Sunday, 9 December 2012

Recording Drums. My method.


Recording Drums


If you are recording a band and are wondering how to get a good drum sound you might want to try my method. After years of trial and error, I've settled on this as my "go to" set up - as it's a versatile way of recording drums and getting a good balance of a big overall kit sound as well as dynamic punch. 

Ideally you will have a selection of mics, but if you just have a few vocal mics to hand, then go with them. You can get a perfectly decent drum sound with just SM58s. 

You can either go for the minimal 3 mic method or the whole 11 mic deal. 

With the 11 mic version, when it comes to the mixing stage it is so versatile that you can go from big and roomy to balanced and realistic or ultra dry and up-front, just by pushing the room and kit channels up or down. 

The Drums 

Firstly, you want the drums themselves to sound good, so new heads are a must. If the drums sound good now but the heads are old, 99% of the time it will sound even better with new heads. It's worth a bit of time and effort at this point to get the drums tuned nicely and then keep checking throughout the recording. I will often get this done the day before the tracking starts so that the heads can settle a little. Additionally, If you don't have decent cymbals then borrow or hire some. On "tape", the difference between cheap cymbals and good ones is huge. 

The Drummer

You can do lots to fix a drummer's timing with editing (if you are that way inclined), but you can't fix a drummer's touch. As cymbals and other drums bleed into all of the microphones on a kit, it can be a battle to keep unwanted bleed under control. This is helped hugely by a good drummer's playing.  

If you stand in the room with the drums and there's a harsh overpowering cymbal sound, the mics will also pick up that sound. You can overcome this by getting the drummer to play the drums harder than the cymbals. Just a few days practicing before recording and really listening to the sound of the whole kit and attenuating your playing so that it sounds balanced, will be a huge step forward.  

Queens of the Stone Age went to the extreme fighting cymbal bleed when Dave Ghrol recorded the drums on Songs for the Deaf entirely without cymbals, then overdubbed them later. That way they could treat the drums with a little more compression and not worry about the cymbals overpowering the sound. 

Whether you are a beginner or advanced drummer, when in the studio, raising the hats and cymbals up and away from the close drum mics will help cut back cymbal "bleed" and enable you to get a better sound. 

Okeydokey then. Let's work our way around the kit. 


Kick Drum

If the drummer will let you, take the front skin off, place a pillow inside against the batter head and a mic facing the beater slightly off centre inside the shell. I use either a Shure Beta 91 or an AKG D12 and experiment with moving the placement until it sounds best. In some genres, the kick and the snare are the loudest thing on the record, so it's definitely worth experimenting and getting these right at this stage.

Processing: EQ out any nasty frequencies in the 400-500hz range. If you need to, add some 60hz for nice low thud and some 2-6kHz for snap. I will always gate and compress this to make it punchy. Sometimes a transient enhancer will really help a kick drum, so try one if you have that option. I use the SPL Transient Designer Plug in. 

Kit Mics

This will give a realistic stereo sound of the drum kit and will effectively mimic what the drummer hears. 

Place a mic (I use a large diaphragm condenser) approx three feet above the centre of the snare and another one to the right of the drummer's right shoulder (around chest height) also exactly three feet away from the centre of the snare. Use a tape measure or some string to make sure that they are both exactly the same distance. 

Processing:  Pan hard left and right. I will usually use the Dada Life Sausage Fattener plug in here at about 10% and leave the EQ flat.

**Using these two channels and the kick drum channel is the 3 mic method. For the 11 mic version, use this as the basis of the kit sound and then use close drum mics to pick out individual drums. **

Snare top

Place a mic (I use an SM57) one or two inches above the rim of the snare between the tom and hats and pointing at where it is hit. Again, experiment with the placement here. millimetres can make a difference. 

Processing: There will often be some boxiness on the snare top channel at around 400Hz-1kHz. This can be EQ-ed out. For some punch, I add a bump of 200Hz and to add crack, a touch of 4 - 8kHz. I will usually gate the snare and gently compress so that on the loudest hits are reduced by around 3db. I'm fond of the Waves Kramer PIE plug in for this. 

Snare bottom (optional)

I will always add a snare bottom and then choose later whether to use it or not. If I do, I use this mic for the fizz of the snare and the top for the punch. Place a mic (SM57 or small diaphragm condenser) pointing directly up to the centre of the snare at around 4 inches. 

