Chris Randall: Musician, Writer, User Interface Designer, Inventor, Photographer, Complainer. Not necessarily in that order.

Archives: 2005

November 19, 2005

DIY MIDI Controllers For Fun And Profit!

by Chris Randall

Okay, this is going to be a somewhat convoluted tale, so try to bear with me here. Our label just signed this fellow from Chicago (more on that when it is appropriate) and his prefered method of working is with Live. Since Wade and I will be doing a certain amount of production on the resulting album, I thought it not a bad idea that we spend a little more time with Live. I have it, but I'd only really used it for testing Audio Damage stuff. I did one show with it back when it was in 2.0 land, and decided it wasn't for me.

So, I put Live 5 on my HP laptop, which is my main Road Machine I've talked about at length in previous entries. This laptop is heavily tied in to my modular, so my experiments with Live 5 as an actual working tool today were based around that, rather than a loop fest which is what would occur if I had have done this on my main music computer. Since I don't really have any loops on my laptop, I started out by just poking some sounds in using the loop recording tool in Live.

That was around noon yesterday. Since then, except for a brief break to sleep and get the oil changed on my Jeep (not simultanously, I'll add) I've been rocking this setup. Let me just say that I've become a True Believer. With version 5, Live is finally ready for Prime Time. I don't mean any offense to the Ableton guys, as I think they've always made an imaginative and useful product. However, it just wasn't for me. Didn't fit in my world. Whatever. Well, all that has changed, and I've actually thought up a couple new modules for my modular based upon having Live 5 in with it.

So, you're wondering if there's a point to this post anywhere in your future. Well, yes, as a matter of fact. Pictured above you'll see a controller made by my good friend Mike Fisher. It is one of several featured on the Doepfer site that were created using Doepfer's Pocket Electronic series of DIY MIDI modules. Mike made this controller for working with Live specifically, and the giant video game buttons are intended for easy visibility during a (dark) stage performance.

One of the modules I've been thinking of making for my system would have, say, 3 or 4 large knobs and a couple buttons, and would be just for sending MIDI CC to Live. It's kind of an odd way to do things, but it would make more sense than buying one of those crappy throw-away Evolution controllers or something, and it would be right in my modular. Has any of my dear readers done something like this? Or is there an already-existing Frac-Rack module that sends MIDI CC that I don't know about?

November 18, 2005

Hard-Core Gear Porn Friday!!!

by Chris Randall

One of the AI readers, Phil Hendricks of Seattle, sent me pictures of his current rig, and as soon as I saw them, I knew my HCGP issues were solved, at least for this week. Pictured above, you can see Phil's Wall O' Korg, including an MS10, two MS20s, an SQ10, and an MS50. Ouch. A Minimoog D, a Roland Expander 102 (I think), an ARP Odyssey, what I believe is one of the Realistic Moogs, and a few various vintage effects. To the right, you can see some Moog modular bits. I'm embarassed to say I don't recongize the blue modular. I thought it was Emu at first, but that stuff is silver. It's not dark blue enough to be a PPG modular. I assume Phil will fill us in shortly.

Here's his vintage/current/boutique pedal collection. Lots of fun stuff here. Note the Realistic Electronic Reverb. No quality studio lacks one. I have two, of course, for double the quality.

Here's where Phil is trying to score brownie points off of me. But I can't be bought! A tasteful little collection, there. Can't go wrong with a K2K. Can't go wrong with an Emax II HD. Can't go wrong with an Evolver. In short, you can't go wrong.

And last but not least, Phil's modern modular setup, because whatever that blue thing is, whatever that silver thing is, the Moog modules, and that ARP 2600 in the corner simply aren't enough. Lots of Blacet, some Wiard, some MetalBox, lots of EuroRack. However, we see these sorts of rigs all the time. What Phil gets extra credit for is his taste in effects units. A PAiA vocoder, a Metasonix Hellfire Modulator, and a couple other pieces make for nice weirdness, but the cream of the crop is that blue box on the right, the Deltalab pitch-shifter. I believe that's an MXR Pitch Transposer there, as well, but I might be wrong on that.

In any case, hopefully Phil will pop on and let us know what the other pieces of note are.

November 17, 2005

The Long Song...

by Chris Randall

Over at Positron! Records, the parent site of Analog Industries, we do a bi-monthly podcast that usually contains either music from the Positron! Catalog or unreleased material by the various members of the Positron! Galaxy Of Stars.

For some reason, for the new podcast, I got a wild hare (hair? I'm pretty sure it's a hare, not a hair) up my ass to do a single 30-minute song. I wrote it over two days, and recorded it in a single pass, which also included the "live" vocoder and keyboard parts, which I played during the pass. A couple edits later, and it was done. It ended up being 23 minutes long, because I took out a section which didn't work.

This was an interesting way to work; I normally spend several weeks on each track, so it was odd to just blast away at such a long piece of music. I think it ended up being pretty good, all things considered. I change keys several times during the track, but stay at the same brisk tempo (170) except a couple parts where I drop to half-time. (Back in my punk days, these would be the "mosh" sections.) I had to pre-record most of the modular stuff, because my modular isn't big enough to hold more than one sophisticated patch.

But all that aside, when you're used to working in the three to four minute neck of the woods, actually setting out to write a track that is a half hour long, especially at such a clip, isn't too easy. A good brain-stretching exercise.

November 16, 2005

P2K In the Hiz-Nouse...

by Chris Randall

Got my shiney new (old) Prophet 2000 today. It is in 100% perfect working order, and is actually about 9/10 cosmetically. Since I plan to mainly use this as a controller, and not a sampler (what an old-fashioned term that is...) I was mostly concerned with the keybed and how it played. Man, these guys knew how to build 'em.

This box definitely has one of the all-time great keybeds. Just enough sponge to feel firm, but it's not too hard on the fingers for someone not piano-trained. The much-lauded filters are typical CEM. Nothing to write home about, I don't think. If I had this unit back in the day when I cared about samplers, I would have no doubt been pleased. I inexplicably went the S-50 route, and graduated from that to an Emax 2 HD, so I missed out on the Prophet 2000 Bus. I did use a Prophet 3000 quite a bit in the early nineties, but it was buggy and kind of dated for the time I was using it.

I tried throwing in and mapping some samples just for fun. Easy as pie, and it is smooth on the ears, I'll grant that.

November 15, 2005

Questions I have...

by Chris Randall

In no particular order:

1. Who gives a fuck? They're titties. Half the human race has them, and the other half wants to touch them. Get over yourself, you prude little bitch.

2. Why is the Sweetwater Word For The Day almost always two or more words? Shouldn't it be the "Phrase For The Day" then?

3. Didn't you get the memo? On the one hand, I feel kind of sorry for the Sony artists, who obviously weren't in the loop on this. On the other, AFAICT there's only one artist on Sony worth a shit, and that's Ryuichi Sakamoto. If anyone knows who holds the domestic rights to the first YMO, drop me a line. I'd be glad to press it for USA distro.

4. Where's the damned demo? If you guys didn't use PACE, your lives would be easier. So would ours. Rock that shit right proper, with a simple serial. You're not stopping anybody from stealing it, and you're punishing honest consumers. See #3 above.

I know, regarding item #1, that I said I wouldn't do that, but I just can't sit idly by, while people who might not know better actually use that website as some sort of resource for information.


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