Photo: Ben Howe.
When Paul Huggins first started out in music retail in 2006, managing Christchurch’s Real Groovy store, vinyl was not yet his main source of income. In those days, the sale of CDs was much more lucrative. Nonetheless, things were going well, and Paul bought the Real Groovy shop in 2008. However, come the first Christchurch earthquake in 2010, something was beginning to change. “When the first earthquake happened, I could see that vinyl was coming back” says Paul. While the quake was bad, the store was still standing, so it remained open. Then, tragedy struck: the 2011 Christchurch earthquake hit, destroying much of the CBD and forcing the untimely closure of Paul’s recently purchased shop.
While the life of the store had reached its end, the uptick in vinyl was just beginning. “So when we shifted, I put all my money into vinyl” says Paul. “I didn't replace any of the other stuff that I had. We could see that it was coming”. In September of that same year, Paul decided to move to Wellington and open the cleverly titled Rough Peel Music (RPM). The shop, which still predominantly stocks vinyl, is now located slightly further down Cuba Street from Slow Boat Records.
Compared to Slow Boat, the Rough Peel Music store is long and narrow. It has high ceilings and a loft office at the back. While there is no bank vault to be found (the building home to Slow Boat was once a bank), RPM’s treasure trove is hidden in the bins lining the store. While there is a similar selection of genres to most other record shops, Paul says RPM carefully curate their selection of hip hop, reggae, soul, funk, and electronic music. “Our genres aren’t that different” says Paul. “But we do them a bit better”.
Rough Peel Records. Photo by Ben Howe.
A commitment to the careful curation of music is clearly a driving force for Paul, who, within a year of opening RPM, started their own in-house record label: Rough Peel Records. Their inaugural release was of that of The Eastern’s album Hope and Wire. The record label has now released music from artists such as Beastwars, Ladi6, and TrinityRoots. “It’s kind of whatever floats my boat” says Paul. “It’s not a genre thing”. Paul reflects on when the idea to start a record label first came about: right after his Real Groovy store was forced to close. Singer-songwriter Delaney Davidson suggested the idea to a glum Paul, who was wondering what to do with himself.
Another - albeit more shortly lived - project was that of RPM’s in-house radio station, which they launched in 2016. Partly in reaction to increasingly commercial mainstream radio, Rough Peel Radio had no ads, and played a selection of music other stations might have overlooked. Sadly, the non-commercial nature of Rough Peel Radio saw to its closure in 2018.
The sheer amount of musical knowledge gained from years slinging vinyl, running a radio station and record label, and DJing means he often got asked for music recommendations. “Yeah, it happens quite a lot for us” says Paul. “And it depends if we know the person” he says. “If we know what they listen to, it’s easy enough. But if we don't know them, then it's a bit harder”.
The store, through all thick and thin, is still going strong, and music lovers of all kinds will enjoy digging through the carefully curated bins at Rough Peel Music.
Visit Rough Peel Music here.