Analog.Electric.London label head invites us inside his bedroom vinyl manufacturing haven ahead of their weekend launch party.
On becoming wise to what was initially believed to be a small-scale vinyl pressing plant, we were pleasantly surprised to find not only an even smaller bedroom dubplate service but the home of a key component in the growing South London music landscape. If you’ve ever found yourself within Canavan’s Peckham Pool Club, grooving at one of its fortnightly Rhythm Section nights, it’s likely you’ll have been witness to one of these special dubplates being spun.
Dominic Jones’ uncouth bedroom foundry is growing in reputation, cutting for customers like Bradley Zero, Henry Wu, Medlar, FYI Chris and Octo Champ. It has inconspicuously placed itself inside the Peckham musical fabric and, crucially, in a fashion very much in keeping with the diacritical and independent feel the scene radiates.
Analog.Electric.London label was Dominic’s real dream however and is set to officially launch this Saturday at Rye Wax. In the run up to their inauguration we spoke to Dominic to find out a little more on the whole operation.
What’s the story behind the plant, what were your motivations in setting it up?
Well, currently we aren’t a pressing plant as such. At the moment we cut ‘everlasting dubplates’ meaning dubplates cut straight into PVC with a heated diamond cutting needle. With a properly weighted needle the end result is pretty much as durable as a regular pressed record. I intend to upgrade to a full pressing plant, as I can in theory cut lacquer mothers on the lathe but that’s a little further down the line. I need to move into a bigger space before I can do that.
Do your services extend beyond the dubplate?
Included in the service for the dub is a basic vinyl master, if needed though I also offer a more detailed mastering service. I have a custom built pair of ATC based speakers which I designed and built myself with some help from ATC and these offer enough clarity that I can affect subtle changes knowing that what I am hearing is the true signal with no real distortion to the sound. Nothing is 100% but these speakers are leagues better than most people will have on their home studios. £15K a pair!
Can you tell us a little more about the machinery and the process of mastering and pressing?
The cutting lathe uses a Technics 1210 for the motor and is hand built in the south of Germany. When mastering for vinyl, for me the most important thing is the monitoring. As I mentioned, the speakers I have built have been designed to be as transparent as possible. In short, the process of cutting to vinyl is basically scratching a groove the diameter of a human hair into a piece of plastic. All of the tiny movements when you zoom into the vertical axis on the wav file, that information, 20Hz to 20Khz, all that tiny movement, mapped out in something no thicker than a human hair. The process is miraculous.
It’s amazing that it sounds even half good, let alone as lovely as vinyl actually sounds. So for me, the whole ‘analog warmth’ discussion is not important when mastering for vinyl. The warmth comes from the cut. I master in the box, using good quality plugins and spend a lot of time isolating problem frequencies and getting the tonal balance right for the cutting head.
How big is the whole operation? Are you busy all-year round?
The operation is small at the moment. It wasn’t my original idea to cut for other people. I bought the machine so I could run a small record label where I could hand cut each record. Only cutting what I sell, and as such having zero commercial thought in my head when choosing music to release. If I want to release a field recording, I can cut five and sell five. If I don’t sell five, I am only the cost of five blanks down (and the cost of my time, but seeing as the label is a labour of love, my time is not a cost). The dubplate business just sort of happened. Local artists in Peckham found out what I was up to, and got in touch. It’s growing fast though, as new customers are always coming to me, and things are expanding at a steady pace.
What sort of labels and artists have you worked with?
I have cut for people like Bradley Zero and Mali Baden-Powel from Rhythm Section, Henry Wu, Medlar, FYI Chris, Andrew Gustav, Ishmael, Andy Blake, lots of South London music scene. The one thing that links it all together though is Rye Wax. The record shop and bar in the basement of the Bussey Building. These guys have been unbelievably supportive, pushing the label, spreading the word.
In your opinion, how has vinyl’s increasing popularity affected the pressing industry and how have you felt these effects personally?
I think as the major labels surge back to vinyl, the pressing plants have become snowed under and the smaller labels are suffering as the majors hog the presses. I have had people come for cuts from me so they can play their vinyl release out in clubs as the pressing plant has delayed the run by 5 or 6 months. It’s not actually good news for all the small run labels that kept the big presses in business during the wilderness years, but there are a few new presses opening up over the next few months, and hopefully they will be small run only. Certainly when I upgrade my operation to press vinyl, I will only be working with small run independent labels.
How did the decision to start the Analog.Electric.London label come about?
It was always about Analog.Electronic.London. The dubplate business was never my original intention. Myself and Heppa met through mutual friends from his art school with a shared taste and aesthetic in music. We drew up plans for some interactive art installations and music events, but things went on hiatus a bit. We kept in touch and decided that it would be great to get this machine and start a small, cut to order, record label under the same name. The rest is in the future. We have a small group of extremely talented artists who we’re working with, and will be doing parties alongside the label.
I don’t know of any other label that does this
In the current world of dance music there are a multitude of labels for one to choose from, how would you distinguish Analog.Electric.London from the rest?
We cut each disc individually. Each record is hand cut. It’s not a clone, not a press. Each is cut by me, in my room. It takes a long time to cut each one. If there is 20 minutes of music, it takes 20 minutes to cut. It cuts in real time. So each one is a labour of love. A crafted, unique disk. I don’t know of any other label that does this. Everything is controlled by us. We even hand print the sleeves and the artwork that goes in the record. Also, with each record comes a small doggy bag containing the swarf, the long thin spider web that was cut out of the record. The Polaroid. The ‘cut groove’. Everything is bespoke, done personally for the customer.
What kind of evening can we expect inside the cosy Rye Wax walls at the launch event?
The launch event is to mark the first full release on the label. It’s by a Bournemouth based techno producer called Monty The Fly. This guys a resident for the infamous Delete party which takes place in Bournemouth and has seen UK premiers from artists such as Apendics Shuffle, as well as hosting names like Akufen and Mark Henning. He is also tightly linked to Freerotation Festival.
Monty The Fly, or Sam Smith to his family, has a stunning ability to write trippy, deep techno and it’s an honour to have him as our first full release.The label launch is going to be a listening party. We are acoustically treating the venue for the best possible sound, and forgoing the in-house PA system for a new system comprising of two pairs of my ATC based speakers. Studio quality sound. It’s not supposed to be as loud as a PA, it’s all about quality. There is amazing food, drink, records, comics, chess, backgammon, board games, PS2 games etc. The idea is to come and relax and enjoy some great music played on great speakers in a warm, cosy environment with, most importantly, great company.
Analog.Electric.London label launch will take place this Saturday (23/01/16) at Rye Wax from midday till 10pm, free entry.