I am a Cactus

I’m sure there is a rational explaination for what happend to this cactus.  It probably has something to do with nuclear testing.

Because I am getting to the age where spending the entire winter in the midwest is akin to an annual prison sentence, I am in the lovely Phoenix, Arizona area this week.  After a few days, I am slightly amazed that people would bother to live with midwest winters when weather like this exists elsewhere.   Of course, I’ve never been here in summer, so there is that.   Also scorpions, tarantulas and rattle snakes….

..But moving on.

On the four hour flight here, I had nothing to do and, obviously, no music equipment with me.   It finally gave me the time to focus on using the iPad Pro I purchased to make music.  I’ve mainly been using it as a media consumption and note taking device, but that was definitely not it’s intended use.  Months ago, I’d had an epiphany with the workflow on my old iPad, but found myself stifled by its realtively weak processing power (It was pretty old).  My hope was that the new one with the pen could fix that.

I am glad to report that it has definitely done that!  I basically just do what I want on this one and don’t worry about it, having yet to push it into a crash yet.  I’ve mainly been working with Beatmaker 3 and Korg Gadget.

One thing that makes creating music on the iPad Pro so much more enjoyable than the old one has to be the pen (and I know Steve Jobs corpse twitches every time someone says that).  It allows me to make much more precise entries than my fat fingers alowed, and to draw very nice control curves.  Whilte it aggrevates my dysgraphia a little bit (google that for yourself), in an integrated environment like Gadget or Beatmaker, it just lets you fly around doing what needs to be done.   While I feel a little constrained working without a keyboard, I’m getting along better than I thought I would with just the pen.

It’s kind of nice having a servicable sketch-pad studio I can carry to the pool and play with on vacation.

Speaking of the pool, the hot tub is calling.

Modules for 2019

This post is more for me, just to keep track of modules I’m interested in for the next year.   One thing you may notice, is that I tend to go after modules that have been around a while already.  I don’t like to get caught up in the hype machine that seems to swirl around each product release, and prefer to wait till I’ve seen some videos of its operation in the wild before I purchase.

New Stuff

These modules are recent releases or ones that have not been released yet, but I am keeping tabs on.

Mutable Instruments
– Marbles
– Stages
– Frames

Hex Inverter
– Mindphaser Osciallator


Stuff I had and I am sorry I let go.

Pittsburgh Modular
– Timetable

Malekko Heavy Industry
– Borg 1
– Borg 2


Pieces I have the prior version of.

Industrial Music Electronics
– Piston Honda MK III
– Hertz Donut MK III

– Rubicon V2

Mutable Instruments
– Tides V2

This is not a finished post.  It will be updated continually throught the year as new modules come out or I get stuff off the list.

Concept for a Eurorack sequencer

For all I know, this already exists.  This is also the first time I’ve written it down, so it may not even be possible and I haven’t realized why yet.  I just want to write it down before I forget it.

8 or 16 steps/stages.  For each stage:

1 slider/knob, one input jack, two output jacks. , one  switch, two toggles button.  With nothing plugged into the input jack, the slider/knob sets the output value
With a CV source plugged into the input, the knob/slider will attenuate the value of that CV at the output.  The switch has three positions – UNI, BI and S/H.  in UNI, the CV will go from 0~5v.  in bi, it goes -5 to +5 and will invert the CV coming in if it’s, say, and LFO when it goes negative.  When it’s in SH/mode…more on that later.
The next section is your standard sequencer controls – clock input, reset in/out, etc.  As the sequencer steps through, it will pass the output from the above sections to the output one at a time.  the SH of each input is triggered by the clock coming from the sequencer section, so it will sample/trigger in order.

oh, and the final output jack on each step

This seems like a cool / useful thing.

oh..the toggles.   The first toggle turns the step/stage on or off.  If the stage is off, the prior stage will continue to be present at the output until the next ‘on’ stage.   The second toggle works in S/H mode to determin if the trigger should cause a new sample to be taken or not (could be fun…sounds fun to me).

I have no idea how to build it, so I am doing so in reaktor 😀





Obligatory Year End Wrap-up.


So, here we are…another year gone.   Another year survived.

I’ve been trying for a week now to write this, but I’m just not going to.  Every time I sit down in the studio, I start playing with the modular rather than typing on a blog.  This is has it should be…

For that reason, you’re only going to get this basic list of goals:

  1. Expand the modular
  2. Finish the album (it’s close)
  3. Find a local collaborative partner or two


That’s it.  Happy new year.  Go make noise!



Happy Hostilidays

Rules for my new holiday:

1. Festivities start the Wednesday before Thanksgiving when we file frivolous lawsuits against all of our nearest and dearest.
2. Instead of sending Xmas cards, we serve papers. Beware carolers.
3. Mediations will be held at all the most inconvenient times between then and Xmas Eve, when we all get together and agree to settle out of court for bottles of alcohol.
4. Then we drink around a burning Xmastree, while exchanging neuroses.

Symbols of the holiday:
Aside from the tree to be burned, decorations also include a half burned Xmas wreath and wine stained carpet.

Who wants to celebrate with me next year?

Oh..and instead of “happy holidays” or “merry christmas”, the greeting for hostilidays are either “talk to my lawyer” or simply “fuck you”.

Workflow? What workflow..

A lot of talk is is done in electronic music about workflow, which I take to mean the process of creating tracks. Everyone out there, including myself, is looking for a workflow that works for them. Some people prefer hardware, some people prefer software. Some people won’t use tablets because they don’t like the workflow. Some people prefer Mac workflow to PC workflow.

