Friday, August 28, 2015

A little housekeeping

Here are three pieces of music I might want to put in the new Pleasure for the Empire album.

35 Million Miles from Earth

Dance of the Turquoise Mouse

Gwendolyn Wormsign

Rocket Cannon with Florent. Mike Kessell turned me onto these guys. Apparently Steve Albini recorded them.
Oh, and yes, it's a made-up language.
Steve Howe does excerpts from Tales From Topographic Oceans.
There is a distant fantasy that the City Samanas do some sort of version of this. Tales is one of the most difficult Yes albums. I really don't know how it will work. But it's a very distant fantasy so I'm not worried about it yet.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Fifth Season

So I really liked NK Jemisin's The Fifth Season.
I'd read one and a half books of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. Maybe 2.5 books. But my feeling at the time was that not enough was happening and, although beautifully written, I wasn't having as much fun as I would with a nice noir or something so I dropped out.
But The Fifth Season kept me in the whole time.

You have to give the author some credit for coming up with some very interesting universes. The world in The Fifth Season is one of those sort of Medieval/Renaissance worlds which exists shortly after one of the many cataclysms that occur to the planet. But although there aren't internal-combustion engines, there is electricity (powered by geothermal and hydro). Which, you know, sorta makes sense. They even have telegraphs. So I guess it's like the 18th Century without steam engines?
Huh. Now that I write that I start thinking about Milton's take on... things... like canons... Huh. Anyway.

Mastering, Meh

I don't know that I care very much about mastering.
There's the part of mastering which is making sure all the tracks on an opus sorta sound same-ish, like they go together. That part of mastering I'm down with. That's cool.
As far as making records that "compete" in the marketplace I... I just don't care. I have nothing to do with any commercially viable music. I've never seen it. In my spare time I record Russian choral music, or I play jazz/rock in a bar in Brooklyn, or Gentle Giant - inspired prog rock in my living room with my friends. The "marketplace" has zero to do with what I do musically.
I've been wanting to put this picture on a blog post for a long, long time. It's not particularly related to this post, but it's a great picture.

So that's a thing. But furthermore:

In a way I am sort of a conscientious objector in the whole Loudness War. Records (and CDs) were getting louder and louder up through the late 90's and now have presumably sorta leveled off.
But personally I don't think that meter-slamming level issue is with the "loudness" at all.
Now, firstwise, "loudness" is a whackadoo thing to measure. The Beatles made some loud records*. No matter what mastered version you listen to, they're pretty freaking loud.
I think that what's been happening is we've been mixing drums louder and louder for the last 50 years until we have mixes which are just a mess.

Now, it's true, I'm not a fan of using multiband limiters or brick wall limiters generally. Because I do feel oppressed by compression when you can turn the compression up so hard -- way beyond what you're able to do with an old-fashioned compressor that would start "pumping" audibly.

But big, fat compressors like the LA-2A sound great to me (oddly, I've never really felt at home with the 1176 -- lotsa people love them but they've just never worked for me on drums or vocals or anything.)

In any case, the only other major tool available to the mastering engineer is EQ. Presumably one wants one's mastering engineer to do those final EQ tweaks in order to
  1. make the record actually fit on a vinyl album (there are a world of considerations native to a mechanical format -- like keeping the needle from jumping out of the groove during "interesting" stereo phase parts in the bass and the like)
  2. to make the record sound subjectively better
  3. to make the record sound competitive in the marketplace
But the thing is

  1. c'mon, a vinyl album is a novelty item
  2. if you really want to make the record sound better then you should do something in the mix. If there's too much 500 Hz in the drums then you should go back and take it out of the drums, not the whole mix. Mastering engineers are forever complaining about a certain frequency which is too much in one instrument and too little in another. There are workarounds to solve it but the actual objectively better solution is to reach back into the mix and solve the problem there with the multichannel recordings, not the mixdown.
  3. we've already established with my career that commercial considerations are irrelevant.

It's not that there isn't a lot of value in having a disinterested third party listen to your mixes on a very high-end monitoring system in an acoustically well-designed room, because there is. There is. There is there is there is.
Ian Shepherd has an excellent website on mastering and music production.

But you can also listen to your mixes a lot, and then (if you're mixing "in-the-box" as we do) make incremental changes in order to enhappify yourself with those mixes. And then, at some point, you have to stop.

