I wouldn’t be taking advantage of my records if I wasn’t listening to them all the time, especially at work or on the go. But I obviously can’t be expected to constantly carry a turntable and a stack of 45s around with me. That’s just silly, but there is an obvious alternative. I just need to digitize the records (easy!) and listen to them on my ipod, which seemingly solves the problem of portability and access.
But after digitizing about 150 records (~300 songs), I realized I was returning to an old pattern of play. Even though I had the records at home, transforming them into an iTunes list of song names really depleted the music of something… essential. It felt like business as usual and reminded me of how things used to be before I started The 45 Brains. But fortunately, I have taken drastic measures to avoid this “digital corruption” by starting a new project.
I call it “The Juggernaut Database”.
I’ll be straight about this, this new project is hard work and will take a long time to complete. But the beauty of it lies in the work required to complete it. In essence, the problem I was beginning to have with my digitized collection was that I was losing touch with the physical records. I was filtering all of the sensory information associated with vinyl down to a bland pill, to just another song name in a list. My interaction with the music was becoming passive, as it once was long ago. In contrast, The Juggernaut Database aims to remedy this issue by forcing me to interact with each record I care about. For instance, I recently input a batch of 30 records into The Database and it took me about 5 days of on-and-off work, that I did in the mornings between the hours of 7-9am. And the effects are immediate. Let me walk you through my 7-step program.
(1) The Batch
There are a lot of steps that need to be taken before a record enters The Database. So you’d assume it may be best to go record by record, focusing on one 45 at a time. But instead, I decided to batch a bunch of records (30 to be exact) into a “working pile”. I try to pick different artists and labels for diversity’s sake and this has a surprising added benefit. Songs in the working pile come to be associated with each other because they go through the process together, which means I handle and listen to them as a rough 2-3 hour mix instead of on a song-by-song basis. Each song now fits within the context of the batch.
(2) The Raw Scan
The most obvious thing that is missing from my digitized collection is the visual information of each record. By which I mean the colors, scratches, stickers, and designs that make each record unique. The Raw Scan is integrally important, and it takes forever to get through! But I get to feel, handle, and see both sides of each record and therefore develop a strong connection with the record.
(3) The Album Cover
Next, I open up photoshop. Each scan (for a batch of 30 records, that’s ~60 scans!) is rotated, cropped, and transformed to bring out all the beauty inherent in each record. This opens up the potential for future artistic work too.
(4) The Digitization
This part is obvious and necessary. I go from vinyl to AIFF (not mp3) because you can attach meta data and the sound quality is practically the same as a wav file. I attach my mixer to my macbook pro and record on audacity (free software, eh). I play the records straight off of the 1200s.
(5) The Transition Playlist
I put all of the newly recorded songs into a temporary playlist; this is my favorite part. Here I BPM each song, pick out a genre that makes sense to me (I have my own system that I adopted from Dick Vivian), and I repeatedly listen to the batched songs at work. I finally attach an “album cover” to each song which is basically the cleaned up scan. The ~60 songs will sit in this transition playlist, as a rough mix, for as long as I need them to. Until I feel that I know each song by heart before I move them out into…
(6) The Juggernaut Database
Here, I don’t search for songs by name, but instead pick them out by the “album art”, just like I would if my box of 45s was in front of me. Each record is also numbered and I input the information into a mega-excel file.
(7) The Purple Sleeve
Once a record gets put into The Database, it gets a new purple sleeve and a sticker with the song names and BPMs. I got the idea for this from DJ Foxx Boogie who told me that DJ Froz1 does something similar. So when I’m home I can immediately see how much work I have in front of me because only a small fraction of the collection has this color sleeve.
And that’s The Juggernaut Database; a.k.a. the way for me to re-establish my connection with vinyl. Each record now requires an inordinate amount of work and effort from me, so I no longer feel disconnected when I’m at lab and listening to my digitized playlist. The songs aren’t just abstract files on my computer but instead maintain a more meaningful existence. And searching for songs in The Database now has that “at home” feeling. Overall, I would say it takes about 30 minutes for a record, from start to finish, to enter The Database, but the time is all worth it.
Lesson? Music shouldn’t be a passive experience. Take action and engage with it!