Category Archives: music



(If you are one of my contributors, please do not take this as any sort of slight.   I am not trying to diminish your contributions…but rather express my need for more of that)

I’ve decided that NoiseTheorem needs something more than the on again / off again contributions of random persons.  I need to find someone who would like to be a part of this project as part of their own artistic exploration and vision, and not just as ‘hey, yeah..that could be fun’.  I need to find someone who wants to be a part of this and have their name on it.

In my vision, this person would fit the following description and have the listed skills:

  1. They would be able to sing, mainly choral sorts of things.  This isn’t going to be pop music, after all.   On this note, they’d also be able to wing it and come up with stuff on their own.   They wouldn’t be afraid to be a little weird and silly with their voice. Their microphone technique would be superb (kinda kidding, but not really)
  2. They’d be into the weird sort of ambient electronic industrial mish mash of sounds. They’d like the idea of running around a forest preserve or a construction site with a field recorder and collecting.
  3. They have two fully functiong ear systems, to counter the deficit I face
  4. They’d live somewhat locally, be able to get together about once a month at least, but would also have some capability to do recording on their own that they could send me.
  5. They’d have ideas that we could run with so I’m not stuck always being the idea person.
  6. In my mind, this is a female vocalist, but that’s not at all required.
  7. They can play some sort of instrument (guitar, bass, tambourine, glockenspiel….something we can add to the mix of talents).
  8. They’d be interested in possibly performing live if the opportunity presented itself.

Now the problem is actually *finding* some human like that in the great conservative creative desert that is the NW suburbs of Chicago.  I’m posting this to my blog because I honestly don’t know where I could find an individual to help out.  Everyone seems either to far away, or lacks the emotional bandwidth to contribute and commit at the level I’m asking.

So what to do?

Video Killed the Radio Star

I miss the radio.  Maybe that’s a sign I am old  But I do.  I really do.

Back when I was a kid, there were a few programs on that I’d listen to every week.   One of them was the Dr. Dimento show.  When I was about 11 or 12, I used stay up just long enough to start a tape recorder so that I could listen to it the next day.   This went on for years, until my musical tastes expanded and I started doing the same thing with shows on WXRT that also played the music I enjoyed (don’t ask me the names…I’ve long forgotten….yeah…about that getting old bit..).

Eventually, though, MTV had 120 minutes, and I stopped listening to the radio and instead started programming the VCR to record.   Then, eventually the internet came a long and you could just find what you wanted when you wanted it.  Then napster and streaming….

But in all of that something was lost.   There was a certain satisfaction in discovery that was taken away by having such a tailored an curated experience.   With streaming and targetted advertising came a very sort of siloed environment.  There was that moment when someone would play something totally unexpected that you hadn’t heard before and it would just open up your world to something new.   It was exciting.

Now, everything is so targetted that never seems to happen.  The entire basis of these services is to give you what you want to hear rather than perhaps playing something that you should hear.   I realize I sound like an old man shaking his fist at the clouds right now, but…fucking clouds!

But there is one way the internet has redeemed itself.   By giving me internet radio streams, I can still enjoy passive listening and discovery guided by persons who have listened to the music far longer than I knew it was around.

Right now, I have three radio shows I listen to.   Monday nights, I listen to ‘Into The Deep’ on WEVL out of memphis, the Galactic Travels on WDIY on Thursday nights.   These too are more electronicall focused, with WDIY being definitely the ‘weirder’ of the two.

The final program I listen to is on KCUR-FM and it’s called Night Tides.   This is a nice and gentle show, good for preping my nerves for the crazy work week I’m trying to forget is coming.

I also *try* to listen to ‘At Waters Edge’, which is a pure internet radio stream, but usually only catch up with it in podcast form since it’s at a time of day that’s generally busy for me.

There have to be more stations out there playing ambient, electronic and industrial music, though.   And I can’t be the only one listening.

What else is out there?

Studio Changes

IMG_4541Back when I worked on the ‘Dust’ album, one of the pieces of equipment that I was most inspired by was my Fractal Audio Axe FX Ultra.  It was an amazing box, and really the only time I’ve ever really ‘bonded’ with an FX devices.   I found its workflow perfect for how I think about FX and how I want to work with them.

