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Entries in digital heaven (10)


Last Plane out of Rolandia

I'm never an early adopter of technology. I don't particularly like the treadmill of replacing the stuff as things are supplanted by the latest and greatest models, either. It's quite maddening. I don't like comparing tech specs too much. It's bewildering trying to figure out how two models are so alike but different enough to force a choice. I was late in the joining the computer revolution itself, electing to not buy in until August 2001. The one step along the way that I did take was in using the Roland VS-880 virtual studio recorder, which I bought home in August of 1997.

vs-880 recorder in its glorious simplicityVS-880

The 880 was a great platform for helping enable my increasing creativity as a musician and sound artist. The ability to non-destructively edit audio was a major draw for me. A reduced need to bounce multiple parts thanks to some extra tracks was handy too since all my recordings up to then had some kind of permanent artifacts of tracks getting merged down and losing the discreet parts, or taking a bit of a sonic hit as tape generations mounted. So many great things about the 880 fired me up. One thing I didn't particularly need to worry about then was how I'd interface with the world around me. It wasn't a real problem at the time because the idea of having a home studio was to be self-contained. And since the 880 era coincided with my collection of instruments and desire to explore with them, I really was pretty self contained. Sometimes I had sessions with other players but in large part, I just recorded things myself and had fun.

Roland uses an audio encoding format called RDAC which is their own deal. So if you're in the Roland Universe and using Roland gear, you're golden. But they don't make it too easy to interface with the outside world using WAV or AIFF or SD2 format. A later model called the VS-2480 answered demands that Roland get with the program and open a door to users who would be interfacing with the prevailing trends outside the Roland universe. To do 24 track recordings means that people are not exactly tinkering anymore. People set up to record that much are going to be working at another level. Roland was known for being slow about accommodating that.

2480: more is lessVS-2480: more is lessWhen I bought a VS-2480 in mid 2001, I stayed within the Roland family because I'd had such a good time using the 880 and at the time I still had no computer. The larger 2480, with 24 track capability, was enticing but arrived on the scene as my most prolific studio times were waning. It coincided with an attempt to record more live group playing at the studio, so the 16 inputs were handy to capture things in full multitrack glory. Those sessions never turned up anything of lasting value and I found that I had a habit of making a quick mix and burning it to CD and scrapping the source recording. Only a few tracks of any workable quality were done during the year or so that I had the 2480. My Stick-playing and Pro Tools evangelist buddy Tom Griesgraber swore I should just get into Pro Tools LE on the Mac and be done with the closed system that Roland offered. Finally, in the summer of 2002, I saw the light of that and sold the 2480 at some rather acute loss and did in fact get the PTLE 5 and start to learn how to use it.

If you wanted the fuller story, you'd have to read a whole mess of material from a forum site called VS Planet, where I trashed the 2480 more and more as time went on because I found that there was an elusive but very annoying preamp distortion issue. I didn't realize it but I seem to have been the one dude who found that issue and sent the entire 2480 user community on a crazy pursuit of that, with people working out fixes and other workarounds. It's officially recognized by Roland. I dunno if I was the only dude who was baffled by it or not, but eventually many others got drawn into it. In the process of bashing the 2480, a lot of people came to regard me as a troll. It's legendary.

When I got rid of the 2480, I was happy to do so and since I did not get rid of the 880, it seems never to have occurred to me to do the work of using the 2480 as the go-between device to move the 880 era recordings into WAV file format which could be used by computers/digital workstations. I did export a few tracks that originated on the 2480, and that was it. At the time though I knew I was not going to be so clever with recording as I had been on the 880. I felt there was a learning curve and that I'd be a while before any serious work would be done.

With the 2480 reviled and then sent away, the 880 was left to fend for itself. And the work of transfering things was regarded as not that important or maybe in a case by case basis, tracks might be bounced to WAV by a MIDI-synched bounce, two tracks at a time via a digital connection. That was all the plan there was for recovering things, sad to say.

CD stack with archived vs-880 sessionsThe data CD stack

Then, all that life stuff happened and the years kept blowing past and the CD spindles with VS-880 data archives were periodically found and put away, found and put away. The 880 and its CD unit still work. The SyQuest drive that also served as a backup/archive was found to not work—even a decade ago. In a related precedent from last year, Kelli finally bit the bullet and did her text transfer work that required a chain of old machines that once were used to do this tedious work and could finally be let go of. And so, taking stock of what I have, what would be recoverable, and goals to publish my music on more contemporary platforms like Soundcloud or YouTube, I have been thinking of what a preservation effort would be like. But one thing was missing until November: the 2480. It would be just one of two known (and somewhat efficient) ways to do the work. The other would be to have a Windows PC and a special program written by Roland VS users that would directly read the Roland archive CDs. Not knowing if that would be anything I'd actually ever do, the 2480 was the last opportunity to collect my old stuff and escape the Roland RDAC prison.

