Soundwave CDs closed last spring. Tower Records is on its last leg. Warehouse Records came and went. Meanwhile, shopping for mp3s online got easy, “compact” discs started to seem like space-hogging relics, and buying music in tangible formats became as modern as buying a quart of milk in a store run by someone whose name you know.
But none of this stopped David Calkins, a former employee of each of the above, from opening a real live, bricks-and-mortar CD shop in Reno last week. It’s called Discology, a linguistic mash of “disc,” and “Egyptology,” the career he’d had his heart set on as a kid.
Calkins switched vocational gears just as he was wrapping up a double major in anthropology and art history at the University of Nevada, Reno. He realized that Egyptologists spend a lot of time holed up in offices and not that much time adventuring through Egypt discovering tombs.
After a decade of planning, brainstorming and collecting music, he set up shop in a small office space above Satellite Lounge with hieroglyphic-inspired wall décor.
Calkins says confidently, “I still believe that people like to shop for music.” He predicts the under-25 demographic will stay home and download, but he thinks enough music fans will want to browse through CDs to keep a small retail store alive. “People like to go into a store and find something they’ve been looking for for a long time. I call it ‘the holy grail incident.'”
A 37-year-old with a clean-shaven head and attentive posture, Calkins talks about music with scholarly attention to detail and a generalist’s appreciation.
“I want to support all different genres,” he says. He stocks rent-paying rock albums and reliable runners-up such as country, reggae and soundtracks to back the slower sales of music conceived more in the name of experimentation than billboard success.
As a teenager, he discovered the two albums that helped chart the direction of his music collection. He heard U2’s The Joshua Tree and grooved on the B-sides as much as the hits. Then he heard Dead Can Dance’s In The Realm of the Dying Sun, a dreamy, goth/folk cult favorite too melancholy to get much airplay. That album showed him the concept of the album as a distinct unit of expression that could take the listener to some specified plane and back.
“It was about discovering that there were music styles and forms out there that weren’t churned out for the mass market, that there was more to music than just what was on the radio,” says Calkins. “I think that moment is what opened my eyes to the fact that there was a lot of great music that no one was ever going to hear. And it was my job to seek it out and turn other people on to it.”
Now that he’s spruced up that second-story office space with a coat of coarse mustard-colored paint and recruited friends to help build plywood CD racks, the do-it-yourselfer elaborates on what he’s listening to these days: “Some of my favorite artists are the ones who can kind of do everything from beginning to end. They play instruments, write the songs, do the artwork for the album covers. Joseph Arthur can do all of that. I’ve seen him probably 13 times now.”