Tag Archives: world domination

On Home Studios

One of the best things about a home studio is that once you’ve got it set up, you can just start using it. You don’t need to book time, you don’t need to schedule things ahead of time, you don’t need to hire somebody else’s engineer. Just pick up your instruments, fire up your control board, and go. Every note of Psycliq’s musical catalogue has been recorded in my home studio, with the execption of those couple of tracks I composed and recorded while on an airplane that one time. In other words, the studio part is pretty great.

But one of the worst things about a home studio is that your recording space needs to be shared with the rest of your life. Even if you’re lucky enough to set a room aside, the rest of the house is still likely to be buzzing with all kinds of noise from kids, spouses, TV’s, radios, pets, and all kinds of other things. In other words, the home part of “home studio” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

For one, the setup definitely makes recording things like vocals or acoustic instruments very, very tricky. But the other issue is one of distractions, especially if you’ve got kids and they want to play the instruments and push the buttons and turn the knobs just like Daddy does. One moment you’re all set to sit down and record a new idea, and the next moment you’re desperately trying to figure out why every input to your box has been padded by -15db while trying to figure out exactly where your headphones are now. You may have guessed that I speak from experience.

For these, and many other real-life reasons, I’m going to be relocating my home studio to a different part of the house. One a bit more removed from the rush of toddlers. One a little more isolated from the noises of every day life. And most importantly, one with a door on it. Pro tip: doors are good.

But even with a planned studio shuffle and all kinds of life in the way, we’ve got some goals here at Psycliq Musical Productions for 2012. As we move into the year, I’m going to be diving back into recording and making a new full-length record. The lucky folks who subscribe to the Newsletter already know the title and more information about it, and they’ll keep getting some exclusive updates, too. But suffice it to say that I’m very excited about the prospects. I’ve set a goal of getting it released by the end of this calendar year. At the moment, I’ve got 20 tracks demo’d out that might make it, but who’s to say what the cutting room floor will really see. We might even put up a preorder bonus thing that gives you access to all of the demo tracks, whether they make it in or not.

But whatever comes, I’m going to try my darndest to get this thing rolling. Here goes nothing.

The MicroMoorg is Complete

After months of work in my off hours and spare time, and learning a pile of new skills I never had before, I am very happy to say that the MicroMoorg project is finally done! The results are right here, and I’m very happy with how it came out. Check it out!

The new casing is made completely of red oak, a nice dense hardwood, with a thin but sturdy piano hinge to hold the pieces together. It folds through three positions from a very MS20ish almost-straight up and down, a more Moogy reclined angle, and all the way back to the original flat MicroKorg shape. This last bit was very important to me since I wanted to make sure I could still carry it around in the same gig bag that I had for years.

Thanks to this project, I know more about woodworking an soldering than I ever have before. Take if you will all that wood along the outside edges of the top and bottom pieces– it isn’t just decoration, it’s structural. Once you cut the little Korg in half, you end up without much in the middle that you can attach something like a hinge to.  I had the epiphany one day of building these rectangular U-shaped pieces and attaching them to the sides of the old plastic housing. This would give me a nice solid structure that I could run a full-size piano hinge along, but it came with its own complications. For instance, how are you supposed to even build something like that?

According to the Internet, real woodworking types use finger joints to make corners for thin pieces of wood like this. Having absolutely no idea how to do this, I watched a few videos on YouTube and went on my way. After a couple false starts, I eventually picked up the right set of woodworking tools (some new bits for the router and some bigger clamps, for instance) and finally made it work right. Once I had these pieces finished up, I was a lot more confident that I might be able to pull off the rest of the project after all. You’ll note that the side pieces are cut at a gently sloping angle, to match the MicroKorg’s original shape when flat. While this did make things a bit trickier to measure, cut, and fit, the aesthetic results were well worth it.

