On Friday, March 23, Seattle DJ Maxwell Edison* had spun a set of garage-rock, psych-rock, and soul singles at Jupiter Bar, taking turns on the decks with this humble blogger. As is customary with Edison after DJing, he walked home with his two boxes of mostly rare 45s. I wished him safe travels as he headed north on 2nd Avenue at 2 am. To my surprise, I found out, my farewell turned out to be futile. This night differed from all of Edison's many other post-gig strolls—and it almost resulted in the loss of one of his treasured stashes. The events that occurred on that journey are too bizarre to be confined to a mere anecdote among DJ partners, so I interviewed Edison to get the whole story.
So, you’re walking east on Pine Street and when you come upon Hot Mama’s Pizza, there’s a thick crowd of drunken idiots on the sidewalk?
What happened as you were trying to make your way through that spot?
I’d had several drinks, as you know. [laughs] I wasn’t necessarily walking in a straight line. I went through the crowd and I don’t know if I lurched one way or a guy stepped back or we both did at the same time, but I ran into somebody. I had my two heavy record boxes, so that’s a lot of weight to take. I had my headphones on; I like walking home and listening to music.
But I kept walking, and the next thing I know, there’s a dude to my left and he starts screaming at me, so I pulled one of my headphones out. He said, “What the fuck, dude, you shoulder-checked me, man!” Then another guy, who I didn’t see, came up on my right, running, and he grabbed the record box out of my hand. He ran up to Harvard and hung a left and disappeared. I thought, “Oh shit, my records are gone!”
I kept walking up Pine and the guy on my left was walking with me, still berating me. I kept apologizing. “Sorry, dude, I wasn’t trying to shoulder-check you.” I’m not a big dude. I’m not trying to get in a fight with a guy who’s a foot-and-a-half taller than me.
We get up to Pine and Harvard at [Seattle Central Community College] and some fucking kid—he must’ve been up in one of the branches of a tree across the street from the parking garage—he rolled out like someone would if they were holding onto a branch and he approached me and said, “Hey, what happened here?” Or “What did you lose?” Something to that effect. It’s a little foggy. I asked him if he had taken my records. He said, “No, but I’ll help you get ’em back.”
He took off down Harvard [after the guy with the record box]. I was just standing there, dumbfounded. It’s pouring rain. “Are you coming?” he asked. That’s when I started bolting up Harvard. We caught up to him at Harvard and Olive, by that church, on the college side of the street. That’s when the altercation started. The guy who had my records started swinging the box of records at my head. Somehow I was miraculously dodging this guy’s swings and kept saying, “I just want my records back. I’m not trying to fight you guys.” The other guy was talking about how he had a gun. At that point I just didn’t care. Just give me my records back.
“You can shoot me, but just give me my records back.”
Exactly. At that point, I was like, “take my life if you want, but don’t take my records.” [laughs]
So, the guy’s swinging your records and…
Yeah, and somehow the latch didn’t come undone. The box is pretty heavy—15 or 20 pounds—and he’s swinging it and I’m dodging it. The hippie kid who came out of the tree must’ve been talking to the other guy. But eventually, he put the records on the ground and started walking away. I picked up the box and the other guy said something like “Watch what you’re fucking doing. I’m a Seattle rapper.” That’s what he had to tell me. I thought, that’s what you do to other people with their records? You wanna take ’em? That’s good street cred, man.
How would you describe the assailants?
They were tall African-American gentlemen. The rapper had a baseball cap with a flat bill and dreadlocks. The other guy, I think he had a thin mustache, but it’s really foggy. It was 2:30 or 3 in the morning and I was admittedly pickled. [laughs]
And the guy who came out of the tree was a hippie?
Yeah. He had close-cropped hair and a big beard. He either had no shoes on or sandals. The other weird thing was, after I had the records and was trying to get home, he was going on some religious kick to the other dude. I had to physically grab his hand to shake it and tell him thanks for your help. Then I took off.
I wish I remembered it better, but the whole thing could’ve been avoided had I not drunkenly wandered through a crowd of a bunch of drunk bros and hungry people trying to get pizza. It’s partially my fault.
When you shoulder-checked the guy, was the impact hard or did you just brush against him?
It was hard enough to notice it. BOOM. One could’ve taken that as some sort of confrontation. But then again, you see some dude carrying a couple of things in their hands and zigzagging, you don’t think, fuck it, I’m going to steal this dude’s shit. It didn’t need to go down that way.
Do you think the guy in the tree saw the whole incident, or just a dude running with a record box?
He must’ve seen the guy running with the record box. Because he was too far up, I would imagine, to be able to see all the way down to Hot Mama’s. When I saw him, my first thought was, are you in on this? I was confused. It was fucking weird. It almost doesn’t seem like it’s real.
Are you sure it’s real?
I’m pretty sure. [laughs] My knee’s all scraped up here.
What do you think convinced the guy to put your record box down?
I don’t know. Maybe because it’s heavy. Maybe he was drunk, too. I wasn’t trying to be confrontational at that point. I was just persistent.
Did the assailants seem drunk?
They could’ve been. It was bar close. It was hard to tell. One of them was just angry. But I wasn’t able to suss that out at the time.
Did you get the rapper’s name?
No. He just said, “I’m a local rapper.”
Like that’s supposed to impress you? Like, “Don’t ever shoulder-check a local rapper.”
He was staking his claim.
What lesson do you come away with from this encounter?
Avoid a big pack of drunken idiots on the sidewalk. It’s self-explanatory, but I wasn’t aware of my surroundings. It was pouring rain, I wanted to get home. I was on a mission, taking the path I always take, instead of going around these guys. I don’t think about that in Seattle so much, of it being sketchy—especially on the Hill. I’ve been walking around Seattle, everywhere, in these areas for about 20 years. So, it didn’t cross my mind.
It seems like they overreacted.
I think so. It could’ve been just, “Hey, dude, watch where you’re fucking going. Don’t bump into me.” But to have his buddy come around and try to rip me off… I’m just glad I got ’em back. And I could’ve got the shit kicked out of me, easily. I’m glad that they decided not to do that, because they certainly could have. [laughs]
How much do you think the records in that box are worth [each box holds around 100 7-inch singles]?
Oh, they’re priceless to me. But they’re not valuable in the way that anybody could sell them and get a bunch of money. You would have to do work to get the money that they’re worth, because they’re fuckin’ artifacts. [Randomly pulls out the Pretty Boy and the Upsetters 7-inch, “Bip Bop Bip.”] That might be a $70 record; it’s very rare. It took me years to find a copy of it. I could’ve avoided the whole situation by making a left turn and going around.
In the future, avoid crowds. Always solid advice.
What about taking transport after gigs?
I think that’s probably smarter, but that’s a chunk of the money you made DJing that you just threw away; when you’re fit enough, you can just walk. I wish the light rail ran later. For me, it’s an easy walk to go from Jupiter to Capitol Hill. I enjoy it, most times. This was just an oversight on my part.
*Full disclosure: Edison and I often DJ together.