meet DOS4GW

he never bleeds and he never fucks

So, my new setup! I figured I would write about this, because people ask me what I use and how it all fits together a fair bit, so I figure it must be interesting to someone out there. Get ready for some serious nerd business, complete with bad cameraphone pictures.

First, the boring stuff. I’ve just upgraded my PC, which is obviously the heart of the whole setup. It’s got an i7 CPU, all kinds of rams and hard drives and what not. I’m up and running with Win7 Ultimate x64, which has been giving me a bit of hassle over the last week, but I think I’ve ironed out most of my problems now. Most of my initial problems were with …

… this, a MOTU 896HD. It’s from the studio that a band that I played for a million years ago built. They are touchy things, and have given a few of us a lot of headaches over the last few years – but when it works, it’s a fantastic audio interface. Eight ins and outs make it possible for me to permanently patch in a couple of the samplers I use a lot, which saves the time and hassle of cable-swapping. The unit underneath it is a Kawai K4r, which I picked up on the cheap a few years back. It’s an interesting little synth, but I only really use it for pad type sounds – the sort of thing that I don’t have much need for. Good to have options though. It’s on the Moderate Rock album a fair bit.

My children ūüėÄ On the bottom we have one of the first Access Virus desktop modules. The synth on top is my beloved Roland System 100, which at the moment is a two oscillator beast, as I’ve only got one of the 102 expander modules. You can read more tech specs and such over here on vintagesynth. It’s an absolute monster of a synth, and I’ve used it on damn near every single DOS4GW track. The filters are pretty good, but the main reason that I love it is the rawness of the square waves that it generates, and the way the VCA just cranks. PWM POWER ACTIVATE!

Here we have a Casio CZ3000, an 80s-tastic FM thingy. I don’t use it heaps, but it has come in very handy on occasion. Underneath is an Ensoniq Mirage, which I also fucking love. It was the first consumer-grade keyboard sampler, and I love some of the factory sounds – the pipe organ disc that I’ve got is amazing. I’ve made some pretty destructive basses with it too, mostly by sampling the System100 or Virus ¬†into it.

Samplers! On top, an Akai S3000XL, which is a pretty standard classic. It’s got eight outs, so in theory it would be awesome for running heaps of shit at once, but I only ever do things one sound at a time, so a lot of the features are somewhat wasted on me. It’s quite a clean sounding sampler, so I don’t use it heaps, but it’s still worthy of a spot in the rack – unlike the U220 piece of crap underneath it that I can’t even remember why I’ve got. Should take that out really.

At the bottom of the rack is a much more interesting little beast, my Akai S612. I think this is my all time favourite sampler. Ignore what vintagesynth says about it being unusable these days – they are usually reliable but it’s a fucking interesting machine to say the least. It’s only “limited” by your imagination. Front mounted inputs, which is handy; fuck all sample time, but it sounds disgusting. The real killer is the way you set sample start/end points; there’s a slider for each! How awesome is that? It makes for some fucking amazing synth tweaking and modulation possibilities, because the sliders change the start/end points in real time. Hook an arpeggiator up to it, sample in a disgusting sound from somewhere, and just go to town on those bad boys. It really is fucking amazing – a real case of a technical ‘limitation’ having heaps of creative potential.

I’m not just using those rack units as a monitor stand (although they are helpful in that regard). The silver unit is a dbx 376 (not a review, sadly, nothing interesting really turned up) –¬†tube preamp eq, compressor/de-esser, and it’s awesome. Every synth I record goes through this before it hits the hard drive. ¬†It’s also brilliant for giving a bit of life to vocals. The preamp sounds great when you give it a bit of rizz. DANGER, EQ CLIP. Underneath the dbx is another sampler, a Roland S-220. It’s a quirky little thing, which has an alpha-dial like an Alpha Juno to edit parameters, which is a bit annoying, but I think it’s my most used sampler – the sound is a good combination of lo fi dust, dirt and years past, but not as barnacle-laden as the Mirage or S612. The “limiter” switch comes in very handy too.

Lastly we have one of the newest additions to my setup. Having a window to the outside world is something that I’ve never had in a studio space before, and I love it now. I’m easily distracted at the best of times, so that’s occasionally a problem, but having natural light in what is traditionally my nerd cave makes a huge difference to my mood. I strongly recommend it.

It’s not much, but it’s home. So this begs the question: What does your nerd cave look like? It doesn’t have to be music related. Every nerd has his or her cave. Share it with me!

You too, Bunj.

