Falcon #0001

Falcon0001

The “D2” label will be moved down for future units, of course.  I wasn’t thinking about over-sized knobs when I stamped this first enclosure.

“M” will become “M2” (since the mids switch is only available when the D2 channel is engaged) and the unlabeled switch probably needs a “C” for clipping.

Sounds righteous, nonetheless!  Psyched to get it integrated into my Mars Lights rig.

I figure the main channel will replace my VFE Triumvirate for always-on boost & slight clipping duties, and channel 2 will replace the EHX Bass Big Muff Pi for heavy parts.  I still love those pedals, this will just free them up for other uses, probably recording for the Triumvirate (where its flexibility really shines) and maybe suuuuuuuuuper-heavy parts for the Muff.

Demo videos & pre-ordering form forthcoming.

Kingmen #0001 and #0002 Finished

Over the past two weekends I’ve made progress on my first run of six Kingman pedals, and have finished the first two.  I know #0002, the one I’m keeping, will go into immediate use as Mars Lights continues to record our double LP.

Last weekend was given over to figuring out how to finish the enclosures.  I tried various combinations of paint, stamping, Sharpie, dry sanding, wet sanding, and clear coating.

IMG_0353
Finished enclosures #0001-0006, left to right

IMG_0354

Simple as the Kingman circuit is, there’s no circuit board; just parts mounted to the enclosure, point-to-point wiring, and two capacitors.

IMG_0355
Dry-fitting jacks, switch, LED, and potentiometers

Yesterday I started wiring.  It’s not the prettiest but the connections are solid and it gets the job done.  No one can hear my wiring!

 

IMG_0356
#0002 with its LED working

The first one took two and a half hours, but it worked on the first try.  I consider that a win.

IMG_0357
#0002 alive and kicking!

After getting #0002 running (I numbered based on the enclosures.  Wanted to do something special with #0001 and thought it would benefit from me making and correcting any wiring mistakes on my own) I wired #0001 up today.  #0001 is the only enclosure I painted and will be the only one with black knobs.  Future Kingmen will look more like #0002 with the clear knobs, but without the purple smears.  I learned how to fix that, but thought that since purple is a royal color I would leave mine with the weird blurs.

IMG_0364
Brothers #0001 (left) and #0002

Like I said, not the prettiest at all.  Neither were a lot of great-sounding vintage pedals!  I appreciate today’s beautiful PCB and wiring jobs as much as the next guitar player, but they’re not necessary for a circuit to do its job.

IMG_0365
Gut shot of #0002

What have I learned?

  • How to finish enclosures in a unique way.  None of these first six are exactly how I plan to do them in the future; I learned how to avoid the smearing you see on #0002 (and to a lesser extent on subsequent ones) as I did the very last step.  Future boxes will look similar to #0006 but even cleaner around the stamps.
  • Stuffing PCBs is a very small part of making a pedal!  Honestly if the Kingman had a PCB with 20 components, it would only add maybe an hour or less to the 3 1/2 – 4 hours of labor I put into each of these pedals.  I imagine I’ll get faster over time, but there are limits.
  • Stamping is tricky.  Got to hit the stamp (not one’s fingers) square, hard, and on the intersection of any lines (such as where the three lines of a “K” meet).
  • I’m proud of fitting the input and output jacks on the same side of a mini enclosure, saving players’ pedal board space
  • I’m not done with this run – four more wiring jobs to do – but I’d do it again, and plan to.

It Lives!!

My BuildYourOwnClone.com Confidence Boost kit came together in a snap, no problem.  It lives, it breathes, it boosts!

IMG_0289

Next up, a Large Beaver (which will replace my EHX Bass Big Muff Pi) built to Triangle-era specs. Might be a couple weeks before I get to that, but I’m pretty psyched about it.

Mixing on a Console for the First Time

A couple months ago Drew and I went in together on a late 1970s Soundtracs FME mixing console, based on Duane’s recommendation.  We scored a good deal on eBay, carefully dragged the 225-pound unit (console + road case) down to the basement, and this past Monday I got to work with it for the first time.

FME1

First I tested each channel with one signal, listening and compensating for any differences among them. These circuits are 35+ years old, and have drifted a bit; to get each channel to sound the same I used preamp gain settings as much as 11 dB apart, EQ adjustments of -1.5 dB to +3 dB, and levels as much 4.5 dB apart. That took all morning, and while we’ll tweak it as we continue to use the board, those settings will be a foundation we can start mixes from in the future.

FME3

Then I actually mixed a five-song project for upcoming release on MFR. I’d already gotten the mixes to a state I was happy with in ProTools, so I was just routing those tracks through the console and back into ProTools in stereo, making fine adjustments.

FME4

Mixing on the Soundtracs was brilliant; revelatory, really.  Even at levels below clipping, the preamps subtly compress and add harmonics in a beautiful way.  The EQ was the best part, though.  In ProTools, I’ll spend weeks on a mix agonizing over tiny changes in EQ, trying to get things to sound their best.  On the console it’s simple and natural to turn up the level, sweep the frequency for the range I want to affect, and bring the level back down until I’ve achieved what I want to hear.

FME2

It wasn’t cheap, but even so this piece of gear was well worth it for us, and offers good bang-for-buck in that it will substantially improve every mix we do (think: new Mars Lights LP, new Dark Satelliets LP, Cory’s solo project, and more) from now on.  And it’s fun to use.

As a bonus, here are some pics of Drew pole-dancing in Wichita Friday night, then deciding to sit on the floor and enjoy the music, at the Mars Lights / Vehicles / Admirals show.

2015-02-20Drew2 2015-02-20Drew

It’s the Time of the Season for Mars Lights & Hats

While I’m at work on mr|ten (out Friday 19 September) recording with Cory (yesterday) and mastering (today), Jill’s making hats and rocking her new Mars Lights tee pretty hard.

hat hat hat hat hat hat hat hat
hat hat hat hat hat hat hat hat

Maintain the rock and you don’t stop the rock, and I’ll keep on those hot new jams.

On My One Visit To Ventura…

Back in March 2006, Cory and I thought that we’d be recording the album soon.  We did a DIY cover photo shoot at the pier in anticipation of that.

Here’s an early version of what that cover would have looked like.  The font and general color scheme persisted to the final version, but the live shots were too old to really use eight years later.

VenturaEarlyCover

Ventura Alternate Cover

At the last minute, I pulled this guy from the cover of Ventura.  A sun wearing sunglasses seemed like enough silliness for the record, without bringing intertubes memes into the proceedings.

In case you prefer it, though, here he is:

Ventura CoveAlternate

Happy little guy.

If you switch, would you let me know in the comments?

Mars Lights Tracking Photos

I’m a bit late clearing the vault of stuff to blog, here, but these are some photos of the Mars Lights tracking sessions from July and August.  The drums were done on Drew’s kit at my old house, and the guitars are being done in the practice space at Drew’s.