Author Johan Kugelberg is no stranger to large scale projects, his previous books on The Velvet Underground and Punk were both celebrated for the amount of research that went into their production. For his new title, however, Kugelberg has tackled what may be one of the largest and most disparate fields in 20th Century music, namely the culture of private press vinyl that existed throughout the 60′s, 70′s and 80′s.
Long before Soundcloud and Bandcamp were born, the process of self-releasing was both arduous and expensive, yet thousands upon thousands of would be musicians dedicated their money and time into producing their very own albums, especially in America where, in Kugelberg’s own words, “privately made records [are part of] the American vernacular”. Without the music industry’s established chains of manufacture, press and distribution, self-made records would often disappear into the ether, buried at the back of dusty vinyl collections.
Over the course of three years Kugelberg, a huge vinyl collector, used his many contacts to compile a plotted history of the private press, a task that many would have thought impossible given the enormous scale and underground nature of the subject matter. The project now culminates with what director Larry Clark has called “the ultimate coffee book”, Enjoy The Experience: Homemade Records 1958-1992, a 500 page tome with details on more than a 1000 records and their always distinctive covers.
In exploring the art and impulse to such a great depth, Kugelberg highlights the human drive behind the records. In an interview with Nothing Major, Pitchfork’s sister Art & Design website, the author explains “The more [album covers] you look at, the more an aesthetic narrative unfolds, not unlike Scandinavian Folk painting, where different regions had local painters who never met but where the style is cohesive.”
As well as the huge book, which will no doubt prove a must for all different kinds of collectors, the wealth of private press vinyl detailed in Enjoy The Experience is simultaneously explored with some other events, releases and online initiatives. A 2LP / 2CD set of recordings curated by the author will soon be available, and Sinecure, the books publishers, have started delving deeper into some of the characters behind the music on their own blog. Finally for those in London, Rough Trade East will host an exhibition of cover art and welcome Johan Kugelberg for a sit down and chat with St Etienne’s Bob Stanley.