Some records are made to be broken; at Brooklyn Phono, they’re also made to be recycled.
Typically, Brooklyn Phono uses only virgin vinyl or a mix of new vinyl and old vinyl, aka regrind, to make albums. But this year Green Owl, a label in Manhattan, specifically asked for records made from 100 percent recycled vinyl. So Brooklyn Phono had to source some of its regrind from outside its Sunset Park plant.
“We told them, look, we can’t be accountable for this material,” said Thomas Bernich, the founder of Brooklyn Phono. “We don’t know where it came from. But we actually had a great experience with it.” For their Green Owl runs, they used albums from at least as far back as the 1940s, including some Norwegian and Russian language discs.
It’s not just the vinyl itself that comes from a different era. The machine that Brooklyn Phono uses to cut into blanks is like a cross-section of records’ past.
Leandro Gonzales, who masters music at Brooklyn Phono, said the process begins by using a lathe to cut into a blank, which makes a negative mold of the record. The blank discs, also called lacquers, are made in L.A. and come in different sizes based on the final product–seven-inch records are cut on a ten-inch lacquer, ten-inch records are cut on 12- or 14-inch blanks and 12-inch records are cut on 14-inch blanks.
“This machine in particular is like a blend of different moments in the history of record-making technology,” Gonzales said. It houses an aluminum-cast lathe, for example, from the 1940s. The machine slowly cuts a groove into the blanks while a speaker provides the vibrations that will create the recording.
“It’s basically carving the sound,” he said.
Once the mold is ready, record presses in another part of the facility produce the actual vinyl records, using a process called compression molding. Records come out of the press with some excess material, which gets trimmed off. (This excess material is what is typically used for regrind.) Then they go to quality control, where they are checked for scratches and particles, and randomly selected for a listen upstairs. Once they pass muster, they’re sleeved, packaged, and shipped to the customer.
Vinyl sales are nowhere near what they were before the advent of cassettes, CDs and mp3s, but records are in the midst of a resurgence. When Brooklyn Phono opened in 2002, there were just two machines; now there are five, and they’re pressing thousands of albums a day. Still, to incorporate the ease of digital media, Brooklyn Phono albums also come with a code so the same record can be downloaded.
“The customer gets a tangible product as well as a portable product,” Gonzales said.
This tactile quality of albums–being able to lower the needle onto them, and physically skip songs–is part of the appeal for Bernich. But it’s more than just their physical qualities that he admires. “I love the sound of records,” he says. “I can’t make music, but being a part of the medium is very satisfying.”
New York City News Service, October 23, 2010
Punk rock invaded the Music Hall of Williamsburg Saturday night in the form of the Fat Wreck Chords showcase, featuring some bands that also played Friday at a Rocks Off concert cruise. Cobra Skulls and The Flatliners took the stage early in the evening, followed by Dead to Me, Smoke or Fire, Teenage Bottlerocket, None More Black and punk cover band Me First and the Gimme Gimmes.
A sign that said “We Reject Racism” in reaction to Arizon’a SB 1070 immigration law was on display throughout most of the showcase. At least one musician, including Dead to Me bassist/singer Chicken, acknowledged the sign as well as the band’s opposition to the law.
Gimme Gimmes’ bassist and Fat Wreck Chords founder, Fat Mike, who also plays with NOFX, received some attention earlier this year for his solo performance at South by Southwest as his alter ego Cokie the Clown. On Saturday, however, he was popping his white sunglasses on and off and hugging his bandmates between songs throughout their all-cover set, which included “Desperado,” “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina,” “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard” and a ukelele rendition of Nirvana’s “The Man Who Sold the World.” Fat Mike did allude once to his SXSW performance, when an audience member kept trying to hand him her glass of Jim Beam and he said he, of all people, would know not to take drinks from others.
CMJ Coverage, New York City News Service, October 22, 2010
Off!, the new hardcore punk group from Circle Jerks and Black Flag legend Keith Morris, made their New York debut at Europa Thursday night. Morris brushes off the label “supergroup,” but the band consists of him as well as Burning Brides guitarist Dimitri Coats, Redd Kross bassist Steven McDonald and Rocket from the Crypt drummer Mario Rubalcaba. The group made their live debut this year at South by Southwest, with no official name and only a few songs. In Brooklyn, they flew through just over a dozen short hardcore numbers. Opening bands were Dessert Storm, Liquor Store and Cerebral Ballzy.
with Alex Abad-Santos, The Local, June 29, 2010
It’s easy to point to icons like Jay-Z, Notorious B.I.G., Lil’ Kim and Busta Rhymes as Brooklyn’s finest, musically speaking. But the latest installment of the Afro-Punk festival, which bills itself as “the other black experience,” questions the idea that African-American culture and hip-hop have to go hand in hand.
