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Collector Joel De’ath on collecting as therapy and a record’s relationship to grief

The record collector, trader and seller talks about his role as a ‘keeper’ of people’s personal treasures, the feeling embodied in vinyl and his journey beyond the music

After growing up in a house full of records, Joel De’ath’s thirst for music led him from A&R manager at Atlantic Records in the 2000s and band management, to become part of Sony Management’s catalogue team. Then, 20 years in the industry while traversing alcoholism to sobriety, he quit to retrain in psychoanalytical psychotherapy focusing on people’s deep-rooted trauma to find better ways for others to being more content in the world in which they inhabit. 

To fund this, he started Brighter Day Record Shop – for what day isn’t made brighter by a beautiful vinyl record? – with the aim to become the most approachable, enjoyable record shop online. De’ath currently has about 10,000 items in his shop and 2,000 in his private collection. As a ‘temporary custodian’, he explains his love of vinyl and his job of keeping them safe until the next owner comes.

For me, collecting will be a way of accepting and forgiving my younger self for being this very angry, very nihilistic young teenager who found difficulty finding himself in the world and instead immersed himself in this subgenre of music, which was very misanthropic. It’s a way of my adult self-accepting my younger self by saying, look, I have the record now, it’s time to move on.

  1. Joel D’eath on Spikey Metal and Metal Sevens

    I grew up a very angry young metalhead. The music I listened to I call spiky metal because the lettering was designed in such as way that you couldn’t often read the band’s name on the album! Black metal was a very, very small subgenre of music predominantly from Scandinavia and caused a lot of notoriety in the 90s, because a few members from these bands either murdered each other or burnt churches in the name of Satan.


  2. Mayhem : Death Crush (not the valuable one!)

    They used to only press about 500 or 1000 of each record. Now fast forward 20 or 30 years, these have become so sought after – so rare that they go for thousands – becoming among the rarest, hardest to find records in the vinyl collecting community. I am on the brink of acquiring the Holy Grail of metal trading to purchase an EP by a band called Mayhem – Death Crush, a pressing was limited to 1,000 and I think I’ve acquired one. They routinely go for about two to three thousand pounds.


    Mayhem – Deathcrush (Picture Disc)

  3. Mayhem – Deathcrush (Picture Disc)

  4. I also have this obsession with collecting heavy metal seven inches from bands that only ever released one single. And more often than not, they are private pressings.

    Hit The Floor / Highway. Private pressing 7″

  5. The Chase : Homemade Wine,  7″. Private pressing

  6. Heavy metal to begin with was quite a working-class musical genre from the east end of London, like where Iron Maiden came from. You’d have these bands that would rehearse in their garages, then have a couple of shows. They would save up all the money they had to go into the studio and then they’d save up a little bit of more and press their own seven inch single. Then they would split up and become accountants, vets, doctors, and their lives would become very different. But for that snapshot of a moment, they held a dream that they could become a huge rock and roll band. I love nothing more than holding a copy of that record that encapsulates that dream. Mortem is one of those bands.

    Mortem – Slow Death (7″)

What comes across strongly for me is that records are fallible. It gives me a sense of duty as their temporary guardian It’s an honour to pick up these collections especially if they have been well looked after. That fallibility gets somewhat lost on other formats because they’re not so fragile. For me it creates a whole new relationship with the record.

Joel D’eath
  1. Joel D’eath on Acid Folk/ Folk

    Acid folk is one of those genres I never knew existed four years ago. And now I’m thinking, how did I ever make it this far in life with knowing that? It’s this jewel of music that can be found back in the late 60s and 70s. They were young, hip kids who were into folk music, but also into the new rock – so they made acid folk.

    BlackThorn II (WHM Records 1979) RARE SELF PRESS FOLK

  2. Famous exponents would be Mark Bolan’s band before T-Rex and Syd Barrett, but I have discovered bands such as Bread Love and Dreams who made this glorious psychedelic-induced folk music. The artwork is mind blowing on the album The Strange Tale of Captain Shannon and the Hunchback from Gigha (Decca Records, 1970). These bands were signed to majors like Decca, but they printed only a few so they are rare.

    Bread Love & Dreams The Strange… (Decca 1970) Acid Folk RARE

  3. When I buy collections and they have a couple of acid folk records, I always keep them. For me, doing this business just gives me so much joy; because if I didn’t know acid folk existed four years ago and now do, what am I going to discover this year that I didn’t know existed? So that acid focus, it represents so much more than just the music. It represents the act of discovery.

    Bread Love & Dreams Bread… (Decca 1969) Acid Folk RARE

  4. Spirogyra Old Boot Wine (Peg Records 1972) Acid Folk

  1. Joel D’eath on Promos, Test Pressings and Acetates

    These scratch my itch of trying to get super rare copies of stuff. It’s not like ‘well there were only 500 made here’, but ones where there are only five or ten in existence. This came from when I worked in A&R and I was pressing vinyl for the bands. I’d get the acetate back for approval, then the test pressing, and I’d always make sure I kept copies. I worked for a band called The Darkness at Atlantic, and I’m the only one who has a copy of the acetate by the band. It’s signed by the band because the day I approved the album they were in the office.


