Fleacore tough love.

A small amusement – watching prices on eBay. There is an antique that sounds like a flugelhorn out a frog’s arse and it’s going for thousands of dollars. Next to it is something that no one will touch even if Jesus came and delivered it on a cloud. On the Internet are grown men – well I guess that’s an assumption but anyway – grown men shouting hoarsely about ‘converters’ and ‘ROM revisions’ and ‘stereo presence’ and all kinds of complete twaddle. Read between the lines and it becomes obvious – none of them know how to use the gear they’re binging and purging.

I want to make amends to the universe for this shameful display.
Learn to use your damn equipment.

$(KGrHqMOKpYFJlzlQvD7BSdzbi,F,!~~60_57

Dog of the Week.

Look at this: it’s my JV1010. You can get one for tuppence. The advantages include being very small and having a Session ROM – an extra set of sounds. If you have a PC then you need to get a hold of the free JV editor that Roland included with the unit. If you are an OSX user then you’ll need some other editor – or get an JV1080 with some knobs on front. No Session ROM included, never mind you can get that later.

Now this is a Sword and Sandals machine. Each voice has four tones. You get 64 tones all up. Each tone is a waveform, a filter, an amplifier and 2 LFOs. So you can make a nice sound with just one tone, by putting a waveform through a filter and so on – I don’t need to explain that. When you stack up these tones you get very thick sounds, and the synthesiser has an analogue control which makes the oscillators drift a little – so that traditional Roland sound is quickly there.

But you’ll eventually become dissatisfied because S&S relies on samples and they are going to be the same every time you push the key. At this point Mrs. GearSlutz throws her hands in the air and goes back to mooing with lust for a Moog. But really there’s some interesting techniques that Roland have put in there, found that no one cared, and not bothered to explain very well. Allow me.

At this point I have to assume you are reasonably familiar with the S+S idea.

structure

Two tones can be connected in a structure. The first structure is parallel, so that each tone has its own envelope and 2 pole filter. No.2 is serial, running the two through the filters to make a 4 pole filter with two distinct cut off settings. That’s nice for more overt filter sounds. The third structure has the waveforms mixed together through a booster. If you try this without quite knowing what it does, it just seems to make a horrible fuzz. Instead, think of it as Roland’s attempt to make FM without touching Yamaha’s FM patent.

Turn on the first two tones. In the first one put a pure sine wave. In the second put a pure waveform of some sort, but with some harmonics to play with – a saw is fine. Select the 3rd structure with the booster. Now as you turn up the gain on the booster, the combined waves will start to ‘fold over’ – what would have been a volume peak is forced down and new harmonics are created. Use the top tone like a modulator, and the bottom tone as the carrier – the analogy is false, but the process will reach some comparable results. Detune them for chorused harmonics.

But notice that there’s both a filter and amp in front of the booster. Obviously that amp can be used like the amp on an FM modulator. You can also use a resonant filter sweep to move the new overtones around. The result is a very nice harmonic sweep that sounds a bit like an FM or a pulse width modulation sweep. If you use structure 5, you get a ring modulator – rather than adding the waves, you’re multiplying them. Different sound but same workflow.

Always more to learn.

The ring mod is a fine way to get modulated sounds, even just by supplying two of the same waveforms (in structure 7 for example) and detuning. Look carefully in the waveform list and you will see ‘low’ versions of the simple waveforms. These are like LFOs in the signal path and do slow movements with the ring mod, which works well with some careful use of ‘chaos’ LFO to get variations of tone.

The FXM control is still mysterious. It’s like a fixed FM effect with a few settings… what use? Roland aren’t that talkative. “FXM (Frequency Cross Modulation) uses a specified waveform to apply frequency modulation to the currently selected waveform, creating complex overtones. This is useful for creating dramatic sounds or sound effects.” Meh, not really forthcoming for something they they’ve included in every keyboard in 20 years. Sound on Sound suggests it’s a good way to vary hi hats!

