Sunday, 20 January 2013

Former HMSO building in Norwich

A few weeks ago, I joined an exploration of the former HMSO (Her Majesty's Stationary Office) located in Sovereign House, in my home city of Norwich.

One of the team was my good friend, film-maker Chris Richmond, who has produced a series of short web-films called "Norfolk Uncovered", which are about the lost and unseen aspects of the county of Norfolk, from derelict manor houses to World War 2 airfields.

His latest installment about the former HMSO is a great piece of work and you can see it below.

Here's a link to Chris' website:

Here's a link to my photographs taken during the explore:

And here is the "Norfolk Uncovered: HMSO Sovereign House" video:

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Mr. Shifter Strikes Again!!!

The arrival of the Roland Juno-D synthesizer has necessitated something of a move-around in the GTK Studio. So, the Novation ReMOTE 61 SL MIDI keyboard controller has been moved from the lower part of the 2-tier keyboard stand (replaced by the Juno-D) and moved over to the desk.

I ordered a 2-in/2-out USB MIDI interface a few days ago (I have run out of inputs and outputs on the Unitor8!!!) so then everything will be connected.

One hopes this will be the last time I need to do any rearranging for a while :-)

Monday, 14 January 2013

Surprise new additions to the GTK Studio......

I had it in my head that once I had got the Peavey mixing console, I would not be getting anymore gear.

Yeah right.

The arrival of the Peavey console meant that I didn't have as much use for the Behringer patchbay because of the Peavey's routing capabilities. This left me with a hole in the synth rack and whilst, at that time, I didn't need anymore synths, I thought it might be an idea to get a dedicated reverb unit. And I found a lovely little 19" which fitted the bill perfectly - a Boss RV-1000 digital reverb.

Like the Vestax DIG411B digital delay, the RV-1000 has no MIDI or USB and a limited amount of adjustable presets. Perfect. I got it for a very good price and once again, it provides a lot for very little money. The various reverbs are nice and warm, aided by a limited, but sufficient basic 2-band EQ. The plate reverbs in particular are very useful. I've already found it to be a very useful piece of kit and complements the Alesis QuadraVerb nicely. Here's a picture of it in the effects rack (it's the second one down!!!)

As I said above, I thought I had reached the point where I didn't need anymore synths (now having 6 of them!!!). However, that was about to change. I was having a peruse through good evilBay (as you do), when I happened upon a Roland Juno-D synthesizer for sale at a very low price, locaated only a couple of roads away from where I live and only a couple of days to go. I e-mailed the seller and offered a sum of cash to which he replied in the very positive. I went and picked it up, paid my cash and when I got home, I found I had got a great little synthesizer, with some nice sounds and ideal for live stuff. It has some lovely warm string/pad sounds, some excellent lead patches and pianos that I thought I had lost when I sold my Roland JV-2080 module. With it only being 9 years old, the Juno-D is also more than happy to chat with the GTK Studio Computer. It also looks rather nice and has some cool looking little lights ;-) All I have to do now is integrate it into the studio somehow!!!

So, more toys to play with, more bargains snaffled and less space in the GTK Studio!!!

GTK Studio Refit

The acquisition of the Peavey SRC 2400 24 channel mixing console presented me with a number of challenges owing it's size and the smallness of the GTK Studio, so there was nothing for it but to completely re-do the studio. And what a task it was!!!

The room that my studio occupies is 7'x11' and the Peavey is just over 4' long, so I sat down with pen and paper to try and work out the best way I could fit stuff in. I also wanted to include my two-tier keyboard stand, as I want to use both the Novation REmote 61 SL MIDI keyboard and the Alesis QS6 synthesizer, and keep all of the rack-mounted hardware together as much as possible.

