Steam Powered Studio
January 29, 2011


When I started Steam Powered Studio in 2002 I made it the policy to never charge anyone to record here, and to only record people who had something special to offer. It's been a good policy. It has kept me into it and allowed people like the Stray Birds to make recordings they couldn't have made otherwise.

People who work here are relaxed and able to perform at their best. We don't watch the clock. Why shouldn't everyone make recordings this way? Our only complaint is that we can't spend more time at it. Time is the magic ingredient in a well-made recording. That's where you can help.

Sponsorship is an old way to support the arts, but it's a new way too. It's new because now we can find the listeners who will be our fans anywhere in the world, without having to compromise what we do. What we need to get there are people willing to break old habits.

And that could be you. If you know me, you've heard my argument a million times, but it's true- selling songs by the unit at pennies apiece is a terrible way to support making music. It always has been, but for 100 years it was possible because of the structure of the business. That structure is now gone- we need to find the next way to do this.

A sponsorship of $20 per year goes directly into making music, music that quickly becomes available to you. The math works out remarkably well- just a few thousand sponsors can keep this studio working full time, producing hundreds of songs every year. Of course, it won't be easy to get there.

But I'm not giving up on this. Why would I? This is something I love doing, and it's something the world needs now. So e-mail me at if you're interested in helping out and I'll send you more information on how to sponsor us. This coming Groundhog Day is the start of the next Steam Powered sponsorship year.

Thanks for listening-

music catalogue
January 22, 2011

fuzz tone

If you hanker to build yer own, here's a schematic for the Kay Fuzz Tone. (download the image for a bigger view

Awfully nice of them to include this inside the thing... something that seems so cheap was actually possible to repair if it broke.

January 16, 2010

A good definition of crazy-

Insurrection Timeline

I know lots of people who sort of take for granted that, when the time comes, they will need their firearms to either:

1. Fend off the forces of government tyranny-
2. Defend themselves against the hoards-
3. Protect society from crazies with firearms.

Now, I don't care if you like guns. As long as you're honest about it. But somebody is profiting from encouraging this sort of wacky thinking. Maybe it's the gun makers running a PR campaign. After all, there's nothing more sacred in America than making a buck...
January 06, 2010

Began recording Charlie and Jen last night.


That's Jen- happy to be here.

January 31, 2011

2 more days

The response has been great so far! I'm hearing from some long-time visitors who are sponsoring for the first time, and old timers who just forgot. For the rest of you... well, there's two days left to get in on this wave and sponsor!

About the Studio
January 29, 2011


It seems like years... actually, it has been years since Franco asked to use some Steam Powered music in a short movie he was making. Tragedy struck one of the actors, and Franco was emotionally unable to work on the film for a year or more. He did send me notice a while back that he had completed the edits for it, but until today I did not have the link to the full thing. Click on the picture for Franco's film.

Ah, that all-Steam-Powered soundtrack sounds sweet!

sponsometer Thanks, Terry!
Thanks Kurt!
January 28, 2011

moose beach crew

I thought we were going to have a session last night, but I read the e-mail wrong. I was going to send audio of the session over to Second Life for fun. Instead, I ended up recording a jam session with these birds, people that hang out at Moose Beach from time to time.

I should say that jam session is a rather loose term for what happened. Someone there started playing a noise as a looped sample, some other people started whooping and playing their samples, and I played keyboards along with the rest of it. Not highly musical, but very spontaneous.

Here is a link to the Moose Beach Suite #1 if you feel like punishing yourself. It goes on for around 20 minutes. There are some funny moments. Some not safe for work moments as well.

January 20, 2011


We found a use for this device last night. It's a Kay fuzz-wah, and it's one of the skankiest sounding distortion pedals evah!

I told the guys that I bought it at Marianni's Music when they were going out of business, but I was wrong. I actually found it in a pile of junk at the Goodwill on King street. I might have given fity cents for it.

