, you can not pick up an MP3 and read the liner notes or look at the cool art and read the silly things etched into the inside of the record. I like touching the music and being able to look over at my records and get inspired in a way that I have never felt when looking at my MP3s.
I have collected a lot of records since and as long as I can keep finding music I like on vinyl, I will keep getting it. I opened up a record store because I wanted to contribute positively to Toronto's dance scene while I was here. I wanted to have a place where the music that other shops ignored or disdained could find a home. Acid Techno (and the music from the Stay Up Forever Collective) has been a passion of mine since before I knew what the music was. Last night I watched a video from a party in 1999 and I am absolutely going off in the most ravey way possible to a Mark EG set at Plastic Puppet Motive's the Summit in Saskatoon. I did not know what techno was, but I was dancing like a villain, I later decided that I had to help people enjoy acid techno too.
By the time that I opened up the shop I had a strong feeling that I was not the only one who felt that there was a void for harder music and that is why I felt that I could do something to help. We adapted musically to satisfy our customers as best as possible, but I have always looked at the shop as a techno store that sold other music.
What made 2thebeat better then most Toronto record stores?
I am not sure that I would say we were better than anyone. That is really up to each person individually. Some might agree, others will not. I think each shop has had their place and their speciality. For someone like you, there were not many options based on the music you like so I can see why you would say that.
Though, when I opened I did want to avoid some of the arrogance that is associated with record stores in general in any city. Some places are a little boys club and anybody outside of that was mostly ignored. This is true of a lot of shops across the globe. I have always found the small operations with the owner working near the till to be the friendliest environments to shop in any business. All of us have had our off days where we were not all we could be, but for the most part our successes came from treating people like a friend and not like an annoyance. Seems simple, but we all know that is not always the case.
You have had quite a few famous faces come into the store, who were some of them?
The most famous face to come into the store was Aaron Neville who hit #2 on the Billboard charts with his famous duet with Linda Ronstadt - "Don't Know Much." He did not buy anything. I created a list of a lot of the djs that have shopped at the store (this is from last year, mind you)
I think one of biggest prominent supporters from outside of Toronto was Donald Glaude. He has spent many a night in the shop after a set snatching up massive stacks of records to the point where he has bought at least 3 record bags from me just to carry out his purchase. We have had every artists visit from the Stay Up Forever Collective that has had a gig in Toronto in the past four years. I can also recall when Gaetano Parisio dropped by about 3 years ago and he was looking for minimal, which was the first hint of what was about to happen to the club techno scene in the following years.
D-Monic also brought a lot of the breaks headliners by the shop including Evil Nine, Krafty Kuts, The Freestylers, Atomic Hooligan, Deekline, DJ Love and many more. We have had in-store sets from Bryan Cox, Lady Dana, Global Deejays (though I will have to be honest and say their music makes my brain hurt). We have also had a lot of support from a lot of djs who have been around a while in Toronto too.
What made you keep the store running for as long as it did?
You! People like you coming in each week and supporting us. Great parties inspiring me to keep going. Most importantly, it was music that I enjoyed. In the past year or so there has been less and less music that I personally like so it was a lot harder for me to get excited. That is as much a factoras any as to why I felt it was time to move on. There is a lot of great music out there, but less and less of it is for me. For every Switch track there are 1000 generic electro house club tracks that bore me to tears. I never did this for financial gain, I did it to be involved with music. Now that the music is not as much my scene, I realized it was time to go and look for where and what my scene is.
You have recently started up 2thebeatdigital.com , with the record store closing, will you continue to increase your digital catalog?
I will. The store is potentially going to be sold and 2thebeatdigital will go with it. The plan is to make a lot of improvements to that end of the business and work with the future rather than fight it.
Where do you see the future of vinyl going? Will it last another year?
As long as people like me exist, vinyl will exist. There is no question that there are a lot of more convenient and cost effective ways to collect and and play music. However, there are a lot of traditionalists out there who still prefer to play records. Mark Oliver is an example. He is one of the most prominent djs in the history of Toronto and he still prefers records for a variety of reasons. There are some artists who have not released their labels digitally yet either. Though, I can not deny that more and more music will go 100% digital in the next few years.
A lot of the soul and art of the dj is eroding right now. Many people come in looking for a set list of a recent show of their favourite dj and nothing else. The art of digging and finding that track that nobody else has is nearly extinct. MP3s have hurt the individuality of some DJs. The beauty of vinyl, is that it ends up sold in used stores so there will be a place for it one way or another. We still sell a decent chunk of records and I hope that any future incarnation of 2 The Beat will continue to support those who love wax.
What does the future hold for yourself?
A summer spent outside of a windowless office in a rat infested building. As I said, I need to take some time to find out what excites me again. I have a lot of energy when I am excited and I want to get that back. I felt as though I have not been giving my best to my customers for a few months now and I need to get the batteries charged up so that whatever I do next I can give it 110%. The fun part is I am starting to play records in front of people a little bit. I do not pretend that I am skilled or talented (though I did host a radio show for 3 years on CFCR 90.5FM in Saskatoon, but that was playing tracks and not really mixing them), but I have some fun music and a couple of the places I am playing are not looking for any technical ability, just good tracks.
So if you happen to be at the Ness Creek Music Festival in Saskatchewan, listen for me. I am also doing a farewell set at Bomber's Birthday Bash on May 18. I will be playing a few of the tracks that meant the most to me during the run of 2 The Beat. Don't expect flawless mixing, but do expect a little journey into the 4 years and a bit of the shop jam packed into an hour long set.
Thanks again for all your support, we hope all the best for you. Any last words?
One last huge thank you to you and everyone else that has taken the time to check out the shop, come to one of our parties or just say something nice about us. 2 The Beat is just a store that sells stuff. It is our customers and friends that made it into something more than just a business. It was people like you that made it feel like a a community. I am grateful that I will walk away with a lot more friends than when I came in. Thank you to anybody who has supported 2 The Beat in any way. People have said a lot of nice things since I made the announcement this week and I am greatly humbled. I wish everyone good luck and don't stop enjoying music in whatever way that makes you happy. Se habla techno. - Brian B.
Scott Fo Shaw
JP & Jukesy