The Steam Powered Studio is a listener sponsored music studio.

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Musician Sites:

Old Time Liberation Front

Robert Bobby

The Gadjo Playboys

Joe Ellis

Blind Joe Death

Doug and Dave

R&B Studios

Jefferson Pepper

Great Big House

Hot Club du Jour

Inca Campers

John Terlazzo

David SanSoucie

Crossing North

Eric Athey

Claudia SanSoucie

Art Wachter

Steve Ward

The Innocence Mission

Tom Witmer


D.C. and Company

Rhyne McCormick

Bill Nork

Sweet Nancy Productions

Zan Cantwell


Music Related:

Just Plain Folks

Drums Etc.


The Music Snob

Music For Everyone

The Freesound Project

Relive the 80's

Whole Wheat Radio

The Kenny Gross Project


Legit Sound

Right Coast Recording


Humor Me:

Roadside American

May 31, 2008

les axes de Steam Powered
Here's a pile of strings on sticks we use on a regular basis.

If you're looking for really good studio p*rn, you must visit Blackbird.

May 29, 2008

You've been very patient. I was hoping to have all the songs for this project finished before I began releasing them, but I want to end May with a bang.

Here's the full version of The Window with Monica de Vitry singing with the Old Time Liberation Front.

The Window.mp3     The Window.ogg

There's lots more to come, with Monica singing another original that will just knock you out, more instrumentals, more of that Jordan including a killer (literally) bluegrass tune with his dad on banjo, and a song about our neighbors to the north by Peter (the quiet one).

Oh by the way, I believe that Jefferson Pepper is having a CD release party tomorrow night at the ABC in Harrisburg. It's free admittance, and great music. Call ahead to make sure...

May 25, 2008

Now would be a great time to slip something in here while nobody's looking- so over to the right I've added links to a couple of videos. They're nothing remarkable, but it helps to have visual cues to go with the songs...

And now there's a link to the little shop of horribly overpriced desktop accessories at Cafe Press over there as well...

May 24, 2008

Years ago I read a short story that was creepy and bizarre and that didn't seem like a fairy tale. The Colour Out Of Space by H.P. Lovecraft was both strange and ordinary, but I never followed up on it until this week. Could be a good weekend to curl up with a few of his weird tales...

I'm still remixing Old Timer songs. If you let mixes settle in for a few days new and different things about them stand out- sometimes good things, sometimes things that should be changed. This could go on for weeks...

...or until someone decides we have to be finished! I was discussing the odd way of working here at the studio with someone at my "real" job yesterday. This morning I thought of a new way to explain what I'm trying to do here. Here's what I've written to this guy, an audio engineer (and a good one).

As usual, you got me thinking about different stuff after our conversation about reporting income. It may seem to you that I'm using the idea of sponsorship as a way to avoid reporting income. That's not it at all.
Briefly, I use sponsorship as a way to separate the reward for creating music from the structure of selling things in units. I've given a lot of thought to this and spent a lot of time researching the issue- I believe that while unit sales of music (either for actual physical CDs, as mechanicals for records or as royalties for airplay) was once a net positive for musicians and other music industry workers, it is now a fool's game.
What I'm trying to make clear with sponsorships is that people who contribute to the studio are not buying units of anything- they are not receiving a measurable quantity of "stuff" for their money. What they are doing is providing the means for the studio to keep making music.

...You made me think of a new way of explaining it. It's like working for a salary.

Think about your job. There really isn't an easy way to quantify your contribution to the success of the company. While it's obvious that you add value to the place, you aren't loading speakers in boxes all day. You aren't doing anything that can rightly be called "production" work, and you aren't really even exchanging hours of your life directly for dollars. Yet for some reason they pay you to come in and do whatever it is you do.
I want making music to function the same way. With a fairly small number of people acting as "employers", I could actually make a living doing whatever it is I do in the studio- without charging a penny for product. My sponsors won't know or care exactly what it is I do, or how or when I do it- all they have to agree to is that I provide them with something of value in the end.
I consider what I'm doing here at Steam Powered to be revolutionary in terms of music production. The rewards for making music have been driven by unit sales for such a long time that it's difficult to imagine the value in making any music that does not automatically appeal to millions of people. But that's exactly my point- there's very good music to be made that does not automatically appeal to millions of people. How should that music be supported? The current system fails.

