Almost nobody dances sober, unless they happen to be insane.

- H. P. Lovecraft

Sunday, March 3, 2013

FAWM 2013 - Some Things

I finished the demos for the 2013 FAWM project on the 28th of February.  I usually pace myself, finishing one song and posting it on average every two days.  In this way, I'm assured I'll reach the goal of the 14 songs by the end of the month.

Usually, the routine is to write a song, give it some time (when it's available), then post it and start madly writing comments on others' songs in the hopes that you'll get some comments on the one you just posted.  It's a pretty supportive community, so people usually follow this unwritten rule.  The one exception is that people usually also follow the "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything"rule.  So sometimes you don't get any comments, which can be better or worse than getting comments like, "This song sucks."

I won't go into all the reasons I decided not to post comments on others' songs this year, or why I decided to post everything only on the very last day of the competition.  For that, you can check my "manifesto," which I posted on my artist page on

What the manifesto doesn't say is that one of the key advantages to this process is that I didn't have to feel like something was in a somewhat finalized state after only a day or two of work.  Sometimes dedicating a limited amount of time to a song is all it takes, and sometimes it's beneficial.  However, there are other times where it's best to let a track simmer in my mind before calling it semi-complete.

The whole idea of FAWM is to write songs.  Not necessarily finish them, or even post demos.  However, for me, it doesn't count unless I post a demo.  For the record, I don't think this is the only way to do it, just my way.  I'm fortunate enough to have the equipment, skills and time to do this, and I use February to make this happen.

Waiting until the whole thing was completed allowed me the artistic distance to realize the best order for the songs, the best flow.  I tried to post those songs in that order, but due to a combination of changes to the site and my lack of familiarity with the changes, I flipped the order of a couple near the end.  No biggie.  The intent held in this case.

Part of the limitation of releasing demos in the order they're written is that the people who are out there listening believe that the album should be sequenced in the same way it was written.  This is how I did the first album I released, but it's also partially why I never released a second.  I've never felt that every song I wrote during the month deserved a release after that first year.

So maybe I'm older, wiser, whatever.  I know now that Uncle Frank was right.  "Every artist has a built-in shit detector."  You have to trust your instincts and try to only release things to the public that are better than average, at least.  Why release something that's just not that great?  Chock it up to experience, learn from it, and count it as something you've done, but don't cripple an album by putting something substandard on it because you feel you have to.

So the takeaway is that I really did learn something new this time around, that while I love the process of FAWMing, for me, sometimes it doesn't (directly) contribute to the quality of subsequent tracks.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

On sountracking

I just finished my first soundtrack project, and I learned a lot about myself, my music, and my ability to deal with both.

The film just premiered in Tijuana, and is set to have its Ensanada premiere tomorrow night.

More details to come.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

FAWM Frustrations and Progress

I'm doing the FAWM thing again this year, and it's been great. I've posted two songs so far, and it's the 4th, so I'm on track.

However, tonight was a bit of a mixed bag in the studio. I managed to get a great idea recorded, but just when I was getting ready to figure out the final sequencing, Live stopped pushing audio to the Audiofire8.

Long story short, I installed the most recent driver, turned off the Audiofire8, rebooted, turned it back on, nothing.

Somehow, I think Windows XP got mixed up on what the audio device was. I have no idea how, I was in a session in Live when it decided to just stop working.

Ah, well. Fuck it, it's working now.

This was my first track from this year, check it out:

P.S. I am sick as hell. This FAWM is going to be extra tough.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Evolution UC-33e and Ableton Live 8 (or what I don't know about MIDI could fill a library)

I've had my Evolution UC-33e MIDI control surface for some time now, and I have to say, I've loved it since the moment I opened the package. There's nothing quite like finally getting something you've thoroughly researched, coveted for a while, and then finally you're the first kid on your block to have one.

After the wildfires that devastated southern California back in 2007, I made a resolution to celebrate life. One of the first things I did was to finally kick down for this little beauty. I figured it would change the way I produced, and I was right.

However, I never took the time to really LEARN the manual. Sure, I read it, but I didn't PRACTICE with it. I can't stress how important this is to all the producers out there. If you don't RTFM, you don't deserve all the functionality it offers.

Now, having said that, I have to defend myself a little bit. The UC-33e comes with a layover for Ableton Live. However, there's nothing out of the box that allows you to just get up and running with it. You not only have to program the thing yourself, but you have to know HOW you need to program it, and WHY it's acting weird when you just try to automatically assign MIDI notes to it.

Here's a brief description of what worked for me (see page 12 of the advanced manual):

  1. I selected preset #31 by clicking RECALL and then typing in 31.

  2. I assigned the faders and knobs as usual to Live (I'm using version 8.1).

  3. I clicked "launch button" #1 on the template, then hit ASSIGN, and then typed in 146 (for MIDI CC (on/off), see page 18 of the getting started manual).

  4. Then hit DATA MSB twice and entered 127 (the value to be sent to the button when you press it).

  5. Then hit DATA LSB twice and entered 000 (the value to be sent to the button when you stop pressing it).

  6. Hit Ctrl-M in Live to bring up the MIDI Map screen

  7. Clicked on the scene launch button for scene 1

  8. Pressed "launch button" #1

  9. Repeated this process for the other five launch buttons and the stop all clips, launch clip, clip up and clip down buttons

  10. Viola!
The same process works for the transport stop and play buttons, but you should assign 147 to the record button, as it works best with the Note (on/off) MIDI CC (velocity off /velocity on setting - see page 18 of getting started manual).

You actually may not have to do steps 4-5 for each button, I didn't actually have to. Those values were already assigned (you can tell when you click DATA MSB twice fast or DATA LSB twice fast - the number that appears on the display after that is what's assigned.

Special thanks to rictheobscene on this post for guidance:

Happy producing!



Monday, October 12, 2009

Sunday, September 6, 2009

New Tracks Written for 50/90

Each July 1st, a worldwide collective of musicians, producers, lyricists and music fans gather on the innernets to create music for a project called 50/90. The idea of the project is for each group or individual to create 50 songs in 90 days. This year, it's being run by the folks from FAWM, who bring you February Album Writing Month.

We knew this was going to be pretty much impossible, but creating 50 songs for us wasn't the goal. The goal was really to participate in the community aspect of it all - to interact with friends made in February, hopefully get some inspiration, and write some music.

Well, so far, not bad. We've finished a total of six complete songs, contributed to djx's excellent Solar Sails track, and have made and received many comments.

Here's a link to our work:

The only bad thing is that 50/90 shuts down after a while, so the whole thing disappears sometime before the end of the year (we're guessing). All the demos will probably live in perpetuity on but it's cool to see all the constructive criticism on the 50/90 site.

You can go to the site to see who we're following, but if you're lazy, just check some of these links:

djx - a frequent collaborator, excellent electronic producer, and fellow r-hole (Reason) dweller
caterwauler - we're hoping to collaborate with this ethereal voice soon
heavyhedonist - not many demos (which we have razzed her about endlessly) but the lyrics stand on their own quite nicely

Latest track as of now - Abduction - get it here:

or here:

The whole thing ends October 1. We'll do our best to keep the music coming.