In our world, mastering costs more than the rest of the record cost altogether. Or, in the case of more recent albums of mine, mastering costs and recording and mixing are nothing but time.

So my conclusion is that time/money is nominally better spent listening to mixes over a long period of time (on, you know, semi-decent sound systems) and making incremental changes in the mixes of those musical selections.

At least that's where I'm at now.


The Home Mastering EQ Workshop.

Top 10 DIY mastering mistakes.

This is kinda strange. There's an automated mastering service called LANDR. Basically it slaps some multiband limiting and some sort of (maybe) program-dependent EQ on your tracks. Ten bucks a track.
This page has examples of their mastering.

LUFS and digital metering explained.

*You're gonna want to listen to post-year-2000 CD's of their stuff though, once George Martin was involved in the mastering the CD's are pretty good (meaning: they are in the canon of music, not just of the Western world, but in the canon of works created by mankind.)

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

My life is doing what drummers tell me to do

Lou Clark wants me to watch Äkta Människor, the original version of Real Humans.

Letter to Landlord

I got to send this letter today to my landlord.

In the mid-day of 8/19/15 my Internet went out suddenly. I have a DSL line.
As there was contruction going on in the apartment below me, I asked the guys working there if they would have cut anything.
One guy, who I do not remember, said "Internet? No. Or do you mean phone?"
Not thinking of DSL being a "phone" line I said "No, just the Internet."

Later on that day I returned home to find that my power had been cut off (note that there is no work being done on my apartment.)
It was impossible to get a hold of anyone to turn my power on that evening so I had to leave.

On 8/25/15 at approximately 11:00am, one of your electricians accosted me while I was looking at the phone service in the basement.
I asked him if he shut of my power and he said yes and that he didn't care.
He yelled at me about something to do with ladders and to not touch anything "back there".
I asked him "What stuff am I not supposed to touch?"
He called me an asshole and he then told me that he'd shut of my power again and asked for my apartment number (which I did not give him).
His response was "That's okay, I know, you're on the 2nd floor."
He was extremely belligerant and threatening.

He was middle-aged, heavy-set, with missing teeth and thick glasses, about 5'5".

I do not feel safe in my apartment with the workers threatening me and messing with my phone, internet, and power.
I can't help but assume that all this damage is being done deliberately.

Andrew Bellware

You put the Kiss in Masochistic

Dig Dave Campfield's article The Masochistic Existence of a Microbudget Filmmaker.

I know nothing about which he speaks. Nothing. Shh...

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Pedal Fork

My pedalboard needs are minor. Note that I don't actually have a pedalboard.

The Pedalboard Planner is pretty cool. It doesn't have every pedal made, for instance it doesn't have the somewhat esoteric Saturnworks Volume pedal (so I put a TC Electronic Spark to stand in for it). But it's nice to look at what a finished board will look like.
Saturnworks are just cool. And they do things you sometimes just need done.
Speaking of Electro Harmonix, the Pitch Fork seems like a very interesting and cool thing. I notice they use a very single-coil guitar sound with it. The Pitch Fork seems like a rhythm guitar pedal (I mean except for the dive-bombing thing). Creating those massive picked 18-string guitar parts seems sort of interesting to me.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Minding Your Aliens

One of my goals is to finish this Pleasure for the Empire album. When I say "this" Pleasure for the Empire album I do not mean the album above. I mean an album called "Alas, the Alien Mind". But I figure that we'll want some material from previous recordings.
I think that if I edited down Observe Everything, Admire Nothing to under six minutes it would be a really cool song with a groovy Marc Schmied bass solo.
I don't think Penguin Wizard is useful for many purposes. It's a simple blues thing. No biggie.
Fur Kitchen has some merit, especially in that we don't have another song which sounds like that. It has to be edited down. A lot. Indeed, editing it into the best parts of Love Stomp Pantomime might be prudent. There isn't a lot in Love Stomp Pantomime that is particularly exciting melody-wise, but some of the bass stuff is very cool. So yeah, putting those things together sounds like a good idea to me. The 6/8 section has some moments. But the whole thing could be 10 minutes shorter.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015


Tile sizes in Blender renders are a big deal.
For CPU rendering 16x16
For GPU rendering 256x256

I had to downgrade Windows back to 8.1. Samplitude hated looking for VST folders and Premiere hated the video drivers on my Mac-with-Windows on it.

