Tuesday
Feb152005

« 1995 Was A Million Years Ago »

1995 wasn't the first year I recorded, but it was the year when I started doing it like I meant it. I was just glancing over some scanned pictures of old, and was reminded of how far I have come in this recording world. There was a stack of boom boxes and tape recorders in the picture, and most of 1995 was recorded with that setup. The state of the art for me then was that my "overdubbing" was taking a cassette with probably the main drum set track and bouncing that with a new "track" added with a mic'ed performance of one sort or another. It wasn't until the end of 1995 that I got a four track and started recording with genuine multitrack. My mics were limited to some piece of crap Radio Shack specials. I think I had two sets of different mics. I ended up getting the mighty PZM model about mid year, and that just opened things up for me. All of a sudden my drums just rocked and all the nuance opened up. I was still using a cassette deck or three, the main one being a professional field deck with a few options, the others being garden variety consumer crap. Even with the consumer crap, I was dedicated to recording—my girlfriend at the time offered me something like $250 for a present, her initial offer being for a car stereo. Instead, I opted for a dual well cassette deck which I believe I only recently parted ways with—less than a year ago.

1995 was the first year when I engaged in all solo recordings as an intentional pursuit, the first wave being a three week fit of recording chaos in March and April that I compiled into a CD called One Twisted Individual, Separated At Birth (OTISAB). This was when recordable CDs were still $15 PER DISK! So really, I said I made a CD, I made A CD. One, IIRC. I did all this recording on the multiple cassette configuration, and most of it was total chaos—driving ostinato drumming being the most reliably appearing element, some piano, bass, and guitar, with wacky lyrics, crazy diced up audio editing, sarcasm, and lots of antisocial noises. I paid studio time to get all my cassette "mixes" (which got worse and worse sounding with each bounce unless I resorted to some crude noise reduction means, or did some interesting part playing to get the most into an "overdub" so as to minimize the need for successive bounces). I also paid studio time to have a CD cover done—the first appearance of digitally manipulated photos and layout. I was dedicated. It was life. It was bigger than life. It was probably the first instance where I gave myself over to being an "artist" in the sense that I felt that that was my identity and that recording and self expression were for me.

It sort of paid off. This was the stuff that Mike Keneally remembered me by at first. In fact, it was a minor hit among people who liked to lie to me and tell me it was good. It's one of those things that only I could really love, but lots of people carried on sounding like they thought it was good. Sufficient enough for me to keep at it later on in the year. It was a matter of pride for me, so I guess that is the lasting value.

1995 was the year when I made my first foray into tech work for musicians. And multitrack audio. I rented my then-new and shiny drums to Rockola's drummer Marty who was having a three week session at his home studio. That was my first real tech work for hire. Marty heard my stuff—I was pimping it pretty hard then, you know—no website or any of that. Marty commented that I needed ProTools to do the stuff I was doing, but that would be $15,000. I did of course have a taste of digital editing: OTISAB was the first use of creative digital editing, mostly to get all the tracks to flow into one continuous track of chaos. I did marvel at the idea of being able to compose that way, but it was just a pipe dream.

I also got steamrolled by King Crimson and Mike Keneally in 1995. My guitar approach still echoes them both. So does my writing approach. I was fascinated by both that year, and the Chapman Stick was particularly captivating. I ran ads for Stick players if there were any in town. I found a guy named Michael Kropp who assured me he could play six string bass sort of like a Stick, and even did some playing of six string bass and guitar on a stand at once! Michael was influential in indulging my dissonant and ostinato based ideas then. We sort of had a recording thing going that summer but it dissolved, leaving me with enough interest in carrying on with some of the ideas on my own. All the first half of the year had been spent doing my own stuff and I was feeling empowered at the same time as I was getting tired of playing drums only, within other people's bands. I had spent about eight months up till the middle of '95 doing various auditions while I still felt like playing drums only. Eventually, Kropp and I were doing things that gave me reason to want to forgo all that and start exploiting my own ideas, using guitar and bass if one was available. And lots of noise. I played his bass on some instances, and recorded a lot of minutes of my "playing" it with an air compressor and recording the result. I used the sweepable mid EQ to do wah sounds with one hand. The whole effect was pretty much like what an Ebow does but with less control. Made for interesting sounds at the time though, and they got used over and over in their various versions for later works.

Kropp and I mostly parted ways in the fall, but I bought a four track recorder and took to recording a newer slightly more musical bunch of things that I had been doing with the old cassette bounce configuration. The 4 track and its mixing capability opened up more options, as did backwards and half/double time recording. I was always of the impression that four track sounded like shit, and it does, in a certain way, but I found a way to get my sound eventually by over EQing to compensate. I used my drums as a gauge of all this. I knew how I wanted them to sound, and twisting the 2 band EQ to extremes was okay if I got my sound, which I was determined would sound better than all the lame four track demos I had always heard from others. My late 1995 output was a slightly more refined version of the rude and crude stuff that began the year. I attempted some singing on two tracks that had a genuine emotional resonance for me, but they were real basic and stiff. I did get my multitracked drum thing down though, with some interesting layered percussion and double drumset recordings that echo the influence of King Crimson at the time. I did my first Crimson like guitar work then. Fripp's echoey guitar work was an early target of mine, with some odd numbered phrases to help make it musical. The air compressor bass tracks were worked into sweeping howling textures that appeared on various tracks. I used a few instruments available to me through Rockola since I sometimes took their stuff home between gigs. It was a bunch of experimentation and fun. There were no wrong notes to me then.

The irony being that now, ten years later, I actually DO have ProTools as my recording platform and I am hardly doing anything that really exploits all the delightful stuff it can do, if I am recording at all. I don't have any of the tape decks, and about the only stuff I still own from that period is my drums, and I never do wierd things with them like set them up differently every time I play so as to not play the same thing ad nauseum. I still have the guitar I was using then (actually both—the acoustic was my first guitar from 1994, though now Glenn is using it). The Strat is now better off than ever, and is my main guitar. I don't torture it the way I used to, but I can get some spanking sweet tones out of it through the Mesa amp that I never could before.

1995 was a mostly depressing year when all my useful energy went to making my "music." Being 21/22 was not really a great time in most other regards. Work in particular was consistently dismal until I got the work from Rockola, then it was just a different form of dismal. The ongoing value of 1995 to me was in deciding to go solo and make music I wanted to make, stumbling over things like not knowing how to play or record, but enjoying the ride. It took me five years to really realize what I set out to do that summer. It wasn't until 2000 when I felt like I had recorded a very personal statement with minimal outside input, while still sounding like music. Receiving was the first thing I really was straight up proud of. It did pretty much close a long chapter for me. The thing that bums me out now is that I am nearly five years out from having finished my CD and I still don't really see what is next. This is unheard of for me. What I want to do is have a band that can help me take my stuff to a new level. The research and development was done on my own. I want something now that isn't done all on my own, and in the last four years or so, I've been really itching to have a quartet that can get some stuff done. In '95 I traded away the interaction for the control I had over everything. Now I just want to play with people.

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