Thursday, October 22, 2009

Miracle Beard - Oct 16, 2009 - Vol. 1

So last Friday seven people crammed into the studio for a long overdue session of Miracle Beard. For those out of the loop, Miracle Beard is the all-singing, all-dancing, radical post-rock collective which has members dispersed to all corners of the planet and infiltrated in all levels of government, industry, and religion. At least that's what I heard.

Anyway, I set up a bunch of mics, got some rough levels, pressed record, and let the evening flow. Even with the occasional stop in recording during longer breaks, I still have a 3 hour and 21 minute file to dig through. Here's the first batch of tracks from the evening:

Wifi Lady
Baby, Bring It Back
My Baby's Going To The New School
Track 9
Track 10
Brass Tacks
Goodbye Summer
Ice Queen Lady
Mid-90's Technology


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Single of the Month - June

To be honest, I've been tinkering with this song since early May, so really it should be the previous single of the month. However, after not touching it for a few weeks (yet always thinking about it) I decided I should at least put together a rough mix so I can hear it on a few different systems. So here it is:

Gold, Gold, Gold, Gold

Julia kindly came over for an evening last month and added her vocals which make the song so much better, and also help the story of the song come through. We both singing about the same person, but from different perspectives, and Julia really nailed the "beyond the grave" vibe I was hoping for.

I think there are still some pieces to add to the song, and it needs a better mix, but for now I'll just let it be.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Care and Feeding of Your Korg Stage Echo - Part 1

About a month ago I sold my car as I hardly ever used it, and frankly, it was costing me more per month in parking, insurance, and occasional repair bills (mostly from things rusting up from lack of use) than it was worth. 12 years of car ownership had some good times, but also a hell of a lot of break downs, let downs, and general hassles. It feels good to be free.

Anyway, high on my "To Get" list for the studio for a long time has been a tape echo. Tape echo is an old effect, dating back to the 1940's, which by using multiple play heads and a long loop of tape, creates the illusion of space in a recording. A little bit of tape echo sounds like a reverberant tiled room, while at the other extreme you can get echoes and repeats building on top of each other, feeding back, and in general being really trippy. Lots of use in dub, as you might imagine, but having a tape echo was a bog standard studio feature for decades until analog and then digital delay effects units became more established and affordable.

There are still a few new tape echo units being produced, but the glory days were the 1970's when Roland created their Space Echo (I still regret not grabbing one about five years ago for 1/2 the price of what they sell for now). The lesser known entry into the tape echo wars was Korg with their Stage Echo models (manuals here) which came out in the late 1970's.

I have a great appreciation for the 1970's Korg design of their synths and other equipment.

There some thing about the colour, knobs, and general aesthetics that appeals to me, and the Stage Echo fits right in. So using some of the proceeds from the car sale I bought one.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

New Projects

Here's what's new and exciting at Commonwealth Studios:

1. Jon F and I have embarked on an ambitious quest to do a proper recording of the 15 or so songs that he's written over the last few years. After doing a demo session of his tunes in November, we've now started serious work on three of them. Here they are in draft form:

Fairwind Blues

It Don't Break My Heart

2. Julia Chan was long rumoured to have a killer voice, yet it wasn't until Beau played a recording she made of Wicked Game that I really noticed (all those karaoke sessions in the past were not ideal listening environments). She came over to the studio last week to make some higher fidelity recordings, which I think came out really well. Enjoy.

Track 1

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Recent Readings

Well, it's been over a year since I've made any posts to this cursed blog, so I'm vowing to get back on track. I've decided to use it to review recent music related books I've consumed, as well as continue to post about my music and recording activities.

In the last few months I've read the following:

In Search of the Blues by Marybeth Hamilton which is an interesting take on the usual story of where the blues came from, who played them, and why they matter. While the usual cast of characters are in here (Robert Johnson, Son House, Leadbelly, etc.) the book is really about the mostly white men who sought out the old, unloved jazz and blues performers and recordings and exposed them to new audiences.

John and Alan Lomax are perhaps the most well known of this group, thanks to their field recordings for the Library of Congress in the 1930's and 40's. For me, however, the most fascinating part of this book is the chapter on the eccentric and overlooked James McKune. A recluse living in a Brooklyn YMCA from the 1940's onward, he had an incredible focus on what he considered "quality", narrowing his collection to a few boxes of 78's:

If a record did not thrill him, he would not buy it (or if he had, inadvertently, he would not keep it long), even if it came recommended by the few collectors whose taste he respected. Owning a complete set of an artist's recordings, collecting master numbers in sequence, acquiring unissued pressings simply for their obscurity: such motives might compel other collectors, but none
appealed to him. What he was after were magical sounds, by their nature rare and elusive. He prided himself on tolerating no junk.

What I find interesting about poor James (who's naked body was found bound and gagged in a flophouse in 1971) is that he was drawn to the same ominous, alien, freaky, dark and dirty style of blues that I find so appealing. I'm talking about stuff like Charlie Patton's Some These Days I'll Be Gone.

I'm currently reading (on and off) The Rest Is Noise. More to come.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Great Anecdote

From Machers and Rockers: Chess Records and the Business of Rock & Roll by Rich Cohen:

Magic Dick of the J Geils band met the Muddy Waters band in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where, trying to act cool, he took aside [piano player] Otis Spann and showed him a cube of hashish. Thanks, said Spann, and popped the entire cube in his mouth. A few days later, Magic Dick asked Spann how he had liked the drug. Spann said, "I didn't know where I was for a long time."

The rest of the book is also worth a read, and it inspired me to tackle Deep Blues by Robert Palmer. Even after 30 years, it is still an excellent history of the blues. Get on it!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Recording Plans and Other Updates

I'm starting to get back into making some recording after taking a few weeks off. The current tune was inspired by a mic that I've always wanted (and now I have two): the ElectroVoice 664. They came out in the 1950's as a pretty standard vocal mic for PAs and live events, but they also have a place in many studio recordings. They work well on drums, guitar, even vocals, much like a Shure 57, but about 100 times cooler looking. Plus they weigh a ton, which always means quality. Or something. Did I mention they're cheap and plentiful?
There are a few downsides if you're thinking about picking one up. Firstly, the connector is not a standard XLR, but rather a 4-pin Cannon connector. If possible, make sure a cable comes with the mic, or you're looking at about $50 for a replacement. One cable I have allows the Cannon connector to split open, so you can change the pin connections from Hi-Z (for plugging in to an amp - think harmonica) to Lo-Z (for plugging into a mic pre-amp or mixer). The other cable is not so adjustable, so I still need to do some work on it.
The other downside is the frequency response, which gets a little hairy at the low end. There is another EV model called the 666 (!) which apparently is great on bass or kick drums, but they are rarer and much more expensive. The two 664's I have averaged $50 each, while a 666 will be closer to $200.

Anyway, the track I'm finishing off uses the 664 on almost every instrument. I'll post a sample soon.