Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Jabberwock

So I think this is the recording of Jabberwocky. The mix is just a simple rough mix I put up on my computer.

But I think everything kinda works. I added a second guitar to the last verse of the song through the end. Odd thing about that last verse -- we've been rehearsing it as a single 8-bar verse, but when we played it here we did all 16 bars. Then I realized that back in the olden days (I think) we went back to the very first verse for those last 8 bars. So I stole a vocal take from an earlier version of that first verse and put it in there.
Tell me your notes! Go ahead, post a comment. Blogger won't bite you. I promise.
UPDATE: the notes have come back. We've added more slap to the vocals in the verses and we're doing a new Hammond solo. ;-)

Sunday, December 26, 2010

On Music, Modern and Otherwise

Now, I've never been one who pedestaled "youth". Indeed, I sounded like a grumpy old man as a teenager. And the truth is that I like modern pop music. Lady Gaga is amusing. And I like that song Bulletproof by La Roux.
And I certainly don't mind doing covers of classic songs (I actually released a 12" EP with a cover of Cream's Sunshine of Your Love with a "band" called Plaid Cow.)

But when you're a hard rockin' outfit like Type O Negative you'd thing you'd do something other than making a kind of meh cover of Neil Young's Cinnamon Girl. Wouldn't you?
Now this is actually a lesson I have to keep learning. There are, for instance, things which are fun to play (like high-gain preamp distortion) that actually don't sound that good. They feel good. They don't sound good.
When mixing, the same thing happens when you add too much compression. You feel like it's better. But it's not. It's just louder. And although you think louder is better (everyone thinks louder is better, it's virtually a principal of psychoacoustics) it ain't necessarily so.
And it takes discipline to play a guitar which isn't screaming on every note. A guitar which actually rings and then dies out. You know, like a natural instrument.
I've been playing both my amps at a variety of volumes. I have cranked up my JTM-45 clone, the Celtic Amps Edana that is, to 11. And it turns out that just too much. I know because I've listened to recordings where I've "dimed" the amp (the controls only go up to 10, the "11" thing is just a Spinal Tap joke) and it actually over-saturates. It's awfully fun to play. But it's too much.
At about 4 on the dial the guitar sound will rock your vole. If you play some power chords hard with a Les Paul, the growl you get is like no other sound you can imitate with other gear. And if you pick lightly, there's this amazing sheen in the sound.
Neil Young actually uses a relatively clean sound here. I mean "relative" to a modern rock high-gain sound. The guitars certainly break up. But the dynamics and the incredible one-note solo are the point.
But with the tools available to the modern guitar player and mixer, it's awfully tempting to go a lot further than this sound, even if you don't really need it.
And instead of linking to either version of Cinnamon Girl, here is Down by the River instead.
Neil famously uses a Fender Deluxe. The amp I play in tandem with my Edana is a Lil' Dawg Mutt, which is a Deluxe front-end with a Champ power section. It's a remarkably loud little 6-watt amplifier.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Amp Notes

These are important and sexy notes from Scott Fitzpatrick about my new Celtic Edana amplifier:
Regarding the Sovtek inverter tube and the difference between it and the JJ which the amp came with (and unfortunately which showed up DOA):
It's really hard to get a picture of a band in performance which includes everyone.
"Check your bias. Should be between 36-40. Adjust by ear in small difference. Bias test points under chassis. Set multimeter to dc volts."
I also went gushing on and on about how great an amp it is and his response was:

"It's one of the most incredible circuits ever.  True definition of classic.  Best part is, you can drop 6L6, 5881 or EL34 tubes in there with a rebias.  (FYI, el34's change the speaker out me if you decide to ever do that)."

These are important notes for me to retain. Keywords are "bias", "rebias", "Edana", "tube".

Monday, December 20, 2010


Something I learned a while ago from Melissa Riker back when we were shooting the movie Apostasy was the idea of "completing a phrase". Specifically I learned it because she was critiquing herself for not completing her phrases as she danced in a particular scene in that movie.
That was rather eye-opening to me. One of those moments where suddenly everything made sense. Like I should have seen it all this time. Ahh yes, completing a phrase -- in dance or music -- is very important. And it's one of the very few times you can really use a dance analogy to discuss music.
As we'll starting to move through the overdubs on the Tyrannosaurus Mouse album I've been doing a lot of close listening and one thing I appreciate is how Ethan makes full and complete phrases as a bass player. Ethan is a very conservative player -- never plays too many notes. When he does play a "fill" though, it's going to be complete and thought out.

