Into the groove: Wax Mage owner spins vinyl records into trippy works of art

Heath Gmucs sees his world in living color. As pressing operations supervisor for Tyler Village-based record pressing plant Gotta Groove Records (3615 Superior Ave.), Gmucs started to see a more colorful potential behind the traditional black vinyl records he's been turning out since 2010.

The Gotta Groove team first started playing around with color splatter and half-and-half colors on their custom records in 2009. The concept led Gmucs to take the idea even further and start Wax Mage Records in 2015. “It just got my wheels spinning,” he recalls. “I thought, 'How else can I melt [pigments in the PVC]?”

After some experimentation, Gmucs now creates brilliant works of art on vinyl records—all of them playable, despite their tie-dyed eye appeal in virtually every color imaginable. “It’s been a long, creative process,” Gmucs says.

As vinyl makes a comeback, Wax Mage is getting recognition for Gmucs' unique creations. In fact, at the 2018 Making Vinyl conference in Detroit, one of Gmucs’ albums won the award for "Best Record Art" and another of his records earned runner-up recognition in the same category.

Now Gmucs' creations will be in heavy rotation at Tremont's Lava Lounge (1307 Auburn Ave.), where an art installation done by Gmucs is being featured on the second floor of the bar and an opening party is being held this Saturday, March 30, to spotlight it. 

Brandon Vulpitta, bartender and special event coordinator for Lava Lounge and sister establishment Fat Cats, says the upstairs area—which accommodates about 50 people—hasn’t been used much for public events in recent years.

“It just felt like upstairs and downstairs were competing for customers, so it didn’t make sense when everyone could fit downstairs,” Vulpitta explains. “I’d like to start hosting more events that are open to the public up there, and Wax Mage seemed like the perfect fit.”

According to Vulpitta, the upstairs lounge has vaulted ceilings with a full bar, sofas, and tables, but up until now the décor has been a “hodgepodge of stuff." Says Vulpitta, “The idea is to make vinyl records be the art and color and the visual element in the room—kind of like a showroom or display space.”

Gmucs plans on hanging 30 12-inch records and 21 seven-inch records in the space, as well as some sculptures made from purged PVC. “It’s weird stuff I do,” he says. “When we purge color, we have to purge through the PVC and, of course, I play with it.”

This will be Gmucs’ fourth Wax Mage installation, and he says Vulpitta has been to all of the previous installations. “He [invited me to] come do one here,” Gmucs says. “I will use the space wisely.”

The opening party on Saturday is from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. The party will feature DJ Wedge spinning underground experimental rock, as well as taco and tequila specials at the bar.

Read more articles by Karin Connelly Rice.

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.
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