Sunday, 18 January 2015

Analogue vs digital

Yes, that old chestnut...  Well, its kind of a new chestnut but only because digital tech isn't that old.  But anyway.  I have been giving myself angst over plugging my beloved bass, aka Miss Fifi La Bass, into little boxes that make her do things. 

I have a bunch of boxes, most of which are cheap, and most of which run off transistors, but one particular one runs off microchips.  This would be my elderly Zoom 505, mk1, bought in 1999, and did me sterling service, making my guitar make so many sounds i never thought it could.  When i switched to bass, i started using the 505 because it was what i had. Then i did a bad thing.  I looked on amazon for stompboxes.  I started small, you know, like you do. A cheap knock off DI / overdrive pedal which really improved my sound.  Then a tremolo, because i'd always wanted to be in Portishead, and before i knew it, there was a classic fuzz and a wah-wah.

But i do have a sentimental attachment to the baby Zoom.  Its old now, and while analogue seems to feel different, does it really? Is it really more real? Does it really matter? 

I'm currently in a situation where i have a new, great sounding practice amp (Warwick Blue cab 15.1, its fab! And discontinued! Mine's 'new to me' but was super cheap, i have no idea why) and time to fiddle with boxes.  And you know what?  My venerable zoom, stuck in front of a decent sounding amp, doesn't sound half bad. Especially with the 'no i am totally a marshal' pedal at one end and the tremolo and classic fuzz at the other. I may well use it at the next IED gig...

Adventures in Radio1...

So as part of my investigation into young peoples' music, i have been listening to radio1.  Once i got past the stage of finding the presenters squeaky and annoying, i quite like some of it.  This is pretty good, for instance!  And its also number one, probably. It was, but its now 5pm on a sunday so it might not be in a couple of hours.  But then its also clearly this.  With a side order of this.  I kind of don't have a problem with that, i mean music has always stolen, swapped and copied ideas.

I like this a lot more - Its clearly of a style and could be called derivative, but then Lady Gaga just put out a jazz album and its bloody brilliant.  The thing that really throws me is that ver kids seem to be dressing like its 1986 as well as making music that sounds like it.  Fashions go round and round and round and there we go.  Its kind of weird though, but its making my investigation easier, and also weirder.  I'm looking for new sounds, and i'm getting stuff that sounds like S Express.  Wierd...

Monday, 12 January 2015

Young peoples' music, analogue, digital, and funk.

Been a bit quiet round here hasn't it?  Truth is, i have been in no particular order, bored with tech, not in the mood for writing, and mentally unwell. Stupid brain.

Also, i just had other stuff to do, you know how it is.  And then it got longer and longer and i got lazier and i thought well, i've not really got anything new to say. Social media is still stupid, smartphones work and are getting bigger and smaller depending on whether you want a big one or a small one.  And that's it, until the next big leap forward happens.

I'm expecting nanotech babbage engines.

But, as always, innovation is a thing.  As is refinement.  And to be totally honest, i have not been paying attention.  In most of 2014 i have been working on music, which is fun.  On pretty much nought budget, because i am stingey and also like seeing what i can get out of cheap kit.  Anyone can buy the super expensive thing and get an amazing result. How dull is that?

With my musical cohort, we have been making very silly, and often derivative noise.  Its not plagiarism, its parody, okay?  And over most of 2014, i have been investigating the music i missed growing up, because i could never get hold of it (i lived in a field, pretty much) and it didn't get played on the radio.  I've been investigating P-Funk, the early JAMC, classic disco, and anything else from the 70s and 80s that made them look cool and sound awesome.

That does mean that i haven't been taking a lot of notice of a lot of recent music.  I missed this (which i must admit i can live with, and i was only vaguely aware of this, although being an old ex-goth, people telling me to be happy makes me want to nail them to a tree.

Autotune hurts my ears, and whats with all the ascending four chords and an 'eh oh' chorus stuff?  And in 2015, why are Wand erection still claiming ownership of women? The Temptations did it first, and less sexistly.  I mean, at least they were going 'my girl makes my life lovely' rather than 'this is mine and you can't have it'.

So, starting here, with a side order of here i have decided to investigate young people music. With a side order of bass geetars, noise pedals, boxes and general things that make noises.  Lets have fun...

