Last Collector Standing: Ashley Hohman on Hunting Records, Riding in Cars with X's John Doe and Her Latest Band, Doom Town

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click to enlarge Last Collector Standing: Ashley Hohman on Hunting Records, Riding in Cars with X's John Doe and Her Latest Band, Doom Town
Jon Scorfina

Having just returned from the St. Louis Record Show this previous Sunday, Last Collector Standing caught up with Doom Town bassist Ashley Hohman. On the way up to her third-story room in her communal home behind KDHX studios, different genres of music echo from all the neighboring rooms. Hohman explains "music is her life," be it the house full of fellow record collectors constantly spinning vinyl, her dedication to the St. Louis Mixtape Club, or playing in her own bands. Nestled in the corner of her bedroom is her cherished record collection. There we discussed her musical roots from the St. Louis Record show, a chance car ride with X's John Doe and how Doom Town got their name.

Last Collector Standing: You were just at the St. Louis Record Collector Show. What did you bring home today? Ashley Hohman: The first thing I found today at the record show was KICKS magazine -- an original copy of issue number 4 with Wanda Jackson on the cover for four dollars. That was my big exciting score of the day. KICKS magazine was started by Miriam Linna, who was [an early] drummer in The Cramps. She started Norton records, which is a label from New York that rediscovered Hasil Adkins and Esquerita and put out their records. [KICKS magazine] was about all of those people, and a bunch of other obscure rock & roll and early R&B. That was the coolest thing I found today.

I found two Cramps records I was really excited about, Songs the Lord Taught Us and Gravest Hits, which I'd never seen on vinyl before. That was really cool. [Also] The Damned, Machine Gun Etiquette, which is a record I've been looking for for a really long time. It's one of my favorite punk records.

How often do you go to the record show? Actually, my musical history begins with going to the record show with my dad when I was a kid. I try to go as often as I can. It's every other month. I haven't gone to the last two shows, but I try to go as much as possible.

So how did you first get into music? My dad is a big record collector. He's always been really into music. When I was twelve, I started going to the record shows with my father. I always thought records just looked so cool, so I would look at things that had cool album art, or bands that I knew the name of like the Doors. When I was 13 or 14, Jason Rerun and Ann were selling records and I bought a three-dollar copy of Blondie Parallel Lines from them. It still has the Rerun three-dollar sticker on it. [Laughs] That's when I started buying more known '80s new wave and power-pop from going to the record shows.

Then I just started buying albums based on album art, or because I'd heard the bands name, or another band had covered this band. It started like that because I never had Internet as a kid. It was all based on buying record just because they looked cool.

What were some of the records you would buy without knowing who the artist was or what they sounded like? I would always buy Brenda Lee records. I would buy those at the record show because I started getting into '50s and '60s pop and girl group records. I would buy any Brenda Lee or Supremes record.

Then I started going to Euclid Records when I was fifteen. That's how I found The Trashwomen LP, which was life changing. They were an awesome early-'90s surf punk band from California. Estrus Records put out their LPs. That was like, "Holy shit! Women play this crazy wild surf music with these extremely bratty vocals!" Estrus also released Mummies records. I found Mummies records for six dollars at Vintage Vinyl. I didn't know anything about this stuff. I just bought it because it looked cool. They are just the best album covers ever - they're all dressed up as mummies jumping off an old '60s ambulance.

You just described The Trashwomen record as a "life changing" album. A lot of people that I've talked to describe having "turning point" albums that change their musical direction. How was the Trashwomen's album "life changing" for you? The Trashwomen would be more "life changing" in the fact that it combined all these different elements of music, and it was created a decade after punk broke. It was also played by women. It was really good, shredding surf guitars.

The record that totally changed how I thought about music was Wild Gift by X. [They're] still my favorite band. Being fifteen and hearing that record for the first time was mind blowing. I grew up with an older brother who was into bands like Descendents, Ramones and the Clash, but this deeper layer in X's music was totally new to me. The lyrics were amazing. It was loud, but really meaningful. X, "We're Desperate"

Exene Cervenka of X lived for a time in St. Louis. Have you ever met her? [Editor's note: Cervenka actually lived a few hours away, in rural Missouri.] I meet her a few times. It was really nervewracking. I'm already a really nervous person. She actually came to a show that my old band the Vultures were playing at Off Broadway. I thought I was going to vomit before the show.

X played twice at Pop's. The second time John Doe did an in-store at Vintage Vinyl. Doormat [Mat Wilson] got asked to drive John Doe to the show. He asked me if I wanted to ride in the car. So we drove John Doe to Pop's. I had let Doormat borrow this CD of mine by The "5" Royales, who were this really amazing '50s doo-wop rock & roll band. Lowman Pauling the guitar player wrote all of their songs. He wrote all of these songs that people like James Brown and Ike and Tina Turner went on to cover, like "Tell The Truth" and "Think." He also wrote the original version of "Dedicated to the One I Love." That song came on while we were driving John Doe to Pop's. When it ended he was like, "That song's amazing! Can we listen to it again?" I was like, "Holy shit. He's never heard this before." In an indirect way, I showed John Doe something that he didn't know. [Laughs]

Your current band is named Doom Town. Is that named after The Wipers song? Doom Town got its name - Ben, who plays guitar and also sings, said "Look on the back of your favorite records for song titles." At first it was The Screamers, "Vertigo." So we were Vertigo for a while. I also [suggested] Wipers "Doom Town." We were going back and fourth between those two. Doom Town seemed like it would be a better fit for the band. That's how we came up with the name by looking on the back of [our] favorite records.

Do you think a band could find as much meaning from an album or song title they learned about off of iTunes that they would be dedicated to naming their group after it? The whole iTunes digital age is really new to me. It wasn't until a month ago that I had my first computer. I think that people who are into records - there will always be people who are into records. Now that everything is so accessible it's hard to say. I'm sure there are people who skim their iTunes looking for song titles and base something else of it. For me personally it will never be like that.

It can be frustrating because I feel like I have put so much of my time and energy going to record stores and finding out about music while it's in front of me, while I'm actually physically hunting for it. There are fourteen-year-old kids who know more about the records I own than I do and can tell me more facts about the music I love because they read about it on Wikipedia. It's frustrating because I put so much of myself into it. Music is my life and it really is important to me.

I'll ask the impossible question then: Do you have a favorite album in your collection? That's the hardest question anyone could ever ask. [Laughs] I don't have a favorite. I always think I have a top five, but that's not even true.

I pulled out this record because this is a record I'm really happy that I found. It's this Devo Be Stiff EP they put out around the time the put out Are We Not Men? It's got songs that weren't on the record but were on some of the singles they released. It might be some of my favorite album art ever. This is my current favorite.

Do men and women collect music for different reasons? I don't think so. There are probably more men than women who collect records, but I don't think they collect them for different reasons. People all relate to music. For me, that's how I relate to people through records and through music.

I guess there is a divide because there are people who collect records and there are people who don't. People who are interested in records aren't too different from one another.

[Doom Town will be playing March 19 at the last Godfodder show at Apop Records]

About The Author

Jon Scorfina

Jon Scorfina is a freelance writer for the Riverfront Times. Between 2010 and 2011, he wrote the weekly column "Last Collector Standing," which explored collecting physical media in the digital age. He continues to write pop culture related cover stories and features for the Riverfront Times.
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