The construction of what will be Canada’s only vinyl-pressing plant has become one of the country’s worst-kept music secrets.
Owner Dean Reid had not intended to go public with the details of Canada Boy Vinyl (located in northeast Calgary) just yet, but he found himself in the spotlight after word of the plant leaked in an online magazine.
“It basically hit the Internet and completely went viral,” he says. “At that time I didn’t even know what that really meant. I’d heard the word a thousand times … but I never really knew what that meant until it happened to me.”
Reid’s email inbox was “lighting up like a Christmas tree” with inquiries—the main one being when he was going to be open for business.
“It’s my most dreaded question to answer,” he laughs.
As anyone who has dealt with construction knows, a project is rarely ever completed on time. Add to that the onerous task of tracking down record-pressing equipment, and there’s no certain answer. The best-case scenario, Reid notes, would be to start taking orders in mid-May, but his better answer is “as soon as humanly goddamn possible.”
Regardless, Canda Boy will provide a solution for indie bands looking to press vinyl and avoid getting stuck behind major-label releases—which has meant waiting months, in some cases.
But let’s back up to the start. Reid, a bass player in Resurrection Joe and a former contractor, created the nascent concept of Canada Boy Vinyl about three years ago. He had worked in the construction industry for about 20 years, and with his kids grown up and out on their own, he decided it was time for a lifestyle change: he was looking for a career that aligned with what he was most passionate about.
“I just wanted to be able to wake up in the morning and go to work because I wanted to, not because I had to,” he adds.
Reid thought about forming a record label, but he soon realized that wasn’t a viable business venture on its own. He didn’t want to abandon the notion entirely, so he started looking at ways he could add extensions to bring in revenue for the label and make it sustainable for the long haul.
“It all started making sense: I’ll start up a label and I could start signing bands and record them in the studio,” he says, noting he already had a warehouse space his band recorded in. “And I figured, if there was only a way I could figure out how to press [records] in the back, then I could retail them out the front in the record store. I was like, ‘That’s it!’ That’s my idea, and I started from there.”
Of course, making it all reality hasn’t been simple. Reid has been working on sourcing pressing materials from all over the globe; along with the help of a friend from the UK, he’s been looking in England, Ireland, Germany and Argentina.
“I’m sending emails off to the weirdest places trying to track down what happened to all the old pressing equipment from the old CBS plant here in Canada,” he says. “It’s like a global, weird CSI hunt for equipment that essentially doesn’t exist. That’s a major challenge.”
The other challenge has been finding skilled workers to handle pressing; Reid notes is not an automated process, as some may think. There’s about 40 steps from start to finish—which could be a whole other article in itself—and it requires a very high skill level to be done properly. That skill can’t always be sourced locally, and he’s run into numerous roadblocks from Canadian immigration.
“Because I’m a general contractor by trade, it’s my job to put all the right people in all the right places,” says Reid, who is working with a team of about six right now, which includes his bandmates. “I did manage to work something out with immigration, and my main pressing guy has got 24 years’ experience pressing records, and he’s from the UK.”
Education is going to be a pivotal piece of Canada Boy as well, in the sense of informing people about what goes into the record-pressing process and passing that knowledge on to the younger generation to continue the craft.
“The old timers in the business, and sort of the old guard, a lot of these guys that started out are already dead or retiring. The guy that I’m learning from is 66 years old, and I’m 43, right, so I feel like I’m in the middle now where I’m trying to gain as much knowledge as I can, so I can pass that onto my son’s generation,” he explains. “I want to be able to make sure there’s a future of vinyl.”
But Reid isn’t stopping at signing, recording and pressing. He’s got some “top-secret shit” he isn’t able to talk about right now, but what he can divulge are plans for a coffee shop and record store—a physical one as well as an online store called Scratch the Surface Records. He’s still got to secure a space for the shop, but he’s hoping to get it up and running by early next year.
“I’m addressing a bunch of different things, as always, but one of the big ones for me is the that whole social element of listening to records. Because when I was a kid and a teenager, sitting around and listening to records actually counted as something to do,” says Reid, who has nearly 25 000 records at his current shop space, and counts Indigo Meadow by the Black Angels as one of his current favourites. “I would very much like it to be like you’re hanging out in my living room. And there has to be a nice space there with a small stage so we can get bands in there of all shapes and sizes.”