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Bassline? Put a donk on it.

June 12, 2012, 13:45 -05 by chris
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Garrick is turning a knob

Notes from Underground

October 14, 2011, 15:09 -05 by chris
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Have we really not updated this thing since…Janua…really? Well then. Time for another rudely sporadic update.

Settling in to new digs – we’ve both moved house again over the past year (from Ballard to Ballard and from West Seattle to West Seattle, with such attendant benefits as no longer living directly above a noisy pub, or blowing much less money for much more square footage in a much nicer neighborhood), which always means more downtime than anticipated. Much, much more. I always seem to grossly underestimate how long it takes to move even a relatively modest ‘home studio’ setup, and this time I seem to have set a new personal record. Going from ‘home office’ to ‘bonus room’ (gotta love those real estate agent bullshi…uh, ‘euphemisms’, no?) to spare bedroom the past few moves was one thing – you’re essentially shlepping the same stuff from one rectangular-shaped room to another.

Now we’re (back, like we were in the early 2000s) in a basement, and along with the too-easy jokes about being ‘underground’ musicians came days-turned-into-weeks-into-months of patching concrete, sealing noise ordinance and heating bill unfriendly holes in walls, attempting to make a basement look – and sound – slightly less like a basement (if you stand here, face North, and squint your eyes just so, anyway), a certain amount of superficial electrical, duct, and plumbing work (“Laundry Room Studios” was already taken, so the washer and dryer had to go), two minor floods (so far), two vanloads (so far) of ASC Tube Traps to keep the existing OC 703 panels from getting lonely, demo-ing and/or moving a ‘workshop’ workbench and shelves (which were built in-place, as no way were they making it through any doorway in the place), and on and on.

Then it was time to move in the gear, get gear out of storage there wasn’t room for before, and work the ‘sunburned sound dude on the outdoor summer festival’ circuit for Monopoly money to buy still more gear, until everything’s just as cramped and elbow-to-elbow as it was before. “If you turn around too quickly, you’ll smack into something and snap the headstock off a guitar”? Ah, feels just like home.

Then it was time to wire everything back up, with actual patchbays, like real motherf*cking adults (hook up ALL the things!). Which somehow always requires more cables than you have, which cost more than you want to spend, even if you’re standing next to a floor-to-ceiling stack of banker’s boxes full of cables, which itself is in front of a wall of shelves of bins of still more cables.

Then I decided I absolutely needed to squeeze a bastardized drum kit into both of the remaining square feet of floor space. This was followed by the “could have had a V8” forehead-slapping realization that if you run a bunch of XLRs back and forth across even a very modestly sized room for headphone amps, three sets of monitors plus subwoofer, tie lines, DIs, mic cables going from the basement to the attic (don’t ask), and the like, you are left with a significantly larger number of microphones than you have mic cables, particularly if you want the drum microphones to be on the opposite side of the room from the sorts of things that microphones get plugged into. And you’ll need more mic stands, too.

More guitar-bass-drums and other instrument and gear aquisitions, more software and hardware updates and upgrades, we’ve currently got a Minimoog on loan courtesy of Glenn from The Walkabouts (Quick! Redo all the synth bass parts!), another small human was brought into the world, and…oh yeah, we really have actually been working on music, and it really will actually be (almost certainly self-) released at some point.

You know how musicians and recording engineer/producer types are always carrying on in magazine interviews about how songwriting, recording, releasing an album, or performing is “like having a baby”? I wonder if any of those people have kids, because trying to put together something album-like and hopefully convince some strangers to listen to it is nothing like having a baby. Curiously, I’ve not yet noticed any kind of significant contingent of female musicians saying that inflicting “music” on innocent bystanders is “like having a baby”.

“Sorry, honey, I know you could probably use some help with the kids right now, but the dudes in the band are trying to have a baby here!”

Existence is random. Has no pattern save what we imagine after staring at it for too long. No meaning save what we choose to impose.

January 27, 2011, 16:12 -05 by chris
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We’re both anxiously awaiting the debut album from Mirrors, which, rather torturously, isn’t out until the very last day of February. Appropriately chosen as the opener for OMD’s recent reunion tour, they somehow manage to pull off nattily-attired electronic pop that marries arrangements reminiscent of Echo & The Bunnymen, The Teardrop Explodes, or Chameleons with a four-part Kraftwerk-style lineup of electronic drums / synths / synths / synths, sometimes implying that there’s a guitarist in the band until you listen closely, and find none. Plus they stand all in a row and wear suits and blog about literature and art and manage to appear stylish and sophisticated and geeky and awkward all at the same time. And they seem to be on the verge of cracking up and breaking into laughter just beneath the Very Serious Deadpan Electronic Musicians facade – unlike, say, Interpol, there seems to be a bit of a wink and a nod behind the ties and haircuts. It’s just endearing.

Recently hauled a pair of Ampex 351s, a pair of Dolby A301s, some Metro shelving, and some ASC Tube Traps into the room, and rearranged things a bit.

Now to dig up the appropriate rare / obsolete / vintage power cables (an obsolete type of Hubbell connector for the former, the old British 1950s-1960s toaster/electric kettle but three pin, as found on vintage Hewlett Packard test equipment for the latter), and borrow a variac to “bring ’em up slowly” to find out how much more restoration work we’re getting ourselves into here.

