Monday, May 06, 2013

Mixing An Entire Nation

I spent a few hours today refining a mix for a Marqui Adora song called An Entire Nation. This is one of the songs we played in the 2007 era of the band. It was always a fun song to play but every prior attempt at recording would end up feeling flat. Not sure if it was tempo or the playing but it always left me with less then I'd hoped for in the energy department.

The mix I've been working on does not have any such problem. It feels big and full of life to my ears. After a few more tweaks in the morning (after a while of working on the song sleep is the only way to have fresh ears) I'll send it off to Joe to get his go/no go. What's nice about this is I felt it was ready last week and Joe pointed out a few things he wanted me to try and I think it's better for it. (Either way it is better so I'm happy we waited.)

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Simple Lies 2013 Pre-Release

In Motion 2013 Pre-Release

One of my favorites. I'm glad I can finally say this one is done and that it brings some serious energy. It might get tweaked a little more when it's released on iTunes (along with other tunes) so consider this a collectors edition.

In Motion 2013 Pre-Release on YouTube

Monday, March 25, 2013

Cracks in the Mirror

Here's a mix of Cracks in the Mirror. This one's an instrumental that's been kicking around for a very long time. It might get tweaked a little more when it's released on iTunes (along with other tunes to follow) so consider this a collectors edition.

Cracks in the Mirror

On to the next one...

Friday, March 01, 2013

Less human than human. Let's push things forward.

A warning:
Based on what I'm about to write don't assume I don't like music made with technology. My music collection has 155 Aphex Twin songs, 284 Nine Inch Nails songs and several days worth of music that would qualify as Jungle/drum 'n bass.

With that said, a group of music videos showing goats yelling as a replacement for dubstepish synths and singers over singing has opened my eyes to a fundamental issue with the state of pop music.

The singing in many of the songs featured in these goat versions are so detached from the way people sound (when they actually sing) that the goat can sound more like a human. In a pop song why do breathing and moaning have to be at equal level with the words? Why do I need to hear the soft singing at the same volume as the loudest belting? I think it's all about giving the impression of something that's not really present. It's the audio equivalent of the diva hand waving and MC shoulder dipping. It's an affectation that the music machine and it's chosen performers think will bring things that are fake into the realm of reality. To me these are examples of people becoming pigeons in a skinner box. They perform the ritual, they get the food pellet, and they have no idea why.

In addition to the audio self delusion, many of these videos also share a secondary bizarre feature, they show a "band" performing the songs. These are songs that feature no (or at most little) guitar, bass guitar, live drums or keyboard parts that could be played yet they have a group of musical instrument holders rocking as if they played something. It's like the directors all said music videos have people holding instruments and rocking out so we need that to. Again this feels like some bizarre conditioning that can't be explained. If no instruments are being played and no voice appears unaltered then what's the point of miming like it was? Why not just have an entire horn section and orchestra hold their instruments? (Add a troupe of drummers as well!)

I'm sure it's just because I'm old and cranky but what are they trying to achieve? To show how well you can increment/decrement a value? We should be in a much more interesting musical age not one that has had so much of the life sucked out of it. This is the era when we should have hybrids of Mozart and Public Enemy and Tom Waits and Marvin Gaye and Kraftwerk not people who can't play or sing becoming the emperors new clothes.

Here's some music made with machines that pushes things forward:

Monday, February 25, 2013

Dropbox vs. Google Drive for musicians.

TLDR-Dropbox works well and fast while Google Drive is (currently) snail paced.

The members of Marqui Adora have been using Dropbox and before that MobileMe/.mac to share files for years. I decided to try using Google drive to replace Dropbox and it is the worst experience I've had with a Google product in a very long time.

The desktop client is startlingly slow. I've spent hours watching it slowly creep along with the huge pile of files I have. It's also reporting that it is having a problem uploading files. Files that are perfectly good and will upload when you tell it to try again. Restarting the App, restarting the computer or having no other activity on the computer and network make no difference. I can't understand how a company with as many server farms and knowledge of data storage, transmission, and tons of fiber can think this is a product worth paying for.

It's just bad.

I guess I can kiss that $5s goodbye.

Sorry Google but I won't be sticking around waiting for you to do what Dropbox already can do and MobileMe did years ago.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

GTD for musicians: I am my own roadie.

I started using the system described in David Allen's book Getting Things Done (GTD) in the past month and have found it works pretty well when adopted completely. (I say completely because 6 years ago when I tried reading the book I stopped at some point because of the business speak driving me crazy.)

The biggest change for me as a musician has been the way I have now become my own roadie.  I've had guitars and basses that have needed "help" because they've stayed half working or filthy for years. One day "the roadie" was given the task to clean them or order new strings or make repairs and when "the musician" next came to play he had nicely tuned working guitars with new strings. Not surprisingly "the musician" was also much more inspired to actually play the planks of wood he hadn't touched for many months.

I also seem to have hired an "assistant engineer" because when the "recording engineer" sat down to mix some music he found someone had updated and installed software on the latest computer in the studio. For months the "recording engineer" thought installing Soundtrack Pro 2 from disc would be good if he could get to those install discs buried in some spot or other. It seems like all the plugins that could be updated also got taken care of. I need to buy the "assistant engineer" a beer! Look old session files could be opened. Old files that needed bouncing somehow got bounced. Weird shit! Hey wait he fixed the nasty worn out headphone pads and fixed some broken headphones. He bought and installed a coat rack to hold cables and headphones at the ready. What a swell guy!

The bad news:

  • The book is clearly written for corporate executives in their language. It feels like pulling teeth to get through all the material.
  • It was written around 2002 when the first iPod was new and has no references to the many good tools available on the Mac, iPhone and iPad like Things and Omni-Focus. (It says the phrase "if you have a cell phone" at one point!)
  • It requires regular homework. Daily and weekly.
  • The book is very dry.
  • You will need to set aside time to really do it right.
  • Did I mention how painful it is to make it to the end and really have comprehended the ideas presented? I've read the book and audiobooks a few times already in the past month because I've found it was very easy to miss some of the finer points.
  • Most of the system is described using paper files and folders, which works, but I mostly use electrons instead of dead tree flesh, so adaption may be required. (I do use paper for mind maps and brain storming thoughts.)
The good news:
  • The audio version of the book is better. (Another audio version called Getting Things Done... FAST is even better but is out of print. Check your local library.)
  • A podcast I've enjoyed for years, Back to Work, covered the topic for several episodes starting here with episode 95. This might serve as a good way to test the water with a little less business speak. I should also warn you they do sometime wander into comic books and other things. (Episode 94 acts as a prequel in many ways.)
  • As a system it's well loved by geeks/nerds the world over, so in addition to the resources available from David Allen's website, you'll find the internet is full of good resources and tips on the google.
  • I've gotten a roadie and assistant engineer who will work for nothing! (Allowing me to play music or turn the knobs and push the faders.)
  • Things like this blog post seem to somehow get done when I'm not looking.
-John Tooker