Music: ease and desist – mad dog

ease and desist album

When it comes to making music, I’ve tended to avoid using too many samples – preferring to create the constituent parts of any track with my own hardware. Over time though, that has changed, and in the middle of 2019 I decided to try working on some completely different styles of music than I would usually.

One thing led to the next, and before long I had a track which was crying out for someone to rap over it. I took to the Internet, and found Maya Miko, who came up with awesome vocals, based on my ideas. The video for that track is below.

Throughout 2020 this pattern continued, and I found myself with a bunch of tracks coalescing around the same kind of musical theme. I tried collaborating with a few different vocalists, but in the end, always ended up going with Maya’s takes.

MAD DOG 2020 is the culmination of this experiment, resulting in a six track EP. It took over a year to put together, and mixing/mastering this was a particular challenge, as adjusting for a totally different genre to what I usually work with was tougher than expected.

The EP is up on Spotify to stream (under the ‘ease and desist’ moniker), and also available for download on the Cow Tongue Taco Records page:

Buy me a beer

I have a hard drive full of half finished songs, modular synth jams, and other bits and bobs that I haven’t (and may never) release. However, there’s a whole bunch of cool stuff in there, and I’ve decided to give folks that are interested the chance to peek behind the curtain if they are really interested by creating a members’ only area on https://www.buymeacoffee.com/allmyfriends/ to share these b sides and oddities.

Along with music, I’ll be sharing samples taken from my tracks, or recorded using my myriad of weird and wonderful instruments. Some will be free, some for members or supporters only. I think that there’s a particularly Scottish inclination to avoid sharing things out of a fear they’re not good enough, so I’m trying to get over that. None of this is stuff that I would post ‘officially’ anywhere else, so I’ll still continue to blog and post here and on YouTube etc as I usually do. Click through for more.

Making Music with Test Equipment

Test Equipment

Recently I embarked on an experimentation with old audio test equipment, Specifcally, these devices used in labs and by engineers to diagnose problems with amplifiers, radios, and telephone lines. Err, I think. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure what they were designed for, as I was no good at physics.

Either way, they look cool, and I’ve been interested in exploring some of the possibilities for a while, but didn’t know where to begin. However, I came across this guy called Hainbach on YouTube, who has put together an awesome guide that helped give me the push to dive in. I picked up a few different pieces for cheap on eBay, and began playing about with them to see what I could do. I mostly got a hold of audio signal generators, which are essentially what gives synthesizers their voice. The extent to which you can control them differs from instruments, but I was able to get some amazing sounds out of them.

I put together the track below with a single one of these devices, controlled by my Eurorack to some extent. Unlike a lot of my other music, there’s very few effects on here, and very few layers; the sounds of the test equipment stand on their own. Pretty much everything you hear (minus drums) is from the Feedback Function Generator. I love that I can get a really incredible ratchety bass sound out of this, jumping down from nice and melodic to aggressive. Perhaps I’m imagining it, but I haven’t been able to get that kind of usable range from any of my other equipment. Either way, there’s something deeply satisfying about making music with aging bits of technology that were never intended to be used this way – it sparks the creative process in a different way.

At some point I’ll go through and write a bit more about this stuff in detail, but for now, I put together this video with my initial faffing about:

2021 Goals

I don’t tend to do these kinds of posts for anything else, but with music there’s so many different ongoing projects, that I think it’s helpful to set out what I want to get done in the year, then look back on it at the end. I’ve touched upon some of this before, but here goes.

1. Release ease and desist EP

I have a full EP basically finished and ready to go under the ease and desist moniker. I just need to get through the final mixing and mastering stages, but am finding it hard to get the motivation to do so. It’s a bit different to my usual styles, so is proving to be a challenge. If I don’t get this done in the next 12 months I may as well quit everything.

2. Use YouTube More

I used to post synth videos on YouTube, and gathered just over 1k followers in a fairly short space of time. It became a faff though, so I stopped. This year, I want to make an effort to pick it back up, as it can be a good motivator/way to experiment with different projects. The specific targets are to i) post at least 12 videos in 2021, and ii) get the subscriber count to 2k. Completing the first goal should hopefully lead to the second. I’ve already re-branded the channel as allmyfriendsaresynths and posted the first video… with a bunch more in progress, so this should be achievable.

3. Listen to 10k tracks

I use Last.FM to track a lot of the music I listen to, and I’ve noticed that I am often most creative musically after listening to more music. However, I am not very good at just having music on ‘passively’, so it can be tricky to balance. I need to make an actual effort to sit and listen. Anyway, in the past I have never hit 10k tracks in one year. 2021 is the year to make that happen. I’ve worked out I need to listen to about 30 tracks a day, which should be doable…

4. Finish two KOSMO rows

I have started building a modular synth in the KOSMO format. I want to complete the build of the case, and at least two rows of the modules. Again, should be achievable.

5. Release another album

I have a whole pile of tracks built up from various projects, but nothing full length yet. The last release I put out was 2 years ago, so I want to end that drought.

