MIDI is 30 years old today! The acronym stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface and it was created by Dave Smith. You know his name because he’s the guy behind Sequential Circuits and Dave Smith Instruments. We are all very lucky that Dave decided to give MIDI away for free and convince other manufactures to use it. To celebrate the day the BBC interviewed Dave Smith about the birth of MIDI. Read the article here: How MIDI changed the world of music.
“What Smith did next would transform the way recording studios worked, and create a revolution in music and recording production. He persuaded manufacturers to adopt a common format which allowed their synthesisers to be controlled externally by another keyboard potentially made by a rival manufacturer, or even by a computer. It was called Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) and would soon become the industry standard for connecting different makes of synthesisers, drum machines, samplers and computers.” – bbc.co.uk
Just listen to what the Skychord Cloudbuster does to a Juno-6 at around the 1:35 mark in the video above. It detunes the synth in a modulating say Clockwork Orange soundtrack type of way. Add a little of it’s Pre-amp gain and you have a scary vintage sounding distortion unit. So many little boxes of want lately. This one is $375 USD.
“The cloudbuster is a sequentially modulated lo-fi echo machine featuring harmonically dark burned out lightning strike repeats, howling gore ripping feedback, nightmare time based gurgling, and heavenly comatose modulations. At the heart of the cloudbuster is a four stage sequencer that modulates the delay time via a sequencer. This sequencer has a length of 2 or 4 steps.” – skychord.com
Williamsburg Brooklyn went from zero to now three places that sell Eurorack modules. Control, Meme Antenna and Main Drag. Control should be your first stop for pure Eurorack but the other stores have some goodies too. At Meme they have Teenage Engineering, MFB synths and well fun kitch household items. Main Drag has the least Eurorack but as you can see by the photos some nice vintage used synths, pedals and oh yeah guitars. If you can’t see the slideshow above you can see a few more photos: here.
“Totally Cool Joint – great – knowledgable staff and the most thing is they do not act “above you!” – Dave A (Yelp)
Once I got my Doepfer Dark Time analog sequencer it was clear I need more analog sequencers. The Analog Solutions Telemark is a nice choice and there are numerous modular sequencer and crazy sequence generators. However, I really have my eye on one of these MFB Urzwergs. The Pro version adds lights that follow the sequencer and MIDI out. I like this box because its small and I find I’m bring my Dark Time out with me to everyone’s studios because well analog sequencing is fun. The Urzwerg also has 4 rows of 8 step sequences which is just awesome. I’m actually not sure what the different is between the Pro and new Pro MKII. Is it just the wooden sides? If the wooden sides are wide enough like the ones on the Dark Time there is a big advantage to them in that you can stand the unit up. The price of the Pro at Schneiders Beuro can’t be beat at 361 Euro!
“MFB’s step-sequencer URZWERG PRO is the extended version of our URZWERG. This advanced version has been inspired by feature requests and suggestions of many users to ensure better flexibility than ever. Most prominently, URZWERG PRO now offers output of MIDI-notes and -controllers as well as 32 individual step LEDs to keep track of the sequences’ status.” – mfberlin.de
Portishead is one of the bands I really love because they sound like Portishead. Nothing else really sounds like they do and to top it off they sound great. Dark, romantic and painful. Right up my alley. The cherry on top is they use a lot of real analog synths. Band member Adrian Utley shows us some of what they have in the video above.
“Portishead are a band formed in 1991 in Bristol, England. The band is named after the nearby town of the same name, 13 km (8 mi) west of Bristol. Portishead consists of Geoff Barrow, Beth Gibbons, and Adrian Utley, while sometimes citing a fourth member, Dave McDonald, an engineer on Dummy and Portishead.” – Wikipedia
On my recent trip to San Francisco I went by the synth shop Robotspeak. They have some cool stuff inside. New synths like the Minitaur and old cool items like Opcode Studio Vision Pro on display. They also have a modular workshop where you learn how to build your own modular. Tom Oberheim lives nearby and as you can see by the photo Bob Moog visited the store. The only thing in the store I wanted to buy wasn’t for sale. It was a circuit Vtech Tiny Tot Driver. Just see the video above to know what I am talking about. When he hit the horn I started offering money. Before I returned to NY I went by my brother’s studio space and showed him (he’s in the video above) and his friend Chris how cool the Doepfer Dark time is. You can see all the photos from my trip on flickr: click here.
