Recordings from the pop-up Never Records reflect a subtle relationship to vinyl.
Never Records opened with little fanfare, and it looked like any indie record shop. Big, flashy gig posters for bands whose names sound familiar lined the walls, and there were snapshots of the owner (you assume) with musicians who are famous to him, if not to you. There were half-filled bins of albums in plastic sleeves, and the guy behind the counter looked far more interested in what he was doing than running a store, casually throwing paper near but not in a garbage can.
The owner/operator was Ted Riederer, and the thing that distracted him wasn't finding just the right song to play, but getting a song ready to cut. Never Records was a month-long art project he set up in the Warehouse District, where he recorded songs by local artists and cut them on vinyl. The paper he balled up and absent-mindedly tossed was the protective sheath on a fresh piece of transparent vinyl as he prepared his lathe to make a record. The posters and photos are all fabrications, but the sleeved albums are precious as he kept one copy of an artist's recording and he gave one to the artist. As such, everything in his store was one of two in existence.
Before coming to town, Riederer put out the word that he was available to record artists, and the resulting interest swamped him. He gave up his planned schedule of a lunch break and done by 6 p.m. He gave up his day off as musicians came in to set up in the open space at the back of store where he recorded them. He gave that recording a rudimentary mix and master then cut the records right away.
Sundog Spaceman was one of those who were able to get into Riederer's studio, and on Friday he released an mp3 version of "Hold Steady," the song he cut at Never Records. The track, a moody rumble defined by Sundog's bass and looped electronics that add texture and density more than definable parts, was the product of a session on the Saturday night before Halloween. He wore his full stage gear to the session, which ended up causing problems.
"With my bass guitar and the backpack, I started knocking over mic stands including messing up his real nice boom microphone," Sundog says over coffee. "We got off to a rocky start, but he's a supernice guy."
The sessions were live recordings of a single song, but Sundog maximized his "song" by adding some additional material to the front and back as a way of getting it recorded. "I'd been playing the song a lot at my shows so I was well rehearsed, but I decided which pieces I was going to do around it, and rehearsed that a couple of times," he says.
For Reiderer, Never Records was a conceptual art project. For many of those who recorded there, it's a testament to musicians' romance with vinyl. For Sundog, it's a little more subtle than that. "CDs are great, tapes are great, but vinyl is the physical representation of the sound," he says. "You put the needle in the groove and it produces sound." He grew up with cassette tapes, where there was a mechanical process between the person who wants to hear the music and the tape rolling over the reader. With CDs, the connection between the listener and the music is even more remote as a number of mechanical processes are required to get the laser to read the music on the disc.
It's no surprise then, that he's very conscious of the preciousness of the vinyl 12-inch he cut. "That'll get framed and hang out in my house somewhere," he says.