The best Juno.

This week’s challenge in my electronic music Song Game Group is to use just one synth for the whole track. Even the drums!

The idea here is that there is so much gear out there, and there are plug-ins on top of plug-ins, and sample packs galore that, instead of helping, these gum-up the works, stopping all creativeness in its tracks.

It’s a dirty room or a sink full of dishes. A diner table piled high with plates and old food. A bed full of people at a party and all you want to do is go to sleep (if this happens).

A good chunk of YouTube seems dedicated to the pursuit of of learning how to use all this gear, or how to acquire it, or how some other idiot acquired it, or why it is the greatest, or why is sounds like a cat being _____, or how to take it out of it’s box …

It’ll make you ‘effing crazy. Real Crazy.

So with this sorry state of affairs that’s maybe a by-product of our consumer economy, you must do things like pretend you only have one synth to shake loose of it all.

Given all of this, I monogamlly committed to my favorite synth–the Roland Alpha Juno–for not a week, but for a whole month. A MONTH! My first analog poly was an Alpha Juno, but embarrassingly I still have not really plumed the depths here. Like A LOT of others, I got distracted by the this-one-does-this and that-one-does that of other synths. I mean, that’s how I got the AJ in the first place.

I do think my music would be better, and I would be slightly happier if I would have only stuck with this and the Minitaur, and my shadow motivation is to, after all of this is said and done, go down to just a few synths I know very well. (target list: Alpha Juno, Grandmother, OP-1).

I am preparing for a show on the 12th, and I am also finishing a couple of tracks for pre-studio, tracking. I am not 100% sure if only using this guy will make all of this easier or harder, but it’s already making it simpler.

I believe the Juno series has a categorical sound akin to what the Stratocaster/ Les Paul/ Rickenbacker all have to guitars. A differentiating, know-it-when-you-hear-it thing. Crucially, pop music would not sound the way it sounds without Juno series. So, can a modern musician survive a summer month with just one synth?

We’ll see.

Not the manual, but manual adjacent.

A few things to think about: The manual is really great, as is the above pamphlet/ book. I use an iPod touch for arps and sequences, and this works better than a phone for a lot of reasons. Related to this, having no sequencer or arpeggiator on a synth like this can be a real plus. This helps a lot. Ableton works really well with Alpha Juno (native External Instrument plug-in). Connect 2 things with this (iPhone runs op-1 and AJ).

best AJ video out there *notice how much he plays the AJ over the Juno-6

Great Web 1.0 resource here


Pushing Buttons

I am almost 50 and on my 3rd or 4th act. Today it’s reinventing a band that only barely got off the ground. Not only this, and to make matters worse, we are computer-based.(Electronic performance is a very young man’s game!)

I read an article last night where Liam Gallagher was talking about his ‘This will do’  period. It was a time when things didn’t matter as much and he let ‘good-enough’ get released. But post-Oasis, his 2nd solo record was incredible (And is still his best work (so far). Around the same time, old men Coldplay released their greatest work (and the next one was not too bad either). 

Today both have GREAT new releases (here and here). And Duran Duran just released this.  

What in the world is going on? 

Nothing. 

People are just doing their thing. I think for these artists they are hyper-conscious of their audiences while letting the process and eventual products exist as their own rewards. Rick Rubin says we make music as an offering to God . Whoa! Possibly, but I have to live with this for a bit. 

I spent a day or two going through my old catalog preparing material for new/old  band. What shit a lot of this was. But what do I care. The growth is astounding, honestly. Just think where we will be when I’m 60!

A lot of my friends look old, and I cannot imagine the way they must feel. Memes are fond of saying things like ‘you’re as old as you feel.’ This is both crap and true at the same time. 

I need to sleep a lot more, I cannot stay up late more than 2 night in a row. I cannot eat sugar at night or have caffeine past, say, 11 am. The list goes on. 

A lot of rules (!), but we live in a world that does not know the rules but lives by youth culture’s rules. And these change every day, What are we left with? Everything is permissible but at the same time deeply judged. 

I am left with my best work ahead of me and staring me in the face, and 64 buttons to make and perform a song. And I could do it all with my computer, or my phone, or anything else I have lying around. 

Amazing. 

This will be chopped up into a song at some point!

Being from Austin, and being more electronic, and being more pop, and living in the the world of Americana and big, floppy hats, and being very authentic, things get weird if you let them. I have some low grade anger towards the middling world of Americana. This is not to say that there is stuff that does not rise above, but there is definitely stuff that does not.

I did sound for a show this weekend, and I just didn’t get it. Seemed like an act. So, how do you check that at the door and get to the essence?

