The worst piece of gear I ever bought. Airsynth.

What is the worst piece of studio gear you ever bought? Something you thought, “I can put this to great use!”. However, in reality it never helped you create a single song. For me this is an easy choice: The Alesis Airsynth.Alesis Airsynth

Many times when songwriting after I finish the arrangement I will use an analog synth to add a wash or layer of sound behind the entire song. I thought a Theremin could also be useful in a similar way to me. There was a cool looking new orange gadget showing up in the pro-audio catalogs I received in the mail called the Airsynth. It was supposed to be similar to a Theremin or Roland D-beam controller with a mini synthesizer inside producing 50 sounds. You hold and wave your hand over the unit and the sound changes. After reading this review in Sound on Sound Magazine I bought the dam thing for about $250.

I was disappointed immediately. As soon as I hooked it up I got that sad weird feeling I was taken advantage of. You know the feeling where you feel sorry for yourself. You have been scammed by marketing and advertising. First off, the Airsynth felt so light as if there was nothing inside it’s plastic box. Of course if the unit sounded great or something that wouldn’t matter but the Airsynth sounded lame. Lame sounds with very little control. As much as I waved my freakin hands all over the place the Airsynth did not react in anyway fun or musical. It was so lame I hid it in my studio when people came over. I was afraid they would want to try it out and then if they did they would call me a sucker for buying it!

With the wonderful magic known as eBay I reduced my chances of getting into heaven by putting the dam thing up for auction. Some poor soul bought it and I was free of my burden. Why the Airsynth scarred me so bad only a therapist can say.

Moog Etherwave Theremin

I never replaced the Airsynth but lately I have been eyeing the Moog Etherwave Theremin. Another option would be the Eowave Persephone or maybe adding a Doepfer RM2 ribbon controller to my set up will do the trick. I made a post about the latter two already: click here. My guess is when the new Portishead album “Third” comes out in April I will be inspired to go shopping!

What about Grooverider? 4 Years in a Dubai prison!


Being as I am a “techno producer” and travel around to different countries to perform the Grooverider story grabbed my attention. Grooverider who’s real name is Raymond Bingham is from London and is known for Drum & Bass. Here’s what happened:

On 24 November 2007 Grooverider was arrested at Dubai International Airport for possession of 2.16 grs of cannabis, hours before a sold-out show at superclub The Lodge. He claimed he had forgotten it was in a pair of his trousers. On the 19 February 2008 he was sentenced to four years imprisonment followed by immediate deportation. –

There are two obvious reactions to this story. First, you have to think, “What an idiot to travel to a Muslim country with drugs on him.”. Second you think, “4 years in jail for a small amount of weed. Dubai is a nasty place!”.Dubai

I’ve been throughly searched countless times. I remember in 2001, back in “messy” times. I performed in Amsterdam with a friend of mine who will remain nameless. I’ll admit we were both pretty wasted after the show to the point we changed our flights back to New York to leave two days later. The last night I finally wanted some sleep but he went out again. He borrowed my jacket for some reason. A week later back in New York I went out and discovered a full bag of cocaine in my jacket pocket. I wore that exact jacket from Amsterdam to New York! Imagine I was flying to Dubai? Whenever I tell an old drug story I like to point out that I’ve been sober more than a few years now (applause please).

There is an online petition to get Grooverider out of jail: click here
More info on Beatportal: click here

So what do you think? Did he deserve it? Would you ever touch ground in Dubai?

photo credit: Daniel Heaf and pbo31

Photos from Guitar Center. 14th Street NYC.

Eventide Poster

Do you remember one of the first posts on wire to the ear titled “Would you work at Guitar Center?“. A few weeks ago I was in New York and stopped by the flagship Guitar Center Store on 14th Street and took some photos for you. My friend Dan works there and he says he loves Microphoneshis job.

They do have a pretty well stocked Pro-Audio department including some interesting pieces like the Chameleon Labs 7602 Preamplifier/Equalizer (a Chinese made inexpensive Neve clone). There are times when you need to see and hear something in person before you buy it. I spent a good amount of time playing with the Moog Voyager. I’m getting close to getting one of these amazing synths.

The Chauvet LED-EQ visualizer thing was pretty nice. You have to see these in person to appreciate how bright and flashy it is. They have a ton of nice microphones, a decent speaker room and scattered around are posters of vintage gear including this one which shows the history of Eventide.

Please click here to enjoy the full photo set from Guitar Center. Please note I put a Creative Commons license on these images so feel free to use them as long as you link back to this article.

