Talking with Jerry

Listening to MR|10 the other day Jerry Chapman’s cover of “The Biggest Choice You Make (Every Day)” really struck me. I hadn’t heard it, or talked with Jerry, for a while so I reached out to him to let him know. He’s good!

It also made me realize that MR|15 would be this fall (!). We don’t have any plans to celebrate it, but it does make me itchy to get stuff out so that there will be enough material for a MR|20.

Jerry mentioned that he and Jason are hosting a Life In General cruise in about a year (February 2020 – details here – music! Cuba!). I’m too anxious about being on a boat far enough from shore I can’t swim there to go, but it will be a fun time and some of you all might really enjoy it.

New Console

I don’t remember if I set up a saved search on eBay for “soundtracks console” before or after Drew and I got our FME, but today I deleted it.

This old thing, older than the FME, arrived a couple weeks ago from San Diego on a price too good to pass up, and I’ve verified that most everything is basically working as-expected. Most of the knobs are scratchy so I’ll need to get in there with some cleaner/lube before doing too much with it, but it’s pretty exciting. Never thought I’d really do it, and when I showed the post to CA and invited her to talk me out of it, she closed with “I think you should go for it.”

We also got some new shelves for the studio/laundry/utility room, which aren’t greatly in evidence in the shot above, but make everything much more accessible. (Drums are behind the stack of guitar cabs on the left.)

It’s too late and the console needs too much work to mix h&s through it, but that’s OK; those mixes are sounding good (and I don’t want to re-do them…) and benefit from the hi-fi treatment in the computer. I’m not sure what the first project mixed on the Soundtracs will be. Maybe a Night Mode project, or maybe Drew will pass the Mars Lights duo LP back to me, or maybe something else.

I guess the laundry room is officially a hybrid studio now.

Every console needs a good snake

Big Mix Weekend

That’s what it’s been in frigid Lawrence, Kansas, as I work through our combined to-do list from the December h&s mixes.  That means a lot of hours looking at this:

HAI PLZ HAVE ACCESS TO AN INFINITE NUMBER OF DIFFICULT CHOICES ENJOYYYYY

(and that is only half of the tracks in the session :-o

We’re at the point where it’s not really fun to mix; really nitty-gritty details, trimming noise, checking pitch, and awful trade-offs like “I want this turned up 1 dB, but that obscures this other thing, and I’d boost the mids but that’s right where the vocal is…” The decisions are more technical and political than creative.  (Thank infinity I’m working in Reaper and not ProTools, though!)

I dropped a couple of the mixes in a mastering session, though, spent 30 minutes on them, and was 1) happy with the results and 2) instantly comfortable, relative to the pain of mixing.

It’ll be worth it. There aren’t really bad decisions left on the table; just different ones.

An email exchange about lyrics

From: h
To: Cory
Subject: another easter egg

remember have you gave me the phrase “broken land” for “goddamn” on Boots?

i think i’m going to call back to it in the last song on the mars lights double LP. really now that i think about it, that song could happen in the same universe as all of Boots. lyrically it totally fits in. cool. -h

From: Cory
To: h
Subject: RE: another easter egg

I do remember that! That’s awesome, I love that!

How would you describe the tone of ML lyrics? To me, they’re abstract enough that I hear them poetically, but have never tried to dig TOO deep, because sometimes I think it ruins the fun :)

Continue reading An email exchange about lyrics

The Best Music We Heard In 2018

Here is the best music we heard in the past year. Most, but not all, of Howie’s picks were released in 2018. Cory will explain his picks below.

Top 14 (in random order)

Honorable Mention:
Condor – Unstoppable Power (2017)
Hiss Golden Messenger – Hallelujah Anyhow (2017)
Judas Priest – Painkiller (1990)
Robyn – Honey
Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks – Sparkle Hard

Need to check out:
Low – Double Negative (which almost certainly would have made the main list if I had spent more time with it)

Below will be a sorta goofy list from your main man Cory, on account of we had a baby in late 2017 that was supposed to come out of my wife in February of 2018, so it was an “early surprise family baby.” (Howie was there when it all went down; ask him about the howls!)

That meant I was AWOL for the year-end list in 2017, for the first time… so now I have to be extra WOL this year.

Well anyway, this post is going well so far and it’s just the beginning. Here’s some stuff I got excited about this year (and maybe last year! ):

Last Weekend’s Soldering

Carried three projects across the finish line last weekend (and currently am working on some others):

From left to right:

  • Drew’s late-’90s black Russian EHX Big Muff (a version 7 per Kit Rae, if I recall).  This thing sounds amazing; medium gain for a Muff, not too scooped in the mids.  It wasn’t working at all; replacing the footswitch got it going, plus I modded it to accept external power (originals are battery-only), flipped the PCB around (originals are mounted backwards), and got the original knobs back on.  The pot shafts are all in various stages of bended-ness and the pots could fail any time, so this is a studio piece.  It’ll be sad when they do because the shafts are narrow, and the cool knobs only fit on those shafts, so when the time comes for replacing the pots it will probably need new knobs
  • Malekko Helium octave fuzz/distortion.  I modded the input cap, selectable via the toggle toward the lower left on the side, which makes it a lot more useable in live performance and tracking.  Sounds great for single-note riffs but has been limited to studio use; I think this mod might earn it a permanent place on my board!
  • Mr. Furious Audio Inverting JFET amplifier.  My Mars Lights bass sound (GK pickup > Boss OC-20 > EHX POG > Music Man Sixty-Five) is out of phase with my Orange amp, so I built a simple inverting near-unity-gain (slight boost) JFET stage pedal to run in the bass signal path to put it back in phase.  Sounds like almost nothing on its own, but the whole rig sounds better when the speakers push and pull at the same time

The Secondary Mix Reference Position

Before mixes make it to the car or the stereo or the clock radio, I test them on the washing machine.

With a newly rendered mix playing on my computer speakers, this position is off-axis and and above the near-mono sound source. It reveals imbalances and other problems that aren’t immediately apparent on my carefully placed stereo studio monitors. I’ll go back and forth between the monitors and this speaker/position combination several times when I’m working on a mix before it’s ready to test elsewhere.

I’ve spent a lot of time here in the past month, with more to go. The good news is that I have one song sounding great everywhere, and can apply some of what I’ve done there to the rest.