September 25, 2021
Sep 25, 2021
from the desk of Cassidy Ann, Citizen Vinyl Staff Producer
In the vinyl pressing plant, not all machines are made of steel.
Susanne Aurich is a manual press operator at Citizen Vinyl. Her components include endless stories gathered from two decades of van life, a love for cooking and gardening, and a laugh that will light up a room.
“But I don’t own a record player,” she says, with a grin.
In fact, Susanne didn’t always consider herself a music lover. It wasn’t until she landed a job selling band merch that sent her smack dab into the depths of the live music scene, traveling with big musical acts across the United States.
Susanne grew up in the German region of Lake Constance, called “Bodensee” in Deutsch. It’s a crystal-clear Alpine lake encompassed by small resort towns. Lighthouses and Medieval castles dot the surrounding hills. It’s a scene fit for a postcard, she says, “it’s busy with tourists. Kind of like Asheville.”
In that very same traveler’s dreamland, she started selling pop and rock music posters for a merchandise company, Schucki Posters. In 1998, the owner needed help with a big client — the Spice Girls — on their inaugural tour. Susanne leapt at the opportunity to visit the States. For three months, she caravaned along with Scary, Sporty, Baby, and Posh (Ginger had just made her shocking departure) on their Spiceworld tour, selling posters and trinkets at every stop.
“From that job, I’ve learned that everything always works out somehow. Even if your truck breaks down, and you’re late an hour, it still works out,” Susanne said.
That first tour was a gateway into a new lifestyle that she settled into for the next two decades, managing Schucki Poster’s sales in North America. It entailed renting out a Penske truck and spending three to six months on the road at a time, before returning home to Germany after each tour.
“I got told so many times, ‘you’re so lucky.’ But I’d say, ‘I have to drive four hours tonight, sleep in a Holiday Inn Express somewhere, and then I have to get up early tomorrow to get everything done and actually get to the show!’” Susanne said. “But people have a very romantic view of everything.”
During those 20 years, Susanne toured with the likes of U2, ACDC, the Rolling Stones, and notably, David Bowie in 2004. After a show at the Borgata Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, Ziggy Stardust himself invited everyone on that tour to celebrate, and he gave them each a handful of poker chips.
“He shook my hand and thanked me. I was so embarrassed, I said, ‘I sell posters!,’” Susanne said. “There were so many people with real jobs that did important things, all I could think of was to say, ‘you’re welcome.’”
In 2012, she decided she was ready to unpack and settle somewhere for good. She wanted a garden, and her partner was studying at the John C. Campbell Folk School. They decided on Asheville.
When Susanne heard about an opportunity to work at Citizen Vinyl’s pressing plant, she saw it as a re-entry to a world she already knew.
“And a world that I’m interested in,” Susanne said. “I actually pressed a record for a band that I know and had been to their shows, that was pretty cool.”
In a single shift, she’s pressed 600 records. Better than any machine, Susanne handles each one with the delicacy of a surgeon, carefully inspecting it before the vinyl gets stamped, slid into a sleeve, and shipped out to record stores.
“A lot of records that are pressed are coming from foreign countries, because it’s cheap. I just know how it is with shipping merchandise across the border,” Susanne said. “For bands to be able to press here in the US and not deal with shipping, it’s a pretty good thing.”
Sanni Aurich working the manual record press at Citizen Vinyl // 📸 Colby Caldwell