RE-PRESSER MAN

Mojo (UK) - - What Goes On! -

Vinyl-heads re­joice! Mar­ley’s Tuff Gong la­bel is re-open­ing its press­ing plant in Kingston.

Nearly a decade af­ter vinyl suf­fered a ter­mi­nal de­cline in Ja­maica, Tuff Gong In­ter­na­tional has an­nounced the re­fur­bish­ment of its fa­bled Kingston press­ing plant, herald­ing a re­turn to vinyl pro­duc­tion on an is­land long ob­sessed with the 7-inch sin­gle. Since the over­haul is be­ing car­ried out by SunPress, the be­spoke vinyl pro­duc­tion ser­vice that re­vamped Joe Gibbs’ old Florida press­ing plant, reg­gae lovers can rest as­sured that the re­vi­talised Tuff Gong press will yield high-qual­ity prod­uct bet­ter suited to reg­gae’s bass-heavy spec­trum. “Re­build­ing the Tuff Gong vinyl press­ing plant in Kingston is a dream com­ing to life,” says Dan Yashiv, the SunPress staff mem­ber spear­head­ing the project. “We ex­pect to be press­ing records on at least four presses in Kingston dur­ing 2018, with a mix of 12-inch and 7-inch presses, some orig­i­nally pur­chased by Bob Mar­ley. There are more vin­tage man­ual presses at the space, too, so we are look­ing into po­ten­tially in­creas­ing that num­ber to seven or eight presses.” The lo­ca­tion of the plant on Mar­cus Gar­vey Drive is par­tic­u­larly steeped in mu­si­cal history, be­ing the site of the is­land’s very first press­ing plant, es­tab­lished in 1957 by Ken Khouri of Fed­eral Records. Cox­sone Dodd, Duke Reid and Prince Buster all made use of the fa­cil­ity in the ska years, with engi­neer Graeme Goodall us­ing di­luted co­conut oil to clean its Finebilt ma­chines. Fed­eral main­tained a loyal cus­tomer base there­after, with the vast ma­jor­ity of Stu­dio One’s out­put be­ing pressed there, and the Wail­ers made use of Khouri’s fa­cil­ity, too, once they es­tab­lished Tuff Gong in 1971. Mar­ley had con­crete plans to en­ter into record press­ing him­self but was un­able to re­alise Tuff Gong’s ex­pan­sion be­fore his death from cancer in 1981. The fol­low­ing year, Rita Mar­ley pur­chased Fed­eral and moved Tuff Gong to the Mar­cus Gar­vey Drive com­pound. In the new mil­len­nium, de­spite vinyl’s wan in gs t atus in Ja­maica, Tuff Gong re­mained the most ac­tive press­ing plant on the is­land, han­dling prod­uct for Stu­dio One, Joe Gibbs, Win­ston Ri­ley, Tappa Zukie and other high-pro­file pro­duc­ers, as well as is­su­ing Tuff Gong’s own ma­te­rial. But dwin­dling sales, and the high cost of main­tain­ing the ma­chines, meant that ev­ery­thing ground to a halt around 10 years ago; even the lo­cal sound sys­tems had aban­doned the vinyl for­mat, some­thing that would have been un­think­able be­fore. Thank­fully, the dra­matic up­surge in de­mand in re­cent years has seen vinyl back on the menu, with Vinyl Thurs­days and In­ner City Dub among the many weekly Kingston ses­sions that now run with twin record decks. “A lap­top is very con­ve­nient, but it comes at a great cost,” says Noel Harper of Kil­la­man­sound jaro sys­tem, who salutes the re­turn of vinyl press­ing in Ja­maica. “The sound that you would get from vinyl, I can’t find one lap­top that could sound as good.” “The vinyl thing is grow­ing world­wide and reg­gae is a part of it,” adds Gabre Se­lassie of the pop­u­lar Kingston Dub Club. “It’s just log­i­cal that it would grow.”

David Katz

Selec­tor sweet!: (clock­wise from top right) Bob looks upon a disc from the his­toric Tuff Gong record plant; more sin­gles from the la­bel’s vault.

“VINYL – I CAN’T FIND ONE LAP­TOP THAT COULD SOUND AS GOOD.”

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