The other interesting part of this little box is the effects section. The later XV machines had a bigger effect palette but there are still plenty of treatments to try. One that’s particularly nice is the Feedback Pitch Shifter which allows quite long delays between each re-pitched feedback loop. It’s the eventide harmoniser effect that the Residents used for decades (and I used on the Ant Can See Legs). Here also the Time Control Delay you can sweep by your modulation wheel for really nice tape delay effects.

With a bit of care you can get noises out of this thing which are more interesting than the big expensive toys. The point I’m getting to is that the music that people are crazy for at the moment, all this reissued culture, was made by people who had to work with whatever cheap 2nd hand tools they could get. If you want to bring back the excitement of whatever ‘old days’ you crave – this is where it starts. Learn to use the stuff you own!

Update to Big Iron – Fingers Crossed

About a year ago I wrote about a project to start an experimental video lab. And since then, very little to report.

It started well as we leased the digital switching gear, but ran into trouble when Stephen R Jones became unwell, and as often is the nature of visual music only he was able to prepare his equipment. There’s been plenty of other things to do at work so we took time out. But a year is a year and suddenly there had to be a plan B or the whole deal was off.

Big Iron 2 copy

One of the things I have learned over the last few years is whenever you reissue old albums, there’s a whole bunch of unfinished business that comes back to life. You have an equal chance that everyone is sweet, or that people are ready with a pump action shotgun. There was some business here as well, in-between these two extremes, but I have to get on with it, so the plan became to get a functioning rig now and sort out who shares the credit later. I don’t have the technical skill to trace that (I’m a middle manager).

By strange coincidence Ant, the Severed Heads ‘mother hen’ for many years, also works in A/V at the university and knows some of the local people who make contemporary video synthesisers. We’re hoping for a catch-up soon, where we can check out the latest toys. But it turns out they know the guy that bought the “Supernova 12″. That was Stephen’s last video synthesiser design, and is quite different to the “Fridge”, which is the one we used in Severed Heads.

Noting had been heard of it in years, when suddenly Ant got a mail to say, it exists, it needs some repairs, but if we can find a way to move it, it can come to the video lab. Which is kind of like when somebody says, ‘I found a box with MASTER TAPE written on it, do you want it?’.

Overview

In fact there was another Supernova based machine shown last year at Campbelltown. Maybe that can join its sister – I’ve asked the current user about joining in the project.

Catching Light, Campbelltown Arts Centre, 2013

Stephen agrees that the Fridge does some things better – the SN12 is a bit more brutal, doesn’t have quite same range of expression due to the way the colour is mixed. But I’m more hopeful now that we will have something to show for this and perhaps some day as many as three of Stephen’s machines in the one space.

Whatever happened to Something Awful?

If Something Awful was completely without merit, there would be no problem. Shit is shit and let’s run this shit into the ground as they say in one of the hundreds of memes that pass for conversation on SA. But SA can be charitable, as when it raises tens of  thousands of dollars for the poor in the USA and elsewhere, it can be justified as when it took on the child pornographers that infest Reddit and drove them out for least a while. It can be an effective critic of far worse entities such as 4chan, TV Tropes and other deserts of the mind. It can even be strangely beautiful – I was one of the many people preparing a Photoshop for a ‘make a ghost picture’ thread, when up popped the very first image of Slenderman, a nonsense monster that spread over the world in a flash and recently drove two teenage girls to try murder another to appease this instant-meal myth. I know that’s a particularly remorseful kind of beautiful, but I still prefer it to most art.

original-1

You will notice that, like Drop Bears, the Slenderman joke started in Australia. Then Americans believed it, and away we go.

At the moment they are coming to the end of a revolution of sorts, it’s petering out in spasms, but still you’re likely to come across entire threads of people saying:

“I’m Gay.”
“I’m Gay.”
“I’m Gay.” at each other like some kind of demented bird call. Which in anyone’s terms is pathetic or infuriating or both. I’m not here to defend it, but to try to sum up what’s been going on in this virtual town of 189,064 or so.

