Riz Rollins is practically a Seattle institution. A mainstay on KCMU 90.3 (Wed 9pm-1am, Sat 9pm-11pm) and at the Re-bar, this DJ is armed with a vast collection of records. Riz can walk an audience through a set of R&B, hip-hop, soul, house, and drum and bass without batting an eye. We asked him to tell us how the madness started.
What was the first record you ever bought?
A 45 called “Mama Get Your Yo Yo” and “Tossin’ and Turning.” I almost got hit by a car, running across to the record store to buy it.
What was the first record you ever played out?
I don’t know, ’cause I always played records for other people. I used to play records for my mom. The first record I ever turned my mama onto that she didn’t know she would like was “Ode to Billie Joe.”
What sort of music did you listen to growing up?
Everything. My mama liked jazz and we liked pop music. I almost went to jail when I was in fifth grade for stealing records. Rubber Soul, the Beatles. James Brown’s “Cold Sweat” saved my life. ‘Cause that’s how I learned how to dance.
When did you start seriously collecting records?
When I was in high school—or when I was in college, when I went to bible school. And none of those children had records. They had stereos, but they would have, maybe, one Yes record. Probably the first album that I remember buying would be Carole King, Tapestry. But then I bought Marvin Gaye, What’s Going On? The early period, I would buy records because the covers were pretty. . . . By the time I got out of college, I probably had a couple of hundred records, but didn’t have a stereo.
When did you finally get turntables?
I had a record player in ’78 when I moved to Oregon. And then by that time, [buying records] was a weekly thing. I was obsessed by the time I was in high school. My mother used to put up record covers like artwork in the house. Then came the daunting task of hauling them all over the country, ’cause I moved to Atlanta with the family, from Chicago. That’s when I lost a good number of my records. My family steals records. We steal each other’s music. All the time. My mother visits me and I have to watch her back, ’cause she’ll make off with CDs and stuff.
What did your friends think of your collecting?
In college, they wondered if I was demon-possessed. I went to college in ’71 to ’76—the big Exorcist time—so if you had anything that was kind of wrong with you, they wondered if it was ’cause of demons.
How many records do you have?
I have about 5,000, and that’s not nearly as much as some people have.
You only have 5,000?
I think so. I don’t count them, the movers count them. My friend helped me move and I decided that was never gonna happen again.
How much space do they take up?
One whole room. They’re everywhere.
What genre do you have the most of?
I don’t know. Because of the way jungle is, most jungle records, you have to get them on 12-inch. So there’s a large collection of 12s that I have. But I got a bunch of hip-hop.
How many records do you take to a gig?
Not as many as I used to. I take probably a hundred. I used to take two to three hundred. I used to take crates, three crates. Then I finally realized, I needed the choices but I was only playing this much music.
What’s your most prized record?
I spent $30 on “One Nation Under a Groove.” It was a 12-inch record where it has an instrumental version on the B-side.
What is the strangest record you have?
The polka music. I play polkas every New Year’s Eve. I always play polkas and it is amazing. People actually fall down. They get so beside themselves they fall on the floor. They get so hyped up, and they’re so drunk, and the polka comes on and they lose it. It’s crazy.
Do you sell a lot of records?
I hardly ever sell records. Selling records is a mistake. There’s a record that you will not listen to today, but you sell it today, five years from now, you’ll be looking for it. You will be.