Maximum Rock N Roll#21
How to Make a Record from Maximum Rock N Roll #21
January 1985, written by Pushead.
A crowded record store, sparingly filled with vinyl junkies, finger-flipping through
vast names of musicians inscribed upon cardboard covers. Sound hovers throughout
each cranium, as the brain accepts the melody while the titles rush forth. Loud
burst of scratchy harmonies jump to and fro within the stores atmosphere as a
misshapen vinyl platter; hosts spinning revolutions to the long arm of the stylus.
The sound taunts as it enjoys, but how did it get to that shape?
So you're interested in making a record? And you ask all these questions of what to do
and how? Having myself recently entered this vinyl platter arena, I have learned
quite alot, and that there is so much more to offer in the knowledge of this field.
And to help all you interested participants out there, I am sharing this knowledge here,
so that your concept is easier conceived. Asking questions, doing research, and just
plain experience is where this small dose comes from. It won't contain it all, but
hopefully enough to make it all go round. It's all a lot of fun.
Naturally, your band is formed, or your songs are written, and you're ready to record.
You've arranged the studio time in a studio you fell can meet your needs. Before you
enter...practice, practice, practice! Get your songs down, tight. Don't fool
yourself. Look for what you're striving to achieve. Studio time is money, and if
you're not prepared, you'll spend a lot which will affect the finished product's overall
price. Now, if you're new to a studio, it is advisable to find out who your engineer
is, and talk with him on the sound you seek, and to hear samples of stuff he has done.
The engineer runs the board. Any mistakes there will affect your finished sound or
have you re-recording sections. Sometimes, examples of quality products you enjoy
is best to play for your engineer, to help him with the sound(since hardcore isn't well-
known in most studios). Then there is your producer. That can eitehr be the actual band
or band member or outside individual. The producer works with the engineer to acquire the
exact sound, to get the balance right. The producer is the ears of the sound. Make sure
you know of this producer's portfolio, or that he/she has a capable knowledge of the type
of sound you seek.
In the studio, you might be faced with a 4, 8,16,32, or 64 track studio; the more tracks,
the more advantage. Whichever one you use, work out with the engineer the tracks you
will use, and for what. If there are 4 members in your band, and you use a 16-track mixing
board, don't use 4 tracks to record. Figure out if you need guitar overdubs and how many
guitar leads, how many drum tracks, vocal tracks, background vocals, bass tracks, and whatever
you desire to get a full stereo sound. The engineer will mark on the board each track.
While recording, the engineer should keep a log of song tracks and location on the reel,
to help with the mastering process. Make sure a copy is kept in the master reel's box
for future reference. When finished doing the tracks onto the master reel, it is advisable
to then do a rough mix, record a cassette of it, and listen to it closely. Give it a few
days, so you can pick up any errors or areas needing more attention. If you use a producer,
work together with him on this.
Your next step is to then re-enter the studio to do the final mix. How the final mix turns
out is entirely up to you and/or the producer. This is where all the layed-down music
tracks all come together to work. The final mix will go on a quarter-inch reel tape.
The type you use is up to you(prefered:Scotch,Ampex,BASF,Agfa-Gavirt). It is advisable to
master it at half-track, not quarter-track, for the half-track takes up the whole of the
tape, as a quarter-track takes up one half of the tape. Use a 1.5 mil thickness tape or
standard play tape. (1 mil is long-play tape, 1/2 mil is triple play tape) It's not good
to master on thin tape (1/2-1 mil), because it is easily damaged and will stretch. Your
first step on the master reel is to add your test tones. They should be done on the mastering
machine. Set the level at "0" on the VU meter. The settings: 1K on the left channel, 1K on
the right channel, 1K on both channels. 10K on both channels, 100HZ on both channels.(K=1000
cycles per second; HZ=Hertz cycles). When making the master, don't let the program (music)
go past "0" or the test tones will become useless. A faster speed is recommended: 30IPS,
15IPS...preferrably. Equalization: NAB, CCIR, or IEC. While recording the program, time
each individual number for reference. Once the transfer has been from master reel to master
mix, then you need to edit.
First, make sure the razor blade is demagnetized, and try not to touch the tape itself.
Body oils can lead to deterioration. When splicing, use paper leader, not plastic leader,
as plastic makes pops as it goes over the head. Blank tape is OK between songs, but will
keep the tape hiss instead of silence, plus no visual effect from just blank tape. With the
editing over, it's best to play the tape through so the tape will sit on the roll. If fast-
forwarded, lips will be made which make the tape vulnerable, for if an edge gets damaged,
this is very bad. Store the tape tails out, which prevents print through. I found it was
easier if the tapes were tails out, which helps the engineer set the reels up. It's also good
to notate if it's "tails in" or "tails out". Also, it's useful to list what level it was
mastered on. Finally, tape down the leader on the reel and store in an area that's free of
magnetic fields. If you send it through the mail, make sure to put foil over it to prevent
any magnetic damage. Also, make a safety copy of your master mix, just in case!!!
