by Rosalie Kicks, Old Sport
In the break room of Relapse Records, his former employer, Josh Schaefer and his pal Ted Gilbert decided they needed to put pen to paper. The people needed to know about all these weird, wild and obscure VHS tapes they were watching. Specifically, the ones that were not available on DVD. All they needed was a name.
“Now we ate lunch up there [break room] nearly every day, and nearly every day we would be eating sandwiches, cause ya know, we’re like single 20-something dudes with not a ton of money, so sandwiches are like the go-to,” explains Josh Schafer. “So anyway, we threw around a couple names.”
From this brainstorm session a name was discovered: Lunchmeat VHS. “I had loved Kirk Alex’s 1987 film Lunch Meat for a while at that point, and maybe I had just re-watched it or something, but I blurted out “Hey about LUNCHMEAT!”, states Josh. “It made sense to us because that film was really the embodiment of the focus for the zine, and we were always up in that break room talking about movies while eating sammiches stuffed with lunchmeat!”
As the Editor in Chief, the magazine provided an outlet for Josh to spout his tape knowledge and connect to other fellow tapeheads. Being an independently published magazine and website, it gives the editorial staff the freedom to focus on their passions: the unknown and obscure flicks, specifically on the VHS format. They publish tape reviews, interviews of actors, directors & other creatives. Their goal is to bring exposure to a world that may often go overlooked and unrecognized. With their publication and hosted events, they hope to connect tapeheads to the material they are pining for.
I had the opportunity to chat with Josh over the interwebs and get the low down on tape collecting, Lunchmeat magazine and his new gig as manager at Video Vortex, a video rental/bar owned by Alamo Drafthouse, located in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Old Sport (OS): Tell us more about Lunchmeat (LM) VHS…you have a print zine, sell VHS inspired stuff, and sell tapes... what else?
Josh Schafer (JS): Lunchmeat was spawned from that obsession, that passion for finding those weird, wild, totally obscure movies that only exist on VHS. It was created to share those sorts of films and entertainment, to be a hub for the appreciation, celebration, and preservation of VHS culture.
We do have a print publication, blog, and all that social media jazz, which is a lot of fun since it helps connect so many Tapeheads (oh, the wonders of the world weird web!) and over the years, it continued to sprawl out, and LM just kept making stickers and shirts, co-producing a documentary about the phenomenon of VHS collecting culture, and doing various VHS releases. I’ve just always loved to make groovy stuff, and all the merch and video releases, they’re just a rad way to help spread the culture in different ways. Any way that we can VHSpread the love, and have some fun with it, we’re down. And since LM is a totally independent venture, that sort of merchandising helps keep it afloat, and allows LM to grow, and keep spreading the visions of VHS. So to anybody who’s ever purchased some LM goodies and supported us, thank you and you rule!
OS: What interested you in collecting VHS tapes?
JS: It was all about the movies. I started seriously collecting around 2003, and I was rabid for cult horror and low budget pictures. VHS were dirt cheap and abundant. You could grab VHS 10 for a dollar, or like a quarter a piece at every flea market, dirt mall and second-hand shop. It was a fantastic way to build my film library, and the act of seeking out, that hunt for VHS tapes in the wild was (and still is) so much fun. It was like a mixture of an adventure hobby that also fed my craving for strange cinema.
And with grabbing all these weird movies, I gained this fascination with all the cult underground and obscure titles I was finding. It was intoxicating. And I become obsessed with discovering new pieces of cinema on tape. I was constantly discovering films via secondhand VHS, and the whole concept was just thrilling and fulfilling. The fascination with the complete culture of VHS and all its satellite points of interest, that came later.
OS: Where do you acquire your tapes?
JS: Oh, all over the place. I mean, anywhere I can get them! But mostly I go to thrift stores and flea markets and dirt malls. I get leads on small collections or people that have some in storage, things like that. That’s how I like to find tapes. In that organic sense. But online, I do buy tapes online. Both on eBay here and there, and through a lot of the Facebook groups (e.g. Horror VHS Collectors Unite!, VHS Misfits, et al.) People are constantly posting tapes for sale or trade, and that’s a great resource for finding new and wanted titles and connecting with fellow Videovores.
