Peanut Butter Wolf talks about Stones Throw's new direct-to-disc live series
Leave it to Stones Throw Records to take the age-old practice of vinyl production and combine it with the jet-stream speed of iTunes. The idea of watching a live show and having it recorded, mixed, mastered and pressed on wax before you leave the venue sounds like an act of sorcery. In celebration of their 15-year anniversary, the taste-making L.A. label is doing just that.
Starting Thursday night, the label is holding a series of ultra-exclusive shows featuring high-profile and unknown Stones Throw artists that will be recorded direct-to-disc at L.A. vinyl pressing and analog mixing plant Capsule Labs.
The series opens with a performance by Michigan soul troupe Mayer Hawthorne and the County and L.A. jazz group Rick (featuring Sam Gendel of Teen Inc.). A master will be recorded in real time and pressed on vinyl, limited to 500 copies. No CDs or digital copies will be manufactured or sold.
The plan has been to maintain a small house-party atmosphere for the show series. Alas, tickets for this one — given away on Stones Throw’s website, Twitter and Facebook pages in April — are long gone. However, according to DJ and label founder Peanut Butter Wolf, more shows are expected to come down the pipeline shortly, with more tickets to give away. Speaking briefly with PBW (born Chris Manak) we got a glimpse at how the event came together.
Pop & Hiss: Aside from Capsule Laboratories being a vinyl laboratory, how did you manage to hook up with them to throw this event? Had you worked with them before?
Peanut Butter Wolf: It almost by accident really. We were doing a Christmas holiday party for friends and family, and I was looking for a place to do it. A friend of mine, Carlos Greco, said we should check out this place Capsule Labs. I went there, and I couldn’t believe they had this vinyl pressing plant right down the street from where we do all of our stuff. It wasn’t really ideal for our holiday party, but the meeting gave us the idea to do something like this. Carlos Greco told me that they were able to do direct-to-disc recordings, but he said we should do it in front of a crowd. It is very difficult, though, and I don’t understand all the technical stuff involved.
Is the goal to capture the entire show on wax or just parts of it?
PBW: They’re each gonna do two sets, and we’re gonna record them. At the very least on the record, there would be 15 minutes of each group, and there would be two 15-minute sets for each group. It’s funny because that’s all that can fit on one side of vinyl without losing sound quality. It’s kind of ironic since it’s the 15-year anniversary for Stones Throw.
Also considering Stones Throw began as an all-vinyl label.
PBW: We started as vinyl only in 1996. And when I started as a DJ, I only really bought records. I didn’t buy CDs much, I was never really into 'em. I didn’t even really buy tapes. I was always a vinyl guy. So when I started the label, that’s really all I was thinking about was vinyl. Eventually we did CDs, and then iTunes came along. It’s kinda weird to think that we were a label before there was iTunes.
You've been able to maintain relevancy in L.A. for a long time.
PBW: I really started putting out records in 1990, so for me, it’s really been like 21 years. I started Djing in 1984. So 1996 was the start of something new for me, but I’ve really been doing this for even longer than that.
Do you know how many of these shows there are going to be?
PBW: We don’t even know yet. One reason why I wanted to do a series is also because I have a lot of new artists on the label that I think are really good that nobody really knows about. I think it would be a good way to introduce my audience to those people. Steve Arrington is a good example. He’s someone who's been putting out records since the '70s off and on. He took a break in the '90s up until this year, when Dam Funk reached out with him and [Steve] agreed to work with him. He left the music business for personal reasons, but he started recently again on his own, and when we found out that he was doing music again then we contacted him.
So it’s 500 albums pressed on the spot for each show?
PBW: The whole concept is that record is being made as it’s happening. So the studio guys have to mix it down and they have to master it at the same time, which is why it’s difficult to do it in front of a live audience versus a studio setting.
Have you gotten a chance to see how it’s supposed to work?
PBW: It’s like a warehouse with a pressing plant, and that’s where the performance is gonna take place, and then there’s a studio next door that’s connected to it that’s gonna have multi-tracking capabilities, and it’s gonna have wires that extend from where the performance is happening to the studio next door, and that’s where the record is being cut. It’s basically one-stop shopping, where they mike it, record it, master it and press it all there. Just cut out the middle man.
— Nate Jackson
Photo: Peanut Butter Wolf. Credit: Stones Throw.