Monday, 24 December 2012

GTK Studio Software Additions

Added a few nice pieces of software to the GTK Studio over the last couple of weeks.

First up is the OP-X from Sonicprojects. This is a VSTi emulation of the famous Oberheim OB-X synthesizer and I can tell you that for a soft synth, the OP-X has got some serious balls. You may recognise the sound of the OB-X from songs such as Van Halen's "Jump" (the opening synthriff is the OB-X), Rush's "Tom Sawyer" and the organ intro of Prince's "Let's Go Crazy". The OP-X is a good solid sounding VSTi capable of ripping leads, booming basses and some seriously lush pads.

Also joining the throng is a synthesizer called Rapture from Cakewalk. I had a cut down version that came as part of Cakewalk's Sonar 7 Producer Edition DAW which I've really enjoyed using, so when Cakewalk did a crazy "End of the World" sale and offered it for a very silly low price, I went for it. Rapture has a really lovely sound thanks to it's non-aliasing resampling engine technology, making it a wavetable synthesizer of some distinction and quality. There are lots of lovely pads, some great leads and some truly awesome sequenced patches. I'm looking forward to incorporating it's sounds into my music.

Belgian company Image-Line have also had a bit of a mad sale and one item I snapped up was their Sytrus synthesizer. It's a terrific kind of hybrid synthesizer that has FM, RM and subtractive synthesis on offer and the sounds are out of this world. I can't speak highly enough of this great little VSTi and am looking forward to using it on the next geigertek album alongside the Hollow Sun products, so please do expect to hear it on forth-coming productions.

One little synthesizer I have been waiting for it's price to drop is Aalto, made by U.S. company, Madrona Labs. It's the only Buchla inspired VSTi that I can find, and I have to say it's just great. Some of the sounds are simply off the scale in terms of weirdness and it's not really a synthesizer that you could effectively use for blistering screaming solos, but that's not what I feel it is for. In my view, it's first and foremost a sound design tool, providing wonderfully abstract electronic soundscapes and drones as well as weirded out rhythmic pads and percussive loops. I need to spend some time with this to get used to the controls and what they do, but I already love it's accessibility and hugely patchable interface.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Mega new addition to the GTK Studio

Well it looks like I've struck lucky again via good old evilBay.

Today, I won an auction for a Peavey SRC 2400 24-channel mixing console, you can see a picture of the actual desk to the right here. Tomorrow morning, I must travel over to the Northamptonshire town of Daventry to collect it, so as you can imagine, I'm kind of quite excited as I've got it far sooner than I expected.

The SRC 2400 has enjoyed good reviews in it's 20-odd year history and apparently it's not unusual to still see them in use in many studios today. It's not full of the fancy features that you see on today's consoles, but that's not what I want it for. With 24 channels, 6 auxillary sends, fully flight-cased and some of the best mic pre-amps going, it will make the GTK Studio fully operational as all my hardware synthesizers and effects units can be connected and fed through to the computer.

It's a bit of beast in terms of it's size, so it will be necessary for me to temporarily put a stop to all music and photography, because I will need to completely gut out the studio and re-build it with the mixing console and the hardware fully integrated with the computer gear. I can't wait as it's a great challenge and will ultimately lead to me having a proper full-blown operational studio that will enable me to use all my hardware as well as enable friends and guests to plug into the system without a need to disconnect stuff to accomodate them.

At this stage, I have no need or intention to sell my little Mackie 1202 micro-mixer as it has been and will continue to be a veritable workhorse. Because my Lexicon audio interface has multiple inputs, it means that I can input the new console direct to the computer.

So, I'm now sitting back looking at this little room and figuring out exactly how it's all going to be done. I'll get some pics up when I start work on it of course. I know I've said this before, but this is it for now, equipment-wise - mainly because my little Nissan Micra needs some attention ;-)

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Numan Gig Update......

Well unfortunately the stage set shoot hasn't come off, BUT, and there is a reason for the use of capitals, I have a photo pass for this evening, all thanks to a certain lighting professional who was lighting director for the 2012 Ultravox tour.

The Fuji is being prepped as I write and I cannot tell you how excited I am ;-)

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Tomorrow night at the UEA......

The excitement levels are building up here as tomorrow evening, I'm heading off to the University of East Anglia here in Norwich to go and see none other than Gary Numan in concert!!!

