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This time an interview with Dj/producer LXC. He runs the Alphacut label and works as a cutter at the R.A.N.D Muzik pressing plant in Leipzig.

1) is vinyl the no.1 format for you and if yes why is vinyl the superior format for you?

Each and every format has its own advantages. The most both technical impact and emotional content for me do have nothing else but live music, which goes directly thru a precise microphone into a well twiddled FOH mix onto a powerful and transparent PA situation. There is no better sound but real live sound. When it comes to audio recording and storage, you have great oportunities in digital WAV and FLAC files on harddiscs, Solid State Drives and such. Of course, depending on the input, but with the greatest features on the physical side and about efficiency in general. Compared to that, a CD provides the same or sometimes poorer quality plus a lot of enviromental trash due to the physical medium with low capacity.

Finally, good old vinyl is far away from superior when it comes to sound issues (against the current opinion, and also not in 180 gram wonderland), but far the greatest thing in added values is that it is to an artful product, which I mean in terms of handling, feeling, haptics, covers and visuals. Playing back a record comes close to playing an instrument to produce sounds, and so the listener gets much more “involved” than in a situation where you just start some randomized playlist on a shiny display without anything to grab at all. I assume you somehow get closer to the music (or maybe even towards the musician) when consuming vinyl. For me this makes up for the tricky audio question, and raise it above all other kind of media finally. Sometimes I wonder too, but most of the time I can fully understand the hype around it and the fact it is still existing and will exist as long as we can pay the basic materials and as long as the “old babes” (how we call the pressing machines) keep running!

For me sometimes the sound is (or at least feels)  superior, for instance with old fusion records it sounds more “real” and sounds bigger in my opinion. You really think the audio in this case is far from superior? You mean the crackles & pops, etc or the sound in general? Maybe it’s as you stated because of the action/handling of playing a record and thus a psychological thing, but am not sure about it..

Often people ask me why vinyl does sound that “great”. I think its mostly
all about the engineering. To achieve a superb vinyl cut without
distortion, noise or jumping needles it takes much more effort than to
“just” push the loudness of a digital file. I see so many digital audio
around which is punched to death (and this is only one of the bad moves
there are). This would just be impossible on vinyl – cutterheads would
burn and needles would scream! All the years it takes to become a good
vinyl cutter (of which I’m not even close to!) are a big help and impulse
for superb audio mastering works.

So, I’d say the tricky media led to a higher level of engineering, and so
to a better / bigger / fatter / real sound, whatever you wanna call it.
Please just don’t use “warm”, as there is no rational expression for that,
apart of a simple low-pass filter circuit. Why would anyone like to listen
to a really dull, muffled song? I still don’t get it and I always want to
run and hide when a customer comes with the warmth request!

Also, yes, the noises, crackles and pops are an issue. We spend propably
more work on reducing these than on twiddling a tight audio input signal.
One of the huge disadvantages of vinyl is the pretty small signal to noise
ratio of 70 dB or even less. Whatsoever, some listeners might even like
and reclaim these “defects”. Lucky us.

So yeah, I’m afraid it is pretty much about the psychological thing only.
I also won’t screw the audio abilities of a vinyl record at all! It can
basically handle close to every sound your ears are expecting from an
audio channel. Plus, on the emotional side you get even more on top due to
the physical appearance.

2) “if you can hear whatever you like,whenever you want to hear it you don’t have to own or physically possess the music” This statement is from the future of music book, do you agree ? why or why not?

Agree. You don’t have to. Although I’d say: Why not? If you are really into
something, why only have a digital copy of it around? You can’t possess
everything in the world, of course. But if it is realizable, achievable and
even makes you happy, why would anyone refuse being able to touch his
favourite album cover of all times and put a needle on the record?

3) You are a dj, do you dj only with vinyl ? will you ever switch to digital djing ? why/why not ?
*) Whats your opinion on digital dj gear that simulate the manipulation of records ?

Unfortunately digital DJing still sucks, even in 2010. Timecode records still do fail from time to time, or lets say at every important moments (just
spoke with one mate who will switch back to vinyl due to very bad live experiences with crazy timecode noise in front of a huge crowd). Other controllers feel odd and timing is still an issue with software. Laptops do have immense problems with long-term club environments. Even the latest gadgets turn out to be toys compared to the feeling and reliability of a good cut working together with a set of proper turntables. I tried a load of different new technologies and I just won’t run down any of these here by including names or products, but as far as I can say from studio tests and stage experience, I’m still not impressed really.

Some might think now that I am a vinyl enthusiast, but to me the truth is that there is a great opportunity in digital gear and the things you are
able to do with. Just the fact to see the traditional DJ morphing in to a liveact and vice versa is awesome. I will definitely keep checking the
techniques and machines to come! And at the same time, I will still use vinyl. I don’t see why it has to be this OR that. For me the magic happens, when both the analogue and the digital worlds shake hands – whether it may happen on stage or in the studio. Everything else is just rough belief, half knowledge and wannabe blah.

4) according to the dutch pressingplant the market for dance vinyl shrunk but is compensated by other styles, do you notice this, did it have impact on your releases?
*) And did you notice a change in your cutting engineer job ?

This is hard to answer from here, because we have an overall increase of orders at the RAND plant in Leipzig where I do lacquer cuts. But thats not really related to the market, it just tells you about other german plants and their prices maybe. I roughly can imagine that some dance markets got stuck due to simply boring music, but this has got nothing to do with the media itself. Major labels are back into pressing Jazz and classical music, the overall market is growing again, and not to forget: the lovely 7inches are back from the graves! I can imagine that customers are interested in more non-dancefloor vinyl.
More and more younger people are buying turntables again and dig themselves thru tons of sunday listening grooves, not just to drop them in
front of a screaming crowd but to have something special to enjoy when their mobiles are turned off and their Facebook finally sleeps. I can fully understand them, I like it, too!

