Ryan Graveface has a fascination with the peculiar, you could say.
He owns over 100,000 vinyl records, a dozen paintings by American serial killer John Wayne Gacy and an expansive collection of skulls and taxidermy.
And he showcases them in his current Savannah storefront, a space full of the unusual: uncommon records, old horror VHS tapes, haunting ghost stories, bizarre art and quirky curiosities. Some items have price tags and others don't, but Graveface says he'll part with anything for a price.
"I always ask them to name their price," he says. "I never give a number. And almost every time, they'll walk away."
In June, Graveface brought his Savannah concept to Charleston, filling the old Vinyl Countdown space on King Street with his stuff to test the appeal of what he's calling, for now, a pop-up shop. Interior decorations already include a human skull, a skeleton in a hospital wheel chair, creepy clown dummies and a mounted snarling boar head.
"I'm a hoarder," Graveface admits, adding, "I needed more walls."
The Holy City came to mind years ago, when he first thought of expanding. The owner of Vinyl Countdown, Aaron Levy, reached out to Graveface for advice when he first opened the record shop in 2015. Graveface was happy to oblige but warned Levy that he was looking for property in town for a similar venture. Ironically, three years later, Graveface has taken over the lease from Levy. If the shop is successful, he'll renew in December.
"I have tremendous respect for Ryan and trust that he will carry on my vision to own the best, most interesting and most accommodating record store in Charleston," says Levy as he hands over the reins.
Graveface didn't acquire Levy's inventory but instead has been supplying the shop with just a portion of his massive treasury from Savannah. He's been making several trips a week. For now, he plans on working at the shop five days a week, commuting from Savannah.
But Graveface isn't just an owner of two stores and an avid collector of weird things. He's also a musician and the manager of two record labels: Graveface, founded 18 years ago, and Terror Vision, a newer project whose purpose is to release obscure movie soundtracks on vinyl and old films on VHS.
At the store's Charleston launch party, he brought one of the bands on the Graveface label, Closeness, for a live performance. He hopes to host similar shows with local and regional artists in the near future.
During the event, he also hosted a listening party for a brand new vinyl premiere on Terror Vision, "Unsolved Mysteries: Ghosts/Hauntings/The Unexplained." The record features three songs from the popular TV program, along with 29 ghost-related cues.
Curating such an album was quite the process. Graveface had to get rights from the show creator as well as individual composers he had to track down, and then sort through a box of 400 tiny digital audio tapes until he could match specific "Unsolved Mysteries" episodes to accompanying songs. He listened to those tapes every night for three months.
That just goes to show how immersed Graveface becomes in his passion projects.
Releases like "Unsolved Mysteries" also tie into a side project Graveface now offers at both stores: a modern Blockbuster, a horror movie rental outlet.
"If I have an idea, I do it," he says. "If it makes the Notes on my phone, then I do it."
Among ideas currently on his list are opening a restaurant and releasing a group of unorthodox travel books (he calls it "curating vacations for weirdos").
At one point in his life, Graveface was writing 2,000 to 3,000 songs a year, pouring the creativity out as a necessary means of release. Now, he has less time for songwriting, but the multi-instrumentalist still plays with a few bands including Casket Girls and Dreamend.
While touring, Graveface cultivated his rich curiosity for private collections of antiques, occult memorabilia and more. He was specifically drawn to the darker elements, which is why, over the years, he has acquired an excessive amount of serial-killer artwork. After forming his own eclectic collection, he wanted to share it — hence the Savannah shop decked out from ceiling to floor.
And with a "job" like his, Graveface gets to constantly feed his ultimate passion: the human experience.
"I will never work again," he says. "This is strictly a passion for me."
And now he brings his passion to the Lowcountry.
"If I have one thing I want to do in Charleston, I want to make it weird."