This actually has the effect of making me a more conservative player. Which is a good thing. You want the guitar player to be conservative. He doesn't have to make swoops and dives and what-have-you every 8 bars. Having the turn-arounds on the bass and the drums is just sexier. And, nowadays, rare.

I'm very fortunate that I'm still really enjoying listening to our groovy little album. And we certainly do have a compete album of material if for no other reason than we can't seem to play a pop song for less than 9 minutes. My plan is to have most of the electric guitars finished by sometime around the beginning of the new year. Then we bring in Arie to finish up some keyboard overdubs!


This little fellow is apparently named "Tyrannosaurus".

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Things That Amuse Me Volume II

Via Chance Shirley (I think), a really smart article about the music business in the Wall Street Journal by the lead singer for OK, Go.
I love this post on how to tour with a band. Especially point #13:

  • 13- Driver picks the music.


Actually, I've never done a truck-and-bus tour. I've only toured as a sound mixer for theater (and corporate broadcast) and except for some very ad-hoc situations where there was carpooling to out-of-town, I've only flown and then stayed in single rooms in nice hotels. I know, very luxurious, but that's the only stuff I've done.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A Blast from the Past

Pat DuBois, the bass player for Pavlov and the Drooling Dogs send me a picture taken by Sean Dineen of an ancient demo tape of ours (probably these copies were used to send to clubs in order for us to get gigs.) You'll notice the "201" area code which makes this tape about 28 years old or so. Man, tapes were so expensive we had to send these out on "normal" bias cassettes. Plus I love how our old home phone number is hand written by me on the label. 
Here's a funny fact: Tyrannosaurus Mouse does a song that is on this tape. I must have been 18 or maybe 19 when I wrote it. The song is Jabberwocky (using the Lewis Carrol words) and when we do "One two One two through and through" we think about Pat who insisted (rightly) that the whole band accented the quarter notes right there.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Jackets and Amplifiers

I wrote a review of the Celtic Amps Edana on Harmony Central.
Today I spent some time playing it (and my Lil' Dawg Mutt) fairly loud. Not knock-over-the-furniture loud. But fairly loud.
The clean sound on that amp is very nice.

Now that I have a psychedelic jacket, what is the rest of the band going to wear? This is going to be a very difficult conversation when we come to it.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


I got my Celtic Amplifiers Edana today. It's more beautiful in person than in pictures. Here it is in my ideal setup with the Lil' Dawg Mutt.
This is a quick little recording with this setup -- the amps are turned way down ;-) This is a Gibson Les Paul Custom Shop Custom into an MXR analog delay and thorough a Lehle splitter. The Edana is going to a 12" Celestion Alnico Blue and the Mutt is going to a 10" Weber.
Actually, you hear relatively little of the Mutt in this recording. The mic is an SM57 and we're recording through a Neve 1272 and an Apogee Mini-Me converter.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Here's a Notion

OK, the dude on our right is a bit off. But this is something like I think the official Tyrannosaurus Mouse picture should be like.
Now... if I could only grow a mustache...

Sunday, December 12, 2010


Tonight I saw Patricia Barber at the Jazz Standard in New York City. The club is a nice little club and it sounds very good.
When we first walked in actually we were going to sit close to the stage but then it occurred to me that we'd be in an acoustical "dead spot" and perhaps further from the stage would be better. The waiter suggested up by the bar would be better because there (hid in the "rafters") was a delayed speaker system which actually made the bar area sound really good, but at reasonable volumes.
I think that was the right decision because otherwise the experience would have been "Jazz drum concerto backed by Patricia Barber and others".
This is not the band I saw her with. I just got this from a website somewhere.
I felt she sounded much better live than I'd heard her on record. She had a backup band that I'll call, for lack of a better name, "Three Skinny White Guys With Black Shirts and Jeans". The performance had a nice feeling to it, which I suppose is the whole point of jazz. Her voice is great. My only complaint is that her mic technique seems to be in inverse proportion to how great a singer she is. I would put another large-diaphragm microphone about 2 1/2 to 3 feet away from her, tell her it's for the piano, and use it as the main microphone for her voice. It seemed like even that close-mic'ed "throaty" sound she does so well would come across with a nice U47 a couple feet away. Even live. She actually sounded best to me when she sang totally off-axis to her vocal microphone (which I didn't recognize.)
Interestingly the drums were mic'ed by a single Neumann cardioid behind the drummer's head. Yep, I was the dorkmeister who went up to the sound guy afterward and asked him about that mic. He said it was primarily for the recording but that a bit of it went into the PA system. I asked him if there were any issues with the drummer himself getting in-between the mic and the drums and he allowed as how he didn't think so. I suspect that the mic was actually just far away enough and with a wide enough pattern that it really didn't matter.
The set felt very organic. I think if you were going to the show to hear some particular song by Patricia Barber you'd likely be disappointed. But the one thing which impressed me greatly is the musical patience she has. As an artist she's willing to take her time and not rush things in order to "put on a show".

