Tom Petty On Technology.

A friend of mine once told me while negotiating the purchase of a house, that his real estate company will be called “Tom Petty Real Estate”  because The Waiting Is The Hardest Part.  And he was damn right.  Not that I am speaking about a real estate purchase.  Oh no dear reader, oh no.  What I am speaking about is The New iPhone.

jesus

I’ve resisted the smart phone for a long time.  Perhaps too long.  Yes, I still know how to get places based on memory, or direction based intuition, but how am I going to upload pics to facebook while on the go?  How will I check in at Stumptown enough times to become THE SUPREME MAYOR OF ALL TIME?  Eh??  There are many legit concerns, which you can locate elsewhere on the Internet, we all know smart phones are nearly essential to life.

But the question is, do we wait it out?  When is the time to pull the trigger?  Gadgets just freak me out, man!  Lets relate this to something related to my usual repertoire.  Recording equipment.

A few years back, I made a well documented move away from the mothership of Pro Tools, over to the confusing free-for-all software based clusterfuck that is Logic.  I made this move based on hardware concerns, just before Digidesign became known as Avid, and did away with their proprietary hardware model and opened it up to all.  Yeah.  Timing!  Anyway, I made a fantastic purchase of an Apogee Rosetta 800 for all conversion, and was satisfied for a few years.

This satisfaction is now beginning to wain.  Apogee did away with the rosetta 800, as well as the Symphony Mobile System I purchased to integrate it.  Apple will most likely do away with PCI slots on laptops, and this will cause a few problems.  This all goes along with the concern that apple is making its “Pro” gear decidedly less “Pro”.  Yes, we all have the hope of Thunderbolt to resolve all these issues, but that appears to be a few years off.

This has me thinking…what an incredible and shitty gamble buying any piece of equipment is in this age we live in.  At any point, a manufacturer can discontinue a product, stop creating updates, and cease all support.  I emailed Apogee about this specific issue (of whether the rosetta or symphony mobile would be able to work with future Apogee products, and the response was

We don’t really have any plans to upgrade any of our discontinued models

So the question is, will I have a several thousand dollar brick on my hands in a few years?  There is no long term guarantee anything will be supported a few years down the line.  The line between the present and future of technology is a strange blurry one.  People are still using Instruments, Amplifiers, Effects Devices and many other instrument related things from the long distant past. Sometimes exclusively.  These devices were all inter-connect-able regardless of the manufacturer, and usable for an infinite amount of time.

29208394

Technology of this type carried weight.  Heft if you will.  Like Taft.  Well, it just souns like Taft.  And he was a heavy guy.  Yeah.  The point is, are current devices completely disposable?  Is there anything made today that will be heralded for its quality and cherished for years to come?  Or are we better off buying the quickest and easiest, waiting for it to become obsolete, and re-buy.

movie explosion 1 of 1 BWS
We all love the Prius, but you know that thing is going to explode into flames in 15 years.  Then again, maybe I’m completely wrong, Toyota is not the American car manufacturers of the 1970’s who designed cars to turn into giant robotic grizzly bears while exploding mid air at every yellow traffic light they encounter.  (statement based on 100% fact)

My point here?  I’m likely going to buy the iPhone 4, even if the Wall St Journal reports the new one will be super awesome looking and have a better camera. I just can’t take the waiting anymore kids.  As soon as the iPhone 5 hits, the 6 is gonna be THE BEST THING EVER.  It’s so easy to get caught in this cycle of perpetually waiting for the next to come along.  I’m breaking it.  Deal with it.

Recording Guitars: Logic, Pro Tools, And Apogee Walk Into A Bar.

Recording music outside of a traditional studio is like capturing a wild rhino, using only a laptop.   Its possible, but not easy.   I’ve struggled for years with this issue, moving from ADAT’s to Pro Tools, to Logic Pro…the entire time considering throwing it all out and getting a reel to reel tape machine.

My band has recently begun recording demo’s for our upcoming EP, and budgets being what they are (0$)  We’ve decided to start the process on our own.   I’m a gear whore.  Always have been, always will be.  I am not confined by the finite space of my living quarters….I will find a place to put it all.   But, our modest rehearsal space in Williamsburg does not agree with me on this.   We have about an 8×10 room that we share with 2 other bands, surrounded by others, without proper ventilation, sound treatment, or lighting capabilities.  But still, we will make it work.   Coming from the old school, I prefer everyone to be in the same room at the same time, but sometimes that’s just not practical.   The approach we decided on, was to record drums live with a scratch track of guitar and bass, then overdub said stringed instruments at a later date.

