Category: Music Downloads

27-04-11 Improvisation

I forgot to post this one the other day. Again, it is just me noodling with the RC-30, all performed live, but I’ve truncated the performance by editing the beginning and ending. No video as I had a cold and my nose was redder than a babboon’s bottom…

27-04-11 Improvisation

26-04-11 Improvisation or “Steady State of Flux”

Despite being crippled by a “man cold”, I managed to sketch this little nugget using the Boss RC-30. I must admit that it is quite good for recording loops quickly and the sound quality is top-notch.

Because I am in the grips of a cold, there’s no video to accompany this one. My nose was too red and running whilst recording and I did actually have to blow my nose during it. The bass was overdubbed on a second pass.

Steady State of Flux
[audio: State of Flux.mp3]

I’ve decided that the new set of recordings, which are primarily taken from my improvised output, is going to be called “Spur of the Moment”. Though this might change, of course.

Fade In/Fade Out [Legacy Edition]

Fade In/Fade Out Cover

Look at the bendy guitar!!!

The interesting thing about this set of recordings is this is the moment I first adopted digital multitrack audio recording on my home PC. Thinking back, it was almost like alchemy to be able to record high-quality audio and multitrack it without any degradation.

Using a Guillemot high-end (for the time) sound card and the bundled Quartz Audiomaster software, I began to lay down these tracks. Before I was using four-track recording, if I was lucky bouncing down in stereo pairs and now I was able to mix from five or six stereo pairs, effectively turning me into a 12-track digital recorder. If I remember clearly, an eight-track cassette recorded would have cost over £1000 at the same time, so my investment of £200 for the computer equipment seemed like a saving to me.

The “concept” behind these recordings was that I was going to just record with guitar and no rhythm track. For years, I’d been jamming to a drum machine and I thought, “Hey, wouldn’t it be good fun if the guitar was the sole rhythm track?” And so the rhythm guitar on these pieces lead from the front. It was also a conscious decision to keep keyboards and percussion to a minimum, it was going to be my guitar album. No guitar synths were used in the making of these recordings!

In terms of equipment, I am using my newly-bought (at the time) Fender Fat Strat pumped into the Digitech RP12 FX pedal, the bass was my Yamaha and the original versions featured synth sounds from a Yamaha MU50 tone generator. However, this time around everything was done with software synths within Sonar X1.

The really interesting thing about this collection of recordings is that they are sequenced almost chronologically so you can hear my progression as a player and as a recordist as I go along. It’s a real organic album, which despite its various shortcomings, still makes me smile in places.

Save Me [Legacy Edition]

Save Me Album Cover

I suffer for my art...

Goodness me, this takes me back. As part of my archival process, where I convert my old computer files into a format that I can access now (and hopefully in the future), I have finally come to this collection.

These are “proper” songs, singy songs where I attempt to warble at the microphone and capture a performance. During this period, I was learning how to use my computer recording setup (Quartz Audiomaster software fed into a specialist audio card for my PC) and using a Yamaha RGX121FP guitar, Digitech RP10 guitar effects, an Alesis HR16-B drum machine and my old Yamaha bass, whose heritage escapes my memory.

The shameful thing is that I was using a £20 microphone from Tandy (remember them?) to record my vocals. The microphone was a piece of rubbish and lost a lot of the frequencies from my vocals, so this time around I have used plenty of EQ to fix that. Mind you, in the old days of recording I knew bugger all about tweaking the EQ – mainly because my software had such a poor implementation of a virtual recording console.

But yes, these tracks have all been remixed and remastered for 2011, using Cakewalk Sonar X1 producer and sweetened using IK Multimedia’s T-RackS 3 mastering software. In the old days, I mastered everything to either tape or minidisc and then recorded that back into my PC for editing and assembling to CD. For some reason the ability the bounce down escaped me, probably due to ignorance, so this mastering process added an extra layer of audio grim to deaden the sound.

