Okay, been a little while since I updated. While I never envisioned this journal as one of those 'daily goings-on' type of blogs, this is getting a little long even for me.
Just to get you up to speed, May was taken up planning & travelling on our second outing to Europe this year (in short, Vienna's everything we could have hoped for, so we'll be relocating there as soon as we can make all the appropriate arrangements), and June's been a bit hectic with the day job (my company's fiscal third quarter ends with this month; there's always a big push by the salesguys at quarter's end to make their numbers, and we've got to do our best to accomodate them).
Currently, I'm sitting here in a somewhat sleep-deprived state, since the dog decided he needed to go out at 4:30 this morning and I couldn't get back to sleep afterward. So, while I try to come up with something to post that's artsy and deep (read: pretentious and boring) let me introduce you to the Monster.
'The Monster' is my mental shorthand for whatever project with which I'm currently consumed. At the moment, the 'fiend du jour' is my effort to pare down my studio setup to a maneagable size that I can use to take on gigs. Now, I think by now everyone's figured out that I'm a major gearhound. This makes things not nearly quite so easy as it sounds.
My original concept was to have the option of two different setups. The first and simplest was merely a laptop with an audio interface and keyboard controller. I wanted something that I could pop into a backpack and walk out the door entirely self-contained. I settled on building this around a Mac Titanium Powerbook 667 (which was the top-of-the-line Powerbook for all of a whole month after I bought it, and was a discontinued model before mine was even out of warranty. Damn Apple for continually devaluing their equipment like that). I picked the TiBook for a couple of reasons. First, I've got about a dozen different PC laptops and only a couple of older Macs, so it gave me access to a lot of Mac-only stuff. Second, the wafer-thin profile and the wide beautiful screen are just plain sexy (so sue me -- I'm easily seduced by technology). Finally, the operating system seems to have finally gotten its shit together with MacOSX, or, as I like to call it, NeXTStep X. Unfortunately, many of the programs I'm using still haven't ported to the new operating system, so I'm still stuck on OS9 <*grumble*>.
To the TiBook I added an M-Audio Quattro
MIDI/Audio interface, and a MidiMan Oxygen 8
mini-keyboard controller. Slap that setup in a bag, sling it over my shoulder and I'm out the door. Sweet!
Setup #2 was originally to add some extra outboard hardware to the 'core' setup above, for gigs where quick load-in and portability weren't as big a factor. Sounds simple enough on paper, yet, as you might expect, it hasn't been nearly as simple in practice. My first thought was to take a couple of the smaller hardware synths from back in the studio, then put them together with a small rack of outboard effects. I wanted something that -- while I obviously wouldn't bike down the street carrying it -- likewise wouldn't be too difficult to jam into the back seat of a Jetta and drive off to a gig.
It wasn't too hard to pick the sound sources I wanted to add. First, I knew I'd throw in my Novation Nova
, as it's one of the best all-around workhorse synths I've got. Everything coming out of the little bugger sounds great. Next, I grabbed my Nord Micro Modular
. I've always loved this tiny guy, but he's gone under-utilized for years and I wanted to remedy that. Despite the limited polyphony (often limited to just one note/sound) there's a full modular synthesizer under the hood, and you can pull out sounds you just won't find elsewhere. Finally, I pulled my Casio VZ-10m
out of the rack. This is a way underappreciated synth (in fact, you can find 'em used for ~$150 bucks these days), but it's a waaaaaay deep piece of gear. The user interface makes it difficult to program, but, with the exception of the Synclavier and a few very high-end 'boutique' synthesizers, this was probably the most in-depth hardware implementation of FM synthesis or its derivatives... ever.
I'd be running all this into a little Simmons mixer I've got (an SPM8:2). It's a one rackspace 8-in/2-out jobbie with a ton of features, including multiple effect sends, full eq with parametric mids, special effects (filter shift & autopan) and scene automation. It's a little noisy, but if you're careful setting up the gain stages you can mitigate most of that. I assigned my Nova, Micro, and VZ to take up the first six channels (3x stereo = 6). The Quattro's got four outputs, so I figured I'd send most of the sounds through its first two outputs to the Simmons, then split off the rhythm track (drums and possibly some bass parts) and send a dedicated feed for those through outs three & four, directly to the sound board.
Next comes the outboard effects, which has turned into a huge mess so far. However, I've actually got to do something to earn my paycheck, so I'll go into that with the next entry...