Groundhog Day is coming. That's when Steam Powered Sponsorships come due. It's a time of deep reflection around here.
I've had a couple of offers this year to put advertising on this site. It was surprising, but the way it works is that if I mention a particular product or service, in a certain way, their google ranking will increase. People will pay money for this, obviously. I think the highest offer I got was $80/year.
They were barking up the wrong tree. I don't like ads on websites. I can't do anything about the rest of the web, but I can do something about it here. So, no ads.
But it did make me wonder what I might be doing to be getting unsolicited offers from these guys. This is where the statistics come in- and I'd be lying if I claimed to understand what they mean. Let me just share some with you, and you can be impressed, or not, as you see fit.
Statistics for somewhereoutwest.com
There's this month so far, for the Steam Powered Studio site. Now, I tend to concentrate on the far left column there- the number of visits. This seems likely to be the most realistic indication of the number of people actually looking at the site on a daily basis. But, I could be wrong about that. What websites always tout is the number of hits they get. I guess an average of 1,200 hits a day sounds better than 64 visits. But I have no idea what that means or how it's defined... impressive or not?
I look at these charts for more clues. I believe that the visits duration is a pretty good indication of what I really want to know, which is how many people are actually spending time looking at the site? As you can see, the bulk of visits are under 30 seconds. This could indicate people who were looking for something else, maybe through a search engine. The numbers drop off until we get to 30min- 1hr, where they jump up. I'd like to imagine that these are people who find the site interesting enough to spend some time with. Of course, it could be people who choose that moment to go take a shower or something... impressive or not?
File Type is encouraging. Better than 90% of the files downloaded are music files, as opposed to image or page files. Of course, music files are the biggest things here, so it isn't any wonder that the bandwidth is high for them. Yet they still outnumber image files in terms of hits, and considering that this is a graphics-heavy website, I'd say that means that there is some music downloading going on. Rates an impressive.
Finally, it lists the names of the downloaded files. robots.txt gets downloaded the most, simply because every search engine in the world grabs it every time they scan the site. The actual music file downloads are surprising. Big Red'sBright Lights, Big City has been on top for a while now. It isn't due to any promotion on my part. Cover songs probably get increased action because people actually look for them by name- that might explain the popularity of Foggy Mountain Breakdown, Santa, Bring My Baby and Ambilanao Zaho- but what about Please, Please, Please Surrender or 03 or soundcheck? I have no idea how people are finding these.
But they are downloading songs. I'm pleased that 368 people have downloaded Come What May this month. I like getting them out there. I contend that the song file is a little salesman, just working its tail off 24/7 to promote the band or the artist that made it. Get 'em out there, let's see what happens!
In the history of song, there's a tradition of hero songs. Think of John Henry- a great song which celebrates the indomitable spirit of man.
There are also songs which celebrate the bad men- like Stack-O-Lee. But even these songs are about great badness.
Some people deserve songs that kids can sing...
Since the mass killing in Newtown I've felt compelled to create what I call "gun sanity" graphics. It seems there's plenty of propaganda telling us why guns must be freely available, but very little questioning the need for lethal weapons in modern society.
These "memes" (as some people call these graphics) are for sharing. See the little pistol in the "current projects" area? It takes you to a gallery of graphics which you can copy and share.
January 23, 2013
This CP 80 piano has been sitting here patiently waiting for repair work. I had a ball playing it tonight, it's got an electric pickup built in, and I was putting it through some effects pedals and playing the strings with a mallet and a drumstick. It was like a movie soundtrack, real horrorshow.
What it needs is a new C2 string to replace the one that's broke. It also needs a tuning... although considering how I was beating on it to get the legs off for the move here, it isn't doing bad. These Yamahas are solid. This piano was on the road before I bought it. It's all beat up and scarred, yet it still plays great, except for a very low output- which, as far as I know, was normal for these. I think I'll keep it.
January 22, 2013
Linzi came in and tracked vocals on her song Last Girl, the "new" version with the jangle. Things went very well, but I have come to expect this from her- she is focused and professional. I have to laugh about my side of this, I'm often slowing down the process with my fumbling around, but we do get things done. Maybe it's all for the best?
That's the Sony C37A she's using there. Sounds pretty good on her...
January 21, 2013
The latest item to hit the workbench- this late-50's Giulietti guitar amp. Actually, it was probably sold as an accordion amp. The word is that these were built by Ampeg for the accordion maker.
