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Coffee Talk with Anthony Abbinanti

Interview by Jamison Harvey

Name, Location, What You Do:

Anthony Abbinanti, Chicago IL – Dabbler in many trades, master of none – I play (played?) drums, organ and baritone sax in various live groups pre-pandemic.  I was also fortunate enough to DJ around town on a number of residencies I hold (held?) sharing a wide assortment of musical styles.  … and finally, I write, record and produce music for my label Happy As A Lark.  I also do the odd design-work and code-monkey work for online experiences.

How did you get into the music industry and come to start HAAL?

I started playing in bands in high school and just sort of never stopped – I also have some family members that are deep record collectors, so I was always surrounded by big vinyl collections.  The idea of running a label always intrigued me, as well as my desire to engage in bigger-scale productions and collaborations.  A lot of the projects I’m working on are much too big to take on the road (financially speaking) so being able to release them without having to worry about touring (especially now) just made sense.  I’ve always been jealous of the punk trio who could just get in a van and roll out – Anyone who listens to reggae knows that live, to get the right sound, you really need at least 6 people (better if it was 8) which becomes a whole thing.  Now that I have an inkling of a footing as a label, I’m trying to extend my capabilities to like-minded musicians and help them get their music out.

Talk about your relationship with coffee.

Love it, probably drink too much of it.  Back when little Greek-owned 24-hour greasy-spoon diners were more common I’d sit and drink it all night.

How do you prepare your coffee and what is your go to coffee spot?

Well in a pandemic my go-to coffee spot is home and I have a kinda-fancy auto-pour-over machine that does a great job – always a dark roast, black – no cream or sugar.

What records/ music are you listening these days?

While my overall record-buying has gone way down during the pandemic, not DJing for the last 8 months let me shift focus away from purchasing 45s and get back into LPs … There’s a handful of jazz artists (Sam Rivers, Larry Young, Andrew Hill) that I’ve been trying to get closer to a ‘complete’ collection of (though jazz LP prices are crazy) as well as soul LPs which I’ve almost entirely overlooked in my collecting of 45s.

During the pandemic, what have you been up to besides the record label?

Freelance work and a lot of home improvement projects.  I’ve also taken up homebrewing and have about 8 batches under-my-belt at time of writing this.  I find it hard to not do anything.

We feel coffee and music/ records go hand in hand.  What are your thoughts on this?

Of course they do! On a weekend morning brewing a pot, putting on an LP and sitting back is one of the simpler pleasures in life.

What kind of products do you have coming up?

Right now I have a handful of LPs in the works for the label – One has been done for ‘literally’ years but the singer became somewhat famous in the meantime which has thrown a wrench in our plans … I just hope it gets to come out one day because it’s really really special.  Imagine a reggae album with a full Motown production spread …  

Last words, anything you want 

Stay home, buy records online, and wear a goddamn mask!