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Entries in studio (5)


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.


Wealth, Reconsidered

Today I woke up at 9:30. It was a rare day off from work. It was one of those days that, as a day off from work and one where I would lose a day's pay, I dread seeing on the schedule. I have more of these days to come in December since the company falls into the typical holiday slow period. I hope I don't have enough days off to cripple my income—that would be too many. But there might be a kicker of a week next week, with predicted overtime that might help bouy up the weaker time ahead by a small margin. Last night had a couple hours of OT dropped in at the last minute which made me feel a little better about today's "loss."

Almost as soon as I woke up, I got a call from Eric with whom I used to work in the sound biz. I approached him about doing a site survey at my church since there has been some interest in getting a proper PA system there. I had also booked another contractor for today but he couldn't make it. Eric told me he could meet as soon as I could. I got to the church an hour later, getting caught in some wicked traffic until I could take another route which was probably equally slow but less tedious. It used to take less than ten minutes to drive two miles. Now it takes 20 minutes to drive ten miles if everything is working my way. Today took 40 minutes. Eric and I did the site survey and were done in about 30 minutes. I didn't know Mike (the other contractor) wasn't able to make it, so I busied myself with breakfast and some reading on James Kunstler's book, The Long Emergency while I waited, supposedly until he called a while later to get directions.

Then I went to the church office at the beckoning of the secretary Beverly who was stumped about how to receive her e-mail (such people still exist, yes). So I did the usual battery of send/receive tests and concluded things were fine. What I didn't know is that somehow she didn't know about the "send and receive all" button, and was startled to learn that the inbox doesn't just magically update itself upon launch. Oh well, not everyone was born with a silicon chip in their mouth (they didn't exist when Bev was born). I hate Windows OS, being a Mac guy, but really, I learned Mac from making all sorts of mistakes, and since her email hadn't been checked since I gave her the church address a few months ago, all of a sudden there came a few dozen emails. So I showed her how it all worked, and after endearing myself to her for my troubleshooting effort, then some other "hurdles" of hers surfaced, and I helped her with those too.

Then I called to find out that Mike K. from Pro Sound would not be able to make it to the church, so it was time to get on with the next part of the day. After doing my trustee's job of being the technical go-between and getting bids for the PA system project, and offering expert advice on computers (both of which would fetch some handsome cash if I were billing), I then called Dee, the lady who writes the church Christmas play each year. Back in the day, I used to be one of the thespians. Now I provide expert audio editing and production services.

Dee needed a list of songs edited down in clever ways to enhance their play. So she came over here and spent a couple of hours as we took a variety of Christmas songs and diced them up to accomplish certain things that the script required. Some were simple fades, but some took some digital surgery. For a retired schoolteacher, digital audio editing is quite a new thing. For me, it's standard fare. She never realized how deep I was into all this. And today, I didn't even have the luxury of using ProTools. Nonetheless, Peak is capable if the imagination exists to use it that way. So I wrangled samples of Bing Crosby and the Chipmunks into form and she left. I spent another hour tidying it all up and cutting the CD.

Then it was time to clean up after my hard day at work. I had my solo counseling appointment at 7 pm. Today, it was said that I seemed in a far better mood than before, despite the range of thorny and complex things I often report on, and still reported on tonight, but with some levity. I left there feeling better that maybe things are better and that I can deal better with things. I've been going continuously for over two years since I was in the throes of clinical depression in summer of 2003. I am thinking of discontinuing for reasons that are primarily financial, but also it seems that it's time to take the training wheels off and see how things go when I soar without a net.

I left there and took Dee her CD. She was delighted. It led to a conversation that took the next hour and a half or so. I've known Dee for years and years, but this was a totally unique conversation. It was real validating. There was a lot of peak oil talk because it's impossible to have anyone understand what makes me tick without encountering that topic. But it carried us through talk about music, my old recordings, and the one that Kelli and me did some years ago, and through literature and politics. It was great. It was, as Martin Buber would say, meeting. And, actually the Buberian reference is appropos to this talk with Dee at her house. It was in 1989, and again this summer when a small group of church folks did a detailed study of Buber's I and Thou, in which a central tenet of the book is that all real living is meeting.

Then I left and chased all over North Park for a grocery store that was open after 11. I got some stuff and ate a tasty salad and reflected on my day.

I didn't earn a damn cent today. In the morning, when I got the phone for Eric's call, I noticed that there was a call from work asking if I'd come in for three hours. I didn't reply. Nor did I reply to the call three hours later. I'm not boasting; I just decided my day was valuable to me in its own right, using the skills or talents I have to make myself useful to individuals and to my church community as a whole. On a day like today, I didn't complain for getting gypped of hours or pay. I didn't complain for what I didn't have. I only enjoyed what I did have, and shared it freely. I had a whole different experience even within that aspect of things—I've done lots of "free" work for people before, and some of that is what drove me to depression. I've done a lot of audio work and recording work for too little. Either it was on spec or an outright lie that I would be paid but wasn't. I've done years and years of work for peanuts. I often still feel that I have never really gotten my fair share in some deals. But today, I did a lot of things that if I billed as a professional, I could do pretty well. I used to pay out of my own pocket the cost of studio time to accomplish what I did for Dee today: I paid $200 for this same type of work back in 1994-1998! Who knows how much Bev would be in for if she really called a tech to fix her little email issue, but let's say that its at least $30 an hour. I'm already anticipating doing the church PA installation myself, probably as assistant to whoever we hire.

