Posts in General
Internet radio streaming

Here's a question. Someone emailed me and asked me:

Also this is off topic, but if you have any suggestions on where to host an internet radio station please send those as well, as right now we are using a host that will not allow us to do anything live.

But I don't know anything about internet radio stations. Anyone know the answer?

Album design contest

I'm trying out a contest on 99designs.com for Guess Who's a Mess's album art. If you're a designer, feel free to have at it. If you're not, you can still enjoy these goofy photos of me as a kid I included in the design brief: photo6.jpg

That was a Michael Jackson Thriller FM transmitter microphone. So you could sing through your stereo. Also an all-black Thriller jacket. The cabbage patch doll was not mine. I had sparkly socks too but I'm not wearing them here.

photo3.jpg Atari 2600 and a Texas Instruments 99/4a, my first (borrowed) computer. All I did was type Basic programs into it. I had no cartridges so I'd lose whatever I had typed in when I turned it off.

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Math tells me I'm eight years old here. Update: ken and my mom disagree. I was seven and the eighth candle was "one to grow on". Embarrassing.

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Sulking at my sister's birthday party (reason: too much attention for her, not enough attention for me.)

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A few years later. Lanpar IBM PC, my first official computer. It had a 20 meg hard drive and ran at 4mhz. Later I found out it had a "turbo" mode which doubled the speed to 8mhz.

Also visible: terrible, boxy first mouse, Gravis Joystick, collection of Sierra games and my entire California Raisins collection.

Update: Contest's over. Unfortunately it was not a success. There were lots of entries but nothing I could actually see using so I'm still on the hunt. Thanks to everyone who entered, sorry I'm so picky.

 

The state of collaborative recording software

There wasn't a lot of exciting software at the NAMM music trade show this year and it made me wonder: why are recording software manufacturers being so slow to add Internet collaboration features? Anyone will tell you that we're in an Internet indie music golden age but popular recording tools barely recognize the Internet exists for anything more than patch updates. Cloud services have come to the most mainstream services (email, calendar, music, photos, contacts) but recording software has barely made a move in that direction.

There are so many ways the Internet could improve software like Pro Tools, Reaper, Reason, Logic and Ableton Live -- easy collaboration, cloud backups, portability (easily access your audio data on your iPad & iPhone), revision tracking, quick in-software purchasing of samples/plugins/devices, preset sharing and hands-on lessons to name a few off the top of my head.

And it makes business sense for the companies. By making the Internet an integrated part of the recording software companies could get their customers into a subscription model instead of this weird yearly upgrade cycle and they’d be free to roll out & market new features any time, distribution and copy protection would be easier, companies could gather metrics on performance to improve the software & stamp out bugs, you could demo and sell features, samples, presets, plugins and lessons to your customers, sell iPad/iPhone/Android apps to work with your cloud data, etc, etc.

I feel Ableton Live and Reason are uniquely positioned for success in this area. They’re largely MIDI, sample and loop based so they’d use less bandwidth to sync. Plus their interfaces are already very modular -- selling new devices and features and packs wouldn’t require much redesign.

My suspicion right now is that Ableton (who haven’t released a major new version of Live since January 2009) is working on a full rewrite and I’ll be surprised if it doesn’t include a lot more Internet. But whoever it is, someone’s going to make a move and then all the other players will have to play catch up.

Computers and music

George emailed me to say:

I wanted to ask your opinion on what you think computers could do to make it easier for musicians to create and perform music.

I've been thinking about this a lot lately and wanted to blog two of my replies:

Collaboration: There's a lot of opportunity right now for better creative tools. The biggest feature missing from all the major Digital Audio Workstations is semi-realtime collaboration (realtime is probably asking too much until the net gets better). I was just bugging Justin at Reaper about that the other day. Maybe ohmstudio (http://www.ohmstudio.com/) will fill the collaboration role but I think it's a feature every DAW should have within a few years.

