Pirates Press boss Eric ‘Skippy’ Mueller waxes lyrical with Dom Warwick, discussing vinyl innovations and family values, during the build up to their Rock The Ship 15th anniversary event.
Pirates Press are based in Oakland, California, and have been at the heart of a revolution that has seen a major reversal in the popularity of vinyl in recent years. Having started a manufacturing company from the confines of his bedroom in 2004, Skip branched into his own label, aptly titled Pirates Press Records, a year later. The business now spans across the world, with the manufacturing side averaging 3-4 million records pressed each year.
2019 marks their 15th anniversary, and never being one to shy away from the unconventional, Skip will be marking the occasion with what some might call not just crazy, but bat shit crazy, a weekend of events with the centrepiece a gig staged on an aircraft carrier, the USS Hornet. But how was this even possible?
“A lot of planning and a little bit of luck. After the last Rock The Ship event, celebrating our 10th Anniversary, we stewed over ways to take it up a notch. One of the consistent comments was to do it on an actual ship. Exploring our options here in the bay, there are not many ships that can accommodate a large enough crowd, but we found one, a famous one at that! While they haven’t put on many concerts, certainly not any of this magnitude, they are equally excited about it and going above-and-beyond to help make sure that it is a fun and successful celebration for all of us and everyone who attends.”
The ability to make this possible stems from Skip’s innovative vision and seeing barriers as opportunities rather than points of failure, although there is also a sense of tradition and family.
“After a year of pressing records for other people, we had the ‘itch’ so to speak. Starting off by releasing a six picture disc box-set (for 12 of our friends' bands), we proceeded to curate the label’s releases using bands that were either comprised of Pirates themselves, or friends of Pirates. The label more-or-less evolved organically from there, bringing on lots of new bands, both big and small, to help create the community that we see today. We could not be more humbled, or proud at the evolution of the company.”
From these modest beginnings, the vinyl pressing business has been booming, with Pirates Press using both modern and old technologies, along with being the first to open a brand new vinyl press.
“Whilst making records for all the major labels and their subsidiaries, a vast majority of our business comes from independent record labels and bands, with an average pressing of somewhere between 500 and 1000 units. Ultimately, it’s a lot of titles spanning virtually every genre of music and every type of ‘scene’ there is out there. Being able to help people across the globe get some of the best records in the world made is the one thing everyone at Pirates is most proud of, as it undoubtedly has the biggest impact on music in general, worldwide.”
Creativity knows no bounds, aside from the coloured vinyl, there have been other special pressings, one particularly personal, incorporating the ashes of Bruce Roehrs, columnist for Maximum Rock n Roll.
“Putting our friend’s ashes into a record is definitely up there, although I probably wouldn’t even try and do it myself again, even for a friend. It was an ordeal, emotionally and logistically, but very, very special and for Bruce, unbelievably fitting.
"In the same vein of crazy, but perhaps a half a notch down, we have also made records with holograms for The Ratchets, bullet-shaped bits milled out of the main area of a NOi!SE record, made Detournement a molotov cocktail flexi with a printed bandanna and even made Rancid an official Louisville Slugger wooden baseball bat to go with their 46x7” leather-clad boxset. We like a good challenge, and we like turning heads even more.”
A full review of Rock The Ship will appear in our next issue of Vive Le Rock!