Monday, 13 January 2014

Write, record, release

I'm in a band! Sort of.  Anyway, that's something you can go find out all about by going here  - should you be interested in silly songs in a variety of styles, and why wouldn't you? Tales of serial killing disco dancers, apocalyptic allotments and an atheist christmas song (ok, bit late for that one) can be downloaded for the princely sum of naught pence!

How are we able to put our creative ridiculousness out into the world free for your delectation?  Technology of course!  Back in the olden days it cost a fortune to get the fruit of your tascam 4-track copied to C60 or even, if you were flash, pressed up to vinyl.  Now?  A couple of recycled dells, a selection of instruments and some open source and/or cheap software and we're off, rockin' in the free world of the 21sr century internet.

Of course, because tech is weird, we have the odd very swish digital gadget to make our guitars sound pretty, and the very best thing is: the kit we use is so advanced, it can pretend to run off of valves!  Yes, valves, obsolete 1940s technology that just happens to make guitars, basses, and vocals sound yummy.

There's really no pleasing us humans is there?  No doubt when we do manage to invent warp drive we'll buid it into something that looks like a spitfire.  Which would be awesome. Obviously.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Social Media is stupid

Remember chatroulette?  Does anybody still go on there?  Chatroulette was/is the best illustration i can think of, of the real essence of social media.  Somebody had an idea, and the idea was to connect, with anyone and everyone.  Anywhere in the world (with an internet connection).  For a little while, it was great!  People used it to talk to random strangers, do creative things, post silly pictures and little vignettes of random art and music.

Then very quickly, it degenerated to being an endless stream of close ups of wanking.

Now.  Keep that image in mind (eurgh), and go look at twitter.  Endless wanking by endless wankers.  It could have been great, same as facebook and myspace could have been, but very very quickly it became the place that people went to argue with those they considered stupid.  There is a lot of good information and insight on there but it's buried in that place where the 'wisdom of the crowd' becomes the mentality of the mob.

Whether its the american god-botherer conveniently ignoring the fact that the 'science' they're being so sneery at created the very machine they're using to condemn it, or the fundamentalist atheist reminding them of that fact, twitter (other social media services are available) has become a place where people go to look for a fight.

So, best to stay away then? Ah. But since writing the first bit of this and then saving it as a draft while i tried to think of a last paragraph, i must admit, dear reader, i have gone back onto twitter.  Who knows, perhaps in all the shouting and mayhem, there can be something beautiful, something freer, more like the web was supposed to be.

Or maybe its just the jeremey kyle show in 140 characters or less.

Still, only one way to find out... #plungingin

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

I don't like the drugs but the drugs like me.

I almost thought about writing this in the fashion blog, because drugs in the dystopian future of the 21st century are as much brands as Gaultier or Apple.  Prozac, Ritalin, Zoloft, Heroin. You know them by their brand names, not their generic or chemical names.  But do drugs belong in the tech blog?  Well, drugs are technology aren't they?  They're just chemical and biological instead of electrical or mechanical.  They're the first tech humans learnt to make, probably

We, that is, mammals, have a thing for getting out of it.  Or, into it. 

Full disclosure: i've been on prozac on and off, since the early 90s.  For me, its a performance enhancing drug.  A steroid for the mind.  Can i cope without it?  Well, yeah. Cope.  At least once i get past the nasty withdrawal symptoms.  But who wants to just 'cope'?  I don't.  Without it i get on and off nasty depressions followed by manic self-destructive highs. Horrible horrible mood swings, the black dog, all of it.  I have, over the years, learned to cope with that, but coping isn't good enough.  I've got things to do, places to go, people to be.

We use tech to enhance what our bodies can do, is chemical technology any different?  With the aid of machines i can enhance my muscle power to allow me to travel faster than i ever could by just running.  Its called a bike.  If i want to go further and faster, the tech is a car or a plane. If i need to remember detail, there's my smartphone or my laptop.  Command an orchestra?  Samplers and sequencers.  Talk to the other side of the world? I'll just bounce an electric signal off a satellite, easy.