Songwriting: For a long time I've been fantasizing about rapid songwriting software. Something analogous to a lot of the more creative, less technical software for screenwriters. The software could prompt the songwriter for sections, melodies and riffs and keep them cataloged. It'd let you easily rearrange the structure and experiment, organize your notes & ideas and help you generate new ideas. Throw a good rhyming dictionary in there, a markov chain generator for lyrics, etc. So a musician can quickly hammer out a bunch of song ideas and flesh them out without spending much time dicking around in software. I should be able to write and record an entire song with a guitar, microphone and foot pedal to control the software.

And that's the tooth.

Three five

I turned 35 yesterday. Luckily I had a flu also so it's all uphill from here. I've decided to get my mid-life crisis over with before 40, so I'm off the antidepressants, in two types of therapy and I hired a personal trainer. While it wasn't a disaster, I'm not interested in doing the next 35 the same way I did the first. So I'm trying to put some work in on that.

Thanks for all the birthday wishes, I really appreciate it.

Do you want to touch me

Last night I stumbled across Joan Jett's "Do You Wanna Touch Me? (Oh Yeah)" song which I had never heard before (it's great!). I watched the video, saw Joan Jett in a bikini (weird!), and then discovered the song was originally by Gary Glitter. All I knew about Gary Glitter was that he made KLF's Doctorin' the Tardis song possible and that he gets thrown out of countries for raping children. Anyway what I'm saying is that in this context, holy shit this video of Gary Glitter performing "Do You Wanna Touch Me? (Oh Yeah)" is the most psycho thing ever:

I mean that's like a musical number in a movie about a horrifying child rapist. Who looks and is named exactly like Gary Glitter.

Anyway I'm conflicted because the song and performance is bad-ass and I feel like a Gary Glitter fan now.

GeneralBrad Turcottemusic, video
Hello my friends

Hey everybody. I accidentally did a show a couple of weeks ago. It was pretty informal. A nice person came all the way from Hungary to see it which was a little nerve-wracking. It went fine though, thank you for coming (if you did). I've been just plain working on my album. Growing a beard. Trying to drink sensibly. Also:  playing some video games here and there. Arkham City comes out next week. I might be too busy to play it, how sad is that. Seriously how sad for me are you right now tell me.

I keep thinking of writing about recording the album because they say you should keep your 'online presence' going but that's so fucking boring. Does anyone really want to read that? "I've been re-recording all the basslines." Oh kick ass, Brad. "I'm enjoying playing bass more." Awesome, awesome! I'd rather talk about my awesome dog Rufus:

Just look at that fuckin' guy. What a dude.

But I'm getting restless, which I think is a nice sign. I really want the album to be done so I can move on. I have all these fantasies about how creative I'm going to be when this is over and I'm not working on the same batch of songs anymore. How I shouldn't wait so long between albums anymore. That all my fussing is really only mildly improving the songs. I should be more spontaneous! I should be more like Prince!

But I also want to obsess over every part of it forever until the end of time. I know that my restlessness will overcome my perfectionism soon though and that, my friends, is how babies are born.

[My new nephew Crue (as in Motley).]

You don't get asked to be made an uncle, someone just makes you one.

Reaper 4 Release Candidate

I'm still using Reaper as my main DAW and I still love it. I'm hacking away at the next album with it. Reaper 4 should be released shortly as they're up to Release Candidate 4 as of this posting. Here are some of my favorite things in v4:

- ReaEQ - They added a live spectrograph to the EQ, which was a feature other EQs (like the one in logic) made me want.

- Selecting chunks of audio in the media explorer is pretty sweet when you have compatible VSTis. You can preview an audio file and select a section from the waveform and drag it right into the plugin or timeline. Very handy.

- Midi Track Controls (ReaControlMIDI) - I'm not actually sure if this was in v3 but I know I was trying to get a weird midi controller to control the tracks long ago and had no luck. This makes it easy.

- Project Bay - Now you can see and manage all the effects and media you're using in your project.

- Screensets - save and recall Reaper window layouts easily. Nice.

