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...

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 -- ...