Last Plane Out of Rolandia

Recovering data CD material to 2480Recovering data CD material to 2480

In recent times since moving to Escondido, I met a guitarist named Brian Calwell who has been part of the Celtic jams I've gone to since the summer. At some point in November he mentioned he had two VS-2480s and that he'd cut his records on those, and recorded live shows with one. He also said he'd mostly moved on from them recently. I didn't ask right away but it was too good a situation to ignore. With the holidays coming up, I felt it would be a great time to remix the Hog Heaven Holiday Theme Music project. Brian let me come over to his place just a few miles away and spend some hours trying to extract the HHHTM material from the 880 data disks. That worked well and I did that project during December. While at his place I also was able to hear a couple other seemingly lost bits from the 2480 era and that fired me up. He was nice enough to offer the use of the machine, whenever

Just after Christmas, we were trying to work out a date for me to come do some transfer work and he just volunteered maybe I could just use it here for as long as I needed. BINGO! What a cool dude! So for the entire month of January, I had it and the CD writer on one side of my desk, and the 880, its CD writer, and the DAT machine on another side, and for a few weeks now I've plugged along at finally collecting all the recoverable material I can get from 880 data archive disks, DAT tape (not requiring the Roland units), and stacks of CDs. All that stuff is getting turned into WAV or AIFF files which I expect will be more durable since they are the working formats across PC and Mac these days. If nothing else, it will ensure that as much as I can make it so, everything will be in one format: uncompressed, non-proprietary 24 bit audio ready to be acted upon as needed, instead of scattered about on various formats.

DAT Hell

880 and DAT: the match made in Hog Heaven880 upon the DAT: the match made in Hog Heaven (studio)

The digital audio tape format plays two roles in this whole transfer scheme. The primary use for DAT is as a mixdown format, and I have about 30 tapes with various mixes and assorted scraps that maybe didn't warrant being kept in 880 format. DAT has been trumped by hard disk recording and CDs when it comes to a more playable 16 bit format. I have tried on a couple of occasions to play those tapes into the computer so I could have them to work with and be backed up before my machine totally ate the dust. The format now is largely regarded as dead. The last time I did a transfer, in 2010, I stopped the machine and made new files for each mix that played. That led me to some troubled DAT times where tape got munched or corrupted. So I put it down and hoped I'd find someone with a working DAT before more of my work was endangered. Some years later the situation has not changed for the better. I began to put in the lowest priority tapes and played them into the computer in real time with no stopping of the tape deck or the computer. I'll figure it out later. I kept spreadsheets of tracks and notes for things that took some more nuanced attention. Little by little this past month, I got those tapes played in.

880 archive on a DAT tape880 archive to DAT

There were just a couple other DATs that I had largely forgotten about. As I assessed where the 880 era material was scattered across formats, I found some DATs that were used as archive tapes, storing session data from the 880—mix parameters and all. Three tapes carried 880 copies of things that originated on 4 track cassette and that I thought it would be good to have in digital in case I ever decided to remix things or grab material to use elsewhere. Some of the ReCyclED stuff was on there, and a good thing too since there were a few core tracks that straddled that period of changeover from tape to hard disk. Importing those to 880 and then burning the archive disks got me to where all the other archive disks were—the point at which the 2480 would be able to import things, and in turn burn exported WAV files to CD.

880 capturing the DAT archive material.880 capturing the DAT archive material.

Lost? Yup. The flow on those DATs was like this:

4 track cassette source > transfer discreet tracks into 880 in 1997 > archive to DAT in 1997 (before the CD writer became available) > import to 880 in 2013 > burn to CD as workable format for 2480 > import to 2480 > export to WAV files on CD > import to Mac. Then the Mac of course will be able to use the material freely and will generate multiple backups.

Most of the transferring project started with 880 archive CDs done in 1998-2001. The DATs of course had that longer legacy. It was insane. The one DAT worked out that way. The other two? Well, they suffered from some unknown mix of garden variety DAT issues but somehow the 880 was not able to import them. That process was hit with various errors. I tried several times. Finally, knowing that those tapes were rather inconvenient copies of 4 track tapes (which still sit in a box here), I just destroyed them.

