Founded in 1996, Furnace Record Pressing is primarily known for producing high-quality vinyl records. This includes recent titles by the likes of Metallica, Foo Fighters, Beck, and Led Zeppelin. Further notable about Furnace is that its logo was designed by Shepard Fairey, who not only designed both the infamous Barack Obama “HOPE” poster and the André The Giant Has A Posse “OBEY” sticker collection.
Based in the Washington D.C. suburb of Alexandria, Virginia, I had the pleasure of doing a Q&A with Furnace CEO Eric Astor while maintaining the focus on food. More on Mr. Astor and his Furnace cohorts, who generously sent me a care package that included vinyl-related supplies and a bobblehead of the Furnace Record Pressing mascot known as “Furny,” may be found online at www.furnacemfg.com.
What are some of the great restaurants near Furnace Record Pressing? Astor: Luckily, we are just outside Washington, D.C., which is a big food town. We have everything from great little dive places to fancy Michelin-starred restaurants within a short drive.
A look at how Furnace is making a Metallica vinyl box set happen.
If a band or client were in town, where would the Furnace team usually take them? Astor: That depends on what we have time for, I guess. If it’s a fast casual lunch, we all love Victor Albisu’s Taco Bamba for super-tasty and fast tacos with heavy metal blasting.
If we have a big group, Four Sisters Vietnamese Restaurant is an institution in Northern Virginia, and they always take great care of us. They are incredibly quick and have something for everyone from delicious Pho to Shaky Beef, crispy whole fried fish, and vegetarian options. The spring rolls blow everyone away.
If we are going to see a show in town, the best place for late night eats is Danny Lee, Scott Drewno and Drew Kim’s awesome Chiko. Furikake butter makes everything taste better! Or if we have time for a fancy, sit-down dinner we might try and grab a table at our friend Johnny Spero’s new fine dining restaurant, Reverie, in Georgetown.
But for dessert, we gotta head uptown to Mount Pleasant and get scoops at Mt. Desert Ice Cream, it’s a shop recently opened by our friends and Dischord alums Brian Lowit and Melissa Quinley. They have these wild flavors of small batch, super creamy ice cream. It’s amazing.
What about breweries in the area? Is craft beer culture alive around there? Astor: Oh it totally is. We can’t even keep up with all the craft breweries that are opening up around here. DC Brau is a favorite in the city run by some old punks kids, and we have neighborhood spots like Port City in Alexandria and Caboose Brewing in Vienna and in Fairfax.
Here’s a short look at the pressing of Foo Fighters’ Sonic Highways at a Furnace Record Pressing plant.
Is there a dish that you won’t eat anywhere but in your hometown? Astor: I mean, the iconic D.C. food has got to be a half-smoke from Ben’s Chili Bowl down on U Street. Always fun to take visiting folks down there to experience the legendary spot with it’s newly updated mural along U Street, once known as “Black Broadway.” There’s a great energy in there any time day or night and the jukebox is always playing great funk and soul tunes. But since I’m a vegetarian, I opt for the veggie chili over fries and a vanilla shake.
What was the last great out of town meal you had? Astor: I gotta say that the gnocchi at Bar La Grassa in Minneapolis was amazing. I still dream about it. And basically any meal in New Orleans (do beignets count as a meal?), such an incredible food town. But we love this tiny obscure place called Kin for super-creative dishes that combine Asian and New Orleans traditional foods.
Food aside, what is coming up for you and Furnace? Astor: We just built a brand new 50,000 square foot pressing plant so that’s where all of our focus is right now. We’re dedicated to making very high-quality records and to achieve that, we’re constantly improving our processes, training our people and investing in our people.
In this video clip, Furnace’s Willem Ytsma explains why vinyl records are back.
What sorts of minimum quantities are needed for Furnace to press your vinyl? Astor: With setup costs being what they are on vinyl, we’ve found that 300 units is the sweet spot on small runs. We can press fewer but it, generally, isn’t much cheaper.
Is there a recent project or two that you are especially proud of? Astor: Every record we press is a cause to celebrate. We especially love working with small artists and labels. I’ve been in their position and remember how excited I was every time the records came back from the pressing plant.
How long did it take to put together that recent Metallica set that Furnace did? Astor: We’re not done. That thing is a beast. It’s never-ending. We’ll let you know when we finish.
Finally, Eric, any last words for the kids? Astor: Wow. I don’t think I’m qualified to talk to the kids. There are two things that have made my life way more enjoyable: not having all of the answers and saying “no” to things that don’t add value to my life or those who I care about. Listen, keep learning and don’t trust the man.