The Netherlands is getting a brand new record pressing plant! Chris Roorda, founder of Deeptrax Records in Leeuwarden is opening Deepgrooves along with co-founder, Pascal Thulin. Two pressing machines will be installed in Blokhuispoort, which previously served as a World War II prison and has been open to the public since 2007. Deepgrooves aims to alleviate some of the pressure on pressing plants and make record pressing more accessible to smaller labels and independent artists, with a “user-friendly one-stop-shopping concept where artwork, mastering and other services are being provided from a single point of contact.”
Eager to learn more about the Netherlands’ newest pressing plant, we spoke to founder, Chris about the hows and whys of setting up shop in Leeuwarden:
What inspired you to open a pressing plant?
We have had our dreams and have been looking for some opportunities in the past, but after a few disappointing experiences with other plants with ever-expanding queues, dodgy test pressings and a lack of updates on the process, we eventually got a dusty end-product which was just enough, but with a load of frustration and bad communication. So we decided to launch a better alternative, which should have better sound, service and quality. Aiming for smooth, curved trimmed edges like the old NSC, like Relief, UR and old Blue Note pressings with that great analogue sound, just as we want it to be…
Was it difficult to find a suitable location? What appealed about Blokhuispoort?
Ideally, we wanted to have a location which is awe-inspiring with a lot of imagination and creative companies around us. In our hometown Leeuwarden – the new European Cultural Capital of 2018 – there is this building called De Blokhuispoort, which looks like a castle with its towers and has squares that would be great for possible cultural events. The problem is that it’s a monument and is located in the centre of the town. However, we did find a solution for all the challenges and will be starting with the construction in early July. The Blokhuispoort building has so much history! It’s a bit grim because it was used as a prison until 2007 with enormous walls and a canal around it, but also has these great features and architectural elements which makes this a dream project. There’s a discrepancy between the beauty and the hideousness of it; for example, the enormous romantic squares combined with arches are beautiful, but when you walk through the building there is that cold, sad, former execution room.
The old prison is famous because of the second world war. The Germans were overpowered by the resistance and the resistance fighters entered the prison. Within a matter of minutes, the prisoners were freed from their cells. The historical building will cater a restaurant, cafe, hostel, library and many other small enterprises in the cultural sector too, most of these small companies will be run from out of the old cells of the former prison, which we think is very cool and inspiring. Besides that, we think that there are nice opportunities to run small events with quality artists from out of here.
Were there any significant barriers to getting started?
Of course there were challenges and we did overcome most. At some points we had to make concessions, most in terms of technique, efficiency and finance, but after a long debate, we decided to go for this building which embodies history and we think has a bright future as a cultural hot-spot. At the moment there is still a cafe in it, which is going to move in a few months to a cool spot also in the Blokhuispoort. Something we think is very cool in the north of The Netherlands, just 75 minutes from Amsterdam, was a discussion too… but we feel free and open here in such a sparkling ambience.
How do you think running Deeptrax has given you a good foundation for running a pressing plant?
We have been selling records for a long time and have bought many collections and shops so far. After handling 100,000s of records, we do know which records we love in terms of quality, sound and performance. We have a lot of knowledge built after many years of experience and think pressing is the next step for us to bring it all into something special. In all those years, we have been surrounded by great people with enormous experience, so it’s nice to see it all come together. We believe we can push it a little bit further and get it all going in the right direction. Eventually, all out of running Deeptrax, where we meet many diverse and interesting people and have gained a lot of knowledge combined with passion. We think that is a steady basis, combining all these ingredients into something new and unique.
Will the pressing plant focus on any particular type of releases?
We want to specialize on special editions, like colored vinyl, picture discs and all sorts of specialties, small runs and other exclusives. We do also feel a lot of sympathy for smaller labels and artists. We do sell a lot of upcoming artists and so-called boutique labels at Deeptrax, and of course we know many artists, labels, music companies and DJs personally, so the connection is close. We’ve already had a lot of questions from smaller and bigger labels. Most of these questions are about analogue mastering, special editions, (non-hassle) service and smaller runs, which we think is also our vision on how to press records.
What kind of records are currently highly sought-after in the Dutch market?
The main record market in The Netherlands is mainly focussing on older Prog and Pop Rock like David Bowie and the newer Tame Impala kinda indie rock, but more and more former obscure alternative music from labels like Rush Hour with their great releases and compilations, Clone with their focus on electro, techno and other Chicago, Red Light Records with these former obscurities on Music From Memory, Excelsior with electronica and indie, Bordello a Parigi on Italo and so on and so on are all great examples of trend breaking directions and are successfully brought to the public. All this former cult music from the past is very sought after lately, shaping the new Dutch sound and is gaining popularity very rapidly. At Deeptrax we do sell a lot of these future classics which are yet “un-Shazamable“. For years we have been hunting these future classics from all over the world, which is something I really like doing.
Also for the new club music, the DJs are very much into this new UK cult sound with rare raw sounds and vibes from the 1990s, which is becoming cult and highly sought-after these days…
Will you also be distributing abroad?
Our main focus is getting quality pressed records at the vinyl plant. For now, we don’t have the time and space for it. Maybe some small distribution, but no big plans for the future.
I saw you’ll be installing a window for viewing – does that mean the plant will be open for tours?
We want to make it all transparent to let people know what the vinyl culture is all about, so we want to tighten the connection between the visitors and the factory with a viewing window. People can easily watch the process from behind the window without a boundary, however for now we want it to leave it that way, because we want to have it result in a clean end-product. Open doors and windows is not complementary for the process of the end-product. We are a vinyl pressing plant focussing on a quality LP/12″/10″/7″ which was eventually at the basis of our inspiration of starting this project, after all.