At the foothills of the Southern Alps in the late 1980s, the now internationally recognised recluse, Peter King, developed a new way of ‘cutting’ records into transparent polycarbonate plastic.

Lo-fi but affordable, Peter’s work sparked an explosion of releases from NZ’s innovative underground music scenes. Generally produced in runs of 20 – 100 copies, these records often featured bespoke hand-made cover art, liner notes, booklets, and various other ‘inserts’, that are impossible to replicate via large-scale industrial reproduction processes.

Researched and curated by Luke Wood, Senior Lecturer in Graphic Design at the University of Canterbury’s School of Fine Arts, this exhibition brings together a broad selection of these releases, alongside more recent developments and outcomes of lathe-cutting record technology. 

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Luke Wood developed primary research for the exhibition of New Zealand-made lathe-cut records out of an interest in the potential for the distribution of music/sound via physical formats in a pervasively digital future. Luke has recently set up the 'art school record label', Ilam Press Records; a subsidiary of the Ilam Press, an inhouse publishing workshop at the School of Fine Arts which he runs in collaboration with colleague Aaron Beehre.

 His broader research interests and outcomes are motivated by the expanding practices and roles of graphic design in the early 21st century. Alongside Brad Haylock (RMIT), he has co-edited a book, featuring contributions from leading international designers, teachers and academics, to be published by Occasional Papers (London) in late 2019. Luke also co-created the award-winning graphic design publications Head Full of Snakes and The National Grid.

Peter King remains the longest standing domestic record manufacturer in New Zealand. EMI famously dumped their vinyl press into the ocean in the 1980s so as to force the uptake of the CD format. The great advantage of lathe cuts, for international customers, lies in their cost effectiveness for small runs when compared to pressed vinyl. In the 1980s Peter was the only person in the world offering such a service and after cutting records for NZ underground icons such as the Dead C and Alastair Galbraith his reputation went international. It wasn't long before the sheer volume of work he had piling up in his shed necessitated the building of another two machines. Peter built these new machines from scratch, recycling electric motors and machine parts from the likes of old washing machines. 

A selection of lathe-cut records. Image: Haru Sameshima.

Image: Haru Sameshima

Image: Haru Sameshima