Tuesday, December 30, 2014


For so long I have been struggling with what that sound is in Roundabout that the arpeggios are played on. According to the Man Who Knows (and childhood friend), Aaron Leone, it really is a Hammond organ. Here are Aaron's notes:
Here is what's happening with the Roundabout keys... If i understand your question correctly, your talking about the arpeggios which start @ 4:51 under the vocal "out 'n' out.. its a Hammond organ with a plate reverb on it. @ 4:58 Eddie Offord pans the organ left while Steve Howe's acoustic guitar theme is recapitulated... The 1st Em9 arp the roll is ( B F# D B D B D F#) No root is used in the arp. 1st B is an octave higher than the other B's The 2nd arp is C (C G E C E C E G) again the 1st note is an octave higher... Then Rick changes the Em arp to a straight Em alt with C (B G E B E B E G). This is definitely and organ... It could be a B-3 or another hammond.. Keith Emmerson or Tony Banks didn't always use a B3... The Mellotron enters panned right @ 5:35 with the lyric "In and around the lake". Sounds like the same tape bank John Paul Jones used for "Stairway" 
The chords for the solo really provide a groovy vibe for his solo. which really gives him the tonal platform to jam on. ||: G G C/E F C/E F C/E G | G G C/E F C/E Bb Bb :||
always liked a F bVII and Bb bIII sub to jam over in G 
§ §§
I'd thought, wrongly, that particular sound might have been the Mellotron mentioned in this article.

Friend turned me onto the band Rhinoceros. Which Pleasure for the Empire and Tyrannosaurus Mouse kinda resemble.
The top 40 Free VST plugins of 2014.
 Here are some tips for mixing and mastering.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Various Noise

Notwithstanding Billy Bragg's argument (which may very well be legitimate) that her management is disingenuous regarding her recent brouhapickle over Spotify, Taylor Swift is by far the best of the modern pop artists out there.
We've been living in an age of female singer-songwriters what with Lady Gaga and Katy Perry et al but as much as I might like the Gaga, Taylor Swift has the best songwriting team out there.
Perhaps I am mistaking Taylor Swift for Max Martin who co-wrote most of the tunes I think are the most skillful.


Various nose.
This dude reviewed the Hello Kitty Stratocaster. Twice. Actually I really dig Joe Gore's blog. All about guitars and suchwise.


Free VST emulations of the VCS3 synth (probably most famously used by Pink Floyd in On The Run). I'm gonna try the KX77.
Wait. Why am I going to try that out? I can't think of when I'd use it. I'm not smart enough to use synth sounds. I can barely figure out what to do with a Hammond. Heaven knows what all those drawbars actually do.
The XLIS3 is another emulation. I'm honestly so confused by that review that I have no idea what's going on.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Pleasure Two

I don't know what the best quote of the night was. It could have been Marc's:

"So. You named the band without talking to any of us first?"

Or it could have been Mike Kessell's:

"It's like being in a band will all next-level stuff and great musicians but they give you a Rockband controller to play instead of drums."

Either way, even though both were at my expense I am still amused.

Marc played his 4-string. I was on the Les Paul. Mike was on the Rock Band controller Yamaha electronic kit.
Marc also had this brilliant idea of playing this huge and dirgy version of The Sound of Silence. My playing on this is simply terrible but it's interesting how much Simon and Garfunkel end up sounding like Neil Young just by adding some distorted guitar.
In order to get us away from that whole "guitar panned to center, bass panned to center" thing I did a little panning with a send going to a reverb that's on the other side. With bass I went for some different sounds including sending to an amp simulator which was mixed back in (sometimes panning it, sometimes not) just to widen things out a bit.
I'm worried about running out of Guillaume Seignac paintings. I really wish I knew more about this model, she's in a bunch of his work and she's always very interesting.
There is a lot a lot a lot of compression on these tracks. Like too much. I have LA-2A emulations and then heavy limiters and multiband limiters and... well you get the idea. Too much. But I wanted everything to be very loud.
We're still working on our musical vocabulary. That said we seem to have an instant vocabulary. Yeah, I keep yelling "play more fills" toward the percussion section, but a very melodic bass with my guitar style works quite well. Our vocabulary... it seems to involve playing 9ths somehow. It also involves me not having the foggiest idea of what I'm doing. So there's that.
I also like how 35 Million Miles From Earth ends up being a suite. And The Dance of the Turquoise Mouse ended up pretty good, especially seeing how it was just a last-minute thing which we play after it got kinda late and we didn't want to be too noisy.
Gwendolyn Wormsign is perhaps my favorite because of the way the the bass goes 100% counterpoint to my riff. Which leads into that very trollopy melody toward the end. I feel that should be the music on some very hip talk show. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

High Priestess of a Dead God

Last Wednesday Marc Schmied, Mike Kessell, and I played in Jersey City.
Marc went through the Peavey Vypyer as a "bass amp" and I played through the Kemper. I liked the Peavey better than my amp-emulation pedals for the bass when I was experimenting with it. The "clean" Plexi and Twin sounds seemed to be the best.
I'm playing my Les Paul throughout. Drums are Abbey Road Late '60's.
Later I put in a bit of Hammond organ on some things.

There's a lot a lot a lot of compression on these tracks. Mostly an emulation of the LA-2A, but also some of Samplitude's brilliant M/S compression just to give the whole thing a bit of "finish" to it.
More more more...

