Here are a couple more photos ( part I is here ) from my visit to the Erika Records pressing plant back in September.
In the printing department : holographic covers for Tool’s perennially best-selling Lateralus album
Boxes of labels
Cool scraps on the wall near the printing presses
Engineer Richard Simpson, cutting a master on a Neumann VMS-70 lathe
Neumann SP-79 console
Just a few of the many picture discs on the wall in the office – Erika is the USA’s only producer of picture discs
They can make just about any size and shape, too
Most of the work I’ve been doing recently has had to do with vinyl – mastering, mainly, and editing, and general grunt-effort – but, records, who could have predicted that? If you’re interested in the projects I’m involved in, I’ve been posting pictures on Instagram. Yeah, yeah, I know – I just wanted to see what all the fuss was about. It’s fun, although I don’t think it’s as fun as Vine. I’m among the minority about that, apparently.
It was because of this record ( and, wow, what an extremely fancy item it is, and check out the pretty colors the vinyl comes in ) that I found myself in Los Angeles a couple of weeks ago. One of the exciting things I got to do was tour the Erika Records plant – something I’ve always kind of dreamed of. I’ll keep it brief, in the interest of getting this post up, but I have to say that Erika’s owners ( Liz and her husband Chuck ) really impressed me – with their wonderful hospitality, and their ethics, which include emissions standards which go above and beyond California’s tough ones, and their commitment to American jobs. And they must be doing something right, because the place was hopping.
Liz Dunster, owner of Erika records
This dollop of vinyl, called a puck, will become an album
I watched this guy press purple records, then turn around to trim and stack them
Liz’s son János checking 180g discs on an electronic scale
Drums of fine vinyl shards, reclaimed from rejected pressings
Bags of fresh red vinyl pellets
Coming in part II : picture discs, funny shape discs, covers, and the cutting room.
If you take U.S.90 ( Chef Menteur Highway, meaning, in this case, “Chief Liar”, not “Lying Cook” ) east out of New Orleans, you pass through a grim, industrial area imaginatively named New Orleans East. It’s depressing, and it’s really fucking weird, and people from the city generally don’t go that way unless they’re headed to the casinos of Mississippi or a holiday weekend on the Florida panhandle.
I go, sometimes, because there’s a Vietnamese village out there where you can get what I think is the best pho in town ( Dong Phuong, if you want to know ), and a farmer’s market that happens really early ( I mean, it’s still night ) on Saturday mornings. You can buy home-grown garlic and catfish from little old Vietnamese ladies, and sometimes there’s sketchy dudes selling live rabbits and various birds.
It was ugly before Hurricane Katrina : wind-whipped swampland with a couple of walled-in tract-housing zones, seedy motels, massage parlors, and chemical refineries. The storm made things far worse, pummeling the area and then flooding it, leaving a stinking, nightmare landscape – bare foundations of buildings that were torn away by hurricane winds, bent light-poles, trash. By-the-week motels sprang up, catering to the unscrupulous, unlicensed contractors that descended on New Orleans in late 2005. Things look better now, but there’s still a lot of wreckage, and you can still see floodlines on the walls — the water was 4 feet high here, 6 feet here … see the brown marks between the graffiti on the green pillar at the bottom right in the picture below? Those are floodlines.
In the midst of all this, you’re driving .. we gonna pawty in Biloxi, y’all … and on your left pops up a full-sized amusement park, with a roller coaster, ferris wheel and everything. This is Six Flags New Orleans, and it’s just sitting there, flooded, abandoned.
I hear stuff, like that they came, dismantled, carted off a couple of rides that were still serviceable and left the rest to rot. I hear that it’s going to be demolished, and then I hear that it’s going to be totally redone as a new theme park. I’d been meaning to go out there for years, and I’d noticed recently an increase in footage and photos from the place, meaning that, probably sometime soon, there’s going to be more security, or at least they’re going to build some fences that you can’t climb.
Anyway, I didn’t feel like going out there by myself, but I got invited along on a friend’s band’s photo shoot today. While they were working, I poked around in the warehouse, still filled with carnival prizes .. looked at paperwork in the offices, walked around on rooftops.
It feels like a real-life zombie movie. We ran into some nice people from Alabama who said that they were visiting ‘one last time’ because the place was starting to get much too popular. It does look like there’s been a lot of partying taking place, and people have been smashing everything they can get their hands on. We found a bunch of 9mm shell casings too – I can see how shooting up the joint would be really fun, but, dumbass, it’s right by the highway.
I’ve been an enthusiastic user of Electro Harmonix pedals for years, so it was with great excitement that last month I got to take a tour of the Queens, NY facility where they’re designed and manufactured. Thanks to former EH head design engineer, hi-fi sound designer, guitarist, trapeze artist (!) and all-around thinker JC Morrison for making it possible.
Electro Harmonix Factory floor
Making Big Muffs! I have 3 or 4 well-used ones, so it was cool to see where they’re born
Custom tube tester, hand built by JC
A stack of NY-2A compressors
Engineer John Pisani explaining some of the new pedals he’s working on, including the V256 Vocoder and the 22 Caliber Power Amp
A prototype pedal in the design lab