Processing: I will gate enough to get rid of the kick drum and add a touch compression. Since this mic is below the snare on the rattle side and away from the hats, you can be more liberal with the top end EQ than the top snare mic. 

Hats (optional)

Sometimes there are plenty of hats coming through the overheads and kit mics but using a hi hat mic will allow you to get some definition. Use a condenser (if you have one) and place it so that the hats block a line of sight to the snare. Again, experiment with the placement. 

Processing: Roll out all of the bottom end EQ and most of the low mid end. Often I will cut quite a lot of 5-6kHz as it can sound rather nasty and add some 10kHz. I will sometimes pop an Antares tube plug in on the hats to smooth them out. Pan to sit in the same place as in the kit channels.

Toms

I close mic (For this I use EV468s or SM57s) the top skin around an inch up, at a 45° angle to the drum surface and 1-2" in from the drum edge. Ringing can be eliminated a little with moon gel or gaffa tape (if it's not nice sounding). 

Processing: There will almost always be a need to EQ out some mid at around 400-500kHz. I might add some 200Hz to a rack tom and some 100-200Hz to a floor. Toms will resonate when other drums are hit and the cymbals will come through this channel in an unpleasant way, so I always heavily gate toms so that they only open when the toms are hit. Much of the body of the toms will actually come through the kit mics. Lastly, I pan them so that they sit in the same place as they do on the kit channels.

Overheads

Since you have a fair amount of cymbals from the kit mics, this is to pick out the attack, sizzle and sparkle. As with the hats and kit mics, use condensers if you have them. I will place two about a foot and a half above the cymbals. Sometimes I will use two on the crashes and one additional one on the ride. The placement depends on where the drummer puts them and the aim is to pick up as much of the cymbals as possible without being too far away. 

Processing: Pan left and right by about 45 degrees. Roll off the bottom end and if you need sparkle, add some 8-20kHz.  Pan them so that they fit in the picture created by the close room mics. Sometimes you might need to pinpoint harsh frequencies around 6kHz and notch them out. 

Smash (optional)

I place a stage vocal mic (SM58) three to six feet in front of the kick drum and compress the bejesus out of it. A touch of this channel can be blended into to glue the kit together in the middle and give it some big fat hairy balls. 


Room
If you want a huge roomy sound then you can place one or two mics as far away and as wide as you like and then blend them in. (Ribbon or condenser mics are great for this but use what you've got). You are limited here by the size of your room, but there's nothing stopping you from placing these mics outside of the room and down the corridor. 

Processing: If using two, pan them hard left and right. I will use the Waves MPX tape emulation here and the Kramer PIE comp. Often I will use a gate and side chain it to the snare top so that it only opens when the snare is hit. This will give the snare a huge perceptually loud sound.

And we're done! nearly...

Before you get going balancing, it's worth checking the phase of each channel. When mixing, start by balancing the kick and snare, add in the kit mics, then the toms, then hats and cymbals and lastly experiment with the room mics. 

Sometimes the song will need a dry, close sound in which case use more of the close mics, less of the kit mics and none of the smash and room mics. Sometimes the song will require a big, bombastic roomy sound. In which case go crazy with the smash and rooms. 


Once you've recorded your music, you'll need a professional to mix and master it for you. 


Bobby x

Monday, 3 December 2012

some silly videos

Occasionally I'll mess around with videoing and editing silly things. 

beating myself up

exploding head

dioyy die

the power of chi

the power of the dark side

chopping my hand off

relationship issues

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Creativity

Creativity

Sometimes, thankfully rarely,  I will record a band that will passionately want to sound like something that has come before, a carbon copy. So instead of me being the producer working with them, I will become engineer working for them. 

That's a fair situation. They are passionate and if thats what they want, then I will make it happen. But in the back of my mind, I will already know that the end product, a pastiche, won't resonate as much as exciting records by those artists that strive to create. 

I relish working with artists that come to capture a moment or a feeling or mix elements that have previously not gone together before. Most of all, to capture themselves

There are many modern studio tricks in which to morph and manipulate sounds and cleverly turn one thing into another, but just because you can, it shouldn't mean a young band - with its unique foibles - should make a carbon copy of a previous band. Those foibles are something to be enhanced and exaggerated rather than erased and corrected. 