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Internet Hate Machine

You know, when I make a comment on this or any of my other blogs about Jack Conte's numbers on the Pomplamoose tour, I'm just putting on a public notebook whatever my current thoughts (coherent or otherwise) might be.
But that post of Jack Conte's is tremendously important. Nobody, and I mean freaking nobody puts any real numbers about anything on the Internet.
But boy did that post of Jack's activate the Internet Hate Machine™.

And the cold hard reality is that way too many people are insanely, derangedly, and incorrigibly jealous of other people.

In my business I'm sorta lucky in that I'm not beholden to the hipster elite which permeates the music business. Reviews by people who really really wish they weren't too frightened to make a feature film themselves don't actually affect us.

Boy do people in the indy music business really hate one another. The back-stabbery and the jealousy are at levels that really systematically reduce the fun part of music. The joke is that if Pomplamoose hadn't paid their musicians well and hadn't put them up in hotels, the Internet would be out with its pitchforks (ha!) and demanding their heads (see: Amanda Palmer.)
So there's a rebuttal to the rebuttals, but to me it's beside the point. If I fall back into a Marxist mode here I'd say that the indy music press is so freaking bourgeois that they can't stand regular working-class musicians making money. You have to either be starving to satisfy the bourgeois ideology of the starving artist or you have to straight up be one of the rock aristocracy.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Focusrite Does Me a Solid

So I had a weird issue with my Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 but Louie Gonzalez at Focusrite tech support did me a solid and figured out why my interface was obnoxiously flipping back to 44.1 from 48k all on its own.

To change the sample rate of your Windows settings please follow the instructions below:

- Navigate to Control Panel > Sound > Playback > Right click on Scarlett 18i20 > Properties > Advanced. Under Default Format change the Sample Rate to that of your DAW. Press Apply and then OK.

- Navigate to Control Panel > Sound > Record > Right click on Scarlett 18i20 > Properties > Advanced. Under Default Format change the Sample Rate to that of your DAW. Press Apply and then OK.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Scarlett Mousse

I'm kinda stupid. I could have gotten a Sapphire Pro 24 rather than a Scarlett 18i20. At least I think so.
But the Scarlett works and works great so maybe I shouldn't complain.
Pomplamoose does a great post with some actual numbers (which you know I appreciate) on touring and expenses.

Being in an indie band is running a never-ending, rewarding, scary, low-margin small business. 

This statement is, however, technically not factual. The margins are, indeed, quite high. It's just that the revenue itself isn't terribly high. One of the great ironies is that small businesses have to run much higher profit margins than big businesses just to stay afloat.
Other notes. The quote of $8794/week for 6 musicians and crew seems a bit high. I'm presuming that includes the $20/day per diem (which is low for per diem, in the 90's I was getting $40 per diem and that was low then.) But that makes an average weekly salary (including per diem) of about $210/day for a 7-day week. That might be a tad high for such a low-budget tour but it means they were paying okay (for a low-budget tour). But I might be wrong and the per diems came outside of that $8794/wk. It's not like they published a one-line for crying out loud.
In any case, two hundred bucks a day is okay for this kind of work.

Thursday, November 6, 2014


Re-wiring the studio so I become more productive and actually record the records and operas I was supposed to this year is a worthy task? Yes. Of course it is. Firstwise, I must put my recording gear in a new rack. Luckily, I happen to have one of those and it's in the way and empty at the edit suite. 
So this wooden rack, which I've had for...
Well. Lessee. Since 1986 or maybe '85? (I built it when that kind of wood was surprisingly cheap). But nigh on 30 years. 30 years? Good grief. I'm going back to bed.

Anyway, it had been living at the studio. And I'd been using SKB racks at home. Which have big doors on them and don't really make sense for a home studio. So now I've put this rack together and all the cabling is much neater. No money spent, things just seem better.
  1. On top of everything is the Celtic Edana guitar amplifier.
  2. Below that is a pair of Brent Averill Neve preamps which I'm not putting in the rack so that it's easier to take them around for remote recording.
  3. The little 1/3 rack thing in the dark is the power supply for the AKG C12A microphone.
  4. The thing with the purple knobs is an Apogee Mini-Me converter. Next to that is a Focusrite Scarlett 18i6 (or some such) converter. 
  5. ART tube preamp.
  6. Lindell preamps (in the cream "500" rack).
  7. A pair of Neve 1272's.
  8. Input patchbay.
  9. Power distribution.
  10. Kemper amplifier. 
Checking on the power used here I got about 70 Watts drawing with all the preamps on.
With just the Kemper on I draw many fewer Watts, but it's still about half that draw.
This power meter is cheap and cool and everything but it's a bit hard to read without a light directly on it.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Home Mastering EQ Workshop

I've been digging these Ian Shepherd videos about mastering.

He provides a helpful look into that world. And yeah, you're not supposed to master your own recordings but facing reality: sometimes you have to. Also, learning to listen from a mastering standpoint helps a fellow to make mixes which need less mastering tricks and keeps the mastering engineer from "fixing" so much as "applying magic".

I think Diatomaceous Earth could release a double-album of stuff we recorded last year. We have lots of material so we'd have to do lots of editing. But it could be really very cool.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Longer Kemper Profiler video

Here I talk more about the Kemper Profiler.

