I really didn't know what pouring vinyl entailed when local musician Daniel Huffman asked if I wanted to sit in on a job Thursday afternoon. I envisioned the act of pouring, and then an actual record, but the in between part was vague. I just said yes and drove over to A&R Records on Riverfront.
The owner, Stan, was running around, eying machines, monitoring the output. I got situated on my ladder and started pouring, after Huffman gave me a crash course on how to use the colors I was given to make a psychedelic platter. One of my "early" pieces looked like a one-eyed fish vomiting into a fiery sea. Wait, let me back up.
I was helping pour the Flaming Lips' The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends album out next month, a Record Store Day exclusive featuring collaborations with Nick Cave, Erykah Badu and Yoko Ono, among others. Artists I really love. I got a little surge knowing I was playing a very small part in making this album unique, as every album is different. You start to get into a Zen state, where the pouring of "vinyl pellets" becomes like meditation, the blues and yellows diving to their fate together --
But every so often, a siren goes off on your station when you're not feeding the machine -- an industrial maze of presses and cranks -- enough pellets. You have to go faster, faster, mas vinyl. 20,000 albums must be poured to make 10,000 double LPs, and Huffman has been working 10 to 12-hour days, seven days a week, for the past three weeks to make sure it happens, with the help of volunteers and A&R employees. They were about 5,000 shy yesterday.
And you do get into a rhythm, where you know a bit more of this color and a little less of that color will possibly make a cool shade. Putting all the red, blue and yellow in together just makes for muddled vinyl, so the idea is to "shock" with different shades, all while keeping an eye on how much the machine needs. It was the most physical activity I've done in months.
My other "good one" looked like an exploded sun. It was all starting to make sense. Was Wayne Coyne in some mirrored second-floor room I couldn't see, observing all the work, handpicking only the most psychedelic to move on to the next round? Me, Wayne! Pick me! It's just like that Hunger Games movie! (Note: I have not seen The Hunger Games.)
So yeah, I may have got a vinyl high in there, but it was worth it, as was getting to see the process deconstructed, essentially. As Huffman said the day after my crash course: "Collaborative album, collaborative pressing."