Saturday, September 20, 2008

Do You Remember Your First Download?

I don't.

But I do remember the very first LP and 12" single I bought (I can't recall the first 7" vinyl I bought).

That's his vinyl answer

There's a poster on the door of the Vinyl Factory that says "Nobody remembers their first download". It sums up the mindset of the people working in this building in the Sydney suburb of Marrickville where vinyl records are made.

For managing director Andy Cuddihy, an engineer and avid vinyl collector, MP3s and digital downloads are inferior. Ugly, even.

Whereas vinyl is a beautiful thing - in both sound, looks, and spirit.

"The thing about vinyl is that my records go back to the first one I ever bought, actually it was bought for me, and it was the Thunderbirds on vinyl. It sounds terrible now. But I can tell you where that scratch came from. It was my sister, where she hit the turntable, and it's part of the story of the record. I can't see much of a story in an MP3."

Cuddihy believes there's going to be a whole generation of music lost because of the disposable nature of downloaded music.

So combining his passion for vinyl and his engineering background he established the Australian Vinyl Factory in early 2006 following the purchase of two of EMI's Type 1400 automatic presses designed by Roy Matthews, who was EMI's engineering and production director in the 60s and 70s.

The presses were designed to cope with the increased production of records that came about because of the popularity of bands like the Beatles.

Cuddihy knew very little about how a record was produced but has continued to work with Matthews ("I ring him up every week.") who is the company's group engineering director.

From the time Cuddihy got the presses out of the container to producing the company's first record took three months. That piece of vinyl was I Love It, one of Sydney dance act Sneaky Soundsystem's first singles which went on to be a roaring sucess.

"[The band] rang up and said 'I hear you guys press vinyl', but I didn't tell him we hadn't done a record at that stage," he laughs. "The song went really well for them but it was pretty daunting not to have pressed a job and then have one of the biggest acts in the country come along. But it showed we were on the right track."

Put simply the pressing process starts with the raw PVC (polyvinyl chloride) going from the hopper into the extruder which is heated to around 135 degrees celsius. It is then squirted into a lump the size of a "hockey puck" and the labels placed either side of it. Then the record is pressed, moulded, trimmed, bagged and put into a box.

"So we can make a record without touching it," he says.

It is reasonably costly to get records pressed and the price depends on quantity and colour. The initial outlay is $1080 for cutting and metal work, labels cost around $359 for 1000; and pressing costs $3.60 a record in black.

But Cuddihy reasons: "For people who are looking for something that's not a throwaway product the cost doesn't really come into it for them."

More info:


Oh ... and if you wanna know what Spyder's first vinyl LP purchase and 12" single purchase were (I had lots of vinyl before these, but these were the first I recall spending my own money on) ...

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