The release of The Smashing Pumpkins new album, Oceania, has received the attention of the media press from Howard Stern to NPR to Rolling Stone. There are several ways to listen to the album. The Smashing Pumpkins official store has CD, vinyl and high-fidelity audio files available for purchase. People have expressed concern regarding perceived distortion and issues with the vinyl pressing of the album. I was curious about these perceived issues and contacted Stan Getz, whose company, A&R Record & Tape Mfg. Co., manufactured the vinyl.
I explained to Getz what some of the perceived “issues” were and asked if he had any interest in commenting on the situation. His response was both shocked and heart felt. His passion for the music and craft is evident as Getz stated, “This is one of the greatest releases I have had the honor to work on to date.” Getz communicated he felt the gravity of the situation in regards to pressing the first Smashing Pumpkins album in five years.
As far as the mastering, Getz stated he was “only responsible for the vinyl mastering” and that “The GREAT ‘Bob Ludwig’, one of my heroes, did the audio mastering before it came to me.” To see some of the mastering specifics in regards to vinyl records, check out an excellent article by Scott Dorsey on Recording Magazine’s website.
Getz explains some of the technical details, “Outer tracks great, and as we go further into the inner diameter, [there are] questions. Just for discussions sake, if there is 4″ on the outer diameter to “Cut” the audio, the closer to the center of the disc it becomes less and less space to place the audio. So 4″ to place audio in the OD becomes maybe around 1/3″ in the ID for the same audio??.” Getz said, “It becomes a matter of the quality of the playback cartridge.”
Getz explains how a proper setup will provide the best results, “A good playback cartridge, properly set up, would reproduce this satisfactorily. It is not that the audio is compromised in any way; it gets down to quality of equipment it is reproduced on.” About the Oceania album, Getz stated, “I can truly say I have worked with the best in this biz on this release.” Getz only had praise to offer the Smashing Pumpkins team, “Billy is an incredible person, and his immediate/personal team is off the wall great!”
This is not the first Smashing Pumpkins release by Getz and A&R. The Volume 1 – Songs for a Sailor, Teargarden by Kaleidyscope box set was pressed at A&R and assembled in Austin, TX. According to Getz, he worked so hard on the release that he, “spent evenings and weekends to make the deadline pressing it, and the plant broke down over a weekend, to boot, while hustling to make the deadline.” Getz said, “I cut the keeper masters for ‘Teargarden’ 7″ well after 12 am on a late Saturday, early Sunday, and slept at the plant that eve[ning]. I set aside time to tackle it, and it was hours for a 7″ set of masters less than 4 minutes a side. The master was 1/2″ 30 ips reel to reel.”
Other vinyl which A&R pressed for the Smashing Pumpkins includes the 2010 limited edition 7” Record Store Day releases. 250 copies of Astral Planes/A Stitch in Time were released at Amoeba Music in Los Angeles, CA. (where The Smashing Pumpkins played for Record Store Day 2010), and 250 copies of Widow Wake My Mind/Song for a Son were released at Vintage Vinyl in Evanston, IL (Billy Corgan has been known to shop there). Getz spoke about those limited releases, “We pressed 2 – 250 limited edition no label 7″ on clear red” and “The Pumpkin camp had sleeves printed and we assembled them into poly bags and shipped to them.” After seeing copies of the two vinyls show up on Ebay the next day, Getz said he was “so disappointed, but the art guy (who I know, and got me involved) posed this to me: ‘It immediately became a collector’s item.’ ”
Getz mentioned he has spoken with Billy Corgan about another project A&R worked on, the Gish and Siamese Dream reissues. Getz also “cut the master lacquers for the recent picture disc.” Volume II: The Solstice Bare. The song Cottonwood Symphony was on that release and Getz relayed a story he was told, “ ‘Cottonwood’ was mixed down to an old school Studer 1/4″ reel to reel at 15 ips, that was used as the master recorder for ‘Magical Mystery Tour’”. After finding out that information, Getz said, “Believe what you want, but when I was told that, the hair stood up on the back of my neck.”
A&R has also pressed vinyl for other bands, notably The Flaming Lips. Getz said he works closely with Wayne [Coyne] and Michael [Ivins] and has “spent 3am nights cutting with Michael more than once.”
Getz’s dedication and hard work are apparent. He displays patience with the ever aging pressing equipment. Today’s pressing equipment is old and has known issues. The “last album manufacturing machines ever made are said to be those built and supplied by Alpha Toolex to Melodiya (USSR) in the mid 80s. Most machines in use today were made in the 60s and 70s.” Archer Record Pressing in Detroit, MI explains on a video at their website that “anything can go wrong” and “they all have.”
I would like to thank Stan Getz and A&R Record and Tape Mfg. Co. for their assistance and time while looking into the vinyl release of Oceania. Their time and attention to detail has provided yet another quality Smashing Pumpkins vinyl for our collecting and listening enjoyment!
For more details and discussion, click here.