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Archive for April, 2014

25
Apr

The Fabulous Blue Wabbits

After a long hiatus of not jamming with another person or playing in a band, I decided to look up some of the guys in my original 1960’s band, The Mariners which then became The Blue Diamonds.

Mariners

The lead guitarist (I was the rhythm player) was on assisted living, scooter bound as the result of a stroke many years prior. While he longed to play, it wasn’t in the cards for him to do so. In 2010 he left the earth for what I hope for him will be rock heaven. I didn’t find out for four months he’d even passed away.

Next up was the drummer. He’d also had a heart attack years previous and moved to the interior of BC.

Lastly was the bassist. As the youngest member of the original band with a unique name, I started looking on the internet and I suspect purely by accident, found him. Turns out he also had some health problems that he’d survived and was still sort of playing for his own enjoyment. A quick contact email and we hit it off after all those years. It was 2006.

We started to jam every month or so for fun, playing a lot of the tunes we used to play in the 60’s. Which was pretty tough because, first and foremost, I am not a lead player. I was the rhythm player in the band, I’d spent most of my playing life in rhythm. Usually singing along with something.

Mel Fred Oct06 1

To address this shortcoming since it was unlikely we’d find anyone our own age who’d be remotely interested in playing 60’s instrumentals, I started to build up a shoe string recording setup. I could lay down some rhythm, use a Casio keyboard I had for a simple drum track and away we’d go. Lot of times I’d find a MIDI track of a song we’d played in the past and I’d mute out sections and they we’d play along with it.

Lead and bass with a backing track.

The dining room in the house became the temporary music studio. I was 55 at the time.

As time progressed, my wife suggested that we vacate the dining area and move to a spare room upstairs in the house. And not exactly a large room at that.

The rule of houses are that you will expand to fill all given space. This was no different…

In the new room, there was, of course, more room for recording equipment. Hence, I rose like a bass to a lure and started to fill it.

Mel being goofy

Of course, I was filling it with recording equipment that I could afford at the time. This seldom ever equates to what you want, or need, or understand what you want for that matter. School of hards knocks is a good education though.

Studio Console

It didn’t take long before the short comings of the gear started to rear it’s ugly head. It will be sufficient to say that once you start down this road, the guitar side of things starts to look pretty darn cheap. A decent multi-channel audio interface will run $2,000 pretty easy.

MelFred2007

But since when did that deter anything for me… I admit it, anything I do, I tend to really OVER DO. Or at least do it to the maximum of my ability. My wife, bless her heart, has always been 100% supportive of my craziness.

The computer office where my software company, Wabbit Wanch Design, was run out of in the house, is one the largest rooms and has a bay window. Since the wife and I were doing less software, she suggested we swap rooms so I could “expand” properly. Of course I agreed before she could come to her senses.

During the move, Fred and I attended a “mixing” seminar put on by Tom Lee Music in Vancouver with guest Eddie Kramer. Imagine my shock when I won the door prize. An autographed Martin acoustic. I still have it and play to this day.

Eddie  Mel

I’m not sure at what point I started to get better at leads, of which I readily admit I am still not a lead player, but I also started to write original tunes. Probably ones that had been bouncing around in my head for years. No idea. But I started to lay down proper drum tracks (using E-Z Drummer and then Addictive Drums) and then full rhythm tracks.

My go to rhythm guitar is a Godin XTsa.

Mel 2008 04 11 01

I couple it with a Roland VG88 for fills as well and it works very nicely. The only drawback to the XTsa is that it’s only 5 lbs lighter than my SUV. Heavy. And I’m on of those guys that can’t play sitting down. I have to have a strap and I have to stand. That’s how I played in the 60’s, that’s how I practiced, that’s still how I play. So, as a word of advice, if you play 90% of your time sitting down and you want to be in a band, get used to standing up and playing. It does feel different.

The new studio is different than most computer based studios because mine is external mixer concentric. I do a combo mix in the box and out of the box. A SoundCraft LX7ii and Apogee Ensemble are the audio I/O. I like the sound of both of them over the a plain audio interface into a computer.

Studio Feb 2012

The majority of the audio components are high grade now. And you can tell compared to some of the budget gear I used to have. Although I’d like to say that there’s no difference between a low cost mixer and a higher end one I’d be kidding you. There is a difference. What you have to figure out is what the break point is for the difference. It feels like the law of diminishing returns. I.e. spending 10 times the money doesn’t give you 10 times the quality.

After writing 40+ songs that we’ve recorded since 2007 (and made into some “fake” CD’s for friends) we finally decided to do a full on proper CD and see if we could get it into something like iTunes. Getting a publisher is pretty easy, recording, mixing, master, producing a full CD, isn’t. It’s a whack of work let me tell you.

April 13th, 2014 we finalized it.

TFBW Cover

Wait a minute…that should be the Blue Diamonds right? Yeah, well, except for the fact there IS another band called the Blue Diamonds in Holland. How’d that happen? Turns out our original drummer was from Holland, he I suspect was a fan of the Blue Diamonds there and when he emigrated to Canada and joined our band he suggested it, innocently enough I hope. So 40+ years later, with the internet we find them. Nope. We had to have a new name.

We had many suggestions, some so off beat you’d never think there was another band in the world with the same time. Yeah, well, surprise. There was. So we looked at what we had and since Wabbit Wanch Design has been around for a long time, we’d be Wabbits. So that’s how The Fabulous Blue Wabbits came to be. You can stop rolling your eyes now.

At this point now we’re on iTunes, Amazon world wide and a host of other places. And if you’re thinking we’re going on tour to promote the music, think again. This was more of a bucket list task than take over the world with instrumental music.

If our music did go any where, I’d love to hear it used for movie backing tracks, in commercials or something along those lines. That would be simply awesome and I think largely based on the sheer luck of someone in a position to use the tune actually hearing it and wanting to use it.

Me, well, I think I’ll keep writing tunes and recording them.

18
Apr

Festoolin’

As a new Festool convert, I tend to jump at the chance to try out some of the new tools I get. The recent acquisition was the Domino joiner.

I’ve owned a biscuit joiner for quite a while and used it a lot over the years. But in spite of the fact that it’s supposed to help align things, I found it only marginal at that and really those little pressed sawdust biscuits have never proven themselves to be pillars of strength.

I needed a new shelf for the work shop so I chose a fairly simple design but I decided to make all the joints with the Festool Domino joiner.

But before I get to the Domino joiner, I got to use my new Carvex jigsaw. The Carvex replaced my Bosch jig saw. And after comparing the two, I can to the conclusion, you can’t compare them. Not even close to the same class. At any rate, I used the jig saw with the attachment to round the ends of the shelf.

IMG 4570

Then I used my Festool router and put a sculpted edge on the shelf.

IMG 4572

The router is VERY impressive. Of course the one I was previously using was a Sears Craftsman that was about 20+ years old. It did have electronic speed control but the worst positioning adjustment ever. Again no comparison in tools.

IMG 4573

Since this was going above my work bench, I routed out a channel for the LED strip lighting I was going to put in it, and I cut the Dominos at the same time. The fastest job was making all the Domino cuts. It’s an amazing tool.

IMG 4576

I finished the shelf with some Polycrylic Gloss (nice stuff).

IMG 4582

So far, the most awkward Festool to use that I have is the track saw. Seems I always want the scrap piece to be on the wrong side of the track when I cut. And it’s not really all that ideal for working with small pieces. Probably a knack I haven’t developed yet.