08/04/2010

Day 18? i can't remember what day we're on!!!!

Sorry about the lack of updates, i got a bit stuck after finishing the vocals for the songs i had lyrics for and doing little bits here and there....i then realised i had to write lyrics for the last 4 or 5 songs and it was kinda time consuming. I'm back on track now, although i'm reaching the end of my 3 weeks off, it's sounding kick ass so far though!

Ok, good news, i had my first driving lesson this monday, it went really well, i'm surprised at how quickly i picked it up considering i've never really driven a car before. Awesome!!!

Bad news, i just heard that Malcolm Mclaren has died, i'm sure that some people might not know who he is...and some will know him as "the Sex Pistols guy". However, in addition to his involvement with punk, working with Steven Spielberg, making music for Kill Bill or producing Fast Food Nation, he actually had quite a big involvement with "8 bit" music. I'm sure some of the people who refer to it as "Chip Music" might not actually be aware that he was involved and some people will try and deny it, but the truth is, if there wasn't a Malcolm Mclaren then i probably wouldn't be sitting here writing this blog, I'd be in some other band or something. That's right, no : (.

In 2003 Malcolm wrote an article for Wired magazine called "8-Bit Punk" (http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/11.11/mclaren.html), I believe he was on the cover of the magazine, at the time i was working in a pharmacy, on my lunch hour I'd go and buy music magazines, I was a big NME reader back then for some reason. Anyway....something with Malcolm Mclaren on the cover is going to jump out to me, because i was a Sex Pistols fan, but also i kinda liked Malcolm because he's a bit of an oddball and if he's going to be talking about the next music revolution, then i'm gonna be interested.

The article is the kind of hype bullshit you'd expect to come from Mclaren, but it actually made sense to me, because i'd been trying to make a form of rock music that involved small sounds, something along the lines of Devo, but harder....and i couldn't quite get it right. After reading the article i stumbled upon Micromusic.net and started downloading a lot of music off there.

Now, I'm old enough to have grown up with a Commodore 64 from a pretty young age and then graduated to a Sega Master System, Megadrive and a Game Boy. So they were sounds i was pretty familiar with, but what i liked the most was how diverse the music on Micromusic was, there was nothing that sounded like what i was trying to do, but nothing really sounded that much like music on games i had been playing and nothing really sounded similar to anything else on the website. The website was also a gateway to some chip emulator software that i have used in my music....however, most of what you here isn't really an emulator, just a monosynth plugin.

Within a pretty short period of time i had written Syntax and Twin Chevron Action Flash, in that order.....there was a load of other songs that will probably never be heard again....other than Heartache of Soccer Moms.

I felt like i was really onto something, years of work and trying to get the sound that was in my head out was finally coming to fruition. A bit of a "Eureka" moment if you will. Next step...start a band!

That was a little harder to do....it took a lot of work, time and disappointed/disappointing people until it almost worked as a band (i'm not really that sure that it ever did...until now...maybe...more on this in a later blog). There was a lot of soldering leads, trying out different hardware and figuring out how to get a drummer to play along to a computer. It's very boring, so i'm not going to go into this.

So....i have some songs and a band, what's next? Try and get some attention, so i e-mailed Mr Mclaren to ask if i could send him a cd, i get a reply asking to send one out to Paris....which i did. A couple of weeks later i get an e-mail saying "Can you call Malcolm?" and it gave me his number. I thought that was pretty true to his character, the fact that i had to fucking call him! What a cheapskate! I did it anyway, how could i not? It's one of the weirdest things i've ever experienced in my life, being on the phone with someone who has that much history and character...this is going to sound dumb....but he sounded EXACTLY like Malcolm Mclaren.

If you don't know what he sounds like...then you should look him up, he's like a slightly more pompous John Lydon.

So...i phone up, i was pretty surprised he actually answered, i'd tried to get him the night before and just got the answering machine with his agent/assistant/girlfriend Young Kim giving the answering machine message in English and French.

