In Search Of: Mahssa Taghinia On Rare Iranian Records And More
Mahssa Taghinia of B-Music/Finders Keepers Records is a DJ and record collector whose specialty is long-lost '60s and '70s Iranian pop, psych, and funk gems. Her Pomegranates compilation--available now from Finders Keepers--shows off the best of her finds from flea markets in Tehran and family favorites handed down to her. She doesn't believe in museum-style vinyl collecting, and shares her records via her Cureation dance parties and Space 15 Twenty record fairs.
What are the rarest records you own?
Well, it's weird because my rarest records aren't really worth money. I suppose if I were trying to sell them on eBay I could put a monetary value on them. I think my Middle Eastern records--the ones I bought for a nickel apiece--could be considered rare. I love my collection of Googoosh picture sleeve 45s and all my Persian picture sleeves. In Iran they're not all that rare, but you just wouldn't be able to find it in the U.S. I think with a lot of the records I have--a lot of the records we collect through and with the label Finders Keepers--it's not as much about how rare it is in a monetary sense. It's about how ridiculous, how awesome, how fantastical the experience was when finding the record. Who you had to meet, or what you had to experience to get it.
So who have you met? Any awesome weirdos?
I've met very few weirdos in my lifetime...I leave that job to Andy [Votel of B-Music]! He does the dirty work. He's a well of ridiculousness. He's met almost everyone alive, as far as the records we've put out goes.
How did you find these records?
My Persian records are from a specific flea market type thing in Tehran that happens every Friday morning, with Friday's being the equivalent of Sundays here. It's in this parking structure in mid-town Tehran. It's one of the most spectacular places I've been to. It's mainly villagers and rural folk coming in to sell homemade jams and pottery and all sorts of knickknacks. Amidst all that are people selling records, but not really in the same way people do it here. If you go to a flea market here you see the same person with the same records and they've had them for years--either because they're too expensive or they just won't sell them to you. They're more of a showpiece. It's not like that in Iran. There's really no value to them and people just want to get rid of them. I literally bought them for a nickel apiece. I went with my mom a few times, and it was more of a goldmine for her than for me. A lot of my records come from her, but when we go to this flea market together, she was a better scout than I was for myself.
Is there anything you'd sell or trade them for?
No! Arash Saedinia, who I curated Pomegranates with, has a really pristine collection of picture sleeves--more than I have actually. A lot of his are his parents and he has quite a collection. I have a lot of records from my parents too, but the ones I used in Pomegranates I ended up finding later. Having met the original producers involved was pretty awesome. As far as rarity goes, the rarity of something is defined by the experience of having found it. How often are you going to be Iran? That's where the value comes from.
What's the most you've spent on a record?
The most I've ever spent on a 45 has to be a tie between the MC5 45 "Looking at You" and this Italian 45 from a band called the Pawnshop. They were probably in the multiple hundreds each. I also don't stress out about needing to own a song on 45. Many DJs I play records with are strict 45 enthusiasts, like my DJ partner Kevin and my friend Jackie Hoodoo, who are the best DJs in LA as far as strict 45 spins go. If I can find the song on an LP for significantly less, I will very much opt for that. If I had the means to get the45 I would, because the 45 would be louder and sound better in many different regards. I do have a lot of DJ spins that are dollar records because I'm not all that concerned about condition.
Do you DJ the 45s you get from Iran then? Because you're not so concerned about the condition of the records?
Because they're pretty thrashed, I do prefer to DJ the ones on our own remastered versions. Like for Pomegranates. I'll usually DJ the Finders Keepers vinyl version rather than the 45 because it just sounds better. We've tried to master it to audiophile quality. If something's the only copy of version of it, I'll still play it even if it sounds like shit, or if it's something I can only get back in Iran. I'm not one of those people who will never play something out of fear that it'll get worn down. That's the reality of it, but life's too short. You own these records because you want to share them. Even the thousand dollar 45 has no value if no one hears it. I really don't believe in the museum aspect of vinyl collecting at all.
What are your favorite DJ nights in LA?
I love Black Eyed Soul parties. I love Killing Spree. I'm a huge music fan, and I love that sound--that minimal synth sound. I love that goth and industrial music. That's my shit. The Killing Spree parties are amazing. Howie Pyro is an amazing DJ, and having seen him spin, it's pretty awesome.
Whose record collection do you most admire?
I admire and respect all my label-mates' record collections. That's hard. My friend DJ Cherrystones in London has a pretty disgusting record collection. He loves kraut rock, early electronic music, space rock stuff, and he's a regular B-Music DJ and travels with Andy in Europe. I've been floored every time I've seen him DJ. I feel like everyone that I DJ with--especially with my close DJ partners, like Kevin Fitzgerald, and other local LA 45 spinners like Jackie Hoodoo--all have great records. My friends and immediate peers have collections I'm envious of. There are people from afar as well, most notably Paul Majors from New York who plays in a band called Endless Boogie. He's got a sick collection, but for the most part it's people that I know. If you can't have this constant dialogue about something--if you can't talk to your peers about their records and share the music--there's no point. That's more valuable than hearing about some guy who has a collection of thousand dollar 45s. Granted, that does overlap with some of my friends, but it's all in the sharing.