Hairy dude in the hall, redux.

It’s “asking the opinions of those who are not me” time again.

As you may or may not know, I played a solo show at Mackenzie Hall back in march. A lot of people were there (a lot more than I was expecting), but there were quite a few ladies and savage men who wanted to be there and were unable to make it, generally due to illness or a lack of geographical proximity. It’s kind of difficult to get to Windsor for one night if you live halfway across the globe. Chances are I will play my own stuff live again at some point, but it’s probably not going to be anytime soon, and it definitely won’t be happening again this year.

I posted video footage of the whole show over HERE, but I realize it can sometimes be a pain in the ass to stream twenty-something different songs on the internet, and not everyone has access to a computer or the internet at their leisure.

So, I got to thinking…what if, for the people who weren’t there but wanted to be (or even those who were there but wanted to relive the evening in all of its ragged glory), the entire show was available on CD and DVD? I have video of every song performed that night. One or two songs are missing maybe twenty seconds, but pretty much everything is intact, complete with between-song banter. Josh also shot some footage for potential use in I Am Not a Seagull, though very little of it ended up in the film. Jay even recorded at least some of the show on a digital audio recording device of some sort, and while I haven’t heard what he’s got, I imagine the quality is pretty good. Between all of these sources, there’s more than enough material to put together both a DVD and a CD documenting the show.

I would probably look at getting the audio remastered for best possible quality. Some of it has to be sourced from video cameras with tiny built-in microphones. The quality is actually a lot better than you might expect, particularly the first dozen songs or so where the little Flip camera was used. There isn’t really any ugly distortion or compression there. I think some good mastering equipment could help it along and make it a bit more robust.

The second half of the show shot on the other camera doesn’t sound as good, but here Josh’s footage can help. While he didn’t get all the songs, at least three or four of them from the second set are there in full, and the sound quality is good. It’s a bit more compressed than the Flip camera’s audio, but it’s also a lot more present and full-sounding, and again this is where a good mastering job comes into play. You take all these different sources, find the best-sounding version of each song, and work on bringing the best out of it while combining everything into a unified whole. Maybe it’s even possible to combine more than one audio source to mix a more upfront sound with a good amount of audience noise and ambiance.

It’s a bit of a complicated job, and not one I’m really set up to take on myself, but I think I might talk to Dwaine and see if he’d be up for it. Then I would just take the final audio tracks and sync them up with the relevant footage, again using the best overall source for any given song. For the first half of the show it would probably be almost entirely the footage Johnny Smith shot, and for the second half it would be supplanted with some of Josh’s footage.

Obviously the end result isn’t going to be a high-budget pro-shot affair that looks like The Last Waltz, and the audio version of the show won’t make your hi-fi piss all over itself with delight, but it’ll sound pretty good, it’ll look pretty good, and it’ll be free to whoever wants it.

One potential issue: I don’t think fitting everything on one DVD would be a problem, but I might be a little torn between spreading the audio-only version out over two CDs (because it’s too long to fit on one CD), or cutting out a few songs to squeeze it onto one. I wouldn’t mix up the sequence of the songs or get rid of between-song banter, but there are a few songs that might not really be missed by anyone if they were dropped. “Crustacean Cancer Survivor”, for example, probably wasn’t one of the better performances of the night (I hadn’t rehearsed it at all, which didn’t help), and “Bent Bird, Broken Wing” might fall into the same category. I wouldn’t drop anything from the DVD. Just the CD portion of things. Then again, maybe it’s best to leave things alone, warts-and-all.

I guess my question is two-fold:

1. Would you be interested in a DVD/CD set of the Mackenzie Hall performance, understanding that it isn’t going to look or sound like the most professionally-produced thing in the world but it’ll get the point across well enough? Here’s an example of what you could expect (from Josh’s footage, with significantly better sound quality than the version I first posted here back in March):

2. Are there any songs you would get rid of, or do you think it’s best to keep everything intact even if a song didn’t come off as well as it might have?

