Recording Analog Cheaply

The studio I use is all analog.  In the early 2000s, the analog vs. digital debate was hopt, and bringing it up at an audio conference would make people bright red.  By now, the argument is pretty much over.  Analog has found its place, and resurged in the worlds of synths and guitar pedals.  Yet for recording itself, digital is the only option for most people.  Young engineers who want to work with tape are quickly thwarted by the price of tape and difficulty maintaining tape machines and/or finding techs to work on them.  And even if you get past all that, many mastering engineers digitize everything anyway as the last step before pressing on vinyl, and people listen to music online anyway, which is inherently digital.  So why bother?

There are a number of reasons.  One is it’s fun.  It’s fun to use old equipment, and anything that makes the music more fun is good for creativity.  There are people out there that put cars together with all-original parts.  They could buy a 3-D printed part that would get their car running, but what’s the fun in that?  My favorite albums of all time were recorded in the analog era.  I’m not trying to re-create them, but they did set the bar in my mind as to how a recording should sound, and digital isn’t it.  At this point, I’ve worked with analog exclusively for so long, that it is invisible to me.  It is digital that distorts the music into some odd, strange form that I don’t like.  So when looking at how to record stuff, I’m looking at those records.  I also find screens to be a huge distraction, so working without any near is highly desirable.

But I record pretty lo-fi.  The Tascam 488 is an eight track cassette machine.  A standard stereo cassette tape used for normal purposes is divided into 4 tracks: stereo side one and stereo side two.  A four-track cassette recorder uses the same track division, though you can usually double the speed to improve the quality.  The eight track I use has half the bandwidth per channel of a four track, resulting in lower fidelity.  It does double the speed of the tape with no option for lower speeds, except as an effect.  But to many, recording to such a low quality would defeat the purpose of recording analog.

Not to me!  Fidelity isn’t everything,  Fidelity was pretty high by the 80s or 90s, but people started using too many microphones and over-processing with the advent of 24-track 2″ tape.  People argue that records sound better than CDs because they have a higher frequency response, so my cassette method goes against that.  I think what makes digital sound bad, though, is the bits.  It’s like the graphics on an 8 bit vs 16 bit vs 24 bit Nintendo.  How those bits are created, the clocks, those are all major factors in how digital sounds.  I believe having no bits at all is preferable.  And the lo-fi sound seems to suit my playing style.  Am I really worth of hi-fi anyway?

There is bad sounding analog too, but I like cassettes.  I grew up listening to them and feel at home working with them.  I like rewinding, I like the sound of rewinding.  And having been interested in audio from a young age, I learned about quality differences in cassettes just in time.  People younger than me might not know the difference between type I (regular), type II (chrome) and type IV (metal), but they are very relevant.  Metal is the highest quality but you can’t erase it, which is part of the recording process.  You also need a good tape deck that can handle metal tapes.  The deck should either have a switch for tape type, or auto-detect based on the holes on the top of the cassette.  Type II is middle quality, and you should use deck that can switch, but the Tascam 488 is no such tape deck.  That said, a lot of chrome tapes work fine.  In the tape era, Maxells were the best, and that’s what I use.  They go for $5 each these days on ebay, so they are cheap enough for people without enough money to blow on full reels.  They sound good and can take being rewound and recorded over for hundreds of takes.  The will ware out eventually, but I’ve only hit that limit once.  I’ve never liked TDK tapes.  The Tascam cannot handle the the higher-end Maxell XLII-S, which I use in my mix-down deck.  But the XLII is a great classic.  A lot of people using cassettes today opt for the cheapest ones they can find not realizing how drastically they change in quality.  But as someone who grew up in the golden age of cassettes, I think the sound quality on the high-end stuff got pretty good, and is still so cheap as to be negligible, at least compared between the cost of reels vs pennies for hard drive space.  I therefore consider cassettes and upgrade worth paying for and within mu budget.

As for the rest of my studio, I’ve maintained the all-analog rule for everything.  It is non negotiable, not something I will even consider changing.  It applies to synths, drum machines and guitar effects too.  Not all analog is good.  A lot of analog guitar pedals use bucket brigade chips, which do sound significantly better than digital, but I’m still not crazy about.  They sound to 80s to me.  I use them occasionally, but I’d much rather use a tape delay.  And someday, perhaps, replace my chorus pedal with a Leslie speaker.  When I was in the market for a drum machine in the 90s, I liked the Roland 909’s bass and snare sounds better than the 808’s, but went with the 808 because it was all analog.  The 909 has sampled cymbals.  I think there is a big payoff to this rule.  I don’t how to articulate it today, but I feel it.  I’m just trying to go home sonically, whatever that means, and this rule is getting me there.

