Cd’s, cassettes, and iPod’s have all had their moments but nothing is more timeless than hearing the faint crackle of the needle as you play your favorite vinyl record. The thriving music scene of Portland is considered the promised land by musicians and music enthusiasts alike, and local shop/label Jackpot Records is the Powell’s of all PDX record stores. Founder Isaac Slusarenko has been in the record retail business for 25 years. Just to give you an inkling of his experience, he pulled down Pink Floyd’s debut, Piper at the Gates of Dawn and pointed out that it was a rare 1st-printing based on the misprint of the sixth track, Take Up Thy Stethoscope and Walk, which had ‘My’ instead of ‘Thy’. I have to admit, Isaac would be a valuable asset for your brewpub trivia team.
Share with us the story behind Jackpot Records?
I’ve been doing record retail in Portland for 25 years and I opened Jackpot records 19 years ago. I had just graduated college with a BFA in photography and had worked for a record store in town for about 6 years. I decided I wanted to make a curated record store that leaned toward community outreach but was also your neighborhood record store. So I purposely decided to open on Hawthorne. We opened October 10th 1997. We designed the store and completely redid the interior. I wanted it to look different from all the other record stores at the time. That’s pretty much the birth of Jackpot, and I just kept going.
And in addition to the store you also run a label right?
That’s right! In 2004, I started the Jackpot record label. Our first release was Beauregarde who was a Portland wrestler that did a rock record with Greg Sage of the Wipers. It was such an oddball piece to put out and it’s not like anybody knows about it, but it did well and it let us continue to put out other records.
What’s it been like observing the transitions of the Portland music scene over the past 25 years?
Before I started Jackpot, I had been around for that period when people were selling their record collections to buy cd’s, and now I’m dealing with the same people coming back and selling their cd’s to buy records. It’s been this cycle where people are wanting new technology and now their going back to the old tech. The evolution that I’ve seen is that now with records, if people want the experience of listening to vinyl, they now come prepackaged with digital downloads which gives them the convenience of having music on the go plus having the actual vinyl record. It’s been really great that labels have started to do that. One thing that hasn’t changed is that Portland’s always been really supportive of the arts. There are lots of movie theatre’s, plenty of venues, and there have always been lots of record stores. There has been more record stores per capita in Portland than any other place in the U.S. Even New York! And that hasn’t changed.
What else do you draw inspiration from?
I have a brother who owns Clinton street video, so he has all the movie world tied up. I’ve been very fortunate to learn about films from him and his experience. Between that and being close to Powell’s, it’s like I’m always integrated with culture. There’s never a lack of it.
What does it mean to you, being a creative in Portland?
The great thing about Portland is that there are a lot of creative people coming here who have diverse backgrounds. Design, art, and they’ve always been supportive of what we do. People keep coming to jackpot specifically saying ‘There is no other record store like this in my town/state. This is amazing that you guys have this!’. So I feel like we’ve created a unique experience for Portland that isn’t being replicated in a lot of other cities.
Is there something you wish was happening more in the creative community?
I really kinda wish there were more all-ages shows. I mean, I grew up in Portland and I went to a lot of shows before I was 21. I just feel this is a missed opportunity. It would be so great if kids had this avenue and there was a dedicated club for it. Unfortunately a lot of those venues don’t last due to OLCC issues and things like that. But I think the underage clubs need to make a comeback.
What sets Portland apart as a city?
It’s not Seattle! That’s the best comparison I have. Portland is not Seattle. People used to compare Portland and Seattle all the time, ‘oh yeah y’know, PDX is just a smaller version of Seattle’. But nobody says that anymore. Portland’s become its own thing.
What do you love most about your work?
I love coming in every day and learning about music. On an average day, I’ll listen to about 10 to 12 records a day. I’ve been doing that for 25 years now! Constantly being surrounded by music and album artwork is what I love about what I do.