Robotspeak

Robotspeak from Oliver Chesler on Vimeo.

San Francisco Studio from Oliver Chesler on Vimeo.

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

For more info: robotspeak.com

Vocal Compressor Settings

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

For more info: apiaudio.com/527.html

Instruments of Robot Repair

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

For more info: robotrepair.net

Disintegrator Live 1996

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.”

To see the full set of photos: flickr.com/thingstocomerecords/721…

Heil Nation

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

For more info: heilsound.com and en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bob_Heil

Take This Step Studio Notes

One of the major reasons for starting this blog was to share my studio notes with you. I love sharing the creation process and hearing feedback. Take This Step was released last month with remixes by Pet Duo, Mark Hawkins, Brian Burger and Lenny Dee. You can get the full details of the song including a promo video on it’s original post page: click here. Today let’s get into how I created it. My last album Joyless Pleasure was very autobiographical, song structured, love songed and a real listeners album. For my next album Fire Funmania which will be released later this year I wanted to go back to my roots a bit. The first single Take This Step clears the way. Lyrically it has two themes. You can take the song literally as an indoctrination anthem. Join the army, the troop and fight. You can decide if I am being satirical or not. However, the theme could also be about getting a day job or even being pushed into marriage and society. As a 42 year old trying to conform and be healthy yet keep my art pure surely there’s a reason I was able to make this song. The arrangement shows the nervous tension with 5 parts growing to a peak each higher than each other until the cresendo at the end. I think I’m trying to say yes it’s ok to join but if you do do it strong, properly and aggresively!

Ok so yeah now to the toys. There are several kick drums on the track. I’ve been DJing on my Traktor S4 a bit and you can hear that influence here. As I use NI’s Traktor anytime I put a loop into one of the Sample Decks and it loops more than 2 times is saves the loop on my hard drive for later use. I grabbed 2 of the kicks on Take This Step from this folder. I also created 2 kicks on my Jomox Mbase 01 which is signed by Jürgen Michaelis. The Mbase has a depth you can’t get from samples. There are parts of the song where you hear the underlying kicks booming and that’s the Mbase in action. In sections of the song there is a Boss DM-100 bucket-brigade analog delay on the kicks. You can hear it right away as the song starts. The ride is from my MFB-522. The 522 is like a mini Roland TR-808 and I like it quite a lot. You can get some really clean shimmering rides from it that again most of the time samples can’t match. I used Ableton Live’s built in Auto Filter to cut some of the high’s out from it so it fit well in the song. There are some large long white noise crashes that bring in new sections. Those are from an Ensoniq ESQ-1. I bought a Crystal-X cartridge off eBay that has a few hundred sounds on it and the crash/smash is on there.

The main synth is a Moog Slim Phatty going through Audio Damage’s Vapor diffusion chorus plug-in. In different sections of the song the main synth pattern changes. I used 3 plug-ins each seperately at different times to achieve the different synth patterns: Izotope’s Stutter Edit, PSP’s N20 and Sugar-Bytes Turnado. These are the type of plug-ins that are nearly impossible to replicate in hardware without a serious amount of work. What I usually do is go through the presets, do some editing and then render the same part 5-10 times. Then as the song plays back into the section I swap out the different renderings and choose the one that’s the coolest. It’s that little extra work that makes all the difference. Towards the end of the song there is a build up where the synth starts panning, changing and “lifting”. This was done with Sugar-Bytes Effectrix and automation.

I wanted to keep these vocals clean and commanding. The chain was a Shure SM7b mic through an API 512c micpre. I also used Izotope’s Nectar plug-in. There’s quite a few places where the last song in a verse has some effects on it. Like the synth parts I would render the last word, move it to a blank channel, load several effects on the channel and change presets, edit and render about 5 different versions. I would again listen back to the song with replacing each version and choosing the best one.