Numan is up there with Ultravox and John Foxx as my musical heroes and inspirations, having followed his music since 1979 when I saw his first appearance on the B.B.C. music show, Top Of The Pops. And the crazy thing is, even though I have all his albums and DVD's etc, I've NEVER seen him live - unbelievable.

Also, I'm waiting to hear if I have the opportunity to do what I did with Ultravox, and get access to photograph the stage set. Everything including fingers, toes, legs and eyes are crossed for that one. Would be a very cool addition to the collection of photographs I have that include John Foxx, Ultravox and of course, Ben Edwards.

Here's hoping :-)

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Two Days In Wales

I had the very good fortune to visit Wales last week and enjoy the hospitality of one Stephen Howell, lord and master of the Hollow Sun software house.
Now, Hollow Sun is a name often bandied about on this 'ere blog of mine as I have been both customer and fan of this excellent wee Welsh company and it's products, in particular their Music Laboratory Machines, for some time now. In fact, the next Geigertek album will be called "Hollow Sun" - it's such a great title!!! For the last few years, they have been churning out sample packs and sample-based gizmos and contraptions of a consistently high quality that range from the brilliantly functional to the downright brilliantly bonkers. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if the Oxford English Dictionary were to ever add the words Hollow Sun to their definition of quirky.

I've been corresponding with Stephen via e-mail for a while and, naturally, I jumped at his invitation to visit the hallowed halls of Hollow Sun Towers, based in the utterly gorgeous market town of Cowbridge, which lies something of a stone's throw from Cardiff. Stephen has been through a numbers of changes in recent times and a part of that was new premises for his business, and so it was that he said he would like some photographs done "in my style". He also mentioned an interest in doing something of an homage to a painting called "Not To Be Reproduced" by the famous surrealist artist, Rene Magritte. I was more than happy to oblige.

A most enjoyable five hour jaunt to the other side country ensued and I was greeted by this tweed jacketed, hat-wearing, pipe-smoking, mad, angry loony of a Welshman (apparently his crusty old butler, Mortimer, was away visiting a poorly aunt or something). Many hours of constant conversation followed, so much so that we nearly forgot to take photographs!!! Stephen is a most interesting man having been in the music biz since forever, notably working for Akai Japan (designing instruments and creating sound libraries for their samplers) and Alesis (he did the drum sounds for their hugely successful SR18 drum machine), as well as working with people such as Holly Johnson (of Frankie Goes To Hollywood fame) and Peter Gabriel (yes, THAT Peter Gabriel). He shamelessly dropped names and kept me thoroughly entertained. He also showed me round his modular synthesizer - a fabulous machine and I now want one. I finally got my hotel room at 4.30am (fortunately they let people stay out late!!!) and set my alarm for 8.30am so that I may enjoy the excellent breakfast the locals told me they served. My alarm duly went off at 8.30am and I hit what I thought was the snooze button. At 10.15am I realised I hadn't hit the snooze button at all and I had missed breakfast. Bugger. But never mind, being an individual of positive thought, I had a luxuriant shower, checked out and found myself an excellent dirty burger van (you know, those vans you see selling burgers, hot dogs and strong tea - they do the best food in the world!!!) which served a truly fabulous dirty burger which I adorned with burger relish and happily devoured with a mug of tea so strong, you could stand your spoon up in it - just how I like :-)

After a short walk around the main streets and back streets of Cowbridge, I returned to Hollow Sun Towers shortly thereafter, whereupon Stephen introduced me to the latest Hollow Sun product, Pulstar. It's part of a new line they are calling "Alien Devices" which have rather unique and innovative user interfaces and some seriously interesting sound shaping facilities which can be used for just about any modern music genre. The basic concept is that of the ability to explore strange new worlds, seek out new civilisations......yeah, I got caught up in it to. I have a copy of Pulstar and I can tell you that it more than perfectly aligns itself with the Music Laboratory Machines, and Stephen told me that the series will expand over time to create a kind of semi-modular system with instruments devoted to specific tasks. Can't wait.

Anyway, here's the photographs and of course, that Rene Magritte homage that does seem to be garnering some attention :-)

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Hollow Sun Towers, Wales, U.K.Hollow Sun Towers, Wales, U.K.Hollow Sun Towers, Wales, U.K.Hollow Sun Towers, Wales, U.K.Hollow Sun Towers, Wales, U.K.Hollow Sun Towers, Wales, U.K.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

An Expedition to Wales!!!

