Amoeblog


INTERVIEW WITH AMOEBA MUSIC'S DEAN SANTOMIERI

Posted by Billyjam, August 29, 2007 04:35pm | Post a Comment
AMOEBLOG: How long have you worked at Amoeba Music Berkeley and what exactly is your job there?
 
DEAN SANTOMIERI: I started working in the record business in 1971 when I dropped out of SUNY Buffalo. I moved to the Bay Area in 1975, and although I thought I was through with the record business, unemployment was high and my friend Ivy got me a job at Tower Records in Berkeley. In November 1990, I visited Marc (one of the Amoeba owners) the first weekend Amoeba opened and he offered me a job. I thought about it over the weekend, then gave my two employers, Tower and Revolver Records, notice and started two weeks later. This would be late November or early December 1990. A year later I took a job running the Media Center at the California College of Arts, but continued to work Saturdays at Amoeba. In 1996, I left CCA and went back to Amoeba full time. I am a buyer and I work in the classical department. Most of my time is spent helping customers and pricing used CDs.

AMOEBLOG: What makes working at Amoeba unique compared to other jobs you've had?                

DEAN SANTOMIERI: I could say many things, but Amoeba’s generosity in accommodating its employees stands out; for example, many of us are touring musicians and are graciously given time off. But the lengths to which the owners, managers and Amoeba employees have gone to help each other in time of need is what I find most unique about Amoeba. It is also what makes me most proud about working here. We live in a time when the escalating cost of health care, salaries and pensions have caused companies to drastically reduce or eliminate benefits, but what the Amoeba family has done for Dax Pierson (Amoebite pictured above, who was in a serious auto accident while on tour with his band) and others is unlike anything I have ever seen.
 
AMOEBLOG: What are the Top Three Items at Amoeba this week that people are seeking out?

DEAN SANTOMIERI: Since most of my time is spent in the classical department, that’s where I get the most inquiries. As of this writing, opera singer Beverly Sills’ recent death has sparked interest in her music. Two months ago Frederic Rzewski was performing and I had a dozen requests for his music. The SF Opera season, National Public Radio and local concerts seem to be the factors that generate the greatest number of inquiries in the classical department.

AMOEBLOG:
I know you do a lot of the buying up front of store-- what are some of the more interesting things you've seen people bring in for sale?

DEAN SANTOMIERI: The sheer stupefying variety of what has been recorded has maintained my excitement for working in record stores. Whether it is something a person has brought in for sale, or themarcel marceau treasures I have found as an employee or shopper, I am still surprised and amazed even after all these years in the business. The Marcel Marceau LP with something like 19 minutes of silence followed by one minute of applause (different timings on side two). Amateur recordings of singing, drunken ramblings, or pledges of love, that were made in DIY recording booths on the Atlantic City Boardwalk and elsewhere. The Dion MacGregor albums, featuring him narrating his dreams while asleep. The Ghost Orchid, recordings of electronic voice phenomena. Sometime in the 1990’s I bought a poster advertising the infamous Altamont Concert from a customer. Allegedly none had been made, so this was likely some homemade effort, but even so it looked old enough to have dated from 1969. As a buyer in the 1980’s, I commonly found seeds and stems inside gatefold LPs. You can’t do that with CDs or MP3s!

AMOEBLOG:
One day about a year ago I was at the checkout counter at the Berkeley store and this guy beside me bought a rare Beatles album (The Butcher Cover, I think) for something like $1500 or so. What other kind of collectable items like that have you seen people buy at Amoeba?

DEAN SANTOMIERI:
We sold an original issue Harry Partch LP that bore Partch’s handwritten corrections of the track listings in red ink on the album jacket.

AMOEBLOG:
First record you ever bought? And do u still like it?
 
DEAN SANTOMIERI:
When I was seven years old I bought the soundtrack to the movie Hercules.
I still have it, but I haven’t listened to it since.

AMOEBLOG: 
What are some of your personal favorite albums of all time?

DEAN SANTOMIERI:
This is difficult. Instead, let me say there are several albums that I still love and listen to after 30 years or more.
terry riley
       Terry Riley- A Rainbow in Curved Air
       Alice Coltrane- Swami in Satchidinanda
       Pentangle- Reflection
       K. Stockhausen- Hymnen.
       Soft Machine-
first 3 albums.
       Jimi Hendrix - Axis Bold as Love
       Rolling Stones- Satanic Majesties Request
      
The voice of Sandy Denny, no particular album.

AMOEBLOG: 
Best album or CD cover art of all time?    velvet underground
 
DEAN SANTOMIERI:
Zoviet France - Foil and roof shingle covered LPs.                           
Rauschenberg’s Talking Heads plastic cover.
Warhol’s banana cover for the Velvet Underground.
Annette Peacock - I’m the One.

AMOEBLOG:
How about best album title?

DEAN
SANTOMIERI: Black Randy and the Metrosquad - Pass the Dust I Think I’m Bowie.
 

AMOEBLOG: Are you or have you been in a band or do you do any music related things outside of Amoeba?

DEAN SANTOMIERI:
I started playing guitar in rock bands in 1965. Since the mid-1990’s I have been doing these multi-media performances, which include live narration, music and video. I have a CD called The Boy Beneath the Sea. The music is by three friends, but I wrote and narrated the story. Depending upon the venue or the particular piece, I most often perform the music myself. I also have a 3” CD, Crude Rotation, of my electronic and musique concrete pieces. Both CDs are on the Foundry label.

AMOEBLOG: 
Best places to eat nearby Amoeba Berkeley?
 
DEAN SANTOMIERI: Smart Alex, The Drunken Boat, Blake’s
and The Berkeley Thai House are
the places I frequent.

AMOEBLOG: 
Since Cody’s bookstore across the street from Amoeba Berkeley closed its doors, has it changed on Telegraph Ave?
 
DEAN SANTOMIERI:
Very much so. Cody’s drew many people to the avenue. I can’t tell you how many times Amoeba customers would speed through their shopping saying: “I have to meet my wife/husband/friend at Cody’s.” Music, books and coffee shops create something of a nexus. So we’re thankful for Moe’s, Shakespeare’s, the coffee shops, the flower stand and all the other businesses that draw people here.

AMOEBLOG:
What do you see as the future of the music biz?
 
DEAN SANTOMIERI:
Who knows? I fear the trajectory we’re on is pointing toward downloading and away from shopping in stores. We’ve noticed for some time now that despite a new crop of Cal students every fall, we just don’t see them shopping in significant numbers. Brick and mortar record stores might just disappear before younger generations ever get the  chance to experience the excitement of shopping in one. What they’ll miss is what some of our customers refer to as “treasure hunting”: the joy of stumbling upon some long sought, out-of-print gem, or a modestly priced used CD; or the sparking of a new passion by something playing over a store sound system, or that clerk recommendation that opens up a whole new world of music. Are we ready to lose this experience to a series of mouse clicks? We also seem to be battling an undiscriminating ear. I suspect that if the sonic superiority many of us claim for LPs or remastered CDs, as compared to MP3s, were properly demonstrated, the more avid listener would abandon convenience for fidelity. But there are some optimistic signs for a resurgence of brick and mortar stores. Silver Platters CD stores have opened in the Northwest and Down Home Music has moved into Berkeley’s Fourth St. area. So maybe instead of this being the end of an era, we are seeing the beginning of a new trend.

Relevant Tags

Amoeba Music Berkeley (25), Dax Pierson (5)