Saturday, January 16, 2016

So, go see a show. Anything.

Being onstage is a frightening thing.

There is so much to hate about our current time, our current city. The news, media - people who stand to gain from keeping masses in fear, eyes clicking and fingers swallowing each disaster du jour. It is so easy to loose sight of the good. I flirt with canceling my Facebook account weekly.

But Chicago, our city, people.

On the way to the Creative showcase last night, I used a lift sharing service. Waited in anachronistic kindly weather, nerves dancing with every wisp of the wind.

As we drove, the driver noticed my guitar. So we spoke, and he was an interesting cat. A rapper that goes by the handle Patman. We shared stories of creating, struggling - being robbed of creation by those who don't see the world the same. A simple cab ride. We exchanged cards, made fleeting promises of collaboration. Rap meets rock or something like that. Wasn't going to hold my breath though.

The venue was sleepy at 7.30, save a few performers. Introduction, all of us instantly understanding, and anxious. In a good way I hope.

So the night would go, hours spent watching people of all ages, races, backgrounds and styles come together, like some makeshift meteoric civilization. All helping each other, respecting each other, sharing our own voices in this one small room that now feels infinite. We watched so many performers, on stage, as the audience  would ebb and flow. Watched them pour their souls out to strangers, in real time. No photo filters, posed selfies, corrections after the fact. People who are doing this for love, for passion. No one making money, no one being coached, no safety nets.

It's so easy to forget. It's so easy to stop breathing. It will happen if you let the river guide you. I think it is worth it to fight. Every day across this city there are writers, artists, painters, actors, musicians, sharing their stories in a unique way you will only ever get to experience that way exactly once in life.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

2016 mic shootout

Been working on my newest album. More details to come on that, but I've been auditioning all the mics in my stable to find the perfect tool for the job. In the past I've usually just taken my most expensive one at the time and gone with that. I know that's a terrible way of approaching things, but I fell victim to the  "I must get the most of what I paid for" maxim. This time however, I am actually being smart about the whole affair.

So, I took one of my newest songs, an R&B number in the style of Michael Jackson and tried each mic on my voice at different distances, with the only effects being a noise gate and a bit of software compression. Here are the results.

Heil Fin (near) - The mic had an awful lot of proximity effect. I couldn't seem to manage it - With every open variation of my mouth it seemed to have a different eq curve.  It has a great sound reproduction - bright and crisp, but overall a bit thin. Excellent for micing the acoustic guitar however.

Hell Fin (far) - Still some mic proximity effects, but much less. However, in order to minimize them I got pretty far away from the mic, and at that point there was too much air in the sound that I couldn't seem to adjust well with EQ. I've determined this is a great live mic and excellent for instrument micing, but not my favorite vocal recording mic.

MXL 990 - This to me had a more full sound than the Heil. An excellent overall reproduction that wasn't too finicky. It sounded somewhere between a condenser and an SM58.

MXL  4000 - This has a nice overall tone, a full sound a bit bright, but really sensitive. I couldn't seem to compress it well as it was too spikey. Good for me doing very controlled, whispery type vocals, but surely not right for rock. I had to sing too self aware to make it usable, killing the vocal feel.

ATR 30 - For what I considered an old throw away mic, it was surprisingly decent. Overall a bit flat and missing some high end, but in a way it sounded kinda vintage. Decent low end.

SM 57 - To me, with my voice, it sounded a bit thin and a tad crispy in the high end. Clear sound. Could see using this for harmony or gang shout/backing vocals.

SM 58 - As expected, good all around. For me it was missing a tiny bit of fullness and that nice crisp sound you get from a condenser.  Didn't quite pop the way I wanted.

The winner. MXL 990. I had kinda written this little mic off as I bought it years ago and at the time I didn't really spend much time with it. However, when doing the roundup (and bearing in mind it's my specific voice), it consistently captured the feel I wanted. I tried it on rock, ballads, blues, etc. and so far it has been up to all tasks marvelously. The only thing I haven't tried is highly aggressive vocals, but if it falters I always have the shures to step in.

Friday, January 1, 2016

All time favorites video games

I'm writing this on my Christmas gift to myself, a Surface 3. I am captivated by this device. Throughout the years I have owned tablets (android and iOS), and never regarded them as much more than pretty toys. Especially the iPad. While a decent tool for web browsing and some semblance of creative work (certain amp sims, drawing tools, etc), the crippled mobile os's never made them usable like a real computer (don't get me started on trying to transfer files or play random non-Apple sanctioned video file types on them). In terms of real music recording production, video editing, programming/development, they are pretty much worthless. Anywhoo, this Surface is everything I dreamed a tablet could be, and more. It runs the actual Windows 10 OS, so all manner of real programs are usable. And, as an added bonus, it is surprisingly capable at gaming. I run emulators, app store casual games and real, honest to goodness Steam offered triple A titles from a few years ago. Mass Effect 2, Crysis, Far Cry 2, Oblivion, etc all run perfectly on this little wonder device. So in lieu of my re-kindled interest in gaming, I got to thinking about finishing my long in the works favorite games of all time list. This isn't necessarily a list of what I think are the best games ever made. It's an amalgam of the best, the most nostalgic, and my most beloved.

