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...

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

You and Me and the Labour of Love

Today's big discovery is that the figure 8 pattern on my AKG C12a, inside my tiny Whisperroom, with my voice, and a healthy reduction of 500Hz (somewhat wide) and a reduction of 200Hz (fairly narrow) is what's needed for me.

That, and some Autotune. Look. I'm not proud. Sometimes I'm sharp, sometimes I'm flat. And no, it's not set to be terribly aggressive with that vocoded "I'm a 16-year-old-pop-star" sound. But it do make my notes more in tune. And it's either autotune or me sitting and doing it manually* and you know that's no fun.
I really liked Frente. I actually saw them opening for They Might Be Giants in Philadelphia sometime... back in the olden days.
*Or practicing, and you know that's not going to happen.

I'm reaching into the depths of boring now

Here is my desperate attempt to make Tyrannosaurus Mouse a 16-track band. It won't work. It won't work mostly because there are separate "overheads" from "room microphones" and the toms are on different tracks, as well as the hi-hat and the ride being on separate tracks. We could comp the toms to two tracks but that really only saves one track. We wouldn't bother comping the ride and the hi-hats together into stereo because they'll still take up two tracks so why do it?

We ARE going to comp the dang rhythm guitars and right now the bass takes up three tracks. Personally I like the three bass tracks just mixed all together straight up. But if I don't run that by the bass player he'll put out a contract hit on me. You'll notice that even with the comp tracks listed below we still need tracks for things like vocals and lead guitars and possibly solo keyboards or what-have-you. So we'll be doing nigh on 20 or up to 24 tracks. But 24 tracks is absolutely where I draw the line. No more. If we do that it'll take forever to mix and we just don't have the time.
  1. Bass comp
  2. Stereo guitar comp L
  3. Stereo guitar comp R
  4. Keyboard L
  5. Keyboard R
  6. Kick comp
  7. Snare comp
  8. Hats
  9. Ride
  10. Tom 1
  11. Tom 2
  12. Floor
  13. O.H. L
  14. O.H. R
  15. Room L
  16. Room R

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 -- ...