“Turn Down The Quiet” is now primed for proliferation. The new Skullfinger album (about 5 years in the making) officially dropped this week, and you can find it digitally at my website which also links to Bandcamp, CDBaby, iTunes, other streams, etcetera. If old-school-but-not-too-old-school physical music formats are more your thing, then the Compact Disc is also available. The first 30 are Limited Edition which means it comes with a bonus Skullfinger guitar pick! Hardcopies are available at Kamloops Long & McQuade and at The Art We Are.
I must say, even though music technology’s digital tendencies have rendered CD’s even more obsolete than the vinyl record, the physical tangibility factor is satisfactorily rewarding. I insisted that the front album cover should have no lettering to interrupt the artwork. Well played, me. Well played.
Did someone say controversy? Yeah, that was me – it was in the title of this blog entry. In the last few days since spreading Skullfinger’s music to other human beings, a great surprise has landed in my world… Four people so far have taken the CD and held it UPSIDE-DOWN to admire the artwork, thereby demonstrating (and stating outright) that it looks better that way!
As previously mentioned, the Skullfinger CD’s arrived from the plant the other day (I got ’em made at Precision Discs, great service and quality, recommended) so then it was just a matter of waiting for the custom Skullfinger guitar picks to arrive from Grover Allman in Australia. The first 30 copies of the Skullfinger CD come with a bonus guitar pick!
So stoked. This is what they look like:
With all the pieces in place, I decided to immediately make advance copies available for public purchase at Long & McQuade in Kamloops. After the first 30 copies, the picks will not be available – Limited Edition oohhhh yeahhhhh.
Skullfinger is one of my biggest and most serious and fun projects ever, quite happy about the results. It’s far more “mainstream” than my experimental stuff – I say it’s basically a “rock” album because every song has vocals and guitars. Rock includes classical, funk and reggae as well, of course. Ten originals, one cover tune. I love the puzzles contained in music: the title track “Turn Down The Quiet” all started as an adventure in brewing up various timing combos into a 21/8 framework. Like I say, this is my mainstream stuff, L.O.L.
Swimming in the long tail and loving it!
Last Saturday I found some sweet deals at the Record Store! Barnacle Records had their sticker sale for the Spring Festival. Green dot = $2, yellow dot = $3, red dot = $5. Look what I got… Chet Atkins, Eddy Grant, Jon & Vangelis, Rick Wakeman (each tune describes one of Henry VIII’s wives), Gowan, Human League (all keyboards, no guitars or basses) …and Desperate Minds!
D.M.S. was a local punk band who were slightly before my time, like just very slightly. In high school I saw these awesome zombie-faced stickers plastered on lockers and whatnot, before I knew there was any such thing as a “local music scene”.
In Sadistic Humor I think we played our first gig with them at the I.O.O.F., but I don’t remember much about that since I was probably wrapped up in my own little world of guitaristic concerns. Of course, the music scene being a friendly environment, I ended up meeting and befriending some of these people, who were not as intimidating as I might have naively guessed based on the perhaps angry-looking sticker.
So, basically those rad screaming-face stickers, instead of their music, is what I remember most about the artistic output of D.M.S.. There seems to have been several bands with screaming face images form that era of my life: Eddie the Corpse from Iron Maiden, the S.N.F.U. shirts, and sweet-hearted punker chicks wearing their Cramps “Bad Music For Bad People” t-shirts. *sigh *
Finding this Desperate Minds record now, 3 decades later, was a chance to finally put a sound to the memory of that sticker which had somehow made a lasting impression on me at VVJS.
So, I listened to the record and quite enjoyed it. It’s high-energy, fast and light. Good vocals, lots of boo-chee beats – way better sound quality than most of the demo tapes all us other bands were making back in the day. I’ll probably spin it again sometime. I wish I had one of those stickers.
By the way… a lot of people have Inner Anger’s blue record but I have the Purple tape. Bragging.
In music theory, the Modes of the Major Scale are 7 scales made from one scale, through the process of starting on every successive note. For example, if you start on the 2nd note of the Major Scale, Mode 2 is created. Since there are 7 notes in the Major Scale, 7 Modes can be created from it. The Modes can be referred by number, but they also have Greek names such as Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, etcetera.
Each Mode has its own “mood,” determined mathematically by its “interval contents,” which means the distance of each note from the starting note. For example, the Phrygian Mode has a “flat 2” which makes it sound “darker” than most of the other Modes. Once upon a time I thought, “The Modes can be ordered according to their brightness or darkness – there is a brightest and a darkest, just like the phases of the Moon!” I think about these sorts of things… patterns and correlations.
