When Camelot Was King: Confessions of an 80s Mall Goth

Nothing is more quintessentially 80s than hanging out at the mall, those suburban monuments to consumerism where latchkey kids like me grew up. Later, in my teens, I would work there; including my first real job at McDonald’s and two different go-rounds at The Gap. By far, though, my favorite place at the mall was the record store. While my friends would blow all their allowance at the arcade, I bought records. Then, cassettes, CDs, books, magazines… I was a music addict. The record store was my fix.

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In my town, the West Manchester Mall was the local crown jewel of discretionary shopping. Aesthetically sterile and devoid of any appreciable design element, the property was your typical sprawling single level. In the 80s and early 90s, you could actually still smoke inside; imagine casually walking through the mall or standing in line at the food court smoking cigarettes. It’s hard to fathom today, as is the fact that the mall once supported not one, but two music chain stores: Wee Three Records and Camelot Music.

Camelot Music Ad November 1984

Camelot Music was founded in Ohio in the mid-1950s by two brothers, Paul and Robert David. Under the brand names Camelot Music and the Wall, the company operated over 450 stores at their peak, making them one of the largest music retailers in the United States based on store count.

I spent every moment I could in that store, where the clerks taught me almost as much about life as they did about music. Later, as my musical tastes expanded and my first car made me mobile, I would ditch the corporate mall stores for grittier, independent alternative shops in nearby Lancaster, Philadelphia or Baltimore. But when I was still a kid, Camelot was king.


My obsession with record stores didn’t diminish when I went away to college, though my purchasing budget certainly did. Syracuse had its own retail treasures to unpack: the massive Record Theater on Erie Blvd., the student run Spectrum Records at Schine Student Center and indie joints like Desert Shore or Oliver’s off campus. Further out was the region’s industrial music mecca, Rochester’s Lake Shore Records; while I continued to spend holidays and breaks working at the shop back home. Truth is, I spent more time in the record stores than I did in class, as both my collection and my university transcripts will attest.

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By the time I became a keyholder and a manager with my own Camelot Music store – at the now long defunct Fayetteville Mall near Syracuse – it felt like things had come full circle. Foot traffic at this location was slow to moderate, which might account for our regional manager’s willingness to let me go off script with our in store catalog. After a few months of transition, our stock of alternative releases rivaled that of any independent seller in the region. Our location even managed to customize our “New & Hot” section, swapping out corporate-mandated pop stars for the likes of Liz Phair, Skinny Puppy and The Smiths.

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Still, when I was cleared to run an in store promotion in support of a fledgling start up’s genre tribute – Cleopatra Records’ INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION – I felt a bit like we’d gotten one over on the retail world. Without the pictures to prove it, I still might not believe it; but there it is…Reconstriction Records, COP International, Cleopatra… for all the mall to see.

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Sadly, youth doesn’t last forever. Nor, it turns out, do corporations (see: Toys “R” Us). In late 1998, Camelot was acquired by Trans World Entertainment and its mall-based music stores re-branded as F.Y.E. In 2001, after years of vacancies and consumer indifference, Fayetteville Mall itself was demolished. ReConstriction Records is long gone, too, though Cleo and COP remain.

Blair Witch Haus: Honoring 20 Years of Terror

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Twenty years ago, independent filmmakers Eduardo Sánchez, Daniel Myrick and Gregg Hale shocked the horror movie industry with the unexpected international success of The Blair Witch Project.

The film’s found footage milieu expertly re-purposed the “is it real?” ephemera of cult television classics like In Search of… and Unsolved Mysteries. It was also the first film to fully embrace the marketing possibilities of the internet, creating its own fan-fueled fantasy world where anxious conspirators could further explore the fictional lore of Maryland’s Blair Witch.

On the eve of opening weekend 1999, Rexx Arkana sat down with the filmmakers to discuss their fascination with horror and the art of storytelling. The result was this feature article originally published in Interface Magazine.

TBWP_The Bank Flyer.jpgIn New York City, Interface (in association with the Sci-Fi Channel, Haxan FilmsArtisan Entertainment, Chapter III Records and Eternal Entertainment) sponsored an exclusive release party at the legendary East Village goth/industrial club, The Bank. The event featured a listening session for the film-related soundtrack Josh’s Blair Witch Mix, and a special midnight screening of the associated cable documentary “Curse of the Blair Witch.” A line up of patrons that stretched down Essex Street that night proved to be one of the best and final moments of the venue, which closed shortly after. (Coincidence? Or… something more?)

20 YEARS OF TERROR.

On Friday, October 18th, Haus Arkana recognizes the 20th anniversary of this revolutionary film at BLAIR WITCH HAUS – a private event and screening. The party will feature exclusive giveaways courtesy of HA and STATIK Industrial TV, including original movie posters signed by the filmmakers, DVDs and movie memorabilia and CD copies of the soundtrack, provided by Chapter III.