Friday, December 10, 2010

Edana on its way

Here's a note from Scott Fitzpatrick about my new Edana (which is a JTM45 clone):

When you take the back off, there's lots of packing material.  Be sure to pull the piece out that is behind the large transformer.  It can be easily missed. 

There's lots of bubble wrap and tape.  Be careful you don't scratch the wood when you are cursing me out trying to unwrap it.  Careful with the screwdriver when you're taking the back off.  

It's furniture quality on the head.  You can leave it the way it is and just wipe it down with a dust rag or use some furniture polish.  Try it on the bottom first to see if you like the look of whatever polish you use.  

Id probably just leave it alone.  Keep in mind that head has been under a beach towel sitting in my shop for 12 months, maybe more, just to keep the dust off it.  But the wood has been breathing, not in a hermetically sealed box.  The shop that makes these does great work.  Dovetail joints are a thing of beauty.  

Sorry, I'm gushing a bit.  Its been a great week.

You gotta love it when your amp-builder is that happy with your amp, right?

Coat V1

Here I am trying on my new psychedelic jacket at Panzai. The shaky camera is thanks to iPhone. Everything about the coat is awesome except... the collar is lapels rather than a mandarin. So they're re-making it into a mandarin collar with the tiny bit of material they have left.
The coat is totally groovy. Oh, and those are Chippewa 17" non-steel-toe engineer boots which are going to take quite some time to break in.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Wood on Wood

Scott at Celtic Amps is rockin' out through my new Edana amp. That's his '58 reissue Les Paul.
Tell me you can't just hear the wood.

Tyrannosaurus Mouse Amplifier

Scott Fitzpatrick at Celtic Amps is finishing up the Tyrannosaurus Mouse Edana amplifier.
The back of the amp. The "bitchy/sweet" switch amuses me. You'll note this JTM45 clone can drive 4, 8, or 16 ohms.
I'm really looking forward to playing this amp. Over the last two years I've gotten better at electric guitar. Playing with the guys in T-mouse will do that to a feller.
Pretty, pretty tubes behind the grill. KT66 power tubes are BIG.
I can't wait to get this amp fired up. It'll be ready none-too-soon neither. The time has come to play some soaring guitar leads for our album.
I love the design of Scott's badge, but he's suggesting that the wood it too beautiful to put the badge on.
I know I'm going to keep going back-and-forth between which amp gets the 12" Celestion alnico blue and which gets the 10" Weber.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Do You Like Too Much Compression?

If you do then I have some too much compression for you. Everything is compressed right to the edge of distortion.
As an excuse I'm saying I'm playing with Samplitude's compression and built-in effects. And actually, I am learning more about those things. The effects that come with Samplitude are really quite good. They went to a lot of trouble engineering them. They have some compressors which (if applied more tastefully than I've done here) sound nice.
Now you should note that there is a guitar missing, and a Hammond keyboard solo, and possibly a grand piano solo.
But I have questions. Questions which need must be answered afore I can go on.
  1. How many bars should this intro be?
  2. Should I get rid of the "ringing" in the bass at the beginning of the song?
  3. Is the vocal singing style right for this song?
  4. Is the vocal effect right for this song (meaning the band-limited sound, the delay)?
Answer me these questions four.

Update: the questions have been answered thuswise:

1. However many bars that was was fine.
2. Yes, lose the ringing.  It's just my muting incompetence showing through (editor's note, this was Ethan saying this).
3. I think it's in the ballpark, although that might not be the final take, or overdubs might be in order.
4. I like the vocal effects for the verses, perhaps a dryer sound for the chorus?  Or just different effects?

