Chris Randall: Musician, Writer, User Interface Designer, Inventor, Photographer, Complainer. Not necessarily in that order.
 
January 13, 2016

Different Drummer...

by Chris Randall
 



Whelp, I just have a bit more welding to do, and a couple prototype panels to silkscreen, and we're ready for NAMM. 2015 was a big year for Audio Damage as we got further in to our Pivotâ„¢, and 2016 will be bigger still, as we begin to make mass-market music tech products (initially guitar pedals, but soon to be other things as well) to go along with our continuing Eurorack offerings.

We'll be unveiling four new products at NAMM, at least three of which will begin shipping not too long afterwards. And we'll have at least a couple prototypes and experiments to gauge interest. We're really swinging for the fences this year, and a larger facility here in Phoenix and some local hiring are no doubt in our immediate future as we expand the operation to encompass The New Shit. I've spent most of 2015 learning about large(r) scale manufacturing, while Adam has been studying up on analog design. Even though most of the year was a learning exercise, we still managed to release three new modules (Kompressor, Dimensions, and Neuron.)

We're officially starting 2016 with NAMM, and we will also be attending an as-yet unannounced event in February in LA that promises to be pretty big, and of course the Superbooth 16 in Berlin at the end of March. I will also be giving my scatterbrained clinics in New York and Portland at some point in the first half of the year, as time and finances allow.

In short, it's already been a pretty big year and it's only three weeks old. The cats are nervous, is all I'm saying. If you're attending NAMM, be sure to stop by booth 5000 and say "hi" to Adam and I. Keep in mind that I'll be adding roughly 15,000 new people a day to the several million I've already met over my career, so give me some context and don't expect my middle-aged brain to automatically know who you are. All evidence to the contrary, I'm simply not that on-the-ball.

 
December 5, 2015

Integration...

by Chris Randall
 



I've had the Push 2 for a few whiles now, and (despite a heavy load of Logistics in the last couple weeks) I've been experimenting with how to best integrate it in to my Workflow. (I wonder if that joke has gotten old yet.)

The video above is some of that experimentation. Someone asked via the YouTube comments about what was going on, and in trying to answer, I discovered that it's so hideously complex that it beggars description in a YouTube comment format, so I thought I'd break it down here, where I have a little more control over things. So, what follows is a ridiculous process explanation. Strap in.

Percussion: As you can see, I have two Sequencer 1 units in my Eurorack. The lower one is driving all the rhythmic elements. I have two Neuron modules in the bottom row, and they provide (on the left) the foot and (on the right) the snare. To the right of them is a Noise Engineering Basimilus Iteritas , which is also making a snare-ish sound. They are triggered by the gate, accent, and one of the CV outputs of the Seq1 respectively. Another CV output in Seq1 is driving (via an LFO) a WMD env/vca through which Mad Hatter provides hat duties. The WMD Sequential Switch to the right of the lower Sequencer 1 has the two Neurons and the BI bussed through it, and the fourth output is running to a prototype of DubJr Mk 2 (which you see me occasionally send something to. Should be obvious any time I touch the Sequential Switch.) DubJr Mk2 is getting clocked off the clock output of the Seq1.

This whole mess is getting mixed in the lower right-hand corner in the Circuit Abbey Unify. The main outputs are running to a stereo pair in Live, and the headphone output is running to a prototype of ADM15 Spectre (our upcoming FFT freeze module.) This is in the lower left-hand corner. The left-hand Neuron (the kick) is the sidechain source for a Kompressor, which Spectre runs through, and thus to a Dimensions chorus, and to the Unify mixer that is in the lower right of the upper case.

That Sequencer 1's last CV output is running to its own CV1 input, with a random LFO triggering the repeats on the second pattern I run starting at 5:50.