There are also more and more VHS swaps happening, some I’ve put on and tons of others that are happening through other entities. Those swaps are a fun way to find tapes, and again meet other VHS enthusiasts.
And because I’ve been doing LM for so many years, there are people that come to me with VHS for sale, asking questions, etc. That connection in the community is awesome, and I’ve scored some amazing slabs just by people reaching out to me. I’m truly grateful for that.
OS: Which VHS is your most prized possession and why?
JS: Slaughterville is my most prized “collector” tape, just because it’s very hard to come by, and such a wild movie. But I think the tapes from my childhood, and my family’s home movies on VHS. I cherish those the most. Those are one of ones, and priceless.
OS: What is your favorite genre of tapes?
JS: Horror and comedy are my go-tos for sure, but special interest tapes are my favorites. It just encapsulates everything. They can be anything. Workout tapes, cooking tapes, paintball, tapes for your cat, tapes for your dog, how to do your hair, bloopers, crashes, UFOs, knitting, tree stand safety, merchandise mail orders. It’s endless. It’s that endless discovery, and the way it captures so much culture from that time. It’s my favorite kind of tapes to collect.
OS: Any tapes you’re still hoping to find?
JS: I’m obsessed with this label called Star Classics. They did everything on tape. Black and white public domain, cartoons, documentaries, kid vid, genre film, workout videos, you name it. I have about 300 of their releases. For a small run of their genre releases, they did a photo cover and an illustrated cover. Same movie with different artwork. I’ve found about 10 of the counterparts, but there’s one movie, Revenge of the Zombie, which is favorite of mine, that I’ve only found the photo cover for. I really want to find the illustrated cover for that one. I’ve never seen that cover anywhere, but it does fit with their photo / illustrated cover theme in that span of releases. I don’t even know if it really exists. But I believe!
OS: What was your favorite video store and why? Where is your favorite store now?
JS: Video Vision in Bridgeton, NJ was my video store growing up. I was there with my Mom and Pop every weekend, and that’s really where my love for movies began. That was like a wonderland for me. It was a part of the ritual weekend party. Pizza or McDonalds or some other groovy takeout food, video rentals and family time on the weekends - that was my jam. And Video Vision was an essential part of that whole experience. That was my favorite place as a kid.
There’s a great group of video stores out there still kicking ass like Scarecrow Video, Vulcan Video and Viva Video - and a bunch more. But I think my favorite store right now is Video Vortex located in Raleigh, NC inside Alamo Drafthouse - and that’s not just because I curated the VHS selection and manage the store! Seriously, Vortex is really incredible. Over 70,000 titles on disc and VHS, giant VHS recreations. And tables that look like giant VHS tapes with TV screens in them that play actual VHS tapes. It’s like a dream in there, man. It really is like a mini-theme park in there. If you’re ever in the Raleigh area, come by and VHSee me!
OS: If you were able to select three flicks for an employee picks shelf at a video store, what would they be?
JS: I actually do get to do this at Vortex, so I’ll just pick three random titles that are on the shelf, off the top of my head: I Drink Your Blood, Last Summer, and Little Giants.
OS: Do you have a brand/style of VCR that is your most preferred?
JS: Sony and Panasonic are my most used machines. Quality stuff! Panasonics are like my recommendation, just because they’re so durable and reliable. I think I have about seven VCRs, but that number fluctuates. I give them to friends that need one or I pick up VCRs when the price is right and they work!
OS: How many tapes do you own and what is your preferred method of organizing?
JS: Oh, man, I’ve lost count but like 2500-3000? Something like that. They’re organized by genre, clamshell, big box, new release VHS, animation, kid vid, special interest. Some of it is mixed up just because I’m always pulling tapes, watching them, accumulating stacks here and there. I really just have like a photographic memory, so a lot of my stuff is where I know (or at least I think!) it is. I try to keep it organized as best as possible, but when it’s never ending, it’s gots to go somewhere!
Thank you so much for having me! Keep cult flicks alive. REWIND OR DIE!
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