Playing in a band, hanging out with punk legends and producing top quality records; it’s all in a day’s work for Peter Jones at Rotator Vinyl! The Irish pressing plant has recently produced a CD boxset for Mercury Rev and a splash colour vinyl for Duncan Reid and the Bigheads! He’s also worked with Ruts DC, The Professionals, Theatre of Hate, Buzzcocks, Crass and many more! Way Out Radio caught up with the man behind the wax…
1. Peter, you’re the driving force behind Rotator. Can you give us an insight into your background and how you developed your tenacity?
I was born in Surrey, brought up until I was 7 in Sunderland and then moved to Ireland. I have always felt that I was an outsider. To a certain degree that galvanised me from an early age. When you don’t fit in you either conform like everyone else, or you embrace it and relish in your individuality. Thats what attracted me to punk to be honest.
2. Aside from being a successful businessman, you’re a punk at heart. Can you tell us how you got into punk and where it took you?
I was fascinated by poskets, zips and buckles etc when I was a young kid. I saw a picture of The Clash and The Pistols in my sister’s Sounds magazine, and thought they looked amazing. And when I heard them I just found an excitement and release that has never been equalled.
When Crass came along in 1978/1979 I embraced everything they did and everyone who was kindred spirits with them. I could identify with the words, the spirit and in particular I could identify with the DIY culture. Once I heard Bullshit Detector it proved that literally anyone could be in a band. That was what I needed to do. One thing that I held very close was the slogans “there is no authority but yourself” and “strive to survive causing the least suffering possible” statement from Flux. I’ve lived my life that way ever since.
I have a massive issue with all forms of authority, but it doesn’t cause conflict. I’ve always just try to do my best for the people around me and make people happy. I rarely have had issues with fighting authoritarian elements, I just do my own thing and try to do it well because that’s what’s in my heart, not what I’ve been instructed to do.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had several clashes with bosses in the past. I have no respect whatsoever for their opinions if I believe they are wrong. I’ve walked out of several jobs because of it. I firmly believe that the DIY grounding and the anarchist spirit of just trying to be a good person and not cause people harm and treating people like you want to be treated yourself, changing the world one smile at a time, is what has given me a decent life and lifestyle.
3. We’re also a reggae radio show. Can you name a few reggae bands you like and give us some of your experiences in reggae music?
Reggae is great but there’s far too much depth to the genre for me to be able to absorb it totally. I was always a huge fan of Linton Kwesi Johnson Steel Pulse. Its a genre I would love to explore better, like bhangra music too… I love the sounds, but really need to get into the underground rather than the commercial side.
4. Who are some key bands for you? Are you a big political punk and into activism? Give us some of your top bands and why…
Crass were, and are, the biggest band in my life. The lifestyle I’ve adopted and the business practices that I have followed are heavily influenced by what Crass did. Add to that bands like the Subhumans, Dead Kennedys, Poison Girls, Rubella Ballet and Zounds who’s very existence is enough of a reason to become key bands and influences. I believe in political music to a huge degree, its a great medium to express yourself, although I prefer not to be preached to and prefer to have things laid out as opinions from which you can take or ignore or explore further.
5. What do Rotator do and who are some artists you’re proud to have worked with?
Having been on the client side for many many years, I found it really deflating when I’ve spent loads of money and countless hours with my bandmates creating and crafting something that I’m proud of and now wish to commit to vinyl or CD, and then I’m confronted with a dropdown screen and a “pay now” button… so 3 years ago I decided to combine my 30 years experience in music and print/packaging/marketing/design and create rotatorvinyl.com. The idea was to reintroduce the personal approach and help the artist/ label with the release… throwing small options that to me make the difference (such as…a black inner would look much nicer with this artwork, or a gloss varnish instead of a matt varnish would set the sleeve off beautifully, or adding download cdes to an insert), and walk the client through the process.
I’ve heard of people having artwork returned several times because of minor errors, and audio returned because the naming protocol isn’t acceptable… I stop all that nonsense… I will sort the audio out for them, fix (wherever possible) any artwork issues without causing drama and help with the spec and concept for special editions. We always do traditional vinyl cutting to acetate which is vastly superior to the more current DMM process which unless you’ve spent 5 figure sums mastering for vinyl, always highlight any weaknesses in the recording, and as standard we use heavier weight materials for sleeves and packaging…so I am very proud of the top quality products that we produce and manufacture.
I’m privileged to have worked with and on behalf of some of my favourite artists… Ruts DC, The Professionals, Rubella Ballet, Spear of Destiny, Cravats, Theatre of Hate, Buzzcocks, Crass, Flux as well as being involved with the “locked in the dressing room” compilations which benefit struggling venues around Europe.
6. What are some of the best gigs you’ve been to and why do they stand out?
Been to….Sex Pistols at Brixton Academy a few years ago… simply the greatest rock n roll show I’ve ever seen. Idles at the Button factory Dublin two years ago…. astonishing doesnt come close to it. The Sleaford Mods…every time I’ve seen them, they blow my mind. Rage Against The Machine…the Tivoli, Dublin 1992 or 1993…. unbelievable, the nearest thing to a modern day Dead Kennedys, Napalm Sunday…Dublin 1983 I think…life changer…Poison Girls…Dublin 1981, another life changer. Inspired me to form/join a band which I did a few weeks later and stayed with them ever since. Played….Fonda Theatre Los Angeles 2018 with Steve Ignorant…the best gig I’ve ever done. Rebellion… every year and every show…it’s the greatest weekend on the year, too many others to mention!!!
7. Give us an insight into pressing vinyl – Is it time consuming? Is it bad for the environment? What colours do you print and do different colours have different sound qualities to them?
The trick to making a great record is to cut it to acetate. Then the engineer is intervening and trying to get your record to sound as good as it can. Test pressings can take 2-4 weeks depending on the time of the year…production afterward can take between 5 to 10 weeks. Physically pressing records is quite slow, so backlogs are not easy to overcome
is it bad for the environment…that’s something I don’t know, it’s not great for it, but we have done jobs where we have used recycled chips and all the board material I use is PEFC certified so its utilised renewable forestation.
I think the modern materials don’t lose any quality at all from standard black, we press in a variety of transparent and opaque colors that are always in stock, but there’s often extra colours available that can be used for short runs …special orders are always available too. Splatter vinyl, half and half, blob and colour in colour effects are amazing… but we also do a lot of runs where 100 are in colour and 200 are in black so there’s a special edition available.
8. What’s on the horizon for the future? Where can people get in touch with you and the Rotator team?
Starting work on a lot of 2021 orders, I’m looking at a post brexit mailing option for labels and artists depending on how the withdrawal goes, where we can hold and post out EU orders without incurring duty and delays for the purchaser…only time will tell if it’s going to be necessary though! The plant we work with has manufacturing in both the UK and the EU, which is a great advantage moving forward to keep costs down and avoid import duty from czech like a lot of the other companies will need to add.