Here are some things I am not fond of:

- The default theme is too dark and the color coding of tracks is really hard to see. I was finding it really tough to organize my projects so that I knew what was going on at a glance. So I switched back to the v3 theme, which is OK for now.

- The Media Explorer is slow on my Mac. Hopping between files with the cursor keys is weirdly slow. This was never a thing on Windows.

And here's my wish list:

- I'd like a simple multi-sampler. A Battery-style 'pad' sampler would be my preference. Setting up many tracks of ReaSamplOmatic5000 is cumbersome.

- Some metadata/search in the Media Explorer would be great. I have a ton of samples kicking around but if they're not easily at hand.

- Workflow improvements - Reaper is already so far ahead of the competition in functionality that I think it'd benefit from some time spent on its usability. While it's awesome that each pulldown and context menu and preference page are overstuffed with cool options, it can be overwhelming. And I'm a pretty huge nerd so I assume the less techy out there go into cardiac arrest at the sight of it.

Anyway, great job Reaper team.

Google Circles

I'm sure everyone is tired of hearing about Google Circles, but it's nice. You can find me on it here. Are invites still a thing? If so, just send me your email address. It's still early on and I have my complaints and suggestions but so far I'm finding it easier to manage than Facebook, where friend lists & groups are annoying. And it's so far been a lot more social than Twitter, I feel like I'm discovering interesting people on it and conversations are happening more. Some of that could be the novelty of the new platform but I feel like it promotes casual socializing in a way I haven't really felt since BBS's. Also the Google Hangout multi-video chat is fun.

The other point in Google's favor is that I don't trust Facebook and never have. Google has a good record of openness and being pro-web, whereas Facebook has been intent on creating a locked-in walled garden from early on. I believe my interests align more with Google than Facebook, but time will tell.

Live show lighting

I'm trying to up my live show's lighting game. Since it's me, I'm heading towards the compact, DIY and cheap. Here's what I'm trying out:

The Chauvet 4BAR - you can get these guys for like $320 USD off eBay, which seems like a great deal since it comes with the tripod, foot pedal and carrying case. Unlike the cheaper Mini 4BAR, this one's DMX-controllable, so I should be able to sync a couple of these trees to the laptop that drives my live show and plan my lighting out nicely ahead of time.

Enttec USB Pro - to get DMX sent to the lights I need an adapter for the laptop and after a lot of research this seems to be the good one. The cheap guy in me wanted to get the Open DMX Usb which is less than half the price, but most software specifically mentioned the Enttec USB Pro and I didn't want to risk buying something that wouldn't do the job.

DMaX - I'm waiting until the lights and adapter arrive but it looks like the DMaX devices for Ableton Live with Max For Live (along with the dmxusbpro external) should let me control the lights from Ableton all easily (I hope this works).

Sound Activated EL Wire - I ordered some sound activated EL Wire to test out. It's not DMX controllable so it won't be in sync digitally, but it's only like $15 and I'm gonna try putting some on the guitar amps and drums and see if we can get it blinking in response to our playing which should be on the beat assuming we're playing OK. I'm not sure how well it'll handle the noise level at a show but we'll see. Worst case scenario I can just leave them on all the time and it should look neat.

I'll try to post about it once I figure out if any of it works. If you know anything about lighting or visualization stuff I'd mega-love to hear from you.

Working working working

Trying to be a pro up in here but it's quiet, not too interesting work: 1) Working on the new album - met with Rob Cosh who I worked with on Out of It and it looks like we're good to go. I just need to finish off the tracks. Also I'm trying to decide on album artwork.

2) Working on the live show - adding lights and visuals and working on improving the general live sound and presentation.

3) Planning - I have a sheet of paper here with Brad Sucks stuff (releases and promotion etc) planned out until next June. I feel so legit looking at it. Legit and overwhelmed.

4) Video - trying to get some video stuff going for the next record. It's an area I never really enjoy but I should probably do it.