Blair Witch Haus Flyer.jpgThe event kicks off at 9 PM with a listening party for the seasonally appropriate “13 Ghost Stories,” the latest project from left field music founding father, Jean-Marc Lederman (Weathermen, Fad Gadget, Gene Loves Jezebel, et. al.). Autographed copies of the release – as well as others from the artist – will be given away, courtesy of JMLP and Dependent Records.

Haus Arkana invites you to join us in paying tribute to a film that invigorated 80s nostalgia in horror and independent filmmaking in the internet era.

This October, haunt the halls at BLAIR WITCH HAUS.

 

 

Like To Get To Know You Well: STATIK TV Podcast Launches with HoJo Tribute

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On the debut episode of the STATIK TV podcast, host Rexx Arkana profiles the early career of one of the founding fathers of electronic pop, synth superstar Howard Jones. Featuring an exclusive interview from the archives, Rexx and Howard discuss the artist’s motivation from his early 80s beginnings through his reign at the Top of the Pops, featuring audio clips of his best hits from the era.

It’s a unique and insightful view into an artist most influential on electronic music culture. A must for HoJo fans new and old. Find the complete interview here:

Scene. Strong. STATIK.

The Music of Drums: Rexx Remixes Nitzer Ebb for their Sold Out NYC Show

nitzer rexxIn advance of their sold out New York show on May 10th, Rexx Arkana has dusted off his favorite Nitzer Ebb track and given it a modern reworking fit for the club floor.

“Hearts & Minds (Rexxtended Mix)” fixates on the rhythmic percussive groove of the original and singer Douglas McCarthy‘s characteristic vocal chanting.  It also heavily incorporates elements of Mute Records label head Daniel Miller‘s incomparable “Mix Hypersonic”, originally released on 12″ in 1988.

Whether you’re an OG rivet head with a catalog of NitzerEbbProdukt in your collection, or just beginning to discover the powerful, percussive sounds of this seminal UK act, Haus Arkana invites you to meld in the music mix of DJ Rexx Arkana. Follow Rexx on Mixcloud for the best in industrial and dark electronic music.

BLUEFIXXER Debuts International Synthwave Collaboration in New Single

Fans of synthwave, retrowave and italo take note of BLUEFIXXER, the new project from  Lorenzo Voyager of Italian electronic dance outfit Syrian. On “Safe From Love”, his catchy, melodic first single, Voyager enlists the lyrical talents of Rexx Arkana (Bruderschaft, FGFC820, Coldkill) and the guitar work of Riccardo Cherubini.

The release also features stunning, style-appropriate artwork by Igor Chimisso and is currently available on the Bluefixxer’s Bandcamp site.

INDUSTRIAL PURPOSE 01: Honoring The Legacy Of Wax Trax! Records

Friday 04.26 Haus Arkana proudly presents INDUSTRIAL PURPOSE 01, a private occasion honoring the legacy of Wax Trax! Records.

The event will feature DJ sets from original WT! label DJs JIM MARCUS (DIE WARZAU/GoFight) and REXX ARKANA. Joining them on the decks will be DEFCON head DJ STALAGMIKE.

Haus Arkana will also be releasing a limited edition cassette single designed by Arkana and Marcus to commemorate the event. In homage to the band’s recent Record Store Day concerts, the release features exclusive cover versions of WT! era MINISTRY classics performed by COLDKILL and INTERFACE featuring Jim Marcus.

The tracks will also be available in digital format on the Coldkill Bandcamp page as a name-your-price download.

At dusk, Haus Arkana will offer a private rooftop screening of Industrial Accident: The Wax Trax! Records Story. One lucky attendee will win a DVD copy of the film courtesy of STATIK INDUSTRIAL TV, while still others will win original 12″ label promos from Rexx’s own personal collection.

It’s a proper tribute to a label that defined a scene, brought to you by artists who were there to experience it. Purposefully industrial, Haus Arkana style.

We’re Number One!

CMJ RPM Chart, Aug 11, 1997

IN THE OLD DAYS of the 1990s, I was once a prominent independent college radio promoter; the first to specialize in industrial, and experimental electronic music.

Through my promo work with Club Hate Productions, Radical Records and RazorBurn, I had the opportunity to work with many amazing labels and artists in those years, some of whom were and remain very big names in the business (NIN, Gary Numan, Skinny Puppy, etc.)

But it was the surprising sophomore effort from a much lesser known band out of Vancouver who yielded my first #1 record, Unit:187‘s “Loaded”, for old friend Don Blanchard‘s San Fran start up 21st Circuitry Records. (College Music Journal RPM Chart, August 11th, 1997)

This particular week’s chart is extra special, because it includes three other records I was working to radio at the time: #16 Full Frequency, #18 Sister Machine Gun (“going for adds”) and #24 Funker Vogt.

Here’s to college radio and the countless specialty DJs who I had the great fortune to work with over the years.