Karlophone.com - Recording Journal

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The following page is adapted from its original version on Karlophone.com. View the original on archive.org (archived on July 22, 2011).
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recording journal

Hey i got my new mixer to work! Effin A. For those who record with a computor, who need to dispose of all poop and get something that works great yet doesnt cost ubermegabux, i now officially endorse the Mackie Onyx 1620 with the Firewire card option. In fact, theres no point in getting it without the firewire thing, because its so extra cool, and gives you magic powers that previously required the expenditure of many buongos and dinars. its like 70% less dinars now, for the same magical powers. If anyone needs a really cool looking used mixer that has ceased doing a single goddam thing its supposed to, ill be jettisoning a 1996 Alesis 16 channel paperweight off a nearby bridge soon.

The holiday season brought ample time to tackle the songs, and good things happened. At this point these 5 songs are looking pretty good:

You Are Insane
Now Comes A Decision (previously considered the possible 'intro' piece, its now a full song)
(? To Be Titled)
Indian Summer
Rocky Mountain Philosophy

...with a bunch of other song ideas in the rough protoplasm phase. Also got a TON of crazy new samples (200??) cued up and into the software world where they are easy to work with and try out together. Also had great luck mic-ing up the new studio addition, a vintage Wurlitzer 200A, pumped thru the Fender Twin. These sounds are prominent in the new 'Untitled' track, which also uses loops created from my own drumming, also mic-ed up with the AKG c3000 room mic. In general, good things were flowing, and it was bittersweet to leave Archive Studios and return to the West coast for the next round of craziness in my alter-ego's role. (or rather, my regular ego's role. Leggo my ego!) But I'll be back (so for now just sample), and in the meantime ive got a laptop full of fresh sounds and tracks i can edit and work with. Really hoping to have an album done sometime this year, its been too long, but thats when you get for having too many irons in the fire - they all take longer to heat up.

Finally things are back on track. New laptop (not planned for, but its speed and hard drive size are helpful!), new techniques, new mobility. The Mobile Pre USB has worked out great, despite some mild glitchiness with the new laptop. Clean signal in and out no matter where I work is a real bonus. Still on Cubase SX (havent upgraded from ver 1.0, but i see no need to at this time). The only real hardware upgrade was a new mixer (as in the thing between the 2 turntables). While i dont record much in the way of 'cutting and scratching', i think part of the reason was that my mixer sucked. Now its super quiet and smooth and fun to experiment with.

So theres been a lot of editing work, and the songs for album 2 have finally started to emerge. The aforementioned "Indian Summer" has come a long way, with a lot of (real) bass tracks adding to the feel. Then theres a song that dates back a bit but was left fallow for quite a while. Its a slow plodding tune with a weird baroque section and other odd stuff going on. No title yet, but I'll code name it "Rocky Mountain Philosophy". Then there's my current favorite, one I think will end up called "You Are Insane". I'm really happy with how its turning out. And a 4th piece starts with a spoken word intro, so it might end up being the 1st song on the album, sort of a "Intro/1st song" combo piece. I'm pleased with the music on this one too, but again, no real title yet, as I havent explored what vocals might work with it.

There are about 10 other fragments in various early stages, but nothing i could call a song yet. This includes the 'garage rock' thing mentioned below and other bits and pieces dating from the last 6 months to 2-3 years back.

The holidays ended up being a time of rather crazed vinyl aquisition (even moreso than usual) and sample/sound gathering, which i hope is eventually reflected in the next album! The new computer system was put on hold, but joining the fray is the Akai MPC-1000, a sequencer/sampler thats a few hundred light years ahead of the trusty but limited Akai S-10 Ive been using for 4 years. Meanwhile, for "away from the secret lab" time, I invested in a simple yet effective M-Audio "MobilePre USB", basically a e-z way to get clean audio signal in and out of the laptop (without the XLR requirements of the VX Pocket). Have finally gotten all song projects, new and old, into one format (Cubase SX), and actual recording and arranging has finally stepped up. Working on "Indian Summer" again, plus a new one that has no name but goes under the code name 'garage rock thing'. While away from the lab, theres a serious lack of instruments to utilize, but the issue of sample material has been solved with a wee turntable, regular forays into record shops, and the aformentioned M-Audio USB unit. Hopefully the next update will be sooner and show much more progress!

