Re-assembling a piece of rock history…..
Who knew there were so many variables when trying to recreate a thing of the past and make it better in the process. I have recently become re-obsessed with vinyl mastering and disc cutting, while over seeing the creation of a vinyl re-issue for Porterhouse Prime Vinyl. I’ll tell you a little about the process that we are going through.
Working with some of the coolest punk rock records ever made by bands like X and Circle Jerks, and handling their master tapes during the process is like going back in time and revisiting an era. Not only in musical selection but in production techniques and mastering.
Mastering captures the essence of the mix and builds on it with a combination of eq limiting and compression. Do this part wrong and it can get pretty ugly. I see our Prime Vinyl records through production and have learned what needs to be done to get the record sounding it’s best. (of course we are all still learning but I digress)
This week it was “Under the Big Black Sun” from X we are doing a 12″ Vinyl Re-issue on 180 gram vinyl as part of Prime Vinyl’s re-issue series. We are working at Bernie Grundman Mastering in Hollywood with engineer Brian Gardner. I try to surround myself with good talented people, and Brian definitely is one of those!
Today we were figuring out a few final touchs for the mastering job. It will eq’d in a slightly different way from the first eq we came up with. We are going back and changing it up. Special attention will be paid to the high end where some of the mixes were a little dull. Right now it has the girth and volume of a great record the mids are fine, but it needs high end, and on some songs more than others. You need the sibilance on the vocal and the cymbals to sound like cymbals. It’s being re-run right now and we’ll proof that version. If I feel it passes the test we head to the plant for laquers and test pressings.
For those who don’t know, cutting a 12″ record these days is a little more technical than it used to be due to the addition of digital capture. The files are stored on hard disc and the laquers cut later that night by the cutter. When I was younger we would go to the mastering plant and they would cut it live right there. You went home with a laquer you could play right away. Nowadays we get our CD refs to listen to the eq and it’s not on vinyl so really who knows what it sounds like.
And while we have test pressings, there is still a huge leap of faith that you have to make to commit to the pressing knowing it’s sounding it’s best. When it hits the 180 gram it should sound huge… no excuses.
Hmmm, maybe it’s time to forgo that part of the process and do like I used to. Just set the eqs and cut it in real time on the lathe. We’ll need to re-budget for that. More on creating this record and others soon.