Now everything is sparkling and, once again, I have done my best to polish a turd…

The album sleeve was created using top-class digital editing for the time. I remember using a Sony VX1000 video camera to capture two shots of myself. The first featured me laying under the car, the second of me behind the wheel. Then using my video capture software, I grabbed two still frames from that footage, loaded them into my photo editing software and carefully cut around the windscreen of the second frame and transposed it on top of the first frame. This was before digital cameras still cameras were widely available and nowadays it would be a lot easier to make the same edit. I remember it took a lot of time and faffing about to achieve the composite of me running over myself.

The photograph was taken at the car park on High Beech Road in Loughton.

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01 Intro
This is just a little ambient noodle to ease the listener into the album. A gentle introduction to…

02 When I Was Young
This song is just about growing up and changing. I must have been 26 or 27 when I penned the words and I was looking back to what I felt I was like when I was 17. You calm down a bit and stop being a pain in the arse. Now looking back to that 27-year-old, I realise I was an even bigger arsehole then. I am probably an arsehole now and by the time I figure this life business out, it will be a millisecond before I draw my last breath, such is life.

03 Gone
This is a song about grief and losing someone. I think I wrote it for losing both my grandparents in quick succession. They helped raise me and losing them in my early 20s was a big thing and something don’t think I’ve still gotten over. It’s about walking through a crowd of people or having a dream and thinking you’ve seen someone you miss dearly and wishing for another ten minute’s with them.

04 That Is The Way It Is
This is my Alfred E. Neumann “What, me worry?” song. Life is shit and bad things happen to good people. It never gets any easier and sometimes it is easier to ride the tide rather than attempting to swim upstream. When someone asks you why there’s injustice or hate or misery in the world, you answer: “That is the way it is”. Makes life simpler, no?

05 Sister
This is a song for my half-sister, who I have only seen a handful of times in my life time. It is a romanticised notion that you are both essentially on the same side pushing in opposite directions. I have tried my best to reconcile with that part of my family, but sometimes you’ve got to stop. As the Missus says: “If someone wants to do something, they’ll do it. If not, they won’t. Simple.” With hindsight, I wasted my time writing and recording this.

06 London Boy
This is a joyous celebration of being from the greatest capital city in the world. Part Bonzo, part Queen, part vaudeville, part Steptoe and Son – this is my first attempt at doing a funny song. I still like especially the bell solo from “Big Ben”.

07 1999
I thought the future would arrive in 1999. It didn’t. And this song is a steaming pile of badness. Added the vocoder effect this time around to mask the truly awful singing.

08 Now
This was based on an instrumental track I recorded for “Fade In/Fade Out” and while mixing that track, the words came to me and so I recorded this. It doesn’t work, the vocals just sound so fucking twee and the lyric means nothing.

09 You’re Going Down
Sometimes a phrase enters your lexicon that becomes a semi-catchphrase and during this period using this phrase (with work colleagues too) to announce your displeasure. “He’s crossed the line, he’s going down”. Of course, it was a big joke and no-one ever did get knocked down. But the phrase was so strong, I decided to use it in this song which I about betrayal, about those people who you think are on your side, but under close scrutiny you realise that they were fucking you up behind your back without you even realising it. A song for those fucking awful game-players out there.

10 The Damage Done
When you are a kid or a teenager, you often say things to those closest to you that you don’t mean. You can be pretty vicious with your tongue or just lack the maturity that your utterances have an impact on those on the other end. This is about wounding with words and how it is so very hard to heal the damage.

11 Save Me
I am my own worst enemy. Save me, save me from myself for I know not what I do.

Now Here [Legacy Edition]

This is the sleeve for Now Here

The following collection of material was initially compiled in 1997 from recordings made between 1994 and 1997. By this time, I was reaching the end of my time recording with a four-track cassette recorder and was moving over to the digital domain. As I remember it, a lot of the track here were recorded by bouncing down from two tracks to another, as a stereo pair, thus retaining some of audio fidelity of a stereo recording.

