Interview: Frank from The Carvery Mastering and Dubplate studios

The NTS Compilation LP is very nearly ready for public consumption, and that’s all thanks to the guys at The Carvery Mastering and Dubplate studios in Hackney. These guys specialise in reel-to-reel recording and mastering primarily for vinyl. The complexities of which are an artform, so we decided to interview the guys about what they do and how the huge part they played in Masse Session 005..

Boiler Room: To start, can you tell us your name, where you are and what it is you do?

Frank Merritt: My Name is Frank. I run The Carvery Mastering and Dubplate studios in Hackney. I work as a mastering engineer specialising in vinyl.

BR: For Boiler Room’s Make Session with NTS Radio, we made a live recording of the night with the view to creating a vinyl record from this. What was your role?

FM: First and foremost, my role was to oversee the mixing and recording process to ensure we had a workable audio source to cut from when we got back to the studio.

BR: And what was the process for recording the session?

FM: Well, to start off each artist needs to be sound-checked very carefully. The last thing we wanted when we got back to the studio is any nasty surprises, such as overly loud vocals or drums that will cause the record to distort or jump. Each track needed to be mixed on separate channels with EQ and compression and limiting to control the dynamics. 

BR: And what happens when you are back at the studio?

FM: Once we are happy with the sound we can start working out how it will sound on tape. After the recording I brought the tapes back to the studio to master and edit them. This is old school editing with a razor blade and splicing tape. Its quite a long drown out process but one I love.

BR: Whilst it is incredible looking, when recording and cutting these records you use machinery and equipment that you yourself have termed ‘vintage’. Why is this? 

FM: I use a Neumann VMS70 to cut my masters. There are a handful of these in existence but mine used to be based in the US and was responsible for cutting all of the Motown hits of the late 60’s and 70’s. After that it travelled to Sony where it was responsible for cutting all the Michael Jackson records. I guess when I say ‘vintage’ I mean it more in the wine sense than the charity shop find. 

BR: So the machine has history and good musical karma?

FM: I like to think that some of the magic from previous records has somehow lived on in the mechanics and amps and will keep living as long as its cutting records. Then again I’m a romantic so I can’t help feeling nostalgic about things of age.

BR: What are the benefits of an analogue process?

FM: I think we live in a very transient world where we consume and delete information with little or no sense of consequence or thought as to how much work has gone into its conception and creation. Music has suffered since its digitisation not just in sonic quality but by the invention of the ipod which prompted both the demise of physical music forms but also the resulted in the invention of the ‘loudness war’ by record companies to increase download sales. We now primarily listen to music on far worse home sound systems than our parents did. Almost all of us listen to low quality mp3s music through laptop speakers. Analogue sound in in essence infinite in quality. Digital music is limited by the processing power of computers and our hard drives. If you wanted to make a digital file as high quality as vinyl, it would take hours to download and take up a gigabits of space on your computer.

BR: Do you feel that such techniques need to be preserved?

FM: I feel that physical forms of art are a vital part of our world, they produce memories and emotions. I ask you, when was the last time you felt emotional about an mp3? Thankfully, it would seem vinyl seems to be a medium that is hard to shake. The recording process used to make records was invented well over 100 years ago. So far it has outlived, 8Track, Dat, Minidisk, magnetic tape and soon CDs. Lets hope mp3s are next to fall by the wayside.

BR: In your studio, you were rerecording old, out of print records, restoring them and recutting them. Could you talk a little bit about that process and any difficulties with that?

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