Live on Mixlr (and a bit of ‘geeking-out’)

As you possibly know, I’ve been considering playing some of my stuff live in order to give me (and hopefully, listeners) a new perspective on my music and to promote my tunes a bit more. I also said that I was going to document the process, as I learn and/or make mistakes….so here it is (be warned: this post contains some really mundane info about my…ahem…’equipment’). I’m not sure I’m any closer to actually taking my stuff out to venues yet, but I have, at least, found a way to play my music as a performance.

I’ve recently spent a few days trying to work out some practicalities: how to recreate sequenced parts (about 80% of the music) for instance; without just sitting there and pressing ‘play’. Ableton Live is now my chosen method of recording and, as its name suggests, it is equally adept at facilitating some forms of live performance. That was its whole selling-point back in the day. Another issue was how to route the computer and the live instrumentation (such as Monotrons, my synth and bass guitar) in order to use the multiple effects my tracks rely on whilst being able to retain ‘hands-on’ control for live tweaking. Then there was the issue of streaming the audio to

Well I seem to have worked it out. The more technical adept amongst you would probably have a solution to all of this instantly. It took me a bit longer. Two days of re-arranging, trying-out and occasional frustration. But the set-up is now complete, I think. Well, except for a decent clip controller such as the Launchpad (I bought an app for the iPad which purportedly does the same, but its reliability is really erratic….not exactly what you want for a live situation). Anyway, I can’t afford to spend anything at the moment, so the Launchpad will have to wait.

So, this is the primitive and Heath-Robinson-style set-up:

  • iMac running Live (if I ever need to do a gig, I’ll use the MacBook instead, but for streaming from home, I need the laptop to connect to Mixlr at the moment). With clips triggered manually on the fly.
  • Keyboard controller connected to iMac.
  • Monotrons chained together.
  • Alesis Fusion as a stand-alone synth/sampler and for some sequencing duties.
  • Bass guitars fed through the mixer.
  • Multi-fx connected to the mixer’s sends.
  • iPad for Korg MS20 sounds.

All of this is fed through my tiny Behringer mixer and then routed into the Macbook via a Tascam i/o interface. The only issue I’ve encountered is a bit of interference from the Mac (or it could be my wireless router) when using the multi-fx.

So, this gives me the means to use Live and to tweak effects settings/clips and the mix using the mouse (at the moment, though I’ll use the controllers when I get the Launchpad or similar). There’s probably easier, more straight-forward ways of doing this, but it works for me.
This is what it all looks like at present:

The mixer is full to capacity! But this layout does make it easy to twiddle, tweak and play everything from the same spot (while maintaining a degree of tidiness!).

As for Mixlr….I recommend it. At first it seemed a little bit awkward to stream using their dedicated free software (you have to download this if you wish to broadcast. It didn’t display correctly and I couldn’t make head nor tail of it. Then I realised I had some system fonts missing on my computer. Once I’d installed these, the text appeared correctly and it was easy. Not exactly rocket-science….or even GCSE Science…..but it challenged me! The site itself looks very slick and I get the impression there’s quite a bit of beta testing going on, but it works ok. It’d be nice to have more of my networking friends on there, but I hope that’ll come in time.

So, the plan is to present a series of hour-long ‘gigs’ on Mixlr with a different tracklist from my albums for each gig, also some cover versions of my favourite music and anything else I fancy doing…..synthy improv (‘Symprov?’), noise, radiophonic-style stuff, that kind of thing. I am sincerely hoping people tune-in to listen, or I’m gonna feel like a complete dick.

I did a little test (three tracks) which you can listen to HERE. A few mistakes, a bit of sound-balancing needed; but I’m quite happy with the sound quality in general.




Ruminations, Seditions and Salutations

I like lots of things. I like chorizo, for instance. And my iPad (but not with my iPad).

I also like, it appears, Twitter.

Now, this is a peculiar thing considering I swore myself off Twitter at the start of the year and took a two month break (I intended to leave completely). But then I rejoined, mainly to connect again with people who’s opinions, jokes and repartee I had missed. Since then I have regained much of the enthusiasm for the medium I had upon joining a few years ago.

I like, for example, that I can tweet stupid comments, old Tommy Cooper jokes and have in-depth (albeit, truncated 140 character) conversations about music and culture. Elements of my interests and instinctive behaviour which normally make the people around me raise their eyes in exasperation. On Twitter it is acceptable, nay, encouraged and shared.