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Filed under: geek shit

help me trust your mighty wisdom

Hooray! Got a project off to testing today. Celebrating tonight with a rousing round of Anno on the new box. It used to run like a dog on my old machine, which I suspect was caused by it being such a CPU intensive game. However with the new processor and ram, it kicks serious ass. Lots of little dudes running around, carrying hemp, trading dates with the Venetians.. amazing.

Massive weekend coming up; catching up with some mates, and then Gaslamp Killer tomorrow night, then Community gig on Saturday I think, followed by lunch at the ‘rents and then the Guerrilla Picnic on Sunday arvo. It starts around 3pm in Hyde Park in North Perth, so if you’re bored and feel like some gentle drinking to covert beats then come down.¬†¬†Also, ‘Sundae’ at the Rosemount this weekend is Paper Chain / Community, IIRC. Big weekend for the local boys.

I’m also looking forward to hooking all my shit back up now that this box is up and running, and getting down to the serious beat production. I’m not worrying so much about ‘oh I have to do this or that release’ after my trip; it seems that I’d probably be better served at the moment by doing a few remixes and working on a more steady stream of material. Also, going over east for shows isn’t the big deal that it is for a band, as it’s just me and a laptop, so I can drop everything at pretty much a moment’s notice if I have to.

Ok, that’s enough rope trading for one evening. Good night world.

Filed under: geek shit, life

as an old enemy

Well, I must say it’s been a weird week so far. Came back from a killer huge weekend, new people, new places, gettin’ my drank on, then BAM straight back to sensible shirts (napisan worked brilliantly for getting the bepanthen stains, cheers for that ppl) and sitting down in the office for most of the day. Culture shock, or something. I’m already planning when I’m going back next. I think I will include Sydney next time, if I can find a decent night to play at.

I got a new computer; that’s been exciting – I picked up all the parts on Tuesday and put them together that night. It’d been maybe.. five or so years since I had built a PC from scratch, but as my brother said, it’s like riding a bike, you never forget that shit. Everything has different numbers now – Core i7, P55, DDR3, SATA3 – but they all seem to fit together in the case in roughly the same fashion. It’s comforting to know that I can jam screws through motherboards and into tray risers with gay abandon and not scrape off even one surface mount component. I guess it’s also a bit bizarre, considering how fast hardware development is these days.

Things that have changed dramatically with computer assembly in the last ten years:

  1. It’s now quite hard to plug a hard drive in the wrong way.
  2. CPUs now have contacts, instead of pins – the pins are on the motherboard instead. Neat.
  3. Not much else.

Anyway, so I got Windows installed, and played me some TF2 last night to see how my old video card is holding up (I replaced my old system entirely except for the vid card, have to wait til next paycheque for that), and it turns out that it holds up admirably. Like an admiral. Full texture qual, shadows, reflections, highest AA on the list.¬†I suppose I was putting too much trust in my old CPU – probably because it cost me so much back in the day. Post purchase rationalisation, perhaps? If anyone who’s reading owns an iPhone, can you tell me if this rings any bells? Cheers.

Can’t wait to get home tonight and play some motherfucking Anno.

Filed under: geek shit, life

preach a little gospel

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that I created a Soundcloud page. Not much on there yet, but if you’re on that shit, friend me or .. whatever it is on Soundcloud.

Filed under: geek shit

his smell smelled like no other

A quick post from the rock face.. I want to keep this blog up, and one post a week is not “keeping it up” in my book. Bad, bad boy.

So this is a follow up to the ‘omg drinking’ post. After a massively over-cooked weekend, I’ve decided that until I go over to Melbourne on the 25th, February is going to be dry. There’s one or two¬†occasions¬†at which I’ll make an exception, but other than them I want to stop the casual drinking that has been adding to my financial issues and my waistline since the Christmas break. I want to save money so that I can have a good time on holiday, and I need to do a lot of work on refreshing my set for the opening of Render. It’s an honour to be invited over to play at the opening of a night like this, and I fully intend to bring some freshness to the party.

I also intend on bringing back some of the more ‘live’ performance aspects to my live set, which I stripped out when I went on tour with the T-Ford. One of my most valued¬†possessions¬†is my EWI, and I am super paranoid about breaking it (erm… again) but I think standing on stage with just a laptop is A Bit Fucking Boring. I’ve got a padkontrol too, but i’m not really sure how I can work that in. Actually I have a heap of things I could bring along but I think the EWI is pretty unique in the field that I’m in, and it’s not very bulky either, which helps. I need to find a good strap and case for it though. It’s about the size of a soprano sax … does anyone have anything usable lying around that they wouldn’t miss?

Also, life news – I got inked! Lauren at Holdfast did an amazing job. I am already hooked as fuck on it, and can’t wait to get a friend for my little guy on the other arm. Although one downside is that FUCK ME IT ITCHES ARGHAGHGRHAGRHRGH.