"Hello" he said...."oh hello Malcolm, it's Mart from Colon Open Bracket here"...."Who?!!"...he said that like i was crazy, a pervert who'd found his number...."Mart from Colon Open Bracket...you said to call you", "Who!???"...."from Colon Open Bracket!, i sent you a CD"...

"Oh yes! I came into my office last week and there was this CD on my desk, i don't know where it came from, but i listened to it....and....i liiiiiked it".

The rest of the conversation wasn't really a conversation, it was just half an hour of him ranting about music. I must have said about 4 words during the whole call after that. It was pretty funny though, just the way he spoke about things. He had this plan about setting up a record label through Interscope, because he loved the work they'd done with Beck.....and he spoke about how he liked 8 Bit music, but how one guy and a gameboy or laptop was no way to have a show. He was pretty into the idea of : ( working as a band in a live situation and he was going to look into putting out a record....a proper record, on vinyl.

Over the next couple of months there was requests for music and photos, loads of photos of the band, which was a pain in the ass....and eventually, nothing came from it. I mean, it's kind of a weird thing, the guy has a pretty bad reputation from working with bands and fucking with them, so i was a bit nervous from that....but it was a pretty exciting time.....and in the end, we got to release music anyway, it was just good to have that phone call. :)

It's going to be a duller world without him and i wish he was remembered a little more in the 8 Bit community because he was a bit of a posterboy for 8 Bit for a short period of time....and he really wanted to get it into the mainstream.

R.I.P. Malcolm!

It's a shame that 8 Bit has become a bit boring and bit snobby/elitist. It's all starting to sound the same and there's a total lack interesting music. My rule of thumb is that if you can do the song with just a guitar and your voice and it still sounds good, then it's worth letting people hear. Otherwise you're just making a bunch of noise with a computer.

I've also heard people blame me for the sudden influx of 8bit artists a few years ago, because if : ( didn't get popular then these people wouldn't have found out about the "sacred" genre. This of course is complete bullshit, if it wasn't us then they would've found it somewhere else. I've also heard people label us "Fake Bit", because i use software rather than a Gameboy or another "true chip" format. Here's the thing, all that dodging around crap sequencing programs on a Gameboy just gets in the way of the song. It was never about your hardware, just using small sounds....but now 8 Bit as a genre is something else, something much less exciting and way more pretentious. So i'll gladly distance myself and : ( from it.

The Fake Bit revolution starts here!

xx

29/03/2010

Day 7


The weekend was a bit of a hangover induced lazy one, not much happened other than feeling sorry for myself, playing GTA and watching Vice Versa (a forgotten classic!). I wasn't all bad, i did listen through what i've recorded so far and made some changes.

Scotland has decided it's going to be shitting cold again, so whilst i wait for the flat to heat up i'm gonna talk about the record label situation.

Essentially there isn't one, even if someone offers i dunno if we'd go for it, unless it was a pretty good deal. Does anyone really buy CDs anymore? I definitely don't, I've pretty much stopped buying vinyl too. So what does that leave, downloads? I'm still a little confused over the concept that a label will take the majority share over the profits from iTunes etc. It just doesn't seem that fair to me. There are companies popping up over the place that essentially act as the label for you, doing the PR, sorting out barcodes for CDs and making your music chart eligible. You pay them a fee and you get all the profits. That would maybe a be a good road to go down if it wasn't for the fact that i don't really see this music hitting the charts any time soon. :)

However, i think the reason that i've lost interest in record labels is the fact that the people that work there are just fucking dorks. We had to speak to a bunch of them when we first started....and while we were more than willing to accept the free food and booze that they offered, it was all a little weird. These people genuinely think that they are the shit, that they ooze cool because they work in the music "biz". Which i found pretty funny, because most of them are just working a regular office job, but it's in the offices of a record company, so that suddenly makes them creative and important or something. :S So i found it pretty funny being asked by someone who worked as a secretary or as a PR girl or something "so, would you guys sign with us if we asked?", totally failing to take notice of the fact that they have a habit of dropping bands straight after they release their second album. Why would we sign with that? The fact is, we have never signed a record deal, although maybe that's why i'm still working for minimum wage? hahah! The whole "I'm in the biz aren't we the shit?!?!" attitude is just so embarrassingly dorky!

