We recently ran across the commentary below in a reply to a Hot Stamper testimonial for Honky Cat. Based on our own experience, we give a quick and dirty primer on how one can build up one’s knowledge of records, stampers, labels, pressing variations and the like.
We don’t really give out much in the way of specific information about any of those things; we just tell you how it can be done. It’s your job to go out and do it. It’s simple; just follow our lead. How tough can it be?
Phil wondered how we could find such an amazing sounding record, which in this case is a rhetorical question. Phil knows exactly how we find them, because he shops at the same L.A. stores we do and finds a few himself — the only way it can be done, the old-fashioned way. We buy them, clean them and play them, just like Phil does.
The difference these days is one of scale. With seven or eight people finding, cleaning and playing records every day, we can probably shootout forty or fifty or even a hundred times as many records as any single person working by himself could. And to find the raw material (LPs, what else?) it helps immensely if you live in a major city like L.A., where records, even high-quality ones, are still abundant, if not ubiquitous.
After a shootout one of my favorite things to do is to jot down the stampers for the hottest copies. I then head right out to my favorite record stores to search through the bins and — even better — the overstock underneath. So many times I’ve thrilled to the purchase of an album with exactly the right stampers that very day, a copy that I would never have known to buy had we not just done the shootout.
Streamlining the Process
This is how record knowledge builds: one LP at a time. To that end we’ve streamlined the system of finding Hot Stampers, turning the process into a rough kind of science and devoting well over a hundred manhours a week to the effort. It’s time-consuming and expensive, but every week we find Hot Stamper copies of great albums that MURDER the competition, in the process often dramatically changing our expectations of how good that music can sound.
It’s the most fun part of the record business. The rest of it, if I can be honest for a minute, I can do without.