NSC Records - The Ron Murphy Story

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NSC Records (formally National Sound Corporation ) was created in 1989 in Detroit by Steve Martel (deceased in 1994 ) and Ron Murphy (deceased in 2008 ) as a record store. Under the leadership of Derrick May and Juan Atkins , NSC evolved to become the editing and mastering studio and almost exclusively responsible for cutting the master lacquers of Detroit’s techno community. NSC was later known as Sound Enterprises , but Ron Murphy's mastered vinyls continued to carry the engraved NSC logo.

Murphy was a legend behind the scenes,


Ron Murphy was a Record cutter, mastering engineer, and record producer at Sound Enterprises formerly National Sound Corporation in Detroit. He engineered for the first time around May 1966 for title "We Go To Pieces" a 45 single on Forest Hairston's Viney Records label and Isaac Hayes 'recording of "Walk on By" in 1971 at United Sound. In 1989, Steve Martel and Ron Murphy decided to open a store specializing in old phonograph records, located at 17610 W. Warren in Detroit, Michigan. They named the business National Sound Corporation. Murphy came to the attention of the techno pioneers in the 1980s when Derrick May and Juan Atkins stumbled upon the westside cutting plant. Murphy owned a vintage cutting lathe from the 1930s and agreed to master and cut the prototype metal records. Detroit techno was able to compete on an international level almost immediately because Murphy was capable of taking un-releasable music – music that most master record cutters would turn down – and making it sound good.

In a discreet way, Ron kept the audio quality of the labels – such as Underground Resistance and Axis – at a certain level because he was conscious of where this music was going.”

Murphy maxed out the levels of his gear in order to keep the music moving forward and would go as far into the red as he could without distorting the sound, making records as hot as possible. Pushing the limits of the sweeping on the low ends – it would literally raise the needle out of the groove,

Murphy was never one to approach his work in an orthodox fashion, constantly inventing new and different ways to cut records, often with a cigar in his mouth. Locked grooves and inverted grooves, where the record would play from the inside out instead of the outside in, were common in Murphy’s work. After bootleg copies of Underground Resistance and Kevin Saunderson records surfaced, the inverted groove was a method Murphy used to thwart the problem. “That was something I didn’t know that you could do,” said Juan Atkins. “I didn’t see any records like that until Ron’s records.”

Aside from the NSC logo, it was also common to find verbiage on Murphy’s records. “He would inscribe stuff on the inside band,” recalls Atkins, and we would send messages to each other like, "This is Detroit" or "This is the world’s best electronic music." This personal touch made Detroit records unique, not only in sound, but in looks as well. "We would put handwritten notes saying some sort of mystic message," like, "This is a message from another dimension." On a Kenny Larkin record for Plus 8, John Acquaviva recalls inscribing the phrase, "Don’t step on the cracks of society, search them out and jump right in."

Ron Murphy was also known as "Motown Murphy", as he had one of the largest Motown Records collection and extensive knowledge of the Detroit musical history. Ron Murphy spanned two great moments of Detroit music history: Motown and Detroit Techno. He cut his masters for a lot of Techno's innovators using his Scully lathe (which now resides in Mike Banks' Submerge Building in Detroit).