Hello and welcome. This is Twig Harper here. Ive been making and experimenting with homemade records since 1994. Below is some of the things Ive done and insights to the work. I hope you enjoy it!
A HISTORICAL BUILD UP
Unlike most people I know my age and older, as a child I never grew up with records or a turntable in the house. The story goes that before I was born someone broke into my fathers apartment when he was in the shower stole his record collection. For some reason he never bought anymore. The first time I remember seeing a record, I must of been like 7 years old. It was in my great-grandfathers study and the speakers were wired into the living room. I clearly remember being showed how to work it, and some classical record was put on... Intuition kicked in and I slowed down the record, sped it up, pushed it back words, then I assembled everyone in the next room and told them it was time for a concert. With this first interaction with a record, I had blinding vision of assembling orchestras out of record players which would hold orchestras on the record, down an infinite loop. Most of my musical/tinkering work grew out of this singular moment when I received this message from the future.
When I was a young teenager I got into making cassette tape collages by taping over the erase head and re-recording music ontop of re-recorded music. Eventually I discovered that my inner desires to create these sound forms existed beyond me, through skateboarding I slowly found out about punk, industrial, electronic music. My young mind was formed stronger by these cultural movements.
My interests in tinkering with sound eventually lead me to other like minded people, when I moved to Ann Arbor in the year of 1992. One day when I was making cassette tape loops at the Jefferson House, Tom Klepach figured out that a 8-track tape would work much better, since you could make the loop for any time amount and give you 4 tracks to choose from, the next day people were cutting up metal rods for percussion, the next who knows what else people were doing. The Jefferson House was a bazzar of a creation and destruction. That kind of energy couldn't last long and it slowly fell apart and exploded. But that is another story.....
So after no time, Me, Nathan Young, Solomon Meltzer, and Anthony Miller all started messing around with garbage electronics, tape loops and janky synthesizers rigs. We all just started 'circuit-bending' at a time I was unaware of anyone else rewiring cheap toys much less giving it a title. A whole new level of sound was birthed out of a culture on its last leg about to die, garbage music with spittering machines speaking an unknown language......
EARLY EXPERIMENTS WITH HOMEMADE RECORDS
In the antique store on State street, was a dictaphone machine, when he explained what it was it got all our minds rolling. Wed walk in and just look at this thing, thinking about cutting our own records. To create a record would just me pure magic. So in 1994 me and Nate are living in a farm house on the edge of A2 and we just say lets just figure it out. We set roaring bonfire walk out with a bunch of old LP's and tried to melt the grooves together by heating them up and squishin them between a sheet of metal and cardboard. Well of course it didn't work and we were left with pile of somewhat playable records. We packaged up 5 of these and labeled them as a Scheme record and went over to Borders Music and handed them to Jim Magas and put them on consignment. Someone actually bought one! We were over joyed!
A while later, Sol and Nate started breaking up old 78's and gluing/taping them together. Made about 20 of them credited to the band Nautical Almanac (?)
WELCOME TO THE WORLD OF RECORD CUTTING
Tony and Nate (as the band Mini-Systems) eventually find a small wooden cased cutter, and figure out how to cut on cut up laundry detergent bottles. They went around to peoples recycling bins collecting and cutting. They maybe made around 10 of these and gave them away. When they showed me these I just flipped. The cutter at the antique store was bought (and some money from trading a pxl camera), and I started to figure out what I could do with it. At this point in the time field, I moved to Chicago with Carly.
I could never get good cuts on detergent bottle plastic and was just hitting my head trying to figure out what could I cut on? This dictaphone had a 6inch platter for the red clear plastic records, We would occasionaly find blank plastic records but I could never get them to cut correctly. I cut down old paper 7" laquers and still could not get it to work. Then one night when Nate and Aaron Dilloway were in town visiting we were discussing the problem,
" Im not sure what you should use?"
"Only if there was a steady supply of free small plastic discs. Geez wouldnt life be better?"
In a flash of lightning a CD appears in my minds eye.
DUH! It was as if we were no longer blind to something that had always been there staring squarely at us in the face.
So at this time stacks of free AOL cds were at every post office and street corner, the internet was just taking off to the people. (I wasn't online at this point) Beep. Beep.The next day we went down to the corner and came back with a stack. We taped it down and it cut into it like hot butter. We run over to the turntable plop it down and we hear sound. Success! I crudely cut out the center tray from a CD case and glue it to the cutters platter. We cut a ton of CD record son this setup in limited editions by The Beast People, Isis and Werewolves, Galen, Nautical, and other early Hanson Record bands. The funniest part is when we tried selling these at shows people kinda just didn't react at all. They were actually hard to give away! Of course the few people who really understood gave us positive feedback.