May 20, 2008

At the Ranch

I just found some old film negatives I'd misplaced for a while. Here's a shot of the Cat Ranch studio in Paradise, PA, right around the time the first Dark 30 tape was recorded. To the left is a borrowed 4-track tape machine. It was like a dream come true. In the middle there is the Peavey mixer that did double duty as a live board for whatever band I happened to be in at the time. Nice road case, isn't it? And there to the right is the stereo reel to reel that served as the "bounce" machine and also the one I used to run my loops. Actual tape loops, kiddies- I know, it's hard to believe that anyone could be that old.

Let's run one of those loops as the featured song- Science Loop, with a rhythm track lifted from the outro of She Blinded Me With Science. Hey, I couldn't afford a Linn Drum!

May 19, 2008

Be on the lookout for Robert Bobby at the Tin Angel on May 24. He's playing for a Bob Dylan birthday bash.

Meanwhile, the re-mixing continues on the Old Timer's CD. I've got all the songs together on one disk now, and can listen from one to the next for continuity in things like vocal levels and instrument tone. It's 12 songs. It's starting to sound like a record.

And another sponsor rings our bell- thanks Steve (or Kelly)!

May 17, 2008

This is too good not to share- a live recording of the band Little Feat from 1974. The quality of the recording is excellent, and the band is at their very best. At the Internet Archive.

(thanx, trademark Dave)

May 15, 2008

Pop plays banjo

Yes. The mix by pairs method I was going off about worked well for another OTLF song last night, Two Lovers. Mark Rast joined in on banjo for this one.

You may remember Mark from the Stable Jam recordings a couple of years back, jamming with the Honeycut Brothers. How about we make Nine Pound Hammer from that session our featured song?

May 14, 2008

Moving ahead with the OTLF project. Last night I mixed one called The End of All Things. Having done two mixes from this session already, I thought I would be able to simply copy my settings into the this one and that it would work easily. Well, not. At first I had a real train wreck of a mix. Really, it bordered on noise. I had to scratch the settings that worked on the last one and start over.

I learned a new trick for a live room mix like this. You can solo two instruments at a time and get them sounding good together- then solo the first instrument with a third and "tune in" that one. After they all sound good one-on-one with the "master" instrument then they must be checked in the stereo mix. This saved a lot of tail-chasing. For the "master" instrument, I picked the one that was giving me the most trouble, not the best sounding one. Each step through the process made the master instrument sound a little better in the mix.

It was a long way to get there. At the end I wasn't sure I had accomplished anything worthwhile, but listening back today it sounds like it worked out well. I will probably go back to some mixes I've already completed and re-do them using this method.


We get visits from all over- here are the countries of origin from the past 15...


May 12, 2008

The Importance of Mixing in Ernest

I have been working for about a week on the mix for The Window. Sometimes I accept a mix without being very critical about it. I hear something in it that I like and that's where I leave it. But there is some sort of acceptable range of musical sounds that must be respected. It's the long tradition of "what things sound like" that rules. So a bass guitar must sound a certain way, and the relative levels of instruments must fit into certain patterns.

I'm often guilty of focusing on one aspect of a recording and ignoring the rest. But I'm working hard this time to get The Window right. Tweaking the mix. I decide on a small change, and I make that change and I remix and burn a CD and I listen back. And it changes other things. This morning I'm fairly well satisfied with what I've got. We'll see how it holds up.

Today, a new featured song- Love Drunk by Robert Bobby.

May 08, 2008

Trent and the crew from NIN (no backwards "N" on my keyboard, sorry) are giving away their latest record, the slip. I'm listening to it now, and it's a full Hollywood production allright. So that's a rather large investment, even considering the fact that Trent can work light if he wants to. There's a lot of time spent here.

Why would he give this record away? Promotion. He's in a position now where the songs pay for themselves as advertising for his brand. People will come to his shows, visit his website, and even buy the record when it comes out later this year. As I'm learning, it isn't just writing or playing or recording that are hard- promotion is hard.

Promotion is why we give songs away here. I think of every song file as a little salesman out there working for us. But unlike NIN we don't have a brand that millions of people recognize. Steam Powered Studio doesn't tour, and we don't even have product to sell (well, we do, but we'll probably never support the studio by selling mousepads with a picture of a flying steamroller on them).

It's all about the sponsors!

May 05, 2008

Happy birthday, Peyton!

Here's a short sample of something we recorded yesterday. Monica de Vitry singing her song Window.

May 04, 2008

Old Time Liberation Front

We had fun today. We recorded 6 more songs.

May 03, 2008

New month, new sponsor! Thanks, Richard.

There will be another Old Time Liberation Front session tomorrow.

Tonight I was working on something I call What Was the Point of Leaving? which isn't much more than that line so far. Oh, but a nice kick drum...

Featured Song:

The Stokers
Science Loop

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