September Opening For Citizen Vinyl, North Carolina's First Record Pressing Plant

The press release in its entirety):

Monday, July 20, 2020 (Asheville, NC) - A full circle revival is underway for Asheville, NC’s Citizen-Times building. Once home to the daily paper’s printing facility and offices, the historic site will soon be unveiled with a new identity as a boutique vinyl pressing plant, record store and bar/cafe (and a new name):Citizen Vinyl. Founded by veteran music producer Gar Ragland and supported by a dream team of industry professionals and craftsmen, Citizen Vinyl is slated to become North Carolina’s first on site pressing plant, though its mission goes beyond just manufacturing great quality records.

With a craft-first approach that prioritizes quality and superior customer service, Citizen Vinyl hopes to make record production more manageable and accessible for both first-time vinyl clients and major label customers alike. With all shipping and manufacturing kept in-house, Citizen Vinyl will be able to fulfill low-volume orders at a budget friendly price and still maintain the bandwidth to execute large scale label projects.

Citizen Vinyl’s vision extends past vinyl manufacturing to embrace a role as a community hub and center for creative collaboration. Sharing the ground floor with the presses will be a fully-stocked record store, an intimate performance and lounge space and Session, a bar/cafe co-created by local culinary mainstays Susannah Gebhart of OWL Bakery and Graham House, formerly of Sovereign Remedies. The dining space will offer Citizen Vinyl visitors a casual, “workman's lunch” or pastry and coffee stop during the day, with more sophisticated cocktail offerings and dishes at night. Intended to be a multi use space, Session guests may choose between communal dining in the open concept seating area, or a “head down,” eat-and-work hour in one of the mezazzines. With vinyl as the soul of the project, a creatively curated and historically acute selection of records will provide the soundscape for the bar/cafe and record store from morning to night. Susannah Gebhart expands, “We’re thrilled to be part of the team bringing life into this singularly distinctive space in Asheville — it’s going to offer an atmosphere unlike any other, at once grand and playful, inspiring and relaxed. The menu will be inspired by the legacy of the space as a working press, and pay homage to this region’s contributions to the world of music and food.”

A majestic three-story art moderne construction, the Citizen-Times building that houses Citizen Vinyl is steeped in a rich and dynamic history. In addition to its former life as home to both the Asheville Citizen and Asheville Times newspapers, the building’s third floor played host to Asheville’s historic WWNC(“Wonderful Western North Carolina”) which was once considered the most popular radio station in the United States. In 1927, the station hosted live performances by Jimmie Rodgers (“The Father Of Country Music”) shortly before he went to Bristol, Tennessee and made his first recordings. In 1939, the station featured on its Mountain Music Time segment the first live performances ever by Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys, the aggregation that marks the beginning of Monroe’s creation of a new sound called “bluegrass.”

Carrying this musical legacy forward, CEO Gar Ragland has set up shop in the former station’s Studio A where he continues in his roles as music producer and mixer, label head of NewSong Recordings, and organizer and co-founder of the internationally recognized NewSong Music Performance & Songwriting Competition. As Citizen Vinyl’s first official tenant, Ragland has reinvigorated the space into a fully operating music studio that, in addition to hosting private recording, mixing and mastering sessions, will be used for tracking future Citizen Vinyl in-store performances that will then be released as limited edition vinyl.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to bring this historic studio back to life, and to be able to work in a space with such deep history,” says Ragland. “The original co-existence here of music, radio broadcast, journalism and the printing of the newspaper is a rich legacy that will continue to inspire all facets of this project. It’s both a privilege and responsibility to build upon it with our own original programming and offerings, and to cultivate an inclusive atmosphere where guests can learn and grow in community with one another.”

In addition to cultivating a recreational music haven, Citizen Vinyl also aspires to revive some of the hope, camaraderie, and excitement surrounding independent arts that may have been muted in the wake of the pandemic. Plans for the multifaceted building include everything from album listening parties to rotating art installations and music history lectures and seminars. With an impressive list of collaborators including program curator Colby Caldwell (Revolve Art Studio), interior designers Karie Reinertson and Rob Maddox (Shelter Collective) brand director Eric Pieper (Homestead Creative Studio), and accomplished engineer Peter Schaper spearheading manufacturing operations, there is no doubt that the future of Citizen Vinyl is in capable hands. And although the ongoing health concerns of COVID-19 have meant shifting to a phased-in opening process, Citizen Vinyl will be ready to serve its community with updated safety protocols come September. Ragland concludes, “We can’t wait to welcome guests to Citizen Vinyl. We hope that this space can provide a fun and restorative experience for both our community and its many visitors, and that the power of music, food and beverage will help grant some relief in these stressful times.”

