Chris Randall: Musician, Writer, User Interface Designer, Inventor, Photographer, Complainer. Not necessarily in that order.
January 12, 2008


by Chris Randall

One thing I don't care for, in the current (well, last five to seven years, anyway) trends of popular music is the incredible amount of production. While my tastes in music generally run to under-produced music to begin with -- Tom Waits, Neubauten, Grinderman, Cop Shoot Cop, that sort of thing -- I still listen to most of the Top 40, just to keep up with the Jonses.

What I've noticed, specifically in rock and R&B but in some other genres as well, is a desire by the producer (or, gasp, the band) to fill every possible moment in the song with the entire frequency spectrum of sound, and at least half of those sounds have some sort of plug-in trickery applied to them. Now, being largely in the business of making plug-in trickery possible, it's probably a bad idea to complain about that too much; it sounds like those "how to stop smoking" ads from Phillip Morris. But even so...

What got me on this line of thinking was that "Ladies And Gentlemen" track from Saliva that is used in the PS3 ad currently playing at every time out in every NBA game. That song is so totally overproduced as to almost be comical. There is literally no possible way a good rock band could play that live, let alone Saliva. It is just as programmed as any song by Autechre or Aphex Twin. (If you're not familiar, and for some reason curiosity gets the better of discretion, you can stream it here.) Another example that just pops to mind is Timbaland's "Give it to Me." I think it would be amusing to watch Nelly Furtado fuck the dropped beats up live; they wouldn't even make it to the first chorus. There is no way that song could be performed as you hear it, either, unless our current crop of pop vocalists learned polyrhythms overnight.

For my next Chris Randall record, which I'm starting this week, I'm going to go the other way entirely. I'm going to see exactly how much production I can do away with. We'll see how that works out, of course, and it may turn out to not work at all, but quite frankly, I'm of the opinion that you gotta start somewhere, and I'm willing to put my money where my mouth is.

In any event, no particular reason for this rant, except that I call 'em like I see 'em, and this is something I've been thinking about. Thoughts? Where do you draw the line when production "tricks" are now part and parcel of pop music?

January 9, 2008

AD Ricochet Update...

by Chris Randall

Ricochet is now at the point where it is pretty much fully usable, so I've made a Ricochet page in the AD store, with a screenshot and a couple of simple sound files that show in a minor way some of the special effects that it is uniquely capable of.

As I said the other day, we're just tidying up at this point. Then comes presets and the port to zany Mac land, and we'll be good to go. This is the most sophisticated product we've done since Ronin, with many new pieces of code (mostly in the UI area, but a new filter topology, plus the multi-tap delay itself) so we'll spend a bit more time testing than we normally would. But that said, it won't be long now.

January 9, 2008

MIDI Feets...

by Chris Randall

I need to get a MIDI foot controller, mostly for driving Live. It seems like my options are limited to the Yamaha MFC10 (pictured above) at $279.00, the Roland FC300 for $295, and the Behringer FCB1010 (which is essentially "inspired by" the Roland piece) for $149. Obviously, the last is out of the question, so it's either the Roland or Yamaha boxes...


Voodoo Labs makes a box call the Ground Control Pro which looks like it might do the trick. It's a little more expensive than the others, at $399 or thereabouts, but it seems to be of a quality that I would normally think is "not bad," as opposed to the plastic-o-rama of the others. I can use expression (or volume) pedals of my choice, rather than built-in ones. It seems to be a fairly nice choice, despite the expense. You gets what you pays for.

The only other realistic option is to build one myself, using an Arduino or Doepfer Control or something. This is obviously low on my list of favorite things to do, but it is a possibility.

What's the easiest way to control Live from a floorboard? Anyone have experience with the above boxes? What should I be looking out for?

January 8, 2008

Unhappy Tuesdays...

by Chris Randall

We're having a bit of an issue on the home front; I find it tedious when people bring their personal lives in to ostensibly "professional" media, so I won't fall in to the same trap, but suffice to say any post I make runs the risk of being incredibly maudlin. So I won't.

To a certain extent, anyways.

I find that when Bad Things happen, I'm able to write lyrics easier. Even if the lyrical content isn't necessarily based directly on the Bad Thing, it just gets your head in a certain space where emoting becomes simpler. I suppose this is because you're already emotional, and need to express that. So this is an open thread: what kicks your inspiration in to gear when writing music? Do you need to use personal experiences, or can you just poop something out on any old subject?

January 6, 2008

Happy Monday(s)...

by Chris Randall

In honor of this Monday, which thankfully starts the first week without a holiday in it in what seems like months, I thought we'd start off with an instructional video from Nigel... errrr... Michael Angelo Batio. He is quite skillful, and in the video there are many handy tips to improve your playing. I highly recommend this particular video, especially if E Aeolian is your mode of choice. (Lord knows it is mine.)

It's really too bad that there aren't more videos like this on YouTube, because I find that once you've mastered speed, all else falls in to place. Please, Michael, where are you now? Help us in our time of need, because music is just too god-damn slow these days.

(Upon reflection, it occurs to me that a first-time visitor to AI that saw this post before any others might think "what the fuck is wrong with this dude?" Well, he'd think that no matter what post he started with, I guess, but I want him to think it for the right reasons.)


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