Take Bob Dylan. Technically he couldn't sing. He was nasal and untrained. Perhaps with modern technology he would have been given the Xfactor treatment and been corrected and conformed. Most likely though he would have been forgotten. Instead, his individuality shone and you can still hear people doing Bob Dylan vocals. 

What Jimmy Hendrix considered mistakes at the time have just become the way you play guitar.

Individuality and originality are the elements that the a&r guy gets excited about and what the good producer latches onto and amplifies. Sometimes it is exactly what the new and unconfident artist wants to erase to conform to the zeitgeist.  

That's not to say that one shouldn't look back. Take Nirvana. They attempted to do John Lennon style songs in the style of ACDC. Whatever mistakes and individuality they had were enhanced and the result was something new. 

The Beatles would take influences from outside of their field and perform it their way. Liverpudlian rockers doing Rogers and Hammerstein, recorded with engineers and producers throwing the rule book out of the window. The result turned out so influential that literally everyone with a guitar or a mixing desk can trace a line back to what they achieved.

Whatever band takes the world by storm, there will inevitably be hundreds of unsigned bands attempting to be that band. How many times have you been to an unsigned gig and seen a brilliantly realised The Libertines or Oasis mark ii? The unsigned band playing perfectly in the style of the Hot New Band playing songs exactly in the style of the Hot New Band but wondering why they remain unloved. With their musical talent, if they just twisted a couple of elements in a new and creative direction, they could be loved.

No matter how exposing it feels, it's better and so much more exciting to record the real you (with your various influences) and then if you are to manipulate the sound in the studio, take it in a fresh new direction. It's even possible to take influences from outside of your genre or even outside of your creative medium to create a new approach. Black Sabbath were influenced just as much by horror films as other musicians. 

What is creativity then?


1. finding an absolutely new solution
2. taking an existing theme in a new direction
3, mixing elements of that have previously not been together. 

The lightbulb was created as an absolutely new solution. The plug in air freshener was a new way of delivering perfume. Combine the lightbulb and plug in air freshener and you have a way of lighting and freshening the room at the same time*.
* © Bobby Bloomfield 2012


How is one creative?


There are two modes that successful artists work in. 

1. The playful, child-like imaginative mode in which you are riffing with new ideas and in a state of flow. 

2. The grown-up, knuckle-down let's-get-this-done mode. 

In the recording studio, in film studios, in the artist's studio, one has to be able to flit from one mode to the other. Playfully think of something new or combine existing elements into something new and then knuckle down and make it happen. Back and forth. 

Nobody has put it better than John Cleese in this talk. I recommend that you have a listen.


Bobby x

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

the ultimate guide to soundchecking. maybe.


I may not be the number one world expert particle physics or the leading voice on crochet, but there is one thing that I am undeniably an expert on - soundchecking and linechecking. 


As a veteran of well over 500 gigs over the last twenty years and having been a sound guy soundchecking other people's bands, I can say I know definitely my onions without feeling any false bravado. 

I've gigged with some of the worlds most famous and professional bands on and watched them or their crew soundcheck. I've also seen many hundreds of small bands sabotage their own gig by not quite understanding what the sound check is for. 

I've played outdoor gigs to thousands of people and tiny little venues to 6 people. Wherever you are playing, the purpose of the soundcheck is exactly the same. 

1. For each member of the band to hear what they need to hear via the monitors on stage, ensuring that that they play well.

2. For the sound engineer(s) to set the gain, sort out any eq, dynamics, effects etc. and give you a mix that will sound great out front.

It is not time to:

1. pose or chat about the latest series of Breaking Bad.
2. practice your new flashy licks or the middle 8 of the new song.
3. check out new tones on your amp or pedals.
4. be difficult to cultivate your "cool" image.
5. impress everyone with your songs.

The last one is important, this is not the time to impress anyone, save that for the gig itself. There may be the awesome guitarist of the headline band standing at the bar watching you but don't be tempted to start showing off. If you really want to impress him, do the soundcheck like a pro. They will be much more likely to watch the actual gig then. 

