Sometime around 1988, I stumbled across an original pressing of Joy Division's "Still" at Rainbow Records in Oklahoma City. It was an expensive record at the time - 20 bucks or so, and that's not including the extra cost of bounced check fees (the effect of paying more attention to the details of albums than the details of my account balance). I was far from a Joy Division fan back then, but this record jumped out at me amongst whatever other late 80's punk, new wave, early grunge stuff that I was probably thumbing through. I was immediately drawn to the construction of this record - double gatefold, made of this crazy-heavy-weight, industrial, grey paper stock - and I've cherished it since.
Joy Division "Still"
Our First Project
We printed our first official Hammerpress project in 1994. The band Giants Chair was releasing their first album on Caulfield Records out of Lincoln, Nebraska. I was roommates with these guys, and like many other early Hammerpress projects, it just kind of happened into a project while I was studying print making at the Kansas City Arts Institute. The job was to design and print 1,000 each CD & LP packages for their 1995 release "Red & Clear". I don't remember the budget, but it was probably much less than the cost of the end result. It was more a labor of love and friendship than an actual money-paying job. Giants Chair's guitar player and singer, Scott Hobart (aka Rex Hobart & Misery Boys) designed the cover. The design was in line with the overall minimal design aesthetic of the band.
This is where the Joy Division record comes in. I don't know how many miles I drove around Kansas City, or how many different paper suppliers I visited with this Joy Division's “Still” in hand, asking if they had paper like this. It was a quest and no one knew what the hell I was talking about. They showed me grey paper, but really lame, light-weight office paper. Should we just settle for this crap? No, and the quest and driving continued continued. Finally, we found some scary warehouse in the West Bottoms district that recycled paper and resold it as industrial grade boards, known as "converting”. This was it! Much closer to the style of paper we were searching for. Back then, there was no “keyword search” or Google to help us out. There was the yellow pages and a car.
Well we never found the actual paper, but something close enough, and we learned our way around Kansas City at the same time. And almost 19 years later we still buy paper from those guys. Once we sourced the paper, we had to figure out what the hell a die was, and who makes them? A whole new quest ensued. After much more driving and calling, we found a die-maker and sourced this piece to cut out the shape of the LP package.
And once we finally sourced the paper and die, we were ready to print. The first layer was silver – hand silk screened in order to handle that big of a flood, and the silk screen ink was much shinier than other options. We wanted shiny.
We completed the printing on a Chandler & Price press that did not have a treadle, which meant we needed plenty of extra hands to crank the fly wheel to keep the press running into the wee hours of the night. This required at least two people - one to crank the fly wheel, and one to hand feed. We printed a total of 1000 LP jackets and 1000 CD jackets this way, each piece having at least 3 passes through the press.
A couple weeks later, the sleeves were printed, assembled and shipped to the label. We were all a little creaky from cranking the fly wheel, but we had completely done this by hand, and it was beautiful and satisfying, and felt like we had done something real. This is still one of my favorite projects that we have done. This is still a great record, and holds a fairly legendary status both in Kansas City and beyond as once of the best post-punk/math rock releases of it's era.
I just found two copies of "Red & Clear" on Discogs for $40. That's about what I ended up paying for that Joy Division close to 24 years ago.