Unfortunately, it was a victim of the post-separation, pre-divorce financial crunch that required my studio shrink.   Then the Axe II came out, and I considered upgrading…but I was still in the financial crunch.

Now, a few years later, the Axe FX III is out and, honestly…I couldn’t wait anymore.   I sold off odds and ends in the studio that had been replaced by software and pulled the trigger on Friday.   It will get here some time next week, and I’m sure you’ll be hearing me spout about it for a while (and, hopefully, hear it in my work).

Also changing is my eurorack system.   I’ve been digging into it much harder than I have in a long time and I’ve been learning it all over again and getting a sense for what it is I want to do with it.   As luck would have it, STG Sounds Labs got my order of a Switch and Post Lawsuit Filter on the way and they should also be here this week.  I preordered the Switch when it was announced and the PLF has long been on my short list as it completes my STG Filter collection (from an audio quality standpoint alone, they are some of the best you will find in any format).

On the eurorack, I’m starting to get a sense of what’s going to happen in that second case.  It was overflow for while, but now it’s slowly starting to have a true purpose.  It’s becoming the ‘weird’ side of the rig, where I put the modules that I don’t use every day, but I wouldn’t ever want to be without.   It will also be it’s own complete system, having enough components for a voice or performance.  Eventually, I want to replace the case, though with a second hand Gemini or Lexington…but that’s for future discussions.

On the software front, the single best thing I’ve done recently was to upgrade an old license of Specrasonics Atmosphere to Omnisphere 2.5.  It’s not quite having my Korg Kronos in software, but it’s been a missing piece in the software stack that I’ve been wanting for a LONG time.  I don’t see the need for a standard S+S synthesizer in my hardware rig with this one.

Another change has been my return to using Ableton Live.  I’m still on V9, but considering the upgrade to 10.   I think it’s because i’m using the modular more again and it’s just the right environment for the way that workflow happens.   I don’t know..I love reason as a virtual studio environment, but it just doesn’t take in audio from the modular and make it easy to edit after that.  Their time and pitch correction UI’s need a lot of work.

There’s also some other good things happening, but I’ll save those for another post.



Fractal Audio Axe FX III….To get, or not to get?

For a while, I’d been planning to dump a huge load of cash and get myself a Fractal Audio Axe FX III for the studio.   I had the Ultra version of the original, and it’s not a stretch to say that it was an extremely inspiring piece, that changed the way I approached FX.   The III is everything the Ultra was and a lot more.

Now that I have the cash, though, I’m not so sure.

See, I have a certain workflow that’s developed since then, particularly with regards to my modular.  I tend to work with simple FX while I’m writing, but then I almost always track dry to give myself the most options possible once I’m in the box.  Does it make sense to buy a $3000 processor that’s mostly going to just be bypassed anyway?

Aside from the aforementioned workflow, also going against, obviously, is the price and all that Eurorack I could buy for that chunk of change.   Or I could use it as the down payment on a Moog One.   The opportunity cost of this thing is not to be sneazed at.   Really, that’s the biggest issue I see.

In the yes column, we have to consider that I bypass my external FX because, for the most part, they are nowhere near as good as what I’ve got in the box.   My outboard FX consist of a few Eurorack modules and an Elektron Octatrack (which I use mainly for it’s FX and almost nothing else).

Also for getting the axe FX is the fact it has enough inputs to process a lot of stuff at once, and I could (potentially) replace it as my mixer into the Mac.  That’s a bit far fetched, but not an impossible idea.

Finally, the Ultra was such an expert mangler of audio, it was practically a synth in it’s own right.   You could feed it anything and, if patched up right, be totally surprised and delighted by what came out the other side.

So that’s my current dillema.  Fortunately, I don’t have *all* the cash collected yet, so I’m still waiting.   If I happen to miss that ‘introductory price’ on their site, then I guess fate makes the decision for me.   I’m about 60/40 in favor.

What do you think?




Recently, someone sent me a link to Herbert’s Manifesto ( and asked if I’d read it.  I have now, and I’ve decided to write up one of my own, partly in response to it.

