Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Another new blog, but please read on......

I was told yesterday that I have type 2 diabetes.

A very curious slant on things.

Lots of life changes are now necessary and a new way of doing things must be adopted.

So I'm going to blog about it because there is always the possibility that someone who'll be in the same shoes as me one day might just find my inane ramblings about the subject of interest or use.

Be warned, my inevitable off-kilter way of seeing things will be apparent. It's a serious subject, but it doesn't mean that I have to take the subject or myself too seriously ;-)

I've called the blog "Sugar Free Me" and here's the link to it: SUGAR FREE ME BLOG

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

First play with the signal generator......

I mentioned in a previous blog entry that I managed to acquire myself a signal generator. What on earth would I want with one of those? And trust me, that is a question I have been asked a few times over the last week or so.

Well first off, I think it best to explain what a signal generator is. It's an electronic device that generates a repeating or non-repeating electronic signal. Their main functions are generally for designing, testing, troubleshooting, and repairing electronic or electroacoustic devices, but naturally they do also have artistic uses. There are quite a few types of signal generator and all have a different purpose or application.

The type of signal generator I now have is a Type G1 low frequency signal generator manufactured by Linstead Electronics Limited who were based in North London. The advertising blurb for the G1a reads as follows~:

 The G1 provides a flexible source of audio and ultrasonic signals. The frequency range (10 c/s-100 kc/s) is covered in four decades controlled by a multiplier switch and a variable control clearly calibrated on a 54 in. diameter scale. Outputs available: sine wave, 0-6 v r.m.s. continuously variable (distortion < 1 X); square wave, 0-9 v peak-to-peak (d.c. coupled for no droop at low frequencies - fast rise times (x 1 psec) at high frequencies); 0-1 W into 3 0 over the frequency range 50 4s-20 kc/s - this output can drive a loudspeaker for testing and producing an audible note for experiment or a vibrator to examine mechanical vibrations. Supply: 210-250v, 40-60 cis, 25 W.

I don't actually have a clue what any of that really means, but for those of you who do, I hope it was interesting enough. I know it makes the type of noises I want it to make and the fact that it works is good enough for me :-)

Once I got the signal generator home, my first task was to sort out an audio lead and fortunately my new-found soldering skills came in handy as I cobbled together a temporary something so that I could get playing with it. I'll put together a proper lead in the next week or two.

The lead worked first time and I nearly cancelled out all hearing capabilities - moral is: check the volume pot on the sig gen as well as the faders on the desk!!! I fired up Reaper, loaded in AmpliTube 3 (it's a VST guitar thing - lots of cabinets, amps and effects) and a VST reverb plug-in called Ambience and away we went. Essentially, at this stage I am capable of only creating drones and pitch sweeps, though it is possible to "play" the signal generator, but that's going to take a little practice. That said, a new friend of mine in America called Rod Mitchell (he releases his music through Hollow Sun Records under the name of Atomic Shadow) has sent me a musical note to frequency chart which shows me what each number on the signal generator's dial corresponds to in terms of pitch. Basically, it will make learning to play the Linstead a bit easier.

So, I laid down some interesting bits and bobs and found that I had about 3-4 minutes of something that could possibly be turned into something. And that's what I did. I added a nice little synthy sequence courtesy of a VSTi called Dream Sequencer, bass sequence using a VSTi called MiniMogue and a rhythm that was made up of a hi-hat from my Alesis DM5 drum module triggered using the DIY drum trigger I made a few weeks back and some processed and looped noises I made, again using the DIY drum trigger. Wee bit of compression on the Linstead to keep it's levels in check and a little something came out of it. Have a little listen below :-)

Friday, 8 June 2012

Getting geared up......

I've been quite lucky over the last few weeks with procurring new items, such as the vintage valve radio and the electric guitar, for the GTK Studio. And I've done it again!!!

I've been wanting a drum module for the DIY Drum Pad Unit that my son Callum and I will soon be building for use in the GTK Studio and with the Impossible Men project. I had been thinking along the lines of buying a trigger unit made by Alesis which would have set me back about £90 - £100, or getting hold of a drum module or making a drum synth myself, not necessarily my first choice. But, a phone call from my good friend David Wright resolved the situation perfectly. He was obviously aware that I was after a drum module and as he was having something of a studio clear-out, he phoned to see if I was still interested in his Alesis DM5 Drum Module. I was, we agreed a very good price and it's now sitting on my desk :-)

Also, I have had a signal generator on my wish-list for a while as I really want to get more into the experimental/atonal side of electronic music, both in the studio and for live performance. They're about but again, prices are all over the place on the auction sites and I've not had any success in sourcing one though free ads, car boots and second-hand shops. Anyway, a few days ago, I was looking through jolly old eBay when I saw a signal generator being offered with a starting price of £5 and it was located not very far from me - it boded well. I contacted the seller to see if he would accept a "Buy It Now" offer, unfortunately (for me) he didn't, but was very nice about the whole thing - at the end of the day, he would want to get what he could for it and I certainly had no issue with that. The long story cut short is that sitting on my workdesk is a new old Linstead G1a signal generator that works just fine :-D

So, I've been lucky again and find that my little studio is starting find some interesting equipment appearing in it. Next month will see the arrival of a second signal generator, a little bigger than this one and driven by valves I think. Then shall begin my glorious exploration of the sonic realms - watch this space ;-)

Thursday, 7 June 2012

New old guitar......

