Polycarbonate Lathe Cut 7"s
It's been a long process, and it might not look like much, but the article you are about to read was over 5 years in the making!
Ever since Aglio E Olio was released in Australia on double 7" on what appeared to be clear vinyl, it has fascinated me. Isn't vinyl supposed to be black? or at least opaque? How did they get it clear? I eventually found out it was polycarbonate and not vinyl, but it made no difference to me as it was still damn cool.
The next thing that perplexed me about this release came about when I started to get heavily into collecting records. Living in Australia, I bought a copy when it came out and it wasn't too hard to find with some great local indie record stores in Sydney at the time. There were rumours about the number of copies made, which I took at face value - 1420 copies - fair enough.
It only took me as a strange number years later when I started to build the Beastie Boys Discography here on Beastiemania. Why 1420 copies? That sounds like an odd number.
About a year later I decided to try and track down the person responsible for "pressing" (or carving to be more precise) these records - Peter King. I had heard rumours that he was a great guy but didn't have an email address and I would have to write him a letter, so I did. I got a reply, hand written and with a picture of his setup.
Feeling that the issue was not totally resolved, I tracked down the managing director from Fellaheen Records (the label that released the record), he helped fill in some of the gaps.
Now, running parrallel to this whole saga I was also trying to track down the mysterious Grinning Sumo Records - makers of the other Beastie Boys release on lathe cut 7".
This took nearly 5 years as well, with emails, phone calls and letters. But it finally happened! A few weeks ago my searching came through.
So, here are my three small interviews/questions with three people who helped create those fascinating bits of polycarbonate.
Interview with Peter King
[Conducted in August 2003]
Looking through the discography of releases created by yourself the list is massive, with some big name acts in there including Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth and the Beastie Boys. How did you get to the position of creating these releases?
We do stuff for all over the world. I'm not sure how it all happened.
There have been 2 different Beastie Boys releases made in New Zealand using the lathe process. The first was the double 7" of 'Aglio E Olio' released by Grand Royal and Fellaheen in Australia. A lot of rumours have passed around as to the quantity that were produced, can you give us the stats?
[we have been told 1420 pressed. 305 sold in Australia. 1000 shipped to Grand Royal. But the problem here is that this doesn't add up to 1420 copies]
I don't know how many records were made here. Lost track of the whole thing 10 years ago.
The second release was one called "Some Live Bullshit" which contained two live tracks. Hand numbered and limited to 30 copies, this was released by a "Grinning Sumo Records". Are you able to shed any light on this company. (who are/were Grinning Sumo Records? did they release anything else? etc)
Made lots and lots of records for people so wouldn't have a clue.
Although referred to as clear vinyl by some people, they aren't actually made of vinyl. What are they made with?
Our records are made from the mother plastic to poly vinyl we produce here.
Is there a difference in sound quality from regular vinyl pressings?
Yes, we get less highs and more bass than the black vinyl record of the past. Only just recognisable though.
Whats the process of creating a record?
Given that the records are created in real time (ie it takes as long to create a disc as it does to play it), are you able to produce more than one at the same time?
What is the general size of each run?
Is there anyone else out there creating lathe cut records like yourself?
I'm not sure.
Do you have anything to do with the sleeves?
We don't like sleeves as the look of our records should be on display through a clear plastic bag.
[Image mailed to me by Peter King]
A Quick Chat with Stav (ex-Fellaheen)
[Conducted in March 2004]
We are trying to track down some information on this Australian 7" that came out through Fellaheen:
* Aglio E Olio 2x7" : AU [JACK 033-7] (Clear Vinyl)
These were created by Peter King in New Zealand on his lathe. I have contacted him, but he hasn't kept any information on his records and can't remember anything about it. There are rumours that there were 1420 records cut. 305 sold in Australia. 1000 shipped to Grand Royal. But (a) that doesn't add up to 1420 copies and (b) these seem like odd amounts.
Can you remember ANYTHING at all about this release?
I left Waterfront/Fellaheen records years ago now. All documentation regarding the labels was the property of my partner who bought me out of the business. I know for a fact that he no longer has any of the paperwork involved in Fellaheen.
But the strange figure of 1420 does ring bells for me. GR did take 1000, 305 were I think sold and the remainder would have been promos...it does sound corect given the sands of time eroding my memory.
The reason 1420 were made is that the whole process was a fucking nightmare! Peter King was EXCEPTIONALLY nice, helpful and accomodating BUT not "together" at all. The labels were an accident waiting to happen (I think they may have been printed using a photocopier and hand glued to the "vinyl" by Peter or one of the farmhands)....really it was scary!! We probably originally ordered 1,500 copies but Peter only managed to make 1,420 "good ones" due to the hit and/or miss technology being used.
Having said that, I'd do it all over again! Fellaheen was a special label for a special time!
Interview with Grinning Sumo Records
[Conducted in November 2008]
I assume these were lathe cut by Peter King in New Zealand?
They sure were!
Did you know that there was another official Beastie Boys release titled "Some Live Bullshit"? (it was a French promo cd)
I did find out about that promo CD (or was it another live bootleg can't remember but I guess you'd know!) a bit after doing the 7".
Why the name "Grinning Sumo"?
I was sitting around in the record store where I used to work just shooting the shit with a friend and that name came up and sounded funny to us.
Did Grinning Sumo release anything else?
Not as such. I did also release a Magic Dirt bootleg 7" and a Godstar bootleg 10", which were both lathe cut by Peter King but they didn't carry any label name, also I released a couple of limited edition official releases on polycarb 7" on my then record label at the time.
What inspired you in the first place to release this?
Just a but of fun really, you often find yourself with a lot of free time sitting behind the counter of a record store!
Was it a one-man production or were more people involved?
A co-worker at the time split the cost with me, we decided to get 'em done and split the copies.
Was it distributed in Australia or New Zealand? Was it released just for friends or was it sold through any stores?
We pretty much just gave them to some friends. We never had any intention of selling them.
Where were the tracks sourced from?
I would have to find the master cassette(!) - yes I remember sending a cassette tape over to have the 7"s cut, but they were taken from a JJJ-FM radio broadcast.
Why such a limited run?
As I mentioned it was just for a bit of fun and to give away to friends that we knew would dig them.
You know that record is one of the most expensive / sort-after beastie bootlegs out there? I remember seeing a copy a few years ago go for around $200.
I have seen that 7" for some silly money over the years maybe I should have held on to some!!