Anyway, this evening saw an interesting little conversation with Ash Cooke (the musician Pulco, formerly of Derrero. Known as @pulcoman on Twitter) and fellow independent songwriter Ian Thistlethwaite, spurred on by this blog post. All good stuff. I won’t repeat it here. But anyway, it confirmed to me why I use Twitter…… it’s not just a promotional tool….it’s a forum…..and a pub. It’s also a place where spammers run up to you and shout in your face; but I just punch them.

In relation to the post mentioned above: my interpretation is that it’s saying that the internet has not really democratized music, as many (including myself) claim. The post implies, through many statistics and comparisons to the ‘old’ music industry, that the internet has stifled musicians’ career opportunities due to over-saturation. It claims, probably rightly, that the internet has allowed everyone to release their ‘product’ independently and thus, because of this deluge, there’s less money available to support the sale of more ‘successful’ artists’ music. The overall gist of the article is that this has been damaging and that the shiny, bright new way…ie. the internet….isn’t the shiny, bright thing we thought it was. The strap-line being “Artists For An Ethical Internet”; but the tone of the article is more like “Artists For An Exclusive Internet”.

The other thing that one can glean from this article is that there is an assumption made by the author that ‘success’ means sales. I’ve been here before in another post. But, this assumption does tend to correlate with the traditional, established “music industry” view. Is it that important that a musician makes a career/livelihood from their art? How many painters do the same? Not many. In fact, statistically fewer I guess, than musicians. What the article doesn’t really acknowledge is that ‘success’, for many independent musicians, means just ‘getting heard’. The article’s statistics do not relate to free downloads, just sales. Nor does it make any mention of, or artists’ websites where listeners can buy/download music. The statistics didn’t cover these. In fact, the article statistics relate to the larger corporate merchants (surely, the new major ‘labels’) and affiliate sites, such as Tunecore who supply to the giants: iTunes, Amazon, Napster, etc. It misses the point.

To me, independent music is not about sales, or corporate connections. It’s about integrity, choice and direct connection. Everyone, in any walk of life, at some point often has to make the choice between a decent living and independence/self-determinism. Musicians are no different. Nor are we special (although, sometimes, the music is). To paraphrase Ian Thistlethwaite during our Twitter conversation: “some of my favourite musicians have ‘day-jobs'”.

*This* is Independent Music…

I don’t know what it is about Spring/Summer here in the UK (besides it’s utter crapness, that is! Rain, bloody rain….it’s like living in Blade Runner!), but people have been releasing quality independent music recently, particularly in June! I’m not referring to myself here, of course…..I just do what I do and hope people like it.

No, I’m referring to these little gems of sound (actually that’s misrepresenting them, ‘cos some of these sound MASSIVE!)

The Fierce & The Dead – ‘On VHS’ (‘kin awesome)

Pulco – ‘Man Of Lists’ (bloody lovely)

Jewellers – ‘Lakeswimmer’ (Gareth’s & Gareth’s new one)

Do you like my new, succinct, reviewing style?! Seriously though, it’s best to let the music to do the talking and these are very good releases indeed.

“On VHS” – The Fierce & The Dead

I’m not a rock musician. I’ve always believed that I have a fairly extensive and broad knowledge of music; but there are blind spots. ‘Rock’, as a genre, covers a lot of ground, but I have very little knowledge about it. ‘Prog Rock’, as a genre, is probably the one area of music which I have little or no understanding of at all. In fact, apart from a teenage dalliance with the music of Mike Oldfield, I’ve never listened to, or been enthusiastic about, prog at all.

My (mis)preconception is that prog rock tended (note: the past tense) to be produced by ex-public school boys (Canterbury is no Manchester, Detroit, Sheffield or 70s New York). It was produced by Musicians (capital M). It wasn’t iconoclastic like post-punk. It wasn’t particularly avant-garde or modernistic; drawing on past musics (rhythm & blues, jazz, folk and classical) and melding them in a fairly obvious way, albeit experimenting with structure, timing and theme; it was post-modern and politically neutral.

So, what has this got to do with a recent independent release by a group of musicians based in London?

Well, I know a couple of things: Matt Stevens (the guitarist and, I assume, main writer for the band) is a musician who, with his solo releases, has developed a body of work which draws on a wide variety of influences, but people tend to assume his main area of interest is prog, describing it as ‘proggy’ or ‘neo-prog’ (though he often descibes his music as Post-Rock, which is a description I can more easily identify with). Along with Kevin Feazey (bass and production), Stuart Marshall (drums) and Steve Cleaton (guitar), Stevens has co-founded The Fierce & The Dead (ampersand, or no ampersand?), a powerful quartet whose music has elements of what I would understand to be prog-rock, but also has elements of so much more.