I'm in the process of a getting myself sorted out for a 2 day visit with The Fuji and Maddy the Micra to Wales next week. I shall be departing at some stupid o'clock hour on Monday morning as I would like to be at my destination by mid-late morning.

And why am I going to Wales you ask? Well, I am going at the invitation of Stephen Howell who is the head-honcho of the Hollow Sun software house, to photograph his studio and workplace. Looking forward to meeting Stephen as I am a big fan of the software that his company produces. This will be a most interesting addition to the Synth Studio Photo Project, and quite likely my last one this side of Christmas.

So the cameras are all prepped, bags packed and Maddy the Micra readied for our next adventure and be warned, there will be pictures!!! :-)

Friday, 9 November 2012

It was too good to resist......

Okay, so in a previous post I said that I was done with the GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) for now.

Okay, so maybe that wasn't strictly true.

BUT......when I wrote it, I meant it.


Courtesy of my good friend David Wright, I now possess an Alesis QS6 synthesizer. The fun has been deciding where to put it in the GTK Studio, but I think it have found the best place for it on the workbench atop The Rack.

I've spent the last few hours just playing with the 500 odd presets and I have to say that I am very impressed with the QS6. I have missed my Roland JV-2080 as it had some great pianos and strings, but the QS6 has perfectly filled that void and now provides me with some seriously strong synth sounds as well. This has been an excellent acquisition, so expect to hear it on many of my future recordings.
I've been using one of my Evolution MIDI keyboard controllers as the master keyboard for the synths in The Rack. I've now swapped the Evolution with the QS6 because the latter has an easier way of changing MIDI channels and of course, it has after-touch which is a must.

I now need a new mixing desk and after Christmas, I'll be after a 24 channel desk. Getting that in the GTK Studio should be very interesting, but I'll do it!!!

Monday, 29 October 2012

Chip off the old block......

I have my son, Callum, staying with me for his half-term school holiday. He asked me last week if I could send him some software to help him make one of his favourite types of music, dubstep. I quite enthused by this and told him that if he waited until his week here, I would set up his computer with the Reaper 4 digital audio workstation (DAW) and some sample loops. He agreed.

Well, we headed into the GTK Studio this morning and got to it this morning. Within a short space of time, he was happily layering up beat and instrument loops. And we have spent most of the day working together on his first track as well as showing him various basic bits and bobs of a modern computer sequencing package and he seems to have been bitten by the bug. At the moment, he is only using loops and samples, but it's a good way to get him into the mindset of working with music software and for using available sound sources to create his own pieces.

Here's a photo of him hard at it in teh GTK Studio:

He's called his first track "The Beginning" and he's put it up on Soundcloud, which you can find below:

And here's a photo of him looking very pleased with himself, whilst working on his track:

All this of course will stand him on good stead for the up and coming Impossible Men project and his work with me on future electronic music projects :-)

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Awakenings All-Dayer EM Event and An Unexpected Addition!!!

I took myself off to Burton-On-Trent last Saturday (20th October 2012) for an excellent electronic music event called Awakenings. The Awakenings concerts are held roughly 4/5 times a year, but this year, the final event of the 2012 cycle was set up as an all-dayer. And what a treat it was.

On the bill were Modulator ESP, Parallel Sun, Radio Massacre International, Cosmonauttransfer, Altres and Terje Whinther. It was a very well balanced and varied line-up with a little of something for everyone. I personally enjoyed all the acts and certainly found some inspiration for my own music, particularly my more experimental stuff.

It was also a great social occasion and I was able to meet a number of people whose music I followed, articles I'd read or have linked up with on jolly old Facebook. Names here include Andy Pickford (UK electronic music composer), Paul Nagle (UK electronic music artist and review writer for music magazine "Sound On Sound"), Paul Challoner (UK electronic music artist), Kevin Guthrie (keyboard player with Altres) and Martin Greenwood (UK electronic music artist). I enjoyed catching up with people I had previously met such as Jez Creek and Phil Booth (the organisers), Duncan Goddard (radio Massacre International) and Ian Catherall (UK electronic music and EM fan).