Citizen Vinyl and Session bar/cafe plans to open on a limited capacity basis starting mid-September. For hours, menu and more information visit the Citizen Vinyl website.

xtcfan80's picture

Now there’s some good news!!!!! Great idea and best of luck to all involved....

Jim Tavegia's picture

I wish we had something like this close to Atlanta. I would apply.

Jim Tavegia's picture

Kind of out of the question. Dang.

PAR's picture

... will come from?

Only 2 known sources; Apollo/Transco which burnt to the ground earlier in the year and MDC which says that it cannot supply any new clients.

So what's the answer?

Elubow's picture

Vinyl releases continue at a fairly quick pace. I haven’t read any complaints about trouble getting lacquers, have you?

PAR's picture

" I haven’t read any complaints about trouble getting lacquers, have you?"

If you read the reports at the time of the fire most existing plants/cutting rooms had several months' worth of lacquers held in stock. That cannot apply in respect of a new venture but is why a flow of releases has continued so far. I would expect that production will have dropped over the past months in any case due to coronavirus which may have an upside in allowing the remaining lacquer stocks to last for a little longer. 2021 will be interesting.

There has been the odd story of startups trying to fill the gap but two issues have emerged. The first has been a difficulty in finding suppliers of aluminium plates flat enough for the base of the lacquers and the second being expertise. Making lacquers is a bit of a black art and it seems that without experience the results are not free of residual noise e.g. pops, crackles etc.

DMM has been touted as a solution but the number of lathes equipped to cut them worldwide is limited and new ones virtually impossible to source as the people who knew about them have retired from the industry leaving no legacy knowledge.

News on other alternatives such as laser cutting (which was much in the specialist news three years ago) seems to have gone quiet.

So my question remains.

davip's picture

"...Sharing the ground floor with the presses will be a fully-stocked record store, an intimate performance and lounge space and Session, a bar/cafe co-created by local culinary blah, etc...."

This sort of nonsense and lack of attention to the main point of a pressing-plant -- pressing records -- is why it's near-impossible to buy modern pressings that are free of noise. A record-pressing facility should have clean, filtered air to avoid contaminants getting into the vinyl, not 'sharing space' with shops and restaurants. Every time I see one of these start-ups or re-starts I see pictures of pressing plants in hangers and warehouses, open to the outside world, and now it apparently has to be lounges, bars, and eateries too.

I may have been fortunate buying all-UK vinyl back in the heyday of the early-70s-80s, but I can honestly say that no record that I bought new at that time ever had surface noise, pops/clicks, non-fill, surface-scuffs, or any of the issues that plague modern pressings as a consequence of the loss of vinyl expertise and good-practice that 40 years of digital 'convenience' brought. Not one. Contrast that with today.

New pressing plants are a splendid thing (although the lacquering question remains), but let's have ones dedicated to the actual job, not vanity-driven moneyspinners. Nothing is more likely to kill the vinyl resurgence that this sort of defocused attitude.

Don't get me started on 180g/half-speed/all-digital crap...

davip's picture

I may be rather late to the conflagration, but how much coverage did this get in the analogue audiophile press: ?

I don't remember seeing anything on this and that huge list of lost Masters is pretty worrying

More "...180g/half-speed/all-digital crap..." to come, then...

