Steam Powered Studio
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About the Studio
July 31, 2011

Bizarre but wonderful. I got up, took my coffee into the studio, and roughed out 9 songs this morning. Then I went about my usual day. This evening I had to copy all those crazy ideas to my computer- and I think most of them will actually work as songs. Working titles:

Way Back Yonder
I Remember
What A Fix
So Many Lines
Waiting for the Jubilee
Kind of Ordinary
In Code
Dark Guitar
Rising Melody
Conversations You Can't Hear

Now, if I get some time to finish them...

Also worked on another new one called You Remind Me (seem to be a lot of songs about memory, aint?). This one I recorded using the ChromaHarp, but it made a lot of noise and I was getting pissed. These bars get pressed down to form chords, and when released, they clacked.


I thought I would stuff some felt under there, and lo and bee hole, there were remnants of some sort of foam under there! The wonders of urethane foam are well known in the audio industry- the stuff just disintegrates over time. So I stuck some felt strips in to replace the foam...


And no clacking! Yea!!

July 27, 2011

I see that the Stray Birds have remodeled their website. Nice photo.

The answer to the mystery sample contest is Fleetwood Mac- from Then Play On, a bit from the middle of the jam Searching for Madge, with Peter Green and Danny Kirwan. I hadn't listened to the band in a long time, but last week got into a jag. Whats funny is that the second Fleetwood Mac album (the one that brought them their first big hits, Rhiannon, Say You Love Me, Over My Head) sounds like a million bucks, while the huge follow-up to that, Rumours, sounds like it was recorded through waxed paper, tin cans on strings, and in a vacuum. It just goes to show ya...

Here's that sample again, in case ya missed it- it sounds pretty good too.

mystery sound02.mp3

July 23,2011

It's the height of summer now- all the bugs are buggin', the flowers bloomin', birds are hopping...

Time for some Woggi Noggi music I think. Shawn Drain (aka Ruby Hummingbird) and Bruce Campbell came in here back in April and started working on the basic tracks for her (somewhat nebulous at the time) project, which was based on the idea of two fun-loving girls having fun singing and dancing. Here are Bruce and Ruby at work...
Ruby and Bruce

Ruby performs with a dancer named Ruthie. Ruthie is the other Woggi Noggi girl. Here is their theme song:
woggi noggi logo
...and here is Ruthie (looking quite serious about her singing).

Here's a great shot of Ruthie in a new hat!

Ruthie's new hat

(normally it's pj's and wigs for the girls) The plan is for Ruby and Ruthie to use the songs to produce a bunch of videos that will (obviously) sweep the nation. Songs like this next one. (these songs are a day in the life of the Woggi Noggi girls in Woggi Noggi land)

6 AM
It's a Beautiful Day.mp3 It's a Beautiful Day.ogg
It's a Beautiful Day is Bruce on bass, Ruby and Ruthie singing, and Ruby playing ukulele and congo. Here's Ruby overdubbing the congo part...

Ruby at congo

It was not unusual for there to be two costume changes per recording session- and several sessions went for around 12 hours. We had plenty of refreshments, however...

break time

(children! avert your eyes!)

OK, after breakfast the Woggi Noggi girls love to hit the playground for their favorite thing- hanging upside-down!

8 AM
Playground.mp3 Playground.ogg
Playground was loads of fun to record. Shawn was looking for a sound to go with the hanging-upside-down part, and we tried several things before hitting on the talking drum. I also got to play the clave-clamped-in-a-vice-played-with-drumsticks to simulate skipping feet. Shawn thoughtfully provided the pants.

Turns out that it's a very special day in Woggi Noggi Land- the girls get to visit a goat farm!

goat farmers

You know what? Goats are Great!

10 AM
Goats.mp3 Goats.ogg
Goats is one of several songs that feature Dave Young on drums. (he came up with the goats-doing-a-rumba part) Here he and Shawn are working out some ideas.

Shawn and Dave

This song also features Shawn on her other major instrument, the harp.


Now that is a kick-ass harp! Shawn's husband builds 'em- no lack of talent in that family.

Here she's on the phone to him, explaining that she might be a little late...

harp and ruby

Well, there's going to probably be a segment in the Woggi Noggi show that features a bird that spells out words- a Wurdy Burd in fact! Here's his theme song-

11 AM
Wurdy Burd.mp3 Wurdy Burd.ogg
I'm all proud because I got to play the boat-whistle part on this. You may remember that boat whistle from years ago- a little three-hole plastic whistle that could play a blues? Somehow it happened to have the very three notes needed for this tune. The Woggi Noggi sessions were filled with happy accidents like that.

bruce is pissed

I'm not sure how Bruce feels about this shot...