Just before Halloween 2013, the main board, General Bullshit (or ‘GBS’), was in trouble. SA is actually one of the most highly moderated websites around, with probations and bans constantly raining down on the worst of the worst. Probations come for racism, gender slights, tedious trolling, sock puppeting, all the usual sins of online society – if YouTube was run like SA, their comments would be empty. But in this case the effort had been too successful, and the grotesque ball had stopped dead. The punters were unnerved – what was funny? What ribaldry was OK? What insults would be tolerated, and if this was a party – the beer had gone flat.

Halloween evening, new ‘spooky rules’ for ‘GBS 2.0.’ were posted by Zack Parsons, science fiction novelist and admin. No NSFW images, no personal fights, that’s it.

By the time I saw the board a few hours later, a few timid starts had turned into an outpouring of the most disgusting, hateful, childish garbage that anonymous fat young men could pull out of their trousers. To be clear, there was no redeeming quality to it at all. I learned that probably the worst swearword in the United States is ‘nigger’, and they were going to mount that on a flag and march it down main street. Everything had to be burned and everyone had to be smeared with ashes and shit and god knows. I stopped visiting GBS for a while, basically because there was no community to visit.

Other sections of the community carried on as before, a bit like the white flight suburbs circling Detroit. Every now and then somebody would come wandering out of the maelstrom and start the noise in the pet discussion area or such like. They would instantly get banned, without understanding why the rules were different.

r1ut_1_14_05

I thought it might go for weeks. It went for months, although after a while the tone was like the Dawn of the Dead – the zombies were beginning to assemble some parody of order, while angrily refusing it. The moderators came back in, allowed themselves to be mocked and be probated by others, sometimes with humour, mostly not. I’ll make a big stretch and compare it to the cultural revolution, when Mao had students attack the professors to keep himself up the top of the power structure.

_photos_uncategorized_2007_04_13_tibet_cultural_revolution_2

I am an imperfect witness, I’m too old, I just wandered around the desolation not knowing why. Some of it was another discussion board, FYAD, leaking out of its pink cartoon cesspit. They do not speak their name but ‘Fuck You And Die’ is probably it. What you see in there is something between a diaper fetish, people who cut themselves for attention and those that think they are Oscar Wilde and aren’t. Everything is ironic, especially typing ‘nigger’. Perhaps the plan was to draw them out? Was it a death wish? Did Zack Parsons want to prove a point? The moderators only know.

FYAD

FYAD in one image

Some time near the new year, softly, the rules were expanded and it became ‘GBS 1.3′. Probations followed. There was grumbling, but maybe everyone was too exhausted to rebel. August 2014, nearly a year later came the message from Lowtax, king of this domain: “Can we PLEASE get rid of all the racist garbage getting posted around here? As we’ve always said, unless it’s extremely remarkably wonderfully humorous, you’re going to get banned for making racist comments. For your health.”

The revolution lasted just over 11 months.

The proudly worst have discovered that while ‘tranny’ is now banned, ‘gay’ is still allowed, not specific to the sexual orientation although that’s in there, but in the school yard sense of ‘weak’. It’s highly offensive, it’s supposed to be. It tests exactly the same water as being ‘punk’ in 1976. But because the punks were at least glamorous, they now have a museum history, where once being ‘punk’ was just as awful as the ‘ironic homophobia’ that’s being thrown about now.

Nazi+punks

But who will record the revolt of the ugly fat dorks? I will. I was there for the punks, I was there for the dorks, what difference really?

My bullshit equipment list is better than AFX’s bullshit equipment list.

