On Tuesday 21st July Harkive will once again be collecting stories from music fans around the world. The aim is to capture for posterity a global snapshot of the way in which we interact with the sounds and technology of today.
As we’ve done in previous years in the lead up to the big day, we’re again posting some example contributions from interesting people involved with popular music. Today’s example comes from Phil Macy.
Phil runs 3.45rpm, a quality vinyl lathe cutting service based in Brighton, UK, which specialises in ultra-limited editions, with each and every vinyl disc individually and expertly hand cut by Phil himself. In this recent interview with The Quietus, Phil talks about how and why he set up his business.
As you might expect, hand-cutting vinyl records is a time intensive operation, and Phil listens to each recording that he cuts in real-time as he makes them. Phil’s Harkive example, from one day in early July 2015, gives some insight into how this happens and what it feels like to hear the same songs, over and over. However, as you’ll see below, he also manages to find the time to listen for fun as he goes about the rest of his day.
Here’s Phil’s listening day.
9.30am and first track of the day is “Love Vigilante” by Clowwns, a Brighton band who require 10 x clear 7″ copies of it for their album launch. Uptempo and glammish (Roxy Music/Franz Ferdinadish) I’m OK with both the sonics and the all over sounds of it – just as well, as I’ll be hearing it around 20 more times over the next couple of days.
Before I can commence the days cutting however, I need to print out some “settings strips” for the Optimiser Unit, but have no ink in the printer, so I have to make a 50 min round trip walk to the shops and back.
When I’m out of the house, walking around, I don’t listen to music. Some people plug themselves in and switch off the outside interference, enveloping themselves in their own personal space bubble, casting extraneous and unwanted contact with the world about them to one side. For me though, as I spend so much time at home with music constantly on the go, I enjoy the escape from studio manufactured sounds. It also helps prevent me getting run over when crossing roads (or at least has done so far).
On getting home, while replacing the cartridges, I play an unmarked disc on top of the unruly pile that sits on my hi-fi. It’s an offcut from my 454545 project, “GFI Girl”. I have put it on at 33rpm instead of 45rpm, but it seems to work in a very lethargically methadoned style, so I let it play. I tamper around with the printer cartridges. These never ever work first time. I’ve trashed printers in frustration due to non-working ink cartridges. “GFI Girl” ends and I decide to see how the other side, “Ovalphone”, pans out at the slower speed. This also to sounds OK. My mind starts to wander away from the job in hand, and I find myself considering a series of releases of non-speed fixated sounds, playable at whatever rotation feels best. In a rush to hear a track before you have to nip out to the Post Office ? Try 78rpm. Want to just kick back and relax with a light Pimms on the verandah ? You’ll be requiring a 33rpm play, or even a 16rpm if your equipment is old enough.
I’m well and truly side tracked at this point. “Ovalphone” snails to a conclusion and the next record I see is Prince Jazzbo “Wise Shepherd” on the Briscoe label. I slap it on the deck. I keep it at 33rpm. It sounds rubbish. Like it’s at the wrong speed, or something. It’s not the best Jazzbo track out there anyhow, but I’ve managed to drag it down a notch or two. Vocals make the difference. They sound as you’d imagine…too slow. I try the b-side version “Rocking”, but PB is also on the toast tip here as well, so no hope for this particular one at 33rpm. It’s a 45’er, for sure.
I realise I’m veering wildly off course on my mornings duties. I need to play a nice long undistracting LP to get this printer job done. I put on PFM “Photo’s Of Ghosts”, bought for £2.50 from a car boot sale yesterday – a lot for a car boot buy, a snip for this LP. Lovely swirly twirly early 70’s prog, extremely Gabriel-esque vocals with flutes and everything.
I finally manage to coax the black cartridge into it’s slot and go for PRINT. I am not using official Epsom cartridges, and the printer does not like it. It tells me it doesn’t like it. I press the button equivalent of “Too Bad Mate, Get On With It”, and after a few reluctant creaks and cancelled attempts it finally gets the idea that I’m in charge and it will do my bidding. And it will listen to early 70’s Italian Prog while it’s about it. You have to take charge of your machinery, not let it dictate to you.
Next up, while running off a few photocopies, I play one side of Burning Spear’s “Marcus Garvey” LP, then a new Great Pop Supplement release by Autumn Of Paekward. Then it’s up to the Cutting Room to listen to numerous spins of the aforementioned Clowwns, a dozen or so cuts of a Fruits De Mer release (“Sun Cycle” by Insekt Life Cycle…excellent stuff !!) and a track by a mates band called Red Emperor, who just won a band competition and as the prize got flown to Dubai to support Kasabian and Kool And The Gang at a massive great festival. In my day, winning band competitions got you a crate of Red Stripe and one day recording in a ropey 16 track recording studio with a guy who then claimed to own all the songs and your career for the next 15 years. Maybe I was entering the wrong competitions…
Anyhow, the cutting takes about three hours, so by this time the kids are home from school and we need to concentrate on the evening’s family activities. These will be carried out to the dulcet vibes of Hawkwind’s “Levitation”, Lynton Kwesi Johnson’s “Forces Of Victory” and Green On Red’s 1st LP, “Gravity Talks”. This was chosen by my son’s “Magic Finger” – a process where he closes his eyes and picks an LP from the rack at random. His finger actually landed on a Gregorian Chant record (“Gregorianischer Choral” I think it was), but he admitted he didn’t really want to hear any Gregorian Chanting while helping cook tea so we went for the LP next door to it. Fair do’s. He’s pretty good with non-pop music – he regularly chooses Nusrat Fatih Ali Khan for car listening, and digs Ivor Cutler, Iron Maiden and Niney The Observer. The daughter’s also reasonably broad in her tastes and will happily listen to The Pink Floyd and some early Genesis. They’ve grown up with exposure to a reasonable array of genres and styles of music and it’s great that some of it has rubbed off on them , but I worry about it being a one-way thing. As you get older you have to be careful not to totally close yourself off to new pop music, just as my parents did to the music I discovered as a kid, as it’s where we all started once upon a time. However, I can’t pretend I don’t have problems listening to the likes of Olly Murs, The Vamps, Jessie J et al…
A touch more lathing brings more plays for Insekt Life Cycle, which I haven’t got bored of yet despite hearing it around 40 times, and then with the kids in bed, the missus and me relax with a glass of St. Emillion and an old favourite, Black Dog “Bytes”. Intelligent Techno like wot it ought to be like, in my opinion. I also manage to get a quick blast of a couple of 7″‘s that having been lying around unlistened to for godknowshowlong (Sleaford Mods “Mr Jolly Fucker” and a reissue on Upsetters label of Shaumark And Robinson “Weak Heart Feel It”) though by this point Newsnight is on TV, and playing of music in the communal areas of the house is pretty much over. At midnight the missus retires, and I nip back into the cutting room for an after hours session of my own 454545 stuff, which results in a dozen sides of I Am Voyager 1.
It’s 1.30am, and that’s that. I go to bed humming the Insekt Life Cycle tune. And I wake up humming it as well.
…and that was Phil’s listening day.
If you’ve enjoyed reading this and would like to tell Harkive your story on July 21st, we’d love to hear it. You can write something along the lines of Phil’s post above and email it to the project, or you can post shorter entries to social media platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook, throughout the day. Alternatively you can use photos, video or audio to tell your tale. Details of the many ways you can do get involved are to be found on the How To Contribute page.
The will be more example contributions from interesting people during the rest of the countdown to Harkive 2105, so please do stay tuned. You can also keep an eye on the project by following us on Twitter, or liking our Facebook page.
We hope to hear your story next Tuesday, so please do get involved.