SyJet Crash and Burn

One last format was not so much an archive but a backup for works in progress. As it were, they seem to have last been used to backup the final mixes of Receiving from late 2000. The SyQuest SyJet was one of my first experiences with computer breakdown. It was a bit like a Zip drive but the disk was actually a removable hard disk instead of a floppy style in a plastic case. I had one go bad on me early on and the one I replaced it with (cunningly bought as an exchange with the old one put into the returned box, even months after it was bought) lasted long enough to do my best work, then it went on the fritz. Good thing I had left some notes on what was on them. After comparing that to other stuff I'd fetched on archive CDs and DATs, I gave myself licence to demolish the thing with a ball peen hammer. I kept the cartridges but the drive was toast. I found some online for $90 but that's not worth it if the evidence suggests I already have their contents.

Portastudio: the Final Frontier

I gave away my 4 track tape deck in 2005 when I was evicted and at the same time, music buddy Glenn Farrington was interested in recording something himself. I kept my tapes and to this day I have a good deal of stuff from about 1993-1997 on cassette in regular stereo and 4 track format. The problem is, these tapes rely on what might be an even deader format. I went to a pawn shop to inquire and we all had a chuckle about how they don't even see people bringing them in. I've seen a couple used ones online. But with all the magnetic, physical media, who knows what one might get. It could be money down the drain. But if I am ever to fetch my work from that period, that's the machine I need to get. Sure, I have mixes from that era, but the multitracks are here and ready if the machine appears. I doubt it's worth losing sleep about it.

One reason for holding on to some hope about it is that in 1996, when I did my original project bearing the name of The Artist Presently Known As Ed, I took it to a guy who did digital editing. He was a nice dude but somehow as we played my DATs into his system in real time, he did not pan them in full stereo glory. Somehow, we both totally missed the fact that the product I ended up paying for was summed to mono and when the CD he output was given to me, I found that it did not sound right. The problem really was that by the time I found that out, I had no recourse. I had him play the final product out BACK to the DAT tape I brought in with the mixes, and so my mixes were overwritten. So that project has never been heard in stereo since the day before I had it produced as an album. Recovering the source 4 track material would let me do that project some justice, not to mention I could use far less gimmicky EQ curves. I was young then...

Good Bye and/or Good Riddance

So there you have it. The task of trying to gather all my musical offspring back into one place after 17 years of changing formats. The Roland VS format is clever for capturing and doing some work but it's not too conversant. DAT is glitchy and is considered dead. Four track is more durable and resiliant but I don't have a machine. When this is really in the can, I can finally do as Kelli did a year or so ago, and get rid of some old stuff. DAT is off to eBay for some one else to worry about. The 880 and its CD writer are on the block. The SyJet already made it to the landfill by now. I reviewed material on my Sony Minidisc player and bounced just a couple things that didn't exist anywhere else. It's going to the thrift shop. The 2480 is going back to Brian. Now I will have a box of old cassettes to hopefully get to one day, but everything else is on the iMac and a few hard drives. I'll keep the DAT tape and CDs from the 880 for a while. The transfer process generated a considerable number of CDs with 24bit WAV files on them, so those constitute backups of session tracks, sometimes pared down to working tracks and other times littered with fragments. But it's all so much more available than ever.

WAV on CD finally. Now just to import it to the Mac.WAV on CD finally. Now just to import it to the Mac.

Where to From Here?

I can finally see a bird's eye view of my recordings, from all the solo work to stuff for Loaf, Mike Keneally, Tamara, Kelli and I, Magnificent Meatsticks, and a number of jams and short band projects. I have fanciful ideas of doing mashups of all sorts of things. Already I had thoughts stir in me that there has to be nearly an album's worth of ambient and sound collage material to release. I started all this in the hopes to remix as much of ReCyclED as I could, in some cases using material that, because of the limits of 8 tracks, had to be mixed out.

With a site like Soundcloud that makes it so easy to share and annotate recordings, it seems the time is right to get to the source audio, encode it robustly, tag it completely, and put it out there so people in Slovakia finally can discover the secret gems of the San Diego underground music scene in the late 90s. About my only reservation is that the track by track format doesn't let me publish things as I would on CD: tracks segued and overlapped or collaged into seamless running order. Physical media is dead for now, so it's sort of a thing to just face and roll with. In its place is the great possibility that stuff can be discovered and liked and shared without my micromanaging the transactions.

I am excited at the thought of seeing all my stuff presented well in one place. Because my recordings have been on so many formats, some in final mixes or in working mixes that just sort of ended up being the longstanding mix, there has never really been a consistent digital, web-ready approach. The mp3s on this site are more or less the same as they were as I added them over time, starting as early as 2000. They aren't tagged too well, and of course, hosting audio on a website like this is to be stuck in obscurity. So I have an idea that I should get a body of work together on Soundcloud, then rebuild this site again to feature players with my virtual albums. It might be a lot of work. I hope I can keep the focus because for so many years now I have really been shrugging off music creation and publishing as much as I was gung ho for it in the early days of my web design interests. It's about time the two finally meet and shake hands.