My remix for Absolute Body Control. Neverseen.

Absolute Body Control

Last night I finished a remix for 80s Belgian EBM band Absolute Body Control. The lead singer is Dirk Ivens from The Klinik and also Dive. The keyboardist Eric Van Wonterghem can be found today in several projects including Detune-X. Most of the music they recorded together was over two decades ago and they recently got back together to re-release material and perform at some of the huge festivals in Germany such as Wave Gotik Treffen.

The song I was asked to remix was Neverseen. It usually takes me about a full week to do a remix but Eric was on a deadline and I was able to get this done in four long days. The original song was recorded on a 4-track. I was given the vocals and the full song.

Neverseen remix - Ableton screenshot

One key part of the remix is when I combine my Yamaha CS-5 and a clip of the vocals in Ableton Simpler with the start time automated and have them micro-tune against each other. You can click the screenshot above to see my Ableton screen in full size.

Here is a clip of the original song:

The Horrorist remix of Neverseen:

Look for an interview with Eric from “ABC” in the upcoming issue of Sonic Seducer Magazine. I also answered a few questions in the same interview explaining how I met Eric and how the remix came to be.

Made in Connecticut – RealTraps Factory Tour

If your creating a project studio your probably focused on what microphone pre-amps and keyboard controllers to buy. But before you head to your local synthesizer shop you should be considering sound treatment. I have had several different studio spaces and I always had the same speaker set up. In each room the sound was drastically different. The same set of speakers that sounded bass light in one room sounded like bass monsters in another. I always had some sort of amateur hock sound treatment set up like cheap foam on the walls and carpeting. That stuff really doesn’t work to create an even nice sounding room. The reason I was able to mix in those rooms is I took time to learn each room and always took my mixes to other studios, cars and boomboxes for tests and adjustments.

When I opened my new recording studio in Berlin I did things the right way. I hired an ex-employee from the Fraunhofer Institute (the German company who created the MP3). He Things to Come Records - sound treatmenttested the room with special mics and software, designed proper treatment and then had builders come in and create my space. They installed sound proofing, a new wall and door, bass traps, diffusion, and a ceiling cloud. You can see photos of the entire building process and the finished studio: click here

There are a lot of companies out there providing products to help you treat your studio. Auralex, Primacoustic and Real Traps are the most well known. I would consider Real Traps first for a few reasons. They have the best specifications for treating your room and they look professional. I don’t want dayglow orange foam pyramids on my wall. In the video above you can see where the money your spending is going. I have a suspicion that the foam products come with a huge mark up.

If your on a tight budget you can build your own bass traps with Rock Wool. In fact, another nice thing about Real Traps is Ethan Winer the owner shows you just how to do that on his website. That shows you what kind of person he is considering he also sells them. There is also another company called Ready Acoustics that offer fabric sleeves for Rock Wool that can get you into a room of Bass Trapping for a low price.

Have you invested in some sound treatment for your own studio?

Diary from Live Friday night in Geneva, Switzerland.

Here’s a slice of my life from this weekend. I wanted to live blog this but I couldn’t bare to spend about $35 USD on internet access from my hotel room. Why do they charge so much? The cheapest Café will give you free net with a $2 cup of coffee.

I had a booking set for Geneva, Switzerland at a club called LeZoo at Usine. The contract was signed and the advance and flights were paid so everything was go. From checking out the websites and MySpace pages of the promoters ( and other bands performing I knew this event would be a cool one. I’ve performed in Switzerland before in Zurich, Bern and Lausaunne and all those were also quite excellent. The only major hitch was the flight time home was brutal, 8:35AM back to Berlin!

Every show starts for me a full day before I travel. On Thursday I laid out all the equipment and went over my check list. The reason it’s important to do it 24 hours before is if anything is missing that gives me time to buy replacement stuff. In NYC, where I used to live everything is open all the time, but in Berlin (my current address) if I am missing a cable or adapter it’s not always given I will find it too easily. Worse case scenario if I can’t find something at least I can contact the promoter to help me search their city with some warning. I also check the live show in Ableton, make some backup CD-Rs, do laundry and a few other things.

I wake up pretty early everyday. I don’t have blinds on my windows and once the sun is up my cats think it’s time for me to get up too. So even though it would have been smart to somehow sleep late on Friday I was awake around 7:00 AM. The flight to Geneva was at 2:20PM. Normally I take a taxi to Tegel airport for 20 euros but this was a Easyjet flight from Schoenefeld airport and it’s far so I took the U2 to Alexanderplatz then a special S-Bahn train directly to the Airport. It’s all easy and only cost 2.10 euro but you do have to leave a bit earlier. I think I left my house around noon.

