Hanson Records

Hanson Records: Oberlin’s Secret Record Store

Hanson Records
Located in Oberlin, Hanson Records' small private record shop is open only by appointment.

Originally published by The Oberlin Reivew, May 20, 2011
by Adrian Rew

Oberlin, Ohio is somewhat of an anomaly. Despite being home to a world-class conservatory of music and allocating more than $100,000 each year to student organizations devoted to booking bands, the town is — at first glance — not home to a single record store. However, with a little searching one reveals itself. A simple Google search comes up with a mailing address only: Hanson Records, MPO Box 73, Oberlin, Ohio, 44074.

Started when he was still in high school in Brighton, Michigan, musician Aaron Dilloway has been running Hanson Records, primarily as a distributor and record label, since 1994. Hanson was initially birthed out of frustration. While waiting for another label — Bulb Records — to release a record by his band Galen, Dilloway decided to fund the project himself. Bulb ultimately co-released The Heroin Bench with Hanson, and there has been a steady stream of releases ever since. Notable releases have included albums by Baltimore’s Nautical Almanac, Dilloway’s own successful industrial band Wolf Eyes, noise overlord Kevin Drumm, sound poets Blood Stereo, power electronics creep Prurient, Cincinnati violinist C. Spencer Yeh, avant-dementoids To Live and Shave in L. A. and Cleveland kosmische droners Emeralds. Although the label focuses primarily on noise music, there are also some surprises. One Andrew Wilkes-Krier got his start releasing weirdo sound collages with little indication of the party metal he would later coin as Andrew W. K.

Another significant artist on Hanson’s roster is Oberlin resident Robert Turman. Turman is an accomplished solo musician, working primarily with tape, electronics, noise, guitar and, most uniquely, the electric fan-driven rotoguitar. Turman was also a founding member of pioneering industrial band NON with the controversial High Priest of the Church of Satan and renowned prankster Boyd Rice in the late ’70s. In addition to touring, Turman plays frequent shows in Oberlin both as a solo artist and in collaboration with other musicians such as Aaron Dilloway.

Dilloway left Wolf Eyes to spend most of 2005 in Kathmandu, Nepal. While his wife Erika did graduate work there, he roamed the streets with an audio recorder and ended up meeting a family of snake charmers from Haryana, India who perform as the Nath Family. Their album became HN 133 and the Dilloways then moved to Oberlin from Ann Arbor in 2008 when Erika became a Linguistic Anthropology professor at the College. They’ve been here ever since.

Aaron runs his record distribution/mail-order and studio out of the Dilloways’ house on Morgan Street. Yet most Oberlin residents don’t know that Hanson also functions as a record store, albeit an appointment-only one. An appointment with a stranger may seem daunting, but visits can also be made in groups. This can sometimes be detrimental — you can’t just idly walk in to kill some time browsing records like you can in a normal record store. Nevertheless, the store does stock a large amount of obscure music that you would be hard-pressed to find in your local mom-and-pop store. The entire store is located in one room and, although the label and store’s focus is on noise and experimental music, about half of the store is devoted to more conventional records. According to the Hanson Records website, “There are many rarities available in the shop that are not up on the site. As well as a huge selection of Noise and Experimental music, we have a nice selection of used LP’s, cassettes, CD’s, Books, zines, etc… Punk, Metal, Modern Classical, Jazz, Psych, Rock, International, and more.” Prices are very reasonable, and it’s easy to walk away with something you’re happy with. Aaron hopes to one day open a regular store in downtown Oberlin, but it may not be for a long time.

Aaron can be reached via email at dilloway@hansonrecords.net to set up an appointment. I highly recommend it.