Archive for September, 2010

cable question

Hey, other performers and engineers and stuff!

Is it better practice to spend more on higher-quality and theoretically longer-lasting cables or are they just gonna break anyway and you’re better off saving money?

(This question brought to you by the annoying crackle in channel 2.)

This is a fun one

I don’t do feel-good songs. I really don’t. Maybe I will someday – I’m not philosophically opposed to them or anything. I’d like to write a couple, if for no other reason than to throw everything else into sharp relief. That said, if I did write one, in the here and now, if there is hope to be found in any of my songs… it’s here. Don’t believe me? Don’t think I can? That’s okay. Listen to the music:
<a href="">Stars by Crime and the Forces of Evil</a>
I’ve never been happy with a bass line like I’m happy with this one. It was really hard to bring its levels down in the verses and other places where it needed to be, because I wanted all the notes of it right out there in front. For a few minutes, I was so much better on that bass than I actually am, and I just thank the gods that I got it recorded. Don’t ask me to do it again, tho’ I’ll sure as hell be trying. Scroll up and listen to the music.

In fact, I was about three days away from giving up on this song. If not for forever, at least for a long time, because bass aside, I couldn’t summon the vocal chops to make it happen. Not the way it should’ve been happening. Then, somehow, the bass line I shouldn’t’ve been able to perform pulled vocals out of me that I hadn’t been able to perform – seriously, it felt like it physically grabbed me and said Do. Now. And I did. Now I just need to be able to do it all the time.

But don’t take my word for it. You don’t have to. Listen to the music. It’s all right here. Just hit play.
<a href="">Stars by Crime and the Forces of Evil</a>

New track: Outbirds

I have another new track up! Outbirds is the first of the Sketchy Characters songs to get a full studio treatment. Please enjoy it here:

<a href="">Outbirds by Crime and the Forces of Evil</a>

Outbirds is partly rage, and partly lament, and none of it’s happy; it’s for everybody who has been a friend of convenience one too many times. If you were there for people who then weren’t there for you; if you’re just a little too strange; if you’re just a little too real, or not real enough; if you’re just a little too useful – this song is for you. It was the first song I wrote where the lyrics came in a huge lump, with me writing them down as quickly as I could as they came falling out of my head in a rush. Usually words are the harder part; they come later, and sometimes with difficulty, but in this case it was the music which took all the time.

You can compare the studio version with the earlier version – which for all its multitracking was very nearly a live recording – here. Kathryn says the new one’s the album cut and the old one is me slamming back a fifth of Jack and staggering up to a mic. I kind of like that image, so I’m going to keep it.

The most entertaining part of this song from a technical standpoint are the chimes between verses; they’re actually not chimes, they’re interference patterns between the left and right channels of out-of-phase fake-stereo output from a Radio Shack synth. The actual voice selected on the synth (what it’s “supposed” to sound like) sounds nothing like what I recorded, and is not nearly as interesting, either. I discovered this by accident when I plugged it into my board with a mono 1/4″ cable, thus merging left and right channels and cancelling out most of the signal – leaving that. Which I of course then had to use. It was imperative.

Next up will be Stars, because after this one, we need something with hope in it, and this weekend I recorded the best bass line I’ve ever put down, and something about that kicked me in the ass vocally and I put down my best Stars vocals, too, the following day. You’ll like it. But first, enjoy something bitter. Clickie on “play” above, or on the sample tracks list on the Crime and the Forces of Evil main website.

outbirds; stars

A brief post before I go to bed – I’ll post about it for real later – but the Dick Tracy Must Die version of “Outbirds” is up on Bandcamp. You can steam it off the official band site or directly off Bandcamp. It’s the first track off Sketchy Characters (which was, as you’ll recall, a work-in-progress CD, and I kind of think of it as almost a live-recording disc now) to make it onto Dick Tracy, so compare and contrast if you want to see how my ideas of engineering have evolved since January.

Also, I’m not posting a link, but sometimes – and I’ve talked about this – you put something down in a recording at night, particularly late at night, and you think it’s pretty fuckin’ awesome, but then you listen to it the next day and you’re all disappointed and are wondering what you were thinking. The bassline I recorded for Stars last night is exactly the opposite of that. I can’t believe I performed this. I’m not this good on bass, but apparently, for a few minutes last night, I was. Don’t ask me to do it again, I don’t know how it happened.

More on that later. Go listen to Outbirds, new and old. Hear what I’ve learned. What do you think?

one more note (maybe)

I’m being all productive. “Stars” has a bass track now. I should play with bass more often; it’s fun and I keep forgetting how fun it is. Instrumentally, “Stars” is close to finished. Vocally… I’m not happy yet. Damn I wish I had better pipes. Well, you work with what you have.

