Tracs/Traks: A Eulogy

In our own idiosyncratic ways we are all hopelessly addicted to something or rather. Be it via excessive alcohol consumption, fatty food obsessions, chain smoking cigarettes/weed/pole. Yes, the firm grip of dependence has us all in its dry, calloused chronic masturbaters hands. 


For myself there was also no escape. My addiction was music and Lex Clay of Traks nee Tracs was my dealer or pusher man.


Prior to the music industry cannibalising itself the Tauranga CBD in the 90's was one filled with record stores. From Record Roundabout in the Picadilly Arcade to the Soundhouse on the corner of the Goddards Centre , Jims Music Room on Grey Street and Sounds on Devenport Road. For the discerning music fan there were countless options to satiate whatever musical whim you might have. But as the 90's lapped into the 00's the music industry started to change - no longer were people willing or going to buy a physical product that would unnecessarily take up living space or much needed savings when it could be downloaded, streamed by ever developing cheap or free services. 


Except for sales driven by the elderly, technologically challenged and the avid collectors amongst us the industry started to collapse on itself. Worldwide CD sales plummeted, staff were fired, stores closed. Tauranga was no different. Heading in to the 2010's only one CD/Record store remained - Tracs or Traks as it would become known (after ceasing licensing with it's sister store in Hamilton). Traks would experience the same hardships as other CD stores but it would survive where others could not, mainly due to the fact that it's owner Lex was and is a good cunt of the highest order. 


I grew up in an era where weekend shopping was less of a done thing. Extended hours on a Friday night were however normal. Parking at the Library with my mother and brother each Friday we would go our separate ways and visit the shops we wanted to see the most. For me I would make my way through the landmarks of its time: Deka, Crad Crazy, Books a Plenty, Bombora, Record Roundabout, Island Style, Stars and Stripes, X-Army and Tracs. Always Tracs...


As a child I was a little overwhelmed by Tracs. With it's listening station inside an old red Doctor Who phone booth, walls decorated in posters/T-shirts and mountains of cassettes/videos and cds as far as my little eyes could see. It seemed beyond my comprehension for what a store should look like. It was perpetually dark with no windows at the time, cramped and manned by a parade of (to me at the time at the least) tough looking bogan types. While I didn't truly feel at ease there till my teenage years I still did my fair share of loitering and purchasing. 


My memory has become hazy with 25 years distance between but i believe my first ever purchase from Tracs was TNT by ACDC on cassette. I paid for it with money from my 9th birthday. It was the album the started me off on my downward spiral. Soon I would be giving handjobs to feed my habit. I needed Korns first album, the Pantera back catelogue was a must, Rage Against the Machine I had to have and when tapes were no longer a thing I moved on to CD consumption. Kyuss, Alice in Chains, Nirvana, Helmet, Slayer, Slipknot, Queens of the Stone Age etc etc. As a teenager my loitering in Tracs became much worse. Now I wasn't afraid to ask to listen to CDs I would sample and buy. The CDs piled up. So did my debts. I regretted nothing. I just had to give more hand jobs.


My teens gave way way to my 20's and as my tastes expanded so did my need for Tracs. After my best friend Stefan got a job at Tracs in 2008 life as a collector became considerably easier. Stefan would and could educate me on the finer points of the existing stock and between us we could order music to satisfy our collective whims. Living in a small dead end town like Tauranga it was a close as two music history nerds could get to living out a scenester fantasy. 


Unfortunately Stefan became another victim of the great record store depression of 2012 and was let go. From here Lex tirelessly ran Traks by himself, (now in it's new location at 77 Devenport Road) 7 Days a week except for the occasional health related closure period. Business somewhat plateau'd around this point, with an increase in hipster related vinyl purchases off setting the decline in CD sales and cheaper rent helping Lex to survive where so many others failed. While this period saw less casual customers, regulars like myself continued to go in week after week to trawl through the esoteric selection of CDs hiding on the shelves or to order long sought after import only gems. Truth be told however a lot of the time I/we would enter Traks to just talk to Lex because he felt and feels like family after all these years. 


Before buying Tracs/Traks in 1998 Lex had the option of buying the original Tauranga Subway rights. Had he done so he might be sitting on a pile of Honey and Mustard smelling dollar bills but would he have affected anyones lives (except Jarreds) in a positive way like he has myself and the music lovers of Tauranga? 


I have long suspected that Lex isn't the biggest music fan himself and unlike music nerds like myself a lot of his knowledge has come via osmosis but never has a time come where hasn't been able to recommend some of 'that weird fucken shit' that I like. Always ordering in crap that only I could enjoy and then trying to give me a 10% discount from his already meagre profits. And for the musicians among us Traks has long been one of the few places where we can attempt to sell our pathetic music or advertise upcoming gigs no one would attend. Even Tauranga Music Sux started as a zine only available at Traks (Not that Lex knew of course). 


When Traks closes on the 1st September  it will close a huge chapter in my life and leave me with a large void to fill. Where will I go from here to aimlessly rifle through CDs, hoping to find the next band that will change my psyche completely? I will not turn to Spotify as so many before me have done, however online ordering seems so sterile.  I want to see, hold and talk about a physical product before buying it. Amazon or Ebay won't call me a 'Weird cunt' for ordering a 1960's Japanese Garage Rock band. There will be no place to socialise and talk to other like minded music fans. Any reason to go to the Tauranga CBD except for a dawn gun slinging duel is now out the window. And it's another unnecessary reminder that the Tauranga I grew up in is no longer the same place it was. 


If one was to tally up my CD collection for a total amount expended I would have probably spent the equivalent of a house deposit. At the least I have helped Lex buy a car or to cover a years rent. And while my collection is now worth a fraction of what I have spent if given the option I would never trade my time spent at Tracs/Traks for a refund. The 1000 plus CDs I have accrued from Traks over the years are an audio memory of my 32 years. Each CD telling a tale from a childhood to pimply adolescence to lost 20s and finally an empty boring soulless adulthood. 


So Lex, thank you for all the memories, conversations, recommendations. Enjoy retirement and not having to deal with the fuckhead general public.