Listen to my Hog Heaven Holiday Theme Music from year 2000, done on the 880 in some haste, and remixed in Logic after being imported to the Mac via the chain of events chronicled here.


Proto-Blogging at TAPKAE.com +10

While my monthly archive might reflect a longer history than what I am about to write about here, the real beginning of this blog was on June 7th, 2002—still in the days before the actual blog technology existed (for me anyway). A small few entries have been added into the chronology to tell a story. Since I am just telling my own story anyway, they serve to fill in the historical record and it doesn't really matter if I play fast and loose with the entry dates, posting things into their proper place after the fact.

In the days before I discovered B2 blogger and later on, Wordpress, or still later on, Squarespace (which I now use as of 2011), there was no word "blogging." I just made a new HTML entry on the index page, and when it came time for a new one, I copied that entry over to the "archive" page and entered another on the index page. It was a bit lame but without a dynamic, PHP/database-driven site it was all I had. I didn't do it long enough to really get ridiculous. I've seen some sites that kept on that way and had to create archive pages that each carried oh, several months or a year's worth of entries, and then on to a new archive page. Only about two years of monthly posts accumulated that way and it wasn't too hard to manage the entries prior to discovering "real" blogging. I then started bringing stuff into the new formats in 2004 when my new hosting plan at Startlogic included something called B2 Blogger as part of the package. If I recall right, Startlogic offered a whopping 1 GB of space which dwarfed the 100 mb that my prior host Mavweb offered. I suppose Mavweb was state of the art a few years before when Mike Thaxton selected it and got me started in 2001.

But aside from all that, this blog got fired up in earnest on this day ten years ago. In many ways it was a simpler time and I didn't have all that much on my mind. Only a couple months before I had finished my year of school at Art Institute of California, so I was anticipating becoming a brilliant and high paid web designer (ahem!). Strike that. I was trying to get a couple crappy web design gigs with friends or friends of friends, and hoping my still-novice skills were up to the task if anything but pretty basic Dreamweaver-assisted HTML sites were needed. (Rockola's Mark Decerbo was one of the first to ever take me up on my work. Surprisingly, his site is still up, though a bit outdated as of 2007.) AIC turned out to be a rather disappointing place with regard to the proportioning of the subjects relative to the goal of a web design certificate program. The entirety of the web design courses included summaries of the Macromedia suite within 12 weeks. The other 36 weeks were broken into three 12 week blocks of Photoshop, Illustrator, and a CD-ROM production that included Macromedia Director and Adobe Premier primarily. But the web stuff was but one quarter of it all, and seemingly an afterthought. And above all, it was just a "design" emphasis. Never really learned coding there, and never anything with any real functionality. I recall being a bit miffed that I never was really showed stuff like Javascript or how to build CGI email forms and other stuff that really was, well... useful.

Getting out of school put me back into an unstructured world after a year. It had been a year of change, and not just because of schooling. In that one year from the start of April 2001 to that time a year later, my grandmother had died; I was in solo therapy for several months into the fall of 2001 in response to the family crisis around my older sister's big revelations earlier in 2001; I had entered kicking and screaming into the new age following my grandmother's death because my old man took over the house I lived in already for three years and ordered that I get two roommates; I got my first computer as just one way of blowing the inheritance I got (the rest was blown with an even larger display of gear acquisition for the studio); the notorious terrorist attacks of 9/11 happened and changed the work prospects for my industry of event audio; I finally finished Receiving; Kelli and I had gotten together during the winter and she had her car accident not long later; I was playing bass for a few months in an exciting trio with Dom Piscopo and Whit Harrington, and sometimes with the mighty Todd Larowe (listen: All Things Frippy and Return to Zero). Oh, those are the high points. Or low points. But in the midst of all that, I got the first drafts of TAPKAE.com done and then finally cut the first settled version loose on the world in May or June, and the first "blog" was posted. It is relatively brief because I had not yet embraced the long, detailed, and boring voice I have since attained here!

