Day: January 13, 2011

Dude…I’m burning.

I somehow managed to reach my goal of delivering the art files for the new CD this week and should have a proof to look at over the weekend. It’s a small miracle things are still moving along as planned, and I’ll tell you why.

As of Sunday night the album was just about finished. All the raw material was there. Every song was CD-ready. I only needed to tweak a few mixes and create a rough assembly to test out my projected track list. I was about an hour away from having everything taken care of when the external CD burner for my mixer died.

Holy crap, that’s a long thumb. I didn’t really realize it until I took a good look at the picture. And that’s my fretting thumb there.

I guess sometimes we take our thumbs for granted.

Anyway. With almost every album I’ve made over the past five or six years, there’s always been some problem that pops up at the last possible second to throw a wrench in the works. A media broker botching the CDs. A computer dying. A CD printer dying. Getting a cold that lasts for two weeks when I’m 80% finished. There’s always been a happy ending (I went back to duplicating the CDs myself and started designing/printing them myself as well; I got a new laptop that was vastly superior to the old one; my CD printer was replaced; eventually I stopped coughing and sneezing), but it’s a little frustrating when something small and stupid prevents you from having an album release-ready quite as soon as you’d like.

I shouldn’t complain too much. I don’t think my post-production time has ever extended beyond two weeks with any album I’ve made over the past few years, regardless of whatever problems have threatened to derail things. That means no more than two weeks pass between the moment I finish recording/mixing the final song and the moment the boxes at Dr. Disc and Phog are full of copies of the CD for whoever wants them. So when I put a new album out, it’s difficult to overstate just how new it is.

It seems most people prefer to sit on an album for at least a few months, if not longer, before releasing it. You have more time to mull it over that way, to make sure you’re still happy with everything after it’s had some time to settle, and to make sure things like the packaging are just the way you want them to be. You can build up some buzz and promote a big CD release show, or make a music video, or dance with sedated tigers.

As for me, if I sit on anything for longer than that two week period I start to get restless. I want to get it out there right away and be done with it. My brain is already working on the next album.

Where were we? The VS-1680’s CD burner was toast. Eleven and-a-half years without an issue, and then lights out. It was a good run, really, for an old CD burner. But it couldn’t have picked a worse time to die. The problem was compounded by the quirk that not just any CD burner will work with this mixer. You either need one of the three different burners that were made specifically to be compatible with the Roland VS-series mixers, or you need a special after-market burner.

The trouble is, the after-market CD burners are a bit of a crapshoot, with no guarantee they’ll work. And the original Roland burners have been discontinued for years, so they’re not easy to come by.

This is a much more serious roadblock than anything I’ve come up against with any other album I’ve made. Without a compatible, functioning CD burner, my mixer is a bit like a dismembered head with no mouth. The brain is fully-functional, but without the ability to speak there’s no way to communicate any of the information inside, and without a torso sign-language isn’t an option. All the music I have on the mixer is trapped there. I can listen to it, I can add to it, I can record more of it, but I can’t transfer it anywhere else, I can’t dump it onto a CD, I can’t back up anything for safekeeping, and I can’t take anything I’ve backed up in the past and dump it back onto the mixer.

It looked like I was going to be stuck in limbo for a good few weeks.

There happened to be a guy on eBay who was selling two different CD burners made to work with a mixer like mine. He made the unusual move of posting his phone number, which gave me hope that maybe we could work something out that didn’t involve PayPal (which I don’t have and will probably never go near after the horror stories I’ve heard) or shipping that would take weeks (which drives me batty). He went beyond the call of duty, even sending me a ZIP drive with a disk in it that would update my mixer’s operating system to make sure it would recognize the new CD burners. The stuff shipped overnight from California.

Instead of losing weeks, I only lost one day. This means my plan to have the album release-ready by the weekend isn’t quite going to happen, but I think that’s for the best, because now I’ll have the whole weekend to make sure I catch any typos that may be hiding in the booklet, and I’ll have time to build up a good supply of CDs so I’ll be prepared when everything is ready to go.

Obviously I don’t play CD release shows or even set exact release dates, but you should expect the album to be available in the usual places by next Friday or Saturday. While I’m happy with the way it’s turned out, I anticipate it being one of the less popular albums I’ve made. If you weren’t really feeling the second disc of MY HELLHOUND CROOKED HEART, you’re probably not going to like this one. I don’t think I’ve made an album this schizoid in a decade. If, on the other hand, you have the musical equivalent of attention deficit disorder, it could very well be your favourite Johnny West album ever.

This month’s video progress report will probably appear a bit sooner than usual, since I’d like to tie it in with the new album. So expect that to show up in the next week or so as well.