The downside to this technique was that once you’d committed yourself to a take there was no going back. It was like recording in concrete, you were stuck with your takes and mistakes. At this juncture, I’d pretty much given up writing “proper” songs and instead was quite taken with recording strange instrumental pieces. I’m not sure where this sprang from, probably because I was working and finding harder to galvanise myself to write lyrics that were pertinent to my situation. I don’t know, my memory is fogged up over this period.

I know that during this time I was experimenting with two different FX pedals. I traded in my Zoom 9000 and used a Korg AX30G for a while, which was interested because it had a pressure sensitive button instead of a traditional rocker pedal and it allowed you to pull off some funky pitch changes and almost synth-like effects. Later, this was traded in for a Digitech RP10, which was a pretty impressive piece of kit for the time. Though my enduring memory of it was having an almost brittleness to some of the guitar tones.

Of course, it is at this point where my first dabblings with guitar synthesiser can be heard. In late 1994, I purchased a second-hand Roland GR-1 (which I kept for almost a decade) with some money I’d inherited. I remember demoing in the GR-1 in the shop and being completely astounded that you could make a guitar sound like a piano or a trumpet or whatever. But it is on this collection of recordings that you can heard my first fumblings with the GR-1 and my first faltering steps into the genre known as ambient.

01 Now Here
I have absolutely no memory of recording this, but it sounds to me that I was experimenting with rudimentary looping. Perhaps the Korg or the Digitech had this function, I don’t know? But there’s something relaxingly hypnotic about all the bouncing guitar, even though the guitar synth line sounds as if it was recorded underwater.

02 Slipaway
Again, very little memory of this. The original masters were lost, so this is the original WAV file revibrated with a bit of EQ and squirted through a mastering plugin, though it still sounds muddy. There’s an idea in there somewhere but I think the lack of editorial judgement and inability to undo mistakes limits this to the “shit” pile.

03 Reverso
Now I do remember recording this one. It was a summer’s evening and I was still living at home and I had my bedroom window open and the sounds of summer were filtering through my headphones when I discovered this great reverse echo delay effect on the Digitech RP10. The main guitar line holds the song together with the bass and guitar synth following. Of course, the guitar was done in one take, no edits and everything else added afterwards. I really like this one because it is unique, even though some of the bass playing is very, very ropey.

04 Hevisqal
This was recorded using the Korg AX10 and a few of the subsequent tracks were done in a similar fashion with a pre-programmed drum pattern triggered and me laying down the lead guitar lines over the top, adding bass and whatever last. The idea was that you just played and played and somehow made it fit. There are some good sounds here but it needs to be recorded on a proper multitrack system, edited and mixed properly – rather than this stupid stereo bouncing system I was using.

05 Acoustisynth
Me trying to pretend that I could fingerpick and some splurgey guitar synth mush in the background.

06 Joe ’96
Now I have memories of recording this using the Korg AX10 and the guitar synth at the same time and jumping around on one leg from pedal to pedal getting these weird squeaking noises – because the lead line and all the squeaks and pops were played live with just bass added later. So you have this weird layered stereo wall of sound – it’s still too long and meandering. Parts of it reminded me of the Joe 90 theme tune, so hence the cribbed title.

07 Nothing to Do
A song about unemployment that shouldn’t even be on this collection…

08 Deelai
Again, this is a track let down by bad editing and me just running out of steam on it. Yes, by this time I had discovered the delay pedal and was intent on making the listener sick of hearing it.

09 Jazza
This is another track where the lead guitar line was triggering off a guitar synth at the same time and mixing three sources into the mix at once, with the bass and guitar synth added later. Could have been better if I’d done this on a digital system – to many fudges and lacklustre playing to be taken serious, but I make a little go a long way.