Easyjet corrals you into a room to wait to board and that room has less seats in it than any in airplane. This is some evil experiment I am sure. Standing for an hour to board pisses me off even more when I know I’m not going to be sleeping that night.

I’m picked up at the airport by the promoters and taken to the hotel. “How was your flight?” and the usual banter ensues. I’m uber happy to be performing but to be honest I’m totally jaded when it comes to certain things. I really never want to every tell anyone how my flight was ever again. It’s always the same. The airplane goes into the sky and lands. Thats it. It’s amazing for sure but it’s always exactly the same. That’s an ass-y thing to say I know but imagine 20 years of being asked the same question.

It was now 6:00PM and because the venue opened at 9:00PM they asked if I could drop off my clothes and do sound check right away. This was fine with me and off to sound check we went. I met one of the other acts Mimetic. His music was kinda noise mixed with breaks running of a Macbook and Ableton, no vocals. After setting up and testing my audio I had the usual argument with the “visuals” people concerning the fact that when I perform I don’t want any lights or their video playing. I have my own video that plays in sync with the music. Why is that so hard to understand sometimes? My show is only an hour they can spit smiling faces and fractals all over the club for the other 11 hours! Actually the video guys at Usine were great and they did have a cool set up of screens and the imagery they used was a nice mix of live footage from the evening and basic logos.

It was now almost 9:00PM and I wanted to see some of Geneva so a friend of mine who lives there met me and we walked around. Geneva is a wealthy and nice city. Plenty of Ferraris on the streets. It sits on Lake Geneva and the Rhône River runs through the center of the city. It’s surrounded by the snow tipped Alps. The streets were full of people dressed up heading out for the night. I heard a decent mix of French and English being spoken.

After walking for a few hours I realized I better get back to the hotel, shower and get my show clothes on. My show time was 2:00AM so I told them to pick me up at 1:00AM. I don’t like hanging in clubs before the gig. Nothing kills my mood more than standing and screaming over loud music some mundane conversation. Even worse is being backstage with whatever bands have been drinking there since soundcheck.

I always request a four star hotel. The main reason is I need to know for an absolute fact I can get 24 hour room service. Why? Because at 1:00AM I need some dam coffee! Guess what? This hotel’s room service was closed. Down I went to the lobby and although there was a coffee machine in the office they “weren’t serving” any that late. Four stars my ass. I had the instant coffee in my room, with the instant creamer shit and sugar and got myself an instant stomach ache.

Yeah so they pick me and I get to the venue and they tell me everything is delayed a bit. I go on at 3:00AM. Ok so now I have to stand and banter for an hour an a half. Remember I’ve been up, traveling and walking all day. You can see why bands do loads of speed/cocaine right? Although this blog post would be a lot more interesting if I did some lines… I didn’t.

3:00AM and I go on. This is the part I love. I really do enjoy performing live. As soon as the music starts I’m happy screaming my head off and running around. It’s what I do best… my true nature comes out. During the show I trying and attach to the audience as much as possible. I jump and and off the table and stage a bunch of times, sweat a lot, etc… I make sure not to “go through the motions” and really tell the words I am singing. I keep a fresh memory of being 17 and seeing bands like Front 242, Bauhaus and Neubauten live and what that meant to me and what makes a live performance incredible. I also keep in my mind that everyone in that club paid money to see me. It’s my job to make sure they get what they paid for. It’s my job to exceed their expectations. Amazingly videos from the show appeared on Youtube already (they are the ones on this page).

After the show I throw the equipment into the cases and go backstage for about 40 minutes. I get paid and a ride back to the hotel. A few years ago this part would be very different. It would involve all the excesses you could imagine. But to be honest I want to live to see my 80s so this post about this weekend stays PG.

It’s now about 5:00AM and I need to empty the cases and rubber band all the wires, etc… I’d say about 50% of the time I am stopped for a special check at the airport. It’s pretty wack to open your cases up and there is a huge mass of tangled cables.

I’m 38 and before I get a taxi to the airport (remember the flight back is at 8:00AM!) I have to take some Advil (Ibuprofen). Getting old is weird… tired = pain. Of course once at the airport it’s time for another Easyjet boarding area standing room only hell experiment. This time I’ve been awake more than 24 hours… bastards!

By the time I get back to Berlin it’s about noon again. Time to sleep. Imagine I had another show on Saturday night!?

Voxonic international dubbing is totally amazing.


