Leah Hamer || October 20th
Music Store Pro stocks everything a musician’s heart desires. ‘It’s like Toys R Us for musicians’, employee Mark Crawford (aka Djing extraordinaire Macious), tells me as he greets me with hugs and biscuits, before introducing me to Store Manager, Steve Edwards, and Marketing and Operations manager, James Dove, both of whom could not be more welcoming.
Located in a big blue building in Hanley, it runs alongside, The Music Store, which sells record players, posters, t-shirts and memorabilia, and can be found in the Potteries Centre. Owner Jon Gold, describes its brother store as a place for ‘everyone who loves music’, and Pro as for ‘everyone who makes music.’ Many may remember the original title of the store, The Academy of Sound, which underwent a re-brand last year, ‘I want it to be a community for musicians to come and have a cup of tea, and swap ideas and jam together. You get a much better vibe here than a stuffy music shop, we want people to come and feel the music.’
Mark first takes me to the acoustic room, overflowing with Martins, Tanglewoods, Yamahas, travel guitars and starter packs. This section is the usual child of Mike Rhead, the resident acoustic man, who is described as a genuinely good spirit, ‘He’s such a nice warming character, and he will spend two hours with one customer just to help them’.
From acoustic to electric, guitar god, Kane Redfern, leads me past the till point, formed from several old Marshall Amps and to the rock star section. He shows me the amp that once graced the stages of Five Finger Death Punch performances, before unveiling the miles of Jacksons, Epiphones and the hallelujah chorus inspiring Fender show room. ‘About forty years ago, the market wasn’t as big, you didn’t have access to a lot of sounds. Now is the best time to learn how to play.’
After playing for nine years and starting life here after completing a week of work experience at fifteen, Kane is now the ultimate guitar connoisseur, who alongside the rest of the staff, happily gives me miniature music lessons about humbuckers, coils, and gauges. ‘We don’t want to have that retail vibe about us, I like to think of myself as a musician first, a salesman after.’
Every member of the store have gained a knack for figuring out what instrument will suit each customer, Kane points out immediately that I am a ‘Strat girl’, although I’d also suit a Jazz or a Tele, (if anyone wishes to purchase me a Christmas gift, they stock Van McCann’s white Squier Telecaster).
Mark steals me back and takes me to his man cave, aka techno land. The high-tech area features everything from mini-keyboards, to speakers, to synthesisers and funky toys like portable Volca Keys, which are very addictive melody makers that we play with for about twenty minutes. There is something in this section for everyone, no matter what level you are. Mark personally owns half of all this equipment, and as such a passionate individual, he is happy to give advice on any techno-matter, ‘I was the only guy on my music course that made music electronically, I’ll just sample anything- phone calls and conversations on buses…There’s something magical about this.’
In the brief moments that he is not wise-cracking or referencing South Park, Thieves Asylum’s curly bass man, James Perry, guides me through his and colleague Luke Gordon’s precious zone. From Sterling to Cort to Yamaha to handmade Fenders, from four string to five string, the shop dons three walls of glowing basses. Want to know why bass strings are so thick? Want to know why basses are so much longer than guitars? The boys know it all and educate me on matters that are easily confusing to someone like me, who originally believed the dots on a guitar were just for prettiness.
Although a bassist at heart, James is happy to lead me through the final stop on the tour, the drum and PA room- which feels like stepping into another world. Surrounded by drum kits, public address systems and whopping speakers, all under luminescent lighting, the room is a secret getaway to musical exploration. I then quickly escaped to the piano section. This is the all-round musical genius, Chris Poole’s, usual zone, yet as I visited the store on his day off, I tickled the ivories myself in his absence, and felt my inner Einaudi come to the surface.
A bunch of friendly and funny personalities live in Music Store Pro, who will ensure that your experience is five star. I left the blue building filled with knowledge and the upmost desire to get on stage with a hot-pink Jackson and be a rock star.
Music Store Pro makes you want to be a musician.
On Thursday 20th October they will be hosting From Riff to Release with Paul White and Presonus, the ultimate guide to recording and releasing your own music, from 6-8pm.