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Northeast Ohio is full of creative people following their dreams while trying to make a living. From jewelry crafted out of broken street glass to sound equipment engineered for rock stars, see what people are "making" in the community.

Making It: Locally pressed vinyl at Gotta Groove Records

Makers: Heath Gmucs, Production Manager and Ren Harcar, Quality Assurance
Owners: Vince Slusarz Sr., Founder; Vince Slusarz Jr., Vice President of Operations; Matt Earley, President
Business: Gotta Groove Records , a manufacturer of high-quality vinyl records in Cleveland

The pressing is the final stage of record production, and what you do here at Gotta Groove. What has to happen before that stage?

Heath: What happens is a musician goes into the recording studio and records their music, then they send it off to mastering. The record has to be mastered for vinyl, which is different than getting it mastered digitally just because of the way it translates to the physical medium that we’re using. After it’s mastered for vinyl, it goes to a lacquer cutter. Basically, they’re taking a sound wave, and it’s vibrating through a sapphire-tipped needle in real time and cutting into, basically, a 14-inch disc covered in nail polish is what it is. The lacquer then goes to a plating plant where they take the disc that’s cut in forward motion and spray it with a combination of nickel, aluminum and silver, in a process called electroforming. When it comes out, they peel those two pieces apart, and it’s a mirror image of the lacquer that was cut. It goes through a three-step plating process, and then they’ll be able to rip these stampers off.

Gmucs holds a metal stamper, which is what stamps the grooves into the vinyl when it's pressed. [Jean-Marie Papoi / Ideastream Public Media]

How did you end up working at Gotta Groove Records?

Ren: I was a mental-health hotline counselor, and one of my friends was the lead press operator here at the time and posted online that they were looking for a quality assurance position. I didn’t think I would get it, but I was like, ‘Hey, it’s worth a shot.’ I put in an application and got a call back, so I’ve been here a little over three years now.

Heath: Gotta Groove Records got started in 2009. I started here in 2010. I found out about Gotta Groove Records because I was playing in band and the label that we were on had a record pressed here. I've always been a blue-collar factory worker. I got tired of sleeping in vans and old houses on the road and decided to settle down in Cleveland. Born and raised here, and I have a regular gig, so I've been here ever since.

Harcar inspects a record for visual imperfections. [Jean-Marie Papoi / Ideastream Public Media]

As we know, there’s been a renewed interest in vinyl over the past several years. For you, what’s the difference between a record versus music in the digital realm?

Ren: There's definitely a warmth to vinyl. A big part of my job is to mitigate the crackles and pops that people like about vinyl. We want a crisp, clean sound to start. But yeah, I like that about vinyl as opposed to digital. I also like having a physical copy, something where I can go through the liner notes. I can look at the album as a fully realized product. There's decisions that went into what color it should be to match the art. And just having it in your hands as opposed to streaming something online.

A record drops about every 40 seconds from one of Gotta Groove's eight operating presses. [Jean-Marie Papoi / Ideastream Public Media]

How awesome is it that we have a facility like this right here in Cleveland?

Ren: It’s very cool, especially because a lot of our press ops are musicians who have pressed their own records here. And we're doing these really innovative designs that no other plant in the world really is doing and a lot of places are trying to emulate. I knew that Gotta Groove was local, but it's something to be able to say, ‘Hey, that's in Cleveland,’ to be able to say that this is local to us.

Heath: You get to show up to the plant, pick up your record, meet the people that made your record for you. A lot of the crew here are musicians, are currently in bands, so it just brings everything full circle. We know a lot of venue owners, we know a lot of the local music scene. It's just like another piece of the puzzle that pulls the art scene together.

Gmucs is also the creator and owner of Wax Mage Records, a label he started in 2015 that manufactures customized, one-of-a-kind colorful vinyl albums sold through Gotta Groove Records. [Jean-Marie Papoi / Ideastream Public Media]

What kind of role does music play in your life?

Ren: I have always been going to shows and involved in the punk scene a lot when I was a teenager. I've never been a musician. I've always been more on the art end, like making fliers and the art aspects of design that goes into music. So many of my friends are musicians, and that's why I feel so comfortable here.

Heath: I was born into a musical family. My mom, dad, brothers, sisters, everybody played music, sang, did something musical. So, it's been a lifelong passion of mine, you know, flipping records. And when I found out that there was a record pressing plant in Cleveland I was pretty blown away by it. I hadn't really picked up records, and after my band got pressed on a record, I was like, ‘Holy cow, this is amazing. And it was made right here.’ So, it was just kind of home getting brought all the way back home to me.

Gmucs operates one of the presses at Gotta Groove Records. [Jean-Marie Papoi / Ideastream Public Media]

Jean-Marie Papoi is a digital producer for the arts & culture team at Ideastream Public Media.