Month: August 2008

let’s twist again, like we did last summer.

for anyone who’s expecting a cd in the mail, i haven’t forgotten about you…i just wanted to send a little letter or note of some kind with each cd, and it seems to make more sense to send as many packages as possible out at the same time, in one shot, so it’s taken me a little while to get that done. i’ve always felt odd about sending anyone a cd or anything in the mail without at least a little handwritten note or something. it feels too impersonal and almost cold to me. and just so you know i’m not shitting on your foot:

those are some of the letters, big and small, that i’ve been typing over the past few days.

now that i’ve got the hang of that old manual typewriter, it’s ridiculous fun, and it feels like you’re actually creating something when you type on a machine like that. a computer keyboard, while significantly easier to type on at an insanely fast speed, feels a little like a toy in comparison. turns out the “new” old typewriter doesn’t need a new ribbon just yet after all, as you can see; it’s one of those typewriters that’s designed to use a black and red ribbon, but right now it’s equipped with a ribbon that’s black through and through.

the top section of the ribbon (which would normally be the red area) is pretty depleted, but it seems the bottom half has lots of life left in it. lower case letter o’s come out looking a little weird, with not much of a hole in the middle…i guess the hammer must need cleaning. but i think the results look pretty neat anyway, and all the other letters/numbers/symbols look as they should. initially i typed a few letters capitalizing the proper things like a good boy, and then i junked them because things just didn’t look right to me that way. i’ve come to prefer all lower case letters when it comes to typed text, regardless of what i’m typing it on. i’m not sure why that happened, but i know it was sometime around 2003 when i got tired of the look of capital letters in emails and other such things, so i suppose it makes sense that it would carry over to typewritten letters as well.

changing the subject, here’s a blast from the past: i recorded THIS STUFF a little over six years ago (around march of 2002—not in 2001 as they’ve dated it on spyspace). or rather, i recorded the full-length cd those two songs are drawn from. it doesn’t sound half bad for (a) myspace’s streaming degenerating the sound quality right off the bat; (b) being recorded at a time when i had a lot less equipment, most of which was very much “low end”; (c) only using two mics on the drums, which is generally a pretty big no-no when it comes to metal/hardcore music; (d) one of the drum mics going into a piece of shit mic preamp with a completely fried tube that i got off of ebay, receiving a single-channel cheapo pre that was essentially broken when what was advertised—and what i had paid for—was a much higher-scale two-channel pre…i thought i might as well try to get some use out of the piece of garbage, and this was the only thing i ever used it on, and (e) being recorded/mixed by a guy who had no real experience recording this kind of music, aside from the time i recorded another one of tyson’s bands about half a year earlier.

i was paid not in cash, but in another kind of currency with a much stronger aroma to it. i recorded a lot of different things for friends back then, from hardcore to folksy acoustic stuff, and even a bit of classical music. it was fun. it’s kind of odd that it was so easy for me to record other people back then, when i had a lot less equipment at my disposal, while now that i have much more to work with that’s far superior to what i had back in those days it would be pretty difficult for me to accomodate most musicians/bands. which is why i haven’t been recording anyone else’s music for something like five years now. one of the benefits of having less gear was the ability to pack everything into the car and bring it over to a band’s jamspace. these days that would impossible.

speaking of spyspace, i don’t think i’ll be putting any more new things up there for a while. time to mix it up again. for now, there’s a BRAND NEW SHINY LIE out-take that will be showing up on that bloated misfits/out-takes collection once i figure out how to sequence the thing. what fun that’ll be… as for the song, the singing could be better, but i didn’t feel like getting all revisionist with it. i felt it was subpar at the time, but these days i find myself thinking it probably would have fit onto the album for which it was recorded without too much trouble. it also features one of the few extended guitar solos i’ve recorded since the dissolution of the old band.

the children are all leaving school today.

johnny smith picked this up in amherstburg today, for twenty bucks.

as far as we can surmise, it was probably made in 1929. this was before they started making manual typewriters with plastic keys and plastic-other-things to save on parts and labour. the space bar doesn’t work and it won’t type at the moment (while the keys all strike the ribbon, something seems to be off internally so no letters appear on the page), but it’s in remarkably fine cosmetic condition given its age. and really, for twenty bucks, how can you resist an old typewriter that looks this cool? there’s something about old manual typewriters that i find inspiring. the noise…the smell…the way the keys feel beneath your fingers. the ding of the bell when you’ve reached the end of a line. and, of course, the magic of basket shift. i think it would be fun to send people typewritten letters with cds, and just in general. it’ll certainly be easier on the wrist than writing a letter for every person i send a cd to. i used to do that, but i can type much faster than i can write, and i’m not sure how many people can read my oddball handwriting. so i think the typewriter may be a better way to go this time. who knows…maybe i’ll write the great american novel on this old remington once it’s up and running. never mind the fact that i’m not american, and i don’t really tend to write fiction anymore.

