Situated in the beautiful Triskel Arts Centre, independent record shop Plugd is a central hub for music of all creeds and flavours in Cork City. Apart from selling records, founder Jimmy Horgan has been a pivotal figure in the shaping and cultivation of the vibrant Cork music scene. Words and photos by Blair Massie.
First off, I wanted to ask you how your affinity for records began? What would you recall being the first records that you bought?
Well… growing up in the pre-CD era, I had really cool aunts who collected a bit – mostly folk stuff like Dylan etc. I was always drawn to the artwork more than anything. It wasn’t until later in my teens that I got into collecting. There wasn’t many places in Kerry that you could pick up vinyl – at least the stuff I was into – so I used to take the odd day-trip out to Dublin to pick up whatever few records I could afford. The first albums I remember picking up were probably Automatic by The Jesus and Mary Chain and maybe Trompe Le Monde by the Pixies.
It’s safe to assume opening a record shop requires an extreme amount of confidence in terms of having an idea about the kinds of music people want to listen to and ultimately buy, how did you navigate this and what have you learned about the ebb and flow of selling records?
Indeed, confidence is one way of putting it. My then colleague, Ronan and I opened up in the old Comet Records premises on Washington St. It was an institution for many years. We took this as our starting point and deviated out. It was a bit of a learning curve. It was, and still is, about finding the balance between what you think people need to hear and what they want to hear. The mistakes are the multiple copies of albums still behind the counter. You’re learning all the time, especially from chatting to customers.
I can imagine 5 years ago there was a lot less people buying records and a lot of the business is seeing the same people through the door. More recently, have you seen a surge in the types of people buying music?
Yeah definitely, there has been a lot of the younger team through the door in the last few years. You see a definite interest, with regulars picking up an album or two a week. Electronic vinyl has really made a comeback as well – pressings are more limited compared to before, so there’s more of an urgency for people to drop by.
I think for a lot of musicians they feel “legitimate” after a tour and getting something pressed to vinyl. What is it about vinyl that makes creators feel confident in what they are doing?
Good question. I guess its that feeling that they have made that step beyond playing in their local or copying CDs. Not that there’s anything wrong with that – I admire anyone who makes music. Releasing on vinyl is a statement of intent I guess. It must be a special feeling. I remember when John Daly used to work in the shop. One day he came in and played me a track, I think it was Solaris. Great track… JD was pretty hyped about it. The pressing came back a few months later, there was just so much time and effort coming together for that moment.
Outside of simply selling records you guys have truly become a backbone and driving force in the Cork music scene. What is the force driving you through all the gigs, promotion, bookings, ticket sales etc.
That’s nice to hear. I would say the music scene is more about the people making music and going to shows than anything else though. We are fortunate that we have a place where we can host gigs. Why do we do it? I think we do this for the same reason that people go to gigs. That feeling. Some of the best shows we have done have been in the café – Dan Walsh’s improvised music night never ceases to blow my mind I think you guys have done so much to help out the young community of artists and musicians.
Going forward, do you feel like Vinyl could be or is the primary physical form that people will be buying music in this industry of streaming and digital downloads.
Vinyl is definitely at a high point right now. In terms of buying music, yeah definitely, vinyl is a tactile, beautiful object. It’s perfect. I can’t imagine it being superseded by anything else in the near future. In terms of listening to music, I think there’s a good balance going on at the moment. From my own experience, and speaking to customers and friends, a lot of people stream and download music for free. This informs peoples decisions about what they will buy on vinyl.