Monthly Archives: May 2004

Country to Funky with Gating

Gating is one of those techniques that almost every engineer (and no DIY musician) reaches for. I’m hardly a sound designer but I use gates because it’s very easy to apply and can dramatically change the nature of loops, samples and recorded material. Typically gates are used on drums (especially bass drums) but in the example below I make things a little more interesting by turning a bass part originally categorized in the “country” genre into a more funky alternative that I used for one of my Jim’s Big Ego remixes.

What’s a “gate”? It’s an effect that silences the incoming signal under some conditions. When the gate is open, sound comes through, when it’s shut, the track is silenced.

There are two types of gates:
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REMIX MANIA!

[UPDATE] Boston.com is running a piece on the JBE remix which refers to my Santa Monica remix as “something along the lines of Brian Eno does the Talking Heads” — which is a little odd because if you want to hear “Brian Eno doing Talking Heads” then listen to one of the many album’s Eno produced for the Heads.

I keep hearing that remixing is dead, passed the ‘hip’ phase and as passe as the expression “jumped the shark.” Somebody better tell these folks:

The Jim’s Big Ego remix whooha is making some noise because NPR has agreed to play the winner (or something like that) on it’s show. I’ve got two entries posted, a kind of funky one and a very, very funky one. There is an absolutely killer mix submitted by Met Bidller, I wish I had the patience to program drums like that. More mix submission are scattered about here and here.

[UPDATE] From Jim’s Ego site: “THIS JUST IN!!! DEADLINE HAS BEEN EXTENDED TO JUNE 10 “

Also collecting remixes (for no good reason at all) is Brad Sucks of his “Making Me Nervous.” One of my favorites is by my “Chronic Dreams” collaborator c. layne. It’s really beautiful. My submission has not been posted yet to Brad’s site. I can’t, for the life of me, imagine what he’s waiting for. It’s one of my most important works. Ever.

Finally, welcome back Remix Fight. I don’t what happened, where you went, how you spent the night, all I care is that you’re back home safe now.

A Drum Loop Enhance Technique

A boring sounding mono drum loop doesn’t have to sound like a boring sounding mono drum loop. Here’s a scaled down version of a technique used by the pros made very simple:

Let the drum loop play as is but also route the loop to a bus that has isolated the frequency range of the snare, panned it to one side and added (lots of) reverb. That may sound a little complicated but it’s just a couple of knob tweaks.
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“Chronic Dreams” Released

My new album “Chronic Dreams” has just been made available for digital download from Magnatune. The reaction to previews of the album has been mixed. To wit: polite and blunt. But that hasn’t stopped me from being psyched and releasing it anyway.

A Collaborations of Styles

The credits for “Chronic” reveals the deep levels of collaboration that went into making it. Besides using samples from released tracks and a few a cappellas of previously recorded work, I wrangled brand new performances from some great instrumentalists and singer/songwriter types. More than once I would listen to a solo track from one of them and just sit back and think “OK, well, now it’s up to me to screw this up!”

Even if you’re not crazy about “Chronic Dreams” it is self-evident how much talent is in the Magnatune pool. I encourage you to seek out the original recordings of these artists. Hopefully you think more of the music then my attempts at marketing myself as evidenced by my “artist photo.”

Most remix artists who use vocals reach for soul and R&B singers and I don’t blame them. When my insides need massaging you bet I reach for Marvin Gaye or Aretha Franklin before anything else. But I decided to go a different route. I happen to also be a huge pop fan. For every Earth, Wind and Fire, Al Green and Herbie Hancock record I had growing up, there was a John Lennon, Buffalo Springfield and Joni Mitchell. By using DIY indie singer/songwriters and their material I hope to drop their music into a context that brings out the soul in their music in an unexpected and unique way; to highlight another possibility in the material and performance.

Plus it hurts when I sing (the listener mainly) and I don’t mind riding some talent coat-tails.

New Kinds of Partnerships

With the exception of my new online buddy Joe Chellman who saved my butt with some last minute beat slicing heroics, all the artists (Lisa DeBenedictis, c. layne, Norine Braun, Ian Varley of Drop Trio, etc.) and all the samples I used are from the Magnatune label because splitting the proceeds from music sales was the best way I could think of supporting these artists.

[UPDATE:] Joe has a fantanstic break down of the work he did for Chronic on his site.

I would like to think that a work like “Chronic” extends the partnership established between Magnatune and artists beyond a common marketplace into the seedlings of an artistic community. Lisa, c, Norine, Ian, et. al. are not only stellar musicians, but good people. It was a real treat getting to know and collaborate with these folks. By trading files online and applying techniques mentioned on this site (e.g. learning how to burn solo tracks without effects) these musicians are at least more aware of the possibilities. Hopefully, with “Chronic”, the groundwork has been laid down for other artists in this particular sphere to collaborate and pool their talents again.

A Happy Ending

Magnatune might vanish tomorrow. Not for any particular reason but these things happen. Magnatune might vanish and with it the vision of an open label that respects their artists might just go with it. I have no idea how realistic it is to expect the label or the vision to succeed in the long term, leave alone in a big way.

I am often struck by the cogent arguments of intelligent, thoughtful, fact-based realists. I am struck but not convinced because I am, in the end, a dreamer and I’m very, very comfortable with that. How does that work anyway: ideally we’d all be realistic but realistically it doesn’t pay to be idealistic?

What can I say, I am of an age that said it is OK to imagine what might be and then pretend it’s possible. You may say I’m a chronic dreamer.

Elvin Jones: Mortal After All

It turns out Elvin Jones was human after all and died last night.

Starting in the 40′s Jones set the bar high on what it means to be a “risk taker” in music. I still fall over laughing when that term is applied to some teeny-bopper TRL entertainer.

What’s more Jones was one of those musicians who inspired many but directly influenced very few because his style was so personal and deep that it’s nearly impossible to imagine imitating it or stealing licks — although to be honest, every now and then I swear I hear samples of his playing from “A Love Supreme” sampled in some corners of turntablism. Mojo by osmosis maybe.

Dam Computers!!

Damn those computers for commoditizing the art of making music!

The irony is just too thick when a turntablist, no less, is accusing mashers who use computers for not being musical enough. See Z-Trip piss in public [via beatmixed].

Then comes these guys [via brad sucks] who are whining about volume levels never taking into account that the Chemical Brothers might actually want (godforbid) to have a over-compressed sound.

There is just something about musicians who take from every corner of history to make their sounds, take advantage of every piece of technology they find useful (and even take heat for doing these things) and then turn around and expend all this energy to spew ignorant, insulting, close-minded diatribes. “I just hate when that happens“.

I should probably say something witty and funny here but there isn’t enough nicotine in the world to combat this stuff.