Zenith Records are changing the face of the Aussie vinyl-pressing industry

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Zenith Records are changing the face of the Aussie vinyl-pressing industry


Over the past five years, Paul Rigby and his team have resurrected Australia’s only record pressing plant, Zenith Records, and turned it into an important addition to the record market in the Southern Hemisphere.

“We’ve done two-and-a-half-thousand titles since we’ve been here in five years,” Rigby says. “A lot of what we do is [runs of] 200s, 150s, which a lot of other plants around the world won’t. We run two shifts a day with plating, because 150 7” is two days’ work; there’s a bit of work in preparing plates and polishing them, punching them.”

The business has worked hard to address production issues, while hoping to change misconceptions about the standard of Australian vinyl.

“In the ‘90s and early 2000s, quality wasn’t a big concern,” Rigby says. “The product back then was hit and miss from everyone. We had to make sure the records were clean, cuts were good, pressings were good, plates were good. It’s a known quantity, you need to develop techniques to ensure that you get consistent quality and you learn from your mistakes.”

The plant resembles a factory floor, with various figures over industrial machinery; workers attuned to the calculations and steps necessary to achieve the desired final product. The walls are lined with discs with titles from smaller local bands to some of this country’s most celebrated artists. As a reflection of this demand, Zenith will undergo a major upgrade that will enable it to pump out greater quantities.

“We’re running three presses at the moment, we’ve got six additional presses waiting at the docks,” Rigby explains. “We need an extra 7” press and we need two extra 12” presses, with that means we’ve got the capability to do picture discs and 10” as well. If we’ve got extra capacity, one machine goes down, we’ve got an extra one to back it up. The instillation of this new gear is massive.”

Examining the recent titles sitting in boxes and on shelves, it’s obvious many local labels have taken advantage of he fact that they can speak to someone in Brunswick rather than await an email from the other side of the world. For Rigby, this convenience and level of customer service are an essential part of their business.

“[The customers] can attend the session, talk to the cutting engineer, he can do some test cuts, evaluate options and do it quickly,” he says. “If they’re going overseas it might be two weeks before they hear back. There’s often jobs that really need to get out quick, so that was driving the need to have a plant here. There was one last week, we had to hand glue 100 covers just to get the first lot out. An offshore plant is going to finish the job and then send it, they’re not going to send you dribs and drabs. And it’s good because people can come down and pick their stuff up.”

Over his time with Zenith, Rigby has seen trends emerge. Last year, King Gizzard and the Wizard Lizzard released Polygondwanaland, making it not only free to download but giving fans the vinyl master files with their permission to reproduce the record however they liked.

“They’re a very vinyl-centric band, everyone had a race to put their own spin on the King Gizzard thing,” Rigby says. “We had five customers all have their own custom labels, custom jackets ordering anywhere between 200-300 units. I think there was a couple of days where we just had the plates on, changed the labels, ‘It’s this guy, he wants the blue and red with the white splatter, the next guy wants the fluorescent green with the black splatter’. And that stuff is going for like $250 on Discogs. No other band would do that, I think it was a fantastic initiative.”

Besides the Australian market, Zenith have established connections amongst the global manufacturing community. They service a lot of Asia, but are able to work with existing plants around the world.

“We do stuff for a plant in America who don’t do 7”, we probably do five titles for them a week,” Rigby says. “We were doing a lot of 12” for a plant that’s setting up in Chile, stuff for India, Singapore, Taiwan, Indonesia, New Zealand. We take up the slack for the internationals and they’re really happy with it.”