In order to get things rolling a little more efficiently (the working album title “Artifacts” is becoming a bit of an unfortunate in-joke at this point) we’re going to try a bit of an assembly-line division of labor, starting with this evening’s session, in which we hope to spend the majority of the hours when we’re physically in the same room actually tracking, after which Garrick gets sent home with the resulting audio files to edit, arrange, and comp, and I work on mixes and mix revisions of songs that are at that stage.

Reading the new-ish Mixerman “Zen and the Art of Mixing” book, whenever I can manage to get in a chapter here or there before falling asleep in the evenings. Very highly recommended if you’re in the narrow subset of humans who 1) still read books and 2) are actually interested in what boils down to a self-help book about knob-turning.

And there’s another remix gig or two to fit in amongst it all, as well.

Also, life.

“It is not enough to be busy.”

Well, thanks for nothing, Mr. Thoreau.


August 27, 2010, 17:16 -05 by chris
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The new C’est la Mort, Empty Words Fill Lonely Spaces, is out. Three Imaginary Girls posted a review that contains words like “masterful”, “immaculate”, “ethereal”, and “angst”. Go buy it.

The other new C’est la Mort, In the Soft Focus Light of I Love You, is a remix disc featuring, among acts you’ve actually heard of like Jupe Jupe, “Among the Ruins (Doll Factory Mix)”. Go buy it.

A Sepiachord Passport, mastered by Chris from Doll Factory (aka “me”), comes out October 12 on Projekt Records. Wait, then go buy it.

The CIJ Jaguar Special HH has some new (OK, old, one is from around 1995 and the others are from around 1965, but still…) friends to keep it company, courtesy of extra summer-season moonlighting gig money from running live sound for Concerts in the Parks and various festivals:

…and thanks to an illustrious silent benefactor, inventor, acoustician, patron of the arts, and all-around audiovisual renaissance man, we’ve finally moved up to an Intel dual-dual-core Mac Pro with UAD-2, 16 gigs of RAM, and an embarrassment of terabytes of hard drives (two internal 2 TB drives, two internal 1.5 TB drives, an external 1TB, and a four-bay Drobo about to be filled with the rest of the hard drives stacked up in the corner…)

And now (drumroll please), back (once more) to actually working on music, instead of taking routers and soldering irons to funky Japanese guitars and poking at circuit boards with Phillips-head screwdrivers…stay tuned…

Weekend Update

June 21, 2010, 16:37 -05 by chris
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Another track in the can. 1 or 2 more and we’re considering posting a free EP while we finish up the rest of the album. http://j.mp/9DC39t

Should probably take the night off to try and wrap up work on the upcoming Sepiachord Passport compilation CD before getting back to our own material, though.

Also, new (to me) CIJ Fender Jaguar HH guitar and a laser-engraved neckplate for it arrived in the mail. Yeah, sure, every snotnosed kid within two hours of a Guitar Center has probably got one of the new imported-to-Fender-USA-dealers versions by now, but whatever. It’s pretty, and it sounds and plays great, and it’s one of the older 1994-95 versions from before they were sold Stateside. Earvana compensated nut upgrade and copper shielding tape and 12″ by 12″ copper-tape sheet are in the mail (as other online reviewers have noted, the humbuckers do a fine job of living up to their namesake, but the inadequately shielded internal wiring does not, which is not so cool when you’re sitting in a small room surrounded in every direction by computers and audio gear with big transformers). New strings, polish the frets, a little oil on the fretboard, a little tweak to the truss rod (understandable after a FedEx trek from Texas to the currently lame “Juneuary” Seattle weather), redo the intonation, and we’ll be golden. Or rather, black and chrome. Because “gold hardware” on any music equipment that’s not a Steinway or Bösendorfer is almost as stuffy and lame as sunburst finishes and “tortoise shell” pickguards.

I guess I just like gear to look vaguely machine-like and mysterious – like a piece of electrical equipment, and not so much like a piece of mobile-home furniture meant to hold recipe-card meatloaf and tater tot casseroles. “Airline” and “Danelectro” and “Vox Phantom” style guitars excepted, of course.

Maybe that’s just me.

Now if only Earvana and GraphTech would get together some sort of cross-licensing arrangement and offer the Earvana design nuts, but made out of the GraphTech Teflon-impregnated compound stuff, I’d be a seriously happy camper.

(White noise in a white room…)

June 7, 2010, 14:31 -05 by chris
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Mix revision number don’twannatalkaboutit in the can. Overdubs on the next song, need to pick up the pace on the rest of the tracks so we don’t end up spilling into 2011 and almost certain spontaneous studio seppuku. Live sound for someone else’s band over the weekend. Subwoofers, compact line arrays, and amp racks are heavy – even when they have wheels – when you have to push them a block and a half uphill both ways. Calves still a bit sore from that. More work on the next song tonight, mastering session for the next Sepiachord comp tomorrow, back to work on next song the rest of the week. Trying to avoid coveting a black-n-chrome Jaguar HH, Korg Monotron, Moog Voyager, and rumored upcoming Oberheim Two-Voice reissue. (I hear some talk of guns and butter…) 90% sure we’re gonna give an outside party a go at the whole mastering thing this time around for the upcoming Doll Factory tracks; as mastering other people gets easier and easier, mastering ourselves gets more difficult. Or at least less fun. We’ve done the fun part, now how about you make it loud. Onwards. (Hearing talk of joy in labour…)

One C’est la Mort remix down…

April 19, 2010, 16:45 -05 by chris
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Recording Session: Schedule it Like the Pros!

March 4, 2010, 16:08 -05 by chris
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