Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Jammy Smears

A few days have passed, so it must be time to reflect on the Hampshire Jam.

It was an uncessarily early start, as I woke up around 5 am with my head full of music. Got up and made use of the time listing the patches for each section of the set. Broke the rig down from the studio and prepared to load the car. The incessant drizzle chose that moment to turn into a downpour that only stopped moments after we'd recluctantly loaded up. Nothing ended up with water pouring out of it anyway.

Liphook isn't much more than an hours drive away, so we were soon at the millenium hall. The other acts were there but had only just started setting stuff up. I waited for Redshift and F&S to do what they wanted then quickly assembled my little rig. The soundcheck was quick too, just a quick blast of a couple of sections that I thought would cover the extremes of the sound palette. A quick walk round the hall and it sounded great. Job done. With hindsight it might have been better to have prepared some prerecorded played parts so I could check the lead sounds too.

Some hours later, and it is starting. I have used the gap to write a stack of sticky notes to remind me what I need to do during each bridge, and the keys for the parts that follow. The last action before going and hiding backstage is to check that all of the initial patches are right and to set the faders in the right place for the start.

Steve does the intro, and I'm on. Amazingly I've felt relaxed all the way through; the nerves just never came. Start up the Live set and the intro swells in. I hit the keyboard and the wrong bloody sound comes out. Fortunately it worked and I was able to go with it (not at all what I had planned though - the sounds on Bohunt Sabotage are what it should have been). When I had a moment to check, I found the wrong patches on a couple of the instruments. I have no idea how that could have happened.

I managed to fit in a few more mistakes, but the set is flexible enough for none of them to have had a serious effect. For instance, the first sequence had two distinct sections, playing sweeping chords then moving onto the lead-line. I totally forgot the first and went straight into solo mode. The most annoying was forgetting to start my recorder. This might have meant not having a complete recording (Tony and John on the desk fixed that) but worse, that was meant to be my set timer. I had to guess how long I'd been on, so in the end I played a bit longer than planned. Better than rushing through it in 30 minutes and then having nothing left to play I guess.

But despite these attempts to wreck it, everything seemed to go very smoothly. Not too many keyboard accidents, and the leads seemed to flow nicely. I couldn't see the audience well through the lights but I could make out some tapping of feet and nodding of heads. I made it to the final fade, and (phew) was rewarded by a big wall of applause.

Given I had been on a while, I kept the encore short. It was a bit rougher, but that was kind of the idea. It was well recieved too. Finally off and backstage for a beer.

More on the rest of HJ later.

Star of Stage and Screen

Grant Middleton has kindly posted a short video clip of the HJ set. Here it is, if this new fangled Web 2.1 Service Pack 5 stuff works as advertised. Or you could look here where you will also find a short snippet after Steve's intro, and footage of the rest of the acts. The Redshift clip is unsurprisingly excellent. Oh, and the audio is out of sync, it's not just a bad mime!

(Requires Javascript, Flash, yada yada).

Monday, October 23, 2006

Bohunt Sabotage

Hampshire Jam is done and dusted, and seemed to go very well. I'll write some more when I get a moment, and when I've come down.

I did manage to get some music recorded to release at the gig. The initial run was 50 copies, with another 50 to follow. It's called "Bohunt Sabotage" and it consists of a single take playthrough of the main set, plus another version of the moody "Los Ashes" section because I didn't like the way that turned out (mostly because the Virtual Prophet had managed to go completely out of tune - so much for stable soft synths). There are a few moments of finger trouble and a couple of minor glitches which is why I thought it warranted a limited CD-R release. But bar those I really do like it, especially when I got it loud on the living room hifi.

On the day I was a little disappointed in the sales. I think the arrival of two or three Redshift discs (depending on how you count them) drained people's pockets too quickly. Afterwards, I passed most of the remainder to SMD, and they sold out within 25 minutes of being announced! I kept a few copies, so they will be going to SMD for some of the people who replied too late, and the second batch of 50 will follow on as soon as I can burn them. If you want to get hold of a copy then please contact SMD. I do intend keeping some to sell before the Gathering in Philly but there won't be many.

After that, I don't know exactly what I'll do, but this material will probably come out in one form or another. There is a lot of space for improvisation in the material, though, so it certainly will not be exactly the same.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Countdown... T-4 days

Things do appear to be shaping up nicely. I was left to my own devices on Saturday, and it was a very productive time. I think the set is basically complete bar a couple of bridges, and the process of getting the right sounds to hand. These are closely related things - I need to have a break to change sounds because once I'm playing it's hard to spare a hand to tweak the sounds. This is not helped by the Imposcar suddenly deciding to glitch the playback when it changes
patches, something I've never noticed before. I think I have a way round that, but it's more time consuming than just selecting the next patch from the keyboard. I think I can mitigate the problems by running two instances, one on each keyboard, so I don't need to change sounds in mid-section.

Despite a few rough joins where there are no bridges, I've played it through end to end. It's long enough, which is a bonus, and I think I like it. It has quite a different feel to airsculpture music, so I hope it goes down well with the hard-core Berlin school mob at HJ. I'm starting to wonder if I can get a clean mix done and burn some CDRs for sale at the gig, but first things first!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Two weeks to the Hampshire Jam

Not even two weeks, more like 11 days. Don't panic!

I've been slowly accumulating sequencer parts in Live. As my hands will be busy I've been trying to come up with grooves that are interesting enough to run for a while without hands-on tweaking. Things really came together when I took my laptop and the Edirol keyboard on holiday and started assembling them into a set. There's now about a dozen phases, all comfortable to play over. Still quite a lot to do - bridges, and finding suitable sounds for playing over each. I've been tending to use the same handful of patches while preparing, so I need at least distinct sound or two at least for each phase.

Currently everything is coming from the laptop. I'm not sure whether I'll rope in some hardware synths at the last minute. If I do end up with just a laptop and a couple of controller keyboards, it will be interesting to see what the audience reaction is. I hope it will be positive, as long as the sounds coming out are good enough. It will certainly be a contrast to the Redshift gear pile!

I was given a choice to either go on first or third. I chose first - I think I'd rather get it over with, and enjoy the rest of the festival rather than suffering through the morning set (and proabably being too hyped to enjoy Redshift!).

No time for this!

OK, so I've created a blog. This might make it easier to update the webpage. I've no time for this, though, I've got a gig to do!

But I'm nothing if not ready for a bit of a displacement activity, so I've copied the hand-rolled entries from johnchristian.org into this blog and time-machined them back to the correct dates.