I go on a bit compared to the last video and show you some different sounds. Here's some links to the profiles for the two amps: The Celtic Edana (JTM-45 clone) with some distortion. The "Mutt" distorted. And the clean sound I've been grooving to, the "Mutt" set to what I call "Dog II".
One interesting difference between using the Kemper and using a real amp which I noticed after playing back this video is that many of the very loud sounds (mostly distorted ones) would be at such high volumes that if one were in the room there'd be no way to hear the bit of string "singing" (the acoustical sound of the strings on the electric guitar) through the lavalier mic clipped onto me.

Monday, October 27, 2014


So I have this fantasy. It goes like this. Diatomaceous Earth makes some videos.
Where? My apartment, of course. How? Multi-camera. Of what? Of these songs:

The Porcupine's Dream

This is our big hit. This, to me, sounds like Diatomaceous Earth.
Luscious Earth I don't know if this song has another name.
Twilight of the Ice Nymphs and White Mouse Now I figure we're going to want to make some cuts and edits. Honestly I don't know how we're going to do that with multi-camera and multitrack audio. No idea at all. Somebody's going to have to figure that out. But it would be cool I think.

Maybe we'll have some psychedelic lights we can cut to in order to cover the edits. That sounds like something we'd do at least...

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Recording loud electric guitars in one's apartment (Opus 24, Volume XVI, No. 2)

I got my new Redco plate.

It came in a nice ziplock bag. The total price with shipping was like $80 which, honestly, is a great deal. Yeah, if I spent a couple days sourcing parts and stripping wire I could have made it for like what? $50? But I wouldn't have done as nice a job and I wouldn't have the front panel labeled as well. Oh, and I don't even have the tools for working with shrink-wrap so let's just call it an even $350 for me to do this work. Plus I'd need to practice for a couple days. So yeah. Redco is the way.
A fine job making cable.

First thing I did with it was to label the ends.
Now I just have to figure how I'm going to mount the plate. I may just put a whole bunch of holes in the side of my road case.
The big holes for the actual connectors are (I believe) 15/16" (don't you just love Imperial?) Then I have to add holes for the machine screws which you see on either side. Those are 1.25" apart on center. Then the actual holes for bolting the plate to the roadcase (in the above picture those are the empty holes -- you only see one of them).
I think that will be best. The plate is of course designed to go on an electrical junction box but I feel my method would be better. Unless it isn't. In which case I might change my mind.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Dreams of amplification

I need to record electric guitars. I decided that I'd use a real amp and a real speaker I just need to make the sound coming out of the speaker real quiet.
So I went ahead and got a road case. It still needs some silicone in the joints. But it went together well.
I also ordered some batting to put inside.
Lastwise I'm getting Redco to put together this plate:

The TRS will go to spade lugs and the XLR's will go to mic cables.
How far will I be able to knock the SPL's down? In my dreams I end up with like 60dB SPL A-weighted with a screaming guitar.
Those are my dreams.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Recording at home, recording in the studio

I think it basically comes down to the $570 Sequis Motherload Elemental or a DIY guitar cabinet isolation box. I estimate the cost of materials on that DIY box at about $250. Plus labor. Plus a major-league pain in the tuchus.

Plus it would be large. Just a coffin for a speaker cabinet. And although I have two cabinets which each hold a single 12" (Celestion Alnico Blues, of course) they would just be annoyingly big. I might be better off putting a speaker in a closet.
I'm not entirely pleased by my wiring options at the new studio. I suspect I will end up with three microphone cables going into the booth. Two of those will feed a Neve and one will feed the M-Audio. I dunno. There may be an analog extension required. And ice cream.

Monday, July 28, 2014


I feel pretty certain my brother Dave owned a Farfisa organ at some point when I was very little. I distinctly remember the white accidentals and the black keys and maybe I even remember a volume swell thingy that stuck out the bottom.*

Farfisas are the poor-man's Hammond (which, in turn, is the poor-ish-man's actual pipe organ.) Farfisas have a unique sound and are the basis of a tremendous amount of psychedelic music from Pink Floyd to The Doors.

The Combo Model F is a very sweet Farfisa emulator (VSTi). Sometimes you just need some Light My Fire-type sounds to do that thing for you.

*Was it a Farfisa Fast model? Am I just making up that thing about a piece of metal like a coat hangar that does swells? Am I in fact mistaking the entire thing? I have no idea.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Setting Up the Electric Guitar

Ethan on setting up a guitar:

I believe Stewart Macdonald has a basic set up kit that probably has everything you'd need at some slightly marked-up price. Truthfully, all you really need is a machinist's rule, metric and English Allen wrenches, a standard truss rod wrench and decent 1/8" flat-blade and #1 Phillips screwdrivers. You may own some of that already, but make sure the Allen wrenches go down to .050" and 1mm, respectively. Little by little you'll end up adding a few tools for specific jobs, but not many or often.
You could get everything I just listed at Sears, I bet, except for the truss rod wrench. I would also suggest you pick up a copy of the book Electric Guitar Setups by Hideo Kamimoto.
His is not the only approach, but it's a very good approach. Also, many guitar manufacturers have setup guides on their websites (I know Fender does, and I believe G&L and Ernie Ball/Musicman do too. Not sure about Gibson). You'll find that none of them are quite the same. Find the method you like. You could always look on the web for other sources, provided you can quickly filter who's a nincompoop and who's not. Good luck with that.
So I checked the Internet. Here's a post on setting up a Gibson Les Paul.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Swinging Gains

In our voiceover booth we always have at least one mic hooked up at all times. The issue is that if you have the monitor speakers on and you open the door, you'll feed back. Which is, you know, annoying.
The simple answer is to turn the gains down on the input channels of the mics which are plugged in. But there's another better answer.
Arrows and circles indicate the buttons you need to press.