More Russians

A couple times a year I record concerts for the Russian Chamber Chorus of New York. They are off-the-charts good. The musicality, the detail, the sheer emotion of the work is amazing. And look, you don't have to take my word for it, even the New Yorker calls them "splendid"*

And it's not just the musical brilliance of their maestro, Nikolai Kachanov, although that's a massive part of it.

The chorus also pull these tremendous accompanists out of their hats. For instance,  Mikhail Zeiger, a pianist and composer, plays with them frequently. And he's simply off-the-charts good. He's the sort of musician that, when you hear him play, you think: "Wait, he can't be as good as I think he is."

But he is.

Another impressive feat of the Russian Chamber Chorus is that they create a new program at least twice a year. Now I don't just mean they learn new music twice a year. No, the limitation of "Russian Chorus" is a limitation of over a thousand years of music. Ha! So they'll do early music, they'll do Romantic, they'll do modern music (much of their most beautiful and interesting material has been modern -- there's a 911 Mass which will bring tears to your eyes.) Sometimes they'll mix very different periods. But it's always brand new. And that makes things more adventurous for the singers and the audience.
*I can't actually find the link right now to the New Yorker blurb. Sue me.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Where is Leslie?

This article on Leslie simulators is really interesting. Make sure you to to the second page though, where he changes his mind completely (I really respect that.) The conclusion to the conclusion is that the Neo Instruments Ventilator actually sounds like a Leslie. They do cost $500.
Funny thing is you can get a Mahaffay Little Lanilei Rotary Speaker kit for only $400.  That's basically an unpowered 10" rotary speaker (well, it's powered in that there's electricity going to the motor, but you need an amp to feed it.) The Little Laneli Rotary is probably the cheapest of the real-sounding Leslie emulators. It sounds real because it's actually a whirling speaker. It's only $399 but you have to put it together as a kit. And that involves some drilling and such, so you have to be at least semi-competent with wood.
What I don't really get about these is how the "brake" sound works on the stomp-box emulators. Because ultimately the sound of the Leslie starting and stopping is the most amusing part of it to me.
And I'm not actually in the market for a Leslie simulator, I'm just sort of vaguely interested. And it's not like I actually have any money lying around for such adventures.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Ooh, Nice Cut

I understand this jacket is from 1897 and is English. But I don't know anything more about it. And believe me, I've been looking...

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Today in the Mouse

See? I signed up for the Music Career Masters newsletter so you don't have to. Here's what you learn:
Basically you
  • get a band, 
  • actually get the band to sound like something,
  • and make sure the band looks like something.
Actually, "looking like something" sounds like a good piece of advice. I better get right back on the horse about getting that psychedelic jacket and some riding boots, hadn't I?

Rough Magic Studios is a recording studio in Greenpoint Brooklyn. Their rehearsal rate is only $25/hour. And they do have a Hammond and a Fender Rhodes. The only downside is that every page on their website has music playing on it.

Monday, November 29, 2010

T-Mouse Edana

You can just see (upside down) the signed "T-Mouse" between the transformer and the turret board of my Celtic Edana.
Ooh! It's getting tested!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Our Songs

Lyrics: Lou thinks this should be all instrumental, with a soaring guitar part where the vocals should go. I'm thinking of going 30/30/30 with Hammond solo, guitar solo, and vocals
Notes: we're going to shorten the monsterous song by 8 bars here, 8 bars there, to make it nice and tight. It'll still clock in at over 10 minutes. But probably less than 20. Unless my guitar solo rules so much that we simply MUST have the song be longer.

Ethan has selected a take (which needs to be cleaned up).
Vocals: I want to triple-check my pronunciation of the lyrics because it would be really embarrassing to screw that up.
Solo: We're going to make that a B4 solo. Arie's gonna be all up in that.

Thing in A (Ice Maiden)
There's only one take, so we know which take we'll use.
Vocals: apparently there is a growing consensus that the vocals should be more "rock". Actually, I'll need further notes on that because I don't really understand how to make the verse melody more rockin' seeing as it's kind of soft instrumentally. Perhaps I should ask WWLZD (What Would Led Zeppelin Do)? Although there's simply no way I can sing like Robert Plant. So yeah, I'm going to do another mix of that tune with the direction the vocals are going in now and expect to get some notes back (or better: specific suggestions.)
Solo: keyboards or guitar? I feel electric piano but I'm open to other notions.

There's only one take.
There will be no vocals.
This song is the closest to "finished" so far.
It needs a dancer with a fan.