I've seen bands that appear on the front of magazines soundchecking in their pyjamas and embarrassing specs. I've also seen them go from flakey difficult arty types off-stage to thoroughly professional, soundchecking automatons when called to do their soundcheck duty. I'm sure you've seen the roadies set up the stage for a band at a festival when it's all performed like a highly planned SAS assault. It should be the same with you and your soundcheck. For my last band, even if we were arguing and hadn't slept for three days, when it came to soundcheck, Andy Mcnab mode kicked in and we were all thoroughly on it.

Unless you are a touring band with your own crew and a whole day to kill in a venue, sound checks are definitely NOT the time for dicking around. That will only cut into your allotted time and annoy the sound engineer. Worst of all, if you dick around, the on-stage sound will effectively be random and irritating when you come to play. Wonder why there's horrific feedback and you don't know where you are in the song? That's because you didn't do the soundcheck properly dummy.

If you have your own sound engineer the whole thing is a well rehearsed routine. But for the sake of an example, lets imagine that you are supporting a mid/level band at a fairly decent venue that holds 300-400 people. You don't have your own sound engineer, you are using all your own gear and this is your big chance to impress a load of new fans. Its the first gig of the headline band's tour, so their soundcheck has overrun by an hour while they iron out technical issues and because the NME insists on photographing them on the stage. They have totally eaten up your soundcheck time and you now have a maximum of 15 minutes to get yourself and the sound people ready before the venue doors open. 

The worst thing you can do is wait and watch the nightmare unfold, get a pint and hope the NME start asking you questions too. Then when the stage is free start unpacking your drums and guitars, set up on stage and start jamming. By the time you've set up the doors will be opening and you've fucked it. The sound person will have had to quickly try to check that the lines are working and you will leave the stage not knowing how it sounds and potentially with some instruments not being heard out front. It's then a roll of the dice whether the gig will be decent or not. Most likely not.

Faced with that 15 minute nightmare scenario soundcheck, this is how it's done.

As soon as you arrive at the venue, introduce yourself to the in-house sound engineer and if there is one, the monitor engineer. These people will be working really hard for you so find out their name and treat them really well. If you're eating delicious chic chip cookies, offer them one. If you haven't sent them a tech rider in advance, let them know the set up of your band and the rough sound you are after. Communicate it words that they will understand. Don't say "we want to sound powerful and passionate". Say "kind of a dry foofighters sound" or "new folk with plenty of vocal reverb" or whatever. 

Also let them know where on the stage you need power and how many vocals there are. Find out how they would like to run the soundcheck and write down your monitor requirements. It might look something like this:

DRUMMER -Andy
lots of kick. some snare and bass. a touch of guitars and both vocals.

BASSIST - Rachael (stage right) 
lots of bass and lead vocal, some kick and snare, some guitars. No backing vocals.

GUITARIST - Quentin (stage left) 
lots of guitar and own vocal, a small amount of bass and lead vocal

VOCALIST - Bunny (centre stage)
lots of lead vocal and a touch of guitar. Nothing else.

While the NME's hottest new band are eating into your precious soundcheck time, after you've let the in-house engineers know the score, unpack your gear in a corner and quietly completely build your drum kit, amps, pedal boards etc. This means that when the stage is clear you can just lift or roll everything on stage and have everything miked up and plugged in in three or four minutes. Then once you know everything is working, be quiet and wait for the engineer's instructions. if the amp is making the right sound then don't start playing your best licks. If the sound person is clipping a mic to the underside of your snare don't play the drums and deafen the guy. If it's working and in position, leave it.

Usually you will start with the kick drum. While the rest of the band are quiet, hit it just as hard as you will for the gig. Four on the floor at about 100bpm will be perfect for the engineer. If you do lots of quick doubles in your set, throw a couple of them in there so that the engineer can check the gates. If there is a monitor engineer, let him know if you want the level of the kick drum up or down in your monitor using hand signals. remember to smile and thank him when it's set. Keep going until the front of house guy is happy. If he's doing your monitors then let him know if you want some in your monitor. This goes for the rest of the band too. If the bassist wants some kick drum, now's the time to mention it. 

Next up is snare, same deal. blap blap blap at 100 bmp until the front of house guy is happy and whoever wants to hear it, can. 

The engineer(s) will keep going in this manner through all of the instruments and channels. Along the way you can make sure that you can hear it in your monitor if you want to. 