Rebecca Vaughan of Loaf, with Matt Zuniga's handiwork in the backgroundIt was around that time when I found that Hog Heaven Studio was bursting at the seams. The crazy influx of new gear during the summer before saw to that. With my grandmother gone, I took over the two rooms she called her own, clearing them out and painting them for the first time in perhaps all the years she and my grandfather had been there. One room was a bedroom with a bathroom attached, and the remodeling of that was one of the projects that was alluded to in the first blog. The other room, a rather generous 15'x17' space, was the room immediately adjacent Hog Heaven Studio. Together, they were two spaces carved from what was once a garage. Hog Heaven extended the garage street side wall some 6' more and so was split down the middle by a space that was on the flat part of the garage, and also on the sloped part of the driveway. Inside, I had leveled the floor but the beam through the middle indicated the old garage face. In the great room, I set up my living quarters in 2001 after the new rental arrangement was established. I got the entire wing of the house to do as I wanted, so I cut a mouse hole from Hog Heaven into the great room and went about using the band Loaf as my guinea pigs to try out the studio options that would result. I did two sessions spaced out by a year or so, but that first session with the whole band, I had the bass and drums in the studio with me (an odd thing that later was resolved with moving the control room into the great room later in the year), and then I used the great room for the guitars, keys, and Rebecca's lead vocal and percussion. I used upturned love seats and mattresses to provide guitar amp baffles. The Roland VS-2480, my then-new recorder, able to capture 16 inputs at once with no compromise, was relatively mind blowing after years of using the VS-880 and the four inputs it provided. At any rate, the new opportunities for using up to three rooms to record in was exciting. It was a whole new age for Hog Heaven Studio.

Kelli, later on in 2002One thing that is conspicuously absent from the site for some time (even into 2003) is any mention of Kelli and the fact we'd entered into a new relationship at the start of 2002. By the time we did that, we'd known each other for over 11 years anyway. I recall much of 2002 was a time when it felt like I was floating, particularly in that new relationship. However, it wasn't a feeling of being totally lovestruck. It's hard to say what it was, but perhaps because Kelli's presence put to an end the five year dry spell that preceded this new era, or perhaps that Kelli and I were old friends in a new role that seemed too good to be true and could have dissolved, or perhaps that her presence also brought with it a new feeling that I should get to church and start the process of grounding myself in something different than the years before. Hard to say. I didn't want to try to capture lightning in a bottle by writing about it. Kelli was talked around on the blog, usually mentioning "my girlfriend" during 2002-2003. If her name is in the entries from that period, it's because I redacted those entries to right that wrong in 2011.

I'm glad I have these few entries from 2002 because there is precious little digital evidence of my life from that first year or so of computer ownership. I had some problems with my data going off to digital heaven, particularly so with the folder that contained my Microsoft Entourage data. In one shot in the late summer of 2002, I erased about a year of my life's notes, calendar dates, emails. Bad move. Worse yet, I had not kept a parallel record in a paper calendar like I had for all years prior. So there's a big blackout during that period. And maybe things are as they are supposed to be, even with that giant flub. The period was one of transition at a deep level. Losing data was perhaps part of the exercise of getting lost in more ways than one, this time a way of losing control over things. And, since I have tended to be a keen historian and curator of my own life, a lesson might be gleaned that to overmanage things is of no use.



Wordpress Hell

One thing about keeping a blog running for most of a decade is that the writings are originally created on different platforms, and during backup and restore procedures, things seem to go wrong. I never seem to get it exactly right, and usually I am loathe to upgrade Wordpress because, for all the wonderful things it does, that platform is slow to make the whole upgrade procedure idiot proof. Last time I updated to 3.0 this summer, I ended up making a parallel installation of 3.0, and then uploading a backup file from the 2.9 era that I was leaving behind. Somewhere along the line, the categories table of the database was lost and upon starting in 3.0, I had no categories available, and all the old designations from each individual post are now null and void. That sucks. I have about 550 posts after all these years, so now that they are all classed as "uncategorized" I would have to manually go and read each one, and create appropriate categories as much as is needed (say, 20) and then click boxes on each individual post. While at it, one might want to tag each post in similar way, with keywords.

One day when I get a few hours. Hah.


Digital Hell

Oh. I have a love-hate relationship with Wordpress. Every once in a while when it comes time to upgrade the thing, I get into stuff that is pretty over my head. Add to that that I am creating a new site for Jubilee Economics Ministries, getting their podcast programs going (four episodes in the can now—subscribe in iTunes here), and it has drawn me back to a digital environment that I enjoy only to the extent that I can get something done. And when one is in database hell, it actually gets a bit scary. I've never really proven too good at backing things up, and I do get in a panic when it comes time to do such work. Somehow, I've kept Wordpress working for me since early 2006 or so when I dove into it. I just upgraded this week to version 3, and while doing so, I also took advantage to move its location within my server, so that it functions as the site's root. (The address now really IS http://tapkae.com and not /blog with a clumsy redirect.) Anyhow, WP is sensitive to this stuff and I am bound to blow it sometimes and have to call for help. This time around my server company has not been as helpful so the site took a half week vacation.

