Matthew Tutt from Love As Fiction Records takes us behind the scenes of his process to re-issue one of Australia's most beloved albums, Ammonia's 'Mint 400'.
I think it was one of my Instagram followers that suggested this new re-issue project, or perhaps it was someone on the Sound As Ever Facebook group.
I’d recently finished and sold out my first vinyl reissue project (Bluebottle Kiss’ Murmur EP, Somnambulist Homesick Blues) under my newly formed label, Love As Fiction Records and I asked the collective what I should do next —Mint 400 by Ammonia.
It was a great suggestion. An album I loved growing up listening to in the 90s in Perth (on CD), but I didn’t actually own one of the original vinyl LPs released at the time, and they are expensive and hard to find for fans. Creating a re-issue seemed like a great opportunity to take what I learnt on the first project and build on it.
A key part of these projects for me is to ensure the band/original artists are consulted and ok with the project. I reached out to the band through Facebook messenger and was able to contact both Dave Johnstone and Allan Balmont, they were really supportive and were happy for me to do the reissue project. Dave also provided some new liner notes for the release, which are inside the new album cover as an insert.
Given Mint 400 was released nearly 30 years ago, the parent label Sony held limited materials for the album to work from, especially with the artwork (only a cover image scan). I was able to license the artwork (for T-shirts) and album to do the reissue, with the responsibility on me to source and prepare the artwork and audio.
Don't miss a beat with our FREE daily newsletter
Given the album was released on vinyl originally, the only choice was to scan an original LP. For this, Allan from Ammonia was kind enough to bring me one of his original vinyl albums in good condition, and we met up to take high-quality scans of all the album artwork (cover, insert and labels), ready for graphic design.
I was fortunate from there to work with Matt Bayes, a blues musician and 90’s music fan based in Hobart (MT Blues Music) who formerly worked as a graphic designer and still does work on the side. I’d met him through the Sound As Ever group, and he also bought one of the records from my first release. Matt’s fastidious work re-touching and laying out the graphics and re-typing/setting all the text ensured we could reproduce the original with some changes to convert it to a gatefold cover, plus new colour inner labels to complement the coloured vinyl. He was also able to reproduce a suitable image to screen print an original tee design from the era (famously worn by Daniel Johns when Silverchair played SNL at the time).
I used the tees to kickstart the project funding and a pre-order, a lot of a vinyl release is weighted in the startup, including licensing costs (for the reissue), remastering of the audio, graphic design and when the time comes, placing a deposit to order the vinyl. I also wanted to gauge the audience response to the project and work out how many copies to order. Vinyl projects can be done in low numbers, but it also leads to the end product being expensive due to the upfront costs and the economies of scale to print more.
Based on the pre-orders, I decided to order 300 copies.
In parallel, I also had the audio remastered for vinyl by Chris Hanszek of Hanszek Audio, Chris had worked on my previous project and is really experienced in this type of work. One thing we had to contend with is much of the indie rock released in the 90s was heavily compressed, and it can lead to distortion, especially on vinyl. We undertook a sensitive restoration to respect the original but to also limit any unwanted issues. For this project, we were only able to access digital files (the original album was recorded direct to analogue tape and is locked up in a storage vault, with unknown conditions. We weren’t able to access it within a reasonable cost to the end product). There was also no guarantee it would be usable.
For my first vinyl project, I used another supplier, however, I experienced delays in receiving the final product (shipping etc.) as their vinyl plant is located in another country. Ultimately it took around 5-6 months to receive the final product.
For the Mint 400 project, I decided to look at several options for production. I’d read a news article about a new plant in QLD called Suitcase Records that had started recently. Along the way, Jamie Hutchings (Bluebottle Kiss) and Mark Moldre decided to use them for their upcoming albums. I reached out to Suitcase Records and was really happy with what they could offer, especially around the delivery timeframes. These were about half my previous project, and given that their printing press is in Australia, it's not subject to any overseas shipping delays.
Kathy, Neil and the Suitcase Records crew were great and helped me progress the project by placing an early order to get the vinyl stamper made. In this picture, you can see the records coming off the press in April. Soon after, they were with me and ready to pack and dispatch.
This is the first record I opened and played for the first time; it was a special moment as I saw how the graphics and marbled vinyl had turned out, plus how the audio was sounding (I also reviewed the audio at the test pressing stage, Dave Johnstone was also sent a copy for review).
The result was better than I imagined. I was really proud of the end product and to ship it out to all those who put their faith in me and submitted a pre-order for the record, a tee or both, including sending copies out to the band. For shipping, I learnt from my previous project and upgraded the vinyl packer using a local supplier in Perth, the Box Man. These will ensure the records stay pristine on their journeys around Australia and the world. Orders have come in from the US, France, the UK, Ireland and Germany, to name a few.
As I write, less than 100 of the 300 copies printed remain. They can be purchased, along with tees, here. They can also be purchased from my independent record store stockists: Waxx Lyrical (QLD), Rudderless Records (NSW), Junction Records (WA), Midland Records (WA), Rhubarb Records (WA) & Karma Llama Records (WA).