With the reel all completed, you're ready to get it pressed. "Where?" is the most frequently
asked question. I guess that depends on you and where you live. Write for price quotes
always first. Find out where some records you like were pressed. Questions to ask besides
price: 1)Defectives-what precentage of the press run will be defective? Bad pressings are
costing you. 1)Check if the pressing is thick or thin, and if they are using pure virgin PVC
or recycled PVC(Virgin is the best for sound quality). Colored vinyl will cost you more, as
will picture discs(keeps those collectors at bay though). 3) Find out how long it will take
to press. I can't list all the record pressers, since I don't know them all, but personally,
I use Bill Smith in El Segundo, California.
Your first step to pressing is getting the actual plates made. The master laquer is the first
record that is cut off your master tape; where the electrical signal is stored on the tape will
be converted into mechanical movements on the cutting lathe's head and stylus, which cuts
grooves into a flat, shiny, lacquer-coated disc. When the engineer has done a successful
lacquer cut, it is sent to be plated, where the metal impression of the master is made.
From this, either a 2-step of 3-step process will be formed, which is the master, stamper
or the master, mother, stamper. The stamper is the plate where the first vinyl comes off of.
A stamper only lasts a thousand to a couple of thousand pressings, since the grooves in
the metal stamper will wear thin and lose the sound quality--hence in why, in large pressings,
many stampers are made off the mother. But the mother ins't used to press. The mothers are
made off the masters, where the stampers can be made off the mothers or the masters. Thus,
with this process, you will know that it can cost to have so much metal work done. Changes
include the lacquers, then the metal work. This is besides the actual cutting. So make
sure you judge your costs accordingly. You can have this done through your pressers, or
send it to a source that will do it and send it to your presser. Check costs. Also, if you
run colored vinyl, your stampers will run thin quicker than with black vinyl. That is why
colored vinyl is more of a novelty. The colored vinyl also lacks the strength that the
black does and is more open to warpage and defects. But, I've been told that a clear vinyl
of a white vinyl(if of virgin PVC) holds a more solid sound reproduction that the black
vinyl does. Some hi-fidelity recordings you'll find on white vinyl. Again, this is all to
preference and show. Once the vinyl is pressed with label, the record is then inserted in
the paper sleeve, which is then collated into the record jacket and inserts are also enclosed.
Then the entire piece is shrink-wrapped and placed in a box. Now, onto the final materials...
For your materials of the record( ie record jacket, labels, insert pages, etc), they can all
be made at different factories or through one. Your judgement is important as to what the
prices charged will be and the quality of the work is...which is essential for the project
you are designing and producing. First, there is the labels. Your best bet is to lay your
label out yourself, so that it is camera-ready for the label printers to take it from there.
You do not need to make it the size of the actual label. It can be bigger, as long as its
proportions are the same. Try not to send the label printers your original label. Get a
photostat made to the actual size and keep the original(So it won't get lost). When you get
the price quotes for labels, the first pricing will be if they have to set it up, or if it
is camera-ready. Most labels are priced per 1000, and as the quanitity goes up, the price can
go down. If you'regoing to press 1000 records, always make more than enough labels, so if you
repress, you'll have them ready to go. An actual label pressing will be more, or an overrun to
avoid any misprinted labels, etc. That is charged to you. The place that makes the labels will
ask who is pressing the vinyl, and if it is in the area, they will deliver them to the pressing
plant. If you choose to make your labels with 2,3,4 colors, then you must lay it out, each
color seperately, so the negatives can be shot that way. The color can be black on your
original, so the space is solid for the color when shot. Your layovers must align perfectly
in order to get a good color alignment off the press. The same goes for the typesetting.
Labels are important for disc jockeys, especially to know locations of songs. So keep that
in mind, as well as the buying public, who will need to know the track listing plus the A &
B sides. Not everyone knows to look on the matrix of the vinyl(the end area next to the
label) to see what the side is.
Your record jacket is your important part to do the actual selling of your vinyl product.
It is what is seen before the actual music is heard. But laying out the jacket can be harder.
First decide on your cover graphics, the effect it will have on your vinyl product. Whether
you use art, photographs, or type set, the actual layout must work for you. There is also
your back cover, and the layout of that. Decide on your front cover, lay it out with your
logo and title (if one), plus whatever else is needed. Then lay out your back cover with the
track listings, art, photos, type set, whatever you decide. If you are laying out a 12" size
record jacket, you must have the dimensions exactly right. So take a record jacket and
disassemble it so you can see how it was done. Get the dimensions off of that, so you can use it
as an example to lay out your cover. When you put both the back cover and front cover down
as a solid layout, remember your spine and it must have exact proportions to turn out right
when it is completed and folded. Now, one point to help out, is when you have the negatives
of it in acutal size, shot near you. You must check around to find cheap prices. The
difference is incredible. That way you can send the negatives to the cover pressing plant
and you know what to expect. For colored covers, you'll need negatives for each color.