    The Darkness – Permission To Land (Acetate signed)

  2. I often buy collections from people who do house clearances as they often acquire collections which people leave after passing away. I recently just bought a collection from a decorator who had collected a heap of records. In one of the boxes were all these test pressings including Captain Beefheart Trout Mask Replica, which is an absolute classic and so extraordinarily rare, it’s unbelievable. I can only imagine a couple of dozen exist.

    Captain Beefheart – Trout Mask Replica (Test Pressing) label info

  3. The campaign for Blur’s Think Tank came in 2003 and all the artworks were done by Banksy. So I’m flicking through these 3000 records that I’ve just bought, and thinking I have to find something there – I’ve just paid all this money!

    Think Tank (album sampler 12″) (Banksy Art)

  4. Then I see a 12-inch promo with four tracks from the Think Tank album. Oh, my goodness, it’s a Banksy promo! And on the other side there’s a stamp, and it’s a Banksy stamp – very rare, very sought after. That’s worth about £250 today but I reckon eventually it will go up into the £1,000s.

    Think Tank (album sampler 12″) (Banksy Art)

  5. Banksy was quite prolific in doing artwork for records. He worked with Röyksopp, a band from Norway and a series of records called Bad Meaning Good on Ultimate Dilemma. They tend to go for lots of money, more because people are as interested in the fact that Banksy did the artwork than the actual music.

    Blak Twang – Trixstar (12″ Single) (Banksy Artwork)

  1. The Beatles

    As well as the Please Please Me, I’m obsessed with trying to find peculiar pressings from around the world. One of my treasures is an Iranian pressing of Paperback Writer which is a four track EP. Mine even has the cover, which is rare, but it’s an absolute joy. I found that on eBay, and I think I paid £20.


    The Beatles – 4 track EP (Iranian Pressing)

  2. I’m really into bootlegs too, so I’ve got the Come Back which is from Ethan Johns who was the engineer for the Get Back sessions. He smuggled out some of the reel-to-reel tapes of some of the early mixes. Then there’s the Black Album. It’s a triple LP of demos and outtakes from Get Back – it’s like a Japanese pressing – and very rare.

    The Beatles The Black Album 3xLP (Japanese Bootleg) Very Rare

  3. The Beatles The Black Album 3xLP (Japanese Bootleg) Very Rare

  4. The Beatles – She Loves You (Indian pressing)

  5. The Beatles / Tommy Roe – Get Back (Thailand Pressing)

  6. Smashing Pumpkins

    Smashing Pumpkins are one of my favourite bands ever; their music is just transcendental for me and speaks to me in a verbal way – there was something about it which was very powerful but then the lead singer Billy Corgan cut his hair, and like Sampson, he lost all of his powers.

    Everything before the third album is glorious, and everything after the third album is horrible. I wanted to collect all the rarities from the early albums, the big seven-inch singles, and test pressings like Siamese Dream which is just one of my absolute treasures. I imagine that there are probably only about 50 out there!


    Siamese Dream Test Pressing / Rhonoceros promo / / Tristessa 

  7. Smashing Pumpkins

    I used to work with someone who worked on the campaign, and they had a copy. I helped them out with selling records on their behalf and they paid me by giving it to me!

    I have a single called Rhinoceros, which was released for promo only – just in Europe. It cost me $200, but I’ve never been so happy with a $200 spend in my entire life! They released a song called Daughter which you could only get as a flexi disc stapled inside of a magazine called Reflect and I’ve got one of those. Smashing Pumpkins are one of those bands I really treasure, I keep them in my own personal collection of about 2,000 records.

    Daughter flexi (Reflex mag)

  8. Black Sabbath

    There hasn’t been a part of my life when Black Sabbath wasn’t there. I watched their very first concert in 1997 with my dad in Birmingham.

    Park of Joel’s Black Sabbath Collection

  9. I’m determined to own every Black Sabbath album, vinyl, everything. I’m down to the very last one, which was the godawful 11th album called Forbidden Itch. There’s only one vinyl pressing from Brazil, and they reach for about five to £700; in 1994 everyone was making CDs and tapes apart from in Brazil, which was the only place where they pressed up the vinyl.

    Black Sabbath Heaven & Hell (Japan 1980)

  10. Carmen Collection

    On the flip side I’m also obsessed with the opera, Carmen. I absolutely love it and have collected about 50 different vinyl box sets and LP’s of just Carmen.

    The Carmen collection

I can confidently say that the vinyl community, especially on Twitter, helped me get through lockdown. It is such a strong community of passionate music lovers and format lovers, who just really care about the music, care about the format. My role in this world of collecting vinyl is honouring the format, the work that went into the record and the physicality of something. As everything becomes digital nothing is owned, but no-one is going to take my records from me if Spotify goes down!

Joel D’eath