Well, I wanted to satisfy my passion for creating and arranging my own songs and match what I had at ‘The Box’ – my old Project Studio.
This was back in the 80s when synth-bands, MIDI and Sampling technology were really taking-off. If you played keyboards, this was ‘your time’. Producers, too, were spoilt with the audio arsenal that technology provided them. Computer bands had been around for a while – Kraftwerk (I love ‘We are the robots’) – but something different was happening.
Companies like Roland (D-50) and EMU (Proteus) systems produced really good modules that reflected the sounds of the day, sampling real instruments and mixing them with FM, Vector and similar synthesis. Korg (M1) and Yamaha (DX7) were also big players but my attraction was with the emulation of real instruments: Sampling.
I recall that sampling, however, was getting a bad press – people were “stealing other’s work” in the eyes of some – so I was very careful how I explained that the sounds I created were not samples of other artists but samples of real instruments that I ‘played’ and arranged. Was it James brown’s funky drummer that was everywhere?
All that aside, there were still lots of positives. The Box was well used by local musicians who were always very positive about what they came away with.
So the patter of little feet back in 1992 had stopped me recording in The Box, well it had stopped recording music -period. At this point I should point out that I would not have changed anything: I am a proud Dad!
So why has it taken so long to get back?
Well it all has to do with space and the way I work; oh, and money :)
In 1992 The Box consisted of analogue 8 tracks on a Fostex machine which was SMPTE time locked to an Atari computer running C-labs Creator – 96 MIDI channels. Not only could I record acoustic instruments but I could recreate any sound I wanted using the many digital sound modules and keyboards I had at my disposal.
I tried to kick-start this in the late 90s and again six or seven years later but the software and hardware were not up to running what I wanted; certainly the kit that I could afford.
So what’s different now?
Well I was able to save up a little, and now technology – hardware and software – gives me what I have been craving in terms of muscle and content.
So this is, for me, a good starter:
The Project Studio
At the heart of the new Project is a Mac Mini with 2.6G i7 processors, 16G RAM, a Solid State Drive / Hard Disk Drive combination.
Why this specification?
This has plenty of power to run processor-hungry software and fast disks and memory to provide the quench its thirst.
It took three weeks for the little mule, carefully edging its way through mountain passes, to bring it to me but it was worth it.
A Focusrite Scarlet 2i2 Audio interface gets sound in and a pair of KRK Rokit 8s spits it out again.
After Trying Cubase and Live from Ableton, I finally found in Apple’s Logic Pro 9 which is something as easy and fun to use as my old C-Labs Creator: in my opinion.
This also allowed me to run in 64-bit mode so I could actually use over 4G of RAM. Not so important for recording live sound but vital to load, hold and play thousands of samples.
Last and by no means least, the last keyboard from the 90s I still posses: my old faithful, Roland JV-30.
Though not a synthesiser in the true sense, it possessed a modest set of very useable sounds. I used The JV-30 and the E-mu Systems Proteus/1 and the Roland U220 almost exclusively on the Big Man Album.
Thank you for reading.
Over the weeks I will try and expand on the my reasons behind the choosing my kit.
I hope this piece entertains and/or helps someone, or at least makes some sort of sense.