As with so many vinyl enthusiasts, New York artist Ted Riederer found his groove at a young age. “When I was 16, my mother was hospitalized for a year and instead of being a troubled adolescent I joined a rock band,” he says, laughing, “and started going to record stores like an acolyte to a church.”
Cue up Never Records, Riederer’s evolving multimedia experiment in the community of sound. Since its “opening” in 2010, the not-quite-store/traveling installation has welcomed fellow parishioners in New York City, London, Liverpool and Ireland, stocked with all manner of recorded noise.
The premise is straight-forward enough: musicians, actors, poets, cantankerous folks with something to say or an axe to grind enter the Never Records space and mic up while Riederer records them. He presses the vinyl on the spot, giving one copy to the participant and keeping one for the shelves of the Never Records library — a growing archive that will soon include contributions from the New Orleans community.
For Riederer, who pays the bills working in a “big, fancy commercial gallery” in New York City, the project represents the antithesis. “People can come in and out of Never Records and not know that it’s an art installation,” he says. “They just think it’s some record store, and I love that because there’s no barrier.”
Except that it’s a record store without the “store.” There’s no commerce here. Thanks to a grant from the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation and other area donors, participants don’t pay for their recordings, nor are any for sale. Instead, people browse entries from previous cities while contributing their own. It’s a living, breathing, sometimes screaming document of an individual time and place.
“It harkens back to those old shops in the ‘50s where you could actually cut a record and play it in the booth,” Riederer explains. “I’m really happy that Jonathan [Ferrara] gave me his old space, which by the time I’m finished with it is just going to look like a record store on Carondelet.”
Riederer, who cites the DIY aesthetic of field recordings, plans to also take the project beyond Carondelet Street, perhaps to a Sunday sermon or a Saints game.