I emptied the room completely and it took me 3/4 hours of moving stuff about until  I was happy with how it was laid out. Once everything was in place, it was a matter of then connecting the gear to the mains, setting up the MIDI network and cleaning the Peavey as it had been stored in a garage for quite sometime and was more than a little dusty. I still need to replace a missing fader cap and pot, but they aren't urgent and the desk works just fine without them.

I'm really happy with the way everything is now set out. The Novation MIDI keyboard happily communicates with the rack-mounted hardware through the Lexicon audio/MIDI interface and all the hardware effects units are nicely set up on 4 auxillary send channels on the Peavey console. This allows me to route the hardware synths and any other instruments I plug in the desk, through to each and everyone of the effects units. I've set up the effects units so that I can route their signals through to each other, and if I wanted, feed the signal back into itself. Naturally I will need to be VERY careful with this as it can create some quite apocalyptically loud feedback signals.

It was quite fun to use the little Korg Monotron synthesizer through the desk - again proving that it is most certainly NOT a toy. I also put the Linstead signal generator through the Monotron's analogue filter then into the desk, routing it through to the Vestax delay and then on to a rather nice setting on the Boss reverb. Routing through the ring modulator on the Zoom 1201 also proved very interesting and quite inspiring for a piece of music that may have that Radiophonic Workshop feel to it.

So, I now have no excuses for not getting anything done. I have some good hardware and some excellent software, recently boosted by the acquistion of Cakewalk's Rapture synthesizer, Image-Line's excellent Sytrus synthesizer and the totally awesome sounding OP-X synthesizer (a remarkable emulation of the famous Oberheim OB-X) from Sonicprojects. And Sir Stephen Howell of Hollow Sun very kindly sent me his Pulstar and YouKnow6 products, both of which are quite simply brilliant sounding.

Here's some pictures of the new-look and refitted GTK Studio :-)

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Out of 2012, into 2013

Well what a year it's been!!!

I can't complain as lot of good and really cool things have happened, I quietly hope that 2013 might be more of the same.

2012 saw a lot of changes in and around the GTK Studio as I began a very slippery downhill path towards the inclusion of hardware. I started off by purchasing a couple of signal generators and running them though the VST effects on the GTK Studio Computer, but it wasn't working quite as I had hoped. The PC was old and was really struggling with everything that I was throwing at it, so I bought an Alesis QuadraVerb multi-effects unit off of a fellow muso. This proved to be quite a good buy so I began adding to it and over the course of 6 months I eventually ended up with no less than six synthesizers and six effects units. During this time, I also purchased a new PC to replace the poor seven year old computer I had been using. This was a huge and somewhat advantageous step to take as I now have a computer that is significantly faster and more powerful than the previous one. I also upgraded my 32-bit Behringer audio interface to an amazing Lexicon Omega audio/MIDI interface which allowed me to take full and proper advantage of the new computers 8GB of memory. For both music and photography, this has been a very sound investment. I also managed to obtain an electric guitar for nothing, which I renovated and also I recently enjoyed the bargain of the century when I sourced and bought a massive 24-channel Peavey mixing console. This completed my total refit of the GTK Studio, all in time for the coming New Year.

I spent some time in early 2012 with my very good friend David Wright, working on base material for a new Code Indigo album which will see a 2013 release. Much of the Summer months were spent sorting out and preparing my little GTK Studio, I managed to complete a couple of brand tracks, a track called "Girl Friday" for an AD Music compilation called "After Midnight" and a piece called "Encounters" for a free album called "Electronic Encounters". I started writing material for a new project called Neil Fellowes and the Impossible Men, something I am doing with my son Callum and friends Dean Burnett and Peter J. Dagg. I had hoped to get it finished by the end of 2012, but the studio refit really cut into my time. I've also started work on the fourth Geigertek album, to be called "Hollow Sun". Again the studio refit has affected how much time I have been able to dedicate to it.

