Interview with Chad Kassem of Acoustic Sounds

Chad Kassem of Acoustic Sounds probably don't need any special introduction. When you say high quality vinyl, SACD's, import and simply audiophile music, he mean business. Acoustic Sounds is one of the biggest vynil retailer. I thank Chad for finding time in his tight schedule. MI (Matej Isak)

MI: Tell us how it all started with Acoustic Sounds and when?

CK: I moved from Louisiana to Kansas and began to collect LPs just as CDs were coming into existence. I was going against the grain by buying vinyl while everyone was getting rid of their vinyl. I began to sell collectible LPs out of my apartment by taking out a few small ads. The business grew, and now we are in our fifth location, an 18,000-square-foot- warehouse with 25 employees.

MI: When did you become deeply interested in music?

CK: As a child. Growing up in Louisiana there is a very rich music scene with Cajun, blues, Zydeco and rock. I got into music when I was young, going to concerts and festivals.

MI: You are a true blues believer and fan. Is this as still strong as in you as it was in the past?

CK: It's even stronger now. The more I've gotten into blues and met the masters and learned more and more of the history, the more I get into the music.

MI: Would you consider yourself and audiophile?

CK: Yes. The best music to me is the stuff that is a great performance and great recording.

MI: You are the first person to ask about vinyl. Do you think that media is dying or is it here to stay?

CK: Vinyl is growing! It is definitely not dying! Our business has grown and grown and it's because of the renaissance of vinyl.

MI: Some of the limited series are only pressed and specially mastered for vinyl. Does this mean they never will see a light of day on digital media?

CK: Our concentration is on vinyl, not on the digital formats. It doesn't mean that these titles won't come out on digital but our most important focus is on vinyl.

MI: How do you feel about online digital music download services like Itunes?

CK: I'm not into digital downloads. I don't have an ipod and I don't have any plans to get one. I listen so much at work that the times that I would listen to an ipod are the times I don't want to listen to music. I'd much rather listen to my music on a high-end system.

MI: Do you plan to offer something like this for audiophiles?

CK: No.

MI: Do you prefer tubes or transistors?

CK: I prefer what sounds best. Sometimes that's tubes; sometimes that's transistors. I do not favor one exclusively.

MI: In this digital age are you still hard time analogue fan?

CK: Yes. I'll always be a hardcore analogue fan.

MI: What do you use for your listening sessions?

CK: It changes all the time. I listen a lot on the Avalon Sentinel speakers with an SME 30 turntable and Sutherland and Manley electronics.

MI: What is you dream system?

CK: I don't know that I have one. We have access to some really awesome equipment, and a lot of it sounds awesome. So I guess I'm lucky to listen to my dream system every day.

MI: Is vinyl the ultimate playback medium? Does SACD and new formats coming close?

CK: SACD and the new formats are getting much closer, but vinyl is still king!

MI: What would be your dream format?

CK: My dream format? Well, I love vinyl, so I guess that's my dream format.

MI: At the end of the day when you find your time, what is rolling on your players?

CK: There's no one thing. I listen to a lot of blues, a lot of Cajun, a lot of rock, a lot of jazz...I love all kinds of music.

MI: Do you find time to spin vinyl?

CK: Of course. Everyone needs to find time to spin vinyl.

MI: For the need of APO and Blue Heaven Studios you bought a Church. How did all that happened?

CK: Well, I bought the church initially for extra storage for my mail order business. But I recognized that it had awesome acoustics and so I decided to turn it into a recording studio. Then we left the original pew and balcony seats so that it also serves as a concert hall. Each year we have a two-night blues concert. This past weekend was our 10th annual.

MI: You have started to deeply collaborate with Harmonia mundi. Can you tell us more about this please?

CK: Harmonia Mundi is our distributor for our APO Records label. They get the CDs that we record at Blue Heaven Studios into the stores.

MI: You're doing great job in mastering and reissuing the old material. Working with names like Steve Hoffman and others must be thrilling?

CK: Yes, we get to work with some of the biggest names in the business. We are very into quality. We want our releases handled by the best in the business.

MI: Are you satisfied with the sales of those records?

CK: Yes. Very satisfied. We choose our reissues carefully and we do it in a very high quality fashion. The customers know that when they buy one of our records that they are going to get a stone-cold killer. So the reissue series have been very successful.

MI: Which albums are most proud of, that are released or reissued under you?

CK: I don't know. There are a lot that I'm very proud of. The Fantasy 45 jazz series. Our Credence Clearwater Revival reissues. All of our blues recordings.

MI: What is your goal?

CK: I've been in business with Acoustic Sounds for over 20 years. My goal is to continue to grow the company for at least another 20 years.

MI: What is you dream reissue and mastering album-artists?

CK: I've been fortunate to do a lot of my dream reissues already. I would like to do the Beatles in very high-quality fashion, mastered from the original analogue master tapes.

MI: What are you plans for future?

CK: The same as my goal - to keep going with Acoustic Sounds.

MI: Where do you think future of music will lead audiophile and music lovers. How do you see Acoustic Sounds in it?

CK: I think vinyl will continue to grow and grow. I hope that Acoustic Sounds will remain on the cutting edge of that.

MI: Thank you!