We have been wanting to feature someone from Pallas Group / Pallas GmbH Records, a pressing plant in Diepholz, Lower Saxony Germany, for some time. Pallas is valued worldwide for the high sound quality of its pressings and is an established name in the music industry since it was founded in 1948. It is also an independent, family-run company and while all these credentials may make you think of things that go along with the audiophile world, and they are audiophile quality pressings, they employ a lot of really cool, fun, down to earth women. One of which is Janine Lettmann who is in QC (quality control) for their electroplating department, and has been working at Pallas for 10 years now. Her position is called “Mutterstecherin” in German which literally translates into “mother stabber”. Janine assures us it sounds just as wild in German.
To get an idea of what she is actually doing, here’s a refresher of the process. Before any record can be pressed, you first need to produce stampers, the things that actually press the audio grooves into the vinyl. Her colleagues in the electroplating department are turning lacquers into fathers, mothers, and stampers. The mother plates are what Janine works on. The mothers are needed to produce the stampers and can be listened to just like vinyl records, except they are made of metal. Since electroplating is a highly mechanical process, it can happen that e.g., a small nickel particle gets stuck in the music grooves which leads to static noises such as clicks, pops and rattling sounds. It’s Janine’s job to detect and correct those flaws by using a super tiny graver and working on grooves that are magnified 200 times under a microscope. When doing this job, you need to be very concentrated and calm. One wrong move can damage the groove so much that we have to scrap the mother. “Even though my job is not the easiest, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love what I am doing, and I am super happy to carry out such a rare job.”
When she’s not at work, Janine is playing bass-guitar in two metal / hardcore bands, so it’s safe to say that after work her life still revolves around music. She says there usually isn’t a month that she’s not going to a concert / festival or playing a show herself. Besides that, she also loves gaming, watching movies, anime and series’ “…big fan of the Star Wars Franchise over here, and playing Pen & Paper, I am a total nerd!”
How did you get into your industry / What motivated you to get into it?
After I finished school, I was looking for a training position and Pallas was searching for industrial clerk trainees back then. Since I am a big music enthusiast, learning at Pallas was my first choice. And luckily, it was a match. After finishing my traineeship, I was working as a shipping manager, preparing customs docs and stuff. Even though I was having a lot of fun in my old department, I didn’t have to think twice when Pallas offered me a position in the QC of the electroplating department. I mean, what’s better for a music nerd than to listen to music all day long? I also was super excited to be more involved in the creation of the product itself.
What is a day in the life like?
Usually, I am starting the day with a quick briefing with my QC colleagues: What’s particularly urgent today and who’s in charge of specific projects? And then of course, I am listening to a lot of mothers throughout the day. Some days I am super excited because I get to listen to new releases we’re making workable at our pressing plant. But I am not only checking new mothers. After several pressing runs, we need to pull new stampers to secure the best possible quality for our customers. This means that I am also often checking the metals of some good old classics. So, there are albums that I have probably listened to about a 100 times by now (literally).
In your opinion what has been your favorite / the coolest thing you’ve worked on?
I cannot name any specific titles due to our security protocol but some days I am one of the very first persons to actually listen to new releases of top artists that are playing concerts at the biggest venues you can imagine. The other days, I am checking mothers of titles I’ve never heard of and find myself discovering new stuff that I genuinely enjoy. But after all, the coolest thing about my job for me is – besides the music itself – that I can actually secure our production with my work. If something goes wrong during a press run, we don’t have to request new lacquers from the cutting studio right away because I am able to repair the metals in case of need.
What has been / is the most difficult part of your job?
The hardest part of the job is keeping a steady hand. When I notice that my hand is getting restless, I put the graver aside for about 5 minutes. The chance is just too high that you cause damage to the groove with a restless hand – that’s how delicate they are.
What advice do you have for someone wanting to get into pursuing what you’re doing?
Well, if you’re interested in this specific job, I can only suggest you move to Diepholz, Germany and to work at Pallas (by the way, we’re also hiring!). Because I really don’t know if any other pressing plant offers this position at all. At least in Germany it’s such a rare job that it has been used as a search term in several quiz shows on TV so far.
You should have a good ear, a steady hand and a strong ability to concentrate. Besides that, being interested in vinyl and music is always a good start.
Are you a vinyl collector yourself? What drew you to it?
Definitely a vinyl collector! What I love about vinyl is that it’s an entire work of art. From the music on the record to the cover and type of packaging. Even the design of the disc itself has no limit anymore. With a vinyl record, you’re not only holding a piece of art in your hand: Once you put it on the turntable it naturally transforms into a piece of art for your ears, too. I just love sitting in my “music room”, putting on a record and disconnecting from the world around me for a bit. A reset for my mind and soul.
What types of things are happening in your industry / with vinyl that you’re excited or worried about?
I’m excited about the ongoing “boom” that the vinyl industry is experiencing right now. Vinyl seems to be as present as it has ever been and there is still no end in sight. Of course, it’s challenging to navigate this business in times of high demand through a global pandemic that is causing issues in supply chains. But after all, I am happy to see that this “old” analogue technology is not being forgotten, but it is actually thriving in times of constant availability of music on streaming platforms. With our family run business, I also enjoy seeing this technological knowledge being carried from one generation to the next one.
During this time we’re currently in, what message do you have for music and vinyl fans? How can we support you, the industry?
Buy records, CDs or even cassettes! Some vinyl releases may be pushed back for some weeks or even months but be patient and still support the artist. The pandemic is a pain, but with music we can get through it.
Anything else you want to share? If not, tell me what you’re listening to:
My absolute favorite band is Muse. I just love how they always reinvent themselves. I think Muse are actually the reason why I started playing bass. I listen to nearly every kind of music, mostly Alternative Rock, Metalcore, Hardcore, Punk, Indie, Pop-Music and Nordic Dark Folk like Wardruna and Heilung. The only genre you will never catch me listening to willingly is German Schlager.
YouTube: YouTube Pallas