I think Blender hates the AMD drivers on the powerful Mac and I can't really upgrade because it's a Bootcamp computer. Bleh. It's hard to be me. So at the studio I have to use CPU rendering. That said, it's now vastly faster because I've set the tile size to 16x16.

At home I have a PC with a Quadro 4000 card and we'll see what happens when I set that to 256x256. It'll generate a whole lot of heat, that's for sure.

Friday, August 14, 2015


I went to the Neue Gallerie last weekend. And I gotta say that it's a nice place to see some art. The most famous thing in their permanent collection is that Woman in Gold by Klimt. But they had this awesome Russian/German exhibit of Blaue Reiter and "Donkey's Tail" artists including this dude, Vladimir Georgievich Bekhteev.
The only painting of his at the exhibit (I think) was a painting of bathers, done in 1910. It blew my mind. After seeing it I didn't want to look at any more art. But this thing above, this Venus of Urbino through Olympia, is fantastic. I ain't seen it in real life though.

Shadow Plane

Oh my. Making a "shadow only" plane so that your 3D object casts a shadow on the ground is a pain in the tuchus with Cycles in Blender.
But. It can be done.
Dig this fellow's tutorial. David Fesliyan explains how to do it. It's a bit, er, convoluted. But it makes a clean shadow pass. (Do yourself a favor and make sure "compositing" is left checked in the render panel or you will be as confused as I was for a substantial amount of time earlier today.)
Ignore the unplugged lens distortion.
You have to put the shadow plane on one layer and then do things with nodes. Subtract, "set alpha" and then "alpha over". Make sure that layer receives shadows. Then move your sun(s) around so the shadows match your original image. And make sure that the outputs are in the correct order in "alpha over".
There seem to be other ways to do shadow planes in Cycles but this method does not involve putting a garbage matte in over the ground plane. And it seems to work.
I say seems. I know not am.
I think at full resolution this render takes about two hours on my fastest machine. But it should make a right pretty composite so I'll let it go for the weekend and see what I've got.

Mixolydian Headphonia

The rule is you ain't supposed to mix on headphones. But from a practical perspective (and the fact I used to do broadcast) I mix on headphones all the time. For me, the horrid sound of most rooms is such that the room-free sound of headphones is vastly better.
I have a Blue Sky 5.1 Mediadesk speaker system. And it do sound very good. But it's not in a terribly acoustically nice room. And I don't want to bother other people and even though I have made it as quiet (and fan-free) as I can it isn't always that quiet here. So I mix on a pair of Sennheiser 600 headphones a great deal.
The Sennheisers are really quite good. And they're comfy for wearing many hours at a time.

Sonarworks makes a headphone calibration tool which patches into your 2-mix buss (or, alternatively you can patch it into a surround mix buss).

Does it work? Well, honestly it doesn't make me make different decisions regarding a mix. But it does make mixing more pleasant. So it essentially is a "better" button.
Honestly, I'm tempted to leave it turned on for when I export mixes. It's probably not a good idea, but you can see the blue line above to see what it does using the Sennheiser 600 preset (it does the inversion of what the blue curve indicates). But it makes the mids a tad more linear and un-tubby's the bass while extending the bass way down.
The software license (without them personally calibrating your actual set of headphones) is $69. Which is fairly decent. It might be worthwhile because listening through their plugin does reduce fatigue. And that's important.
So. Yeah. Worth it.

Thursday, August 13, 2015


These are my notes on the present mix and edit of Crimson Widow of a Ruined God.
  • I think it needs some rhythm guitar or single notes on an organ or electric piano underneath some of the guitar leads in order to thicken it up in a couple of places.
  • And there needs to be some sort of melodic thing happening in the "A" section: that could be acoustic guitar, electric guitar, voice, or something else.
  • Hmm... maybe cut out 16 bars at about minute 16 when the bass sound changes in order to get us into the next funky section earlier.
  • And then maybe a Hammond solo in that funky section.
  • The coda needs to be cut down to under a minute.
I honestly think it's one of the best things I've been involved in.
This whole album is me and Marc Schmied.

