Feeding Tube Records isn’t your average music store

By Niall Brady

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King Street in Northampton usually isn’t cited as the most interesting part of town when one talks of driving into Northampton. Riddled with convenience stores, fast food restaurants and supermarkets, King Street is often seen to have some pretty bland attractions –  potential destinations necessary to drive past before reaching the far more stimulating downtown Northampton.

Fortunately, things were spiced up two years ago when Feeding Tube Records opened at 90 King St., just a quarter mile from Northampton’s center. With its windows covered top to bottom with black and white hand-drawn art and a slightly unsettling store sign depicting a man eating out of anatomically correct stomach, Feeding Tube Records is eye catching if nothing else. Not only is Feeding Tube a record store, but also a label; both are owned by Hampshire College graduate Ted Lee.

“I came up with the idea in college and an old friend wanted to do it with me,” said Lee on how Feeding Tube came to be. “He left, but I found other people while at Hampshire.”

These people included music critic Byron Coley, of Force Exposure and Spin magazine, and Thurston Moore, of the band Sonic Youth, who both supplied a large portion of the vinyl at the store from their own personal collections.

The vinyl at Feeding Tube is what really sets the store apart from the many other similar establishments in the area. With the motto “On the Fringe of Obscurity,” finding music you have never heard of before is the norm while perusing the store’s selection. Ranging from forgotten psychedelic records from the late ‘60s to a plethora of punk sub-genres, unclassifiable cassettes, and probably the largest noise collection this side of New York, Feeding Tube’s collection would definitely raise some eyebrows for any music fan entering it for the first time.

As far as price goes, CDs usually cost around $10-$12, while most vinyl ranges from $20 to higher than $50, or more, though there is cheaper fare as well, including some records marked as low as $2.

“Our most rare record … would probably be this $400 second pressing,” Lee said as he slid The Velvet Underground’s debut album, with cover art by Andy Warhol, from a pile. Sure enough, the $399.99 price tag and clean quality leaves little doubt that this is the real thing.

Cassettes, books and zines can be purchased at the store as well. The book room includes both a Monsters and a Devil section, and Feeding Tube is one of only two locations in Massachusetts to pick up a copy of Mothers News, a free monthly newspaper published in Providence, R.I., that includes irreverent articles and a fantastic comics section that features frequent submissions from Brian Chippendale, the drummer of the prominent noise rock band Lightning Bolt,

On top of running the store, Lee also owns the Feeding Tube record label.

“We have had about 50 artists on the label,” he said, “like Thurston Moore, Son of Salami and Gary Wilson.”

When asked if the label supports any local bands in the area, he simply mentioned a band called Egg Eggs and pointed over to the corner of the room where two women were shuffling through records. It appeared that he was trying to point out the records the two women were looking at, but he was actually pointing at the women themselves. Catching their attention, the two band members came over and struck up a conversation.

“Ted is a really great guy,” the band members attested while holding up a hand painted envelope. They went on to explain that Lee videotapes all of the shows that Feeding Tube artists perform.

“He tapes these and then gives them out as limited edition copies. Plus he puts his own great hand-drawn art on it.”

So, with owning a record store, a record label, recording shows and being part of multiple bands himself, Lee has a lot on his plate day-to-day.

“My father was a workaholic so I guess I get that from him. Even when I’m at home sitting around I’m thinking about something work related,” Lee said.

“I mean there are obstacles, but I get over them as I meet them,” Lee added with shrug.

So if you’re looking for a record store that prides itself on offering the oft unavailable, then Feeding Tube might be the place to go the next time you want to go looking for something rare or dig around exploring for new music. With such a wide selection of music that sharply deviates from the average Valley record store, Feeding Tube is worth stopping by the next time you are making the drive down King Street on your way to Northampton.

Niall Brady can be reached at [email protected].