A day like today reminds me that money is not everything. In some ways, I wish I had gone to work, but really I wish that only because my wage would be handy when it comes time for bills this month. I have enough to get by, but I worry about it a lot because Kelli can't work, and any money she has to offer now is from financial aid loans. But today was so rich for me. So validating. I often feel that my contribution at work is so little valued, even at the wage I get. I feel often that I am very replaceable. But at my church, and with folks who stem from that central relationship, I am someone. Someone who can do something unique, or someone who sees the world in a different way that challenges them. Some days I use my computer chops, or today my musical ear and ability to edit like a composer. Two weeks ago it was my ox-like ability to move staggeringly heavy furniture on my own before anyone arrived to the work party. It's weird. I get paid to do that sort of thing but feel devalued. But if I do it for free without being asked, I feel like someone special.

If I had other ways of coping within the economic system of the present, I would just quit my job altogether. For now, it's time for bed. I get up at 6:45. It's 12:30 am.



(...With a tip of the hat to Michael K. who actually admitted to reading this journal.)

I don't really know what I am about to tell you, but the aforementioned MK (not Keneally) was just begging to have something new to read. Whatever. Some people! :^) So here I am. And there you are. Well, I assume you are. If not, who am I talking to? (Actually, WRITING to.) I am not really talking to any of you. But you get my drift. Actually I don't have a drift, and never had. But if I did, it would be teal and would operate on Mac OS 9 where I still operate. Actually, I am not licensed as a doctor, so I am therefore not allowed to operate. But I am aloud when I play drums. I play fairly loud. Some people wish that wasn't aloud, you know? You probably don't actually know, so you will have to take my word for it. But I hope you won't take it far. I need some of them. Without them, I would be speechless. Some people wish I was speechless. But I did well in speech class so they can shove it up their class. (I really did do exceedingly well in speech class last semester— #3 of 102 total students in my instructor's classes. Made me proud.)

Okay, so I'm stalling for time. I've been discovered. You want fries with that?

Well, among the couple of newsworthy things to take place since the last entry at the end of the year, I have to report that I have cracked the whip on myself (not literally, I don't play that rough) and made myself shut off the damned internet and stop screwing off at my computer needlessly like I did for the first two years I had it. Well, that has freed up a good deal of time to get back into the studio where I really belong. I can't believe how many hours I needlessly sacrificed to be on the net when I could have been recording or whatever. Well, I guess things happen for some reason. The net was a fascinating place for the time I was rabidly into it. But now I know what to expect in the certain corners of it that I frequent.

For one, repetition, repetition, repitition. In hanging out on a number of music and recording related boards and groups, certain topics are bandied about so freaking often its sick. I mean, how many times can people talk about preamps and compressors and the world's most underrated guitarists in one day? A month? A year? I don't really know. But finally I decided I'd been around that block too many times and had to get back to work, because my time has been more measured in the recent few months, and frankly, I worsened my depression by hanging out on the net as a substitute for other things. It surely cost me a lot of studio time, caused some relationship snags, and in some groups made me unpopular when I would sort of troll just to keep things interesting. The time on the net came at a turning point for me anyway, and I was really ready for something new, and well, I just got addicted. I mean, addicted. You know, like, it tells ME how life will be. You know how people smoke cigarettes when they wake up, then at meal times and after sex and all? I swear, that was me, but I was a net addict. In my most indulgent days, oh, maybe in early 2002, I was on the computer doing one thing or another for most of the 18 hours I was up. I suppose maybe it was 12 or more of those hours. I don't even know how, but I wasn't working and I sort of inched myself out of a social life. I also did my graphics related stuff (not even music then—I didn't have Pro Tools then, nor anything else). It was just prowling the same 5-10 groups over and over all day long. I later took to messaging with Doug in Texas, sometimes going at it for hours and hours. Doug is one of the few success stories I have to claim. Once we transcended the topics of preamps and what recorder sucks less or more, we got on with some good chat about a huge range of things.

There are people in some of those groups that write so many entries it is a wonder they have time to do anything else. I swear, I see some dudes on multiple groups, and it seems that nearly around the clock they have something to say on the same five topics, day in and day out. I can't for the life of me figure how in the world they have a chance to play or hold a day job. It baffles even me, who did clock some good time doing the same thing, often sans job or social life, or music. It just boggles my mind. When I got into the net, I was finishing my CD and was all excited about having the computer to do a little bit of everything—social life, art, some music (at least for listening), studying, promoting my CD, making web sites, etc. So I completely threw myself in head first. I would find any excuse to do something on the computer. The only thing I really didn't do was play games and buy porn (no, really!). Any excuse was good enough. It really was an addiction. If nothing else, it got me a little fatter and sedentary, and sort of kept me from having some other more varied and maybe even more real encounters with the world, even as it opened up a whole other world of its own. I would wake up and switch the computer on and spend an hour before work if I had any at all, and I would kiss it good night as late as I could, about 18 hours later. In between, I just couldn't peel myself away.