Here’s how I’m going to do it.

The new Set-Up

My gig this week will be the first where I finally drop the guitar as a centerpiece along with the sing-songs and push into the shaky frontier of improvisation and electronic. Mixing this with my 80’s-sounding sing-songs.

Will it work gig #1? I don’t know. Going to try. (I am excited about show 3 or 4.) The starting line-up is drafted, and I am going with what’s pictured above. Have some assumptions about the equipment and its ability to hold up.

The Xone mixer is very old, but it’s also very rock-solid. Interface from Ableton to mixer is a bit sketchy. If it all goes to shite I can just play the guitar and sing, so nothing lost there.

I will say this: on the Monday before a Friday show, I am interested to see how it turns out. It could go 1000’s of different ways. That’s really great and inspiring. Hope it’s inspired!

Hope to see a few of you out Friday!

If you’ve been following along at all, and for personal ego purposes I’ll pretend you have, I’ve been dealing with the problem of how to get a number of back-logged songs recorded and out efficiently and as cleverly as possible.

Had you ever told me there would be problem of too many songs, I would have maybe believed it but could not have envisioned it. Believed it? Yes. Couldn’t have envisioned the path.

Maybe you don’t know how to get-doing it either, in need a spark or a push. This series will be for you.

So, as much for me as it is for anyone else, we’re going to go back and map it all out. And, hopefully, continue to document the process in blog (not video) form.

We’re really going to go into into the why rather than review gear, which seems to be what everything turns in to these days. So this is basically a long, ongoing story. Incredibly boring to some, enlightening to others, and interesting and affirming to a small, specific crowd. Not for everybody, but really for somebody. Smallest possible audience theory at work here!

And speaking of, my why of doing all of this to identify my small, specific crowd. You are out there. I know you are! I want you to listen to the music I make.

The Beginning:
The real spark came with a special purpose combined with some divine timing, which was a random camp reunion lunch of all things. Put simply: I met a former camper who was in a song writing group at the same time I was going deep into Ableton Live 9.

A lucky perfect storm, yes, but I was paying enough attention to life at the time to know it was kind of now or never. Some direction with perfect timing.

You may be thinking to yourself that mid 40’s is well past now-or-never, but I do not think it’s ever too late. If you’ve got it you’ll always have it. Doesn’t mean you can’t lose your way, but if it’s in there, menage to come out, it’ll be there waiting for you. I feel like I have science to back this up.

Series entry #2 is the Why of Ableton over the other DAW’s.

PS:
There has to be some gear! Early, primary tools were from Roland, Moog, M-Audio, Arturia, Ableton Live, Sound On Sound magazine, and a lot-lot of YouTube. [system1, various boutiques, oxygen-25, minituar, Analog Lab]

I spy with little eye …

Look at none other than the high priestess of all all things interconnected-Moog, Lisa Bella Donna–maybe the most analog person on the internet, using the recently-reviewed the Zoom LiveTrack L-12 in a pretty amazing set.

You know, sometimes people need some validation. It’s also funny how life converges if you let it.

Example: my first analog synth was a Minitaur. What I wanted was a Taurus 3, but I could not make that happen at the time. Today they are long gone, presumably in closets or buried in save-it-for-later-when-I-can-get-to-it collections. Anyway, years later I cross-graded to a Sirin, which was great, but the Minituar was such specific and wonderful little beast. So I was restless. And after a year of seeing the delightful-looking Grandmother out there, I took the plunge, finally renting one. Wow. Bought one almost immediately, and have really loved it since. But, save LBD’s PatchBook, I’ve been using it sans spaghetti cords.

A Bajook!

Then I saw this. Generally only slightly perturbed at the Grandmother’s manual (KB Mode in the VCA not 100% explained), Patch and Tweak with Moog has already, 39 pages in, cleared up some small bits and pieces regarding the Grandmother to an amazing extent, revealing the total the monster I knew it to be. [Book review forthcoming] It also, obviously, features Lisa.

So, as it happens when you let it, while I was cleaning up the studio last night, a bit thoughtlessly cueing up a random Lisa Bella Donna Youtube performance, what did I see pulling it all together!?!

This is all to say that using this mixer at home rehearsing solo, or with the band, or to record solo run-throughs for said band, or recording with your DAW [Ableton Live], AND playing live, from solo-acoustic to full band with click Moog etc., this mixer is the most flexible I have come across when usability and portability are key factors. A pleasure to use, really.

Besides, it’s nice to know you may be on the right track. Have a great day.

-jd