When it comes to guitars or synths, play various loud and quiet sounds so that the engineer can make sure it sounds good for all of them. If he recommends that you turn your distorted channel down, he's right. Just do it without being precious. If he says your amp is too loud for the venue, don't throw a hissy fit, just turn it down and make sure you have it in your monitor. He will know what works in this particular venue.

If this process has taken up all of your allotted time and you now have to leave the stage, congratulations. You have now done what is known as a line-check. You and the engineers now know that the lines are all working but you don't know exactly how they sound in relation to each other. It won't be perfect but it's much better than nothing. The front of house guy will have it sounding pretty decent within a minute of the first song of the gig. You've given the monitor guy your rough level requirements so it should be roughly in the right ballpark. You can always communicate to the monitor engineer using hand signals what you need turned down or up during the first couple of songs of the gig. Chances are it will be fine.

If you do have time left and you get to play a bit of a song or two, congratulations, you are now doing a soundcheck. Pick a song in which everyone is playing their instruments and has a good range of sounds. Play whilst taking mental notes of the sound until halfway through the first chorus, then stop. This is not to impress anyone, you're not looking for a round of applause, it's purely to check the balance of the instruments in relation to each other - so don't feel like you have to play the awesome solo section for the guy at the bar. 

Now, there will most likely there will be something not quite right with your monitor mix. So, in an orderly fashion and not all talking and waving frantically at the same time, the drummer can ask for his changes, then the bassist, then the guitarist and then the vocalist. Then you can play a little bit more of a song until the front of house guy is happy.

One important thing to bare in mind is that if everything is really loud but you can't hear one thing enough, sometimes it is much wiser to ask for everything else to be turned down before turning that thing up. If you only ever get things turned up in the monitors it will all be blisteringly loud and that's when you will start damaging your hearing, causing feedback and the monitors will adversely affect the sound front of house. Monitors too loud is also the reason most unsigned bands sing out of tune. 

There. You're done. In fifteen minutes you've gone from nothing to the front of house and everyone on stage having their own mix. If you do have any more changes, let the engineers know, Even if they are moody bastards, thank them for being so professional and helpful. Now you can go and have a drink, get changed into your sequinned costume and do your tantric yoga (or whatever gets you pumped for the gig), safe in the knowledge that the moment you get on stage, it will sound perfect to both you and to the audience. You will play ten times better. Trust me. 

Being a live engineer is the most thankless task on earth. They work really hard and usually just have bands and audience angrily making hand signals at them throughout. I always make the effort to thank them after the gig and suggest you do to. 

Bobby x

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

The ultimate guide to demos. Possibly.


What is a demo? I know this sounds like a dumb philosophical question but it's honestly worth thinking about. 


A demo is basically a demonstration or blueprint of a record. The film equivalent I suppose would be storyboarding a movie or rehearsing scenes on video and then making the real thing on high end cameras.  

In the now defunct model of the music industry, a demo would be recorded at a cheap local studio or home four track and then the big label money would go into making a proper record in a proper studio. But of course things have changed massively. Massively. With the recent advent of convolution processing (building exact replicas of classic expensive studio equipment purely with zeros and ones) and with computer processing power doubling every 18 months, much of the audio jiggery-pokery previously exclusively available to major labels is now available to everyone on their smart phone. 

Any local studio is now capable of recording a world class album if the right producer and engineer is at the helm so it's no wonder that the large studios are going under. The National Trust recently had to step in to save Abbey Road Studios as a historical relic. Abbey Road! 

Some might argue that you would want to pay those extra two or three noughts to capture the sound of the top studio rooms, but now savvy producers can get the sound of those studios using the aforementioned convolution processing. I don't just mean replicas of the gear with the flashing lights and knobs on. You can actually download the rooms. Want to know what your acoustic guitar would sound like in a Nashville studio? You can do that on your laptop now. Really.

The only argument that the big old studios have is that they have world class microphones and pres. Fair one. However, since everything else has become so much cheaper and accessible, your local studio more often than not forks out on those same microphones and press instead of mixing desks and recording mediums. And if not, they will more than likely use the increasingly affordable (and almost exactly the same) Chinese versions. 