OK, after the Wurdy Burd does his thing, the girls stumble upon some chickens with attitude.

12 AM
Bock Bock.mp3 Bock Bock.ogg
Ruby really seems to like chickens a lot!

ruby and roosters

We've gotten into the afternoon part of the Woggi Noggi day now, and let me tell you, it's HOT! Fortunately, the girls have the solution...H2O!

1 PM
Get Wet.mp3 Get Wet.ogg
I think that they get a little too deep in the water there, because they meet some strange characters...

the octopi

(not that they are strangers to strange, mind...) Ruthie has an awesome dance for this one.

3 PM
Octopi.mp3 Octopi.ogg
The break in that one has lots of cool underwater noises. Shawn brought bags and boxes of cool noise-making stuff with her to the sessions, so things like playing the congo with a coconut shell happened. Me, I'm banging on a pot of water with a paintbrush.

Some of this may have been inspired by Chet.

ruby and chet

After the undersea adventure, the girls to go see a friend. It's a long, long walk... but there is a beautiful harp song to help them on their way.

4 PM
Yeah Yeah.mp3 Yeah Yeah.ogg
ruby on harp

Later on I join Ruby on a little do-wop thing. This is quiet time.

6 PM
Me and You.mp3 Me and You.ogg
Now, that's nice. Finally, Shawn plays the harp theme that rolls everyone off to sleep...

8 PM
Theme Roll.mp3
ruby and ruthie

And so ends another Woggi Noggi day. Actually, this is less than half of the songs we've done- sponsors will get access to such crazy tunes as Laundry, Don't, and Shake It Up!

(Woggi Noggi, the Woggi Noggi logo, Wurdy Burd, and all songs are the intellectual property of Shawn Drain, and may not be used without her permission. The very Woggi Noggi clock face is from a design by Ji Lee.)

July 20, 2011

This is not really so much a mystery sound as it is a mystery sample, but I heard this part of a song for the first time today in a long time and it took me right back to when I started learning to play guitar. It's one of my favorite moments in recorded sound... do you know who it is?

mystery sound02.mp3

I've stolen (or tried to steal) these licks many, many times.

July 17, 2011

the wreck of the Frisco pier

Here's a tale told by Dr. Mo and the crew of the Finn City. The house had a great room that had great acoustics- a tall ceiling, some non-parallel walls, and plenty of objcts to diffuse sound. This was recorded with the M-Box portable, using an AT 825 stereo mic on a table, with the crew arranged around it and at various distances from it. Nice imaging.

The Wreck of the Frisco Pier.mp3

Many a tale's been told
Of Storms out on the seas
Disasters in days of old
Brought sailors to their knees
Earl came from the East on that September day
With the rage of a Beast in a rampaging way
His fury would show how the mighty would fall
The Wreck of the Frisco Pier

The Sky was red as port
As on a scaffold high
They gathered for their sport
So eager for to try
To reap the spoils of Neptune's chest
With lines in coils, but they never guessed
That they were destined to lose it all
The Wreck of the Frisco Pier

Born in the Isles of green
A monstorous Gale did blow
With fury few had seen
His destiny yet to show
Earl waxed and then waned on his journey to land
Until little remained of his earlier stand
This minor depression would only forstall
The Wreck of the Frisco Pier

The warnings had been repealled
The time of Danger flown
And so their Fate was sealed
If only they had known!
Earl had renewed his vigorous breath
And soon would be striking a Blow dealing Death
The savage Destruction, the Shatter and Maul
The Wreck of the Frisco Pier

Now a year has passed
We all say "What the heck?
Why don't we get gassed
And peer at the Frisco Wreck?"
Now moonlight is shining where Turtles have nested
Beside works of man that Nature has bested
A shoreside attraction that Tourists now call
The Wreck of the Frisco Pier
The Wreck of the Frisco Pier

July 07, 2011

Bitts in studio

A new featured song today. Summer Thieves completed this one at least a month ago, but I'm still playing catch-up around here.

'Er She Goes Again is sung by Joe, with Tom and Joe on guitars, Oz on drums, Mike Bitts on bass, and me on synth. I think we all agree that it's the best Thieves yet, and it features the fabulous Kay distortion pedal- enjoy!

July 04, 2011

Just a little more grinding and polishing and it's finished- Stewball is a wrap.


July 02, 2011

Atlantic City 1933

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Featured Song


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