  • Eclectic Integrator with Phlogiston Gauge.
  • Opposable Mitts with Felt Innards.
  • Mid Range Pneumatic Foklift (n.b. not Forklift).
  • Hot Pockets, Meat Lovers, Frozen.
  • Tyrants (x7)
  • One small Bowl of Tepid Squid Bites in Springwater.
  • 12 meters of Red Sable as used on the Set of Quo Vadis.
  • MH370.
  • Britannica Entries for Ouija to Ouzo.
  • Henry Ford and Walt Disney in a Tacit Embrace.
  • Sepia in a 1 Litre Bottle.
  • lsd-03
  • A Pamphlet denouncing Central Park, dated 1992.
  • The Bomb Dropped on Nagasaki, reassembled.
  • Faintly Heard Sounds of Rats.
  • Photographs of Satan and God for sale for $15,000,000 on eBay.
  • Unsung Heroes in a Packet of 12.
  • Tincture of Racist Jibes.
  • Operation Enduring Freedom.
  • A series of eMails re: Teething Problems at Our Melbourne Data Centre.
  • Sheer Luxury in a Sports Car.
  • A well worn Statuette of Captain Scarlet.
  • 5 Japanese Girls Dancing in Strict Formation, the Camera Pans Slowly.
  • A Cure for Ebola.
  • oliverreed
  • Micrometeorologists and Decidefibrillators.
  • Singapore Sling.
  • Innards.
  • Episodes of Candid Camera, missing half the 4th Season.
  • The Four Seasons.
  • A Betamax Cassette Entitled ‘Viva Sonyland’.
  • Valium. More Valium.
  • A Pair of Dashing Red Pantaloons, Alas Too Small
  • A Near Miss, partly used.
  • Rubber Baby Buggy Bumpers.
  • Hector, the greatest fighter for Troy in the Trojan War.
  • My Deepest Regrets for You, and Your Family.
  • Insipid Scissors.
  • Busty Ginger!

Musicians lie about their inspiration.

Musician interviews inevitably arrive at naming one’s inspiration. The formula involves picking your own genre, then rewinding to decide whoever was the coolest shit in that genre when you were in your mid teens and is still cool. Kraftwerk is a great one. Everyone knows Kraftwerk, it’s the cheddar cheese of influences. (I’d more likely mention Telex as that would earn a raised eyebrow from the interrogator, at the same time as being actually more cool in a daggy way).

Recently the game has levelled up. You have to name someone that requires the interviewer to fake recognition, and dive online when writing up the interview to know just who the hell ‘The Lost Jockey’ might have been, and is this a trap for the unwary? Like when I mentioned ‘Blorp Essette’, the title of a cassette by the Los Angeles Free Music Association, which mysteriously became one of the interviewer’s favourite bands.

But really, inspiration comes like a thief in the night. No one ever admits the real moment, so let me take the risk.

I was lying in bed last night listening to a storm trying to tear the roof off my house. I sleep just under that roof and so the noise is quite an experience. I’ve become intensely phobic about this happening, and to distract myself I tried to think of the moment I was first drawn to make music. Happily the storm lasted for hours so I had plenty of time to sift through the decades and land on just the right spot.

Sure, there were years with tape recorders, the old man’s Jazz 78s, sound effect records, but let’s focus on music.

It’s 1972. I am ten years old. My brother and I are off to see some disaster porn at the pictures, and it was about the time that they were starting to put some speakers in the cinemas that could actually woof, I mean woof louder than what you had at home. Make shit rumble.

poseidon-adventure

Irwin Allen’s The Poseidon Adventure. HELL UPSIDE DOWN the poster promised and who wouldn’t want to see that?

Just like today you had to have a theme song. It was a rather drab number called There’s Got To Be A Morning After which got played before the film, in the film, after the film and all over the god damn radio once it won the Academy Award for Best Song. Never mind that. What mattered was hearing some big old woofers in a big bloody theatre pumping out some tube amp sub frequencies as part of well formed melodic structure. It’s a slow song, so what I was hearing was: DROOOOOOOOONE DRONE DRONE DROOOOOOOOOONE etc. with a person singing sweetly over top. It was quite an experience, and then you got to see Ernest Borg Nine clambering up a ship funnel.

new-years

Happy New Year! Time to die!