On the interface we use there are switches on input channels 1 and 2 which flip the input over to the high-impedance 1/4" front-panel jacks. So you press those switches and viola -- the microphone is turned "off".
So, that's your pro audio news from the Pandora Machine front today. You are ever so glad you check this blog.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Surround in Samplitude

Mixing for film.
So I've set up to do a surround mix and a stereo mix at the same time. I put limiters on the surround busses at -12dB because broadcasters throw a fit when you go above -12dB.
RAdndLX.png http://i.imgur.com/RAdndLX.png
Then I do a bounce like so:
8MX5VNn.png  http://i.imgur.com/8MX5VNn.png
But what I GET is a bunch of levels that look like this:
ODnKgZg.png http://i.imgur.com/ODnKgZg.png

With the way I thought I had everything set up all those levels should have been -12dB. But those first two tracks LOOK like what I'd think the stereo master should look like (if my calculations using this dB calculator were correct.) http://www.sengpiela...culator-spl.htm
I mean that's the way they should look if the limiter wasn't applied to them.

Is this functionality in Samplitude broken? Does anybody work with surround+stereo masters?

I have this feeling I'm one of like three people who uses Samplitude this way. ;-)

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Updating

I've been uploading new mixes from Wednesday night's Diatomaceous Earth rehearsal.

I'm not entirely sure what I think about my guitar sound. I'm using guitar-amp emulators and maybe that's cool, but maybe it feels different? I don't know. Maybe I'm just questioning it because I know intellectually I'm not going through a nice expensive tube amplifier?
Signal path is like Hebrew, it goes from right-to-left. MXR delay, Joyo American and British pedals, Dunlop MXR Uni-Vibe, and an ADA speaker emulator.
You'll notice I feed the "American" pedal into the "British" pedal. Sometimes I turn them both on. You might notice that I use extremely conservative settings on each of them. For me the Uni-Vibe works best when you don't really hear it.
Other thoughts: the ADA cabinet simulator mostly just takes out the very low end and very high end. But it adds some other things too. At first I didn't like it but I think that's the result of playing the guitar out-of-context (the "it sounds great when I do this alone in my garage" effect). I feel like it adds a bit of "wood" to the guitar sound. Which is basically what I think of good guitar cabinets.
I wasn't sure I was aesthetically pleased with the spacing of the guitars on this wall. Ethan said he knew what the problem was -- I don't have enough guitars.
One thing which we'd all experienced was that we were able to hear better -- and distinguish the low part of the Stick from the bass guitar. Thing is, I feel like that comes out in the mixes too.
The treble side of the Stick hits a Electro Harmonix HOG2 and then a Lex Strymon "Leslie" pedal. So yeah, these pedals are set up left-to-right. The thing on the far right is the remote headphone monitor station.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Double Bunny Time

Diatomaceous Earth had a full rehearsal in Jersey City last night.
The post-mortem was everyone agreed we could hear much more clearly than we could at the rehearsal studio. This may be because we're all on headphones and, using electronic drums, the levels were much quieter. I don't know.
Personally I felt we played with a kind of delicacy unique to the Jersey City environment. I don't know. Ethan's Stick actually went through the Tascam preamps (I made a routing mistake.) Ooh. And Alice the 5-string Squire Jazz bass got a setup by Ethan too! It played well before, it plays very very nice now. (I still haven't found the 1.5mm Allen wrench we dropped on the floor somewhere. I even walked all over the place in bare feet!)
Lily played that self-same Jazz bass directly into the ART tube preamp's DI. Greg went from his preamp into the other side of the ART (also DI). My guitar hit the JOYO British and American boxes to make a kind of sound (I'll have to explain that later)and then went into a Neve DI input. The drums are Abbey Road "Late 60's" drums. In this first mix I've done almost nothing to them -- a little LA2 emulated compression and a little reverb. The other instruments have the same LA2 compression on them and the mix buss has one also. 
We didn't play a single thing we actually knew. So we made this all up as we went along. You can probably tell. I'll be adding more mixes to this album in the coming days.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Mo Money Mo Problems

Tyrannosaurus Mouse has earned $10.71 in royalties from digital distribution. And because I handle the accounts that money is entirely in my clutches!
Ten bucks. Ten smackaroos. I got me a Lincoln and 5 Georgie boys. There's a Hamilton with my name on it.

Ten American dollars from digital Internet royalties from our album.
I guess I'm buyin' at the next rehearsal.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Three Things

My very first experience in a recording studio was at a little studio in (I think) Sparta NJ. My oldest brother David drove me there* one Saturday. I was supposed to go with a drummer but he bagged out at the last minute. The only thing I remember about the studio was that they had a Roland Space Echo there. This must have been... 1982? Probably 1982.
The Boss RE20 is $250.

