Ken on the manufacturing process, song separation, colored vinyl/PVC, regular vs. smoking pigs

“The larger pressing plants we used, used good vinyl (virgin vinyl). The smaller ones would punch out the labels, grind up the vinyl and reuse it and this made for some clicks and pops as that vinyl had already been heated before and also no matter how hard they tried, tiny bits of paper from those labels invariably wound up in the mix. Also, there was the issue of how long you left the record in the press. A full minute made for a much better pressing than a record that was only in for twenty or thirty seconds. Those small plants wanted to make records as fast as possible. And two of those small plants that we used were pretty doggoned filthy. Dirt and dust in the vinyl before it got into the press didn’t exactly make for a good sounding record.

When we went to the bigger plants (and believe me, we wound up at the biggest) they had the vinyl come out of hoppers above the press and only used virgin vinyl, but the small ones saved the crap, gave it to us, because could we complain, go somewhere else? Well, eventually we did.”

“Yeah that pesky band between the songs on an LP. On the studio versions we would use about three seconds of paper tape, so whoever was cutting the record would know to put a band there (sometimes we didn’t thought). On the live albums we didn’t do that, didn’t know you could, though I wondered how the real companies did it. Then one day I was sitting by the lathe when the applause came on after the first song and this guy running the machine reached down and turned a knob and, as if by magic, a band appeared on the acetate and then I had to start putting song times on the tape box to warn him when to make the bands. It was so much easier when all I had to worry about was was the side over twenty-two minutes, but under twenty-eight.”

 

We remember this part from an earlier short Q&A session Ken did:

Q: Do you have a list which TMOQ titles you made on CV?

A: […]Just about every TMOQ record I did was available on colored vinyl at one time or another. We didn’t charge more for colored vinyl and we used it when we could get it. Usually when we pressed at Lewis.

“The CV records all came from one pressing plant. If they had it, they used it. A couple of the guys there liked to experiment and that’s why you have splash vinyl.

I spent two months there pressing records, because a couple of employees quit and Greg (my partner at the time) and myself really needed product. This was before we went to the big plants. We pressed only CV and made many different combinations, especially with splash white vinyl. We could be working along, making a bunch of records red, then all of a sudden, to break the monotony, we’d make a few multicolored or splash.

Led Zep Final Option disc

This particular pressing plant had all old presses, so you could change up pretty quick. We’d usually make a hundred records or so, then switch to something else. So it’s possible to get any of the early TMQ records on color, multicolor or splash vinyl. There just is no rhyme or reason for it.

Bowie In America splash

Also, on a few occasions, we’d order the whole first run, usually two hundred or so records at the time, colored, white or splashed. Later, after we shifted to the big plants, colored vinyl was no longer an option. If we ordered a hundred of a title on colored vinyl, we usually didn’t specify color. The colored vinyl at that old plant came in slabs that you heated on a hot plate, then folded, then put in the press. Each rectangular slab made one record, so it was very easy to mix the colors. Some of the hundred record run would be red, blue, green, splash or any number of colors. So as far as identification is concerned, the color of the vinyl doesn’t help. Also, I’m afraid the stamper numbers don’t help me either. If the plant had CV at the time, I asked them to use it. If they didn’t, well they didn’t. I never held up pressing a record because the plant was out of CV and I don’t think Dub did either.

Deep Purple Purple For A Day

The last things we did on colored vinyl there (if I remember right) were the two Dylan Box sets. Striptease and Toasted: the Australian Collection. We did about three hundred and fifty of each and we pressed them at the same time and we went to a lot of effort to try and make one set all green, another all red, another all blue, etc. Of course we had to mix some of the sets.

Dylan Striptease box

I know the popular belief is that we did five hundred, but back then they were specialty items and a whole bunch of trouble. It was much easier to do the color jackets then at the big plants, because we didn’t have to stuff the records. They came shrink wrapped and ready to go, so we didn’t even have to take them out of the boxes. The box sets were a whole bunch of work and at the time we didn’t think they were worth all the effort.

Much later, with a different partner, I made the mega Zeppelin box set on CV. Only a hundred of those [I believe 150 is the correct number]. My partner at the time was behind the whole thing. He hadn’t done a box set before and wasn’t aware of all the work. But to his everlasting credit, I must say we made a pretty penny off that one, so it was worth all the bother.”

Led Zep Final Option

The splash white disc image used above is one of the records from this massive set that will eventually sell for five figures in the future.

Led Zep Final Option box side

As for the matrix numbers, we didn’t think too much about that with the early ones. The guy cutting the acetate probably decided in some of the cases. Then Dub came up with the series idea. Dr. Telly wanted to only do a hundred records, starting at 1900 through 1999. I convinced him to assist me with TAKRWM which I think started at 1800. Sometimes we’d change the numbers for one reason or another.”

  • “Regular pig” vs. “smoking pig”:

It would be wrong to assume that the regular pig was Dubs only. I did many regular pigs after we split up, oftentimes I would make the same record with different labels, sometimes regular pig, sometimes smoking. Sometimes I just used whatever labels I had on hand. And Dub and I used often used stampers off the same mothers, so the records would be exactly the same. I got my pig labels and stickers the same place he got his and he got his covers the same place I got mine.

