Friday, 27 July 2012

I've got a new mug......

A banter buddy on Facebook recently brought to my attention a page on good old eBay - we like eBay here in the GTK Studio - that had mugs with vintage music gear on. I took a look and was overwhlemed by the choice on offer, including Roaland SH-101 synthesizer, Roland TR-909 drum machine etc. I had to get the one with a Roland CR-78 on it as it is my favourite drum machine and I really badly desparately want one :-D

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Weird Stuff and Noise 21 07 2012

Thought I'd give the Monotron and the Linstead signal generator a little run this afternoon, fed through the Alesis QuadraVerb, the Zoom Studio 1201 and the Vestax DIG411B digital delay and mangled to within an inch of their lives. And I thought to use the video camera as well - bit of a warning here though, the sound isn't very good at all, but you'll get the idea :-)

Korg Monotron

I mentioned in a precious post about a Korg Monotron being added to the GTK Studio, well it's here. And it's great, because for something so small, it's got a very big sound.

So what's it all about then? Well, it's an analogue synth in the traditional vein with a single voltage controlled oscillator, a voltage controlled filter (VCF) and a low frequency oscillator (LFO), with the pitch controlled by a ribbon keyboard. Not what you would consider to be highly impressive specs, but when you take into account that the Monotron is only 12cm x 7cm and contains the legendary MS-20 filter, it starts to come across as something that's possibly a bit more than a toy. Now I am sure that there are some hardware snobs out there who will pour bucketfuls of scorn onto the Monotron because of it's size, the fact that it has a built in speaker and runs on batteries. And when you turn it on, yes the sound out of the built-in speaker is a bit of the thin side, but when you put it through an amp, hold onto something that's nailed down because this little baby can rattle floorboards.

The individual controls consist of a three-way switch to put the Montron onto standby (basically turn it off) and move the LFO from the filter cutoff to pitch. Next in line is a pitch control for the VCO - goes from very low to very high and is surprisingly useful. The next two pots are for the LFO - the first is a clear one with a red LED that controls the rate of the LFO with the LED signalling the speed, and the second one controls the intensity, that is to say how much the LFO is controlling either the pitch or the VCF cutoff. The last two pots are for the VCF and they control the cutoff (which is how much of the filter's frequency or the tone is changed) and peak (adds emphasis to the tone).

Connections wise, it's all very simple again with an auxillary input so that you can run external stuff (mp3 player, CD, synths, drum machines etc) through the filter and a headphone jack which you can also use to plumb the Monotron into a mixing desk.

So how does it sound? Quite simply, awesome. The sound through the built-in speaker might be a little thin, but you can really hear the aggression of the filter and the power of the LFO. Put though a mixing desk, it'll make the speaker cones rattle with little effort. And put through a rack of effects such as flanger, delay and reverb and you then know for certain that this little baby ain't no toy. I've had hours of fun just noodling around with the VCF and LFO, creating all sorts of sci-fi warbles and chirps as well as some seriously nerve-jangling screaming noises courtesy of the VCF's peak being pushed to full on so that the Monotron self-oscillates - with the two LFO pots turned all the way to maximum and some careful turning of the VCF cutoff pot, you can create some very cool industrial scraping metal sounds. I put this through a ring modulator and a dense ambient reverb and the effect was mind-blowing.

I like the Monotron, it looks cool, sounds great and is easy on the pocket. There are two other flavours of Monotron and I rather think I might be investing in them in the not so distant future.

Have a little look at the video below to see and hear the Korg Monotron in action. on my knee :-D

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

GTK Studio, Norfolk, U.K.

GTK Studio, Norfolk, U.K.GTK Studio, Norfolk, U.K.GTK Studio, Norfolk, U.K.GTK Studio, Norfolk, U.K.GTK Studio, Norfolk, U.K.

GTK Studio, Norfolk, U.K., a set on Flickr.
The GTK Studio is finally sorted out - again :-) Hopefully this will be it now for a while. Of course there will be new bits and pieces coming in I am sure, not least a Korg Monotron synthesizer in the next few days - I'll post about that when it arrives :-)

I'll be doing some more photos of my little recording space over the next few days and I'll post something more up about the studio and what's in it - I might even do a little video thing. We'll see.