5) Website fixing - tidying up this place a bit. Upgraded bbPress, added Facebook connect and fixing my mailing list software since I haven't sent out the Brad Sucks mailing list in forever.

6) Secret projects - plotting out some new projects which have so far involved a lot of meetings.

7) Maintaining my mlkshk account - this thing doesn't update itself you guys.

But enough about me, how are you?

Forums update

I upgraded to the latest beta of bbPress and it's sweet. I finally have forums integrated in the site design. If you feel like testing them out you can see 'em here. I'm still working on it but feel free to post about issues. Once I get things running in OK shape I'll try adding Facebook logins and that will be sweet.

The show

Yeah, so, there was a wiener theme to the show tonight. First time ever. I tried to communicate it from the stage but I'm not sure how clear I was. Here's the two point recap: 1. Next to the venue was an abandoned KFC with this sign:

2. Inside, on the bar, next to jars of pickled eggs and cheese was a jar of pickled wieners. I did some of my Seinfeld-esque observational humor from the stage re: this crazy coincidence and this wound up happening:

photo by marilyn render

For those of you who are not musicians, that is a pickled wiener that has been tossed onto the stage, specifically onto the set list of your guitarist.

Good times.

Saturday's Ottawa show

Just a reminder for people who are in this specific area of the universe: I'm playing Saturday night at The Elmdale. I've never played there before. I'm told they have beer. Anyway, it'll probably be my last show in Ottawa till next year while I finish my record and work on some other exciting Brad Sucks projects. So, you know. Do what you must.

GeneralBrad Turcotte
I Need to Love Myself More and You Less (demo)

This one's been a struggle and I think it still needs a bunch of work, but I'm calling the demo done and I'll come back to it. I was trying to do something a bit different and ehhhh I dunno: I Need to Love Myself More and You Less (demo)

Anyway, that's a wrap on the demos for the next record. You can listen to them all here (warning: spoilers). Gonna take a short break and then start hassling friends for feedback and then I'll make a bunch of decisions on what needs to be fixed. And then fix those things.

Bob Dylan's 70th

Went to a 70th birthday thing for Bob Dylan last night (he wasn't there). I'm not really a huge Dylan fan. I mean, I think he's rad and much respect, good job. But I've never really obsessed over any of his music like I have for my favorite artists, despite trying. Last night at the Dylan open mic I realized the only three songs I really deeply love of his (if we count covers) I found from soundtracks:

1. The Man in Me (The Big Lebowski)
2. You Belong to Me (Natural Born Killers)
3. When I Paint My Masterpiece (Observe & Report, by The Band)

So that probably makes me a lame person. But despite not digging most of his music, he's an inspiration in that he decided he wanted to be a songwriter and has relentlessly stuck with it. That's pretty bad-ass. Also this paper doll was on the table in front of me:

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Happy birthday!

Rethink Music

I think I might be finished with nearly anything that happens in convention centers. I'm not sure I've ever had a good time in one. Do they happen? They're so sterile they creep me out and make me want to run far away (to my sterile hotel room). My panel was OK, though the discussion was just getting going when we ran out of time. I also felt it was a bit too focused on far-off scenarios rather than practical stuff that might help musicians. I have a hard time caring about anything I have to imagine 5-10 years into the future to get. Probably my issue, but there it is.

Once again Boston tried to hang onto me by laying down a giant storm on my way out. Last time it was snow that cancelled every flight but mine. This time it was wind that cancelled every flight but mine. It's never cool when you see this much red on a departures screen when you walk up to your gate:

I got to fly in a 9-seat Cessna propeller airplane (the ninth seat is actually the co-pilot seat). I thought it would be scary especially with all the turbulence but I found it easy to accept the idea of dying after spending so many hours in an airport. Also it felt like being in a van in the sky. And whenever I was nervous the pilot was like three feet away from me so I could study his body language. "He's not sweating and trying to secretly phone his kids, so I think this is just normal turbulence."

I took this video of the landing:

Pretty sweet landing there. The other three I experienced weren't quite as slick.