DOWN TOWN VINYL VIBE needle to the groove Interview and Photography by Daniel Garcia
llen Johnson, co-owner of Needle to the Groove on Santa Clara Street, in downtown San Jose, moves towards the turntable, his voice filling with excitement and passion as he places the stylus on the spinning record. It snaps with that familiar click of the needle slipping into the groove as the album begins. “I’ll take the dirt and the cracks,” he shouts over the nostalgic hiss. “That amplified sound tells you, you are about to get blown away.”
As that collection grew, he never expected to get into vinyl, but once he began producing and making music in his early 20s, he needed to find unique beats and samples that hadn’t already been used by other producers. That quest was shaped by advice given to him by his friend Ryan Officer: to look for records with good drummers, because when people put together a band, the drummer was one of the harder positions to fill. “If the band had a good drummer, the drummer was most likely playing with good musicians,” Johnson was advised. This strategy opened the door to various genres and to international music—and his collection grew to reach more than 10,000 record titles, a collection which he would later use to help launch Needle to the Groove, San Jose.
Johnson’s journey to co-owner of Needle to the Groove in downtown San Jose began with him as visual artist and producer, with a short side stint as a philosophy major. Having a lifelong appreciation of music, he recalls working the free CD of the month system by registering under various emails and then canceling to maximize the number of CDs he could receive without Though collecting music had been mainly a hobby, and having to pay full retail price. part of his duties as record buyer for Streetlight Records,