There is a company in New York called Voxonic and they are doing something that completely blows my mind. They can take a vocal track from a song and change the audio into a new language. For example, the vocals from a English hip hop track can be made into French or Spanish in the artists original voice. The artist does not have to re-sing the song or know the foreign language! The results are amazing believable.

Take a listen to this clip “French/English/Chinese”:

I came across this company while listening to an interview with Arie Deutsch the Co-founder of the company on I highly recommend taking a listen. During the interview they play several more audio examples including Bill Clinton’s inaugural speech translated into Spanish: click here

Voxonic has developed proprietary patent-pending software, which transforms voices, making it possible to replicate any person’s voice in any language. Voxonic applies its “Voice Models” to transform speech from one person to another. All we need is a one-time, fifteen-minute sample of your voice. With that we will be able to present you saying what you want in the language of your choice. –

For me this is one of those “wow they can do this now” moments. Imagine this technology built into your DAW? Another amazing fact from the interview is that Mr. Deutsch says the processing happens quickly in about the length of the source. So could this mean with a much faster computer we are approaching real time language translation? Voll giel!

Play and record a beatboxing dog. Why not?

Beatboxing Dog

The most popular story in the music section of this morning was a website ( where you control a beatboxing dog. I have absolutely no idea what this website is trying to sell or do. Using your computer keyboard you can make the dog make several sounds including Sniff, Grunt, Bark and Scratch a Turntable. Hitting the space bar starts recording your selections. I think this is supposed to sell TV, phone and internet service somehow.

It’s good to remember the music business is alive and well in some regards. Some producer got a phone call to create these doggy sounds. Imagine that.

Does anyone here understand Swedish?

Global Groove and Swing parameters in Ableton Live.

Ableton Live - Groove Control

I just released a new EP on my label called Diagnosis Terminal with Miro Pajic. One of the songs “IO” has a heavy swing to it. It’s a very easy two step process to implement Swing in TTC-016 Front CoverAbleton Live. Swing is of course popular in Jazz and is one of the main stylistic points in modern “Minimal” techno.

To hear it work let’s create a test clip. I put and instance of Impulse with a Roland TR-808 kit on a track. I double clicked an empty Clip Slot to create an empty Clip. Then in the Midi Note Editor I laid down a 4/4 kick, Snare on the 2 and 4 and a 16th note closed Hi Hat.

On the top left side of the Ableton interface, to the left of the metronome “dots” you will see a number 0. That number represents the Global Groove Control parameter. Click and drag that number upwards to about 55.

Lastly, back down to the the Clip View and under the Groove drop down menu choose “Swing 16” which matches the 16th closed Hi Hats you have placed in your clip. Now listen to the loop with the Groove Control parameter at 0 and then at 55:

If your working with a pattern that is mostly 8th notes set the Swing to “Swing 8”. This is the classic rock swing preset you hear on vintage drum machines.

Be sure to check out the swing parameters in plug-ins like D16’s Nepheton or Audiorealism‘s ADM as they both Swing in a awesome aggressive nature. For MPC timings and unique Groove Control patterns try out Propellerhead’s Reason 4 ReGroove Mixer.

Do you like to swing?

Beatsource for Hip Hop has launched.


I’ve been impressed with how well Beatport has been doing. It really is a strong contender for electronic music downloads. The web interface, designed with help from Native Instruments is snazzy. The Beatportplayer is a great way for artists with music for sale on Beatport to spread there songs on multiple websites. The company also really knows how to market itself with an affiliate program and If your a full on shopper at Beatport the Beatport SYNC player with Traktor mixing abilities is also a worthy download.

Sales from my own record label have been strong on Beatport only second to iTunes. Beatport has a good financial reporting web interface for labels called Baseware. Inside Baseware you have some good analytics, charts and info to reach your own personal account manager at Beatport.

So today Beatsource has launched. It’s exactly like Beatport but for Hip Hop and UrbanConion Boombox music. If your producing this kind of music I suggest getting in early on. There is one section of Beatsource that has me very excited: Genres -> Old School.

In the 1980s I spent a good amount of time recording Mr. Magic and DJ Red Alert’s radio shows off Kiss and WBLS. I used my giant Conion boombox (the photo is my actual Conion in my father’s office) to record to cassettes. I have about 1000 tapes in storage but since they are all mixes I am still looking for complete versions of many of the songs. Just Ice, Mantronix, TLA Rock are some of the artists that come to mind. I will be a regular visitor at Beatsource. What I find most interesting is as I type this the #1 song on Beatsource is Jam on It by Nucleaus!