To celebrate the release of the documentary "Red Bull Music presents: Hooked On Belgian Metal", we visited a metal vinyl collector at home.
We find ourselves in Maldegem, a small town way deep in the Flemish heartland. Just around the corner of the Kleit parish’ Lourdes cave, lives Vic Van Den Abeele. He greets us from across the driveway of an elegant-looking house, wearing a band shirt from the Canadian hard rock ensemble Rush.
It’s safe to assume that he just slipped into it, since only this morning, Vic stood in front a classroom full of primary school children in Aalter. “This one time, I was surprised to see one of my students wearing an Iron Maiden t-shirt. In fact, the kid even knew what he was doing, not bad for an eight-year old, right? But me, I never put on my metal shirts for work.”
A family affair
At first sight, Vic’s home doesn’t reveal much of his love for howling guitars, metal, punk, hardcore or hard rock either. Living at his parents’ place, Vic tends to keep it discrete when it comes down to the dark or morbid imagery and artifacts that come with the genre. The living room is where we find Vic’s record player and where he enjoys his collection most often. “I get comfortable on the couch with a book or put on a record while going through my pupils’ homework or stuff like that. And sure, both my parents are perfectly fine with that.”
Vic’s dad used to have a vinyl collection of his own, including records from Pink Floyd over Judas Priest to Jethro Tull, but he however decided to keep things limited to a hundred or so records. He handed them down to Vic who decided to keep most of them and today, they lie at the root of his collection. Vic now owns 4000 of them, put on display across the two rooms of the upper floor of the family home. He bought his very first record at the age of 15, drawn by the aesthetics of the object. This was long before the vinyl hype of the past decade took of and prices weren’t yet going through the roof.
His collection took form rapidly and Vic discovered yet another creative passion: music journalism. He joined the metal magazine Mindview and wrote hundreds of articles, album reviews and concert reports. “I got introduced to so much new music and was allowed to screw up and make mistakes at the same time. I look back at it as one of the experiences that truly shaped me as a person. During my college years, when I got a bit tired of writing, I took a job as a promotional assistant for concert organizer Live Nation. Those were wonderful times, I met some of my idols in the flesh and got to experience a shit lot of gigs front row.”
When the time came Vic wanted to get back into journalism, he put on his A-game and applied for a position at the influential Rock Tribune, a metal magazine from Flanders appearing nine times a year since 2002. The ten years Vic has been writing for the magazine account for many personal highlights: “Rock Tribune has opened so many doors. I get a whole lot of music sent to me, get to experience concerts and festivals backstage and up to today, I have been able to interview dozens and dozens of bands.”
Don’t believe the hype
Vic isn’t considering putting an end to his collector’s rage anytime soon. He carefully curates his collection though and still enjoys listening to every single record in it. Most of the time, Vic gets his records at Music Mania or Consoling Sounds in Ghent. The former for its beautiful and diverse range and the quality of the second-hand selection. The latter for its strong niche focus on ambient and drone music, stoner, doom and metal. Vic often delves into post-concert merch too.
“It’s cool to buy from the band first-hand. You outrun every hype and the whole of your money ends up with the artist. Although I have to admit that when we go out to see a show, my friends and me already own most of the band’s records. We tend to get pretty phrenetic and sing along with the lyrics almost word for word. Going through all that together with your friends is fantastic.”
Today however, Vic is a pickier buyer than a few years back, with the Internet as the number-one game changer. Without it, his collection would have looked completely different, he reckons. “There’s so much stuff coming your way online, the mere thought of all that undiscovered music gives me the jitters. Only recently, one of my friends from Canada re-released a record from the 1970s. I had a listen and was blown away immediately. It has become so easy to exchange music, I think that's great.”
And then there’s Vic’s soft spot for Russian metal. He proudly shows off a series of records and singles featuring Cyrillic titles. The cover of Aria stands out: a retro-futuristic demon rises up from a swirling earth while buildings stand ablaze and a helicopter crashes down. The records dates from 1990. The author? One of the biggest Russian metal bands ever. “They’re the Russian version of Iron Maiden and often played in front of 80 000 people during these huge arena shows, but outside of Russia, they are hardly even heard of. To me, that’s a major turn-on, it’s my cue to get in deep.”
Money ain’t nothing but a thing
Vic picks out some more peculiarities from his collection. He owns a special edition of ‘Blue Record’ by Baroness, including the extra album 'Live At Roadburn Festival 2009' which is sold for big bucks online. Then there’s the first pressing of the 'Litourgiya' album by the Polish band Batushka which comes in a beautiful and hand-numbered wooden case. “I bought this one directly from the band for fifty euros or something. Today, it’s worth several hundreds. The ones I have from Ghost or Electric Wizard & Reverend Bizarre tend to get rather expensive too.
“If I would calculate the value of my collection on Discogs.com, I guess it would run up to the price of a pretty nice car. But I’m a bit reluctant towards this whole vinyl-economy thing. It’s super easy to artificially manipulate the value of records, not to mention the amount of work and effort you would have to put in to get your stuff sold. Besides, collecting vinyl is all about passion if you ask me. And passion should never be expressed in money.”
A couple of blocks from Vic lives one of his best friends for years and an equally fanatic vinyl and guitar aficionado. Their camaraderie means a great deal to Vic. They exchange albums regularly and often go out together to catch concerts. The two of them decided that if one came to go, the other would inherit his collection. Vic and his friend came to that agreement after the loss of one of their best friends four years ago, due to a stroke.
"He owned a much larger collection than we did and after his death, his parents called me up to ask for advice on what to do with all of the records. We told them we would appreciate them holding on to his collection for a while longer, which - up until today - they have. This one time, I got his mother on the phone, explaining that someone was interested in buying the lot. In the end, none of us had the heart to sell them."
In the time between our conversation and the publishing of the interview, Vic became a home-owner and moved to his new house along with his record collection.