This is a wee bit after the fact, but I didnt have time to write about it when it was happening. What I'm referring to is the remix I did for . This started when [Swiss DJ/recording artist] Kid C. emailed me, praising "press any key..." and asking me if I'd be interested in doing a remix for him. I said sure, and he sent over his disc called "The Peter Sellers EP". I selected a song called "Peter Sellers Sings The Beatles", a rather eastern sounding techno raga which incorporated some old Sellers comedy material. He then sent over a CD of the raw elements of the track, so i could start from scratch...as it were...

Anyway, the remix work started back in July, in the secret lab where "press any key..." was recorded. I was hearing a sorta "When The Levee Breaks" sorta drum pattern in my head when I listened to the track, so I searched thru my crates till i lucked upon a punishing beat that did the trick once it was slowed down a bit. Then I found a slow mystical sounding organ loop that i decided could make a good B part. Kid C.'s track was really a one part song, and I felt that I could get it a bit more structured. Then I found some Walter Cronkite spoken word that matched the Peter Sellers vocals, and I knew I was onto something. I searched for more Sellers stuff, and found some good old movie bits, and a new story started to take shape.

Anyway, all the vinyl went into the ol' Akai sampler, and the tempos were matched up to the raga beat from Kid C.'s original. From the sampler, the sounds went thru the mixing board where EQ and levels were adjusted, and from there thru the VX pocket soundcard directly into my laptop, into Vegas Video 3. "Vegas Video?" you ask... Yeah, its fine for audio recording too. The thing is, it doesnt have the handy BPM/click track type stuff that Cubase has, so ill be switching back to Cubase SX once i get the "audio+video projects only" pc set up.

Then came the basic editing and assembly, which was a bitch due to aforementioned lack of click track - many of the bits werent quite the same lengths, so much tweaking and fudging was needed. Then came time to add some keyboards, bass in particular. Wilson was visiting and advised me on some notes to avoid so i wouldnt clash with the notes in the preexisting loops. Later i recorded a ton of possible basslines, using the vintage Univox 'Minikorg' analogue synth into a Line 6 guitar Pod [i forget the settings, it was just to give it the needed "beef"], into the mixing board, into the laptop.

Then it was back to L.A., where several weeks of off and on editing finally yielded the definitive Karlophone "Num-Num Mix" of "Peter Sellers Sings The Beatles". Kid Chocolat was very happy with it, and has offered to do a remix of a Karlophone track in return. He hasnt decided which one yet though. The Kid Chocolat remix album will be out in October '03, and is called "Hello Children, The Peter Sellers RMX". I have no idea if it will be available in the states, but it looks like it will be available for order from , as his other releases are. If i can get a clip of the remix up here, I will.

Well, this isnt so much of a recording journal entry, but it doesnt fit anywhere else. Just got back from the Kid Koala show at the Knitting Factory in Hollywood. It was excellent. He did a number of different routines, sometimes solo, sometimes with his co-hort DJ P-Love, sometimes on the turntables, sometimes on the Fender Rhodes, and many with one guy on the Rhodes, the other guy scratching up some very unconventional ill sounds. This tour was a "book release" tour, as his new release is actually a book with a cd included as a soundtrack cd. Its called "Nufonia Must Fall" and if you like cool indie comics and/or dj type music, its a must. Kid Koala is very funny. He did a slide show thing and also had a bingo match, where the bingo cards were made up of little illustrations from the comic, that you had to match with the image projected on the screen to try and get bingo.

Anyway, the music was rad, and the turntable skills displayed were fantastic. Very inspirational. I think my favorite piece was a battle routine with Kid Koala and P-Love chopping up "the girl is mine" [Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney.] This followed a story of how the two met - rivalling over a girl who had mistaken one for the other back when they were doing separate dj nights in college. While that is a sort of silly example, it was dead on the type of thing i really love - the recycling of a songs or sound as a whole new thing, with a different purpose and meaning. Koala has a very distinctive style, he really uses the records as instruments, squeezing out the tones and sounds he needs for his pieces. He thinks in a very abstract way, yet then snaps back to earth with a really funny reference out of the blue. Some of the tracks on his first album "Carpal Tunnel Syndrome" literally made me bust out laughing, spewing milk all over the place style. Another killer of the night was a cool mellow scratch-up of "Moon River".

