One project I have been occupied with over the last few months has been creating a 7inch single for my band Grieg. The band didn’t need a single to accompany our debut album (out next month) but I had a printing project that I had wanted to do for a long time and some extra songs that didn’t make the album was a perfect excuse to make it happen.
A friend of mine Tom Hazelmyer from Minneapolis and I were talking last year about making a relief print work when tranfered not on to paper but straight onto a vinyl record. Record etching is something done by machines, we wanted to hand print art straight onto the record. Tom led the way by using rubber instead of lino or wood and with a bit of practice he has nailed it – now with two releases adorned, one being for The Melvins.
So once the music for Grieg was ready back in December 2014, I started to work out how to make myself an ‘Art Record’. keeping the release as handmade as possible, I sent the songs to Small Run Vinyl in Melbourne where Nathan Sawford handcuts vinyl records in limited specific amounts. He was also able to cut the songs onto clear vinyl. This part of the process was going to take a month or two so I then started with the cover art. I wanted a woodcut print that could be the cover and also be removed and framed (if that was your thing).
The print had to be of a shark. It was not by design that some of the songs left over from the record were about sharks and the ocean. I thought it would be cool to do a shark themed release both inside and out.
Once the print was created, I then turned to the jacket. I often have elaborate and impractical ideas and the balance is seeing what I can affordably get away. I decided I wanted to shark print to have a water-like feel to it so I ordered some Stumptown 7inch envelopes and once they arrived, cut out the front and inlaid a sheet of blue cellophane. Two or three hours a day, each day for several weeks, cutting, taping, and applying text and eventually the jackets were completed.
By now it was mid February and so I sheepishly turned to cutting out the rubber for the vinyl print. The weird thing about the process is after seven years of carving hardwood, the rubber felt like a blade cutting through a single sheet of paper. It was so easy to cut I had to constantly stop myself from running the gouge straight through it.
Towards the end of February the vinyl arrived. Finally I got the chance to work on the part of the process I was most interested in. Printing onto records. The vinyl was cut with the music all on one side and the other side being completely blank and smooth. The scary part was that I needed a 100% success rate. The vinyl was expensive and I could not afford to muck up even one record. Seeing as I was printing by hand the clear vinyl would allow me to see the ink transfer so that I knew I would have a good print before removing the record from the block. I practiced a bit with perspex sheets and then spent two days printing the ‘other’ shark I had made.
The printing was a success and almost three months later, the singles were pretty much done. I am really proud of how it turned out. It was a process that ended up being more costly and stressful than I anticipated but that’s part of learning new things and it was totally worth it…
In total this took seven pairs of hands and several hundred hours over seven months to create this single. I’m really grateful to my bandmates for letting me make this. Ordering a standard record is pretty easy – making and inventing something that is unique and completely handmade by the band both inside and out is something I hope other people are into. I know I am.
It goes on sale Friday 6th March as an edition of 33 copies through the bands bancamp store – http://grieg.bandcamp.com/