Behind the Scenes of Our New Box Set
The winding path of "Excavated Shellac: An Alternate History of the World’s Music."
Simply put, box sets take a lot of time to produce. There are many key elements, with some of the most important being audio, research, writing, and design. Each component has its own process and timeline that we believe should not be rushed.
In 2015, we began working on Excavated Shellac: An Alternate History of the World’s Music with record collector, researcher, and writer Jonathan Ward. The release is the fourth title that we have produced in partnership with Jon. At the beginning of the process, things were moving ahead just as they had with so many previous productions: liner notes were finalized, licensing requests were submitted, audio was digitized and restored, and the text and graphic elements were being laid out and designed. Then, like everyone, we were impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic.
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Throughout 2020, there were postal service delays, shipping container shortages, record store closures, and manufacturing plant shutdowns. In response to this new reality, we made the tough decision to forego a physical version of the “Excavated Shellac” box set that we had been planning for years, and in December 2020 we released the set digitally via our website and Bandcamp page. We decided to utilize that format’s accessibility as a way to deliver the compilation and overcome the limitations of physical media at a time when so many of us were isolated and confined.
Garth Cartwright addressed what we were working towards in his review of the set for The Guardian:
“For listeners who love to travel via music, 'An Alternate History' is the perfect project for our current confinement: here, it says, is humanity at its most creative and playful.”
The digital edition of “Excavated Shellac” was well received and even earned a Grammy nomination for Best Historical Album. After several years of not traveling, we were excited to be able to meet with most of the production team at the Grammy Awards in early 2022. It had been years since Lance and I saw Mike and Jon in person. We even made it to the the Peppermill Restaurant and Fireside Lounge thanks to a hot tip from our former intern Sophie Abramowitz. Thanks Sophie!
The goal to produce this collection as a physical box set never completely left our minds, and in late 2021 we began moving toward fulfilling the original vision for this release. Our designer Barb Bersche who had originally designed the set to be printed and had modified the format for digital release, set to work once again to finalize and submit the files to our printer. Feeling energized by the momentum of the digital edition we decided to expand some of the elements into features like a gloss-laminated box, artbook-quality paper, and die-cut reproductions of vintage record store stickers from Jon’s collection.
The production process was moving along well when we were informed that to print the book we would need to comply with government imposed censorship of the words Dalai Lama, Tibet, and other terms deemed problematic. We found this unacceptable and moved our production to a printer in Hong Kong which had a significant impact on the cost of the set.
Now, seven years since we began this production, to reach the point of holding the physical product in our hands brings a strong sense of joy and accomplishment. We look forward to receiving our shipment in October so we can begin delivering sets to your collections and libraries. Thank you for all your support!