My first thought is to say that, while I like the idea of having a framework of principals you use in your creativity, I find it to be too limiting and ultimately destructive to the creative process if you aren’t willing to be flexible.   Raising these guidelines up to the level of ‘manifesto’ is, therefore, not what I’m doing.  This is partly response to his points, so it may not really work as a function manifesto anyway. goes..

Personan Contract for the Composition of Music:

  1. Any sound which I have access to and the legal access to use is allowed.   This shall include drum machines, synthesizers and their presets.   If my dog burbs and I can capture it, its fair game.   If I feel the composition requires a grand piano, then I’ll use a sample of a grand piano on a syntheseizer, because who has fucking room for a grand piano.
  2. Any sound generated at any time as part of any process is available for use.   I may have recorded your hampster passing gas in 1997, but if I find that sample works in a track I’m working on in 2018, then so fucking be it.
  3. The sampling of other peopls music is allowed but, since it doesn’t interest me, never happens anyway.  If it did happen, such use would be governed by copyright laws and getting the appropriate license.
  4. Synthesizers, my primary tool of creation, were not built to create new sounds but as emulators.  In fact, all of the bread and butter sound types have their equivalents in the orchestra (bass, pads, leads…etc.).   All sound is derivative.   Get used to it.
  5. The inclusion, development, propagation, existence, replication, acknowledgement, rights, patterns and beauty of what are commonly known as accidents, is encouraged. Furthermore, they have equal rights within the composition as deliberate, conscious, or premeditated compositional actions or decisions. (on this point, I absolutely agree).
  6. The mixing desk does not exist.  The software slate is always cleansed.
  7. If the preset reverb works, I’ll use it.  Because fuck it if I know more about creating space than the guy who programmed it.
  8. I don’t even get what the fuck this one means.  It’s my sample, and I’ll truncate what I want.
  9. meh…let em guess.   Most people don’t honestly care
  10. See #9
  11. Remixes should be completed using whatever results in the most pleasing outcome.  Fuck rules.



You know what really burns me?  When I have a very clear vision of what I want to do with a piece, but I can’t because I either lack some element that is required.   In the case of my current piece, I need about…7 human beings willing to let me record them saying various phases or telling me storries.

I know what you’re thinking: crowdsource.  Exploit your social network.  See who’d be willing the help out.

Well, you see, I have thought of that and tried.   The problem is most of my social network lives quite far away and/or just doesn’t have the time to contribute.  Its fucking annoying.

This is one of the problems I have with the relative geographic isolation I feel in the place that I live (Chicago NW suburbs).   This is not a place may creatives call home.  In fact, this is a place of accountants and soccer moms.  People who are fine in their own right, but their only exposure to creativity is when their 6 year old brings home some mutilated santa ornament from kindergarten.  While I find nothing wrong with that, It does make it difficult to find people to talk to  when creativity is the driver of your life.

<<long sigh>>….oh well.  For now, I guess I’ll put this track in the can until I think of another idea for it, or find some willing participants.


Roland TR-8s micro-review

When Roland released the Aria series TR-8, I was very excited.   While I’m not usually one for clones, this one was different.   It represented an actual digital reproduction of the original by the original creators.  I had high hopes and, as usual, I was let down.



See, while the TR-8 had almost the perfect performance interface and an awesome sound, it emulated the original a little to closely where memory mangement was conscerned.   While it was a great live jamming device, it seemed to be almost intentionally frustrating in studio situations.  I was sad.  I sold it suspecting Roland, kings of repackaging their tech, would do a better version.

That better version, the TR-8s, is sitting on my desk, pounding a way at a beat as we speak, and it almost seems like Roland was spying on me when they spec’d it out!  SD memory, sampling, sample playback, better memory management…it’s all there (almost). I’ve been using it for a few weeks now (broken up with a several months long studio renovation in the middle) and, simply put, I love this damn thing.   It’s very easy to use, even without the manual.  Its got the sound I’m after, but its pallet is not limited to *just* 808/909/707.   You can actually back up the memory and organize projects.   The FX..well…yeah.  Skip those if it’s not just for live use.

Not much else to say about it.   It’s simple.  It’s reasonably priced.  Go get one.