Anyhow, all this new work is being joined by other projects: some web work for James Howard Kunstler (home page is based on an earlier version I did, but he kept the graphic banner) and his new book The Witch of Hebron. (I also did the front page for his last book, World Made By Hand. This book is a sequel.) The Jubilee Economics site is planned to be another WP site, and I am looking forward to getting them a far snappier site both for visual sake, but for function's sake mainly. They really deserve some good presence on the web, and WP is the way to get their stuff presented. I am digging on WP3 as an easy-to-configure thing, making menus a lot easier, and other bits that I have fought with have become a lot more bearable, or even easy. But I have to make up for a fading interest in web design in the last few years. I sort of let the social media thing pass me by, in part because of a genuine interest in easing away from digital friendships in favor of in-person relationship, but also that my machine has been aging all along and slowly but surely, various things that make web use fun and interactive have slowly decayed. Last year it was Yahoo Instant Messenger, MySpace and YouTube that all began to be glitchy and then completely unsupported. Other bits like embedded movies and stuff that plays on the latest version of Flash players or even Quicktime players just don't show up. It drove me nuts to go to the Apple site and find that even THEIR media player was not supported on THEIR machines, old as mine is. Damn, Apple, if you want to sell people on your new stuff, shouldn't you make your video ads and tutorials playable on old machines so those of us who are using ancient tech? Sure, I have a 2003 model that does plenty of stuff pretty well, but the web is a place of abandonment for me! So I have been looking at new stuff.

And then after the business of scanning the new Apple output for the last year or so, sometimes checking in on a shop like Crywolf, and then more hand-wringing as I weigh how much digital life I want to lead, I finally threw down for a refurb iMac 27" last week and am eagerly awaiting the thing upon my doorstep. Of course this means more hunting for programs (some at great expense, others nice and cheap), and if I hope to do audio, then I will need a new Firewire based audio interface, at least enough to do the two-track podcast recordings, and perhaps a version of Logic to be the main audio program. But, I guess that having my old computer for six years is a long time to stretch it. I've had the means to buy for a while, but last year was the year of the bikes. Right now I'm wondering how much use this present machine will get. For a while, it sort of has to do what it does for me as a recorder and editor in Pro Tools and Peak; Photoshop editing; Dreamweaver and web work; direct disk-to-disk copying on two drives. But so many other things are ripe for updating. Kelli's machine actually died earlier in the spring, so she might get more time to use this for her fairly light demands, and that might stall her getting a laptop. We shall see.


Such Sweet Sorrow

kelli being honored at mission hills ucc for her service of 9 months as pastoral internKelli is honored for her internship and given her first stole, then later served communion for the first timeToday was the last day of Kelli's internship at Mission Hills UCC where she spent the last eight months or so gaining experience in leading worship, calling on people, and all the other things that go into a pastoral role at a church. She still has a year and a half of school to do; this is just a part of the overall program as she earns her M.Div. degree. She has delivered four sermons at this church and three at our home church in PB. Many times, she has done many other parts of the liturgy. Today, she was anticipating some sort of recognition during the service, but maybe no more than an announcement. She completely didn't expect that she would be given a beautiful stole with all sorts of imagery commemorating our denomination's 50th anniversary, and bright and varied imagery which coincided with the church's celebration of Diversity Day. (The candles right beside her and Scott Landis are actually variously colored glass oil lamps made to look like candles.) MHUCC is a very welcoming church and they count their commitment to diversity as among their greatest strengths. Kelli has had a rich experience there. Not content with recognizing her internship simply with a stole, she was also given the chance to serve communion as well, the first time she has served it in a pastoral role, not just issuing the plates and cups as would an usher or deacon. So that was quite a surprise for her! Afterward, she was half the justification for a nice spread of food as the church said farewell to her while also celebrating the church's commitment to diversity.

kelli with pastor scott landisKelli with Pastor Scott Landis of Mission Hills UCCI just happened to have my new cell phone with me and ready enough to take a few pictures and videos, despite getting it only yesterday. It seems I did the laundered cell phone thing finally, and despite a valiant effort to save my old phone from the suds, it went up to cell phone heaven on Friday night.


Signing Off...

Well friends, it's time to sign off from 4152 32nd St.

The toilet is clean, and the modem shall now be unplugged.

There is no more fun to be had here.










What the Hell Happened to Me?

I used to be all depressed, couldn’t get out of bed, hated a lot of stuff, and didn’t get much done for myself.