With more than 20 bands, from Ninjasonik, to punk legends Bad Brains, to tween rockers The Bots, Afro-Punk explores the pocket of life where punk rock, hip-hop and urban culture collide — all in musically and ethnically diverse Brooklyn. This past weekend at Commodore Barry Park, inside the chain link fences on the hot and shadeless blacktop, people of all colors, shapes and styles converged and pushed the definition of Brooklyn music. From the cackles and rhythm of skateboards grinding on ramps built for the festival’s skating competition, to the beats of Belikos, the festival showed how creative and diverse this lesser-known Brooklyn sound, and the culture it fosters, can be.
with Sam Roudman, The Local, June 16, 2010
The now-familiar sounds of vuvuzelas and choruses of the traditional South African song “Shosholoza” echoed from Madiba on DeKalb Avenue Friday morning as the South African restaurant hosted a celebration for the opening of the FIFA World Cup.
Madiba will be showing every World Cup game, including South Africa’s second match in the tournament, against Uruguay, this afternoon at 2:30 p.m.
Customers began pouring in at 8 a.m. Friday, and by game time at 10 a.m., the place was so crowded that new arrivals struggled to watch from the doorway, and those who squeezed inside could barely move. Few Mexico fans dared brave their opponents’ restaurant, though the occasional Mexican flag surfaced.
Prior to the game, soccer fans adorned in bright yellow jerseys and South African flags ate and drank traditional fare as they danced, sang and bellowed from their vuvuzelas. They were quick to talk about the talents of Bafana Bafana – a nickname for the South African team, which roughly means “the boys the boys.”
When Bafana Bafana scored their single goal against Mexico (the game ended in a one-to-one tie) the cheers echoed across the block.
The Local, June 22, 2010
Clown. For some that word conjures up Bozo, or Krusty from “The Simpsons.” For others it may be a scary image such as Pennywise from Stephen King’s novel, “It.”
What may not immediately come to mind is a group of performers together in a classroom, singing improvised group songs and creating characters. But that is what was waiting inside a small white building on South Oxford Street last week during a clown workshop taught by neighborhood resident Christopher Bayes.
Mr. Bayes runs a series of summer workshops exploring clowning, including some taught by Virginia Scott, who uses Mr. Bayes’ method. Classes include Clown 1, Clown 2, Commedia Dell’arta and Clown Show.
“There are so many amazing artists and theater people in Fort Greene,” Mr. Bayes said.
Some students go on to work as clowns. Some are actors, just looking to learn new approaches to their work.
“I believe that most actors decide to take clown because they want to rediscover pleasure in their acting and want to gain a sense of ownership of the actor-audience relationship,” Mr. Bayes said. “Some people do go on to use the pure form of the clown, but many just become more playful, beautiful and open actors.”
A recent morning session of Clown 2 felt more like an acting class than a circus. Mr. Bayes instructed students on their performances as well as the development of their clown personas. The clown, he said during class, is the character each person would be if they had never been told no.
“Clowns,” he explained, “generally don’t follow any social rules of conduct.”
The Local, June 15, 2010
The crowd sported Ray-Ban sunglasses and sipped tall cans of beer last weekend, as dozens of musicians performed at what felt like a private backyard party. It was actually Hillstock 2010, a D.I.Y. music festival now in its second year. The music fest took place over three days in and around Clinton Hill.
The first night, Friday, June 11, was the kick-off party at Shea Stadium, a music venue in Williamsburg. Festival co-founder Eric Williams said the 14 bands that played the first day of the festival were mostly dance and punk, including his own group, Eskalators. Day two was a backyard barbecue at a private residence, which started early enough in the day (doors opened at 10 a.m.) to offer free brunch. Thirteen bands played. Most of the bands are friends of the festival founders, but some of the musical talent came through other channels.
“Even last year, when we first started, we would get requests from random people,” Mr. Williams said. “It felt great to be like, ‘yes, come play in our backyard.’”
Sunday, the third and final day, was mostly mellow acoustic acts. Eighteen bands were supposed to play a rooftop concert, but because of the weather they moved to the same backyard that had hosted Saturday’s event. Mid-afternoon, clouds began to look threatening, and the festival paused. Volunteers hauled a big green tarp across the yard like an awning, to protect the sound equipment and the patrons from the pounding rain that began moments later, so that the show could go on.