Earlier today i went to Koala's In-Store at Tower Records, which included a mini-slideshow and a bingo match as well. I talked to him [Eric] for a while and gave him a Karlophone CD. He's a cool person, very humble, very friendly, and he seemed stoked. The odd thing was, while the show tonight was packed, the in-store was attended by maybe 10 people. Maybe it was too early for most [2 PM], but if I was him i would have been like, what the hell, what a weak turnout....But regardless, he was a great sport and it was fun.

Attending the show was yet another hero of mine, Cut Chemist! [Of Jurassic 5 fame amongst many other things]. I cursed myself for not bringing any copies of my cd! Since i got a copy to DJ Shadow at his show back in November in Pittsburgh, and one to Kid Koala, it would have been awesome to spread the love to yet another one of my heroes. In any event i said hello and such, letting him know he was 'the man'. Nice guy as well. He's an L.A. peep so hopefully he'll do a show of some sort sometime and ill get another chance to reciprocate some muzak back at the masters.

As for actually recording, as Im in LA i dont have my gear nor the wall o' records at hand. But before I left the secret lab, I managed to get a cd full of unfinished bits and elements made, so i have been toying with this stuff in the laptop, using Vegas. Thats how i got the beta demo of "Indian Summer" edited up, as well as the weezerville radio spot thing. Hopefully more of this activity to come. Id love to get some solid tracks in shape by the summer...

Finally got a functional system back in place for recording the drums. Ive got a Shure 57 pointed at the snare rim, and an AKG C3000 about 4 feet in front of the kit, about waist high. these are run into the Mackie. from there ive been alternating between recording to tape [the little tascam 4 track] or the laptop. The VX Pocket works pretty good for getting sound into the laptop, but theres something screwy going on when i run the return 'out' cables back into the mixer - bad noise was being added to the sound coming in [!?!??]. so i just leave them unconnected. im not mixing down externally anyway now. At this point I'm able to render wav files from my mixes in the laptop, burn em directly to a cd and go test it out in a car or whatever.

So the 4 track was good for just recording for a while, trying different feels and such, without worry of killing my HD. plus i wanted to compare to see if the tape gave the drums a good tape compression. Well, not much but it was noticable. Something silky and thick about tape, even a little cassette. but too much hiss. Sound wise its alright, a good basic dry drum sound. Praise be to the c3000. Anyway, down here there is no such thing as room sound. maybe if i tore out the carpet. but with all the effektz i usually end up using, it makes no difference. just so long as its got some dirty punch to it.

I think i need to tackle the aux return world finally. the XLRs from the mics cant be put into my external effects stuff the way the sampler or a keyboard can. with luck ill have it sorted out so i can have effects on the drums immediately, before its stuck in the laptop. With the VX card not handling sound going out, the laptop is currently the "last stop" on the recording train. Once its in, its in. Aside from virtual/digital effects of course.

Life was easier back with the iMac, what with the seemingly perfect soundcard built right in, but the editing limitations of the Cubase that I had running I wouldnt want to return to. nor the tiny HD and pathetic processors. But i gotta say, the whole "press any.." album was done with that thing, it served me so well. i will try recording with the new cubase SX in this laptop before ruling anything out.

Got a insane load of possible samples to record and start playing with. The '02 record hunting was about as fruitful as i could have ever asked for. The [other] fun part now is finding out what matches up tempo wise and note wise. Im getting better at predicting what will work before actually hearing it. Im also getting better at smelling good material just by studying record covers. Its usually a matter of expanding taste sideways as opposed to always deeper and deeper.

Of what's already started, the 2 'trance-y' pieces and 'indian summer' have the most promise right now. I really like the 'fruity keyboard song' but the drums will need help...while they are amazing...to put it bluntly, "its been done already, and better".

©2000-2007 A.D. karlophone

Jan 25, 2007

(please see the Karlophone MySpace blog for current blog entries. This journal page is now an archive of the below entires)

Jan 20, 2006

(from the Karlophone MySpace Music blog)

March 20, 2005

October 7, 2004

March 23, 2004

Sept 01, 2003

Kid Chocolat

Kid Chocolat

March 29, 2003

February 10, 2003