And then there is me. I am just going to stand up and admit.

Hi, my name is Tony, and I have no workflow.

Well, perhaps I do…but I think chaos is my workflow. Lots of jiggery pokery until something comes out sounding good. Plug this into that, record that, process that. Stuff this sample into that software and then through the guts of my modular. I do my best work when I’m kind of all over the place.

The current track I am working on started with the modular and OmniSphere in live, includes a sounds from Reason Compact and a processed drum loop from my iPad, a bunch of sound FX from the MPC live, and at least 3 tracks who’s origin I’ve completely forgotten (with such detailed names as ‘audio 1’ and ‘loud thing’, I’m amazed I forgot).

So chaos is my workflow. Ok then. Admission is the first step.

Fractal Audio Axe FX III – First Impressions


I’ve had a lot of synthesizers over the years.   In fact, it’s harder to name a synthesizer made since the mid 90s that I haven’t owned or used in some incarnation or other.  The same goes for Drum Machines and those sorts of noise makers.   Effects have been a different animal, though.   I haven’t had a lot of effects boxes, and certainly none that I really actually loved.  They were always tools that helped me achieve the goal of making a recording, and not really awesome creative tools in themselves.

The reasons for that are many.  First, sound quality was always an issue.   At the price points I could afford, truly professional processing was just out of reach.   I used a lot of cheap guitar pedals and processors, or settled for the FX internal to the synths.  I knew when we got to studio time, there would be better FX there that I could use.

Second, most FX boxes either had 2×16 character LED display and a cryptic operating system, or they were pedals that had 3 knobs and no preset storage, and the only way I remembered how they were all hooked up was by pen and paper.  I am far, far, far too lazy for that.

The third and final reason would be…I just didn’t care.  Effects felt utilitarian to me and not really a part of my process.  I was very focused on learning how to push the synthesizers and samplers I had at my disposal that effects seemed peripheral to that.

Fast forward to today, when Ive just taken delivery of a Fractal Audio Axe FX III. The first generation machine was one that I absolutely *loved*. It was the first FX processor that I’d ever really bonded with, and I did so at a time when I was working on my first album (you can find it here). This was also a time when I was getting heavily into Eurorack Modular, and had cut down my gear because I’d recently had a kid I had to pay for. Because it was all I had, I dug into it *deep*.

My first impressions of the Axe III over the original is that Fractal has definitely become a mature company with regards to their industrial design. The unit a big, beefy 3U and it’s front panel dominated by a huge color display (not a touch display). This makes the unit much more usable from its from panel, than the Ultra was. That unit almost required Axe Edit to operate effectively.

Operation is largely via a set of 5 control knobs under the display, a set of cursor buttons and a large value wheel. If you’ve had any experience using a piece of pro music gear in the 30 years, it will be familiar to you.

Around the back, it’s got a Lot of connectivity: 4 audio inputs (1 mono instrument input, and three stereo inputs) along with 4 pairs of outputs. You’ve also got digital I/O in the form of SPDIF/AES (and if I had one grip about the Axe, it would be this. I’d like to see ADAT or Dante or some other multi channel I/O option OTHER than USB). You will also find the usual MIDI ports and a USB port for connecting to your computer (which I haven’t yet tested, but will).

One thing to note for keyboard players: Input 1 IS only mono, and is optimized for guitars. Fortunately, you can easily plug your keyboard or stereo send into Input 2 or the digital input and very easily re-reroute things in the UI. Also, if you’ve got a smaller synthesizer rig you take live (as I do), the IO on the Axe may be enough for you to use it as your digital mixer. I’d bet it could do the job, with some planning.

Taking a trip through the presets didn’t mean much for me, being a keyboard player. I’m sure that all these vintage cab simulations and FX chains are excellent (and they did sound amazing with my TR-8s plugged into them). Just because of how I’m wired, I decided to go straight for the initialized patch bank and start rolling out my own FX.

Bottom line: the results are magnificent.

One of the reasons I like guitar processors so much is because guitarists are freaks about getting their ‘sound’ and they are totally uncompromising on this. If a processor is going to claim that it can be the only processor they need, then it’s going to have to let you go as deep down the rabbit hole of tweaking to have a chance of living up to that statement. The Axe FX totally succeeds at this.

The first patch I setup was to mangle the aforementioned TR-8s. I had a patch on Octatrack that I was attempting to duplicate, which looks like Compressor->Distortion->Delay->Low Pass Filter (if you haven’t put a delay into a filter running on a drum loop, you have your homework assignment). The Axe handled this, of course, flawlessly, but with far, far, FAR more power to customize the tone than on the Octatrack. The I discovered Channels and scenes and was even MORE impressed.

Scenes are kind of what they sound like. Each patch has 8 of them, and you can switch between them on the fly. This lets you change the settings of all the blocks without having o change programs and reload the DSP. Very useful for live use. Scenes can also be named, which is very useful indeed.

Channels took me a little longer to get my head around. Their name is a little confusing, I think, they would be better thought of as ‘block scenes’. Each block in a patch has 4 ‘channels’ you can switch between. When you consider all you can do with Channels and Scenes, you can see how it may be possible to run an entire live set through just one or two presets.

Overall, I couldn’t be happier with this thing. I know I’m going to use the hell out of it over the next few years. So far, I’ve used it on drum sounds, keyboards, and even played with a vocal mic going into it. It’s just a sound hacks dream. I may even hook up a guitar to it at some point!