on a completely unrelated note, i pulled out one of professor grandpapa’s old records today and gave it a spin. it’s a live mingus album recorded in 1970, with the audience sound completely removed, and it doesn’t appear to be available on cd in any form. there isn’t much information about it on the internet or anywhere else.

i think “the black saint & the sinner lady” will always remain my favourite mingus album (and not just because it was my introduction to mingus), but this just slid right up there along with it. the version of “pithecanthropus erectus” found here—spelled with a y in place of the first e for some reason—is more than sixteen minutes long and takes up the entire first side of the record. it makes the original version look kind of restrained by comparison. it’s insane, in the best possible way. the two songs on the flip side are shorter and not quite as wild, but i think “love is a dangerous necessity” is one of the best song titles i’ve ever heard, and the whole thing ends on a surprising note. anyone who thinks mingus mellowed and lost some of his creative fire in the 70s needs to listen to this and both of the “changes” albums for irrefutable proof that he was still on top of his game, as a musician, a composer and a band-leader.

it’s interesting to me that the eldest johnny west and i came to like a lot of the same jazz completely independently. i didn’t discover this until recently, when i unexpectedly inherited his record collection. there’s some crazy stuff there, including some albums i had been meaning to get myself, and some things that are insanely obscure. he didn’t take very good care of his records, leaving a lot of them out of their cases, and it took me something like three hours to put all of them in their proper cases and dust them off as well as i could. fortunately, while some of them are kind of filthy, only a few of the records have much in the way of scratches, and the bulk of them seem to play well, without too much surface noise. it would have been nice if we could have shared our mutual love for jazz on more than a tertiary level, but perhaps in some ways it’s better that we didn’t and i instead got into the music completely on my own. it’s a long story.

on another completely unrelated note, i recently had an idea come to me out of nowhere for some sort of comic series. the protagonist, if you can call him that, is the youngest focus-puller of all time, who also happens to be an absurdly cynical nihilist. kind of like me on the days when i’m bitter and profane, only taken much farther. and with wilder hair. it’ll be much cruder than the last comics i posted here, with the characters looking more like slightly evolved stick people, but i think it could be fun, at least for me. i’ve already got half a dozen or so potential little stories floating around in my head. i’m not sure if they’ll make it past the brainstorming stage, but i think there’s a good chance. so don’t be too surprised if a very poorly drawn and potentially offensive comic strip thing called “cormac the focus-puller” starts showing up here occasionally.

it finally happened.

you know that CHICKEN ANGEL WOMAN thing i’ve been talking about for a while now? it’s ready at last to spread its wings and fly. although, if you think about it, the titular character probably wouldn’t need to use her chicken wings to take flight, since she is part angel. the inserts are finished, and i’ve been working on making copies of the cd as quickly as i can (which isn’t all that quickly, since i’m not entirely comfortable with insane burning speeds using a drive that isn’t optimized for that kind of use, but it’s quick enough that within a few days i should have somewhere near 100 copies to play with). this means that over the next little while i will be folding an absurd amount of inserts, putting them into jewel cases, copying more cds, putting those cds in said jewel cases, and then forcing the cds on random people around town, along with sending cds to people in the mail. as tedious as some of that stuff can get, it’s actually kind of fun because it’s been so long since i’ve had a new album to go through this whole process with. i’m looking into maybe getting some copies of the cd situated at a few different places around town so the three people who want to hear it can get it from someone/somewhere other than me. i’m really curious to see how people react to the album. i still say it’ll surprise the bodily fluids and almost-solids out of me if anyone really likes it and has the stamina to sit through the whole thing from beginning to end, but we’ll see what happens. let the fun begin.

a song that was sort of written for someone who will never hear it, since they don’t really exist, which is half the fun.

i just put a different new song up on spyspace. it won’t be there for long, because i’ve been putting too much unreleased new stuff up lately…if i keep doing it, i’ll end up leaking an entire new album before it’s even finished, and we don’t want that.

the current track is something i did this afternoon. it wasn’t a song i really wanted to work on today, but i ended up pulling out an electric guitar that wasn’t the teisco for a change and decided it was about time i rocked out. well, sort of. it’s a far cry from “rocking out” like i used to, what with the screaming and swearing and sex talk and such. but the electric guitars are kind of distorted, so there’s that. and the drums are being hit with sticks instead of brushes. the whole thing could be a lot tidier, and the triple-tracked vocals are sloppy as usual, but i kind of like it in this somewhat rough state, which seems to usually be the case with the things i record. i was going to add some wurlitzer or other keyboard(s) and go for a more layered sound, and i tried adding a bit of guiro in one part, but the song apparently wanted to stay relatively stripped down, so it is. the shaker that looks like a tasty sweet pepper makes its recorded debut in place of high hat. i wasn’t really feeling the cymbals today. it was also tempting to try out some of the new scrap metal percussion, but i don’t think it would have fit very well in this song. this will probably be the last new thing i put up on spyspace for a while, so dance the macarena with gusto while you can. i can’t get over how good that cheap little old tube amp sounds with an SM57 in front of it. i’m digging the gruntiness. it gets a lot chunkier when it’s turned up louder, and i need to record some things with heavier-sounding guitars…it’s been too long. so, even though it was neglected for a ridiculous amount of time, i think that little amp will be seeing a lot of action on future cds.