Without further adieu:

There is no order to this, aside from the first 3 positions. Those are the undisputed champs.
  1. Civilization 4 - PC
  2. System Shock 2 - PC
  3. Half Life 2 - PC
  4. Mario Kart 3D - 3DS
  5. Alien Isolation - PC
  6. Outrun - Arcade
  7. Donkey Kong Country - SNES
  8. Super Castlevania 4 - SNES
  9. Unreal Tournament 2004 - PC
  10. Streets of Rage - Sega Genesis
  11. The Elder Scrolls - Skyrim - PC
  12. Altered Reality - Commodore 64
  13. Adventure - Atari 2600
  14. 4th & Inches - Commodore 64
  15. Sid Meir's Pirates! - Commodore 64
  16. Painkiller - PC
  17. Sonic the Hedgehog - PC
  18. Super Mario Land - Gameboy
  19. Day of the Tentacle - DOS
  20. Bioshock - PC
  21. Thief 3 - PC
  22. Deus Ex - PC
  23. Peggle - PC
  24. Jumpman - Commodore 64
  25. Might and Magic : Clash of Heroes - Nintendo DS
  26. Advance Wars - Nintendo DS
  27. Wii Sports - Wii
  28. Wii Sports Resort - Wii
  29. Guitar Hero 2
  30. Need for Speed Porsche Unleashed - PC
  31. Grand Theft Auto 5 - PC
  32. Super Mario Brothers World - SNES
  33. Simcity 2000 - PC
  34. Mean Streets - Commodore 64
  35. Spy Vs. Spy 2 : Island Capers - Commodore 64
  36. Might and Magic: Gates to Another World - Sega Genesis
  37. Links 386 - PC
  38. Terminator: Future Shock - DOS
  39. Doom – DOS
  40. Elder Scrolls - Oblivion
  41. Ghostbusters - Commodore 64
  42. Knights of the Old Republicublic 1 & 2 - PC
  43. Crash Bandicoot - Playstation
  44. Aliens (Activision) - Commodore 64
  45. Driver - Playstation
  46. Summer Games II - Commodore 64
  47. Punchout - Wii
  48. Ghosts & Goblins - Commodore 64/Nintendo
  49. Ultima Underworld 2 - DOS
  50. Plants Vs. Zombies - PC
  51. Diablo 2 - PC
  52. Zombies At My Neighbors - Sega Genesis
  53. Out of this World - SNES
  54. Dragon Age Origins - PC
  55. Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego – NES
  56. Jet Moto - Playstation
  57. GFL Championship Football - Commodore 64
  58. Gabriel Knight – DOS
  59. Carmageddon - DOS
  60. Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis – DOS
  61. Civilization 5 – PC
  62. Contra - NES
  63. Kings of the Beach – Commodore 64
  64. American Mcgee's Alice - PC
  65. The Saboteur - PC
  66. Resident Evil - Playstation
  67. NFL Gameday 97 – Playstation
  68. Stalker: Shadows of Chernobyl - PC
  69. Interstate 76 – PC
  70. Tecmo Bowl – Nintendo
  71. Wonder Boy – Sega Master System
  72. Sonic CD – Sega CD
  73. Tomb Raider – Playstation
  74. Quake - DOS
  75. Leaderboard Golf – Commodore 64
  76. Crysis - PC
  77. Space Harrier – Sega Master System
  78. Golden Tee Golf - Arcade
  79. Vette! - Dos
  80. Warioware Inc. - Gameboy Advance
  81. The Sims – PC
  82. Castlevania – NES
  83. L.A. Noire – PC
  84. Night Trap – Sega CD
  85. Mass Effect 2 – PC
  86. Clive Barker's Undying – PC
  87. Batman Arkham Asylum – PC
  88. Doom 3 – PC
  89. Redneck Rampage – DOS
  90. Left 4 Dead – PC
  91. NBA Live 2K9 – PC
  92. You Don't Know Jack – PC
  93. Alone in the Dark – DOS
  94. Mortal Kombat 2 - SNES
  95. 4D Tennis – DOS
  96. The Oregon Trail – DOS
  97. Nascar Racing – DOS
  98. Microsoft Flight Simulator 98 – PC
  99. Star Wars – Dark Forces – DOS
  100. Defender of the Crown – Commodore Amiga