Now I didn’t then rush out and immediately start making avant garde. I went to see the Towering Inferno instead, not nearly as good. But when Autobahn came on the AM radio in 1974, it only reinforced that I like that Kind of Thing, and that I wanted to make that thing.

So from now on I am going to say that my inspiration is Al Kasha and Joel Hirchshhorn. They’re pretty underground, so you probably haven’t heard of them.

Great career advice just for YOU.

office-worker-low

Tip 1: Make sure you get your email out of the way straight away on arrival. Categorise the contents into act now, later and pass to others.
Tip 2: Don’t look at your email for the first few hours. Follow through your own schedule and don’t get distracted by communications that deflect that schedule.

Tip 3: Plan out every hour of the day, starting at 5.30pm and working backwards.
Tip 4: Don’t plan the day by hours. Allow the larger themes of your job role to determine the proportions of your time load.

Tip 5: Take a break every half hour and switch to another task to keep a fresh mind.
Tip 6: Get yourself into the swing of the task, a mind space, in the zone, without taking breaks.

Tip 7: Visualise yourself in your next role and work at a higher level as if you are preparing to take it on.
Tip 8: Don’t try to anticipate your next role as you will always create it around you when the time comes.

Tip 9: Schedule regular public dialogue with your co-workers and take care to listen.
Tip 10: Avoid meetings unless to address specific needs

Tip 11: Don’t read those ‘life success tip’ list blogs, they are a pack of shit. All of the contradictory advice listed above comes from the same source. You don’t need to take advice from ‘idea puppy mills’.

Tip 123: They see no problem with listing contradictory advice, because the goal is not about actually achieving anything but teaching you to be an efficient component. Contradiction is actually good to keep you open to suggestion.

Tip 12: This kind of writing is an attempt to regiment your thinking so that you remain a useful cog in a system that concentrates wealth and leisure with a few people, and wastes your short life on this earth.

Tip 15: You are going to die. Time is running out. You will become sick and not be able to fulfil those aspirations that matter most to you. That’s the most important item on the schedule, so fuck email tips.

Tip Horse: The best answer to work is to change management to trust. That is, work on the basis of your humanity, not become technology.

Tip toe: And don’t be an arsehole, that’s a cheap diversionary aspiration. There is no need to act like Steve Jobs, just because it gets promoted in popular fiction as a way to exercise power. Kindness is a difficult virtue. We are all in the same tunnel.

T1#262865: But you already knew all of this.

I made an album. Now what?

So I was listening to this album of mine just then and I was thinking, well soon as the vocals are mixed in, that’s done. It’s all there. About 3 years work off and on. When I started this thing, it was all Fruity Loops. Ditched that back in 2012, went hardware. Re-recorded large sections, threw things out, the usual deal. I think the oldest track has been remixed, what, 8 times? It’s all Cubase and MIDI now.

But it’s just tipping into the don’t overdo it stage. The best tracks are the ones you just get right the first time. Could lose something if I don’t … what? Not sure.

This started around the time we’d done our 2011 shows and it was time to retire gracefully, got up to speed around the Adelaide Festival, got bogged down in Gear Acquisition Syndrome and has been slowly burning along since. Actually the G.A.S. has been a great help in revitalising my sounds. Got some nice sounds these days. (I put 30 up for you in the menus!)koala

But OK. Seeing as my current contact with the ‘market’ is to be a stuffed koala in a glass case, all mould and glass eyes… what? This really isn’t a spare-me-my-blushes moment. On one side I feel like the ugliest old hag that ever went for the role of Baby Jane. On the other side look at all those other old fucks. They’re doing it you coward.

This is a fun record, and righteous glammy. It can’t be all self-deprecating. But then, look, it’s this teaching thing, it distorts your placement when everyone you see all day is 20 something. Meh.

And look where I was in 2008.

Somehow I think this is going to happen but I just don’t know how just yet. Be patient. I might have to get this fucking doctorate out of the way.

It’s currently called RHINE. It’s named after this guy.