Euro Synth: The synth lines coming from the Eurorack are driven by the top Sequencer 1. This Sequencer 1 is modulating itself in the same manner as above, and the CV and gate outputs are driving the WMD/SSF set in the second row, in a typical 2-osc / 2-env / 1 filter configuration. Nothing special about this at all. This is getting mixed with Spectre via the Unify in the second row, and then on to a second pair of inputs to Live.

The Live Thing: This is actually much later in an extended Live set (for another section that has more coming from Live, see previous video), and the slots that have stuff in them you can't see since the right side of the Push 2 unit is out of frame. But suffice to say there's stuff there and it's running. I am, in this instance, primarily using Live and the Push 2 as a mixer, though.



The first channel, EuroDrums, has as its source the stereo pair from the lower Unify (the percussion.) I have an Effect Rack on the channel, with a whole raft of shit in it. There are two instances of Eventide H3000 Factory, an instance of AD Replicant, and an instance of SonicCharge Permut8, as well as various compressors, EQs, delays, etc. Four of the knobs in the Effect Rack (and thus on the Push 2) drive various controls on the buffer effects, three of them control delay flavor, and the last one controls distortion/bitcrushing. In this manner, I can just whack the EuroDrums button on Live, and I have a lot of control over the drum buss, at least as far as glitching/buffer shit goes.

The second channel, EuroSynth, is much the same, with an Effects Rack with all the macro knobs mapped. However, instead of buffer effects, I have stuff appropriate to the sort of synth work I do. Five of the macro knobs are mapped to Mangleverb, and three of them are mapped to another Effects Rack that contains two Dubstations arranged in a ping-pong array.

There is an audio channel off to the right that you can't see that is playing a loop of a field recording of water running throughout the video, and there is also a channel that contains an instance of Silent Way Sync that is providing the master clock for the Eurorack. There are three effect return channels, and my sends are ValhallaVintageVerb, Eos, and DubJr (this is actually my template Live set, and I have those three in everything I do.) All channels have the NI SolidBus compressor on them, and various EQs appropriate to the task, as does the master channel.

monome: The monome 128 that you see in the bottom of the frame is controlling an instance of Flin as a M4L midi effect. This is in front of an instance of AD Phosphor. I kick this on for the second half of the first song.

So, as you can see, a lot going on, but once it's all set up, it's pretty fluid. Effects Rack macros to control the synth and drum buss effects, Euro for sound sources, and Live for stuff that can't be done with the Euro. All directly accessible and fairly easy to control. I'm greatly enjoying exploring this hybrid workflow, and am incredibly happy with the Push 2. I imagine this is how I'll be making music for some time now. The trick is to treat the monome / Push 2 / Eurorack as a holistic instrument, and learn it that way, rather than concentrating on any one thing at the expense of the others, I think.

Here is the audio. If you click through to the Octave page, you can download a high-quality MP3.

Listen to "glitch one / glitch two" by chris randall.

 
November 26, 2015

Octave Is...

by Chris Randall
 

Listen to the album "009909" by Chris Randall.

For those of you that don't follow me on Twitter, I let it drop the other day that me and the missus and our long-time web collaborator Mark Beeson made a thing.

From the embed above, it should be readily apparent what it does. And long-time readers will know exactly why we made it, so I don't need to go in to any lengthy explanation about that. Suffice it to say that we've been working on it for about a while now, and Octave is now open for business. We're addressing user wishes as they come in, so its purview is adjusting (and rather rapidly, it must be said) to the use cases that we, as professional musicians, need.

Happy to field any questions/comments here. One further thing: in conversation about the service with someone that didn't fully understand the point, I quipped the following: "Soundcloud is for musicians with fans; Octave is for musicians with clients."

 
November 1, 2015

Six Networking Tips For The Music Business...

by Chris Randall
 

As many of you know, I teach a class on entrepreneurship in the music industry. We recently did a little block on networking, and I put up my axioms for interaction in the music business. It was intimated that others might like to read it / rip it to shreds / dismiss it with a hand wave, so I decided to put it up here.