Now I look at my last few months, and I see that I have gotten nearly all A’s in two classes (writing essays in one and being an art geek in another), rebuilt my web site, got engaged, remodeled a room (needing me to manage it and do a lot of work myself), bought a computer, done various web and audio things for my church, gone to two counseling sessions a week, worked my day job, done dishes and laundry, moved Kelli down into this house, and more.

It just amazes me. I get something like 5-7 hours of sleep a night and go-go-go nearly all the rest of the time. I’ve been really focused on things like never before. Maybe it’s the drugs. Wellbutrin is a wonderful thing. I still sort of long to get into the studio, but most days it is just out of the question, so it doesn’t hang over me like it did. I will have to get the new computer all set up for recording, and that won’t happen till I get both networked and speced out for use by Kelli and me.

I’m sort of bummed that all those from the last several months blogs went to digital heaven. I had some stuff in there that had some real feeling and conviction. I guess I will just have to watch out for what button I push. It's the same as it was when I was learning how to use digital recorders and lost hard drives worth of data in one shot. Live and learn.


Light at the End of the Tunnel

For those not in the know, I am a short five weeks from wrapping up a semester at Mesa College. The English 205 class has been the big brain buster this time. Lots of writing in that class.

Lots of writing also on this blog too, though after a few nights ago, you wouldn’t know it, would you? I can’t believe it got erased. Well, yes I can. I used to do that in the early days of digital recording. I like to think some of my favorite recordings are in digital heaven now, and that maybe one day I will be reunited with early versions of Missy The Cow, or any of the other tunes I managed to wipe out along with whatever was on that particular hard drive. There is a learning curve; sooner or later, you learn what buttons do, and it will always be most well learned when everything is on the line.

Anyhow, even more writing is going on at another site I am trying to build. And, yes, there is a little erasure action going on there, but fortunately only one night’s work. Still, I will be wiser for this, I tell myself.

For that site, I am configuring a bulletin board. It is for my church, and it is really a proposal to the congregation, but I want it to have some impact, so I am going pretty far out on the demo work. I am staging it on my own site, so I have to balance the desire to make it look and work like a finished deal, but don’t want to get it too far along, because I suspect I will have to rebuild it to spec if it gets its own hosting with the church’s plan.

And after all this typing, my arms are about to cease to work. That must be a long day, because I have done 12-18 hour days at the computer, but not felt this way. Oh well, it's really late. Time to give it a rest.


Storms Brewing

For those not in the know, I have a CD for sale. Buy a few copies for yourself, your friends and family, and not least of which, your enemies. Send them to soldiers in Iraq. Give them to coworkers. There are a million uses for my CD, and believe it or not, they can even be put into music playback devices and enjoyed for the pure aesthetic qualities they have.

I am discovering the joys of Ebay. I just hocked some stuff that was getting a little long in the tooth and being a little ignored. I've been on yet another binge of studio change up lately. I have had a hell of a time getting gear that is suited for me. I made a few ill-informed purchases a couple years ago when some money came my way, and for that I've been having a hard time getting into recording. I am on a simplifying trend as of the last year or so. It used to be that I tracked with effects, compression and all that on most tracks. Now, I find it difficult to want to deal with that. Earlier on, I used to do that wet tracking so that my mix down could be easier, or I could do less track bouncing to add effects. Now, not only do I want to hide behind certain effects less altogether, I also don't need to sweat the complex mixdown work as much, because everything can be automated into a fine mix. So things change. My main focus now is getting snappy tracks to disk that aren't loaded with clipped transients, or other sonic detritus that spoils the fun. I'm not really a perfectionist, but cleaner tracks are my mission now.

Of course, that has been a challenge. The short road is nice as far as engineering goes but it's not the same as when I used sound as a compositional aid. Nowadays it's just me and the gear and a short signal path. I have shed the delays and pitch shifters and reverbs on tracking. And the fact is, I used to get some neat sounds that inspired me to do this, that, or the other. And I sort of think that maybe I should bring some of that back. But I am truly looking for the inspiration to come from wherever, and more purely be filtered through a bass, guitar, keyboard or whatever, and preferably with other players. I won't kid you; for a guy used to making noise and sculpting it into music, it's a change of pace. Most of the last couple of years since my CD was worked on, I have been a lot less prolific. I have been so self-censoring that all of two years work has been sent to digital heaven. Yep, it's like the guy at his typewriter that has a floor covered with wadded up papers with a few paragraphs, lines, words or just a byline typed out. He knows that something isn't right enough. Well, digital media is cheap and easily reusable, so I have been really critical of stuff that has been done here for over two years. Hours and hours of stuff that just doesn't seem right. It goes bye-bye.