So what am I getting at? I guess what I'm trying to say is that since technology has shifted hugely in unsigned and small bands' favour and the music industry is on teetering its last legs, then why should bands insist on sticking to the old model? Many records, particularly pop and dance, were produced on nothing more complicated than the thing you are reading this on now. Unsigned bands that still believe in the local studio = demo and big label studio = real thing system have to shift their attitude. Why wait for the world to come to you when you can now take it to the world so easily? As I hinted at in my last post, spending your money on recording a half-arsed demo that sounds like someone else, sending your CD to a label and hoping Mr Big might just turn up at a gig is ridiculous. 

When it comes to recording, the thing you want to look for is not where you record but WHO is recording you. Its a mistake to fork out your well earned cash at the cheapest local studio to "demo" in the hope that a record label will appear and pay for the 'real thing', when - if you look around a little - you can probably find a great producer and an affordable studio and and come away with the 'real thing'? Which you can then release and promote to potentially billions of people without ever leaving your computer. The key is to look for their track record and listen to their sounds, rather than be swayed by the cheapest or the flashiest in your area.

We all know (sadly, or I'd be writing this beside my pool right now) that hardly anyone buys records anymore. Consequently there is much less money in the industry. Most current touring bands that have screaming fans make the same money as someone who spits in burgers for a living. I myself been all over the planet and played to hundreds of thousands of fans and have nothing but my experience to show for it. This is why bigger labels have to put their money into sure things. Lowest common denominator music. Xfactor style fodder and easy to market durge for those people too stupid to work out how to download music for free. It really irks me that there is probably the next Pixies or Bjork somewhere out there who is unsigned and waiting for a label when we could all enjoy their music. Instead we have to listen to safe pop and safe indie on the radio and hunt like crazy on the web to find something new and interesting. 

So if labels can't take a risk, then you as an artist have the choice of either selling out (and trying to make music for the dumb masses), giving up (and getting a proper job), financing your release yourself (yay) or going down the label route (hard). If you do go down the label route, approaching them with something that you and they consider a 'demo' is one thing but approaching them with a finished record ready to go to press is another thing altogether. In any event, if you are making great records and putting them out yourself then labels will eventually want a piece of you. If you're making money already, they will have to make you some pretty useful offer.

So what of the demo then? Is there any point? Of course there is. Films still need storyboarding and records need demoing. Demoing on your phone at the rehearsal room or on the cheap 8 track in your spare room and then listening, really listening to them, will force you to assess it before the studio. It will mean that all the major mistakes have been ironed out and some new ideas will appear in the process. Once it's down you might decide the structure isn't good enough or that you need to change the rhythm or words or add a hook. 

Since ITS ALL ABOUT THE SONGS, the demo process is vital in picking your material apart and putting it back together again until it is a better song to record. Demos give you an excellent chance to separate the wheat from the chaff. You may only be recording a three song EP but why not demo ten songs at home first, then pick the three? If you're recording an album, why not go down the Michael Jackson route and demo hundreds? Not just rehearse them, actually put them down. You might find that on listening back that the song that is most exciting to play is actually a complete emotionless dud when you listen back. And the one that you find utterly tedious to play makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck when it comes flying out of your speakers. If you get the song down in some form or another then you will be able to let the bad ones go much easier. 

I truly believe in the theory that the difference between successful artists and unsuccessful ones are that unsuccessful ones refuse to write enough and let the bad songs die.

Lastly, it's best to discover you were wrong about something before making the record instead of afterwards. Even if you're a rare genius and the songs do stay exactly the same, the demo will help dictate to the producer the feel of the song and give you the blueprint of how the recording process should be tackled.

Disclaimer: as the late great Martin Rushent said, "the only difference between a record and a demo - is simply what you call it". So you might just find that the throw-away crap you recorded in five minutes on your iPhone has so much magic wrapped up in it that it IS final record. 

