Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween, Daylight Saving and Elections, Oh My!

Whoa. Big weekend kiddos. First its a Friday Halloween, which pretty much means Halloween parties all weekend, right. Fortunately, Daylight Saving(s) ends Sunday, which pretty much means an extra hour of partying Saturday night. Monday, You'll get up and the sun will up (Yea!), but come home and it will already be dark (Bummer). And to put a nice little bow on it all, Tuesday's the election.

Th honor these three rights of Fall (at least every fourth year) give a listen to the very creepy Dolls, the timely Daylight Savings Time is Gone Again, and, all of a sudden, Nobody Voted for this Guy.

Happy Halloweenie!
The Halloweenie
(Note: The Halloweenie is not very happy.)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Cool View

View from the office today. Thanks to Pavel Trebukov for taking a much better photo than I was able to with my iPhone camera! Check out Pavel's other photos on Flickr - he does some really great work.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A Rich And Bold Obsession

Last year, our drummer, John Owens wrote this great tribute to a tasty caffeinated beverage. Since I've had a Venti and then a Grande re-up this morning I couldn't help but listen to the song. And send a link to a co-worker. Who then sent me a link to this classic 20 year old ad:

Because coffee is the calm moment that lets you think. Coffee gives you the time to dream it. Then you're ready to do it. No other drink does that like coffee.

Now if I could only kick this insomnia problem...

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Metallica Situation

Metallica has a new album out. I've heard from a lot of people that it's the best album they've done since pre-Black Album days. I've also heard about some serious audio quality problems with the new album. Over the past several years, there has been what is known as a race for sound volume. Mastering engineers are being instructed by the industry to make their audio projects sound louder than competing albums so they stand out on the radio, internet play, people's iPods and so on. This race has a hard ceiling when it comes to audio quality.

I've spent a great deal of time learning about and experimenting with mixing and mastering audio. For those of you who don't know the difference, mixing is the process of taking multiple tracks of separately recorded instruments (bass, guitars, vocals, keyboards, drums, etc) and bringing them together into a two-track stereo file where all of the instruments are carefully balanced with one another. Mastering is the process of taking stereo mixes and making them sound good together as a unit such as an album.

During the mastering process, a bit of EQ, compression, limiting, and other effects are applied to give the track its final "polish" and to adjust its volume level so the song sits properly together with the other tracks it will be played with. For example, For The Song Of The Day albums, I spent several weeks re-mastering all 365 songs so they sound balanced with one another - even if you are listening to a track from January and then skipping to one from December.

Here's where the race for volume within Music Industry 1.0 comes into play: adjusting volume during mixing and mastering is not just a matter of turning the volume up as high as you want it. You have to compress the signal (eliminating dynamic range) and limit the peaks (further killing dynamic range) in order to push the volume level up. A little bit of this applied judiciously is a good thing. You want to bring the volume up a bit and can even make a song sound punchier. Too much will make everything sound absolutely flat (volume-wise) and will kill all the peaks, distorting the hell out of the sound. You will even end up causing ear fatigue when listening to such a recording, making it uncomfortable to listen to for very long.

Here's where the Metallica situation enters: they have hit a new low (high?) in the race for volume. Sure - the album is "loud" as a good Metallica album should be, BUT wow - everything is distorted all to hell. The drums sound like Lars was using a hammer instead of sticks (and not in a good way). The guitars are super distorted (and not in the right way from properly driven amps and effects). And there's this incessant static from the peaks hitting the digital volume ceiling constantly. It's headache inducing.

Many in fan community are speaking out. They've discovered that the Guitar Hero edition of the album does not suffer the problem. It supposedly came from an earlier mix/master to make the deadline for the game. I heard a rumor that one fan practiced and played through the game without making mistakes just to get a good recording of the album. I've also heard that those files have been shared "out there somewhere." A friend played for me the Guitar Hero and the release album versions of the files and now that I've personally heard the difference, it is incredibly striking. The release version of the songs ARE very hard to listen to while the Guitar Hero versions sound just about right.

The lesson for us do-it-yourself music pros? If you are mixing and mastering your own material, don't push the volume too far. Listen carefully and make it sound good. If you are working with pro engineers, don't let them push it too far. Let's not get into an internet music volume war - it'll only hurt what we independent musicians really care about in the end. The music.

Friday, October 3, 2008

A Bunsen Burner Birthday

Yesterday was my birthday. Normally I don't tell too many people and don't expect much of a big deal to be made, but these days, Facebook seems to tell everyone for me, which I have to admit is kinda fun.

Luckily this year, my b-day landed right at midnight during the weekly Scott Besaw open mic at Bad Dog Tavern. I'd like to thank the Wednesday night regular crew for making it a hell of a lot of fun. Randy and Tom joined me to play Going Commando and Sick of Sandwiches. At the end of the night, our fearless host Scott even asked me to play again. I took the opportunity to play a cover of Rush's Spirit of Radio (something I've been wanting to do for years), but also, I had to play Bunsen Burner. Here's why: Cathy, a good friend who's part of the regular crew gave me an actual bunsen burner for my b-day. How cool is that?

Bunsen Burner

One more birthday note: yesterday evening I was treated to one of those rare sunsets outside my front windows where the clouds reflect the light just right and, for only a minute or so, the whole sky glows red and purple. It's the kind of sky that inspired me to write this instrumental a number of years ago.

La Salle Sunset

Happy Second Bailout Vote!

Well with all the economic hullabaloo going on in the past couple weeks, I figure we could all use a laugh.

Found this very British YouTube video from last year off of
Oh, and speaking of last year, the Housing Bubble's always worth a listen.

Remember, if you can't laugh at yourself, everyone else will do it for you. :P

Audio Fake Out

Ok, I did this to myself. It just happened again from a neighboring cube. Every time I hear that stock Windows "startup sound" I turn around and expect to hear the first bits of The I.T. Department (Super Heroes of I.T.) from our album All In A Day's Work. I know it's my own damn fault for creating the rhythm loop of Windows sounds kicking off with the "startup" but well... Hey wait! I think it was Jason's idea to use the startup sound. Damn you man! :)