New Thing (Mercury)
We did only one take of this.
Vocals: I'm going to have to ask for advice on this. Right now I'm just singing "Oh Mercury" in the chorus. If anyone has any better ideas, I'd love to hear them.
Solo: the loudest rock guitar solo you have ever heard. Slow and lugubrious analog delay with soaring notes which will reduce you to tears. I assure you. I will have a follow spot on me as I play it live. You will be fooled into thinking I can play guitar because I will play very few notes but they will each sound really really loud.

One Last Drink
Thing in E
Ethan has very specific notes on which takes to use. Basically the take from our first session with the last take of One Last Drink from the second session cut together with the second-to-last take from the second session of One Last Drink will make the bulk of this song. That's a tad tricky because the two sessions had different track assignments so we'll see how that works out. It might be cool.
I have a fantasy, however, that the Thing in E might get edited into One Last Drink, you know -- just to make it more complicated. That's because the "B" section which Lou came up with in the Thing in E is essentially similar to the "C" section of One Last Drink (although in a different key). So it might cut together. Or it might be a big mess.

I feel a Hammond solo is what's needed in One Last Drink (and indeed, that was what we had on the Prague Spring version of the song.)
The issue with the Thing in E is that it otherwise sounds like a  beer commercial. It's the only thing which doesn't really sound like a Tyrannosaurus Mouse song to me.
It's possible we may simply drop the Thing in E from the album. But again, I'm open to suggestions.

Tyrannosaurus Mouse.

You're not still talking about a psychedelic jacket are you?

Oh Lordy, you are.

Mood Fabrics is where all the Project Runway people shop.
My sister found this fabric at Discount Fabrics. It's cool but it's a tad brighter than what I really want.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Detailed Notes

And impossibly big files.

Yes, these image files are freakin' huge. But that's what makes them legible (click to embiggen).

This is what's great about having a real band. I didn't do any of this work! This is all Ethan Rosenblatt's notes. All I have to do is incorporate these notes.

I'm waaaaay to close to the music to have any clue at all what's good or not. I have zero distance. So now I know what takes to use for which songs and what to do when I get there.

And yes, there are 7 pages of notes on our basic tracks.

Boots and Swatches

The Chippewa Boots 27908 (which doesn't have a steel toe) looks pretty cool. And it's less than $200. I'm gonna have to try them.
And the other two pictures are of a swatch of groovy velvet fabric which is being made into a psychedelic jacket.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Amp Coming Along

I'm very capable of being embarrassingly gushy about my band. It's so awesome to play with guys who've "got your back".
Ethan gave me fantastic notes and I'm working on them right now. That will put us into great shape as far as doing the vocals. I'll add some guitar parts, some keyboard parts will change, and then we go and mix! Hooray!
Mr. Fitzpatrick is wiring away on my new Celtic Edana JTM45 clone. Can you feel it rocking?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Panzai has some sweet jackets. This JN 800 design is very very close to what I want. I want a cutaway in a psychedelic fabric. I may want epaulets. I can't have buttons on the front because it'll scratch my guitar.

We'll find out how that goes.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Mixing away

I use Samplitude. And this week I had a computer crash (really just a computer which couldn't take it anymore, I'm sure the machine is still good for email) and when I went to use my other machine I found I didn't have Samplitude Pro 11 on it. I had versions 8, 9, and 10. But not the most recent version. More than that, I couldn't find the disk to version 11.
Now, I have the little dongle-key to activate the program. All I have to do is pull it out of the USB port on the one computer and put it on another. But I'd misplaced the software itself (and the full "Pro" version isn't downloadable.)

But the good folks at Magix got me out a duplicate copy of version 11 in just a few days.

To celebrate, I made this quick mix of Tyrannosaurus Mouse's Arabesque.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Cherrywood Cabinet

This is the beautiful cherrywood cabinet of my Celtic Edina amp.
Front and back. 

Ooh. Pretty!
Soon: knobs, faceplates, and rock and roll! ;-)

My Celtic Edana

It's being built even as we speak. Scott over at Celtic Amps is putting together a JTM45 clone with Heyboer transformers (yes, there's a Mercury Magnetics box in the picture, just pay no attention) and a cherry cabinet. The power tubes will be KT66.
This picture shows the chassis already drilled out with the board populated and the wiring run through.
Ooh. It's all very exciting!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Music from other places

AeroIsla. It's like minimalism in conflict with modernism. The themes present themselves as possibilities just out of reach. As though they dare you to do something with them.
Exquisitely mixed. If the Beatles were from South America, this is what they would have sounded like.
This is my friend Sebastian Lipszyc. He lives and works out of Buenos Ares. If you know Sebastian you like him. He's that kind of dude.
He's more than a guitarist. More than an artist. Plus, of course, he's devilishly handsome.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Final Countdown to Nirvana

Armageddon. Indeed.

