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Gear Only Goes So Far

7 Jan

It’s now 2014 and of course that means I’ve been spending some time listening to cassette tapes. Yes, you read correctly. Now my reason for writing this is not to jump on some analog soapbox, as you can already find plenty of similar discussions around the internet, so please keep reading knowing that I’ll keep the preaching to a minimum.

The cassettes I’ve been listening to (while also making digital backups) happen to be some of the first recordings I ever “mixed.” Magnetic proof of the beginning of my audio career. To my surprise, these recordings, despite my lack of experience/gear/money/space/knowledge, are still very listenable today. Of course I have a bit lot of nostalgia associated with the material, but I feel the recordings were very successful in what they were intended to accomplish. We’re talking a few teenagers in some less-than-hospitable environment (think unheated, detached garage in the middle of February) thrashing away into a handful of $5 vocal microphones and a cassette deck.

Without getting long winded, this listening experience made me realize how silly it is when people (myself included) spend too much time, money and effort worrying about what gear they use to record and create. With all the shiny options out there with their thoughtfully coined promises of better results, it is easy to get distracted. However, in looking back over my catalog of personally recorded projects, some of my favorite examples were completed with the most limited of resources. Don’t get me wrong, I love fancy gear and my modern recordings sound more “pro” as my access to such gear (and experience using it) improved, but gear was never the sole force standing between me and a successful take.

Doing a job with the right tool can no doubt make or break the results, just keep the obsession in check. Always take time throughout the creative process to step back, look at the situation and ask yourself, “does this really make it better?”

In closing, here’s a quick snippet of a song my friend Cameron and I (we called ourselves “Allergy Bowl”) recorded for the soundtrack of a short film we created in our 10th grade Latin class. We needed to record a short intro song for the first on-screen appearance of the Roman army. An evening in Cam’s garage, our instruments, a cheap mixer, and three or four microphones was all it took. We didn’t have access to a digital recorder or DAW, so we recorded straight to a consumer-grade Sony DV Handycam. Here we are, ten years later, and while it’s definitely rough around the edges, the recording is still successful in its intent.  Stay focused.

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Home Studio: Make It Happen

25 Aug

The decision to move 1300 miles for a new gig came with a good share of challenges.  MSU wanted me to start work as soon as possible and to expedite the move they offered me the option to rent a readily available, on-campus apartment in family and graduate housing.  The dwelling leaves plenty to be desired.  It’s about half the square footage of the house I moved from, but only a 3 minute bike ride from work, utilities are included and I won’t have to worry about snow removal come Winter (a big, big plus).

I moved in with the notion this would be a temporary fix until I could find a house with more space for my various projects and interests.  Operating under this idea, I avoided getting too comfortable and setting up my home “studio.”  Though the more I live here, the more I realize how much the space works for my current situation.  Time to get comfortable.

Before leaving Springfield, I sold most of my furniture, including the desk that was the center of my creative space.  I don’t really have a vehicle fit for hauling furniture, and do anticipate a move at some point, so for now I’d like to avoid collecting more baggage.  But I can’t go any longer without a place to mix.  Just make it happen.

Image

Barely an hour of my time in the extra bed/storage room, some spare pieces of garage shelving and I’ve now got a place to mix and work on recording projects.

The motive behind this entry is to encourage anyone else looking for reasons to put-off building their home studio, or other creative workspace, to just go ahead and do it.  Those excuses are just another thing standing between you and dreams.  If you can’t exercise your talent, you’ll never reach your potential.

Sure, my setup leaves a lot to be desired–tiny room, zero acoustic treatment, extremely un-ergonomic desk/chair combo (see camp chair in photo)–but it’s my space.  The more I use it, the more it will improve.  And if you can practice working in less than ideal circumstances, just think of what you can pull off when the odds are in your favor.

Delta Sol Revival @ First Friday Live

18 Dec

In the midst of a busy late fall/early winter show season, the fellas over at the Gillioz Theatre have whipped up a nifty free concert series coinciding with Springfield’s “First Friday Art Walk.”  For the first Friday of every month, the theatre doors are opened to showcase a local band/musical artist performing along side a visual artist of their choice.  I was enlisted to mix FOH for the show as well as capture a multitrack recording of the show to be mixed down for internet distribution and promotional videos for the artists and the Gillioz.

The opening night of “First Friday Live,” as it’s so aptly named, featured tunes by Delta Sol Revival and live painting by Nicholas Tarr.

Local camera wielders (that’s what I call video people), Ben Clayton (of Ben Clayton AV) and Peter Jodlowski, shot and edited this pretty nifty little video.

To hear the audio from the entire November First Friday Live set with Delta Sol Revival, check out the player below from the Gillioz Theatre’s soundcloud page.  Stay tuned for tracks from J-None‘s December performance as well as the rest of the series as it happens.

Welcome to the Planet…

29 Apr

Here it is, the final version of The Spacetones’ new mixtape (streamable below in appropriate Side A/Side B format), Welcome to the Planet of Drugs & (e)Money.  Of course, you can also download the individual tracks direct from The Spacetones.

I’ll see you at the Highlife Martini Lounge in Springfield, MO on Cinco de Mayo for the official release.  There you’ll be able to pick up a limited edition cassette copy of the album.


Side A


Side B

SNEAK PEAK: Spablam

25 Apr

Countless hours of work have gone into the upcoming album from The Spacetones.  Welcome to the Planet of Drugs & (e)Money is a pivotal step in the group’s evolution and demands a sonic signature different from The Spacetones tracks you’ve heard before.  Drugs & (e)Money is no doubt the most complete recording project I’ve worked on to date, and the experience has been enlightening, to say the least.

Rainy Day

25 Mar

Seemingly appropriate for the weather, I couldn’t help but do some critical listening of the track “Rainy Day” from The Spacetones’ upcoming mix-tape, Welcome to the Planet of Drugs & (e)Money, set to drop May 5.  I was honored when the ‘tones asked me to be a part of the production process and my excitement only grows as the project evolves.  Sorry, no sound samples today, but I anticipate a preview coming soon.