I've always had hum issues with this one, and it was impossible to record with it at the old studio because of that. The new place has clean power, and I was using it for a while on a track, but it happened to be plugged into an outlet which was tapped from a ground fault interrupter outlet, and every so often it would trip the GFI. Strange behavior...
So onto the bench it went. I pulled the amp chassis out and ran it laying on top of the Farfisa. No problems, no tripping the GFI. This was an intermittant short, obviously, and not one bad enough to light the fuse.
So I went through the point to point wiring and found several cold solder joints. After I tidied things up, cleaned the pots and put it back together it was like a new amp- although it still has some interesting features, like the fact that the second input channel overdrives the tubes at a much lower level than input channel number one. And the fact that it started out being kinda hummy, but that cleared up in a bit... well, it's got character.
It stabilized after a while, and is really a nice sounding little thing. The tremelo circuit is gentle- I believe it actually varies some tube power voltage rather than the signal level. It's about 15 watts through a 12" Jensen, it starts to break up at around 12:00 (using a Strat) and doesn't really get any louder after that, just thicker. You'll be hearing from it in future.
January 20, 2013
Here's a shot of Joe getting ready to jangle. Well, actually, this ended up more of a crunch part than a jangle- we switched over to a red strat and bumped up the overdrive a bit- but still, it all adds up. We've got 7 tracks of guitars on Linzi's song now, and it's pretty darn jangly...
One of the mics on there is the new R0de, and the other is an old AKG C 2000B which I've had for years but seldom used. I've been digging into the mic closet lately, getting to know my tools a little better. This mic sounds harsh on acoustic guitars and vocals, so I sort of set it aside, but after reading about it, and finding out it can work well on horns, I decided to try it as a jangly-guitar mic.
As you can see, the mics were side by each- they ended up being about a foot farther away from the amp than shown here. At first I tried the R0de in the back of this open-back amp, but it was much too dark there. The sound of the two mics is similar, with the R0de having a much hotter output. They sound good panned apart a bit.
January 19, 2013
The Stray Birds have an interview in No Depression this month. Thanks for the props, guys!
January 18, 2013
Dr. Mo was here a while back, and we recorded a little number during one long session. It was me and him and Linzi helping out on vocals and slide whistle.
The idea was to produce something that could be animated- and boy, did it get animated! The video for Let's Put Rush on Rushmore, created by Brian McCall, music by Dave Moyar
January 15, 2013
Ruby stopped by today. Just like old times! She agreed to sing some responses on Too Tall to Mambo, which is ironic. (she's really not very tall, you see...)
Then we did some pre-production for her new song about the school principal. We discovered that the uke rhythm she was playing was perfect for ska, and we proceeded to youtube all the early ska we could find. Here is a treasure-
My favorite is near the end of segment number 2 with early Toots and the Maytals live in a dancehall. It is awesome! Plus Prince Buster and more...
The film includes dance instructions. I've learned that dancing to ska is good for your back. Really.
January 14, 2013
More repairs. The Yamaha 4x10 amp has had a history of cutting out at inappropriate moments. Like in the middle of a gig. I finally got it on the bench and began troubleshooting. It seems the culprit was something us audio guys have learned to despise- the dreaded tin connectors.
These things seem to work OK in power supply wiring, but with lower current signals they just corrode and before you know it they fail. It's a shame that Yamaha built such a fine amp, only to hose themselves by using one of these crappy (2-way, actually) connectors for the speaker.
I'm replacing it with a bog-standard 1/4" plug and jack. Probably last forever...
I have also had the EV-R1000 running for hours without making fizzy noises. Turns out it wasn't dirt, but a poor connection between the rear screen and the mic body. There was no shielding going on- it hummed like crazy if you touched it there. It looked like part of the casting had broken off. The fix was jamming a flattened piece of copper wire between the screen and the mic body. No more hum, no more fizz!
January 13, 2013
It was pretty exciting back in the day to get one of these ipod touch things. This was from November 2008.
Eventually the battery wears out and won't hold a charge anymore. Since I ended up with an iphone anyway, this old thing was just sitting around doing nothing. Last week I took the plunge and ordered a replacement battery for it. Here's my report.
It is possible to replace the battery yourself. It is not as easy as it looks in the videos. It is possible to break a tiny brass spring which will render the home switch inoperative. It is possible to bend the remaining part of the tiny brass spring far enough to render that switch operational again. For around $10 for the battery and case tools it's worth trying it, if you've got patience and some soldering skills.