The mashup of Europe's Final Coundown with Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit is exactly as awesome as you'd think it would be.

Via Waxaudio. (Check out the Black Sabbath/Led Zeppelin mashup.)

Friday, October 29, 2010

Schtick in Indy Rock

Back in the early 90's I remember hearing "Smells Like Teen Spirit" by Nirvana for the first time. It was on an alternative rock station in New Jersey. I liked the song enough to buy it. I figured there was no way this band was going to be terribly big, but they'd be some indy darlings for a while. Play some theater-sized venues if they're lucky. That sort of thing.
OK, so I was way wrong about that. They became HUGE.
Milestones even.
And they had a specific shtick. That pianissimo verse to the fff chorus. It's a good shtick. And it seemed that it was a riding trend of some indy bands. In fact, without offering any examples I will say that the quiet verse with the loud rockin' chorus was an indy trope at the time.

Nowadays there seems to be this nice trick of stompy 1/4-note rhythms. The Franz Ferdinand example is pretty obvious, but the Arcade Fire takes a while to develop into it. The other interesting thing (for rock 'n roll especially) is that there are actually ritardandos built into the songs.
Both the stompy "four on the floor" rhythm and the ritards are actually really nice tricks to have in your pop song toolbox. Those are the kinds of tricks which might actually frighten Top 40 radio programmers. At least those used to the Katy Perry-type acts.
So there might actually be a difference between so-called "Alternative" and "Mainstream" acts. Alternative allows for changes in dynamics and tempo.
That doesn't sound like that big of a difference.
And besides Arcade Fire and Franz Ferdinand are both pretty big acts. So aren't they "mainstream" now?
One thing that Tyrannosaurus Mouse can do is play dynamically. I'm not going to take too much credit for it but a lot of a rock band playing with dynamics is the result of the damn guitar player not playing too loud all the time. Because guitar players tend to do that. But if the guitar can just quiet down (or better yet, shut the hell up) the bass player and drummer can do their jobs and make things louder or quieter as their will dictates.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Music Licensing

So Tyrannosaurus Mouse will likely sign some music licensing deals. I've made like 27 cents for licensing my music so far through Pump Audio. That's the "Getty Images" of music licensors. But actually there are quite a few services out there.
It does occur to me we might be low-balling our music by going through these services. And it does occur to me we should license at least some thing via non-commercial-use Creative Commons licenses. That sounds like a band discussion which will take place over french toast or waffles.
So we might want to be selective with whom we license commercially.
And note too that the link to the above EM article is just for and about publishing rights. There are other rights which will be addressed by another post at another time.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Jack Conte on Microphones

Jack Conte likes the TLM 103. He says that the TLM has a high-mid boost... er but then he says the mic is very neutral. Uh. OK. (It has a high-mid boost.) But I like the sound of his recordings.
Maybe I'm just used to people who experiment a lot but I can't imagine that there's really this sense in the music industry of what's the "industry standard" to mic anything. Who would say that? "Oh we can't use that microphone on the snare drum, it's not industry standard." An engineer I'd fire certainly.

But the real question is: what are the mic preamps you're using? My feeling is that the preamps are more important than the microphones (once you get mics with higher quality than Radio Shack* mics). I'd rather have an SM57 with a Neve than a U47 with a junky Teac preamp.

[A friend of mine, Eric Rachel, recorded a band's lead singer once where the singer sang into a pair of headphones hooked up to a Marshall amp. Of course, he mic'ed the amp and used a Neve preamp to get the signal to tape. It actually sounds surprisingly good. The record was on the Billboard top 100 albums for a while. And no, even though I own the record, I simply cannot remember the name of the band.]

The fact is that the quality of the instrument and the playing vastly outweighs the quality of the microphone. I'd say the quality of the preamp would be next in importance. Then the quality of the microphone and the quality of the A/D converter (in a digital recording). And I suppose I should say this is just my opinion except that I'm right. So there.