“Outbirds” is a release candidate, and I’m going to try one more thing tomorrow (vocals, so I’ll rerecord one phrase to change literally one note on one syllable) and may and may not keep the change, but either way it’s pretty much ready. “Outbirds” is the first song I’ve taken off the work-in-progress/almost-a-live-recording Sketchy Characters and finished, so you’ll get to hear the difference eight months can make. I certainly can. It makes me want to start remastering even recent recordings like “Shout at the Desert,” because turns out fan projects can teach you a lot.

But I’ll be good. “Outbirds,” then “Stars,” then either “Artefacts” or “Stay Away,” I’m not sure. I’ve been poking at both.

why do the drums sound best on laptop speakers?

I’ve re-recorded most of “Outbirds” and mixed it down over the last couple of days; s’funny how much better all the individual tracks are this time but how much of that you don’t really hear in comparing the final mixes because I managed to hide so much broken shit in the mix in the Sketchy Characters version.

The mandolin track in the old recording is such a clusterfuck – you have no idea. No, seriously, you don’t. It sounds okay in the work-in-progress mix on CD because of mixing trixery hiding all the fail; pulled out, it’s lollertastic. New one? 100x better. I don’t have to hide anything, and I don’t! But you don’t know how much better the tracks are, it mostly sounds like there’s more going on now, and that the timing’s tighter.

(What’ve I kept? The dissonant chimes and a little – very little – of the original bass guitar line.)

The drums are recording much better now that I’m using the 957, and I’m also a better drummer now than I was in January, which surprises me a little since I’ve practiced so little on drums in particular. I guess all that timing work is paying off generally. The bodhran sounds good now on headset and on decent speakers – but for some reason unknown to me it sounds un-fucking-believable on laptop speakers. I think because you don’t hear the low end your brain decides there must be a whole fucking lot of it based on what it’s hearing from the top end and fills in the gaps with the sound of rolling thunder.

Thor’s gone bowling again. Watch out.

And thanks to everybody who came out on Friday!

Thanks to everybody who came out on Friday! The poster was the most effective promotional tool, apparently, and I should’ve done more of that. (It’s all a learning experience…) I was really nervous about the S.J. Tucker song that I covered, particularly since there were some friends of hers in the audience (hiya! ^_^ ) but the consensus seemed to be that while my version is quite different, it works. ♥! (I am however mad at myself for fucking up Stars at the end of the first set. I mean seriously, what, fingers? C’mon, get with the programme! XD ) I hope everybody had a good time, and it was great fun talking to the people who stayed all the way through the show and wanted to chat afterwards.

Now I work on album f’srs. And also on booking new shows. And all this stuff, really. SO MANY THINGS TO DO omg. If anybody out there has places they want to see me try to play, let me know!

asked for waveforms

Having mentioned you could see the difference in the drum recordings in the waveform view, I was asked for a screenshot, which I provide here:

Simultaneous recording, L/R channel, two mics

The two mics were not in exactly the same place here, which emphasises the difference a bit, but not as much as you might think; I could do better with the Novas and the 57s and so on, but nothing I did – yes, including identical placement to the 957 as used in this recording – captured as much of the drum resonance. In this particular recording I’m going to keep both tracks and merge them – the 57 got some nice high tones that I want to keep in the final mix.

I should probably mention that a lot of this is a matter of specific intent, and possibly taste. If you want really short, snap-tight punchy drums, you’d prefer the SM57’s behaviour, or that of the Novas, and so on. As always, it’s a matter of getting your intended effect. But I’ve been finding the various recordings I’ve made of percussion rather aurally tiring, particularly heard raw, and in the released tracks I’ve had to do a lot of futzing and reverb and such to get something not as close to what I want as I’m getting straight out of the mic from the 957.

sunday sick sessions

I have a head cold, bleah. But! I’ve been poking around in the studio anyway.

Several years ago, I bought a Sony ECM957 small-can capacitor microphone for recording live with a minidisc recorder, and it worked okay for that. But I’ve never been able to do a goddamn thing with it in the studio despite repeated attempts on different instruments (and voice), so it’s been sitting in a drawer for most of the last two and a half years… or, until now.

Turns out it’s really good for recording percussion, or, at least, for recording this djembe that none of my other mics are recording worth a damn. I could hear it on the live monitor in my headset as soon as I plugged it in and popped a couple of test riffs – it was that obvious. In the playback it’s a whole ‘nother world compared to my previous attempts. It’s enough of a difference that you can see it outright in the waveform display, comparing to recordings on other mics. Today, the djembe; tomorrow, the bodhran! Hopefully.

Freaky little microphone, I knew you had to have something good in you. I’m so glad it finally showed up! ♥

Show tonight!

Show tonight! Wayward Coffeehouse, 8570 Greenwood Ave. N., Seattle, 8pm. No cover and it’s a coffeehouse so it’s all-ages. If you think I’m joking about the rage-driven acoustic (yes, acoustic) elfmetal – I’m not. Come see.

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