19 Apr 2016

Vinyl revival keeps Ashburton record press busy

From Nine To Noon, 11:24 am on 19 April 2016

Cassettes are gone, CDs have had their day, and music downloads and streaming are of course on the increase, but so too are vinyl records.

The vinyl revival has resulted in a small Ashburton business King Worldwide being busier than ever. Peter King has been pressing records for 25 years.

There have been ebbs and flows over the years, but his Ashburton factory has been in hot demand recently from local and international acts. King Worldwide specialises in lathe cut polycarbonate records, which are different to the traditionally pressed vinyl records.

LISTEN to Kathryn Ryan's interview with Peter King.

Read an edited snapshot of their conversation below:

So you just thought this [vinyl press machine] was something to play with initially, did you?

Oh no, the idea was to try and make a record on them. I wanted to have a go at it. EMI were closing down around about that time so we couldn’t get records made any more. I thought, well, If they’re going to close down, we have got to make them somehow.

The mystery to me though, is how whatever is carved onto that disk comes out sounding like a song.

There’s a wee vibrating needle there and it cuts a little hole… it’s at 45 degrees, believe it or not. Unless that tip is absolutely brilliant, you lose the high qualities. That’s the high end, the treble-y end, where the s’s are in speech. So they need to be really perfect to get a beautiful tone right through. Right down to the deep end. The deep end is more or less at the high part of the 45 degree-angled needle.

So this is precision stuff. Were you an engineer? You said you were a musician but were you also an engineer yourself by trade?

Yes as soon as I left high school, I went to learn general engineering, so it has become part of this thing and it probably would be very hard to build up a plant like this without that sort of side to things, you do have to have that sound background. And that engineering background too. You have to put the two together.

It’s a pretty rare set of skills, and how rare? How many vinyl presses are there in New Zealand?

I believe there are a couple of other ones out there. I have heard of one or two guys out there with very very modern ones doing stuff. Here, there and everywhere. But no one’s cranking them out, there’s just one or two guys doing them one at a time, this sort of thing. 

Who are some of the names who got you known, back in the ‘80s?

The biggest one was Beastie Boys, that sort of rap stuff straight out of LA, and that put us on the map. Because once that was all around the US and Australia, then the orders came from the smaller labels for different sorts of stuff. We've also done the Chinese music awards last year, which was really interesting music.