TFATD’s music contains experiments with tonality, pallette and time signature. But rather than being inward-looking self-indulgience, it is outward-looking, futuristic guitar music. And while extremely accomplished, it does not wear it’s musicianship on it’s sleeve, in fact, one hardly notices timing changes or weird keys and scales, the music flows.

The music on the ep ‘On VHS’ is, appropriately, cinematic. TFATD’s name alone conjures images of pulpy, straight-to-video movies of the early 80s. In fact, ‘The Fierce & The Dead’ could almost be the title of a yet-to-be-made Tarantino-produced, Robert Rodriguez-directed homage to the same period. Whilst the name also alludes to horror-master Sam Raimi’s bigger-budget post-modern western, ‘The Quick And The Dead’. There are elements on the ep which bring to mind John Carpenter’s arpeggios (albeit on the guitar) and each track builds to, and decends from, crescendos which suggest dramatic action and then calm counterpoint. The influence of classic TV and neo-schlocky cinema is always apparent. To see what I’m talking about, take a look at the fine and funny video for album-opener “666.6”.

This is modern music. It’s “progressive” but not ‘prog’; it shares as much with Radiohead or Stereolab than with King Crimson. This is the kind of rock I can relate to. It is not ‘about itself’, it’s not self-indulgent noodling or self-aggrandisement. What it is is thoughtful, imaginative guitar music which knows where to place the light and where to place the shade, which doesn’t take itself too seriously, which can be atmospheric but also rocks hard. It has a concept and is complex, but doesn’t let that complexity overtake the entertainment value of the music. As you can probably tell, I really liked it.

Ennui? Oui…

Hello again. It’s great liking music, isn’t it? I certainly do like the sounds made by some of our very best popular beat combos, especially those managed by Simon Cowell. Bands such as ‘The Cockers’ and solo artists like Cynthia Razzle and her hit “Razzle Vajazzle”. Hope you like it too.

As you can tell, I’m a tad bored. Well, not exactly bored as such. I’m actually quite active mentally and, sort of, creatively. The fact is that I’m listening to lots of old and new music, trying to get some inspiration for new tracks. Influence, inspiration, whatever. I’ve hit a bit of a wall for the time being. Apart from loads of loops I’ve made and uploaded for people to use (On Soundcloud) and a few experiments, I’ve not really made anything new. This will change, of course; and I do acknowledge that the playing about with loops and ‘experiments’ is exactly what will lead me to making new tracks.

What I do take solace from is that I have a small but loyal and supportive fan-base (far better and nicer than a ‘large but casual and fairly apathetic’ fan-base) who are willing to listen to and share my music because they like it.

After a fairly decent first response to the ‘Crash St’ album, the downloads have (inevitably) tailed-off for the time being. It’s difficult to pique people’s interest in a release they’ve never heard, from an artist they’ve never heard of, promotion not being my strong point. In fact, if I keep tweeting/posting about the album ad infinitum, people are going to get pissed-off (if they’re not already). So, the promotion of the album lies with listeners sharing and word-of-mouth. Some of you have been excellent at doing that already; many thanks for that.

All I can ask is that you keep tweeting/posting/sharing/torrenting and encourage other people to do the same. Also, I have embeddable players on Bandcamp and Soundcloud which I’d love you to include in blogs, etc if you can.

For instance:

As per usual, many, many thanks for all you do….including reading this blog!

Cheers, Paul 🙂

Still Bubbling Under…

No new ‘official’ releases at the moment, but plenty to keep me busy. I’ve been accustoming myself to some new kit, learning more little tricks on Ableton and knocking out a few experimental tunes.

I did a track a week or so ago, provisionally titled “Sully”, though I wasn’t sure where to go with it once I’d laid the foundations of the track. I decided to put it on Soundcloud to get some feedback/ideas and/or to let someone else play with it. Anyway, somebody did have a play with it; Diane Marie Kloba and Theodore Kloba (whose music is available here) wrote a song around the track, entitled “You Let Me In Your Room”. Here it is:

I really like the quirky post-punk vibe it’s got now.

I’ll probably keep posting some stuff on Soundcloud this week, so keep your eyes and ears open.

Incidentally, my recent album “Crash St” is here if you’ve not yet heard it. It’s a fair example of what I do. If you have bought or downloaded it, please keep tweeting/sharing. It means I get to reach a wider audience. Some of you have already played your part…thanks for that.

Diebenkorn – Big Car EP

This is new.

Hope you like it…

It’s free/pay-what-you-want HERE.

Welcome To ‘Crash St’

A short one……here it is. Am so pleased that it’s now here for you to listen to in its entirety. If you like it and download it, please share it on your favourite social networking sites. Thanks.