and now, the news everyone’s been waiting for (ha!): THE CHICKEN ANGEL WOMAN WITH A TRIANGLE will finally be ready to go out into the world this week—within a day or two, i think. it’s about time. this means i will soon be forcing copies on random and not-so-random people. joy to the squirrels.

you’re missing a letter from the chain around your neck.

did some hunting at canada salvage today and came away with some new instruments to play around with. i took some pictures:

you can click on the pictures to enlarge them for more detail.there are eight different things there.

it was a lot of fun walking around and hitting different objects — with fingers, and into one another — to see what would yield the most interesting sounds, and wondering what the guy working there must have thought when he was asked to price check a few of the different pieces. the girl working behind the counter was very pretty, but she made a sedimentary rock look animated in comparison, which kind of killed it for me. i hope she perks up a bit when she’s off work.

anyway, the idea here is that sometimes you want to add some percussion to a song, but you’re not really interested in drums or typical percussive sounds. there are some things you wouldn’t normally use in a musical setting that reveal interesting melodic sounds and resonances when struck with a finger or another metallic object. so i now have a number of unconventional percussion “instruments” to mess around with when i’d like to experiment with some different sounds.

i also now have a wood guiro (those things you use a wooden scratcher on that sound a bit like very refined frogs — you see them used mostly in latin music) and a shaker that doubles as an inedible sweet pepper. you could say it was a good day for percussion-related things. and the two lengths of metal pipe i got could double as weapons in a pinch.

you never know when you might need to defend yourself against potential usurpers or show-off musicians in a percussion-based jam session.

on a random note, i think birthdays breed especially strange dreams. on my last birthday i remembered at least seventeen of them. even when i’m really on my game and rigid about documenting my dreams, i don’t tend to remember quite that much. this time the volume wasn’t as high, but the subject matter was stranger than usual. and given how odd my dreams are most of the time, that’s saying something.

“i always wonder what inspires choreographers…”

my computer is letting me print up cds once again with no trouble. oh joyous day. the only thing holding me back now is the packaging business (it seems no one around here wants to make me the cardboard wallet type cd cases i was after, so that may have to wait for a different album), and there’s no way on satan’s red earth it isn’t all going to be finished by sometime early next week. if people need to die to make it happen, i’ll kill them myself with an angry snarl on my face. not that i would expect anyone else to do my killing for me under any circumstances, but you get my drift. delays can eat my toenails.

while printing up some copies of the new cd the other day (because i am now my own media broker and may eventually have to become my own printing press as well), i was watching some abysmal dreck on muchmusic for purely sadistic purposes when the vj said, “coming up after the break, the hit that sweeped the nation!” while soulfully looking into the camera, and then they cut to commercial. my brain did a double-take. then a triple-take. i think you know why. SWEEPED is not a word. the past tense of “sweep” is “swept”.

i’ve known pre-schoolers who know at least that much about grammar and the english language. i even know ACORNS who know that much. it must be nice to get paid to mangle the language horribly on live television without even realizing it. maybe it’s in the job description for television personalities: “must be described as ‘dreamy’ by at least 12.3% of our target audience. must perform sexual favours for your superiors on an as-requested basis. also, you must have a very tenuous grasp of the spoken language. if you’re at all intelligent or articulate, seek employment elsewhere.”

on a less disturbing note, digital camera action be in the house now. not only is it a pretty cool little point-and-shoot tool, but it even records video, and the quality isn’t half bad. since i’ve already christened this place with images not borrowed/stolen from various places around the internet, i thought i would post a little video to give anyone who’s interested a bit of a look at what things are like in the “studio”, where the soon-to-be-available-at-a-strip-club-near-you new cd was recorded along with some things that haven’t yet found their way onto proper albums, and where many subsequent things will be recorded as well. i have some footage showing the space when it was pretty much empty and then evolving as everything was set up and put together, but i can’t put that up here at the moment because the proper video camera and the computer still aren’t speaking to one another yet.

