So tell us, why did you move?
The Bluecoat approached us and it just seemed like a good thing to do. We just figured that being part of the Bluecoat would be cool as they’ve got quite a big history blending art and music together. Oh, and we had a picture of Sun Ra on the door and they had Sun Ra playing here many years ago, so it all seemed to fit. Compared to the purgatory of working in Slater Street, two weeks in here and we feel like we’re in heaven…
So you’ve finally found your home, then?
Well I don’t know about Clarence Street, our first shop, because it was before my time! But our shop on Button Street (where Ted Baker is today – Probe’s home in the late 70s and 80s) was, for me, that was the most exciting period. There was always wonderful and amazing stuff going on, and wonderful and interesting people hanging around. But now we’re here I’m hoping things will pick up again. We’ve got to look into doing some gigs, and making some t-shirts because we’ve been going on about that for ages. We’ve got a daunting list of stuff to do! We need to get onto it. We need to get more pro-active…
What are the biggest changes you’ve seen over the past couple of decades, then?
Well I don’t want to mention the ‘D’ word [downloading] because I’m fed up of that. That’s just something that goes on. I’ve been doing this for nearly twenty three years and, yeah, it’s got tougher. But, you know, it’s tough for every independent, whatever market they’re in.
Stuff’s still out there all the time. There’s always great new music coming out so it’s not like you get bored with it. I don’t anyway.
Despite the relocations along the way, is Probe still the same shop it’s always been?
Well, music changes all the time, but I know that we’re still selling stuff that would have been sold when we first opened in 1971.
We’ve always been open to different music but obviously we’re from the rock end of stuff. The independent scene, too, has always been important to us, and we’ve always kept as much as we can of the psychedelic stuff, and I wish we could get more reggae on vinyl, but it’s difficult at the moment. But if liking guitar-stuff based stuff makes us old-fashioned, then I don’t care!
Yeah, there always will be because there’ll always be manic obsessive people like me and other people I know out there! There always will. Of course there’s always a place for record stores. CDs and vinyl are better than a bit of bit stream on your computer, anyway. Shops like us we just basically do what we do because we love it, and it’s our intention to just keep doing it, against all of the odds.
Were there any times when it looked like Probe was about to sell its last Greatful Dead LP?
Yeah! We’ve always been struggling. That used to be our tag line! ‘Going out of business since 1971’ – but hopefully with the move this will all change. We had to move to Slater Street because we were basically thrown out of Button Street. This is now the third move to the fourth premises, and it’s been tough, a bit of a struggle but hopefully now it will all turn around!
Complete this sentence: The key to surviving as a record shop in Liverpool for 39 years is...
Madness and stupidity [laughs manically] – in all of us.
That doesn’t sound good that, does it? Maybe the madness bit does but I don’t know about the uh…Wilful, you have to remain wilful!
Who have you been playing in the shop lately?
We’ve been playing the new Endless Boogie album which I think is really good, and of course we’ve been playing the Mighty Nuggets compilation because that was the first thing we played when we opened this shop last Monday! It’s just one of the greatest compilations ever, and everyone should have a copy.
Do you rate Liverpool’s music scene at the moment? Who are you listening to?
I work a lot with Mugstar so I’ll say them for a start. There’s a lot of good bands out there though. I like a lot of the weirder bands like a.P.A.t.T. but I also like other bands like The Maybes? I know a lot of people tend to say it’s like pop, but it’s good pop music, and the new Coral album’s really good! There’s a whole lot of other stuff too. I see little bands here and there that haven’t got anything out but y’know…. I saw Raw Bones last night! They were great if you like a bit of rock ‘n’ roll!
What should SevenStreets readers buy when, after reading this, they pay you a visit?
The new Best Coast album’s good, and The Amorphous Androgynous (the psychedelic alter-egos of The Future Sound of London).
One section of the shop has to be blown up to make room for a stage for live sessions. Punk, metal, indie, 60s psych, world music, funk, local bands. Which section goes?
That’s not fair!
Alright I’ll get rid of the DVD section because we hardly ever have any DVDs.
A line in an Art Brut song goes: ‘I’m young and nothing can hurt me, I’ve sold all my records to pay for a party’. Can you ever imagine doing that?
Well, at one point in my life, that sort of did happen to me. I owed a hell of a lot of money for the poll tax and I had to get rid of a lot of my records. It was the only way to raise money fast enough. And that’s the only thing which would part me from them again, you know, if I had absolutely no money. And that’d be terrible.
There’s some that I really miss and some I don’t actually. There’s some I got obsessed with tracking down over the years and finally got. There was one that was a Eugene Chadbourne album and it festered away in my mind and I just had to have that album again, and it took me years before I got a copy, and then when I got it I thought, “this doesn’t sound as good as I remembered!”
And, finally, what’s the Probe motto?
Astounding sounds, amazing music. Which some of your readers may know is the title of a Hawkwind album from ages ago…and, yeah, we still sell tonnes of Hawkwind.
The BluecoatSchool Lane