*Although Radio Shack used to make a nice omnidirectional dynamic. Mine got destroyed after a couple years being used at Theatresource as the stage manager's "monitor" microphone.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Japanese

must have their tongues firmly implanted in their ironic cheeks. Made with Vocaloid, Japanese cartoon characters have been on tour.
The audience in this video is rocking out so hard to the cartoon character that you gotta suspect they're all in on the joke.
If not, then the Youth of Japan are in for some major psychological setbacks as they get older.
But I suspect it's just a lot funnier to treat a rock star like an anime character like a rock star.

Saturday, October 23, 2010


What's the difference between "Alternative" and "mainstream"?

Well lessee... not the rhythm, it's practically all music in 4/4 with an accent on the 2nd and 4th beats.
Not the melodic system, they both mostly use tonal melodies with a blues influence.
The chord systems are the same.
So it's not rhythmic, melodic, or harmonic.
Uh... what else is there?

They're actually different charts. They each have their own "Top 40" on Billboard and CMJ. But musically they're identical. And honestly pop music has musically not changed at all for almost 50 years now. Unlike the differences between, say, Ragtime and 20's jazz-influenced pop, popular music now is essentially the same thing that it was in the early 1960's. It seems odd that popular music would become more conservative over time but that seems to be the case.

Arguably there's been no real change in music in the Western world since sometime after the turn of the last century. That's the whole Schoenberg argument: we've exhausted all the melodies available in a tonal melodic system. And although that's factual, it doesn't mean we don't all like a good melody.

Friday, October 22, 2010

My New Favorite Artist of Right Now

This dude became Internet Famous TWICE. Once for just being who he is. And the next time for... well... this. Witness, Brothers and Sisters:
【けいおん!!】GO!GO!MANIAC FULL 8弦ベースで演奏してみた【パン○ラ】
Is he just speeding up pop songs to they become hard-core/fusion tunes and leave room in the low end for his bass?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Screaming at Lint

I think that the other guys in the band should back me up every time I "mistakenly" refer to the band as "The Tyrannosaurus Mouse Sound System" because I "remember" back in the day when that's what we were called.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

There Was a Mouse in the Studio Today

Gaspare Traversi's La leçon d'écriture
He was itty-bitty. Very kangaroo-y. With a long tail. But otherwise very small. I tried naming him but didn't know if it was a boy or a girl. Maybe "Michelle" if it's a girl or a French boy. Michelle the Mouse. Boing.

I'm looking at works of art it would be amusing to emulate in our official band photo.

And don't forget Rembrandt

Reynolds, Joshua (1723-1792) - 1777c. The Dilettanti Society

Salimena, Francesco (1657-1743) - 1715c. Self Portrait (Uffizi, Florence)
At least it wasn't a mouse...
Traversi, Gaspare (1722-1770) - 1754 The Sitting (Louvre, Paris)
I suspect some details of the poses in this Boilly painting might be just what the Mouse ordered.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

So What Am I Doing?

It might seem from this blog that all I'm doing T-mouse-wise is shopping for clothes. It's not true. Every morning I go into my studio and try to sing to a couple of the songs we've recorded.
One issue is that these songs we recorded almost without exception never did have words or vocal melodies put to them. We just played them as instrumentals and figured we'd come up with lyrics and melodies later. One song had a melody with no words. Two songs had both melodies AND words (which really makes them stand out, let me tell ya) and at least two songs had neither melodies or words.
So I'm trying to rectify that. In a song which used to have the name "Thing in A" and now seems to be called "Ice Maiden" I'm having some trouble because I very stupidly decided to do something weird with the phrasing. Well, the phrasing is interesting but it's very difficult to get from the verse to the chorus. And whose fault is that? Oh. I guess it's my fault.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

More Mouse Things, Boots and Jackets

Maybe it's THIS that belongs on my amps.
FC Sutlery makes Civil War reenactment boots. At $210 they're not such a bad price.

I think I already mentioned that BNP does custom engraving of amplifier badges and such. They use lasers! I was thinking it would be amusing to have some Tyrannosaurus Mouse badges made -- to put on amps and road cases and what-have-you.

Sutlery also makes these nice coats. Even fully outfitted you can barely pay more than $300 for one. But the thing is that I really want that Mandarin collar in a cutaway. I really don't want buttons on the front that will scratch the guitar and I want cutaway because I want tails to swish behind me but an open coat will simply be way too warm.

And while I'm going on about random things Samplitude's "strip silence" feature is EXACTLY what you need for cleaning up tom tracks and deleting the parts in-between the tom hits.