So, getting back to prozac, or fluoxetine to give it its 'low calorie cola' generic name.  It was prescribed to me when i was looking for methods of disposing of my existence that wouldn't hurt too much or leave too much of a mess.  That's its emergency use, its medical intent.  Now?  Life improves, you learn to cope, you get by.  But its the 21st century, the high pressure adrenalised modern world we keep seeing in adverts for cars and tablet computers.  'Get by' isn't enough.  I use my 'happy pills' in the same way that i use the gadgets that enhance the rest of my life.  It helps me concentrate. It puts the brakes on my mood swings.  It helps me to be productive, it controls the 'crazy' into 'creative'.  It enhances my performance.  It's technology, just the same as my phone or my bike or my PC. 

I don't like the drugs but the drugs like me.

Also, i quite like the drugs.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Freedom (of speech) isn't free (if you're being paid).


Flippin' 'eck it's all kicked off in the last couple of weeks hasn't it?  If you're part of that sector of the internet and media anyway.  Short version:  A writer wrote something containing an insensitive throw-away reference that could have suggested a deeper prejudice.  Someone called them on it on twitter saying effectively, hey, that was insensitive and could suggest a deeper prejudice, care to comment?  And was told roundly to fuck off, followed by a whole load of tweets that confirmed the deeper prejudice (in a lot of readers' eyes).
The writer then wrote something else that basically went 'the people i was rude about (and their friends) are now being mean to me!'  It escalated from there and ended with a flounce from twitter followed by a friend of the writer proving the old 'don't need enemies' adage by writing one of the most abusive articles i've ever seen in print.
No i'm not linking.  If you know the story you'll know what i'm talking about, and while i'd love to get the extra page hits from all the people googling for it, they'd probably leave nasty comments and make  me sad.
Where we currently stand is that now the community that was actually the target of the horrible nasty writers has been forgotten, and the argument has come about freedom of speech.  Which raises an issue.  Its a discussion point as to whether you have the right not to be offended - and i don't know the answer.  I don't want to be offended, but i know that people may be offended if i for instance, say that Toby Young is a bald smug tory or Julie Burchill hasn't been relevent since 1976 and doesn't appear to have had a new byline picture taken since 1986.  However, by the rules of libel (as gleaned from QI), i can't get into trouble for saying these as i'm stating a fact: that Toby Young is clearly bald, and some honest opinions - that his politics appear to be of the right, that i find him smug, and that I honestly believe that i appear to have been seeing the same picture of Julie Burchill since i used to see it in my parents' Daily Express in the 1980s.
Freedom of speech.  And that also includes name calling as it's 'common abuse'.  As i understand it. 
One element of this debate that hasn't come up though, is do these alleged journos have the right to freedom of speech when they're being paid to write, in a publication that carries advertisers, even if the publication is free to read?  I haven't bought the Observer or the Telegraph (for instance) ever, so can i claim to be paying to read it?  Well, the adverts all over the page are paid for, and the writers get paid out of that revenue.  And the readers buy the products, that's how it works.
The words are bought.  The writers are paid, its their job. So do they have the right to write an offensive article under the idea of 'freedom of speech'?  Maybe, back in the olden days before the internet, when the idea of being 'silenced' or 'voiceless' actually had credence, they did.  Maybe it was their job to seek out new people and new ideas to piss them off with.  Now?  Now, as i went on about at length in the previous blog, (sort of) the idea of anyone with a usable internet connection and the ability to use language being 'voiceless' and 'silenced' is laughable.  Social media, blogs, website hosts, youtube, soundcloud, even good old myspace and livejournal are all there and all free at the point of use. 
And yes i know, that still excludes a lot of people.  But there are free to use internet services in most places big enough to have a library, and training centres exist to help people learn how if they don't know.  I used to work in one. The word that always comes up when there are these discussions about who's allowed to say what and who's allowed to be offended, is privilege.  Privilege means being able to go about your daily life without getting abuse for just existing. Privilege means being able to get a job, because you're educated or clever or have both legs or are just plain ordinary. Privilege means being paid for something you're good at, and that makes it also a responsibility.
Being abusive about people you don't like, that's freedom of speech.  Sticking up for your  mates when they're feeling threatened, that's freedom of speech too.  Getting paid to do both?  Nope. That's privilege.  Use it wisely.