We took advantage of this long holiday weekend, tracking drums last week, guitars on the day off Friday, and bass this weekend.   Now, just for a second, lets discuss sounds.   When I lived in LA for one hot minute, I was lucky enough to work on a few sessions in an all analog studio called Rotund Rascal.  I’m not sure if its still there, but it was fantastic.  Weeks earlier, Jenny Lewis, my future jewish wife, recorded parts of Rabbit Fur Coat there, and the place was alive with vibes of wonderfulness.   The artist on the session, a singer named Jay Nash, brought in 2 cd’s to demonstrate the bass sound he wanted, and it pretty much changed my life.   The first was Jackson Browne’s first album- Leland Sklar on bass, and Ray Lamontagne- Ethan Johns on bass.   This was the first time I had heard Ray, and it was just plain religious.  But the point is, these are the greatest bass sounds ever recorded.  Go listen to them, and tell me you don’t start weeping instantly.  Go ahead, do it, i’ll wait here….

This is Actually Leland Sklat
This is Actually Leland Sklar

OK.  Now that you see my point, lets discuss getting these sounds.   Every day we hear how awesome modern technology is.  The Internet, Cell Phones, Global Warming, its all just fantastic.  But the one place we have genuinely not advanced up until very very recently, is the sound of modern recordings.  They just don’t sound as good, its a simple fact.  Maybe we’re getting there, maybe we’re not, who knows.  For a long time, i’ve recorded many instruments onto many hard drives.  And I can honestly say, it never really stuck.  It was never a solid hit, the bass sounds didn’t even approach the above recordings by a long shot…Until this very moment.  I think I unlocked some magic door to the unknown, and i’m afraid to ever close it.  This door is called “Using A Fucking Awesome Converter and Pre Amp”  I recently invested in a new recording rig, for a new archive project happening.  This includes

1.  Logic Pro- software by apple
2.  Apogee Rosetta 800 Converters
3.  Apogee Symphony Mobile system- running on its own cards, there is no Firewire or USB BS involved here

This is really the secret.  Most home studios use an “all in one” interface.  This may be practical, but it just puts too much stress on one ingredient.  The external converter, thats where it’s at.

The Rig In Action:  Recording Guitars At Our Rehearsal Space
The Rig In Action: Recording Guitars At Our Rehearsal Space

We recorded at what’s known as 96k, which has come a long way in recent years.  This means a sound is being sampled 96,000 times per second when being recorded.  The first experience i’ve had with this technological wonder was an extreme failure.   Web Master Eric Tarn and myself did time in a Ska band for several years.  Our first album was recorded in a matter of days, to 2″ analog 16 track tape, was painless, and sounded pretty good.   Our 2nd album took years to complete, cost many thousands of dollars, and really didnt sound that great.  It was also recorded in 96k, and in 2003, that shit was just not up to snuff.  Everything sounded muddy, it just wasnt working.  This could be due to 3 factors:

1.  Our engineer sucked.
2.  We were not that good as players (eh, we were pretty good)
3.  Digital Recording Technology in 2003 was not that great.

This sort of blows my mind, because I can honestly say that I’ve seen an improvement in recent years.  This was also my first personal project recorded on Logic Pro, after being stuck in Pro Tools land for the last 7 years.  Really Pro Tools, WATCH YOUR BACK.  Logic is coming for you, bitch.  But let me just say this, to any perspective recording engineer out there, and i’m going to do it in all caps, on its own line, just to make a point (like that scene in Kill Bill where Lucy Liu speaks in english after she cuts off that guys head in front of the mobsters)

WHEN YOU’RE SETTING UP A STUDIO, USE AN AWESOME EXTERNAL CONVERTER AND A SOLID DIGITAL CLOCK.

Without this, its just fucking bush league psyche out shit man.  You just won’t do it.  OK, this has been my sunday night rant, I hope you all enjoyed the long weekend, now get back to work, you’re making us look bad.

Banjo Time, All The Time.  Apogee In The Background.
Banjo Time, All The Time. Apogee In The Background.