The Boss delay gets great reviews. It does seem to sound great. At $318 is the Electro Harmonix Deluxe Memory Man. I've enjoyed every Electro Harmonix thing I've played. There's something about them that's just fun. The Catalinbread Echorec at $230 is a pedal which emulates the old Binson Echorecs (like the ones Pink Floyd had). The online videos make it seem pretty cool, no? What I have, however, is an MXR Analog Delay. The "sound" of that MXR is pretty spectacular actually. It's very smooth. What the MXR doesn't do is multi-taps. Multi-taps are amusing. They're fairly easy to do in the mix. From what I've heard the Catalinbread is probably the closest to what I'd want in a pedal outside of the MXR. (Anybody notice how much Andy from ProGuitarShop.com looks and sounds like Andrew Kramer from VideoCopilot.net?) *I also remember we listened to "Suzie Q" on the radio on the way.

Two things

The Electro Harmonix B9 seems pretty cool. It's not like Electro Harmonix makes stuff that sucks.
At $2100 the Kemper Modelling amplifier is seemingly the only real and good modelling amplifier. At least the word on the Web is so. I wish it were a tenth the price.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Living in the Future

I start to sound like a broken record but geez louise there is fantastic modern recording gear at more than reasonable prices.

The Chameleon Labs 7720 is an SSL quad-compressor-type rack-mount unit. I recorded the entirety of October River with an actual SSL 2-channel mix compressor. They're nice.
And they were/are like $6000. And now you can get one for $535.
You might be wondering why you might want a compressor for recording in digital. In the olden days compressors were needed to deal with the fact that laquer/analog tape has very limited dynamic range and a compressor helps you hear the quiet stuff while not overloading on the loud stuff. But then engineers found that nice compressors can make stuff sound awesome. 
So do you want these kinds of limiters when you record? I dunno. We have plenty of dynamic range to deal with so why not just do all your compression later? I dunno. But that's certainly what we've been doing.
Lately I've been using the Waves emulation of a Urei LA-2A compressor on every instrument in the mix. Yup, not the 1176. Not even the Fairchild emulation does it for me. But the LA-2A emulation just works for me.
Uh. So that's all I've got. 

Saturday, June 7, 2014

After the Flood

I was going to name this album "Drums by Lou Clark" because he didn't show up at rehearsal and I had to play drums.
I do not play drums well.

We're all capable of facing the reality that no part of this album is "releasable" in any way. It's a learning experience.
This was the first rehearsal at my apartment in Jersey City. Ethan was recovering from Polish-level jet lag so he didn't come out. Lou didn't come at all. I suppose the excuse is that he's a drummer.
I was really hoping people would like it and be comfortable at my place.
Greg played through his preamps and rack-mounted effect box and then my tube preamp. Lily went through her preamp and then the other channel of my ART Pro MPA II tube preamp. I think that's pretty well the way to go. By the end of the session Lily was just plugged right into the high impedance input of the ART. I felt it was very groovy.
Drums were coming in via MIDI to a track. What we were monitoring was the sound off the sound module but what we're mixing here is some Abbey Road drums which sound much better.
We also added a microphone in the room because otherwise we were too isolated (and yelling at one another because we couldn't hear).
The first weird thing was people wanting to turn up the drums in their headphones. With an acoustic kit you really don't need to add more drums to your headphones if you're in the room. But with an all electronic kit you sure do.
I feel like I've gotten close to the best sounds I've gotten from Greg's guitar. I think the tube preamp does a lot for his sound.
Even though we're all playing together there is by definition no bleed (except for the mic in the room which hears the strings being played and drumsticks hitting pads) and so I felt the sound was a bit "sterile" or something. So I added more tube distortion to the tracks. I even put a bit of chorusing on the whole of the drum track. It's very subtle.

Monitoring totally works though. I gotta get some lava lamps.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014


"JCM800" refers to pretty much all the amps that Marshall made around 1982.
 BeneZene lays it all out in this post.
Anna Calvi.

Friday, May 30, 2014


Our last rehearsal at Flood Studios in the depths of Gowanus, Brooklyn.
Lily couldn't make it so it was just:

  • Ethan on his 5-string fretless going through a Small Stone (I think) flanger and another thing that was noisy which he eventually unplugged directly into the high impedance input on a Neve 1272 
  • Greg going through his regular rig through his Deluxe into a Lindell preamp 
  • Lou playing mostly replaced drums but the overheads were Ear Trumpet Edwina's going through the Tascam preamps (I know). 
  • And me playing through the JCM 800 combo into a Neve 1272.

This is, surprisingly, one of the best recordings we've made. Remember when I said I wanted to steal that Annie Clark riff? Well we did that. Check out the Wooly Mammoth song above.
I've been a tad stressed about not being at the rehearsal studio because I feel that I'm getting something special out of that Marshall JCM 800 combo amp they have. I'm probably the only guitar player in the world who likes the 800 for its clean sound. But it's a very nice clean sound.
I especially dig that groovy way the low E sings when I play sort of "cowboy" riffs. The P-90's on my SG give me the best of single and double-coil sound when I do that and I've been afraid I won't be able to get that sound again. Which is silly because I do have an excellent custom JTM-45 clone and a custom Deluxe/Champ amplifier. I can get most any sound between those two amps that isn't one of those silly high-gain modern rock sounds.
But I've discovered other odd things. I have a Joyo "American" pedal which emulates a bunch of Fender-like sounds. And the joke is that the pedal is vastly more touch sensitive than the JCM 800. With the 800 pretty much any sound you dial in is going to be the sound it makes whether you're wailing away or picking very lightly. But this little solid-state (and extremely cheap) guitar pedal lets you roll from very lightly-picked chime to laying-down-the-law rock sounds simply by playing harder.
So, you know, maybe the JCM 800 isn't the only way to go. No. Not at all. But it does sound nice (my guitar is on the right). ;-)

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Saint Vincent

What do Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top and Annie Clark of St. Vincent have in common?
If you said "They both play a fingerpicking style with rings on their middle fingers" you would be correct.