But another issue with the new design was the wiring. Back when I’d first decided to take this project on, I was planning to simply have an open space between the two halves for the wires to go through. With a big hunk of wood in the way on each side, this was obviously not going to work anymore. But since I was working in hardwood, I was able to drill some slots in each side without compromising the structure. But then with all this extra wood in the way and the wires now having to snake around a bit, I would need to extend all of the signal and ground wires. I toyed with the idea of trying to find new, matching wires, or putting longer wires into the existing headers, but eventually settled on cutting each of the signal wires in half and soldering in about five extra inches of 26 guage wire on each one. This would give me more than enough space to make it through the full rotation. In fact, I measured the extensions such that the soldered joints would always remain safely inside of the housing on either side, no matter what position it’s in. Finally, I wrapped each piece and all of the openings in a thin coating of teflon to make sure everything would slide along nicely without wearing through the wires or getting anything bunched up.

Finally, I had to figure out the base and kickstand. The base is a solid hunk of red oak, and it accounts for a large portion of the weight. As a matter of fact, the whole thing weighs 9.9 pounds now, roughly twice what the starting weight of the MicroKorg alone was. I did build the whole thing in such a way that I can completely detach and replace the base at a future date, should I be feeling frisky enough to make a new, lighter, better one. The side rails on the base are simply nailed on in place, too. I could’ve done the same finger joints that I’d used to make the upper hinged casings, but those are hard to do, and I didn’t have to here.

The kickstand was tricky. I wanted something that would let me pick from a couple discrete positions, but it still needed to fold completely flat. First I tried to find pictures of how Moog does it, but nobody wants to take a picture of their MiniMoog from the back while it’s open. I drafted out a couple ideas, but in the end went with a very simple single-hinged kickstand with a grooved slot in the bottom. The top bit of the hinge is reinforced by an unseen piece of oak on the other side of the plastic, which also helps stiffen the back panel a bit, since it’s only screwed in on one side now. I will eventually put in a bit more reinforcement to this piece, but for now this works, and works quite well. You may notice a bit of extra space in the back of the well that holds the kickstand when the whole thing is closed up. This little extra gap is very important, as physics cruelly dictates that a rectangle’s diagonal is longer than its sides. So, when it’s opening up, that space gives the little foot someplace to go before it comes back to normal.

A hand-rubbed finish went on all of it, with some cursing at the dusty surfaces in my shed. I added a bit of trim to set off the rough edges of cut plastic, some simple rubber feet for tabletop use, and there you have it: The MicroMoorg. Apart from one of the arpeggiator buttons being a touch wonky (but still functional), everything works great. All the controls, all the keys, the wheels and knobs, everything. I even managed to get all of the screws back in without any leftovers! I just set it up into its old home above my Korg x50 (I really am a Korg fanboy, that’s a nanoKontrol2 in the background and I have an old X3 out of the shot here), and this two tiered setup is fantastic to play. I set out on this whole project figuring I’d like it, but I am in love. Having the edit matrix and the real-time knobs right in front of you is wonderful. And, if you ask me, it just looks amazing up there!

Now that I have this project finally wrapped up, I should probably get back to making music, shouldn’t I? As happy as I am with how this project came out, I’m not sure you could pay me to do it again. Well, maybe if you payed me a lot. And you were really nice about asking. But really, back to new music: If you sign up for the newsletter, I’ve got some interesting things to tell you on that front in the near future, too.

Track Notes Vol. 1.4

This is the final edition of track notes for Results Not Typical. Enjoy!

Incognito Shuffle

Spies are sneaky creatures. If you don’t see them, the feeling is not mutual. If you do see them, it’s already too late for you.

This started as a backing track to a face-matching game. We ended up not doing much of anything with the game, so this little ditty gathered dust for a few years before I decided to take it apart and rework it into this song. I really like the avante-guard feel here, like something out of a speakeasy, and the walking bassline really makes me want to buy a real upright bass. I’m not sure my wife would appreciate us keeping one in the house though, so we’ll have to pass on that for now. That said, on this album I actually did do a lot more with bass than I had previously, mostly because I couldn’t really rely on the synthesizers for the basslines and keep the aesthetic that I wanted to for this album, and I really love that pushing-the-microphone-past-its-limits sound.