LED Lighting my Modular

modular synth

I’m the sort of person who is far more comfortable in dark spaces than I am with bright, overhead lights. I also love how colourful lights look in pictures, so am always on the hunt for different ways to implement LEDs. They also go hand in hand with a sweeeeet looking music setup.

Anyway, I used to have a neon sign in the home studio which gave a real nice ambience, but unfortunately it blew up… so I had to hunt for a replacement. I trialled some 5v RB LED strips on the outside of the case, and it looked pretty cool – but it needed some tweaking.

I came across the Doepfer A-197-3 module which allows you to control LEDs with CV signals from the Eurorack, and it got me thinking. I didn’t want to spend the money or HP on the Doepfer without first figuring out if it would be worth it. It worked with 12v LED strips, so I picked up 5m of them off of eBay, complete with what claimed to be a ‘sound reactive controller’. In theory, it should play along nicely with the audio output from my rig, though to be honest, I wasn’t holding out much hope. These kinds of thing are infamously of questionable quality, and I fully expected to have to pick up the Doepfer module anyway.

However… it actually turned out alright. The modes and sensitivity controls work quite nicely, and despite a few hiccups, putting the strips together was easier than I expected. I ended up lighting the outside of the three main parts of my setup, and it looks pretty great. I put together a video below going into some more detail, and showing them in action. Take a look below if you’re interested.

This isn’t going to be the end of the lighting adventures though. I have a few ideas up my sleeve that I am going to try out over the next wee while, so watch this space (and maybe subscribe to the YouTube).

2020 Update: The Reprise

studio portrait

Back in March I wrote an update on what I’d been up to lately, and what I planned to do over the coming months, which seems oh-so-very hopeful now. Given that it is now the end of the year, and we are still just as ravaged by the Coronavirus than we were back then (if not more so), it seems like an update is in order.

ease and desist

I started out writing tracks for a single ease and desist album, but the styles varied so wildly that it seems like this is more likely to become a few different releases. One of them is focussed on hip-hop, which was a surprising development. Almost all of the composition work is done, I just need to put the finishing touches on some of the tracks, and get the final mixes together. This is proving more difficult than it seems, as I don’t really have any experience with mixing hip-hop vocals. Here’s a sneak peek at the potential artwork…

ease and desist album

Hog Wyld

Hog Wyld bass
Photo by Lee Jones.

The Hog Wyld album has been delayed a number of times, thanks to the ever changing set of restrictions which have prevented us from getting into the studio together. In retrospect, recording almost 20 tracks for a 10 track album was also probably an overly ambitious target. Either way, the main tracking is done, and so now we are onto the mixing and tweaking stage. In addition to the album, we finished up a bonus release, exclusive for our Kickstarter backers, which has a whole pile of covers, remixes, and other bits and bobs. That was truly a slog to get through, and I never want to record a cover ever again.

We had a wee Japanese tour in the works, with gigs booked for October, which was unfortunately cancelled thanks to the virus. It seemed like a once-in-a-lifetime type thing, but hopefully we will find a way to make something similar happen again in the near future.

Closet Organ

My other band have been plowing ahead with writing, and we just released a festive single, called: ‘Prepare for a Digital Christmas’. It was played by Jim Gellatly a few days ago, and you can find it on Spotify and Bandcamp (and wherever else our distributors send to).

Closet Organ - Prepare for a Digital Christmas

We are slowly but surely recording new tracks, and will be looking at putting out some kind of release in 2021.

In Progress

That’s the main news so far from my more ‘organised’ projects, but what else am I working on right now?

Synth Jamming

I realised that I wasn’t making quite as much of my own individual music over the past year or so because I felt like everything had to be put towards some kind of release. I haven’t put anything out in so long on my own that there was self-imposed pressure there, and for me pressure doesn’t usually equate to creative satisfaction. The most productive times I’ve had in the past have always been linked to experimentation and curiousity, so I’ve spent some time setting up my studio space to get back into that mindset, and been really enjoying just playing about. I’ve been uploading some of these home jams to YouTube:

Numerology

Despite normally being allergic to computer based sequencers, I’ve (re)discovered something called Numerology, which is a really interesting sequencing tool for Mac. It’s been inspiring me to write a bunch of new stuff, and I put together an explainer video over here:

Kosmo modular build

Inspired by my friend Michael, I’ve begun to start building out a new modular rack in the Kosmo format, created by Sam Battles (aka Look Mum No Computer). It’s already become a huge pain in the ass, and I’m remembering why I stopped doing DIY builds a few years ago, but in the end I think it’ll be worth it. I don’t want what little time I have to be completely sucked up by this project, but it is also cool to dig out the box of components again and see what sort of weird noise devices I can put together. It’s also impressive just how much I’ve forgotten since I last tried something like this. I have various circuits on breadboards kicking about that I have literally no idea how they work, so… that might take some work.

other…

studio portrait

I have a whole bunch of tracks written and in various stages of completion (or collaboration). Finding the right collection of tracks that will work together as a release, and under what moniker, is proving tougher than it has in the past. Perhaps I have higher standards nowadays… or perhaps I’m just crippled by indecision. Whatever it is, I’m hoping that is one more thing that will change in 2021.