“Once a Month, learn how to build Modules for you Modular synth setup. This is an ongoing workshop series that will feature different synth designers and focus on different components each month.” – robotspeak.com
My usual vocal chain is Shure SM7b, Api 512c, Wavearts Track5 (which I only use the Gate section) and Izotope Nectar. Recently I took my API Lunchbox and SM7b to a friends house to record. He didn’t have any plug-ins on his computer and I realized he needed compression on his vocals. When I bought my Lunchbox and 512c I also bought an API 527 compressor. It’s always been in the Lunchbox but I rarely use it. In fact, I’m ashamed to say I just use software compressors, mostly presets and never really figured out how to set my 527. That’s what this post is all about. This is a question to Wire to the Ear readers. What would be a good setting on my 527 compressor for vocals. What’s a good starter setting and what should I adjust?
I’ve already asked a friend (Cesar B. de Guzman aka @cyndiseui) on Instagram. I set my 527 as he thought would be a good start. He makes a lot of music but what do you think?
“527 is a VCA comp that has a very fast attack response. U could do this ratio 1 til 3. Attack 3 o clock. Release 8-9 o’clock. Set to new if you want something sparkling style or old as punch vintage type… The only thing you could adjust yrself is threshold. Technically you could leave from 2 to 3 db down from the threshold as a starter.” – cyndiseui
Robot Repair is a NY and LA based music production company that specializes in advertising. They created the above video showing off some of the music instruments they own. It’s a great collection and the video shows off some nice gems that I haven’t heard before.
“From analog drum machines to vintage guitars, orchestral percussion to circuit-bent children’s toys, 1980s Russian synthesizers to Indian harmoniums…these are the instruments of Robot Repair.” – vimeo.com/user3378259
Every now and then I will grab a stack of old photo from storage, scan them and get them onto flickr. I came across this set from a Disintegrator (my first band with John Selway) show in 1996. It took place in Monticello NY. I decided it would be interesting to record a call with John and let him see these photos at the same time. Deadmau5 eat your heart out because we play live. Listen to the audio interview as we discuss everything on stage and more. Be sure to follow the link at the bottom of this post to see all the photos on flickr.
“The planetary journey continues on Saturday October 12, 1996 at the illustrious Concord Resort Hotel nestled within the Catskill Mountains just 1 hour north of New York City. For URANUS, the fifth in a series of planetary parties we have selected an unparalleled lineup of the best DJ’s and producers in the galaxy. The world renowned Concord Resort is one of New York State’s Largest exhibition centers featuring over 170,000 square feet of raw space. We will be converting this space into two MASSIVE dancing arenas complete with CLAY PACKY GOLDEN SCAN HPE series fixtures, J WOLF SOUND, and a huge ARGON laser sweeping overhead. For those wishing to continue your journey, the excitement continues. After the party rooms are available. The Concord resorts features indoor and outdoor swimming pools, saunas, steam rooms, and a plethora of recreational facilities to suit your every need. For reservations please contact the Concord after September 1, 1996 at 1-800-CONCORD and ask for the planetary group rate.”
Bob Heil the creator of the Heil Talk Box and PR40 microphone talked shop on this weeks TWIT show Home Theater Geeks.
“Bob Heil (October 5, 1940) is an American sound and radio engineer most well known for creating the template for modern rock sound systems. He founded the company Heil Sound in 1966, which went on to create unique touring sound systems for bands such as The Grateful Dead and The Who. He invented the Heil Talk Box in 1973, which was frequently used by musicians such as Peter Frampton, Joe Walsh and Richie Sambora, and is still in use today.
Heil has been an innovator in the field of amateur radio, manufacturing microphones and satellite dishes for broadcasters and live sound engineers. In the late 1980s Heil Sound became one of the first American companies to create and install Home Theaters, and Heil has lectured at major electronic conventions and taught classes at various institutions. He has won multiple awards and honors, and in 2007 he became the first manufacturer to be invited to exhibit at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.” – en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bob_Heil