They Came In Waves

The odds seem insurmountable. The hordes crest the hills on all sides, a seemingly endless onslaught of feral ferocity aimed directly at your head. As soon as one falls his kin rise on the opposite side. The question is not when but if this night will end.

This track was recorded entirely with the Korg Wavedrum and no other instrumentation. Consequently, it was also played live, and you should be able to tell just how terrible a drummer I really am. Mind you, this is even after gratuitous post-processing and many takes on each part. I think it’s because of all that that this song is actually my least favorite on the album, though it’s still interesting to me. I like the relentless sonic onslaught that the pounding layers of drums make, and the tribal adrenaline rush that it’s meant to feel like. In the end, I chalk it up to experimentation and call it a day.

Eyes In The Forest

A pair of small lights gleam at you from the dense wood. They seem inviting, whimsical, almost playful. When you’re close enough to see the truth, you no longer have a chance.

This started out as a simple guitar progression that I liked, played on my nylon string acoustic and recorded in one take and named, simply, “forest”. When I pulled out the sketch to start building it into something more, I ended up actually using the original guitar piece verbatim (with a touch of compression and reverb thrown in to draw out the tone). After laying down a simple synth melody over the top of it, I had it mostly where I wanted it — but it was very, very short and something felt missing. That’s when I dropped the synth down a few octaves and drew out the low growling noise to contrast with the peaceful, idyllic sounds of the beginning. Also, if you get a chance, listen to this with a good set of stereo headphones.

Closure

After many years of wondering and doubting, resolution finally comes. It may not have answered all of your questions to your satisfaction, but there is finally an ending to this tale.

The final song on the album, this one feels like a sigh of relief to me. I particularly like how it falls down through some lingering tension and strange harmonics before it finally comes to rest on that major seven chord. It really is a story of life, having spent years worrying about a past event you can’t change, wondering what might have been, only to finally let it go.

 

And there you have it — a collection of my inner thoughts for each song on Results Not Typical. I’m sure I’ll find something else to fill these pages here. In the mean time, I’m trying to find a way around the Amazon problem. I’ll probably have more news for the site in a week or two on that, but for now I’ll just say that I’m looking into a few things.

Track Notes Vol. 1.3

Welcome to another edition of Track Notes, wherein I talk about some songs in greater detail than usual.

Another Empty Hour In Every Day

You are finally free of that one tedious daily appointment that you so dreaded each day. But you have nothing to fill the time with, it seems. Do you look upon this with joy or with dread? Do you rush to find new activities, or take the time for what it is? Whatever you decide, the day still lies ahead, waiting for you.

This is an instance where title and music came together from separate spheres but fit so perfectly together that I couldn’t have planned it that well. The title is actually inspired by a scene in the Vernor Vinge book “Rainbows End” where the main character completes an intensive medical rehabilitation program. He then finds himself with more free time, but nothing worth filling it with. That in turn got me wondering, what would I do if I had more free time, like I always wish I had? It’s entirely probable that I and many others would simply expand everything else to fill that time. Perhaps that time instead should be savored.

Open To Suggestions

What do you want to do today?

Me? I dunno.

This track began its life as simple background filler music at church one night, while a survey was being passed around for people to fill out. I asked a friend to join my piano wanderings on the congas, and this little song was born. The whole time, it felt like it needed a melody instrument atop it, so when it came time to record it I added a simple guitar line to complete the recording. A little serendipitous effects processing gave the song exactly what it needed. This song also features the debut of live percussion on a Psycliq recording, courtesy of a borrowed Korg Wavedrum. It is truly a remarkable instrument, one that I hope to be able to add to my permanent arsenal someday.

By Pint and Pound

Come one, come all! And come quickly, for there is much to see. The Market is here this day, and it forever pulses with the beat of a thousand hearts set sail on a thousand ships from worlds you could hardly imagine, named in foreign tongues you cannot pronounce.

