We don’t really stop and think about it that much, but records are pretty damn amazing. A hunk of plastic that can be so powerful that it can bring us to tears, take us back to childhood haunts, or even make friends out of total strangers almost instantaneously. But beyond records being this incredible social and cultural artifact, records are amazing pieces of innovation. In essence, the basic concept of a record hasn’t changed much since Edison’s needle etched vibrations onto tinfoil wrapped over a spinning cylinder. Records, even today, are still just soundwaves embedded into grooves. Sure, we’ve changed the sizes, material, the rpm, the quality, the technology, and the sound, but still, we’re talking about a unique physical manifestation of audio that holds the ability to summon the whole spectrum of human emotions.
Occasionally on the Mr. Rogers show, he would leave his house to take a field trip. He would take us on a behind the scenes tour of some of the coolest places we could imagine … a crayon factory, the post office, the set of The Incredible Hulk show. Mr. Rogers would show us how the machines worked, chat with the people who had our dream jobs, let us in on secrets of the industry. We would see a world that both satiated our curiosity and fueled our fascination. Locating that kind of experience as an adult seems an impossibility at best. Those once thrilling machinations become simply a way to pay the bills, for the most part. There are times, however, albeit rare, when the stars align and time seems to move backward. We were recently lucky enough to have one of those experiences.
In Athens, Georgia, a town which is a musical landmark in its own right, there is an out of the way industrial building that’s become home to one of the rarest and coolest parts of the music industry, a record pressing plant. Kindercore Vinyl stands as one of only about 30 operating record presses in the US, the only one in Georgia, and one of the only that is functioning with brand new presses featuring the first real technological breakthrough in maybe 50 years. And they have plans for more innovations that may drastically change the face of record creation. We were fortunate to spend several hours touring the plant, seeing the operation, interviewing, and, as it happens when record folk gets together, talking about music. It was amazing.
Though the basic mechanics of record presses seem simple enough...melt PVC, make into puck or biscuit, add the label for baking, smash the PVC together with prepared grooved plates, cut the trim, sort the discs, quality control, and packaging. But, of course, nothing is that simple. Everything factors into how the record gets from being mastered, lathed, and lacquered to spinning on your turntable. Even with 3 beautiful new high tech automated machines churning out a disc every 24 seconds, pressing records is as much an art as it is a science. The type and color of PVC, the dynamics of the music, the heating and cooling temperature, the operator, the temperament of the machine, the humidity in the air (inside and out), each play an integral role. Everything needs to be controlled, checked, and rechecked. And often rechecked yet again. An exercise in multi-tasking, problem-solving, and, occasionally, MacGyvering. Truly, once we understand the planning, processing, and dedication it takes to make a single record...it makes records all the more impressive.
Visit Kindercore Vinyl
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