The albums — the vinyl album — were never mastered in analogue, even back in the day.
I only learned about this recently, but an increasing number of albums after 1979 went through digital processing before being cut to vinyl, even if they were recorded on analogue tape.
– Kevin Shields
The albums — the vinyl album — were never mastered in analogue, even back in the day. I only learned about this recently, but an increasing number of albums after 1979 went through digital processing before being cut to vinyl, even if they were recorded on analogue tape. By the mid-’80s it was standard practice to master it onto a thing called a 1630 — it was like a big videocassette but it was digital — and that was the production master that all the records were cut off of.
So even though all of the records we made were recorded analogue, they went through a digital process at the very last step. When I was remastering back in 2006, the Loveless master came from this 24 bit, 96k production master, but Isn’t Anything came straight from analogue tape. During the cutting process I had a kind of remarkable experience listening to Isn’t Anything front-to-back without stopping, which is how you have to do it when the actual record’s being cut. A lot of memories came flooding back from the time of recording. A part of my brain, for lack of a better word, that made that record, there was a disconnect from the moment it was mastered and released. But hearing the true analogue, it was like when you smell something you haven’t smelled since a child, it brought back memories and feelings together. Memories I hadn’t thought about since I made the record. It was a time machine effect. My brain had stored these memories somewhere that could only be accessed by these analogue recordings.
So I realized there really is a profound difference between analogue and digital. So I’ve become determined to let other people experience that too — not that you’re going to have my memories or anything like that. There’s something fundamentally different about music that hasn’t been digitized at any step along the way.
We did that with the MBV album, the vinyl record is pure analogue, no digital processing. Unfortunately there’s only a few places in the UK that can do that. We could only find two. I asked the guys who worked there how many people still bring in tape and they said only a handful each year. Steve Albini does. David Bowie did it. It’s a tiny minority. I just think it’s cool, especially now with vinyl becoming more popular, that people can hear albums the way they sounded before everything got digitized.
– Kevin Shields
Quote taken from the interview: