Musicol Studio – Pressing Vinyl and Recording Since 1966
We purchase vinyl for a myriad of reasons: the sound carries a higher quality of texture and richness, the waxy vinyl is elegant and majestic as it spins on the turntable, Record Store Day is the new Black Friday and it’s a little treasure hunt when you sift through someone’s collection in search for the right record. Vinyl has made a confident comeback in the 21st century, and this has only continued to increase the support of the vinyl community.
With more than a dozen record shops in Columbus, there’s no question to where you purchase your records. Just about any genre or obscure record is carried or can be ordered by our Columbus record store owners. How fortunate are we? A little piece of ourselves resonates within each record we own, collections displaying a significant amount about the individual. Now, imagine being involved in the process of pressing the vinyl. From tiny beads of plastic, to a prized possession, those involved in the pressing industry are enabling the vinyl-junkies love for collecting. We have our very own magic-making facility here in Columbus, and the business is called Musicol Record Pressing.
Musicol Record Pressing has been in business since 1966, owned by one man, John Hull and his partner, Boyd Niederlander. This pint-sized studio continues to press and master records as it was fifty years ago. Owner, John Hull was raised in a tiny town, Fort Recovery, with population of less than 2,000. Like his father, John had an innate understanding and interest in engineering that had rightfully been passed on to John. After developing his own make-shift recording device to use for church choirs, high school marching bands and family events, it was no question to Hull’s interests and capabilities.
Hull attended Ohio University for two years, and finished his undergraduate with an Engineering major at The Ohio State University. Shortly proceeding a brief hiatus after college, spending two years in the military, Hull was led to the life of a small business owner. From selling, repairing and manufacturing televisions in 1956, recording and producing CDs and cassette tapes, to running an “at-home” studio, Hull and Niederlander found the precise location they would formally establish business in — now, formally known as Musicol Record Pressing.
Located on the north side of Columbus, Musicol is camouflaged amongst the classic North Linden housing in this residential area. As if the home is a snapshot from Stepford Wives, you expect a fresh pie to be airing out in the window and a close-line to be casually blowing in the backyard. The mint-green paneled house and weather-toughed “Musicol” sign greets the wandering eyes. The rustic exterior compliments the 70s-retro interior, as well as the modern business-casual ambiance. With such a warm and welcoming greeting, Hull introduced me to his son Warren, and the plant manager JR, only quickly returning to his station in the pressing plant. Narrow hallways and 70s carpet immediately time-traveled me back to the 1960s, as I was granted a tour of the studio.
Hull shared his process in choosing the location and establishing the business as we took a seat in the wooden-paneled, red carpeted recording studio. As I had mentioned, Hull and his partner secured the location in 1966. Niederlander’s father, Carl, was an incredibly wise and experienced engineer himself. Between Hull, Boyd and Carl, the three men acquired all of the pressing and recording materials needed. After replacing the belts and controllers in the equipment, the men did not hesitate to plunge into the business.
Receiving both local and out-of-state requests, Hull and Niederlander continued to take orders and gain experience simply by doing. I had asked Hull how he began to develop in expertise in something he taught himself, and Hull replied simply, ” You grow with the equipment over time. It’s like trying to teach someone to master records, so much of it is instinct or habit.” Training his brain to function in a specific way, Hull found his specialty in mastering. As he took me through his rectangular-shaped, frighteningly cluttered mastering office, I knew Hull had a method to his mastering madness. Machines that looked as if they would sell for thousands at an antique auction, were put into daily use, in the hands of Hull.
Hull escorted me out of the house and down a cement flight of stairs, into the steamy, maze-like underground garage. What I had considered “vintage equipment” in Hull’s mastering office, quickly proved me wrong, as the entire basement looked as if it was an antique. Over fifty years of record pressing lye in the small workshop, where JR was casually pressing a record each minute. Working shifts that are not limited from 8 a.m. – 9.p.m., the men of Musicol understand the devotion that is necessary in order to complete an order.
JR took me through the technical process of pressing records, the quick movements and the pristine attention to detail. As I shuffled from piece of equipment to piece of equipment, tiny colored plastic beads gathered at the base of my feet. Over fifty bags of colored plastic beads casually rest in the back of the garage, as well as melting-pot sized buckets where black and red vinyl beads are stored. As JR works like a programmed robot to hand-press vinyl, he keeps his eyes glued to the machines and process as he guides me through “record-pressing education”.
More-so in the past decade, Musicol has been pressing records for Columbus musicians, keeping the pressing tradition alive in the city. Having recognized a few familiar names on the table of orders, I was amazed in the amount of orders the business puts out each month. From 300 to 1,000 records per order, Musicol presses any color, size or variation the artist foresees. Having pressed a two-color-split record and designing their own labels, Musicol’s capabilities are gleaming with talent. These men were raised with their business, and have a passion for pressing. I was fortunate enough to experience a fraction of this intense passion, and gain insight to such devotion and ambition.
Columbus Underground is celebrating the local music scene from September 15 through 21, brought to you by our friends at PromoWest! PromoWest Productions is the largest full-service, independently owned and operated entertainment company in the Midwest. Celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2014, PromoWest takes pride in bringing today’s biggest names in music, featured in an intimate setting, while at the same time continually searching for tomorrow’s hottest new act. See more at promowestlive.com!