Jackets, badges, and lasers

Panzai makes custom jackets. Perhaps they make custom psychedelic jackets.

This belongs on my amplifiers.
BNP Lasers makes custom-engraved nameplates for amplifiers and things.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Russian Chamber Chorus of New York

For other things that are cool, here's the RCCNY Bandcamp page. They recorded this album long before I became associated with them. The music is beautiful.

Russian music seemed to take a very different course than the rest of Western music in the 20th Century. You'll note that most of the composers whose names you actually know -- or are willing to listen to more than once -- (if you're not a music student) after, say, 1940, are almost exclusively Russian -- Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov, Stravinsky, Prokofiev, Shostakovitch, etc.

Is it because Stalin hated Schoenberg? Is it because the Schoenberg became too powerful in the West? I dunno. But you'll want to listen to the music at the link above.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Cooligencia

One problem with music, which is something that I've never really understood (Ha! I never understood music or the following problem) is how much of people's taste in music is based on what they think would be cool to be seen listening to.*
The fact is that nobody's come up with a new melody since the 1920's or so. And arguably all pop music is now actually more conservative than it was even 50 years ago because it's basically all tonal in 4/4 with the accent on the 2nd and 4th beat. The Hot 100 used to be filled with salsa and jazz. I find it difficult to really get too up-in-arms about pop music because after all, it is just pop music. It's all relatively conservative.
There's a difference in the way music can sound, of course. But that's created a culture inside the music-making industry of just making the guitars playing the same three damn chords they've been playing for a hundred years sound "louder" or "more" or "better" or whatever. And sometimes, in some variants of pop music, the kick drum must sound EXACTLY the same. But that's another matter.

The other odd thing though, which is the point of all this, is how much the opinions of other people matter to one's own taste in music. I tend to think that other people's opinions don't tend to affect me, but I suspect I'm an exception. Well, maybe I'm not such an exception because honestly once you're inside the music-making part of the industry you probably tend to listen to a wider variety of music with less prejudice. Or maybe not, I don't know.
What I do know is that "tastemakers" in the music industry (like, say, Pitchfork) are vastly more powerful than the equivalents are in, say, the movie industry. It's much more important to be "cool" in music than in other entertainment fields. So far the imprimatur of "cool" ain't been bestowed upon me. But that's maybe kept me from having a drug problem so far...
Click to embiggen.

In other news, Ethan told me to listen to this Richard Thompson "Put It There Pal" because the guitar seems to be going to a double-amp setup similar to how I've been recording. It sounds great. I was only familiar with his stuff from Fairport Convention. Ethan is cool. Ergo, Richard Thompson is cool.

*I actually knew someone once who would argue for or against different bands based on her opinion about the people she knew who listened to them.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Here's an Example of Awesome Notes

So I made a first - pass temp kind of thing with a song that's now called "Ice Maiden". Here's Ethan's notes:

"I like the melody line for the B section.  I don't think the A (main) section's melody moves enough.  It's kind of static.  
Lyrics are promising.  P'raps some revisions and tune-ups... p'raps not...
Obviously it's a scratch vocal, but in general it sounds like you're holding back a lot.  It doesn't sound natural... like your breathing is not in sync with what you're singing.  Just something to look out for.
More to come...."
This, ladies and gentlemen, is why Ethan is paid the big, big bucks. Those notes are exactly what I need to make the tune work. Now, I'll note here that the singing is stilted because I'm still working out the melodies -- that's why the breaths are in weird places. But the important thing is to betterize the "A" section. That actually shouldn't be too hard to do. It likely involves the vocal stealing some of the keyboard's lines. Ha! That's why it's a band, people! So that different instruments can steal one another's melodies.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Interview with a Vampmouse

Cutaway coats and Mandarin collars are not from the same century.
Past and Present Creations does a variety of "movie inspired" costumes, including Interview with a Vampire (where Tom Cruise has a very interesting frock coat.) I've been looking at a lot of pictures from that movie and I can't figure out what the bottom of Cruise's coat does. I, of course, want that collar but as a cut-away coat.

This IWAV jag I've been on is entirely the fault of Lou Clark. He was the one who pointed out the costume design in that picture as being a possible Tyrannosaurus Mouse direction. Of course, as the drummer, he'll likely want to wear something lighter and cooler on stage himself...

Moving the Blags

I'm re-consolodating my blogs.  I know, you wanted them separate. But my little mind just doesn't work that way. All my blogging -- ...