Sunday, November 16, 2014

Buchla Beatz... LoFi Style


Sometimes you just need to put substance over form. As a musician who has recorded both electronic and "real" music for over half my life I know the "proper" way to do things. In recording you can use mics, pre-amps, compressors, and of course various forms of recording gear to capture the sound and music "correctly".  I know how to do this and I have piles of those things including software on multiple computers that mimic and serve all those purposes. 

But everything has it's time and place. In another life I played in a psychedelic indie rock band and learned to flaunt the "proper" way to record in favor of getting something that captured what you were doing and moving forward with all your energy and creativity in actually performing the music.  We used to joke that in this project, titled Overdrive Date Master after a 1970s trucking magazine, found at a flea market - there could be no mistakes onstage. Whatever we did was the whole point of why we were there. Of course this can lead to uneven performances but at the same time the freedom of working like this  -  or should I say playing like this - can lead to an environment that encourages a higher level of creativity and, god Forbid, FUN. We "recorded" many of our shows and even studio tracks on toy tape recorders, cassettes, and even old tube reel to reel players using found or improvised microphones. The goal wasn't to get pristine audio quality or a perfect take; the idea was to capture something  and move on quickly to the actual playing. 

To be fair there have been times I wished I had a cleaner recording of some of the nonsense we did. But if I'm honest I'd have to admit that wasn't important then and it's not that important now. if we captured the moment during the madness that was just a nice bonus. And I have a lot of nice bonuses which have accumulated over the years.

This technique of: Sit down-> press play on Something-> Go has evolved as technology has. Now I, like most people, carry a phone that can record audio and video in a split second complete with built in mic. For improvisers or those looking to capture a snippet of something this is a great extension of the old lofi world.

A few weeks ago I sat down at the Buchla 200e and was playing around with it trying to make a more traditional Drum beat. The exercise mutated into a demo which then mutated into something that I suppose could be called a full track. These things aren't as straight forward as they seem in retrospect.  I didn't sit down to make a technoish song, i sat down and started playing just for the hell of it. Since i hadn't prepared to actually record anything I didn't have my arsenal of gear ready to go. To stop playing and messing with the music to set it up would have killed the mood and zone I was in that inspired the piece in the first place. So - and i think by now you all know where this is going - I checked my pockets for my cheap cell phone and, well the rest is now recorded history:

For those who like things with a *little* more Fidelity I did make a nicer sounding audio edit of the live performance which you can check out here:

Perhaps in a future post I'll write how I made the sounds and what Buchla, Thrid party,  and DIY modules I used (please email or comment if this is something you'd like to see) but for now I hope you enjoy this mess for what it is and the spirit behind it. 

Play on!