Set It Off: Eric Levin

March 4th, 2009 by Larry

Eric Levin

Primarily, “E,” I think most Eric’s are known as “E,” but even my wife calls me that. Professor (only Kim Criminal calls me that), McLovin (my last name is actually pronounced “Love In”, but McLovin never caught on), Fatty Fat Fat fat (that’s my nickname for myself)


Where are you from?
Daytona Beach, Florida, but I’m an ATLien, spent more of my life here, than there.

Who do you work for? 
I own Criminal Records, Aurora Coffee, I’m the president of AIMS (Alliance of Independent Media Stores) and I’m the co-founder of Record Store Day. Sometimes, I say I work for Criminal Shannon’s label, International Hits, but that’s not really true.

What are your Current Project(s)? 
My main gig takes up most of my time. AIMS is a coalition of indie record stores, like Criminal Records, spread out across the country. It’s a blast and led to Record Store Day which is now an international event. We team up to fight evil, y’know, offering services to bands and labels, putting art before commerce…helping, basically. I’ve spent my whole life celebrating and exploring record stores and now it’s my job. I’m at Criminal Records every day, but usually I’m upstairs working with and for other record stores. With the crew I have, though, I don’t have to worry about Criminal Records, they’ve got that covered. Same can be said for Aurora, I bought it ’cause I loved it and didn’t want to see it go out of business, but I certainly can’t pull as espresso shot. I’m much more comfortable on the customer side of the counter.

Who would you love to work with?
Strangely enough, I usually get to work with whoever I want to. I have a calling card that opens doors, I mean, with Record Store Day in particular, there aren’t a lot of enemies. When I’m able to explain the concept, folks reach out. Check the website out:, the artists quotes are sick, and I gathered those up.

I mean, Robyn Hitchcock’s not going to call me when it’s time to move a couch, but he’ll certainly send me a quote Record Store Day or pop into the store for an improptu performance.

My contacts list is strange, scrolling through it sometimes, I just laugh. The other day, somebody yelled at me from the floor, “Hey E, Rick Moranis is on the Criminal Records line.” I’m like, “say what?” I’d forgotten that we were working on a project, and I had to shake my head (remembering…everything, SCTV, Bob McKenzie, Ghostbusters, Kid Shrinking) and answer the phone, “hey Rick, what’s up? How can I help?”
It’s freaky, sometimes.

Public Enemy did a digital deal that skipped traditional retail (see: pet peeve) and, well, Chuck D’s on the contacts list and I dropped him an email on behalf of indie-retail saying, basically, “WTF?” He e-mailed me back, using the epithet , “Friend Eric” and we discussed how we could fast-track a physical release along with apologies to my retail brethern. I forwarded the e-mail to my list, and after a heated day-long exchange, one retailer wrote: “Now, wait. Wait. How the fuck does Eric know Chuck D?!?”

My only thought, was, “Damn! How do I know Chuck D?” Life is strange, right?

If you had to give all your sneakers away to charity except for one pair, which ones would you keep? 
One of my best bro’s is Thomas Taylor from Stratosphere, so I always have fresh kicks. I’m not in particular love with any of them, though. Probably my wife’s awesome L.A.M.B. gold Jamaica sneakers.

What’s on your iPod right now?
Oh Lord, here we go….

Obviously, this is the year 2000 way of asking what kind of music I like, but I can’t skip a chance to jump on my soapbox. I’m sorry, but computers are for computing and stereos are for music. Why on earth would I have these massive speakers, heavy amps, expensive needles and a lifetime of records and CD’s? Why would anybody want to compress that beauty down and stick it in your earholes? Stereos are instruments, iPods are tools….and digital downloading? OMG! Why would anybody “rent” music when you can “own” it. Granted, I own a record store, so duh. Also, please check out, where we just launched our digital store, so get on it hipsters.

Oh yeah, music. I’m pretty much the resident 80′s guy at Crim and dub reggae. That’s about as deep as I go.

What’s your Favorite ATL food?
Well, now. I’m an un-apologetic “foodie,” I won’t even apologize for using the word “foodie.” I think Cliff Bostock is one of Atlanta’s unsung heroes. I’m pretty much in his army, so if he likes it, I’m there. Ria’s Bluebird is always perfect, and such a thrill, ’cause–y’know, she’s one of us. Same for Molly and Nick at the Porter, wow they’re just ruling it. The Brick is a weekly visit. Holeman and Finch bakery, I’m in love; same for Little Cakes Bakery in Buckhead, I’ve got to get those treats in Aurora.

We’re very lucky to be in this city, I could just rattle them off. Rathbun’s, everything he touches, ka-pow! Watershed? Bacchanalia? Flip? Craft? I love having out-of-towners visit, ’cause I know I can kill ‘em. Every time.

Italian? Alfredo’s. Sushi? Nakato. Burger? Miss Ann’s, or hell, Varsity Jr. If I’m really hating myself right. Fresh? Lotta Fruitta. Mexican? Los Hermanos. Pizza? Still loving Savage, or Bambinelli’s, or Capoozi’s. Mildly-priced fancy? Wisteria. Bar Food? Highlander or the Corner Pub. Fried Chicken? Son’s Place, or Watershed Tuesdays. Sandwiches? New Yorker Deli. Hipster food? (Is there such a thing?) Bookhouse. Steak? Highland Tap.

What’s your Favorite ATL hangout?
Any of the above restaraunts, or my sunroom (where I keep the big stereo, wife and dogs).

What are your Pet Peeves?
I hate that art has taken a back seat to convenience. My whole life has been about the pursuit of art and entertainment, front and center, to see music treated as such a valueless commodity is just heart-breaking. I mean, Criminal Records is commerce-driven for sure, but for me it’s more about creating a Temple of pop-culture, a fun-house, if I pay some bills and insure some staffers along the way, great! But I certainly didn’t get into this to get rich.
And children, I hate your children, your dogs are cool, though. Bring ‘em on down.

Shout outs?
All the Criminal Records staff, past and present, except for the stealers. Same goes for Aurora guys and gals. All those folks who’ve stuck with us over the years. It’s very important to shop locally, it means so much and those who make an active effort to keep our wheels turning, we owe them everything.

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