So here's a few pics to see where I do what I do.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Interview with U.S. radio show "Echoes"......

Tomorrow evening, leading U.S. radio show Echoes will be broadcasting an interview I recently recorded with John Diliberto. I've added a link below to the Echoes website :-)


New Image Software

My dear lady Anne and I have purchased ourselves some rather cool software. It's called "Fractalius" and is made by a software house called Redfield Plugins.

I really can't find the words to describe what it does to a picture, so I've added a couple of images below that I did this afternoon whilst testing it out. It goes to show how quick you can get something interesting.

The first image is of a modular synthesizer taken in the Benge Studios last year, and the other is of me in Geigertek mode, taken during a gig in Holland in 2010. Quite a cool effect methnks :-)

Sunday, 15 July 2012

GTK Studio Update......

With all the recently acquired bits and pieces, I've had to make a lot of changes in the GTK Studio. It all started with the removal of the GTK Studio Sofa - I do miss it. But it has gone to a good home in the next room used by my good lady Anne in her "Little Den".

A new workbench was contructed out of an old wardrobe for me to do my soldering and writing as well as taking the effects rack. A couple of bits of furniture have been moved to take the valve radio, the signal generators, the oscilloscope and a small guitar practice amp, to make them more accessible for me from the main computer desk.

A ton of cables have been connected up between the mixing desk and the effects rack, but it's led me to a decision to get a rack-mounted sub-mixer, but that will be later this year. One thing I have been pleased with is the patchbay. I've not used one before and whilst it took me a few days to get my head round how to set it up, it was worth the time and emotional investment as I now have a nice little set up that's quite flexible - and sounds great with the signal generators. Everything is now within reach of the desk and so working will be much more efficient.

Pics soon :-)

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Retro living......

I like looking at books and websites that show images of the past that looked to their future - which is now our present. Retro-futurism - great tag that. I also like to look at images of contemporary living spaces of different eras, it can be interesting to compare how they saw themselves in an alternative way to how we live now. This page was suggested by a Facebook friend called Julie - you might be interested to know that she was a dancer with space rock band Hawkwind. I love the pictures and find it interesting that the way we live today isn't that far removed from the idealised visions of Mr. Conrad - obviously the technology is a little more advanced :-D


Friday, 13 July 2012

More Gear Acquisition!!!

I simply knew that getting more hardware would eventually start leading me down a slippery slope, because as you acquire one piece, you suddenly find yourself needing another. And yep, that is exactly what has been happening in the GTK Studio. As I've said in a previous blog entry, the GTK Studio Sofa has been moved to Anne's Den to make way for a workbench where the various newer bits and pieces will reside.

So what have we got now? Well, I have to say it's been something of a gear bonanza of late, so I might suggest you get a coffee and a packet of biscuits, sit back, make yourself comfortable and I will tell you.

First is the top acquistion of the moment - for me that is :-) If you're a follower of this blog, then you'll know that I'm currently planning and designing a 4 pad electronic drum unit. Well, I went onto eBay the other day  and I saw a listing for two black Simmons drum pads - no stands, leads or the sound module, just the pads. That's okay because I have an Alesis DM5 drum module which they could be hooked up to. Anyway, they were at something like 99 pence with a couple of days to go, so I did the usual "Watch this item" thing and thought nothing of it. Then I got the e-mail reminder from eBay on the day the auction ended and they were still at 99 pence - I smiled, bunged in a bid of a fiver and went off and did what I had to do that day, again thinking nothing more of it. When I got home and switched on my computer, I am sure you can imagine the total surprise I experienced upon learning that not only had I had won the auction, but that I had got these two Simmons pads for a jaw-droppingly low price of £1.04!!!!!! Well they're here and they look good considering they are nearly 30 years old, and they work just fine with the Alesis DM5. The response is excellent which means that the piezos inside are still in good nick and they work very well with the velocity of the DM5 drum sounds. Very happy.