5) What are you doing as a label in order to survive and to keep releasing records?
*) Do you think giving a downloadlink to the digital version free with the sale of the record will discourage downloading illegally and encourages to buy a legal product ?

At the moment I have to say it doesn’t feel like survival at all. We don’t drive no Beamers but great tunes keep coming in heavy rotation, and that’s the most important.

It may sound strange, but illegal downloads don’t harm the label at all. It’s free promotion, enthusiasts are spreading the vibe and people who may get to know the label in this way are going to buy the releases. A few years back, when Soulseek was still going strong, quite often someone would leech a few Alphacut folders but then order the whole vinyl back-catalogue a few days later.

You may argue about the artist not being paid and all this, but we are talking about a small scene here with a special interest. Digital sales are laughably low but file sharing helps us to get both heard, and sometimes also to get bought in places we may have never reached by any vinyl distribution deal ever. Speaking of downloads, you can have every song of every Alphacut vinyl on our website in full length MP3 version for free. Further questions?

No further questions :) i agree with you on this, I think only the major labels maybe have major “damage” from illegal downloading, but within smaller scenes there’s no better promotion people worldwide can easily get in touch with your music, wich before the internet was much more limited. Maybe it’s only that labels now press more limited run of their releases
than before, don’t you think?

Yes, and its a shame. I still feel that all the diggers, nerds and usual listeners are still there. The only problem is that it gets harder and harder for them to purchase what they like. Vinyl will never leave, as long as it can be produced in an economic way. And probably even far beyond that point. The key role at the moment is not at the labels, not at the artists and not at the listeners, its at the distributions and shops! Get yourself some balls and buy the unsual tunes. Otherwise this market will die during the next 5 years. Vinyl won’t go, whatsoever.

6) Will you ever release netreleases (mp3,wav) ?

why/why not?

will you ever start selling mp3′s of your backcatalogue?

Let me think. Mmmh. No. Let me think again. Mmmh, see above.

To be honest,
I still haven’t decided really, speaking of being afraid of the load of work that comes with data adjustment for all the digital
distribution channels… I mean, why not. If anyone cares. At the moment it simply doesn’t look as if they do.

7) In the survey i took someone answered: ” i don’t see the use of pressing vinyl if the music on the record is recorded digital and will be converted from digital to an analog format” what’s your opinion on this?

I’d like to record analogue instruments and gear on master tape and run it directly into the cutting head without any converters so much it hurts! I have to admit that I haven’t done this yet and yes, it makes me a little sad.

The “use” of vinyl is not always about better physical features, as I already stated at question 1. The reasons are totally different, and you know what it is about – basically the weird thing you may call the love of music.

Also, of course the input master of a vinyl record production has to have better quality then a usual pressing. That issue is about technical facts this time: Sampling rate versus tracing speed, and bit depth versus noise ratio. Both master tapes as well as digital wave data with high bit rates do have better technically measurable numbers, easily. But don’t forget: the audio range provided by vinyl is perfectly adequate for our ears and psychoacoustics and you don’t need much more then this on 99% of the signals I work with. In addition, vinyl sound makes up the listening curve we still prefer and keep on producing for – even more than 15 years after digital audio media came up – and it will stay pretty much like it is now, I’m sure.

8 ) What do you think is the reason that so many distributors,shops,labels quit while the media is talking about the return of vinyl, and numbers show that vinyl sales are going up?
*)I’ve seen someone describe the “comeback” of vinyl as a way to rebel against downloading music, what do you think of this?

Anything refering to digital versus analogue like the “rebel” statement is a little bit close-minded, promotional language without deeper
thoughts. There is of cause no causal connection between vinyl and downloads.

Surely the market has changed, and not in a good direction for everyone selling vinyl. But I am the last person to argue about problems sellers experience or create themselves. I can see a lot of stores closing due to a more and more special range of dance releases that punters are searching for – the wide variety of different tastes you have nowadays. You just can’t buy in everyone’s favourite selection or style into one record store in a city like Leipzig, where you have half a million inhabitants and roundabout 500 vinyl fans. Which is quite alot, but it’s still not enough to keep such a diverse business running. Also, when the economy in general goes belly up at the same time and vinyl lovers have way less money to spend for their beloved grooves.

On the other hand (no advertisement here), the biggest digging place in the world is growing and going well, and well deserved. Really, it is one of the few things I really like about the oh so great web-based social network thing. Every cloud has its silver lining!

Even the movie industry lately re-discovered 35 mm film for their needs, as it is the best way to store their material – no drop-outs after years, best quality playback and copy characteristics. Maybe one day we will all be back with our favourite music on master tapes fiddling around our Revox machines in the “vintage living room”, who knows?

9) How would you describe the future of vinyl?

I can see quite a few people still involved, running this thing as if we were still in the 80ies and as if it was still a major industry, simply ruining everything. There have to be new ideas, new ways of distribution, new concepts for music or video on analogue media, new materials and so on.

So speaking of the future of vinyl literally – i hope there is no future at all! I mean, wouldn’t everybody go crazy on an organic record product? No oil needed, no more vinyl at all but recyclable records that are durable and more audiophile at the same time? No dream, more soon!

One Comment

  1. An excellent read. Very informative and enjoyable. There is definitely something spiritual about putting a record on!


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