Chris Randall: Musician, Writer, User Interface Designer, Inventor, Photographer, Complainer. Not necessarily in that order.
October 30, 2017
by Chris Randall
Yesterday, I started writing a post about watershed moments in your creative lifestyle, when something (either external or internal) brings a change to how you make music (or, well, whatever it is you make.) Then I thought "meh, that probably doesn't really happen to anyone else, because everyone else seems totally together. I'm just a nut." I highlighted all the text and pressed DEL and got on with my day.
About 20 minutes ago, the above exchange took place on Twitter between Noisetheorem, myself, and DJ Empirical that made me realize that this sort of thing isn't uncommon at all, and in point of fact I'm totally norms.
For better or worse, your external environment greatly affects your creative output. Speaking strictly for myself, spending the last three years boxing and shipping Eurorack, talking about Eurorack, travelling for Eurorack, sleeping in piles of Eurorack, and generally devoting my entire existence to Eurorack, has left me in a creative nadir which was unparalleled in my 30+ year history of making music. Earlier this year, we came to the conclusion that we were devoting too much of the company resources to Euro, and decided to ease off and work on desktop and mobile ideas. Since the nature of the Euro market means the hockey stick is ludicrously strong, without a new Euro product we can't really justify remaking older Euro products. As a result, I got to spend the summer, which in Phoenix is like winter for the rest of the country, doing something I truly enjoy: making user interfaces, and not putting Eurorack modules in boxes.
Since confirmation bias is the name of the game these days, as you're reading this, you're going to only see the Zig Zigler Power Words and run off to say "Chris Randall's an asshole! He hates what I do!" or "GOD DAMN RIGHT, FUCK [insert creation method here]." I can't do anything about that, but let me relate a metaphor:
I was raised by divorced parents about 50/50 in rural Oregon and New York City. The rural Oregon half of my family are, for the most part, gun nuts. I was raised around guns, and am comfortable with their existence and use-cases. I own a gun, and know how to use it. My father (the New York half of my co-parenting lifestyle) was a general contractor, so I was also raised around power tools. I am comfortable with their existence and use-cases. I own power tools, and know how to use them. In my head, a gun is basically just another tool. There are people for whom guns are a religion. I am not one of those people. I do, however, understand the motivations and mentality that lead to worshipping guns, talking about guns, collecting guns, etc, and how guns become a lifestyle and not just another tool in the box.
Anyhow, you get the point. Lots of boxes and M3 screws, creative nadir, tedious metaphor, blah blah blah. Long story short, two things happened:
1. Due to our considered opinion that iOS was finally ready for pro (or at least semi-pro) music-making, we decided to make a run at the mobile side of things, and began porting our desktop products to iOS. This forced me to purchase and become comfortable with a state-of-the-art iOS creation environment.
2. Due to customer requests for MPE versions of our synths, we needed to investigate MPE, something of which I knew very little. After pondering things for a bit, I decided the Linnstrument was probably the best source of MPE data, and since I'm friends with Roger, I dropped him a line to see if I could borrow one of the small ones to develop some test cases.
I got the Linnstrument a couple weeks ago, and the first thing I did, to test how MPE worked, was to plug it in to the first synth in my collection that understands MPE. That happened to be Animoog, the polysynth that Moog made for iOS. I spent a few hours playing with this, and decided that MPE was worth exploring. So I moved the Linnstrument to my big computer and folded it in to my development process. Since I don't have a ton of room on my desk, I moved my normal controller, a Kontrol S49, out of the way. The much smaller Linnstrument sat in its place.
Since it was sitting there anyhow, I ended up using it to try to play melodies when I was testing other shit. And I suddenly found myself puzzling out scales and chords on it, and my testing other shit turned in to making songs. At some point that I can't exactly put my finger on, it clicked and I was able to play it. I'm not going to review the device itself because there are reams written about it. But yesterday morning, my wife pointed out that it was nice to see me making music again. I was like "huh?" And she goes "you haven't actually sat in your office and made a song in like 2 years, dude." That's when all this hit me, and I wrote Roger to tell him I'd be buying the Linnstrument off him.
It isn't, of course, as facile as that. There are other outside stimuli that are affecting things (new hobbies, the weather change, etc.) but putting in the time to get the Linnstrument to ease itself into my methodology was definitely the deciding factor in unwedging my creative block. Let's hear it, AI peoples. Do you have similar unblocking experiences?
January 22, 2016
by Chris Randall
Day One of NAMM is in the books, and we've unveiled our four new hardware products. First up is ADM14 BoomTschak (or "BT," as we call it. We're hip to brevity at AD.) This is our first 100% analog product. Not a single line of code. Our motivation was to create a quality high-end analog drum voice, and I think we hit this one out of the park. Accent and choke inputs, a stonking self-resonant multi-mode filter of our own design, three envelopes with curve controls, and a waveshaper give this thing a wide palette. It is a real bruiser, and since it will join Sequencer 1 at the top of our ecosystem, you'll be seeing a lot of it here and in my Instagram feed. We haven't got all the quotes in yet, so we're not 100% on what it's going to cost, but we feel like $450 is attainable, despite the ludicrous parts count. (It has 16 knobs on it, for the love of all that is holy.) We should be shipping these in about 6-8 weeks.