Annie Clark is the only example of a guitar-player's guitar player in modern alt rock I can think of. I am not a fan of the Lower East-Side noise-rock tone she goes for. She tends to play in a very staccato style. But she's really quite a fine player.
But there are a couple other things she does in this video which I want to steal. At 8 minutes there a nice funk riff which might could use some interesting variations applied to it. At 10 minutes there's an interesting harp-like thing which totally sounds like Pleasure for the Empire to me.
They're also both from Texas. Could be a coincidence.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Antedeluvian Conflagration

Another Wednesday another album.

This one is just me, Greg, Ethan, and Lou. No Lily.
Greg and I are hitting Neve 1272 preamps, Ethan is going through a Lindell, and Lou's drums are all replaced except for overheads which actually were Tascam preamps but then thrown through some non-linear-summing emulation which presumably sounds like the old EMI console Dark Side of the Moon was mixed on.
The mix is kittywhumped with compression. Mostly LA-2 emulation. Is that good? Bad? I don't know.
Oh. I did another thing. Uh. I did this without permission from the rest of the band. I added some Hammond organ to the tracks. I was hearing that in my head the whole time we were playing. It just help fills us out a bit. We'll see how that goes.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Post Antediluvia

We had a Diatomaceous Earth rehearsal without Ethan. It went like this:
I played with a distortion box and the HOG2 and a Strymon Leslie. I know. Right? Not all the time though. When I'm playing it I don't hear it being like a Hammond organ so much but in the mix it can fool one for a while.
The overheads are recorded with Lindell preamps. The rest of the drum kit, intending to be replaced, is just the Tascam preamps in the US2000. Last week I was digging the snare sound we were getting but this week the snare wasn't really doing anything for me. And since Lou can pretty much bring the sound of any drumkit up to the best it can do, I have to blame the kit and not my engineering.
I'm enjoying the JCM 800. I plug into the high-gain input but then turn the gain and the master way down. All the EQ's and the presence are set to about 1 or 2 o'clock. With those P90 pickups I can get a pretty nice chime out of the instrument.
The bass in this recording is going directly into a Neve 1272 high-impedance input.
Greg's guitar (left) is using the Tascam preamp.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Sequis Motherload Elemental

The Sequis Motherload is a possible answer to my volume problems. The newest version of it is about five hundred US dollars.

Another option is just to build an isolation cabinet. It has occurred to me that actually building the box is not something I'm either terribly good at or have room to do. It might be cheaper and simpler to start with a shipping crate.
If I did start with a shipping crate I'd still have to punch holes in it for the 1/4" speaker jack and the XLR cable for a microphone. Then I'd have to silicone the joints and then figure out a way to make the top come on and off yet still create an air seal when closed. The inside would need to be lined with some sort of noise-dampening foam.
Oof. The Elemental looks better and better from that standpoint.
But I would be able to record my very nice Celestion Alnico Blues if I had an isolation cabinet. Or I could just do those recordings at my studio.

Sunday, May 11, 2014


We're going to be leaving our home at Flood Studios soon. It's just begun to cost too much. And you know it's not that nice a place. It's called Flood because it's right on the Gowanus Canal so it's just a couple feet above sea level.

I have been really enjoying the Marshall JCM 800 combo amp at the rehearsal studio though. I get an amazing clean sound out of that amp. I know. You're not supposed to be able to use Marshall's for their clean sound. Well I do not do many things on guitar well, but you cannot fault my tone.

If we're to do things like record music at my apartment we simply can't have loud amps. Options include moving the Whisperroom to my apartment, building an iso cabinet for guitar amplifiers, or using software plugins.
I think we kind of like having the Whisperroom in our studio rather than the apartment.
Building a cabinet seems like a lot of work. But possible.
I have been more than disappointed with the sound quality of guitar amplifier emulators when doing a "clean" sound.
But LePou Plugins makes some amp emulators (free, VST) which are quite interesting and can actually sound pretty good clean. Amplitube by IK Multimedia might very well be the holy grail at $200.
But I'm also interested in what the SansAmp by Tech 21 -- but the bass guitar version -- could do for a good clean guitar amp sound. Maybe. Just maybe.

Friday, May 9, 2014


I mixed this album on my laptop. Which surprised me.
The drums were intended to be replaced. But I thought the snare sounded okay. The tom sounds are nothing to write home about and before we release this album they still might be replaced. But the snare sound was perfectly decent.

The kick? Well we were never thinking we'd keep the kick but... I mean I just threw a mic inside the kick drum to use as a trigger. So after a bit of EQ and a bit of compression I... I may have shifted the pitch down a fourth to make it sound better.

