Monthly Archives: September 2009

Two Laptops and a Microphone

Last week, I bought a microphone. Picked up a Shure SM57, a mic stand and a cable for a bill and a half. I intended to take my new toy home and immediately start playing with it, but after hooking it up, crafting a pop screen out of a bent coat hanger and a nylon stocking, giving it a test shout, and taking pictures, I kinda let it sit.

Until friday night. I’d already spent some time doing some work at the coffeeshop before I left to see a movie, so after the movie I went back to see who was there to chat with. But the people I knew were busy with their own thing. So I went home just after midnight, and something inside pulled me to my music gear. I decided I’d had enough with the “buying expensive gear and letting it collect dust” kick I’ve been on for the past year, so I turned it all on and started pecking.

It’s all babysteps at this point, but I’m learning my tools. I have Sonar loaded on a laptop with a few VSTs and effects installed. I have my outboard USB audio interface, flat-panel display, a MIDI controller, and my drum machine. And now I have my mic. So I powered it all on and started learning. Learned how to drag an mp3 into the project and lay down some vocal tracks on top. Learned that my mic really needs a preamp because it’s way too quiet for the audio interface. Learned that my interface is hissy if you turn the levels up. Learned that it’s easy enough to lay down multiple vocal takes in Sonar, and that using compressor -> light chorus -> reverb sounds incredible on vocals. Babysteps.

My ultimate goal is to hammer out this song that’s been haunting me for the past few months. I wrote a poem some time back that just spilled out into a rhythmic flow, and the more I worked on it, the more I could hear a melody, a rhythm, bassline, vocal harmonies. It’s stuck in my head, and I gotta get it out and down on track. I usually forget melodies, but this one is holding on. I’m afraid of it dropping away, but with as much mindshare as it’s taken up, I doubt it’s going away anytime soon.

I do worry about that, but I also worry about spending so much time and effort and hope and hype on this song that I don’t notice if it sounds awful until it’s too late. I’ve been told time and again to never fall in love with my own work; the lesson of Pygmalion is one that I forget often. But as long as I know and understand that I don’t have a modern music production studio, that I don’t have technical expertise, that I don’t have the years of musical experience to pull it all together with a professional radio-ready polish, and that I shouldn’t worry if it doesn’t sound like that, I should be ok. It’s only a demo; demos are important, but they’re not the final product. It’s my baby, and I should love it as I should love all my other babies, but babies grow up and move on.

Babysteps.

Pitchfork & the Quease

Just for the record: booze, hot dogs, and acid reflux don’t mix.

The show last night was fine otherwise. The opener was Deviant UK, a 2-man operation with a danceable sound and a singer with quirky presence. Next was Texas band Mentallo & the Fixer, which owes a lot of their style to early Skinny Puppy and Laibach; not bad, but by the time their set started, I was trying to hold my stomach down. Almost left during their set, but held on and finally stabilized.

The Project Pitchfork set was solid and loud. Their decision to use a live acoustic drummer was an excellent choice; the man was on-time and dominated the drums, much in the way that classic jazz drummers define the proper use of the “trap set”. His presence behind the otherwise 3-man band lent to a powerful sound. The lead singer, Peter Spilles, powered through the set despite his headcold. They had a good stage presence and interacted with the audience, acknowledging that we were there. Spilles, during a song at the end of their set, jumped down to the floor and joined us to sing the final refrains.

Altogether, worth the price of admission. Glad I stayed around for the full show.

Just So You Know

Project Pitchfork, 9/18/09 at Elysium

Project Pitchfork, 9/18/09 at Elysium

Just so there’s no confusion, Project Pitchfork is playing at Elysium this friday, and Covenant is playing October 14. I got my tickets today. Also, Dead Voices On Air is slated for some time in December.

You have been put on notice.

Starting Gun

Break the sun!
Race towards the common ground
Life! Rewards! Dream!
On the highest of the higher planes.

Sieze—my—heart
Give me ’til morning dew I promise you
Freeze—the—gun
Morning a pistol SHOT!
And the race is on.

Be the one!
Let me be the only one for you
Love! Hold on! Regrets!
Challenges of Daily Bread.

Who are you?
Did you seek the morning castaway?
Hold out, fight, tonight—

Even though the world can beat you down
I am standing calling
Hold on to this life with me, tonight.
. . . Tonight.
Morning come to keep you down
Highest spirits heavy falling
Living under the starting gun
Time to fight!

Live! Love! Dream!
Heaven going ever higher
Sieze the world for me tonight!
. . . Tonight.
Give! Shove! Steam!
Hotter than the sun of summer
Hold out! Hold on! Hold on!
. . . Hold on!

Living out your dreams—

(written 1997-03-31)