10 Tinkitar
This is the end section of another track called “Let Your Fingers Do the Walking” but it was castrated and set free to exist in this format and gives an indication of ideas to come – thinks certain sections on “START” and “Tempest”. The lead guitar is just too busy and too flakey.

11 Descender
I quite like this one – again we have three or four multitracked guitars holding down the groove with some bass backing. This is beginning to indicate where my recordings would be going in the future and is really a “missing link”.

12 The Road Home
More ambient nonsense with me noodling around on the Roland GR-1 with the sustain settings set to max on the patches so every note sings for a long time and you can layer notes on top of each other. Not quite soundscaping, but recorded absolutely live in one take…

Ghost in the Field

This is a little track I recorded on the 14 July 2009 – I must have done this back in The Shed – and I thought I’d test out the new media player in WordPress with it today.


The interesting thing about this track is that it is a live performance of myself on the bass guitar playing through the Boss RC-50 looper. I am also using the Boss SL-20 slicer pedal to add that weird rhythmic slant to proceedings and then I am soloing over the top.

The overall vibe of the track gave it a title this afternoon and that’s it really. A little unformed sketch that was never used…

My Contribution to “The Hoffmann Effect”

Normally, when it comes to explaining how I record, I tend to put out a podcast. But because I have a terrible cold at the moment and I sound like Malcolm from the “Tunes” advert from the 1970s asking for a “A second-class return to Dottingham (Nottingham)”, I thought it better that I jot down some thoughts about my musical meanderings.

Firstly, I don’t have as much time as I used to record. My studio is half-complete, I’ve got all my effects racks and mixer housed in a flight-case and this is the third iteration of “StudioLock” that it has seen. The first was a shed near an abbatoir, the second was the box room back at the shop and now I have a draughty corner of a 1930s house we are renting for too much money and is colder than living in that fricking barn conversion in the middle of the Norfolk countryside. Plus, I now care full-time for my kids during the day and sometimes feel a little burned out in the evenings to do anything. But I am sure once I get into the rhythm of things I will start spurting my creative juices from every pore. What a charming image I paint with these ‘ere words.

But I digress…

Andreas Hoffmann delivered a wonderful backing track. My initial thoughts were “What can I add to this?” I am primarily a creature of rhythm first, melody later. Attack from the hips – worry about the details when you have time. So it was just a matter of dialling up a suitably trebly patch on my VG-99 and adding a panned delay to the output. So, muting the strings with my right-hand as I picked, I created a suitably bouncy rhythm guitar part. It is simple and fit nicely with the loops.

This method of rhythm guitar I kind of coined from Mike Rutherford and his playing on “Invisible Touch” by Genesis. A lot of people slated that album off for being too poppy, but the 5.1 surround sound mix of it really brought out the staccato rhythm guitar of Rutherford and I was genuinely surprised by his technique (or lack of), but it seemed to fit so well into a very rythmic soundscape. So I’ve been using that technique for a while now, but throwing in some delay pedal for added depth.

Then there was the lead guitar, which was just another patch from the VG-99 dialled up and recorded in one take. I think my ears are on wrong though because sometimes it sounds fine and there are other times when I think it sounds a little out of tune, but hey, honour your mistakes, that’s what I believe. (Thanks to those Oblique Stategy cards, Mr Eno!)

Finally, it was a very simplistic bass line underpinning the proceedings. Unfortunately, the frequency of the bass drum on the original MP3 track kind of drowns it out, but it is there somewhere. This was all recorded using Sonar X1 Producer, my DAW of choice these days with a little EQ and reverb on the guitar parts and T-RackS3 handling the final mastering of the track.

Anyway, this is part of my actual contribution to that track with the backing stripped out, featuring the panned delay rhythm guitar, the lead guitar and the boring bass line.

The Hoffmann Effect [My Contribution Solo’d]


Direct download: CLICK HERE
Put all that together with the backing track and you have “The Hoffmann Effect”.


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