Michael Fremer's picture
Much of what was reported in The New York Times was erroneous. For instance the Buddy Holly tapes were not burned up in the fire. Analog Productions used them for recent AAA reissues. The fire did destroy a lot of precious stuff including much of the Chess, Motown and Impulse catalogs but not all of it AND most of the one off the masters tapes distributed overseas throughout the 50s and 60s and beyond have been located and returned to safe facilities in America. Those one-off copies can sound outstanding as the Intervention Gene Clark album demonstrates (it sounds better than the original).
Michael Fremer's picture
Are quiet and well-pressed. I'm not sure to what records you are referring. Pressings from Optimal, RTI, MPO, Pallas, QRP and others are quiet and well-pressed for the most part.
Michael Fremer's picture
Nor do most small pressing plants. They don't cut their own records, nor do they plate them. They will be supplied finished stampers.
PAR's picture

...the fact the the mastering rooms rather than the factory will be cutting the lacquers only means that the process will take place in a different building. Only the point of consumption in the process moves.It remains reliant upon supply.

So the fundamental problem remains. Where are the lacquers to come from once the held stocks at the mastering facilities are exhausted? Of course Michael you may well know something that is not yet common knowledge and that there is a new and viable supplier of lacquers coming on stream soon.If so I look forward to your advice.

In the meantime I do not understand why someone would invest millions of dollars in a plant whose custom relies upon its clients having access to a raw material that is effectively no longer available beyond a few more months at best.

Michael Fremer's picture
That Japanese company supplies and meets the demand of: Bernie Grundman, Kevin Gray, Optimal, Pallas and many others who are long time customers. My sources tell me that "most of Europe" switched from Apollo/Transco some time ago. They get all of the lacquers they need. There will be a new supplier announced "shortly".
PAR's picture

to hear: " There will be a new supplier announced "shortly".

I look forward to reading of them and their success.

robert r dawson's picture

...but I ordered Neil Young's "Homegrown" last month and T.Rex's "Electric Warrior" back in March from Music Direct...crickets

Michael Fremer's picture
I ordered "Homegrown" online and got it immediately. Perhaps the first press run is sold out.
Glotz's picture

One must preorder new vinyl as stock tends to disappear as soon as it arrives. Demand is really high these days and Amazon's sales numbers are testament to this, for example.

I found this to be the rule now, otherwise one misses out and even more so for the MoFi One-Step referred to above. One may get a short time to purchase after the fact.

robert r dawson's picture

and with "Homegrown" I was late to the party. It was "out of stock" when I placed my order and Music Direct's site listed it as "usually ships in 3 to 7 days". I did preorder the MoFi "Electric Warrior" tho.

Glotz's picture

Preordered and still didn't get? That's not right! I've been buying hardware and LP's for 25 years with them, and that is disheartening to say the least!

Keep in mind anything on backorder is NOT, and '3-7 days wait time" usually is BS unless it's hardware. I think they just deal in one time shots of the LP releases.

I DO believe that Homegrown will be back as Neil's a big enough artist with a big enough brand to replenish stock. The only ones that will not come back (in my estimation from the past) are the archived box sets.

Moreover, it appears Neil has abandoned the 180-200gm pressing approach of the Archive box sets quality in favor of 150gm pressings, probably due to cost and many fans whining about the high cost of admission. He should've stuck to his guns and offered both, because simply, Neil is rich as god and it would be required of his serious and casual fan base.

Glotz's picture

you have to preorder everything important (to you).

MD seems to be keeping only a bit of overstock beyond their preorders in recent months (in order to keep a leaner business model working). There are also a lot of retailers all vying for the same product.

Michael Fremer's picture
Mastering engineers use lacquers. This plant will most likely not be plating either. They will get plated lacquers and press records. MDC does supply lacquers to some pressing plants that also do mastering on their in-house lathes but most of their lacquers will continue going to mastering engineers. If a job is going to this new pressing plant it will be a lacquer cut by whoever, plated wherever and then shipped to them for pressing.
mraudio's picture

Wish I lived closer, but maybe that gives me an excuse to visit Asheville.

mraudio's picture

...weird error message?

Here is the correct one:

Michael Fremer's picture
The original HTML code was correct, but produced that weird error message. I went back and again copied and pasted it and now it works. But you know, that's "digital". lol
Tom L's picture

...about this small pressing operation in (obviously) Brooklyn:

There's a little story about them on the last page of the July/August issue of Mechanics Illustrated. Not your typical source of vinyl information.

Michael Fremer's picture
They have been around for quite some time. We've reviewed many records pressed there.
robert r dawson's picture

...callooh calay!!!

Roy Martin's picture

... chortled in his joy.