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Public Enemy's Chuck D Takes Us Behind the Scenes at Record Store Day

Chuck D, John Densmore and Julie Edwards speak to 'Rolling Stone' following the press conference at Amoeba Records

Chuck D and John Densmore.
Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images)
March 21, 2014 3:03 PM ET

Yesterday at an indie record store in Hollywood, a couple of musicians met for the first time and started talking.

"Maybe we can do something together," said Public Enemy's Chuck D.

"D and D," joked Doors drummer John Densmore. “I have beats.”

"That’s what I’m saying," added the rapper, standing with the musician and author at the huge Amoeba Records location on Sunset Boulevard. “All it takes is some beats and a voice. We can go from there.”

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Coming to the store for a press conference announcing this year’s Record Store Day, both artist described this sort of interaction as the thing that makes indie shops important cultural centers. In these aisles, bands get started, people meet their future spouses and fans discover a well of music deeper than the Top 40 that's going to be found in the limited bins of general retailers.

Since 2007, artists and labels have issued special releases to be sold exclusively at indie stores for one day only. At this year’s event, which takes place on April 19, more than 400 CDs, 12-inches and 7-inches from acts as diverse as Nirvana, Nick Cave and One Direction will land at indie stores across the country. Green Day, for instance, will drop Demolicious across a range of different formats, and Bruce Springsteen will issue his four song American Beauty EP. The full list of releases is now available on the Record Store Day website.

Following the press conference, Densmore told Rolling Stone that he discovered the special place that indie stores hold during his recent book tours. "I just had my mind blown, that there’s this underground scene of music lovers,” he said. “It warmed my heart. It’s an antidote to this corporate world. And it’s so diverse."

The continued interest in vinyl from a new generation of fans caught him by surprise. "Reboot vinyl? Are you kidding?" he said with a laugh. "Yeah, my son is 22, and a few years ago he said, ‘Dad, I just got a turntable.’ I thought I’d never hear that."

Also at the press conference was Deap Vally singer-drummer Julie Edwards, who told Rolling Stone, "I’m a '90s child, so albums are complete works for me. I still can’t get with single songs. I want to know what their whole vision is and the whole thing they’re saying with their record."

Densmore compared the diversity and depth found at the nearly 2,000 participating indie stores around the world to the multi-genre concerts Bill Graham once put on at the Fillmore, which might feature a bill of Miles Davis, James Cotton and the Doors. "America is a melting pot" of music, said Densmore.

Named "official ambassador" of Record Store Day, Chuck D compared the shops to the classic ballparks of baseball that represented the game before massive stadiums took over. "DJ culture always made us aware that the best records were going to come from the small shops," he told Rolling Stone. "I don’t think music was handled with care from the big companies. They looked at it the same way as they looked at hubcaps."

Chuck D (whose group's new single, "The Evil Empire of Everything," and 1988 classic, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back are among those records being released or reissued) noted that many major figures in music have been record store owners and employees, a group that includes such label visionaries Berry Gordy (Motown), Jac Holzman (Elektra, Nonesuch) and Public Enemy producer Hank Shocklee. "A record store is sort of like a college course for musician and fan alike," the rapper said. "Record store personnel are also like curators. That’s important too."

At Amoeba, D wore a T-shirt from one of his favorite stores, Grimey’s in Nashville. "The last time I was there was such a great experience," he said, explaining that it represented all that an indie store can be in a community. "They had a special independent music day and everyone was cooking. They had bands playing and so many people rummaging through records and CDs. I wear this shirt wherever I can represent."

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