Yes yes, everything is for sale here! Blood and flesh by the pint and the pound, respectively– yours today! If the price is right, of course.

This folksy blues number started out its life as a very simple chord progression and melody combination that quickly took on a life of its own once I let it. Originally dubbed “Launch” (and available as such on the limited edition Preliminary Results digital album), the song was renamed “Blood And Flesh By Pint and Pound” once I started to flesh it out. No pun intended, I swear. Regardless, that all seemed a bit too gruesome, so “By Pint and Pound” it became, with the above story snippet of the market scene (inspired by the Floating Market in Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere series) to fill things out. This song also marks another appearance by the Wavedrum in addition to being the debut of another new instrument for a Psycliq project: an acoustic guitar. Is the future of Psycliq made of wood and skins?

Dustwood

A lonely stop on the side of a dry and forgotten highway. The road stretches off into the distance in either direction and shows no sign of wavering around any obstacle, visible or otherwise. Strangely enough, you are far from alone here; but it is clear that you are not nearly cracked by the sun enough to fit in.

“You must be new in town. Pull up a seat, son.”

Ever since I first penned this blues track, I felt it really wanted to be road music in a film, played over a dusty and forgotten local watering hole. An old cowboy town, perhaps, but one where pickup trucks and motorcycles were preferred over horses. I had a hard time mixing this song, for some reason or another. I just couldn’t quite get the different themes to stand out without smashing over each other. Also had issues with the ending, and didn’t get that to work until nearly the last minute. I think I finally got it all to fit appropriately, though it’s times like this that have made me really wish I could work with a producer and mixing engineer. Maybe when I’m rich and famous someday, right? Interestingly, the electric guitar sounds in this are all from the Silvertone. Man, that thing is versatile.

 

Stay tuned for the last and final volume of my notes for Results Not Typical. I promise that I’ll try not to let it take quite so many weeks in between this time.

Electric Goodies and Physical Platters

I have two cool things today! First off, for those of you who want a physical, made-of-atoms copy of Results Not Typical, the wait is over! You can now order a CD from CDBaby. Now that it’s available there, the distributors should be getting copies of things so that you can also pick it up at Amazon or order it from your local record store.

And of course, for those of you who like your music digitally, you can get it from iTunes, Amazon MP3, bandcamp, eMusic, and a bunch of other places that I don’t have links to. But just go and check your favorite music website, and if they don’t have it yet, ask!

Thing the second: I am pleased to announce the creation of the Electric Goodies Newsletter! With this newsletter, I will periodically be sending out sneak-peaks, demos, snippets, sketches, and other interesting things that will let you see into the inner workings of Psycliq. By and large, this is stuff that won’t be posted on the website or anywhere else, so if you want free MP3s and cool stuff, join today! I’ll even give you a subscription box:

Google Groups
Subscribe to Psycliq's Electric Goodies Newsletter
Visit this group

And once you join, invite your friends! I really do want to give list members some cool things. And who doesn’t like cool things?

The book of Faces

Psycliq on Facebook

I went and created a page on Facebook for the band. It was free, and it lets a few people follow the updates on this site through Facebook update streams if they like. Right now, it’s just started and has only 13 fans (or likers? or whatever they’re called now). This means we’re still ineligible for a decent-looking URL, which would be a handy thing. I like URLs. But even more importantly, your friends will get to see that you “like” Psycliq, and then maybe they’ll check it out and “like” Psycliq, too.

So if you haven’t already, and you’re on Facebook, go ahead and join. And then tell your friends! And tell them to tell your friends. It’ll be like a great pyramid scheme, except nobody loses their retirement account. Especially me, because this music stuff is kindof an expensive habit. But that’s OK, since at the end of the day, I mostly hope that people listen to my music and enjoy it.

I promise the next post will be about music or something not related to promotion. Have I mentioned I’m bad at this? Because I kinda am.