I’ve got some sweet news about a release that I really want to drop on you all; the problem is, I don’t really know what the news is, and I haven’t really heard much about it except that it’s happening – which, let’s face it, is the most important thing. So to sum up: things are happening, and these things will be fucking dope. One point I can probably confirm is that you will need a tape deck to play this release, so go dust off your Walkman.

I’d like to finish today with my favourite track from 2009. It’s the best track from the best pop album since Hunky Dory. I am not adding any qualification to that statement; I am right about this and if you don’t agree with me then you can fuck right off.

MUCH LOVE EVERYONE, BE WELL, AND THE BATMAN SYMBOL.

Filed under: geek shit, gigs, life, shit I like, tours

starve without your skeleton key

This is my favourite synthesizer.

humble, but also bad ass.

This is a Roland System 100. I’ve got the whole set; the speakers, sequencer and everything. ¬†I’ve also got a table that isn’t pictured – and come to think of it, I’ve never seen or heard of another anywhere. That’s not to say they aren’t around, of course, but the vintage synth community on the net is usually pretty fucking comprehensive, so it’s a bit surprising.

There’s a great story behind how this synth came into my¬†possession. There was a cleanout of a music lab at a university on the cards, and my mother had the inside scoop. The place was full of equipment, probably all useless, but worth a look anyway. At this point in my career I was working a few days a week pushing pixels for contractors, and living with my brother and a couple of other nerds in a craphole in Crawley. I was living well below the poverty line, but I was happy.

I went over to the lab to have a squiz. I found a few old Mac IIs, and some crappy Yamaha PCM keyboards that weren’t worth the plastic they were made of. There was a grand piano there, but lifting a full sized grand from a uni was a bit beyond my capacity at the time. A CZ-3000 stands against a door in the corner. Yes! Something usable! I put it by the door, to take downstairs later. A few uprights, boxes and boxes of sheet music… an awesome collection of guiros, but¬†auxiliary percussion isn’t really my style. Heaps of posters claiming that yes, every good boy does indeed deserve fruit. A table in the corner with some dusty black boxes and a keyboard on it.

wait.

I suddenly was in a panic. There’s a (to me) priceless full set mid-70s analog monosynth here. I need to get it out. Now. Before anyone notices. They have cameras. Surely they have cameras. Surely they know it’s worth money to the right people. But they’re going to bin everything here. It needs a keeper. Someone to love it. Ok. Be calm. A trolley. Get a trolley. Some drapes or curtains or something, wrap that fucker up, take it down the emergency exit, and get the fuck out of here and never come back.

With the help of my fearless mother (to whom I owe this entire venture, and indeed my love of keyboarded things), I got the entire set down the stairs and into my car (a ’76 Clubman Mini, built the same year as the synth). The panic is dying down. I’ve done it. I pull away from the carpark with a feeling of elation and a surge of belief in the vintage synth gods. The paranoia isn’t totally gone; I check my rear view every five seconds, half expecting Tosh Lines from The Bill to pull me over in an SR Nova (drive it like a joyrider).

I get home. It’s here. It’s mine. My brother thinks I’m dumb for obsessing over it, which is fair enough, considering that I could sell it for an amount roughly equivalent to my yearly salary at the time.

Fuck that, I think. It’s fucking mine.

I’ve used it on damn near every track I’ve ever made. It’s flexible, but somehow my patch cables seem to gravitate toward the square waves every time. They’re so thick. A decent preamp, then straight onto disc – it breaks up in a way that seems criminal. Even better, sampled with an S-220 or Mirage or another digital rackmounted fuckup, it blips and grumbles and moans. I have the facility to hook it up to a computer controller sequencer, but somehow that feels like cheating. Sync the oscillators, pitch those fuckers down, open up the filter and just give it the beans. Sample bank 1, standby, record, autoloop. Ship the bass, it’s done.¬†All thanks to a phonecall from my mum.

So pick the fucking phone up when your mum calls, yeah?

dos.

Filed under: geek shit, life

turn turn turn around

Those of you who know me (which, let’s face it, is probably everyone reading this) will know that I’m not really one for leaving things to the default settings. You’d probably also know that I work at the internet in a code and design capacity – which makes setting up a .wordpress.com and using a random wp theme seem a bit weird.

The thing is, I want this to be about the people, the music, the writing, the pictures and the journey; not the design. I do enough of that shit at work and in my own time as it is.

Also I’m slack and I want this to be easy.

Filed under: geek shit

wait, what?

I'm putting together a new album. I'm also writing about it! hooray. shit is going to be cash.

archives, innit

system 100