Monday, August 10, 2015

AMAP (Android Masquerade Additional Photography)

Re: additional photography on Carbon Copy (nee' Android Masquerade): honestly our distributor had some excellent ideas for making the movie better. And so we're shooting a scene at the beginning with some soldiers who get killed (which will up the stakes a bit more) and then another scene where some soldiers get killed defending the city against the robot incursion (which will make the stakes of the robot incursion more important) and then some soldiers getting killed during the "false flag" attack in the Philadelphia Desert.
Yes, we kill many soldiers.
Also, we still steal the "Philadelphia Desert" from Montserrat Mendez because stealing from Mozz is what we do.*

Some details from everyone's favorite comic-book movie, the reboot of Fantastic 4. I like these details. Plus, they look totally doable and wearable.

Just a couple pieces of armor and a LOT of straps. Although this is a drawing, this costume notion looks very doable. Plus, I totally dig the shoes.

Another angle on the Fantastic 4 costume.

We, of course, would add a balaclava and an awesome helmet to this costume.
Of course, none of this has been written yet. Well maybe it has but I haven't seen it yet. Steven J. Niles is working on the additions.
We need what will be an abandoned city and the Philadelphia Desert. What would be best is an old factory in a rock quarry. Do you have one of those? Can we shoot in it for a day?
Speaking of helmets, Brian Schiavo is coming up with a helmet design. I have so much faith in how awesome the soldiers' helmets will be I'm not even paying attention to it.

*Just for your own amusement think about where that desert is that Charlton Heston is in at the end of Planet of the Apes. 

Image Dump

This is the one I keep coming back to. A balaclava with all the techno stuff on it is an idea. A thought. Somehow.

Hip, shoulder, and elbow joints are interesting, I don't know how practicable they are though. The face is pretty cool.

White armor. Hard to keep clean. Not a fan of the feet but I do like the "44". The elbows are interesting.

Friday, August 07, 2015

Stuff what don't matter

I dig this guy and this series on digital audio. Specifically I dig how I don't have to care about recording in better than 16-bit or somewhere around 44.1 and 48kHz.

Monday, August 03, 2015

Assis dans un sous-sol brûlant

"Mastered for iTunes" is the biggest load of malarkey ever. Everyone should be using instead anyway.
Roger Waters should have done a cover of Neil Young's After the Goldrush.

Je espérais que vous aviez menti.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Tyrannosaurus Souris

So I have this idea that the next Tyrannosaurus Mouse album should be entirely in French. I haven't run that by the guys in the band. Maybe I won't and I'll just do it. As long as they never, ever, ever read this blog.

I'll tell you how that goes.
We rehearse on Wednesday. Lou wants us to have some songs we come in with rather than just jamming on things. I think we'll likely do both. I want to try to do big, languid, things which go into very dry, tight, funky sections. That's my goal.
Again, I'll tell you how that goes.

Il e'tait grilheure; les slictueux toves
Gyraient sur l'alloinde et vriblaient:
Tout flivoreux allaient les borogoves;
Les verchons fourgus bourniflaient.

«Prends garde au Jabberwock, mon fils!
A sa gueule qui mord, à ses griffes qui happent!
Gare l'oiseau Jubjube, et laisse
En paix le frumieux Bandersnatch!»

Le jeune homme, ayant pris sa vorpaline épée,
Cherchait longtemps l'ennemi manziquais...
Puis, arrivé près de l'Arbre Tépé,
Pour réfléchir un instant s'arrêtait.

Or, comme il ruminait de suffêches pensées,
Le Jabberwock, l'oeil flamboyant,
Ruginiflant par le bois touffeté,
Arrivait en barigoulant.

Une, deux! Une, deux! D'outre en outre!
Le glaive vorpalin virevolte, flac-vlan!
Il terrasse le monstre, et, brandissant sa tête,
Il s'en retourne galomphant.

«Tu as donc tué le Jabberwock!
Dans mes bras, mon fils rayonnois!
O jour frabieux! Callouh! Callock!»
Le vieux glouffait de joie.

Il e'tait grilheure; les slictueux toves
Gyraient sur l'alloinde et vriblaient:
Tout flivoreux allaient les borogoves;
Les verchons fourgus bourniflaient.