“Audiophiles maintain a not-so hushed reverence for recording engineers, producers and independent record label owners. Deep down they harbor a desire to lay claim to being one, if not all, of the above.” writes David Blumenstein for US audiophile webzine DaGoGo.com. Which begs the question of why Cameron Jenkins, who already is all of the above as well as a classically trained musician and songwriter, has taken to opening his very own retail hi-fi shop/service. Blumenstein interviews Jenkins to find out more.
Blumenstein gets straight to the point with his first question: “Are you mad?” What he means is, why go from working with the likes of The Verve, John Cale, The Charlatans, Everything But The Girl, Lemon Jelly, Badly Drawn Boy, Denys Baptiste, Anita Lipnicka and Lana del Rey, to the geeked-up world of the lesser spotter audiophile?
Jenkins concedes that it’s not the first time he’s been asked the question, nor is this the first time he’s done something “pretty crazy”. “Maybe I’m drawn to the unknown,” he says. “I like being busy and delving into things I love.” That said, the world of high-end audio is hardly ‘the unknown’ for Jenkins. In fact it could be seen as a natural progression. “The label [Stranger Records] provides a path for the created product, and now with Stranger High Fidelity, I’ve got a vehicle to champion the playback of what I love most – music.”
Jenkins then further explains his position by raising an interesting conundrum: “It’s counter-intuitive that there should be a divide between the professional world and the audiophile. But it exists. On one side is the artist trying to convey their work through the recorded medium and on the other an audiophile trying to replicate that work as best as they possibly can. How can there be a problem?” It’s a thought-provoking question and one that reframes his decision as an enirely logical one – meeting a clear need to bridge the apparent gap between the two.
“A couple of years ago I went to the Munich show, which was an eye-opener,” he recalls. “I went into one room that had a setup that was something like $750K. The speakers had goodness knows how many tweeters and drivers and subs and the balance of the music was utterly bizarre. I can’t remember what track was playing but it was Steve Gadd playing drums. It had a mind of its own. Now I’ve been lucky enough to have recorded Steve Gadd twice, once in London and once at the Power Station in New York and I can tell you that his drum kit doesn’t sound like that.”
In other words, when Jenkins seeks the holy grail of a system that can reproduce a sound ‘just like the artist intended’, he knows what he’s looking and listening for – having spent much of his career in the recording studio knowing exactly what the artist (and producer) intended.
“I want people to come and listen to music in a way they’ve never heard it before,” he enthuses. And, since Jenkins operates out of the world renowned, Wiltshire-based Real World Studios (owned by Peter Gabriel), that seems like a given.
Post-pandemic, “there will be events,” he promises. “I’ve lined up a few industry friends to come and chat and play some of their music on a couple of systems and through the main monitors too, to give an insight on how the album was made. Artists, producers, musicians, and engineers. They’ve all got some great rock and roll stories so it should be a lot of fun. Real World has the best French chef, Jerome, so some great food and wine too.”
In the meantime, Stranger High Fidelity is very much open for business. There’s a dedicated listening room with its own front door and so even with social distancing, customers can come by appointment and enjoy the space. “I can’t by any means call it a shop,” says Jenkins. “I’m not sure what I’d call it to be honest – a high fidelity retail listening experience?”
Discover more at www.stranger.info
Read the interview on full at www.dagogo.com/stranger-times-indeed-stranger-records-stranger-high-fidelity