Stax Records Lathe Back In Action

At Super 400’s
prodding, the legendary record cutting machine gets refurbished.

 

By Blurt Staff

 

Sure, it’s just another press release. But it’s kinda cool –
the band Super 400, from Troy, NY, recently issued their latest album Sweet Fist (on Response/Rock Ridge), and
this week they’re also having it released as a double LP featuring cover art by
no less than Klaus Voormann.

 

But there’s an interesting story behind it the LP – it was
cut on the original Stax Records lathe at Memphis’ Ardent Studios, and it’s the
same machine that had cut vinyl
masters for everyone from Al Green and Isaac Hayes to Led Zep and Stevie Ray
Vaughn. Out of commission for 20 years, the lathe was cleaned up and repaired
by Ardent after Super 400 charmed ‘em, and the idea was to cut Sweet Fist then put the lathe in the Stax Museum.
But once word got out that the famous lathe was back in action, calls “poured
into Ardent, booking the machine for months in advance, re-establishing a
physical piece of American musical history back into the fold of modern
recording.”

 

That’s some
history, indeed.

 

Here’s what the
members of Super 400 had to say about all this:

 

“During our time
at ardent, we listened eagerly to John Fry and Larry Nix tell us the magical
tales of the 1960s and 70s recording sessions and how tight the bands became with producers
and engineers, and how the whole Memphis scene was one big family, all sharing
an obsessive love and joy of music.


 
“Larry still has the original card catalog from every album cut there – it’s a
magical library of memories for those guys, one that I was honored to get a
close look at. Every EQ setting for every album is meticulously recorded –
names like Stevie Ray Vaughan, Isaac Hayes, Big Star, Al Green, what a sight it
was to get an inside look at Memphis recording history.


 
“The lathe is the machine that ‘cuts’ the sound to vinyl – this legendary piece
of art lay inoperable in the Mastering room for years.  It was a star
feature in the many Ardent studio tours, drawing many oohs and ahs from the
passers-by, but Larry hadn’t cut vinyl on it in quite some time. On many
occasions during our sessions there, we hinted to John and Larry, not so
subtly, that we’d be tickled pink to have the
Sweet Fist record cut on the old Stax Lathe.


 
“Larry told us it wasn’t possible, that he wasn’t sure if the lathe was
fixable, maybe they didn’t make the parts anymore. We continued bugging him
about it, enough so that he looked into the possibility of repair.  He
still was unconvinced. On the last day of the Super 400 sessions, we sadly
packed our gear into our trailer, and prepared to leave this magical place.
 I knew I had to give it one last try. I went into Larry’s office and told
him how much our experience at Ardent touched us, that the stories he and John
told us about the old days made us want so badly to have our own family-style
memory, especially since the entire record was done at Ardent this far.
Recording, mixing and mastering. He must have been feeling it too, because the
next thing we knew, we were flying back down to Ardent to witness the cutting
of the
Sweet Fist record to vinyl, by
Larry’s own hands.
 


“To say we are
proud of this achievement is no way to describe it. It just feels so right.
 It was a great honor for us to make this record with the legends that
became our friends. You can’t beat that.”

 

 

 

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