The clue as to whose record was whose might be in the rubber stamp impressions. Ten or maybe fifteen of Dub’s and my rubber stamps were exactly the same, but after we split up I went to a different place for my stamps as Dub lived in Glendale and I lived in Long Beach. There was a rubber stamp place close to where I lived, so I went there for mine. So most of the TMOQ records will be out there with slightly different rubber stamps. It would probably be hard to tell, unless you knew exactly what you were looking for, but a couple of mine had straight quotes around the title and all of Dub’s had curly quotes. However, I soon caught this and ordered new stamps with curly quotes. So if you find a “Freeze Out” or a “John Birch” with straight quotes around the title, you’ve found something rare.

If today you were to hold up one of my later Great White Wonders next to Dubs, you might see a bit of a difference in the stamp impression, but I wouldn’t be able to tell you which was which, but other than that, they were exactly the same. Very confusing, I know, but back then we were not planning on anybody caring about all this three decades later.

However, we were about making the best records possible. There never has been a perfectionist like Dub. He did his very best on every record he mastered. And I know what you mean by every record being unique, there were some I only made fifty copies of with a stamp, then did the rest in inserts, I think I did that just to confuse people. But all that said, we still never thought it would last. In fact for the longest time we thought each record would be our last. We made quick money and we spent if fast, because we were young and dumb and having a lot of fun.

From my point of view (and I’m sure Dub’s), There were no pre TMoQ records. Once Dub came up with the pig idea, we shifted the first five or six of our records over. There was nobody else before us. And until Rubber Dubber (with the exception of Norty and Ben), nobody after, except for that one Canadian guy who did that one Beatles’ record. Then, all of a sudden there was Troubled Troubadour, Herbie Howard, CBM Dave, Wooden Nickel, Liver copies galore and the floodgates were open.

I remember one time Dub and I were recording Phil Ochs at the Troubadour [Phil Ochs played at least a dozen shows there from January to February 1, 1970]. He was using the same shotgun mic he’d used to record Liver. The waitresses made sure to not walk in front of our table, kept the area between Dub’s mic and the stage clear, so as not to mess up the recording. We must have looked so official to her with our long hair and hippy clothes. I don’t have that tape anymore, wish I did.”

  • On the later years, repackaging old titles, etc.:

“Boy I’ll tell you this thread has got me to thinking about how greedy we got. Later, looking for an easy buck, we repackaged the Striptease stuff as five double record sets. Those were on black vinyl, if I remember right, because we wouldn’t have been at that old plant anymore. We also made a pretty cheesy cover that we used generically for the toasted box records (I can’t remember what it looked like, but I know it was cheesy), releasing them as five double records as well. God we were a bit slimy, repackaging that stuff over and over again. It wasn’t much fun in those later days. We were just going through the motions, trying to make money on old stampers, when it wouldn’t have been very much harder putting out something new. Lord knows, there was plenty of stuff out there.

I remember TAKRL 1900 was the Beatles live in Japan, because we did so many and we were going to start a special new label with that one. We had the rubber stamp made up and everything. But at the last minute, Dr. Telly came into the picture and Kornyphone was born. So that rubber stamp never got used (except for a couple records we sent to a guy in New York who was supposed to send them to a big account in Japan).

It was all so long ago and I seem to mostly remember the fun stuff, but it wasn’t always that way. Plus, I have to admit, I may be remembering stuff out of order, or maybe even glamorizing it a bit.

Maybe I should follow my own advice and go to some of these sites and get my facts straight, but I’m afraid if I do that, that it’ll color what I have to say. So, I guess I won’t. I’ll just keep writing it the way I remember it, without refreshing my memory with useless facts. You all will just have to remember that I am a fiction writer, and fiction writers like to tell a good story. So just take everything I say with a grain of sand.

As for your questions about various groups, if it’s not Dylan, the Beatles or the Stones, it would be info my brain has long ago flushed. And even regarding those groups, I wouldn’t know anything about stamper numbers other than what I have already posted here. I only have general knowledge, you’ll have to go elsewhere, I’m afraid, for specific knowledge. I don’t own any records anymore, or even CDs. All my music is on my hard drive. For me it was always about the music, not about the medium it was on.

Also, I will tell you that you were a bit wrong in what you told Steve about Homogenized Beatles. However, that’s a story I am going to address in one of my chapters, so you’ll have to wait on that. What Steve has is the test pressing. The first two records I did after Dub and I split were that one and the Reedy River. Steve has the test pressings for both. I was at a new plant and they didn’t know they were making bootlegs, so they naturally thought I’d want test pressings.

As far as matrix numbers and release dates, I don’t know any. And as far as what came before what, if you read through these posts you’ll see that I’ve contradicted myself on that and I probably will again. Which is true? I don’t know. Maybe neither. My posts here are about the way it coulda happened, not necessarily the way it did.

What I’m about here is the why of it all, the fun, the adventure and the downside. I’m not a collector, never was, so I don’t look at it from that kind of perspective. As I’ve said elsewhere, I’ve always considered bootlegging the same as stealing, always considered myself just a lucky crook. Our only justification was that we had no money and we wanted some. We did it for the money, me and Dub. We liked the music, sure, but we did it for the money. If we told you different, we’d be lying.

I don’t want to depreciate what I did either. We did it for the money, but it was exciting as all get out. However, you have to remember we were just kids. We thought (wrongly as it turned out) that we were breaking the law. We didn’t know we were opening the floodgates, didn’t have any sense that what we were doing was going to be important someday. Sure, we knew guys like B. Mitch Reed were playing our records and guys like Grell Marcus were writing about them, but we really thought it would all blow over. Either that, or we’d get caught by the cops and get sent up the river, which is why we were so paranoid.

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