WFPK radio personality and former ear X-tacy buying manager Matt Anthony began his lifelong love affair with music while living in Italy at a young age. He produces and hosts two radio shows, DJs at live events, and has opened his own record store in the newly opened Tim Faulkner Building.
He's got six tattoos, a room full of records, and a heck of a background story. Matt Anthony is one hip guy with class to spare. He's a WFPK radio personality, painter, writer, former ear-X-tacy buying manager and is now the owner of one of the newest small record shops in town. Matt Anthony's Record Shop is at 943 Franklin Ave. and is part of the Tim Faulkner building, a new arts complex and gallery.
The shop is a small room filled with CDs, books, posters and records. Anthony sits on his vintage orange stool behind a counter displaying treasures like record care kits, a Parliament record with pop up art depicting the city of Atlantis and a Dead Kennedy's album complete with anti-Nazi arm badge. There's also a Melvin's record that goes for more than $200 online that he has priced at $150.
Matt Anthony's Record Shop is in the Tim Faulkner Building at 943 Franklin Ave. in Butchertown.
Anthony was born in Hawaii but has also lived in Italy, Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, Colorado, California and Illinois. He traveled with a military family growing up, which landed him on an Air Force base in Italy for his early teen years. He said that living on the base in Italy left him and other kids hungry for American culture.
"There was no American music over there...very limited...especially in the late eighties, early nineties," he said. There was a lot of cheesy Euro-techno stuff, so you were ravenous for all the American music coming out. This was the golden age of hip hop, and that’s what all the kids wanted to hear, myself included."
Anthony had an affinity for music (especially hip hop) and spent his afternoons mowing lawns for money so he could purchase the incoming music at the Air Force Base Exchange. He said that the exchange only got one copy of each new album, and he kept track of which days they arrived so he could snatch them up; there wasn't much else to do around the base. There were no malls, amusement parks or other things with which American kids distracted themselves. Since he bought up all the music, he quickly became the first choice for the local party DJ at the young age of 13.
"I always wanted to be a DJ," said Anthony. "I never wanted to play guitar or bass in a band. I just wanted to DJ parties. We didn’t get concerts or anything. No one came to Italy. So, we made our own shows. I went to four different high schools, and would DJ parties or dances at all of them."
Matt Anthony behind the Tim Faulkner Building
The Air Force base was in the tip of the heel of Italy, which made it a layover spot for troops traveling all over the world; this made it a diverse place for discovering music. Anthony said that the kids would ask the visiting troops for American news and culture. There were also people from all over the world living at the base, making it a place where Anthony could learn about many types of music. One kid would bring the latest hip-hop tapes back from New York for him to cut and scratch.
"Most of us didn’t speak Italian, so our Italian friends were limited; you might have a few that you could barely communicate with," he said. "So we were all starved for information and news from the states."
Sports were another way for him to communicate with other adolescents and expand his love for music. There were 15 bases in Italy, and sports participants got to travel to them. There were parties after the sporting events, which gave him a chance to communicate with others and share music. He said that all of the kids wanted to hear hip-hop and that they appreciated it more than kids in America because it wasn't "at their front door."
Hip-hop was his first love, but it is made up of other types of music, so it led to his exploration of things like Craftwork, James Brown, soul records and jazz. All of these just fueled the growth of Anthony's record collection, which continued to grow as he began his college education in San Francisco: an art degree from the Academy of Art (with a focus on illustration). He worked in a book shop while in school, fanning his love for literature. He said that the time was pre-internet and San Francisco was a hotbed for writing and creativity, which lured him into writing.
Anthony's paintings adorn the walls above the merchandise
He moved to Evansville, Ind. after college and then enrolled at University of Louisville as a Roman history major. He began working at ear X-tacy in 1999 and picked up a campus radio show called Rock n' Soul Revolution. He was able to get a demo of his show to WFPK programming director Dan Reed (now with World Café in Philly). Reed thought there was something to it and gave Anthony a WFPK slot from midnight to 6 a.m. Matt started to get a reaction, so they gave him the nightly 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. slot to play singer/songwriter and other “hodge-podge” stuff. He began his own Friday night show, The Sound Clash, about a year later. He got a little burnt out working so much, since he was also still working at ear X-tacy; he let go of the weeknight spot at WFPK
but continued to host The Sound Clash and still does. The show explores rhythms from all over the world and is aired on 91.9 WFPK on Fridays from 8 to 11 p.m.
