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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