Bobby x

Exactly how it isn't


I get the impression that some unsigned bands really think it works like this:

Duncan Tripewash shifts his considerable weight to one side, furrows his eyebrows and farts half a litre of champagne-scented gas from his heavily powdered arse. A barely visible talcum cloud emerges from his groin and with a satisfied grin, he slumps back against the soft purple leather of his throne. Savouring the moment he inhales deeply and gazes up at the shimmering chandelier above him. It reflects in his mirrored Ray Bans and sends beams of light dancing around the wood panelled room and they bounce again off the numerous gold discs hanging on the wall. For a moment his office looks like a 70s disco. His gaze eventually shifts down and across the acres of mahogany desk towards his in-tray. It's overflowing with envelopes. 
Two years ago Tripewash was responsible for signing The Prongles to Bony Records. Their game changing "new-spork" sound was so damn perfect that as new head of a&r, he simply had to sign them. The resulting multi-million dollar recording contract was historic. After a year and a half of extensive production, hard dieting and styling advice, The Prongles' "Colour Sound" hit the shelves. It was an instant hit and six months on, Bone records now had a billion dollars of The Prongles' returns resting in the vaults. Tripewash was now tasked with finding the next big thing. 

He stubs out his cigar in the taxidermied elephant foot perched on his desk and slides a small tiffany case from his tailored jacket pocket. He carefully, very carefully opens it and with the miniature spoon inside, takes a toot of music industry-grade cocaine into each nostril. He blinks hard, grits his teeth and swallows down the crumbs in his throat. His throat is now so satisfyingly anaesthetised and dry that every gulp makes a loud click. He stares at the top envelope on his in-tray and grinds his jaw. Perhaps today is the day.

Tripewash pours the contents of the large envelope onto the desk and assesses the contents. The photographs are the first thing that get his attention. The large logo in the bottom right hand corner of each print show that these were taken by a professional photographer. His website URL proudly on display. The shiny black and white 5x7s show the band looking narrow-eyed and moody in an abandoned building (quite possibly a warehouse) and they are all sporting the same haircuts pioneered by The Prongles. Tripewash makes a green tick in his mind. Good look, he thinks.

He pulls some paper out of the envelope and begins reading. 

"THE GRAPES" are a recnetly formed four piece new-spork band from surrey. They're influences include The Prongles and others. Mike and Dudz knew of each other from a previous band from that they were in together. Next up to join the fold was Alan after when he answered an advert on websites. The final piece of the jigsaw was Steve who to joined the fold also after answeringan advert on a website too. After months of religious practicing once a week they developed their trademark drums, bass guitar, guitar and lead vocals with backing vocals sound…

Okay… Good so far… he thinks, as another large green tick crystallises in his mind. Well written, printed out on nice paper… 

After gently setting the paper down and steadying his breathing, he carefully picks up the CD case and holds it to the light. He shivers a little as he feels the texture. The exquisitely elegant folding cardboard sleeve and 32 page full colour booklet are simply stunning. The sheer expense of the compact disk package he was holding told him everything he needed to know. These kids weren't struggling, they clearly had good full time jobs and this was one of their most important hobbies. They also obviously know someone who does graphic design. Yet another green big tick. 

Tripewash is a little overcome. He pours some designer fizzy water into a tumbler along with some tablets and watches them bounce around the glass. He takes a gulp, swirls for a moment and knocks the rest back. With a shaking hand he places the crystal tumbler onto the coaster next to his brand new shiny MP3 player. Tripewash obviously doesn't have a compact disc player, nobody's used a compact disc player for years. But that doesn't matter, this is probably, no, definitely the most beautiful compact disc demo he has ever seen.

A bead of sweat forms on Tripewash's top lip. They have everything, he thinks, great name, great look, flash demoIf only I knew that the music on this disc was produced to sound exactly like The Prongles. Then I would sign them instantly. 

Then something catches his eye. Further down the piece of paper, beneath their very detailed list of musical equipment brands, something jumps out at him. For a moment he forgets to breath completely. The Grapes have entered a pay-to-play battle of the bands competition and the preliminary heat is at an actual London venue on the 24th. Fuck, That's tonight, he thinks. If I sign The Grapes tonight, with a quick turnaround in a year's time they could have their debut album out and be part of the new-spork revolution. It'll be three years late but what the hell, with all the money and influence of Bone Records at my disposal I could pull it off.

He lifts the phone receiver. "This is Tripewash. Have my car brought round immediately. And bring my chequebook..."

Monday, 26 November 2012

Does it what?


Does it what? 


I have only once had to spread my butt cheeks for military men to peer into and quite frankly it's not something I want to repeat.