So, I ordered the Modes in terms of brightness:
Next, I attempted to make these Mode names act as labels on a diagram of the Moon phases. Sure enough, it all lines up perfectly:
Nix Nihil is in town and he’s all like, “let’s hang out and do some recording,” and I’m all like, “it’s a plan!” So I scoured through some half-baked lyric ideas I’ve got lying around and we spiffed ’em up all ripe-and-ready for another new Lex Plexus track. This one’s 160 bpm but leaning towards the half-time vibe, so really 80. This one’s going to be minimalist in comparison to the two tracks from the Sleepcaster EP, with only eight lines of verbage… I’m looking forward to some pretty severe sample manipulation.
So, for the last couple of days (see yesterday’s entry) I’ve been using my MeldaProduction “MAutoDynamicEQ” plugin to compare tons of music from my collection to Pink Noise to get a meaningful impression of where my Skullfinger project stands in terms of frequency content. I’ve been finding that most commercially-produced has a very flat curve (flat compared to Pink Noise, I mean… which is not really flat but has a 3db/octave weighting to account for human perception). When I look at my work-in-progress Skullfinger masters (and my recent Crushing Complex master as well), I’m finding that I tend towards dark masters. When I apply the compensation EQ to make it sound more “pink,” it suddenly sounds much more sparkly and I start pooing my pants out of fear that my masters sound dull compared to all the big kids.
And then I remember: I decided many months ago to go this route on purpose; a lot of popular music sounds too “bright” to me – overwhelming and symptomatic of a sensory-overload society . Now, instead of being a stubborn and prideful rebel-without-a-cause/clue (?) and doing things my own way to my own detriment, I decided to find some of my favourite “dark” sounding albums, and to use them as my frequency-comparison standard. Some of my choices include the Aphex Twin album “Syro,” Lorde’s “Pure Heroine” and “Reflektor” by Arcade Fire. (Yes, I like Arcade Fire, so what?)
Without measuring these albums technologically, I had already determined from pure listening enjoyment that each of them could stay on repeat without making my ears bleed – a worthwhile goal for my Skullfinger album, no doubt!
So now today, with the Skullfinger deadline ominously looming, I am comparing “Syro,” “Pure Heroine” and “Reflektor” to Pink Noise and finding that they all have curves significantly darker than Pink Noise – just like my own recent mastering efforts!
What does this mean? I’m on the right track after all. * phew – what a relief * …Kudos to me for trusting my ears and confirming my judgments with measurement (and shame on me for bragging?).
Some would say my tendency towards mellower sound is a symptom of old age, but… did I mention that “Syro,” “Pure Heroine” and “Reflektor” have all won big fancy music awards? Grammys, Junos…
So, yeah – Pink Noise – thanks for your help (and I will doubtlessly continue to utilize thy counsel), but I think the record industry has given you too much reign. I am here to reclaim the darkness.
Mastering technique observation: Comparing frequency plots of various recordings to each other is informative and helpful, but do you know what’s way more informative? Comparing various recordings to Pink Noise.
A couple of friends of mine had an art show coming up and I really wanted to go see it… and so I did! Tangie Genshorek and Cam MacQuarrie (who plays drums with me in a band called Jagged, I’m the guitarist) showed their post-apocalyptic vision of Kamloops at the KAC Courthouse Gallery in their “Utopia” exhibit earlier this Spring. Collectively they are known as Scaled Space Studio and you can check out their website at scaledspace.ca. I didn’t really know what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised. I knew they would come up with something cool, I just had no idea what.
When I walked into the gallery, Cam was in the midst of explaining some sort of very trippy and futuristic Zoning Map of the North Shore, complete with zip-lines, camping areas and a UFO, all colour-coded and hexagonally compartmentalized. I stared at that one for awhile before moving on to all the rest of the images. Did I mention there was a UFO shown floating above the city? Epic. All of the buildings shown in the other images featured mirrored surfaces which show representational photographic textures of sky, river and sand. These textures overlaid onto some very creative geometry made for a rather pleasant and uncommon vision.
Well, then a month later I received a pleasant surprise: my name was drawn, and now I am the proud owner of the Scaled Space Utopia Zoning Map! Here it is, shown sitting on my Korg Wavestation keyboard to pose for this portrait:
Thanks, you guys! Frickin’ cool UFO.
