I started learning/dabbling with keyboard, acoustic guitar &
recording as a hobby and diversion from working 9-to-5 with computers.
Being a knobs & switches person at heart and influenced by the
flashing light brigade of Tangerine Dream, Kraftwerk, Jean Michel Jarre,
ELP etc., I built up a small recording setup over the years. Although it
was a drain on our finances, my wife says at least she knew where I was
in the evenings.
Early setups used home keyboards such as the Yamaha PSR series, and a
PC sequencer (Prism) for recording. The desktop PC advanced to a very
early laptop (to the left of the chair) - a Toshiba with an 80486
processor and a fabulous colour screen... but needed a loan to pay for
it. Note the old Hi-Fi speakers mounted on the bookshelves - not the
best place acoustically, but spare bedrooms are never big enough!
A few years later, a problem with one of my ears gave me a reality check so decided to 'get serious' with music before the other one broke, and the gadget spiral really began with a Korg i30 arranger keyboard, Yamaha cassette porta-studio for mixing, a Samson power amp. and a couple of Spirit Absolute 2 monitors... although stereo was a bit of an overkill with only one good ear.
A 2nd hand Cheetah MIDI keyboard was added later...
More gear followed (it's a known illness - look up Gear Acquisition
Syndrome), such as a Supernova synth and an 8-track hard-disc
recorder... which of course justified an 8-track ADAT for backup
purposes. This meant building DIY cabinets to house them...
and then it just had to be a bigger mixer... and the downward spiral went on...
Hi-Fi Quad electrostatic speakers as monitors - well, somebody had to
As with all hardware, it comes at a price...
...wires... lots and lots of wires... double the no. if you use patch panels!
The weight of all the cables kept pulling the jack plugs out of their sockets, so these DIY brackets were developed to take the strain. MIDI gear was also routed via the same standard 1/4" patch panels using this DIY mod.
More info on studio gear, such as a DotCom modular synth,
EMU samplers, Tascam porta-studio etc. is here.
A house move meant yet another layout... started off with 2 music rooms, so ideal for a control room and music room... but to start with, but eventually decided to shoe-horn everything into one. This video shows it under construction (skip to 1m54s for the final result), and here's an attempt at an arty-farty version with music & effects.
The C.A. Blues
Song writing started after some spoof songs went down well with friends and colleagues. On one occasion my wife was struggling with a course assignment for a diploma (eventually published), so I tried cheering her up by writing a song about it. Feeling quite chuffed at finding a rhyme for the phrase 'concept analysis', I recorded a song on cassette. This was all a good laugh until we were invited to an end-of-course dinner along with all the other students and lecturers, when half-way through the meal an embarrassingly familiar tune came over the restaurant p.a.
This was my first serious song, which evolved from a chord sequence I was dabbling with on the i30 using one of its backing styles. It was also my first stab at using a proper singer on vocals, and it took some time to pluck up enough courage to play it to a 3rd. party. It was a strange but rewarding experience hearing sounds which had always been 'in my head' finally being realised properly.
Bizarre as it sounds, an interest in astronomy and the cosmos spawned this science-fiction mystery concept-album project, inspired by books such as Stephen Hawking's 'A brief history of time'. The underlying story is based on current scientific knowledge, but is told from an unusual viewpoint and interweaves fact & fantasy to speculate how the universe begins & ends... with an intriguing twist.
The demo recording is only a rough outline of the idea using my
limited musical skills & even more limited vocals, so if there are
any musical/theatrical producers, arrangers, musicians or vocalists out
there, please get in touch. The project has been shelved many times over
the years, but it would be nice to finish it before the universe
actually ends otherwise it may spoil my version of events.
This was my first acoustic guitar piece, and it took longer to play the song well enough to record than it did to write. Although not religious, I was intrigued by the thought of a conversation at 'the gates' when judgement time finally comes. The new arrival would be blaming everyone else; the management, the government, the system etc., and the creator(s) would be asking 'Yes, but what about all the fantastic things we made for you?'. The initial lyrics seemed hauntingly appropriate for various man-made atrocities, and they evolved into the final version after the Sept 11th incident when the line 'Why did you spoil it all?' seemed so poignant. My simple vocal & guitar demo leaves a lot to be desired but I think it captures the essence.