This little fella is DubJr Mk2. It's basically DubJr, at a much higher build quality, and with all the features that people have asked for since the original was released. (Was it 4 years ago? Wow.) Tap tempo, clock input, selectable "free" or "jump" times, and a feedback loop cover all your clocked delay needs, in a 6HP package. Like all of our 6HP effects, this will be $289, and will be shipping in about 3 weeks.
Aaaaand ADP01 Fluid and ADP02 Freqshift. These are stereo guitar pedals. They have true analog bypass, assignable expression pedal destination, and custom laser-cut steel chassis. Having done my time on stage, I know what a bullet-proof pedal needs to be able to take, and these are as tough as they come. ADP01 Fluid is a direct descendant of our super thick 6-delay chorus in our Fluid plugin, with the alterations present in the ADM11 Dimensions Eurorack module. (There already is a Dimensions pedal, so we just named it what it is, Fluid.)
ADP02 Freqshift is a derivation of our original Freqshift module, with alterations for the stereo guitar pedal context. I have never personally really bothered with frequency shifting as an effect in my music, so I was unprepared for what this thing can do. Adam did a hell of a job with the DSP on this one, and it is a super useful and unique effect that can go from the widest, deepest stereo phaser you've ever heard on up to insane screeching and pure industrial craziness. Every guitar player that came to our booth yesterday went "holy shit..." when I kicked that bitch on.
These will be shipping in about 5 weeks, theoretically, but as this is our first foray in to pedal manufacturing, we're approaching it with some caution. I'd rather they took a little more time and we got them absolutely right. So we'll see how that plays out. These will be $290 each.
Anyhow, as for NAMM itself, Eurorack has gone complete honey badger. It seems every company that makes anything is making a Eurorack version of that thing. I haven't really had a chance to wander about aside from our immediate area; hopefully I'll have some more time today to look around. I did have a good long play with the new DSI Obie, and it is a thing of beauty. Very excited to get one of these. Much like the Prophet 6, it is quite easy to get those classic sounds you'd expect to be able to get from an OB-Mx or that ilk, along with all the modern conveniences and some surprises. I'm calling that one a "win." I also had a fiddle with the new MakeNoise desktop synth, the 0coast. I think you should put that in your "must buy" folder. Tony really hit that one out of the park. Simple, inexpensive, and with a tonal range that isn't, to my knowledge, occupied by any other company.
And we soldier on. Day Two starts in an hour.
October 31, 2015
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.
October 20, 2015
by Chris Randall
Eventide has finally released a native version of the Anthology suite of plugins. About half of them have been native for a while, but it's nice to have the whole set. They might seem a bit quirky to people that didn't spend every waking hour in a recording studio in the 80s and 90s, as most of the plugs are directly modelled on the Eventide Clockworks hardware equivalent, but that said, in many cases there is no equivalent commonly available. If you make IDM, in particular, this is a desirable collection; many of the plugs have Richard Divine presets that are essentially "Instant Autechre." (In point of fact, several of his presets are named as such directly.)
H3000 Factory is my favorite of the set. I use it when I'm closing in on the end of the production process, and there is a hole in the arrangement. You can run pretty much any sound through this plug, and just skip through the presets until it sits.
Caveat Emptor: I did the UI update for Ultra Reverb, and partial design for Octavox and Quadravox. (Ultra Reverb is another special member of this collection. Reverb as a creative tool, rather than a room-maker.) There's a 30-day special on this package for cross/upgrading that you should definitely take advantage of. For the price, probably the single best bundle of plugs available. 'Tis here.
May 24, 2014
by Chris Randall
We unveiled this module this morning at the Muff Wiggler / Trash_Audio synth meet in Portland, and here's some info on Sequencer 1.
The astute among you will notice a passing similarity to the Elektron Analog Four, and if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, we're flattering the fuck out of those guys with this little bitch. Here's some vital statistics:
• 36HP, 20mm depth.
• 4 banks of 16 patterns, each pattern can be from 1 to 64 steps long. The entire state (all banks and patterns) can be saved to SD card as a preset, so the memory is essentially unlimited.
• Clock input can be per step (like any other sequencer's clock), or 24ppq or 48ppq for DIN sync (via a simple 5-pin DIN -> 3.5mm adaptor). Clock output can be a staggering number of choices, which is handy if the unit is acting as the master clock. The Run input can be operated a couple different ways, as can the output. In short, it can interface to pretty much anything clockish, and can in turn drive pretty much anything in a clocklike fashion.
• Each step gets a 1v/Oct output, three CV outputs (that can each be either 0-10v, -5 to +5v, or 0 to +5v), a main gate output, and an auxiliary gate output. Gate length is programmable per step.
• The playback modes are forward, reverse, pingpong, pingpong with double end triggers, skip forward, walk, and random. This is programmable per pattern.
• There are several ratcheting features; you can program a ratchet of various lengths per step, or you'll note the 6 buttons labeled "REP." These will repeat, in order, the last 8, 4, 2, or 1 steps as a loop, or cause the step you hit them on to repeat in half or quarter time. (In the same manner that the MIDI triggers in Replicant work, basically, if you own that plugin.)
• As I hinted before, SD card for storage and OS updates.
There are many other deep features that I'm not able to talk about at this point. Our goal is to make the single most sophisticated sequencer available for Euro, and I think we've accomplished this already, let alone what we're adding as we go along. We haven't finalized pricing yet, or availability. We're hoping for US$599.00, and about two months. But both those numbers are subject to change.