We improvised the entire thing from start to finish but we were thinking "this is the first movement, this will be the second movement" etc. and we decided on keys and (sometimes) tempos and time signatures. I was very happy with my own guitar sound thank-you-very-much.
I did another thing -- I did quite a bit of editing. Actually, I made exactly zero structural edits (so far) but I did do things like cut out instruments selectively.
All the unedited sections are drums. That's kick, snare, tom1, tom2, a track which is blank, overheads, another blank track, Greg, Ethan (the Stick on just one track), Lily's bass (we went through a Neve preamp after her own preamp), and my guitar (the bottom "track" is just a submix buss for the stereo overheads.)
To add some discipline to this we could most certainly make it shorter. Take out some sections. That sort of thing. But if you want to just sit back and groove to some Diatomaceous Earth, I think it's pretty cool.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Axis of Thrones

The beater angle set screw on the Axis pedal I have is probably 3/32 allen.

Here is the Game of Thrones theme on wine glasses.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Nova Social

Nova Social is a sweet band with an 80's-retro vibe. Their lyrics can be amusingly hostile. You'll love them.
They started their set with a song called "Laptop Rock" which cracked me up. Especially because they are ultimately, you know, a 9-piece with two violins, a cello, keyboardist and backup/descant singer.

I've seen them twice now at Joe's Pub.
They are related to the band Balthrop Alabama which I recorded once on a Sunday (I believe) at Manhattan Theatre Source for my buddy Blair Johnson. Very different music. Also very groovy.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


My very exciting journey to discover a kick drum pedal that works for me is, possibly, at an end. The single biggest thing of importance was keeping it acoustically quiet so I don't irk anyone downstairs. And I think that the direct-drive Axis pedals have the answer.
New (used) Axis longboard with EKIT trigger.

The beater bangs away on the pedal itself (there's a missing stopper -- I got the pedal used and I suspect it had been used on a real kick drum so the stopper got lost). The direct-drive pedal feels very much to me like a piano key. It has that same kind of "mechanical" feel of the "switches" that are piano keys. I believe this is one of the reasons so many drummers do not like the direct-drive pedals. But I kind of groove to the feel of it. And the built-in trigger makes things much easier.

Friday, April 18, 2014


Diatomaceous Earth rehearsal. Wednesday April 16th at Flood Rehearsal Studios.
I played drums on the first piece. Believe me, you can tell.
But that's not the part of this where I'm really not proud of myself. Nope.
Just before we started I noticed that for some reason the record-arm light on track one was off. So I re-armed it. And we played.
Then Lou showed up and I switched over to guitar and for some reason I didn't have the window sized such that I could actually see every track and yup -- track 1 had become unarmed again. I noticed this the next day when I was looking at the tracks and saying to myself "Why is track 1 so much shorter than the other tracks?"
That's the kick drum track. Oof.
The soloed snare drum track had practically no kick drum in it at all (nobody thinks great things about the kick drum at the studio here). So I had to duplicate the "overhead" track and EQ the heck out of it and then slam it with limiting just to get a good kick "trigger" to then use on a Steven Slate replacement kick.
Anyway, not my proudest moment. But we played some good songs.
Lessee, what else did I learn? Oh. Right. I found the limit on those wonderful Ear Trumpet Labs microphones -- close-miking electric guitar cabinets. Nope and nope. The mics break up at the high SPL range of a close-miked Marshall amp. Oh well. It was worth a try. An SM58 draped over the side of the cabinet sounds great.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Cavallo Passages

I really dig Cavallo. They have a new record out.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014


The Hurry Brothers talk about their new album, and about the dumb movie producers who keep them from mixing it!

V-Blog Episode 2 - Making the LIFE AFTER LIFE album from Hurry Hurry on Vimeo.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Jazz Bass Strings

So let me talk to you about drum pedals.

But first. Bass strings.
These Thomastic-Infeld flat-wound Jazz Bass strings are probably the most expensive bass strings there are. No, I take that back, I'm sure somebody's found a way to come up with more expensive ones.
But that's not the point. The point is that they are freakin' fantastic bass strings. If you want flat-wound strings, these are for you. Spectacularly low tension. And allegedly they'll last forever.
I think I wanted flats because on a very old bass of mine (or perhaps my high-school chum Scott's) had flat-wound strings and I was feeling nostalgia.
These TI's feel and sound great.
There. Thank you for listening.
Huh. Looks like I did not bring up drum pedals at all.

Twilight of the Gods

Rehearsal this week with Diatomaceous Earth was Lou, Lily, Greg, and me. This meant that I was thrown out of the position of drummer.
We were also really tired.
Here's a piece of music called Twilight of the Gods.

This is an edited performance. The drums are just a single kick mic and a single overhead/front mic. Lou has been refusing to play with miked drums, and he's been refusing to play the ride cymbal altogether which, is, you know, not exactly the world's most musical thing.
Now here's a different version of that same piece of music. That rhythm guitar you hear is me in both versions, and Greg is on slide guitar. But the Pleasure for the Empire version of Twilight of the Gods has, er, me on bass and drums. It's not perfect. It's more of a "proof of concept". Honestly we need a cleaner way to get from the 3/4 section into the 4/4 section.But this is the concept.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

SaündFraud Skill Killer: Take Your Lack of Skill to the Next Level

This is my favorite April Fools so far this year.

SaündFraud Skill Killer.
Now if I could only get a pedal that would make me play more tastefully.

SaündFraud Skill Killer: Take Your Lack of Skill to the Next Level

This is my favorite April Fools so far this year.