My next two acquisitions came via a classifieds page I set up with another muso on Facebook called EMLive Classifieds. Our idea was to provide a place where musos could buy, sell and source gear without the hassle of eBay and Paypal fees and also to avoid the ridiculously prohibitive and falsely inflated prices of music gear created by collectors. It's working really well and along with a few others, I've benefitted greatly from this little page.

So, the first bit of gear that I've purchased is an old Vestax DIG114B digital delay line. It's great. And I mean, great. Mono output and a good old-fashioned delay with a rather splendid hold feature which means you can create a rhythm using one of the longer delay options and then when you hit the hold button, it loops the delayed sound. Very useful. It also has a nice modulation section which allows flanging (a sort of metallic swirly whooshy effect) which applied to vocals creates a very nice sci-fi feel. I put the Linstead signal generator through it and pushed the settings of the modulation section to their extremes and it gave a warbly effect. Using a nice subtle delay, I channelled the Vestax through a warm reverb setting on the QuadraVerb and it was a lovely sound. Very pleased with this piece of kit.

The second bit of equipment I've acquired through the EMLive Classifieds is a Behringer Virtualizer multi-effects unit. This unit has some excellent reverbs and delays as well as a decent flanger and some nice multi-effects set ups. It sounds nice and clean and will be perfect for the signal generators and the Vibrati Punk Console, which upon first testing sound absolutely marvellous. I'm looking forward to messing around with some the effects algorithms to see what I can come up with.

I also now have a patchbay and an oscilloscope. The Behringer Ultrapatch PX2000 patchbay enables me to route things like the signal generators and the Vibrati Punk Console to the different effects units without having to reach round the back of the rack to swap leads about. I'm still getting my head round how it works, but I will sort it out soon enough :-) The oscilloscope, which is Telequipment D65 will be useful for checking waveforms etc as well as providing me with a source of video content for background graphics. It was given to me by Duncan Goddard of the acclaimed electronic group Radio Massacre International and he told me something very interesting about it, in that it originally came from a studio owned by none other than Pete Townsend of legendary U.K. rock group, The Who. So, I now have a little piece of musical history sitting in my studio :-)

The next piece of equipment came about through my purchase last month of the Linstead G1a signal generator. Well, the gentleman who sold me the Linstead also had an Advance Type S.G.66 LF signal generator for sale and wasn't having much luck with it on eBay, in part because it isn't what you would call small and it is quite heavy. He threw a very reasonable price at me and I accepted, so now I have a second signal generator to make all sorts of weird and wonderful noises with, and it looks great with the Linstead :-D

As I'm going to be doing a lot more vocal recording in the near future with the Impossible Men project, I thought it was time to get an external compressor and after much consideration, I decided upon an Alesis NanoCompressor. I've been impressed with the Alesis products I already own (DM5 drum module, QuadraVerb multi-effects unit and M1 Active 520 near-field monitor speakers) so I knew that I would be getting something of quality that was both good to use but also had a good sound. it's small and quite cute, plenty of little lights and packed with features. It also sounds pretty good as well, but I still need to work with it more to understand it perfectly and to get the best out of it.

So, lots of new toys to play with and lots of new things to learn. And the best part is the fact that it hasn't cost an arm and leg - careful sourcing, part-exchanging and generous friends have made it all possible. I was always going to avoid the hardware route, and to some extent I have as I'm using alternative sound sources to synthesizers. Will this change? Probably not, but who knows.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Winds of change starting to blow......

There's some new toys coming soon to the GTK Studio, all of which need a bit of space. So, it means that the GTK Studio Sofa will be moved to my dear partner's little Den - whilst this is a very sad thing, I know that Anne will lovingly care for it.

I'm looking at the studio now with plans for change in mind. The space left by the sofa will be where a new workbench will be installed to take the various bits and bobs. I'm toying with setting up my laptop to do audio only recordings as the workbench will be where the signal generators and FX rack will be put.

I think that when the changes have been made, it might just start to look something like a proper electronic music studio. Naturally, photos will follow :-)