(Remember, 2 colors can make one color, so you won't need 15 negatives for a full color cover.)
on calling the cover-manufacturing factory for prices, the prices will vary so much, from
quantity to how many colors, and if camera-ready art. Always make more covers than needed,
for if you do a repress, they will be on hand, which makes it much quicker if you have
the capital. The cover's actual printing can take 7-30 days time to be finished. Expect
delays, due to their print-run schedules. Again, when the covers are finished, they can also
be delivered to the pressing plant. If you plan to do 3000 of your product, make 5000 covers,
so you get the price breaks. Your overrun will be 10%, which you charged for. The cover
manufacturer can help you out with any problems that occur.
The insert, whether it be lyric sheet, a photo page, stickers, ads, or whatever, can be an extra
charge or in the quoted price, so be sure to ask your vinyl presser. If you have 2 inserts, you
will be charged for 2 unless you incorporate them together as one(glued, stapled, etc).
That way, when it's stuffed, it's all together. It is best to get your insert printed at
the printer of your choice and shipped to the presser. With this, the presser can collate
all of your packaging together, and the job will be completely finished after they have
pressed the vinyl.
When you have OK'd the test pressings, which are the first examples off the metal work,
which also have the best sound reproduction of the entire pressing, the presser can go ahead
if they have the labels,jackets, etc. Once point:to keep your sound quality high and close
to the tape, you should keep the grooves on each side to 18-25 minutes of playing time(for
an LP), or sound will lose at each minute and extra groove. In making Cleanse the Bacteria
I strived for high sound quality, along with lots of quantity. I decide to sacrifice a little
sound quality though for quantity so that the person buying the record really got their
money's worth with a lot of music. So, each side has over 31 minutes a side, which is a lot.
the engineer who cut the lacquers for it did a superior job and the sound loss was -2DB, a
lot less than expected. A normal album is cut at 0DB or 1 DB, depending on the person and
time limitations. All this means is that it is a little quiter, and turning up the volume
is advisable. Also, a little bass upage doesn't hurt. We kept the quantity without much
sacrifice on the quality. This is the kind of thing you check for with test pressings.
Always play the test pressing on a stereo you normally use; that way your ears are atuned
to what the sound is.
Now, your costs so far are your studio time, your lacquer and metal work, your test
pressings and extra stampers, labels, jackets,inserts, all camera work, and the pressings
of vinyl. The nest expense is the shipping, on which you can save alot by "drop shipping"
your product directly to the distributor from the presser. Check into it.
Anotehr thing to remeber is your advertising, your promo copies(to radio stations, magazines)
and your free copies. All these cost you. Advertising helps outrageously. So does airplay.
So use your judgement on who you send copies to. Also, your distributor plays an important
part in getting it in the stores. Whatever you do to help them in info, flyers, posters, etc.
helps the stores they deal with. Advertise the product. The ads and airplay will have the
public asking in the stores. There is a lot of responsibility in making and selling a record,
but end result is one of satisfaction.
In closing, the work that I have done on Cleanse the Bacteria has been alot of fun
and a knowledge-gathering experience. There has been a great deal of time and effort put into
it, in the hopes of giving the public a very good record for a good price. It will be
available in the U.S.A., and licensed in the U.K. for English and European distribution, and
licensed in Japan. I didn't choose big name bands to sell the record, for the music on it
has the power to do it on its own-over 63 minutes worth. The whole project was created as
my "thank you" to everyone for supporting my efforts over the years. I have met alot of
wonderful people, and with that, I share the knowledge I have learned upon making the
record...in hopes that it will help in your future vinyl ventures. Not all the information
is here, but I hope what it does help. Good luck to you all and thanks. Make an effort,
show your hardware.
The Following are the reviews from Maximum Rock N Roll #21
January 1985 as submitted by Pushead.
A powerful effort which crosses sonic punk with a frenzied
bizarre quality, yet lacing all the different elements of punk
into the sound. Chanting vocals with background screams are
added for an interesting effect, as the up/down, start/stop
chord changes make this Japanese group unusual but enjoyable.
Mysterious slices of doom to haunt and taunt at your swelling
Various Artists-"Painful Haircut" Cassette
A nice little compilation of young US bands featuring
MINISTRY OF TRUTH, F, FALSE LIBERTY, ANGRY RED PLANET,
CHRONIC DISORDER, NO MORE WARS, STUKAS OVER BEDROCK,
E-13, HOMO PICNIC, ART THEIVES, MUSICAL SUICIDE, FUTILE
EFFORT, BABY ASTRONAUTS, JUVEILE TRUTH, and MDC. Quality isn't
bad. It sounds like a lot of basement demos, but the effort is
well thought-out and delivered. A good compilation.
Various Artists-"Propaganda Live" LP
A live release of ten Finnish hardcore groups with a major
emphasis on the BASTARDS and POIKKEUSTILA. Good sound
quality gives this the right edge, as it is grinding and raw, yet
uncompromising in energy. Interesting listening from
Wretched-"Liberto di Vivere..." LP
Italy's premier scorching attack deliver an outrageous LP's
worth of material. Packaging includes a nice cover illustration
by Stiv(TVOR) and a lyric sheet insert, with the translations
in English, showing some well thought-out writings. WRETCHED
continue their thrash barrage with powerful guitars and
booming drums as vocals hoarsely growl through lung-filled
vocals. Well-produced, for all fans of good, powerful
international hardcore. Exceptional.