SaündFraud Skill Killer.
Now if I could only get a pedal that would make me play more tastefully.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Diatomation Direction

I think Lily came up with the perfect description of Diatomaceous Earth.
"Fantastic, goth-esque, masquerade-type event for which waltzes are the prominent feature and stately, sumptuous outrageous revelry happens with lots of watery darkness, weird wonderful costumes, and some sort of scented smoke…... maybe smoldering rosemary branches sprinkled with opium oil….."

Yup. That's pretty much what we've got going on here.

Here are some improvised pieces we did last week. Ethan on Stick, Lily on bass, Greg on guitar, Drew on drums.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Pre and Post

You know what is a song I'd like to cover? This thing, Arctic Botany, could be played cleaner but the structure is pretty solid. I'm pretty sure this is Dave, Lily, Greg, and me. I think it would make an excellent side of an album.

So. Preamps.
The operating theory has been for a while that the quality of a recording is an accumulation of subtleties. Which is why listening to any given preamp makes you think "Huh, that sounds pretty good." Even cheap preamps in (say) Mackie mixers.
But remember that mic preamp shootout a few weeks ago? Yeah. The differences between the preamps were pretty apparent. At the same time there really wasn't a correlation between expensive and good. In fact, the cheapest preamps were among the best-sounding.
The ART PRO MPA II is... well it's just amazing. The sound is (to use a real weasel term here) rather 3-D.
I compared the direct-injected sound of Alice, the Fender Squire Jazz 5-string, between the ART and the built-in preamps in the Focusrite preamps in the Scarlett interface.
The subjective difference is that the Focusrite were more, er, focused. And the ART were more broad and deep. Actually I'd say the Focusrite's were more accurate than the ART's. But that's cool. The ART preamps have plenty of color, which you'd expect from a tube preamp.
As an old man I've started to get very grumpy about audio engineering. My grumpiness is suchly: once you've got gear that actually works, it's all pretty good. Spending untold amounts of money on esoteric gear isn't nearly as helpful as, say, practicing your instrument.
Maybe this wasn't as true back in the day of Realistic mixers and those early Tascam mixers. Because I had a lot of trouble getting those to sound good back in the day (mid 1980's).
But now I have Neve preamps and Apogee converters. They're not night-and-day better than even the Focusrite built-in preamps and converters. Not even dawn-and-dusk better. Arguably not even better in all situations. Am I contradicting myself here in the last paragraph? Yes. Yes I am. Just a little. I'm like the New York Times. Don't worry about it.

Thursday, March 20, 2014


Note this is actually me playing drums.

Drums are hard.

Could I become competent enough to record if I had enough practice?
It would take a certain minimum number of months though. Perhaps many of those months.
My biggest problem is not that I don't know where the beat should be. It's actually executing the drum part. Hitting things with sticks at even remotely the right time is really quite difficult.
It's like finding a bunny on the moon.

Friday, March 14, 2014

This is a test.

This is only a test.
This is a test of the recording system in my apartment. It's made from parts and pieces of other bits of gear I've had lying around. Getting my Focusrite Scarlett to work on this laptop was a spectacular nuisance. I finally went to using ASIO4ALL drivers and that seems to make the hardware stay connected. Sheesh.
Alice now has Thomastik-Infeld jazz bass strings on her. I'll admit, they do sound very nice. They're thicker than the previous strings so the bass becomes a bit "grindier". I don't know if that means I should adjust the truss rod or raise the bridge or do nothing. I'll find out from Ethan.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

So. Yeah. Kontakt and Crossgrades

I'm willing to admit I made an error. But this one seems like... it wasn't me.
The data which countervails the rest of my argument here. I swear that two days ago this isn't the message I got.
So. I ordered Native Instruments Komplete 9. The reason I did is because I looked on the web site and clicked on "crossgrade" and found I could order the crossgrade because I owned a previous Kontakt product -- Garritan Personal Orchestra.
Now. It turns out that GPO is not a qualifying product. It's not. Maybe I made a mistake. I could have read the website wrong. But I don't see how I could have. I think they altered the website just after I ordered. There was likely a mistake in their database and they hadn't caught it yet. Why do I think this? Here's why:
When I went onto the NI website I had completely forgotten I'd ever owned Garritan Personal Orchestra. 100% out of my mind. In fact, it isn't even installed on my main audio computer. So when it said I could get Kontakt "full" because I owned a previous Kontakt product I was surprised because I wasn't thinking about GPO.
I really wish I'd taken a screenshot of that now.
Furthermore I believe that over the last two days I'd gone onto the NI website and confirmed that was the case. I believe that even the "Service Center" application confirmed I had the appropriate product to upgrade from even though it would not actually let me register.
The other piece of information which may or may not be relevant is that I put in a ticket to NI a couple days ago and they still haven't got back to me. I, of course, then put in another ticket and that was only about a day and-a-half ago. They haven't responded to that one either.
My suspicion is that they'd coded into their web-based "service center" that GPO was a qualifying product but that had been in error and the registration part of their system knew better. So now I'm theoretically stuck with an upgrade product I can't actually upgrade to.
You may be surprised to learn that there are those on the Internet who have "cracked" NI's copy-protection. This is because you're easily surprised. Drink some chamomile tea, take some deep breaths, and go to your happy place.

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 -- ...