For some time now I've been wanting to get my hands on an electric guitar as I'm intrigued by the possibilities it offers for sound exploration. So, I put a posting on our local Freegle (click HERE to check these weblog entries to find out more about Freegle) to see if anyone in the locale had one going spare they didn't want. I specified that I wasn't bothered about the condition or if it had any strings as these were things that either didn't matter or I could sort out.

And what do you know, I got a response from a gentleman not too far from me who said he had an old electric guitar "in bits" that he had kept aside as a project, but I was more than welcome to it if I wanted it. And I thought "why not".

I went over to collect the guitar and the man had been true to his word - it was in bits. It was a stringless black Les Paul copy and I was reliably informed that the neck had come away from the body. The problem with that, he told me, was that two of the screws holding the neck in place had sheared and he had not had the time to try and get them out, and now no longer had the inclination to do so. So gave my thank you's and pootled back to GTK HQ.

Now, if you are regular reader of this weblog thing of mine, you will know that I am most certainly not a master of the D.I.Y. religion. No sir. So I laid out the bits of this rather sorry looking electric guitar on the GTK Studio Sofa and pondered my next move. Coffee.

After I finished my second coffee, I swung into action by consulting the highest authority on these sort of matters - Google. The Great God Google said that my best course of action was to drill out the sheared screws - can't be difficult I thought, so I went and brought my drill out of exile. Well, actually, the shed. Waste of time because both "not a clue what I was doing" and impatience set in VERY quickly and the idea was abandoned even quicker. I decided upon a more "practical" approach, in the sense that it was in my mind an easier option. Drill two new holes. And this is what I did. And you know what? It worked.

I have to emphasise that my interest in the electric guitar was for the sounds I could get out it, not necessarily for it to be an instrument of grandness or perfection.

I put the other bits and pieces, such as the bridge and the pick board, back together and had a look at the electrics - after a quick clean-up they seemed fine and so I went to put the volume and tone pots back on. I had a problem. Not being a guitarist, I didn't have a clue what went where. Now I have to say that the great God Google let me down here - I couldn't find a single page or picture which showed me where to put the pots. There was only one thing for it - I had to speak to someone.

I put a wee posting on Facebook and, at my good lady Anne's suggestion, I also phoned the Impossible Men guitarist, Peter Dagg. Thankfully he sorted things out over the phone for me and the pots were in place where they should be.

I gave the guitar a good clean up and sorted out a new set of strings, a guitar strap (black webbing - very cool and matches the guitar) and some plectrums (also black - I like things to match). An added bonus was my landlord giving a small practice amp (he's a bass guitarist in a rock band and an avid guitar collector) and my guitar set up was complete.

I now have a rather lovely looking, shiny, black Rose-Morris Avon Les Paul copy guitar, that sounds great.

All I need to do now is learn to play the bugger......

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Man of 2 Worlds Radio Show :-)

I haven't made much mention on here about my weekly radio show on the One World Radio station!!! Well I'm gonna do just that right now :-D

My weekly 2 hour radio show is called the "Man of 2 Worlds Radio Show" and it goes out every Sunday afternoon at 1pm. It's all about electronic music in all it's forms from abstract soundscapes to synth-pop to electronica to experimental. I also have regular features which have proven quite popular. There are "Nobody Does It Cheddar" where I play a synthy track that isn't quite the best of what's out there. It's proven to be a popular item and so far I haven't received any lawsuits which is always a good thing. I also do something called the "MIDI Chain" where I take a number of tracks and the listener has to guess what the link is - this is an idea I blatantly and unashamedly stole off of my good friend Clive Dunn (not that one, the other one). Clive is an award-winning film maker who worked for more than 40 years with the B.B.C. and ITV channels, and together we are developing a website called Topographex which is about the hidden histories and lost landscapes of the U.K. - more on that soon. Another feature is the "Little Bit of Synth Corner" - when I was a teenager discovering the delights of the synthesizer, I would buy anything and everything with a synth on it, even if it was just a nano-second of a filter-sweep. Years later, (April 12th 2012 to be precise), I discovered during a conversation the legendary synth technician Kent Spong, that I was not alone in this and so the idea for the feature was born. I put a small post on the show's Facebook page asking people to send in their "little bit of synth" records, and I had quite a few replies, some coming from established musos and synth creators!!! And last but not least is the "Man of 2 Worlds Radio Show News Desk". For this, my dear partner Anne reads out any items of synth/electronic music news be it an album release or some gig news.

I also try and act as something of a platform for new and/or un-signed musicians by getting them to send me any tracks they would like played. I do this because when I came back into the the music world, the very saemthing was done for me via two radio shows, one was a podcast program called RoboCast Radio (now sadly no more) and the other a weekly show on Harborough FM called Hawke Chill Out Sessions hosted by the venerable Terry Hawke. Through these two programs, my music was heard by a wider audience than I could have hoped for and ultimately led to my coming into contact with AD Music to whom my four releases are signed. I'm realy happy to do this as I've heard some great new music that I might have otherwise missed - plus I get to share it with those who listen into my show :-)

I have a Facebook page for the program as well which you can find HERE. Pretty much each week whilst the program airs on One World Radio, I sit in front of my computer and chat with people who are listening to the show - it's a great way to get feedback AND be in touch with the people who make your listening figures. I also add a playlist each week.

On top of that, I also have a page on my personal website which includes an archive page of the show, going right back to the first one. I add the latest show one week after it's broadcast on One World Radio so as to allow for their repeats of the program during the week. You can find the archive page HERE.

So there you go. My little radio show.