Some context: business courses that talk about networking go through the usual Zig Zigler bullshit. That doesn't apply to our business; most people chose this business because it's cool, not so they could finally afford that Donald Trump tie set. As a result, networking in the music business isn't like networking at an insurance actuary convention. Sure, there are parts of the business (mostly on the tech and manufacturing side) that are more or less indistinguishable from normal business, so these tidbits of info are meant to apply to the music side of things (bands / labels / live show / that sort of thing) and not the tech side of things (manufacturing / distribution / retail).

1. NO GHERMING!

This is the cardinal rule. "Gherming", if you're not familiar with the term, is the act of being a slobbering fanboi to a celebrity. If you find yourself in the position of talking to someone that can make things happen in your career, you don't need to tell them that you're a big fan. You don't need to give them a litany of their own achievements. Successful artists and businesspeople are much happier when they just assume that you already know their bona-fides. You don't need to tell them about everything they've done and what it meant to you. If you do, they immediately put you in the category of "fan," and successful artists have a way of dealing with fans that is very different than how they deal with people that they do business with. You don't want to be in this category, because it will heavily inform all future interactions, and not to your benefit. Assume that they know what they've done, and let them assume that you're familiar with it, but not to a creepy stalker degree.

2. BUSINESS CARDS

Almost any networking resources tells you to have business cards and have them ready. This is nonsense. Business cards only matter to business people, and in this context they're kind of weak and smell of desperation. Networking in the music business is an exercise in finesse, and the business card is a blunt instrument that carries with it a burden of societal standards that people that work in the music side of the music business are actively avoiding. In short, unless you are you're on the music tech side of things, and working a booth at a convention, there's no context in which a business card will be useful, and it actually may hurt the interaction. A successful musician or label owner doesn't need to carry a business card, because everyone knows who they are, at least contextually, and they'll just put yours in their pocket and it'll get washed in to a little doughy blob of pulp. Think of other ways to exchange credentials. See also: tour laminates. People that aren't important on tours have to wear laminates. People that are important generally don't. When you're the roadie, you have to wear a laminate. When you're the lead singer of the headlining act, you don't.

3. AVOID THE MIXER

Any industry event or service that advertises itself as something where networking can occur is the last place networking will occur. The reason for this is simple: the entirety of the attendees will be people that need to network. To shine a clearer light on it: I am someone that can make things occur, to a certain extent, and at a lower tier than a real "industry player." I would never attend one of these events, and I sure as hell know that anyone that is more powerful than me in the industry (which is almost the entire industry) wouldn't, either. So everyone that is at a mixer is less capable than I am of "making things happen." And I am only barely capable. That should tell you everything you need to know. If you're kicking ass, in the places where ass-kicking can occur, people that need ass-kickers, or can help ass-kickers get to the next level of ass-kicking, will see you and ensure that your ass-kicking is rewarded. Paying to attend a cocktail party, where no ass-kicking can occur, is a waste of money.

4. LISTEN WELL

One of the more annoying facets of modern conversation is that it tends to be something of a competition. You want to speak to someone as an equal, but when you're talking to someone that is a posteriori more successful than you, this is essentially impossible, and the human brain offers up all sorts of annoying tics to deal with this. Don't try to compete with someone that can help you. Listen to what they're saying, and respond to questions. Don't interview them, or tell them about "this one time at band camp" unless they ask. Nobody gives a shit about how your band opened for Creed this one time, or how you found yourself in a men's room peeing within FIVE FEET!!! of Martin Gore. Keep it to yourself.

5. FAKE IT 'TIL YOU MAKE IT

This is somewhat tender. Don't big-up yourself, or lie about your capabilities, but on the other hand, never say "no," unless you're physically incapable of saying "yes." As the old saw goes, "nothing ventured, nothing gained." If you become known as someone who can get things done, then people will want to network with you, and you won't have to work as hard for opportunities. If a situation presents itself that is outside your comfort zone, do it anyhow. Make it happen. People admire a failed attempt way more than they admire hesitation and uncertainty. If you don't put yourself in positions where you have the opportunity to excel in the face of difficulty, well, those situations don't happen accidentally.