Above the Infra Dictaphone with cut CD, circa 1997. R.I.P.
Above, Mini-Systems lathecut record on CD, 1997. edition of 10 (?)
THE PRESTO CUTTER
A few years earlier our friend Brad Hales traded a guitar for a presto cutter at a guitar store, he always planned on starting a 78rpm record label. But he was not able to get the machine to work, since it was in a few pieces and not wired up so It sat in his room for a while. Carly and I had just opened our antique store "The Mystery Spot" up in chicago and we ended up buying it from him. It took me a while to figure it all out, since I was basically on my own except exchanging a few letters back and forth with a few pro-cutters asking for old needles and advice.I eventually figured it out and started cutting on CD's, old paper coated disks, and laser discs. My amp was always kinda screwy and needed to be rebuilt, so my progress in record cutting did not improve until Carly and I moved to Baltimore and she found the portable Presto model at a estate sale. I ended up using that amp on the other machine.
Cutting studio circa 2002.
Record cut on old Video Laser disc. Note the cut out LP center glued on top for centering.
CDR of lathe cut transfers record edge.
Double offset plexiglass lathecut record.
Lathe cut onto glossy paper.
Here if you wanna see a bunch more releases we made just click on one below:
ya know this list can go on and on, Ive made alot of records around that time.
Microscopic Vibrational Visions, Radionic Cues, Stereos as Temples.
One of the byproducts of me cutting grooves onto different materials was I had to really explore cutting in different ways, angles, how deep, hard, soft, extreme audio levels. And in the course of finding the ideal cut-style for each material, I would end up cutting over test cuts and I would find out something pretty cool. I was starting to get really interesting results, Non-linear playback, locked grooves that crusie in a circle then would change to another locked groove, needles popping out hit sections of floating cuts.
I released "Intuitive American Esoteric" vol 1 +2 on LP, one side was mastered normally the other side were examples of lathe cuts. For volume 1 I cut the lathe master plate real scratchy and distant. On vol 2 the lathe side was experiments of sine waves cut on top of each other, at various depths and frequency.
The best part about these types of cuts is if you can tweak it just right the record would play differently on peoples turntables. Taking it to the edge, and then pushing it over. When I started thinking about and approaching record cutting from this point, it became obvious that our minds can effect the playback of these records. A wonderful meeting point of vibration and consciousness. Carly meets and starts hanging with Duncan Laurie, tuning her onto the secret art of Radionics, which we had unconsciously started exploring with our modified electronics work, we just didn't have a broader view/historical approach or potential.
The Nautical Almanac release > LP titled Melding Linearality, is produced. here is the liner notes : Tesseract is a four dimensional analog of the 3 dimensional cube. The
Klein Bottle is a 3rd to 4th dimensional analog of the Mobius Strip.
This record bridges the levels between space and time. Of course all
recordings deal with space and time, and all objects have the inherent
power to communicate any concept imaginable. Nonetheless, this record
has been specifically designed for the purpose of revealing and
recieving input from you, it is an interactive medium. Many years of
research and careful steps were taken to assure that this is the most
effective process availble at this moment. To use it simply start as
you would with any normal 33 rpm record i.e. put needle on object, the
object makes music, and then you will see what this record gives back
to you. Enjoy.
>> The process of producing this object was multi-tiered. First, source music was layered from different sessions and each session was in turn selectively mixed to the musicians, and re-recorded. This method is very effective in shifting from the self/sub/group-awareness to focusing on the no-mind/voice-of-god/ meta levels of creation. These sessions then were heavily mixed again and the grooves were cut directly on recording laquer master discs. The cutting process was done using very large waveforms on non-linear pitch feed paths so the grooves weave in and out, create multiple choice locked grooves, hidden sections, move inside/out, and floating on the edge styles. The grooves on the record disc require the person (THATS YOU) to have interactions with them. THIS RECORD PLAYS DIFFEERENTLY EVERY INSTANCE IT IS PLAYED. You must give back, you are now creating with us all, by practicing a sharpening of the calming of focus anyone can become a master at shifting dynamics of living. Each time you engage with this process let images in your mind flow along with the music; such as a smooth pebble in a calm river, the turning of a washing machine, a bag floating in the wind. As you enter this record, you must clear your mind of expectations: those approaching it with no-mind and unhinged will can unlock the secrets of the unfiltered cosmos. The object at hand is spiral; embedded within are valleys and canyons of mind formations, the two sides pushed the black globe into a discus, it moves but goes nowhere. The arm to listen to the vibration codes is yours, as you interact with this moving circle inside the listening altar, your listening arm decodes the process. This object is. As you are is.