Maybe that's just picking on the smaller people in the office, what about the A&R people? I once had one (who was a friend) offer to come listen to some tracks and give advice for what eventually became Kawaii. I accepted because i thought it'd be interesting, it was actually pretty painful and pointless. I can understand why a band would accept a record producer offering advice, but someone who's never finished a song in their life telling you what to do with your music? If the A&R dude doesn't like your stuff in the first place then they wouldn't be there right? So why can't they just trust your judgement? (The songs got changed back to how they were originally btw)

i found this last night as part of my daily internet rummaging, the first part kinda sums up what i'm saying:




After seeing Frank say that, it really reminded me on this film i watched last year called "Before Music Dies", unfortunately you can't watch the whole thing online anymore, but if you can find it then you should totally watch it!




So essentially, you don't need to ask if this album is going to get a physical release, because unless we get offered a really good deal, it's just going to be a download only thing. And probably just through Band Camp, which i really like btw. I like that bands have the freedom to pick how people are going to pay for their music and i love how the downloadee gets to choose what format they are downloading.

Let's face it, Ahmet Ertegun's record label format is on its' way out and we are reaching a point where people who make music won't have to deal with someone who works in an office's dorky bullshit anymore! It's just up to us to decide what that's going to be...and for now this looks pretty good. :)

Mart xx


P.S...the youtube videos are making the text do funny things for some reason and i can't fix it. Sonic Booooooo!!!!


25/03/2010

Day 4

Yesterday was a bit or a write off, i didn't really get any recording done....most of the day was spent taking my favourite CDs out of storage and putting them on my ipod. Which was pretty much just Shihad (My favourite band ever! see the video below), Megadeth and Minor Threat...oh yeah and some Machine Head and the Police. There's still some stuff i have to add....there was a lot on there to begin with though. :)

Today has been much more productive, I've not tracked any vocals today because Adam is in the flat writing some essay (same reason for not working yesterday) and i don't want to disturb him...also i don't really like anyone being around when i'm tracking because you sound wicked crazy!

I have rebuilt a song that i'd lost the Cubase file for, i had another version of it, so i managed to use that and alter it so the song is how it should be...it actually sounds better than it did before so that's a bonus. Once i finish writing this and play a bit of GTA online i'm gonna make a start on the last song i have to do programming for. It's a bit of an abstract thing right now but it'll soon get some structure.

About half an hour ago i booked my first ever driving lesson, a week on monday i'm gonna be on the streets of glasgow, prepare your safety gear!


Mart xx


24/03/2010

Day 3

Yesterday i got the vocals for another 1 and a half songs tracked and started on the lyrics for 2 songs, so "i'm cookin on gas!"

I guess i should really explain what i'm doing here:

100% of : ( songs start with the music, that may be a drum beat or a bass line or whatever, then either a synth line or a vocal line will be added and the rest of the song kinda writes itself around that. Very rarely will i write lyrics on the spot, occasionally i'll have a lyrical idea when i'm singing out the melody, which i'll write into a text file...and i'll keep adding to it over time. Most often though i never write the lyrics at the same time as the music, so i have to write the lyrics out to match the syllables of the vocal line just before i start recording the song properly.

So, music wise, once i think i've got the song as it should be, each element of the song gets mixed down onto it's own track: the kick drum, the snare, the hihat, the bass, each synth etc....gets turned into its' on wav file (i'm using 24bit at 48k). All these tracks are compiled and mixed down into an instrumental track, which is then opened in a fresh Cubase file and i start adding the vocals. There are usually about 3 or 4 tracks of vocals, 2 leads and 2 different harmonies. Each vocal track is usually comped in small segments, but i try to keep crack each verse and chorus in one go. The vocals usually get tuned on the spot, Cubase has it's own autotune system, which is actually awesome! Once i'm happy with the vocals i've got, each track gets mixed down (with no effects) to it's own file and added to the Cubase file with all the instrumental tracks (All audio, no midi) and i'll do another rough mix, this will include adding effects to the vocal tracks, usually some delay or reverb.

