Behind the Counter: Rhino Records & The Mad Platter (Claremont, CA)

Each week, Behind the Counter speaks to an independent record store to ask about its recent favorites, best sellers, and noteworthy trends.

ALARM recently spoke with Dennis Callaci, general manager of the Inland Empire-based Rhino Records and The Mad Platter, about the sisterly record stores and the potential correlation between UFOs, Jim Morrison, and Vietnam (hint: he’s not interested). To kick off the Q&A, here’s a photo of Mad Platter employee Jonny holding his favorite record.

The Mad Platter
Jonny holds The Cure's Disintegration

What was your motivation for starting a music store? What is your background in music?

As with most owners of indie record stores, Rhino was started by folks that had, and continue to have, a passion for music. Chuck Oken Jr., the owner, grew up playing music, listening to music, and devouring music. He is in a band that is active, as are the majority of the folks that work at the store.

Rhino Records & The Mad Platter

How are Rhino and The Mad Platter related? Do they serve different purposes?

When the original owner sold off the Rhino store, we could not name any other stores that we opened Rhino. So when The Mad Platter opened in 1983, we had to christen it as something other than Rhino.

What is the musical community like in the Claremont area?

The Inland Empire has always been a vibrant hotbed for musicians and artists. Right now, the current wave of bands that folks outside our area may be digging are Abe Vigoda, The Extra Lens, and maybe the apartment up the street where John Cage once lived.

Why do people choose your store over major or Internet retailers?

I would hope that people support our stores because we are nice folks that are fellow music lovers and not in cahoots with the man, but that is probably a pipe dream. The tactile act of flipping through records can’t be replaced by tapping endlessly at a sorrow-filled keyboard that has had to proofread far too many suicide notes. I still love shopping at other record stores on my days off. Poobah’s in Pasadena, Dr. Strange in Alta Loma, Fingerprints in Long Beach…

Give me three great albums that you’ve enjoyed lately.

– Numero has issued an incredible box set by Syl Johnson, a mother lode of hard-edged soul from the ’60s and early ’70s in a to-die-for box that includes six LPs and four CDs.

– The new Swans CD, My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky, packs a punch while retaining some subtleties.

Sun Araw‘s Off Duty certainly melds the outré world of Sun Ra with psych and garage leanings.

Which albums has your store sold the most over the past month?

The new Brian Eno, The Growlers, Neil Young, Warpaint, and Madlib are selling briskly.

What is the weirdest special order request you’ve ever received?

We had a guy send a script based around The Doors, UFOs, and Vietnam asking if we would fund the project. Repeated voice mails and details followed. Did you know that Jim Morrison is from Venus?

Do you promote zines or visual art?

We have local zines that we buy directly from publishers or offer on consignment. We work with a couple of local galleries to promote the arts (dA Gallery and 50 Bucks in Pomona).

Any big future plans?

I need to find some dry and scaly skin [on which] to rub the 50 pounds of Jergens lotion I won in a lottery.

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