Get It On Vinyl had the privilege to visit with Dan Marter, owner of In the Clouds Records, a New Jersey label that produces incredibly unique vinyl releases and custom lathe cut vinyl.
GIOV: Tell us how you started In the Clouds Records.
Marter: I decided to start my own record label, In The Clouds, in 2011 on the side while I was working for a division of Sony Music. I thought it was going to be just a one off thing to put out a record I really liked listening to that I didn’t think anyone else would ever press on vinyl. I had never done anything like that before and didn’t really know where to start, but commuting each day on the bus to NYC gave me plenty of time to figure it out. As the label grew I was doing everything from finding the bands, working out a deal, and designing the packaging to actually building out the website, processing the orders and shipping everything out. After a few years of using different manufacturers to press the records it became difficult to continue to justify ordering the required minimums when I found myself wanting to work with more local bands. It was around the same time I came across a video for this company in Germany who had made a machine that cuts records 1-by-1. I figured, I was already doing everything else, why not just make the records myself too?
GIOV: You had quite an interesting story buying the lathe, could you share that with us?
Marter: The whole thing seemed a little sketchy at first. I mean, I took a look at the company’s website, it’s not the most “current” looking thing, emails with the owner, Souri, were written in broken English and he said the only way to get a machine was to come to Germany, with cash in-hand, and take the class with them in person. The class itself was long, altogether a little over 14 hours straight, very thorough. But going in I was told the class won’t end until I knew all the in’s and out’s of the machine. If they didn’t think I could use it correctly they would not sell it to me. So it was a relief after passing knowing I didn’t fly out there for nothing, but the machine was way too big and heavy to bring on the flight back. So had to give this guy I just met all my money and just walk away. Not something I was super comfortable doing, but everything worked out. The owner is a stand up guy. Even now he always makes himself available to answer any questions I have.
GIOV: There are other lathes available, even stateside correct? Why was obtaining the T560 lathe important to you?
Marter: I think I just really lucked out that it was the first one I saw. I originally saw the video on YouTube and thought it was interesting, then a few months later came back to it when looking for a short run solution for our releases. I started doing more research on lathes and this one just seemed to have more customizable components to it… like “add-ons” you could use to make the machine do different things. Like, even after I got the machine I ordered a reverse cut motor that cuts the music from the center label out. That was something I wasn’t really seeing promoted with other lathes.
GIOV: Tell us what it’s like to cut vinyl. It’s an art form, isn’t it?
Marter: It’s brutal haha.. It’s just so time consuming because you have to sit there and listen to each record as it’s being cut. I mean there’s definitely a skill set needed to make sure everything gets set up correctly initially, every time a new job hits the lathe it gets a custom setup. Like a metal record won’t have the same settings as a dance record or something ambient sounding, but say someone orders twenty 30-minute 12” records, that’s over 10 hours of work for just one job. You need to have the mental endurance to listen to the same songs on loop. I try not to do marathon cutting sessions like that unless it an extreme rush order. I like to keep my ears fresh when listening.
GIOV: Are you strictly cutting your own vinyl or do you still have some of your releases pressed?
Marter: No we still use pressing plants from time to time, all depends on the release, touring plans, packaging and turnaround time. I’ve had some people send me a stuff they needed turned around in a couple days for a wedding gift and others like the Gay Blades release that has been in the works for like a year…for those we outsourced to three companies, we pressed the record, ordered custom electronic pieces from China and printed up custom jackets to hold everything… more of a lengthy process, but there wasn’t a hard deadline to put the record out so we just wanted to make it something extra unique.
GIOV: Why do you personally prefer vinyl as a music medium?
Marter: I enjoy vinyl because there’s a certain amount of effort needed to get it, aside from the work that goes into the manufacturing, you need to actually take the effort to thumb through your records and pick something out you want to listen to. I think it’s easy to open Spotify or something on your phone and just pick a playlist, press play and go about your day. If something comes on you don’t like, you skip and you’re on to the next thing in a blink. There’s an effort with vinyl to pick the right album for whatever mood you’re in, take it out of the sleeve get it set up and drop the needle, then flip to the other side when it comes to the end. It’s a more intimate interaction with music.
GIOV: Our website is all about independent record stores. Do you still visit record stores? If so, what are some of your favorites?
Marter: Yes! Around here I usually go to Vintage Vinyl in Fords, NJ. I’ve been going there since high school… initially just due to proximity since it’s the closest to me, but luckily it’s great got a great selection of stuff and supportive of local music. The owner Rob is a real knowledgeable music guy and they have great in-store performances. I also head out to Looney Tunes in Long Island, NY when I can. I’ve been friends with the owner Karl Jr for years, they also have their own label Brookvale Records and we’ve worked on some of their packaging ideas together.
GIOV: What have been some of your most memorable experience running In the Clouds Records?
Marter: There’s been some highs and lows, but the people are really what makes it memorable. I’m sure that sounds cookie cutter or something, but I’m just a guy who enjoys music that has a little bit of creativity. I started this in my parents basement, their floor is still stained with paint and stuff. But to be able to meet people and form relationships with over them over the years has been really cool. Just having people acknowledge and supporting what we’re doing is awesome. It’s what pulls us through the lows and makes the highs feel higher.
GIOV: In the Clouds Records has made a name for itself producing some unique releases with elaborate packaging. Which one was your favorite to work on?
Marter: I feel like I’m my own worst critic, so to me there’s little things about each release that I would change if I could to go back and do them again, but if I had to pick it’s probably be the Happy Body Slow Brain / water jacket packaging. That’s one I look at and still can’t believe we made it happen. It was a nightmare in shipping because it was so heavy, but that’s something that absolutely stands out from anything else in a person’s collection. Owel’s piano jacket was fun. Even the personalized messages that we cut at the end of the Stepfriends lathes was cool, it made every order one of a kind, and hopefully something people will hold on to. I always have some strange ideas kicking around in my head.. Just trying to keep pushing forward.