I'll listen through the song with the vocals included a bunch of times, usually a few times at a higher speed (this might sound like a dumb idea, but it puts the song in another perspective and opens it up for new ideas) to see if there's anything else needed in the song. This can be some percussive stuff, or extra synths or just random noises. This is probably the most fun thing to do in the whole recording process, it's kinda relaxing...also, adding these embellishments gives the songs a depth that i think was missing from our older recordings. So, this gets done in the same file that the vocals were tracked in, various effects are added to get the right sound depending on what sort of vibe i'm going for, percussive stuff is usually kept quite dry, but synths and other noises might have a lot of reverb on them, these will then be compiled into 2 or 3 Wav files and added to the mix file. Then it's time to mix the whole song, which takes a bit of time and will probably involve someone else helping me to get the balance right.

At the end of it, the finished track should sound a bit like this:



That's pretty much it, other than each song getting mastered, i'm still thinking about how to do this, mastering is quite an expensive process...and usually it's up to the record label to pay for, however i'm doing this all without a record label, so all costs are mine to cover.

I'll speak about the release of this album another time. :)


Last night I was forced to watch New Moon, it actually wasn't as bad as the first film, but really....I don't get those films. Well, I get what they're doing, but how films with stories as bad as those actually get made is insane. But people are absolutely crazy about those films huh! I'm pretty out of touch!

Mart xx


p.s...anyone have any questions?

23/03/2010

day 2

Yesterday was pretty productive, i got the vocals down for one song and made a start on another. Cubase only crashed a couple of times, but it automatically saves itself so i never lose that much.

A few months ago i bought a pair of Sennheiser headphones, they're amazing! i really recommend getting a good pair of headphones, if your using the ones that came with your ipod or whatever, get yourself a good pair! I've been using these just for every day use, but last week they started acting a bit funny for some reason, the sound was dipping and there was a bit of phasing going on somewhere. I figured out that it was the shielding in the cable just as it enters the left headphone, so i had to take them apart, trim the wire and re-solder the wire. A bit of a tricky job but it worked. Techy-Mart!

Ok i gotta get back to work, more laterz!

Mart xx

22/03/2010

Day 1

Shazzam! we're back! it's been about 3 years since i wrote in this, i've deleted all the old posts because essentially, i was high and completely crazy. Since then we've taken some weird turns, pretty much stopped performing as a live band, put out an album and changed our sound about 15 times.

What happened? i dunno, i guess we got bored or something.

So here we are, 2010, 4 years after : ( started and i'm away to start tracking on our second album. I've got a 3 week break from work, so now is the perfect time to do it....In a months time we're going to start rehearsals, Adam has some exams and stuff this month to get through, but by summer we should be playing gigs again.

So this being day 1 of recording, i'm just finishing off the last of the preparation on the songs in order to start tracking, there's a couple of songs that i still have to work on structurally, but i'm going to keep going back and working on those when i'm resting my voice. The majority of the songs were written on a PC with a really bad copy of Cubase, but i have since upgraded to a legal copy of Cubase 4, which i can run on my Mac, so all tracking and mixing is going to be done on the Mac. I also bought a bunch of Native Instruments software a few months ago, which is just amazing! Oh yeah, i also bought a new Shure SM58 mic, my last one has been covered in honey (a full jar opened itself in my bag after a gig and my mic was at the bottom of the bag, doh!), had beer spilled on it, been bashed about, swung and mistreated over various tours and gigs....So i'm pretty sure it doesn't sound as good as it probably should, hence the new one. That's it really, no fancy studios, just a Mac, a 58 and i'm running into my Konnekt 24D soundcard (which i've never done before because it doesn't work with my PC).

Hopefully by the end of the 3 weeks we'll have a finished album.

Oh yeah....i should say, this is pretty much going to be a return to the old skool electronic bracket sound, pretty lo fi, but a much beefier lo fi....with no guitars (the rock songs will be used in another project).

Ok all my files are good to go, stay tuned!

Mart xx