Naturally, I took a lot of photographs and I'll be spending a few days sorting through them. Unfortunately, from what i have seen, there aren't many good ones. The lighting was very low and that proved tricky for The Fuji, but I hope there'll be couple I can do something with.

A few days before the event, I received an e-mail from a gentleman by the name of Bryan who had a Kawai K5m rack-mounted synthesizer that he thought I might be interested in, which of course I was. I popped along to Bryan's house just before going to the Awakenings All-Dayer as he lived about 15 minutes from the venue. I enjoyed an hour and a half in the company of Bryan and his brother, with a mug of tea (much welcome after my 3 and a half hour drive from Norwich!!!) where we spent the time chatting about synths, studios, music and photography. The K5m is a digital synthesizer that uses additive synthesis which is quite a complex mode of sound generation, but with the use of an editor, it shouldn't be problem to start creating my own sounds. Bryan very kindly gave me a set of data cards, which were very much appreciated, so that I can store whatever new sounds I come up with. I ran the K5m through the GTK Studio system yesterday and I have to say that I an very pleased with the shimmering glassy sounds it produces. I layered it up with my recently acquired Kawai K4r and the resultant digital soundscapes were most satisfying. I've added a picture of the K5m below.

So, I now need to sift through the photos and properly plumb in the K5m.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Ultravox Stage Set, Ipswich, October 2012

I've been a big fan of Ultravox, in all it's incarnations, since the age of 12 (I'm now 47) and have seen them perform live many times. When the group imploded in the late 1980's, along with pretty much every Ultravox fan alive, I thought that was it and so moved on to other things, but taking the fine music of this excellent band with me.

Then in 2009, they reformed to do a series of concerts to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the writing of their seminal hit "Vienna". I was unable to make it to any of these dates and was totally gutted, as I didn't think there would be anything more after the tour finished - the group had certainly intimated as such. But hey-ho, being a grown-up (allegedly) etc I dealt with it.

And then a new album appeared in 2012 and what a stonking piece of work it was!!! The "Brilliant" album heralded another tour and this time, through a couple of good friends, I had a ticket :-D But, as those who are close to me and those who follow this blog will know, I'm not one for letting the slightest of opportunities slip by. Through good grace, my own musical and photographic endeavours and a bit of good fortune, I have come into contact with a good many people who reside on the upper plane of the U.K. music scene, and I approached one of these people with a simple request to photograph the Ultravox stage set. I wasn't really interested in taking pictures of the band as such, plenty of other people do that and I really didn't think for one minute they would go for that, no, it was the equipment that garnered my interest, fuelled by my visits to the synth studios of the likes of Ben Edwards and Kevin Kendle.

To my utter delight and complete astonishment, I was given the green light a few days before the gig and so I prepped The Fuji ready for the afternoon that lay ahead.

I was met outside the Ipswich Regent Theatre (formerly the Gaumont) by Ultravox's director of lighting, Chris Curran, given my pass and shown through to the auditorium where the road crew were still prepping for the evening concert. I was introduced to the tour manager and sound mixer and then shown the lighting desks used by Chris Curran. The big surprise of the day was Chris saying that I would be able to watch Ultravox do their soundcheck - and it was indeed a true pleasure.

Once the soundcheck was done, Chris took me up to the stage whereupon I was introduced to the road crew, who I have to say were a great bunch of people, very friendly, interested in what I was doing, suggested possible shots and took the piss out of me - when one of them asked if I got out much, you should have heard their reaction when I told them about a fascinating little train station I had visited previously with a lovely diesel locomotive that had interesting numbers!!!

All too soon, it was time to go - I could have spent ages snapping and chatting, not least with keyboard tech Roger Lyons. It was quite an afternoon and I'm happy with the photos that came from it and you can see below.

The concert in the evening was magnificent. Ultravox performed a two and a half hour set of great music and their performance was as polished and professional as I could recall. Even when Billy Currie's Mac computer stopped working during "One Small Day", the other three carried on as if nothing had happened with Midge ure joking at the end of the song about our being lucky to see the only time that we would see Ultravox performing as a three piece. I wasn't able to get any photos from the evening performance as the security detail confiscated my camera until after the concert. No complaints though as I had been more than very fortunate to get pictures that few others would have done earlier in the day.

A huge thanks goes out to Chris Curran, Berenice Hardman and Ultravox for a great afternoon- you made an aging fan very happy :-)

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