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(2018 - Fall Issue)


“I’m going to show you something no one’s seen before,” explains Jamie Mosshart, who is guiding 12 music enthusiasts on the first public tour of musician Jack White’s new record-pressing plant at Third Man Records in Detroit.

We’ve already seen how vinyl records begin life as PVC pellets; viewed the stampers, which can produce up to a thousand records each; and learned why the company selected mostly manual presses (quality control was a big reason).

Now we’re in the mastering studio. “We’re surrounded by a lot of money and technology,” explains Mosshart, referring to what is likely a quarter-million dollars in equipment, including a state-of-the-art Neve console and “the real gem,” a VMS 70 lathe. From here you can record live shows direct to vinyl master, one of only two places in the U.S. this can be done.

If you don’t take the tour, you can still get a glimpse of the plant through the windows at the back of the Third Man Records retail shop. (Note the huge LP-themed mural on the far wall.)

The store, which opened in 2015, is located in a low-rise 1920s-era building that used to manufacture jeeps in the Cass Corridor, a neighbourhood once rife with crime that’s recently been rebranded as Midtown.

It seemed fitting to locate the second outpost of Third Man Records in Detroit (the Nashville flagship opened in 2009). White attended high school in the area, and the White Stripes—the duo of Jack and Meg White—performed their early shows in the Cass Corridor.

Visitors quickly discover Third Man is more than a record store. “It’s an open space that promotes hanging out and enjoying the music,” says employee Ali Shea.

Shop for souvenirs, see a concert on the in-store performance stage (White has played here) or check out the displays and novelties. There are special edition records on the walls, pillows handcrafted by fans on the couch, and a bench from the local Masonic temple, a historic building White helped save, that has been finished with melted down old 78s!

There’s no shortage of vinyl to peruse. Third Man does three types of pressings: reissues (recent examples include The Stooges, some early Bob Seger and the first Motown record ever pressed in Detroit); indie (independent) orders; and, of course, pressings for the Third Man Records label.

Sample tunes in the listening booth or record your own song! For US$20, the 1947 Voice-o-Graph machine will record up to two minutes of audio and dispense a one-of-a-kind six-inch phonograph disc. Use the house guitar in the booth or bring your own instruments.

There’s also the possibility you’ll run into Jack White. “It’s not uncommon to see him walking around the store,” says Shea. “Whenever he’s in town he’s here.”

Travel Planner

Third Man Records is located at 441 W. Canfield Street. Tours of the pressing plant are US$15 and run twice a month on Saturdays. Check thirdmanrecords.com.

A hip, comfortable and centrally located place to bunk down for the night is the Aloft hotel in the historic David Whitney Building at One Park Avenue (aloftdetroit.com).

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