I’m having a super-inspired Sunday today… Not only did I do some dishes, but I spent most of the afternoon digging through the old Rubbermaid container full of data storage CDRs, looking for a song called “Life Is Good” that Sadistic Humor half-made when we reunited in 2002 and eventually became Electric Humour. I never did find that track I was looking for, but I sure did find a whole bunch of other treasures. One of my favourites is this collection of alternate-versions of old Lex Plexus tunes from the turn of the millennium, around the time of Izmaha and Category Zero albums.
I think these will become part of an upcoming Lex Plexus retro album (there are a TON of unreleased tracks in the old vaults). It’s been bringing back a lot of memories for which I am grateful. It’s fun to look backwards sometimes.
Back in those days Lex Plexus used to sometimes perform live at local rave parties, using a keyboard and an EMU ESI-4000 sampler to trigger homemade original loops and layer them on-the-fly. Apparently the term back then was “Live P.A.” …I’ll always suck at the cool lingo and knowing the proper genre names, etc. My techno friends at the time said Lex Plexus is “mutant techno,” which I liked. Anyways, that was a fun way to deliver my electronica to a live audience, but I eventually decided to call it quits due to tempo-matching technical issues with the method. Then I heard about Ableton Live and I knew that would be the solution, but just never got around to implementation (so many projects on the go, creativity is endless). Many times through the years I’ve contemplated how cool it would be to resurrect those old loops and bring them into Ableton. Well, today is the day that plan begins moving forward again! I found all those old loops, and I’ve been on the Ableton train for almost a year now, so now it’s just a matter of moving forward.
Did I already mention I found the master .wav files of Electric Humor? Those may end up on bandcamp soon.
I put a new Barnacle Records sticker on my acoustic today:
In my previous blog entry I offered some exclusive photos. Afterwards I realized that the water droplet was not showing clearly enough through the flower petals, so here’s another version of that photo:
As you may know, I make music of many varieties including techno/industrial/drum-and-bass. Six years ago, I wrote an instrumental track called “Sleep, Cerberus” and then four year later my lyrics singer friend Nix Nihil became inspired to add some very interesting lyrics. I re-constructed the music to suit the vocals and the remix was born. Fast Forward another year and Nix comes to me with another idea, this time a fresh story-lyric with need for drum-and-bass backing. And so now I humbly present to you these two creations for your listening pleasure… “Sleep, Cerberus (Nix vox remix)” and “Path of the Lightning Caster” on the Sleepcaster EP by Lex Plexus and Nix Nihil. I like the results, and I hope you do too. Available now at bandcamp.
DJ Don Rugs Setlist…
One of my alter egos had a pretty good time behind the decks the other night at Barnacle. Yeah real vinyl… booyah! Partly, I choose the best songs from my worst records. Here’s a photo of all the records I played:
Maybe you noticed this kickass Crumbsuckers record, the latest addition to my collection:
It was a favourite of mine about 23 years ago, when I had the cassette. A welcome addition.
Here’s a nice tidy list of all the songs I played that night:
Andy Summers and Robert Fripp – What Kind of Man Reads Playboy?
Del Woods – Goofus
Jorgen Ingmann – Apache
Crumbsuckers – Prelude Intro
Roy Buchanan – Judy
The Kilima Hawaiians – Hawaiian Surfriding
Roger Eggermont’s Trio – Five Foot Four
Cygnus X – The Orange Theme
A Flock Of Seagulls – Man Made
Crumbsuckers – A Moment Of Silence / Mr. Hyde
Have you heard The Orange Theme? Interesting chord progression.
Most of my artsy Hipstamatic photos go up on my Instagram but I’ve decided to spruce up the WordPress universe by dedicating some of today’s photo-adventure fruits to an exclusive appearance right here and now:
A few months back Gary Faustman (remember Promiscuous Pete from Euphoria Emporium?) and I had an inspired meeting where we decided “why not make a short film?” And so, being driven as all creators are, we wrote the entire story and filmed it all in one day! Film is such an enjoyable process, especially when you get the chance to wear the hats of actor, director, cameraman and writer. The resulting short film is called “Osmosis Unbeknownst” and we entered it into the 2016 Kamloops Interior Short Short Film Fest (as mentioned in a recent post). There were a lot of great entries in this year’s festival, as usual. If you haven’t seen it yet, follow this YouTube link to watch “Osmosis Unbeknownst,” a Salted Slug Films production. It’s a story of music, poetry, and synchronicity.
As a side note, I’ve watched “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” 4 times since last week.