By Jeff Karoub
DETROIT — Detroit-raised rocker Jack White is building on a vision to blend music and manufacturing in a part of his hometown that long inspired him.
The Grammy-winning singer, songwriter, guitarist, drummer and producer is overseeing the launch of a vinyl record pressing plant in the back of his Third Man Records shop north of downtown Detroit. Third Man Pressing held its grand opening on Saturday.
The eight presses represent some of the first newly built machines installed in the U.S. in more than three decades — corresponding with a vinyl revival. White told The Associated Press on Friday that “there’s so much demand for the records and so little supply.”
“Two years ago we could not buy new presses,” said White, decked out in yellow shoes and custom-made Third Man shirt. “We’re the first place to really be the guinea pig of this.”
White marvels at the bright yellow, German-made machines, which earlier this week churned out records by some legendary Detroit bands that inspired him, including The Stooges and MC5. He said the presses will kick out the jams, as it were, by pressing eye-popping, genre-spanning platters by Detroit bands of renown and then spread to other Third Man artists and those of other small labels.
The plant also is part of a revival for a part of the city where White and his former band, The White Stripes, got its start 20 years ago. White also attended high school at nearby Cass Tech, ran an upholstery shop and took “a couple classes” at Wayne State University.
“Out of the darkness comes the light: What was traditionally known as the roughest neighborhood in Detroit, the Cass Corridor, is now showing the most incredible fruits and beauty and progress,” said White, who has recently collaborated with Beyoncé and A Tribe Called Quest.
White, who employed vinyl for his earliest releases, founded Third Man in Detroit in 2001 and both he and the business relocated to Nashville, Tennessee. Detroit’s retail store opened in 2015. White and Shinola, a Detroit-based maker of watches, bikes and other goods, jointly bought the building.
“Down the street, Shinola is selling $2,500 turntables that they’re making right there in front of people’s eyes behind glass. We’re going to be making records two doors down in front of glass. Can you believe this?” he mused. “This is in the Cass Corridor. You would have never have guessed any of this was going to happen. It’s worth every cent, every second of energy people have put into it.”
His goal is to keep expanding in Nashville and Detroit so that “there’s nothing involved in the record that is not part of the Third Man system,” including making record sleeves and metal plates for the presses. He likens the goal to that of another famous Detroit manufacturer, automotive pioneer Henry Ford.
“They had an idea about pouring raw materials into one end and out the other end came Model T cars,” he said. “We’re going to get there.”