Scare tactics.


I think my mixer has decided to start doing this thing where it tries to give me a heart attack once every five or six years.

Way back when I was working on CHICKEN ANGEL WOMAN and starting to get really excited about the way things were shaping up, something went wrong with the mixer and I thought some of the songs I’d recorded were toast. Thankfully it was just some corrupted data. I ran a drive check that smoothed it over in about ten minutes, and all I lost was a bass part that was easy to replicate.

It seemed to be an anomaly. I’ve had a few issues with the mixer freezing up or acting strange over the years, but they’ve been very infrequent, and that was the only time anything so distressing happened. Until last night.

I was about to back up a song that’s going on this ambitious solo album I’m putting together after working on the mix a bit, when the mixer started acting like it was overloading even though no sound was passing through it. The meter for the master fader section was maxed out on the display screen for no apparent reason. I put on some headphones and heard nothing out of the ordinary, until I switched to another song, hit play, and things sounded distorted when they weren’t supposed to be.

I shut the mixer down, just to be safe and to give it a rest. It froze up halfway through the shut-down process. I had to turn the power off manually, and when I powered it back up, I couldn’t do anything.

When things went wrong six years ago, I could at least navigate the system parameters and look at things, even if I couldn’t play or record sound. This time I couldn’t even do that much. Everything would boot up fine, the mixer would load the last song I had open, and then it would freeze up. I couldn’t go anywhere or do anything. No button or dial or fader caused anything to happen. I couldn’t run a drive check to see what the problem was. The cooling fan was working, the clock was functioning, the input peak indicators separate from the hard drive responded to being hit with the signal from a mic preamp or compressor being turned on, but that was it. I was stuck in limbo.

Right about then I was thinking, “I should have bought Pro Tools back when I had the extra money. Shit. Mega shit. Triple backwards underwater peanut-encrusted cow shit.” I was up late last night digging around online, leafing through owner’s manuals and troubleshooting guides, all to no avail. I couldn’t ask anyone for advice because no one I know does any serious recording with one of these outdated things.

Today I found a way to bypass the booting process and skip straight to the drive reformat screen, where I saw the mixer no longer recognized the two separate partitions of the drive. That told me I was in trouble, and all my data was either gone or fried past the point of being saved.

I’m pretty good about backing things up these days. I even back up songs and mixes in-progress, long before they’re finished, just in case. But there were a few things I didn’t have the chance to back up before everything stopped working, and I wasn’t too happy about the prospect of losing those things forever.

While I was waffling over whether or not to go through with wiping the drive clean, I noticed the little green light above the play button was flashing, inviting me to restart the mixer without powering down all the way. Figuring I had nothing to lose, I hit shift and play. After restarting, the mixer recognized both partitions again. I still couldn’t play anything, and I could see the master volume had gone right back to being overloaded (though again, nothing was happening to create any sound), but I was at least able to access the menu and run a drive check.

I’ve never been so happy to see a screen telling me I’m going to lose some data in my life. Just like the last time, something somewhere got corrupted somehow. Unlike last time, I don’t seem to have lost a bass part. I don’t know if I lost anything at all. Nothing seems to be missing.

Needless to say, relief is the feeling I threw up on the ceiling. A dead mixer would have been a bit of a problem with all the musical activity going on around here right now. Yeah, I’ve got a backup mixer, but getting it up to speed with the old veteran would have been a bit of a pain in the ass, and the things I would have lost…it wouldn’t have been good.

Happy dancing all around, then.

There’s a lot to say about the new music that’s being made, but there’s a thing or two I can’t quite talk about yet. There should be an industrial-strength update in a few weeks. Until then, behave, little mixer…


    1. Haha! Man, “relief” isn’t a strong enough word. Almost everything we’ve done is safely backed up and would have been salvageable no matter what, but I hadn’t had a chance to back up the “California” song yet, and I wasn’t looking forward to having to tell you, “Hey, uh…my mixer decided to die and we need to re-record that song, even though the way you sang it the first time was fantastic and I’m pulling out all my hair as we speak.”

      Happily everything’s okay now. But I’m going to be even more rigid about backing things up from now on, just in case.

Leave a 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.