I also bought my first Doug Sahm (used, very used) record at that Goodwill, and I think he would have dug this pedal. Here's a sample of the sound of it being played by Summer Thieves.

January 15, 2011

Charlie and Jen recording

Charlie and Jen have completed the recording part of five songs here this week. Now I have some mixing to do.

Last weekend was all about making a video for Summer Thieves. It may be finished. You can see what we've done on the Summer Thieves You Tube site.
Thanks Virginia! You make a great Desert Girl.

Finally, be sure to check out the song catalogue pages. There are new tunes for everyone. Sponsors get to download the entire Stray Birds EP!

January 2, 2011


Happy New Year.

I've gone and done something I always dread doing- I've moved to a new computer. The old one went back 6 or 7 years. It served pretty well, but there were times when it could slow to a crawl, and I'd been trying to make videos with it- it really needed more memory and a faster processor. I walked into a good deal on a new one so I've taken the plunge.

The bad thing is migrating all the stuff that I've taken for granted for years. Where did I save that password? I know it's going to take weeks to get everything running smoothly.

One good thing is that I've moved to GIMP for graphic editing. It's open source, and I like that.

Yes, this is a very boring post for the new year. Maybe I can speak at the convention of boredom enthusiasts next year...
Featured Song
January 25, 2011

Yet another rant. It's been that kind of a month.

My friend Matt helped me write a song once. I know now that he was trying to enlighten me about something or other that I was oblivious to at the time- doesn't matter what, I can't remember anyway. He just kept saying "Because you believed it," and I just kept not getting it.

I wrote a song using the phrase, but from a not getting the point point of view. Maybe the best lines in it:
Birds fly and what do they care?
They won't abandon the air
which is like belief. You don't understand what holds you up, but you end up flying anyway.

So belief can be natural and good, except for when it's false and isn't helping you fly. This studio is my attempt to say "Because you believed it" to everyone out there. The music business- the part of the music business that involved selling music recorded on pieces of plastic, which is what most everyone thinks it is- doesn't exist anymore. The vestiges of it remain, only because so many still believe it.

The concept behind that vanished part of the music business is no longer valid. The mega-hits are getting smaller. The listeners are more nich-y. Selling millions of records to support your art is hardly an option, if it ever was. Music sold by the unit, by the song, by the album, is not the way forward from here.

Of course you know I'm pitching sponsorship here. It is coming up on Groundhog's Day, which is the day when we begin the new sponsorship year here at the studio. This year there's going to be a password change, and this will mean that if you had been a sponsor, but haven't sponsored since last groundhog's day, you won't be able to log into the catalogue of songs. So e-mail me to see if you're a current sponsor, and please sign up and support the studio if you haven't done so yet. It's a brave new world...

January 21, 2011

Tom is producing videos like mad over at the Summer Thieves' site on Ewe Tewb.

January 9, 2011

Software. Basically, software sucks. Or I should say, dealing with software issues sucks.

It's fantastic that I can create a music video on my pc. It isn't fantastic that halfway into doing this I hit a snag and the whole thing stops working.

To try and fix this I bought a new, more powerful computer. But the old software is not available for the new operating system, and the new software doesn't perform well at all.

What began as a lot of fun became a complete chore and took going back to an even older computer to get finished. Yes, it's hard to believe, but the computer I affectionately call Piece of Shit (because of its sorry performance) is the one that could do the job. Sort of. It still had major issues, but at least it could generate a three-minute video without crashing.

In the process of dealing with all of this, did I mention that I bought a new, more powerful computer? Did I mention that I always hate doing this because of all the problems this causes? Here's one of them- I find out that the ftp program I've been using to upload all my stuff to the website, a program I actually paid money for, requires a $17.95/year license renewall.

People, paying $17.95 per year for an ftp program is like an able-bodied person paying someone to put their socks on for them. I'll get FileZilla and try to learn enough to make it work myself.

If you are reading this it means that I figured out how to use FileZilla. It's free, it's open source, and I like both of those things.