Anthony chipped away at the idea of a jazz show for a while, wanting something he could really delve into. His efforts resulted in The Jazz Pulse, which began about a year ago and is featured on Sundays from 1 to 3 p.m. He said it's been rewarding but that he's had people say they like the jazz show better than the Sound Clash which made him step up his Friday night line-up.
“I take everything and put it together so it fits," he said about the Jazz Pulse. "I take everything in the Jazz spectrum and put it into one show. So, it’s not just big band or bebop or Dixieland…it covers the whole century in jazz. We got a hundred years there."
Anthony's record shop also sells vinyl records and plans a swap in the future.
As The Jazz Pulse took off, his career with ear X-tacy was coming to a close. The record industry really started crumbling in 2007 or 2008 and Anthony learned everything he could about buying. He upped his hours with ear X-tacy to full time and has worked just about every position the store offered. He and the other employees all wanted to see it survive. He also started DJing parties and events more since he was free from the nightly show at WFPK. He said that he believes ear X-tacy was really waiting for someone to save them or something to come along and save their model. No one seemed to believe that MP3s would become the standard. There are still a lot of people who don't believe the best way to collect music is on a hard drive that can be lost after spilling a soda on it. Once ear X-tacy began to try to make some changes, it was too late. They closed in December 2011.
"I always wanted my own record store, but I never wanted to compete with ear X-tacy and [the store's owner] John Timmons had always paid me so well, and been fair to me," said Anthony. "I just wanted to make that work. I figured I’d either help save it or be there on the ground floor when it closed."
Anthony bought a lot of the inventory and some of the shelving from ear X-tacy and opened his own shop six months later, on June 1 of this year. He said it was like the week before Christmas at ear X-tacy with a line there when he arrived at 5 p.m. to put his shipment out before the doors opened at 6 p.m. He was trying to get everything priced while people were lined up at the door, and the line continued all night.
The shop is small but has plenty of inventory and three listening stations; one of which is dedicated to Louisville music. Anthony pointed out that music is suited for boutiques now. The only model to survive the changing music industry has been the mom and pop stores; all the big box stores are gone. His personal approach attracts music fans because he can order anything someone is looking for and has extensive knowledge to share. And he's happy to engage in conversation with avid music lovers.
Anthony had originally been adamant about finding a Bardstown Road location, but feels that his space in the Tim Faulkner Building is perfect. He said that it is a little out of the way but that the Faulkners have a built-in audience and he is happy with the relationship he now has with them. They plan to host events and shows right outside his shop in the future.
A self-made sandwich board points the way to his shop from the Franklin Avenue sidewalk.
"Being an artist, too, I know a lot about selling music, but I’ve always been horrible at selling my art," said Anthony. "I knew they [Faulkners] were really good at it. So, I thought if I could bring my shop here, learn something from them in the process and have a gallery for my art as well [it would be a good fit]."
Anthony said that DJs, bands and other types of performers are lining up to host events there. They have a courtyard where they can do multiple types of events. The open air also opens up the possibility of having performers like fire spinners. Best of all, the complex is a huge supporter for local artists, musicians, and performers with a gallery, artist's studios and the record shop.
If you want to see Anthony do his thing live, you can visit him at Meat on Mondays at 1076 E. Washington St. Meat is a bar around back and upstairs from The Blind Pig restaurant. He spins with fellow DJ Woody at 9 p.m. Their Facebook event page says, "As live DJs the team has had legendary nights at The Monkey Wrench as well as sell out appearances at Headliners and the Vernon."
If you want to visit the shop at 943 Franklin St., the hours are Tuesday through Thursday and Saturday from noon to 7 p.m., Fridays noon to midnight and Sundays noon to 6 p.m.
"I like that you can come in and support a local shop," said Anthony. "I like preserving the idea of coming in, moseying around, and enjoying the shop. I like that being the vibe of the store. Vibes are important."
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Photographs: Max Sharp