January 15th, 2014 by Amelia
I went to Rome the summer of 2011. I knew no one except Italian Agi punks, mostly in Northern Italy. So, I used the internet to search for record stores and Radiation Records came up several times. Then I decided to use the MRR distribution page to see if MRR was distributed in Rome, and Radiation Records was listed as the MRR connect in Rome! I was about to become the distribution coordinator at MRR, so I decided that I was meant to go to Radiation Records as I had some ties already. There I met Marco who took me under his wing with band mate Andrea from ANTI YOU and showed me an amazing time in Rome. I also bought a lot of good Italian punk records and was very impressed with Radiation Records. So, here’s Marco!
How did you decide to open a record store?
I didn’t really decide. I was already working in it! When I first moved to Rome from Palermo, Sicily, I started working at Goodfellas, which is the main distributor in Italy for independent music.They were friends and they distributed my small punk rock label Gonna Puke back in the early ’90s, so when I got here they offered me a job. I was mainly working at the distribution but also helped at this little store they had, which was displaying basically all the distributed releases and not much else. In 2004, they moved the store to a bigger place, but it did not really work for them. So, in late 2005 I bought it myself, changed the name to Radiation Records, and that’s where the store started.
The label, the Radiation Reissues series, started few years after that. In less than four years, we had over 30 releases out, mostly punk classics including CONFLICT, 4 SKINS, CHAOTIC DISCHORD, BLITZ, VARUKERS, CHANNEL 3, DISORDER, RED ALERT, DEMENTED ARE GO, CHAOS UK, KLASSE KRIMINALE, and a lot more. Not to mention, there’s a ton more we’re working on! I also started other labels and buying licenses for vinyl reissues on non-punk stuff. It’s good business and a lot of work but a lot of fun too.
All those releases were pretty amazing. The BLITZ early singles and demo LP was a real gift to punk! What were you doing before?
I studied biology in college, and I graduated right after I moved to Rome. But I had been playing in bands, releasing records, and booking punk shows since I was like 15, so somewhere in the back of my mind I knew biology was not really going to be my main interest in the long term.
Where is Radiation Records?
It’s located in the heart of the Pigneto neighborhood in Rome. Not really super-downtown, but well connected. Pigneto has been the “hip” neighborhood for the last few years in Rome. A beautiful place as it is still looks like it did in 1965. 10 or 15 years ago, the total lack of services and the older condition of the neighborhood resulted in affordable rents and decent life conditions (at least compared to other neighborhoods in the city) and students, artists, immigrants started moving there. People started opening bars, venues and all that. There’s always plenty of shows in the area, and that makes it easy for people to stop by the store and then go some show or band members to stop by right after their sound check and then walk back to the club in time. It’s a cool place for a record store.
Who owns Radiation Records?
Me. We are three people in total working on it full time.
When did you open officially as Radiation Records?
In December 2005, even though we did an inauguration party in February 2006. The AVENGERS were playing in town and Penelope Houston did an exclusive acoustic show in the store for the occasion. People showed up in hundreds and that was the perfect launch for the store! I’m still grateful to Penelope for what she did that day.
Where did your original inventory come from — buying other peoples’ collections? Your own collection?
90% of the store’s stock in the beginning consisted of consignment stuff from the distributor I worked for, of course. Then, step by step, I started importing new records directly from other distributors, and yeah, of course I started buying used private collections in bulk. Used records and CDs nowadays are probably 50% to 70% of our stock, but we still do well with new records, both new releases and reissues. We still do well with CDs too, which seem to be dead abroad. Of course, used records are an important branch of our business, but you must think of the used records market here as something not quite like the one you have in the US. It’s very unlikely for someone to show up at your door trying to sell his “dream of a lifetime” record collection for two bucks a piece. Quite the opposite actually, this is why I travel a lot to buy stuff: mostly to Sweden, the UK or Germany. Wherever I go on tour with my band, or if I just take a weekend off with my family, I try to arrange a deal with some good store or dealer and ship a couple of boxes back home. This is how I keep the average quality level of our used records stock very high. I also pay good money for used records at the store, and this is why there’s a good number of local collectors, small record dealers and people who hunt for good records 24 hours a day (which I don’t have the time to do) who know they can count on me if they need some quick cash or they just decide they simply need to move part of their stock. But if I just stayed there, waiting for someone to come in, our used section would probably be just crap.
Do you carry Maximum Rocknroll?
Sure I do! I don’t sell crazy quantities, but it sells OK. I’m happy to carry it as nobody else does in town, so the ones who are interested know that they can find it here. I would carry it even if it sold 0 copies though: having my store mentioned in the distributors’ page is definitely worth a lot in terms of promotion. Sometimes I have the feeling it’s way more valuable than the profit you guys can make off the few copies I sell. I’m grateful for that.
Maybe we wouldn’t have met if you had never distributed MRR! What is the “punk scene” like in Rome?
It has always been very vital. It has its ups and downs of course, and this is probably not the best time. But this is a big city, there’s room for everything and everyone, so the punk scene goes in cycles. There’s times when the scene needs mutual support, reaching as many people as possible, communicating clearly with the youngsters and the outsiders, usually followed by times when the big crowd tends to separate into smaller scenes, as if they became mature to follow a road of their own. That’s when music genre differences become extremely important, the communication gets cryptic, and the scene becomes elite. It goes on and on until the small scene becomes too small, or the scenesters too old, and everything goes back to the big picture. These dynamics seem very clear to me, having grown up in Palermo, far from everything, a small-town scene, where we grew up together against the world, where in 15 years I probably booked the same amount of punk shows that I booked in Rome in six months. Sure, I miss the warmth, the fun and the friends that I had back then, but on the other hand, if you’re remotely interested in many aspects of punk and “counter-cultural” music as I am, there are literally more than 30 shows a month worth going to in Rome, and I love it for that.
I think your assessment of the punk cycle of life is pretty accurate. What bands are you in?
I play bass with ANTI YOU. We just had our second LP out on Six Weeks in the US, and Agipunk in Europe and we will be touring a little in the West Coast in January.
Bay Area’s very own Six Weeks Records… So, any good new bands in Rome?
The glam-punkers GIUDA are the best thing happening to Rome since a long long time, they’re getting big and I wish them the best of luck. GAS ATTACK are probably the most active hardcore band in town right now, and they’re totally worth checking out live. LEXICON DEVILS just had an awesome 7″ out, I dig those guys.
What other projects are you involved with currently?
I just became a father of a beautiful 15-month-old daughter. That takes a lot my energy and time so I am not doing much else than the store, the labels, the band, and being a full-time daddy.