6. CONTROL YOUR BASE INSTINCTS

This one is simple: with notable exceptions, people that are successful in the music industry tend to have good self-control. This business is intrinsically tied to vice, and most vices are readily available, so the ability to actively avoid your vice of choice is valuable. If you know you're a sloppy or mean drunk, don't drink where business can occur. If you like drugs, don't put yourself in situations where drugs are available. Nobody cares what you do on your own time, but if your capabilities during a show or in a business situation are hindered because of your vices, this will greatly affect potential outcomes, and not in your favor. I will add a caveat to that: true "genius" artists generally get a pass for bad behavior, because the value of their art to society outweighs the damage they do to that society. But if you were one of those (and they're fucking thin on the ground) you wouldn't be sitting here learning how to network.

____________________________________________________________________________

I open the floor to you, AI readers. Now that you see how I'm damaging the youth of today, thoughts? Additions? Subtractions?

 
October 31, 2015

The State Of Things...

by Chris Randall
 



You can tell it's fall in Arizona when the leaves turn beautiful shades of red and orange, and there's a crispness in the air... Just kidding. The only way I know is that my seatbelt buckle doesn't give me 2nd degree burns when I get in my Jeep. But fall and winter traditionally means we start releasing the stuff we've been working on all year at Audio Damage, and this fall is no exception. (In point of fact, it is exceptional!)

First out the chute is pictured above, ADM12 Neuron. It is an all-in-one drum voice with a simple FM topology. After acquiring the Dinky's Taiko and Basimilus Iteritas modules, I found myself still using several modules to patch kick drum and snare sounds I was happy with. (Nothing against either of those modules whatsoever; I like them both for more out-there percussion sounds. Particularly BI.) So we took the Neuron voice from our Axon plug-in, altered it to broaden its tonal range and make it more capable for traditional drum synth sounds, and shoved it in a 12HP package.

The result is a nice little drum voice that we're particularly happy with. Hit the product page for specs and an overview video. I'm actually taking a break from retail-packaging the first batch of these to write this post. They're on the way to our Galaxy Of Retailers starting today, and will be available in the AD store at the end of next week if you want to order direct.



Next up, it's been no particular secret that we're working on non-Euro hardware. This turned out to be surprisingly difficult. Euro has a pretty set-in-stone standard for look and construction, and known suppliers, and you work within those parameters. When we started examining stand-alone products, well, things got hairy quick. But this summer's labor is beginning to bear fruit, and we will definitely be showing our new line of Audio Damage pedals at NAMM in January. We hope to show three different pedals, but that might be optimistic. This has proven to be a surprisingly difficult and time-consuming operation.

Interestingly, most of the difficulty and time consumption resulted from the fact that I just can't stand those Hammond boxes that most boutique pedals come in, and wanted our own folded steel chassis. It turns out that you need to know quite a bit of mechanical engineering to cause such a thing to be created, and since I had two years of mechanical engineering classes in high school in the 80s, of course I was up to the task. But lo, and furthermore hark! My brother-in-law works at Baer, which is (literally) right up the street from us, and he loaned me one of their engineers. Then the fine folks at Cutting Edge Manufacturing here in Phoenix took those drawings and tuned them up a bit, and then BLASTED SHEETS OF STEEL WITH A 4000 WATT LASER! (This shit is so fucking cool, I don't even.)

The first article is pictured above. These things are so tough you could drive a tank over them. I don't know about the rest of the thing, but the chassis will definitely survive the apocalypse. The guts are digital, of course, but feature true bypass (done with relays), assignable expression pedal destinations, and true stereo where appropriate. I think the non-Euro folks are gonna be very pleased with these, and as we get a WORKFLOW in place to build stand-alone products, you'll start to see some more sophisticated shit, in addition to our ever-expanding Euro line.
 

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