I guess there are worse things to be addicted to. Some can actually do real damage. But addiction is a pattern of behavior, and is basically the same rules apply to whatever the variable is. I guess I must have had some addiction before the computer, and it just transferred. I used to be addicted to cross referencing my life, and doing all sorts of introspective and sometimes destructive stuff by keeping myself acquainted with old events and experiences and people who maybe I should have let go of. Really, it tied up a lot of time. I didn't sit in one place, but it DID act in the same way as the computer later did. It consumed my energy and told ME how it was going to be. I think that the difference might be that some addictions only TAKE, and I do have to say that my time on the computer and the net is not all a waste. Certainly not. It did give, and it continues to give. But living out of balance certainly is a problem. I think moderation is called for. Just about anything is good in moderation. I guess I can aspire to that.

Oh yeah, I was going to talk about my studio time lately. I came up with a great hybrid system last week. Since all the gear is in the little room now, I feel a lot more like experimenting and at least getting ideas out and captured. But now I have made it so I can run Pro Tools from the little room while the full computer system is undisturbed in the other bigger room, complete with scanner/printer and all the other stuff. What I did was get a second mouse, keyboard and VGA monitor in the small room, and passed relevant audio cables from the PT system into the computer with the help of the little mouse hole between rooms. Now I am jazzed. I like all the flexibility of PT, and having all my instruments right near me. Now I got the best of both worlds. So far it is working for me. But I think I just got so damned frustrated at things that I just HAD to find something that would work. So now I am just committing myself to getting in there and getting something, anything out of myself.


The Muse

It's been a few years since the muse and I had a thing goin'. That's not to say nothing has been done. It's just not happening all the time like it did for a few years when I had the time to record and dabble for hours on end, day after day.

A few things contributed to a decline in conjugal visits with the muse: getting wound up in school and some career shifts (such as my career ever was), a mess of family dynamics to sift through, some pieces of gear that disappointed, women, and post 9/11 awareness. There must be other things, but that is among the leading causes. I also stopped journalling after ten years of semiregular notes on things great and small (those ten years corresponded to the first ten out of high school). I don't know how much effect that has had on writing. I do suspect that journalling opens up a path for understanding certain things, and that can make song writing a little more fluid. The thing is, I am not a "song" writer. I do write some lyrics, and on my CD there is perfectly representative material in lyric form, but it's not really how I start tunes.

I used to seek the help of technology to write music. Now I am free of synthesizers, over gimmicky use of FX and other things that "help" a solo recording "artist." It's me and a guitar or bass mostly. The muse is most likely to visit when I am playing with others. All last year was the year of the loose trio jam, and this year I am trying to be more structured. I am in mk IV of my "band" and I am playing guitar—a whole other challenge after playing bass for about three years in the bands I was in, but I still love bass and on a good day, I channel my fave players of that instrument. One thing is for sure: whatever worked a few years ago aint working now, and it's taken some time to find a new model. It seems that me and the recorder isn't as good a combo as I thought, at least for jumpstarting an idea.

I have taken to doing some web and photgraphic work as a diversion, listen to all sorts of music and have done more reading lately. I'm not sure if it will make the muse come back, but sometimes you have to let that go and trust that it will. I have never been one to simply practice an instrument—that could take some time out of my day, even with 45 minutes given to the drums, bass, guitars, and keys! I know some people happen across great ideas while playing scales or other exercises. I might, but never do. I find my best playing comes when I am not even trying. If I recorded what happens on bass or guitar when I am watching TV or waiting for my hard drive to defrag, or other mindless day filler to resolve, I might have a few clever albums done by now. But alas, that usually isn't the case.


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I was thinking about telling you about the fact that I just graduated from The Art Institute of California a few weeks ago, or that I am doing a lot of housework and remodeling, or that I have a new bass, or that I just scored a new website to build, or any number of things.

But I won't. What happens to have me excited at this very moment is the recordings I made of my friends in Loaf the other night. They came in, 5 piece and a vocalist strong, and laid down a couple of tracks, live, in one shot. I caught it all on the VS 2480—which is just starting to make sense to me now! I'm digging the mixes, despite the very rushed nature of the session being heaped on me with little warning. Rebecca Vaughan is a great singer and I love to have her sing here, because she can come up with the goods! Go to the random tunes page and hear some Loaf with Rebecca singing.

I've been in the studio more lately, trying to get into relearning my way around it lately. I've been on a path toward simpler engineering, but at the same time, I built myself into a 24 track system! Instead of doing the usual track-by-track recording I have done for years, I've been trying to play with various combos (mostly on bass) and record all that to multitrack. It's made me think faster. I look forward to putting up some mp3s of some of these projects. Stay tuned for more details...