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Vinyl Record Production in Peril After Fire at California Plant

A fire at a Banning, California manufacturing plant could wreak havoc on the global supply of records, Pitchfork reports. On Thursday, Apollo Masters Corp., which has produced the lacquer discs used to make masters for vinyl production for decades, was devastated in a fire that took 82 firefighters and nearly three hours to control. Per the Desert Sun, employees were reportedly inside the building when the fire broke out, but none were injured.

In a statement on its website, Apollo Masters wrote, “It is with great sadness we report the Apollo Masters manufacturing and storage facility had a devastating fire and suffered catastrophic damage. The best news is all of our employees are safe. We are uncertain of our future at this point and are evaluating options as we try to work through this difficult time. Thank you for all of the support over the years and the notes of encouragement and support we have received from you all.” A representative for Apollo did not immediately return Rolling Stone’s request for further comment.

In an interview with Pitchfork, Third Man Records co-founder Ben Blackwell said the Apollo fire “will present a problem for the vinyl industry worldwide.” He noted that Apollo was one of just two companies that make lacquer discs, and that the other, MDC in Japan, “already had trouble keeping up with demand before this development.”

“I imagine this will affect everyone, not just Third Man Pressing and Third Man Mastering, but to what extent remains to be seen,” Blackwell said. He added: “I don’t want to be an alarmist. But I’m attempting to be realistic as opposed to Pollyannish.”

In a separate interview with Smack Media, David Read of the pressing and printing company Duplication, said one possible alternative could be direct metal mastering. In that process, Read explained, “Instead of cutting the master into the lacquer it’s cut into copper which is mastered into production.” There are some potential problems with direct metal mastering though, as the process tends to produce higher frequencies and requires a specific, and rare, type of cutting head.

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