I follow my own advice and the faders were all at about half height so the mix came out nice and clean. I added some volume to the master file using Izotope’s Ozone. I didn’t work on this song all day in a succession of days so it’s hard to tell you exactly how long it took to create it. I would guess about a full week or two weeks on and off. For me the most difficult part is always the arrangement. It’s like a puzzle and if you don’t feel inspired or take the time to get it right you can really ruin a song. So this song is a mix of the best hardware and software I have.

The next single which comes out in August is called The Man Master. I shot a music video for it in Berlin, there are remixes by David Carretta, Millimetric and Dupont and there will be a limited edition 7″. Production wise this song is a full analog affair using only analog sequencers and such. More on that when it’s released!

“The Horrorist’ new single is pretty awesome. His new record is going to be the best one yet.” – alexxaugustus (via Twitter)

For more info: iTunes, Amazon and Beatport

D.A.F. Sequence

So how did he do copying the bassline from Verschwende Deine Jugend? Proper EBM basslines are tough to do without a real analog sequencer.

“ust a small attempt to create a sequence in the style of D.A.F (Deutsch-Amerikanische Freundschaft) recorded with the camera microphone. Gear used: Korg MS20 and MS50 with Sherman filterbank to add some distortion. Korg SQ10. Doepfer quantizer. Korg MS02 to go from the SQ to the Quantizer and back to the MS synths.” – MentallyUnfit

For more info: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D.A.F._(band)

via matrixsynth

Audio Power Tools

Williamsburg Brooklyn has another boutique pro-audio store! Just last month we saw the modular synth shop Control open and now my good friend Dan Physics and his business parter Blue Wilding have opened Audio Power Tools. Dan cut his teeth as a manager at the flagship Guitar Center store on 14th street and now he’s working exclusively with high end stuff. The great thing is they will let you try before you buy which is important because unless you work in recording studios most people don’t have access to say a Germanium micpre.

“Only the good stuff…with the highest performance, value and support for working pros. Every purchase is a balance of necessity and personal taste. Our “demo-based shopping” helps you make confident decisions.” – Audio Power Tools

For more info: audiopowertools.com and facebook.com/Audio-Power-Tools

Miselu Neiro

Engadget has coverage of Google’s I/O conference. Did you know that Google is showcasing a “Net-enabled social music device with a musical keyboard and a wide multi-touch display, and a variety of musical apps and cloud services.” called the Miselu Neiro? Retronyms, Korg and Yamaha are showing off software on the device. Check out the Polysix, a touch screen Theremin and more in the video above. It’s interesting but the iPad has such a huge lead in music apps this will have to be very inexpensive or get some exclusive content. I do like the idea!

“Yamaha is providing the upcoming “neiro” with the Yamaha AudioEngine (TM) Series Sound Chip NSX-1. This powerful synthesizer engine delivers a quality that almost matches the sound of real musical instruments. The DSP chip offers a larger variety of sound effects such as reverb, chorus and EQs that create a rich sound experience.” – miselu.com

For more info: miselu.com

East German Spring Tank

Two awesome things! A custom built spring reverb and a Vermona DRM-1. I own a DRM-1 and I recommend it highly to everyone. Just listen to how great these sound together.

“Finally, my custom built spring reverb is ready. (thanks much to Csaba Füle, the best)
Basically it is an RFT spring tank driven by a Doepfer A-199 module. Much bigger space, much wider spectrum, much better than Accutronics imho. Audio: It’s a basic sequence with the Vermona DRM-1 put on multi channels sent to the Spring Reverb. Changing Emphasis and Feedback here and there on the Doepfer A-199 module, changing the filter on the snare at the solo, and finally, slapping the rack hard in the end. :) It’s just wonderful. Everyone should forget vst reverbs – for a while at least. This thing sounds so unpredictable, so different every time, so alive… I have done some phased and hi-lowpassed feedback and send-return business too, really shouldn’t waste words trying to describe those sounds…” – Hargitai András

For more info: wiretotheear.com/vermona-drm1-mkiii-audio-video-review

via matrixsynth