It's been a good 2012 for photography as well. Earlier in the year I visited the workshop of leading UK synth technician, Kent Spong, meeting the modular synthesizer that has provided ambient sounds for some seriously big Hollywood movies including the latest "Batman" trilogy and" Inception" to name just a very few. It was a pleasure meeting Kent and he has become something of a friend who I like to visit when I am in his neck of the woods. I also got to visit the studio of another prolific UK composer, Kevin Kendle. Again, another fine gentleman who I have kept contact with and continue to enjoy his excellent music. The start of the Summer saw the second Bungay Bash, as organised by the label that releases my music, AD Music. It was a great line-up and the day was a success. On the bill was a gentleman that I had been wanting to meet for the last few years, namely Jez Creek aka Modulator ESP. Jez is a synth wiz of the first order and a master of live improvisation, something which has continued to inspire my collection and use of hardware synths, effects and noise-makers and I got some great pictures of Jez's live set up. I met up later in the year with Jez again when I attended the Awakenings All-Dayer electronic music event in Burton-On-Trent. A thoroughly enjoyable day and a great chance to meet a few names who nave been resident on my Facebook friends list. Another highlight was visiting the hallowed workplace of one Stephen Howell, a marvellously mad, angry and talented Welsh sound designer/programmer who is the head honcho of the Hollow Sun software house. It's no secret that I'm a huge fan of HS products, so it was a sheer pleasure and delight to meet the creator of some of my most favourite software and photograph his surroundings. One hugely surprising result from this visit was a picture we put together that was something of an homage to the great surrealist painter, Rene Magritte - it turned out better than we expected and has garnered a lot of positive interest. Other photographic highlights were getting to photograph the stage set of my musical heroes Ultravox in October when they played in Ipswich as part of their "Brilliant" tour. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to lighting designer Chris Curran of Prism Lighting for making that possible and also his help in securing a photo pass for Gary Numan when he played the UEA in Norwich at the beginning of December. Two massive opportunities that really put the icing on the cake of what had already been a good year.

My weekly "Man of 2 Worlds Radio Show", aired on One World Radio came to an end in August. I was finding it increasingly difficult to find enough time to do the type of show iIwanted to do, in amongst my other projects, so I made the decision to quit. A shame as I really enjoyed doing it and it did seem to have gotten itself something of a small following which was really nice.

I need to do a bit of a shout out to a few names, people who really made the year what it was. First up, my good friend David Wright who helped me with the set up of my studio and provided me with some seriously cool pieces of equipment. To the lovely Bekki Williams for being a laugh and for her very kind donation of two fab synths to the GTK Studio. To Bryan Stewart for his very kind  donation of a cracking additive synth and excellent e-mail conversations. To Duncan Goddard of Radio Massacre International for the oscilloscope and patchbay, as well as great advice - looking forward to purchasing the Revox VERY soon. To the brilliant Chris Curran for his support and interest in my photography and for getting unequalled access to the Ultravox stage set and a photo pass for Gary Numan - how do you repay that???!!! To my very good friends Adam Haines and Dean Burnett - new kids on the block, but both of whom have been great mates in so many ways. To Stephen Howell for letting me into his surroundings, his magnificent hospitality and numerous bits and pices of his brilliance that have ended up n my e-mail Inbox!!! To my fab offspring Alannah and Callum who I adore for being both a joy and a pleasure as well as a complete pain in the arse - exciting times ahead with those two, I can tell you. And lastly to the one beautiful soul that lets everything happen, that encourages, supports and continues to push me forward, my wonderful plus-one, Anne, who I love dearly, though at times you'd never think it.

And so to 2013. No resolutions, no carved in stone plans, just things I want to do. Completion of the Impossible Men project and getting that out live, the next Geigertek album, some live performances at the Bungay Bash and Awakenings Evening (more if I can get them!!!), two very interesting collaborations, some new photographic challenges (which will hopefully involve a new camera) including at least a couple of gigs and anything else that I've said I was going to do but have forgotten to mention at this time :-)

Here's to a peaceful, prosperous and healthy New Year.