As I said in the journal before this, I am just not really settled on a number of issues. Music is my main mistress of confusion, but anyone would have to have no pulse to be anything but unsure of the world today. In some ways, I feel that music as I made it before about a year ago is irrelevant. That's not to dismiss it, but in the context of a world scene such as we have today, I just can't do songs that are like most of what I did. The end period of the recording of Receiving was the start of that feeling. That CD started off with a madly prolific few months in late '99, but it slowed for the part of 2000 that it spread into (about mid August). In that time, life was changing some, but the big change was to happen yet. And this was a year before 9/11. But that didn't do as much as things earlier that year that were going on in my life. Still, it did begin to focus my attention on matters bigger than myself, and that is still going on today. I think if I had to say it in a few words, 2001 was a year of letting my obsession with my problems give way to obsession with the world's problems. I don't know if that's better for me, but I have to let that worry go too as part of the deal. In music, there is as much confusion as in the world. I want to make honest music, and not hide behind gear. Life is full of paradoxes right now for me. I alternate like mad, wondering whether I should sell all my earthly possessions and travel, even as potentially dangerous as it could be for Americans now. Or should I stay camped out here and make music with all the stuff I have amassed here at Hog Heaven? Am I on the right track, messing with fickle and flaky musicians and wannabes? Should I make a solo album that calls on all I have to give, but avoids all the above flakes? Or sell it all and go to the third world and taste something I can't get here? All this is wondered even outside of the context of a "real job" and its attendant concerns. I'm caught between feeling that my bohemian days are behind me, and thinking that they really haven't begun yet. With all the self-censoring, I feel that my musical output is getting worse and worse, but I have to remind myself that my standards are getting better and better.


Prog West and More

I just got a digital camera this week and plan on taking all sort of pictures whether I need to or not. I have been telling myself that I needed one since about mid 2001. I had the money, then I didn't have the money, then...well, you know. Finally it was time to blow out some credit card debt and make room for new stuff. The other reason that I really feel stupid about telling the world is that I accidentally lost a huge folder of pictures and images that I had collected. These things always seem to happen by accident. I have never set out to lose anything on that scale. But it happens. So I have a little work to do to get a collection of images together for stock.

In early November, I was the stage manager for a big music festival called Prog West. It was a two day affair up in Claremont, CA. My buddy Mike Thaxton was one of the organizers, and I worked at last year's show initially as the dude with a 24 track recorder, then as stage manager, then later as the front of house mixer. It was a mess last year, but many things were learned and the level of organization was much higher this time. The bands were a lot better as well. There were seven bands on two days. A lot of work to be sure, but the stuff was almost always great to listen to. The second day was the best for me just as a listener. Izz and Azigza were great as I had expected, but the big show was the tribute to Kevin Gilbert, who some of you must know of. For those who don't, he's a big hero of mine—a brilliant musician and recording artist. Anyhow, he isn't with us anymore, but the last album he was working on when he died was a rather amazing piece of work. It's amazing that it even got finished. More amazing is that that music was played live at the show—the entire album from start to finish. The core of the band was Mike Keneally's current band. However, it was more as a backup band to Nick D'virgilio who played drums and all sorts of stuff on the original album, and assumed the role of Kevin himself onstage, singing all the leads and playing acoustic guitar. It was an amazing show, and one that was only scheduled to happen once. Glad I saw it.

Things have been kind of sleepy here in studioland. I am working with Brandon, just trying out musical ideas, jamming and occasionally recording some stuff. My mind has been so many other places lately and it's been hard to dedicate the time to recording like I once did. The usual stuff that goes on in the late 20s trying to figure out the world of work, relationships, and the meaning of life. But it's been a while since I really recorded anything on my own. And frankly I'm at a time when I don't really think that would do me much good. If anything, I feel like playing in a band, with a bass in my hand. Despite not having recorded anything much, I am a better bass player than ever. Sometimes I even kick ass on drums (but only for a few bars). Brandon and I are doing material that will dwarf previous efforts. We just need to establish some working habits and get a few things together. We play with a few different drummers as they are available. Playing better but playing less is the state of things. This year has been so very different from before—good and bad, as these things tend to be. It's almost as if I've been floating, like in a dream. Some things that have been super important in the past are not nearly so now, and vice versa. I guess all I can do is stick around to see what's next. I certainly wouldn't have been able to plan anything about this year. Damn.

Anyhow, the holidays are upon us now. I don't know about you, but I am putting a higher price on enjoying them after years of being almost indifferent to the whole deal. And that's not just post-9/11 sap, either. I was on that path before then, but I suppose that in a post-9/11 world, there is need for such a feeling.

Regardless, do whatever it takes to enjoy the holidays, for whatever reason.