Any feedback is welcome and appreciated. I think I’m pretty sure I want to do this. Just want to see if enough people would be interested in owning it to justify the expense (I’m not sure how enticing DVDs are compared to CDs when it comes to free stuff). Theoretically, you’d be looking at a two-CD/one-dvd package with a booklet containing pictures, ramblings, and other such stuff. THE ANGLE OF BEST DISTANCE will remain the priority, but I might look at getting this DVD/CD set put together sometime this year. Theoretically.

Let me know what you think.


  1. If expense is an issue then 1 CD/1 DVD would be great. If you can do 2 CDs, even better. Alternately, release the DVD only then make some high quality audio available for download.

  2. Hey, I could always make you copies of older things…some of the CDs even have proper artwork!

    I guess I feel a bit strongly about MP3s and their sound quality, and that’s one of the reasons I’ve avoided just making everything available for download. I know I’m in the minority here, and some people are shouting, “Get with the times, retrovirus!” I’m not critical of anyone who digs MP3s. They just don’t quite do it for me. It occurs to me, though, that I’m kind of going about things in a lopsided way — generally if anything is free, it’s the MP3s, and then you pay for the physical album, while I make the physical album free and don’t do the mp3 thing. I’m like a dinosaur in a Jaguar, or something.

    But seriously, if there are any older CDs you’d like, I’m glad to make copies. There’s a lot of stuff I’d like to “reissue” at some point with the proper artwork it never got the first time around. Someday I’ll get around to it. In the meantime, there’s always the option of scrawling on the CD like old times.

  3. I really hope you get this out especially as you seem do put out more cd’s than you do live shows and I am not expecting to see you on this side of the Atlantic any time soon.

    I would keep everything – I like the “raw” sound of live music and the lower quality is part of that experience.

    Have you thought about using a lossless format like flac to post on the internet. I am not a big fan of mp3s and I wish that more of the online music stores and sites would offer lossless versions. The files are much larger than mp3s but nothing is lost.

    1. I hadn’t thought of FLAC…I’m not sure how compatible the format is with the media players most people have, but there must be freeware you can download that will play the files? Maybe something worth looking into.

      What was the last CD I sent you in the mail, Charles? I think I might owe you an album or two. I’m not sure if i sent you the most recent few or not.

      1. Plenty of links to freeware and instructions at the flac site on sourcefourge. VLC is my personal favourite player for all things media because it plays just about everything without having to worry about codecs.

        The last CD I got was “An Absence of Sway” and I never got around to thanking you for that one. I had the impression that music was more complex than on the previous one, i.e. I liked it after the first listen and liked it even more once I got know the album better after a few more listens.

  4. My hand’s up for a DVD! It takes me a bit too long to stream all the songs, so I haven’t done it yet. Plus a DVD should have more continuity.

    As far as CDs go to accompany it – I am with Terry. It would be nice, but if it’s a question of expense then just a DVD would do the job.

  5. Whoa. I owe you three more recent CDs, Charles. Sorry I dropped the ball there…are you still at the same address in France?

    Lucas — do you think it’s worth it even if the audio and video are not 100% pristine in some areas? I’m just wondering how good is good enough for the average person. I mean, you and I have listened to some pretty horrible-sounding bootlegs, and this is nowhere near any of those, but the fidelity isn’t as high as it would be if the show had been recorded using professional sound equipment. I guess I’ll see how things go when I start playing around with the audio. Maybe I’ll surprise myself.

    1. Which average person is listening to your music? I think most of them will be pretty open minded, and unlikely to get hung up over video quality that isn’t 100% pristine – and I don’t think anyone really has the right to expect it to be pristine if they aren’t even being asked to pay for it!

  6. I agree with Charles re: FLAC. It sounds great and most players can now accommodate it. Most burning software, too. So if people want to make Johnny West mix CDs, they need not worry about poor sound quality. I like Bandcamp because you can give your stuff away or charge a fee, you can collect email addresses to let people know about new releases, you can add artwork, lyrics & hidden tracks to downloads and you can let people choose the format they want.

    That being said, there is a certain purity involved by avoiding the whole download thing. Your art, your call.

    As for the older material, I’ll get you a box of blank CDs and you can burn them at your leisure.

Leave a Reply to johnnywestmusic Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.