Friday, December 12, 2008


In the mid-Eighties DD recorded an album -- called Arrogance -- entirely on a 4-track cassette machine called the Fostex X-15. It was a bit larger than a standard dictionary and employed the two stereo sides of an audio cassette as a small format four-track tape reel.

At the time, it seemed quite a bit of technology to pack into a box. Along with two Scholz Rockman headphone amps -- one for guitar and one for bass -- it was the basis for a recording studio you could fit in a satchel.

In the Lehigh Valley in the mid-Eighties, there really weren't any recording studios that could be trusted with your money for the recording of rock 'n' roll. While some were professional businesses, they mostly survived doing commercial work and non-rock projects. They would, however, gladly take any rock band's money and return something substandard.

Even the two most popular independently made records -- Steve Brosky's "Do the Dutch" and Daddy Licks' "I Got Wheels" suffered slightly at the hands of the local recording pros.

Chalk it up to lack of incentive.

In the Eighties, in theory, major labels had incentive when they sent their new signings into studios to make records. Most of them, most of the time, wanted to make their money back and then some, thus ensuring the artist wasn't entirely jobbed during the recording process.

Local studios had no incentive, particularly when their bread 'n' butter work wasn't popular music. Their incentive was in the opposing direction: Getting you out of the place as quickly as possible while getting the least done.

Ergo the popularity of things like the Fostex X-15 and Rockman headphone amps among struggling musicians. The Fostex became perhaps the most popular portable cassette recorder/musician's notebook ever. The Rockman headphone amps, which delivered studio-produced sound, sold like hotcakes.

While you still couldn't get Dark Side of the Moon pro recording studio quality at home, with a lot of patience and careful work you could get much better results than any of the usual local professional nuisances provided. And any shortfalls in hi-fidelity could be made up, or exceeded, with the enthusiasm that comes from making music in an environment where you know the paid help isn't out to subvert you.

Now we've almost come full circle. Since most young people have decided they don't want to pay for music, ever, once again the major labels are one of the only places one can get rock 'n' roll recordings that don't sound like crap done. For instance, the labels still have (an even more desperate) incentive to make the artists sound good. To your host, this is baldly obvious on almost everything that comes out of Nashville. Even if one doesn't like the tunes on the CD, the recordings always sound fantastic.

On the other hand, a lot of independent music making has suffered at the hands of the freetard mentality. While the ease of recording it has been put into the hands of everyone, there's no longer any incentive to buy individual artists other than in small handfuls. And that's become mostly dependent on who is the most effective at social networking and logrolling.

Nevertheless, in twenty plus years the technology of making music has changed so much for the better that if you'd told young DD what was going to be available by 2008, he would have thought you were crazy.

The Fostex X-15 cost something over three hundred dollars over two decades ago. Both Rockman amps -- for guitar and bass -- in their earliest forms cost a bit over two hundred a piece, I think.

Now, thanks to digitization and 'made in China' slave labor you can have orders of magnitude in capability well in excess of what was possible in 1985. And a lot more cheaply.

Which brings us to a demonstration, courtesy of something called the Korg Pandora.

DD has two of these boxes -- the PX4D and the newer PX5D. They are the size of cigarette packs, the first made of black plastic, the latter made of brushed aluminum.

Essentially, they're both a rock 'n' roll band in a box. They do guitars, bass and even reasonably righteous sounding drum loops if you have the patience to stitch it all together by pushing very small buttons while squinting at a small liquid crystal display.

DD could go on forever about how much he enjoys them and what they can do. But it's just easier to post an example.

The tune is called "The Heevahava Overture." Split into three parts, it goes from a thumping Foghat riff straight from the early Seventies, to a whimsical bit of Emerson, Lake & Palmer ... and finally winds up with a country jam. Lots of different guitars were played, but only Korg Pandoras provided amplification, bass, drums and effects.

The Heevahava Overture. Running time: About two and a half minutes.

Make a DD EP! Use these other tracks made in the recent past, as well as one from the old Fostex X-15.

Hooray for the Salvation Army Band.

Highway Patrol -- twenty years ago on the Fostex X-15.

I Think We Should Make a Carla Sandwich -- made with another band in a box, The Roger Linn Adrenalinn.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just need a nice cover to get it perfect.
I must say it has been strange to follow you comments on the presidential campaign. It wold had been funny if it wasn't almost tragic...

best regards mister Destiny

3:43 PM  

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