I'm glad mine is working again, if nothing else, for the Cleartune.
January 11, 2013
I got thinking about all the 1" condenser mics I have around here after that last post. I seem to have a thing for them. Some weren't working very well, so I decided to try to clean them.
You can't just take a scrub brush to these things. The process involves distilled water and long-fiber cotton. And a sable brush. I cleaned the dust from the diaphram of an old EV RE-1000 mic which had been making strange sizzling noises from time to time. That seemed to work OK, so I thought I would have a go at my Sony C37-A, which some people feel is a very fine mic, but which has always seemed sort of useless to me. Maybe it was just dirty? I bought it years ago from a guy who used it to do interviews for radio, a heavy smoker. It's got a good coat of nicotine and tar on the outside, as you can probably tell...
Before taking it apart and cleaning it (and possibly destroying it) I made a recording with it to serve as a baseline- sort of the "before" for a "before and after cleaning" comparison. I set up and recorded my elderly Gibson and vocals on a song I've been meaning to redo for a while, one called Keeping Time.
I think the mic sounds OK just the way it is. It's sort of vintage (it has a tube in it!) and isn't the most hi-fi thing, but it's warm and not as noisy as I remember it being. Maybe it fixed itself? I don't think I'll be swabbing it out after all...
January 10, 2013
This is the most recent Craig's list buy- it's a R0de NT1-A, which is the base model of the line. I wanted it mainly because I've heard a lot of indie stuff recorded with them and because people just seem to love them. I figured I'd better have one around because someone would be likely to ask for it.
Come to find out that it is a really nice mic. I have 4 or 5 1" capsule condensors, including a vintage Sony C37-a, but always seem to fall back on my Audio-Technica 4033, another one of those mics that everyone seems to like. This R0de is quieter, and seems a bit hotter than that. I think it will be a good compliment.
January 06, 2013
Dave Lefever and the Curious Kin at the Dipco. I haven't played in there for 20 years, I bet. Nothing much has changed, which is a good thing.
It seems smaller somehow, like when you go back to the house you grew up in...
January 05, 2013
Oh, lots of drummers talk about their heads, or their sticks or pedals, but this right here is the one piece of gear that every trap-set drummer I've ever known can't work without. I'm not referring to the cat...
Tonight I break in my own lil' chunk of carpet.
January 01, 2013
That's Tom (left) and Joe of Summer Thieves. Ringing in the rockin' new year with free stuff!
Tom Herr and Joe Kury formed Summer Thieves after playing together in local punk and rock bands. Their experiences included performances at Zoetrope, an abandoned movie theatre, and rehearsals and shows in a Mennonite church basement. Their original material was well received, and some preliminary recordings had been made, but the live band fell apart.
Through local music legend Craig Wise, Tom was introduced to Jeff Coleman, who was operating an underground recording studio called Steam Powered. At Steam Powered Studio Jeff was recording local acts with high potential, but limited resources, by relying on sponsors to support their work directly. He had completed CDs by The Stray Birds, the Willie Marble Experience, the Gadjo Playboys and others, and was looking for the next project.
In the studio Tom and Joe's creativity exploded. Songs were written and rewritten. New sounds and recording techniques were explored. Guest musicians were needed, which led to several tracks being recorded at the Buzz Box with Oz "the Ozmatron" on drums. Mike Bitz of the innocence mission came in on bass guitar for several tracks. This experimental method of recording harkened back to the golden age of rock, when bands with unlimited budgets were allowed the time and freedom to create. Some songs were rejected as being "too candy", others because they didn't meet Tom and Joe's strict guidlines- the songs needed to be short, melodic, and rockin'.
Eventually, Joe and Tom began putting together a "power hour" live set to promote their songs. One of their selections for the set was the Paul McCartney song "Every Night," and when Jeff heard that DJ Helen Leight was seeking covers of his songs to be broadcast in honor of Sir Paul's birthday, he suggested that they record it for the show. The results- arranged, recorded and mixed in one sitting- captured the easy-going feel of the original without slavish imitation, and was played several times in WXPN's regular programming as well as opening the birthday special.
The time is ripe to release some of Summer Thieve's original recordings. The band picked five of the best songs and finishing touches were added. The songs were sonically balanced by Coleman over the course of several weeks of extensive listening tests in multiple environments, and now the first Summer Thieves ep is ready for the public's enjoyment!
These tracks will be available for a limited time only, so grab them while you can...