When people asked me what I did for a living, I never really knew how to answer. Even though dioyy toured solidly for years, the band were only ever at the cult level and the band certainly never pinged on the radar of immigration officials in foreign countries. So the answer "I'm a rock star" could never work. Besides, only an utter twat would say that. The equally excruciating "Im in a band" response, it seems, to a highly trained but barely English-speaking man with a moustache, sounds almost exactly the same as "I have cocaine inside my anus". 

All of the possible permutations of the statement 'I am a person in a music group' lead to the utterly dreaded follow up question - 'What's the name of your band?'. The answer "Does It Offend You, Yeah?" begets so much confusion and hands tightening on pistol grips, that it has to be avoided at all costs.

Does it what? No it doesn't. Do I offend you yet? Yes? Yeah? Why are you called that? Are you on drugs?

For a while I attempted the old "I work in the music industry". That too was abandoned because it seemingly also translated as "I have a kilo of Bolivian marching powder wedged high up in my colon".

So I settled on the answer on the visa forms - ENTERTAINER. Reassuringly vague.

Of course, in bars or hotels, if I answered "entertainer" I would again look like a twat. So it would have to be "I make music" or "I am a music producer". Which was a deliberately drab answer crafted to put people off the trail to the same conversational downward spiral. Sometimes though, it was just inevitable.

What's the Name of Your band? Does it what? No it doesn't. Do I offend you yet? Yes? Yeah? No it doesn't...

With the dioyy stuff now on indefinite hiatus, I have more of a problem answering exactly what it is I do. I'm producing a few projects, deejaying, managing a band and working every week with Zed Events

Zed Events are the people who put on the Zombie Mall Experience. Essentially people pay to go into an abandoned and very dark shopping mall to take part in a full-immersion experience that is half theatrical play, half themed airsoft skirmish against the undead. It's all moaning, shambling, smoke, loud bangs and screaming, (so not all that different from touring really). 

The zombie mall has been on several international news networks and consequently is fully booked for nearly a year in advance. My actual job role changes from week to week. Acting as armed police officer or zombie or a dead clown, sometimes running around "backstage" with a smoke machine and doing bits of sound effects, often firing blank firing weapons, wearing prosthetic make up and creeping around... and there's lots of pretending to die.

So now if people ask me what it is I do, the genuine answer - "music producer and band manager and DJ and multi-rolled person at a thing that's a kind of themed play event thing with zombies and member of the now sleeping does it offend you yeah" - is the most excruciating yet. And still leads to that conversation again. Does it what?... 



Anything for a weird life.


at the Call of Duty Black Ops II UK launch as a zombie clown.  












bobby x

Sunday, 25 November 2012

hello

My lords, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, willkommen et bienvenue to the grand opening, the spectacular premiere, the splendiferous ordinal pointless scribble of this here bloggy thing. Tremendous. Yes, I've finally joined the blogging internet revolution. More than a decade later than everyone else but I've joined it nonetheless. (Been kinda busy)

Were this 1998, I'd be a pioneering HTML web logger and you would be the sort of person who painted lead figures and had an X Files poster. Now that it's 2012 (I've been assured) it's perfectly normal to "blog". Its no longer just for tinfoil hat wearers or attention-seeking hipsters. Ordinary folk like you or I can do it. I mean, hey, some of my best friends are bloggers and, well, everyone is a little bit blog-curious eh?

Anyway, I imagine, dear reader, that if you are reading this (are you mad? It's paragraph three into this drivel), then you a fan of something musicky that I've been involved in or someone interested in music production. Or you're mistakenly here looking for a blog about my namesake ancestor, in which case you are in the wrong place, I'm not an English labouring class Romantic poet, I'm a floppy haired music producer from Reading. Possibly, chillingly, you're a psychotic stalker looking for more material to print out and place on your wall of hate. In which case, please don't hurt me.

I will be blogging about the various creative thingies I'm currently and historically involved in. That could be who I'm recording now, stories I can actually remember, where I'm performing whatever it is I'm performing next or updates on the bread I've been developing**. 

Right. That's it for the introduction. Well done if you made it this far. More pointless drivel to follow soon.

Love,

Bobby x

* If you want to know what I was doing in 1998, quite frankly, so do I. I'm fairly sure it involved loud repetitive noises and colours.

** This is so exciting, it involves frying wet dough to make a brand new kind of garlic naan/crumpet/muffin/paratha hybrid. Its the best thing since normal bread.