sadly, this little video here got absolutely hammered in the quality department between the time i recorded it and the time i posted it here…the sound quality suffered an especially grisly fate. i think something went wrong during the conversion, because it didn’t sound anywhere near this bad until the last stage of the process. i think you can still understand most of what i’m saying, even if my brain was only half-awake at the time and it sounds like i have a scary distorted digital lisp and a bad case of sandpaper throat. talk about lo-fi…and yet it looks pretty good. it just sounds really bad. anyway, enjoy this selective little tour of some music-related things, if that’s at all possible. here’s a link in case the wordpress video player doesn’t work for you.

this is the song that never ends, and it’s being sung by someone with unspeakably awful breath who’s also tone-deaf.

i think mariah carey is progressively inching her way toward making a music video in which she just prances around naked and splashes water all over herself while lip-syncing. as soon as the music channels allow nipples to be shown on the air, she’ll be there even before janet jackson.

getting away from the magic of breasts for a moment, i ordered four different kinds of high quality inkjet printable cds with names i’ve never even heard of before. the weirdness continued. they all sounded different to me. for a while i was convinced the cheapest ones, made in taiwan, sounded the best. then i decided the high frequencies sounded a little harsh. later on i decided that they all sounded about the same, and now the taiyo yuden cds don’t sound muted to me anymore. so who the hell knows what the truth is. at this point i figure i’ll just pick a kind and leave it alone. i don’t think i’ll ever have to buy recordable cds again for the rest of my life after this. you’d think that we would have our happy ending right here, but no; now the software that came bundled with my fancy cd printer won’t let me print anything. so i can make copies of the new cd, but i can’t actually make them look like proper cds, even though there’s nothing at all wrong with the printer itself and it allows me to run a system check with no trouble.

sing it with me, children:

WHAT THE FUCKING FUCK?!

only gwen stefani can save me now. can you hear me, gwen? get over here with akon asap, if only so i can make fun of him for completely overusing auto-tune.

robust, like knotted cotton.

“an avalanche in hell” is gone from the world-wide web forever, or at least until it shows up on a proper cd, which probably won’t be too far off in the distance. in its place on spyspace is something i just mixed now. most of it was recorded yesterday, while the drums were tracked today. it would have fit in pretty nicely on the CHICKEN ANGEL WOMAN cd, but it didn’t exist in any form until late yesterday afternoon.

the acoustic guitar is a 60-something-year-old parlour guitar that i think is probably possessed like the other one. it doesn’t quite have the same volume or richness of tone, but it records ridiculously well and doesn’t look too shabby either. for some reason i didn’t feel like writing words, so i just improvised them while recording. as a result, the lyrics don’t really make any sense, but it gave me a good excuse to garble the words so half of them probably aren’t even intelligible.

in other exciting news, i just had a discovery i could have done without. i ordered and received 300 taiyo yuden cd-rs, now that i’m no longer paying a media broker to duplicate/replicate my cds. these are touted as being the best spinning things money can buy, the most reliable, the longest-lasting, and all of that good stuff. i believe that all of this is probably quite true, given their reputation. however, when i burned a copy of the new cd on a few taiyo yuden cds to try them out, i noticed the music sounded different.

it’s a very subtle thing, but the high frequencies seem slightly duller than they are on my master copy, which is on a TDK cd. i made a safety copy from this master copy when i finished/sequenced the album about two weeks ago, also on TDK, and it sounds exactly the same as the original. so it’s not an issue of second generation sound degredation (which isn’t something you have to contend with when you’re working with cds anyway, since we’re a few worlds away from making a cassette tape dub).

maybe there’s something wrong with my brain, or my ears, or both, but i keep listening/comparing and hearing this ever so tiny difference. even though i doubt many other people would hear it, it would drive me nuts if i let the cd out there knowing it didn’t sound exactly the way i know it should, and everyone was hearing something just a little bit different from what i intended. i’m not sure if it’s a good or bad thing that my ears are so ridiculously sensitive, i notice a sound difference in an area where most audio professionals are adamant that there is no discernible difference, ever, regardless of what brand of media you use, and you only hear what you want to hear. if that was the case, then the taiyo yuden cds would be the ones that sounded better, because i listened to them with the knowledge that they’ve long been an industry standard and the name that most mastering houses rely on. at least TDK printable cds should be more readily available around here, or so i would hope.

it gets even better; word on the street is that some TDK cds are re-branded taiyo yudens. i don’t know if it’s the different dye that makes the difference in high frequency information, or what. i guess the upshot is that i can still use these 300 taiyo yuden cds for backup purposes…which means i probably won’t have to buy any more blank discs for this purpose, or any other, until the year 2015. of all the stupid things.

but, hey — if TDK ever wants to put together some sort of endorsement deal and pay me an obscene amount of money so they can use my likeness in their advertising, i think it would be pretty hilarious and i’d probably seriously consider it. “JOHNNY WEST — MADE AND PLAYED ON TDK”. not that anything like this would ever happen, because you need to be something of a known artist in order to get a lucrative endorsement deal from anyone, but i still think it would be funny.