To this day, I would recommend anyone wants to learn to record to pick up a used 4 track that’s been recently serviced, and a single microphone.  Anything you want to achieve, then, you have to think about and figure out how to do it.  There is less you can do in post production.  There are no menus to get lost in, nor effects that sound like reverb but aren’t actually reverb.  You less inclined to put on stupid effects you don’t need and get in the way of the music because such options aren’t there.  And most importantly, you can get away from the internet and put your mind elsewhere.  And dude.  It will it sound better.  I swear.

That all said, if someone wants to take me into the studio to re-record everything, I will happily do it, just so long as they pay for it.  And it stays analog.


Ok. Post.

Ok.  I’m hungry and looking for work online, but I never find anything because I don’t know what I’m looking for.  My boss has not responded to text since I’ve returned from a trip[ two weeks ago.  I’m normally running sound 3 or 4 nights per week, but there’s no schedule.  I just get texts that say, “wanna work tonite?”   But I haven’t gotten one since before that trip.  The calendar is full, so shows are going on.  I’ve texted him a few times, to no avail.  And I asked the manager, hey, I hope everything is cool.  This is very unusual.  I wasn’t paying attention either because I’ve been recording.  Whatever.  I need to find more work anyway.  I’ll sort this out.  But I’m fucking starving now because I have no money left.  I mean, $10 in the bank, $8 on a card.  I’m expecting $300 in checks to arrive tomorrow, but I’ll be lucky if I have access to that by Monday.  Fuck.  So I spend today listing records on Discogs.  I wrote other venues to see if they need anything.  But, man, jobs aren’t for me.  They aren’t reliable and I’m not interested.  I liked buying and selling synths and pedals but I’m out of stock.  There’s got to be another way.

The first thing on my mind right now is recording.  I’ve been recording songs for years, but have been kind of lost with them.  Then, during an acid trip over Christmas, it occurred to me I just have to go into those recordings and fix them up and, walla, I have an album, a really good one.  So I’ve been working on that since.  It is a slow process because I’m in practice on bass, but not anything else.  There are equipment problems too, such as my bass needs a new A string, but I can’t afford that.  Other critical instruments are either still with techs or I’ve sold them because I needed the cash, figuring I could re-buy them later.  So I’m plowing through recordings, fixing up vocals, re-mixing to a better sound tape machine, re-doing basslines, coming up with guitar parts I never bothered with before.  The results are being posted live, as they are done, to our bandcamp page.  Right now I’m working on Beach Drug Dealer, Birmingham Alabama, and Sodomy Festival.  On all three, I’m re-recording drums which has taken a few weeks practice, and should be done within a week.  With Beach Drug Dealer, I’m torn between two versions.  Both need the A string on my bass, and both use the Minimoog that a tech has had since 2017.  The version I slightly favor is too short, so I’m extending it with the extra verse I wrote later, but the minimoog will drop out after the first two.  I also don’t have the acoustic guitar that opens it.  And my snare is busted so I’m using a snare I don’t like.  Never the less, I persisted.

The goal is to get these songs finished as soon as possible so I have a demonstrable album.  I will get the tracks in order and play it for people to see how it goes over; I think it’ll be a big hit.  I will shop this version around and say, hey, this is what I’m working on, I need funding to finish it.  I also need help getting to England to tour in the spring, and to promote it and press it.  Then, ideally, an actual album will be finished by the fall.  A finished album means visions are realized, parts I don’t like replaced, bad tone and poorly played instruments are replaced.  And I have to just sit on the album for a while too, put it away and come back to it, to see if any lingering ideas are nagging at me.  Then what?  When the album is ready, what?  I have no idea.  That’s why I’m anxious to shop it around.  If someone wants me to re-record it in a studio, fine.  But they’ll have to pay for it.  And it’ll have to be analog.

Anyway, for some reason, I thought that since I’m desperate for money, I had to post this album now, today, and use it as leverage.  For some reason, when it occurred to me I hadn’t heard from my boss in two weeks, my first instinct was, “I’ve got to finish this record!”  And I spent a lot of time working on it.  No, no.  I’ll start playing for people once I finish this batch of songs.  Today I started looking at grants, but those could take months to come through.  I do think I can use this album as leverage to secure some funding, but I’m also just focussed on the record and terrible about thinking about money.  But that’s what I’m thinking about today.  Hmmmm…  I really just want to eat this weekend, and get some gear repaired.

This Weds @ Muchmore’s

Yo.  If you are sitting down and wondering what the hell you are going to do this week to relax and recuperate and take a break from all the hard work you are doing, then the place to be is Muchmore’s Bar, right in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  Yes, we play, and that is reason enough to swing by and see us.  But the list of other performers is insanely good.  Banjo legend Debe Dalton will be doing a full acoustic set for you drink to.  Followed by Phoebe Kreutz, of Pizza Underground fame, bring some of my favorite songs to life before your very ears.  And our very own guitarist, the hyper-talented Seth Benjamin, will be playing music so good you will internally combust and become ashes, right there in the room.  You will want to be sure to be at this one.  It’s gonna be bitchin’.  Come a little early for a set by some other people.  Bee there!!!!!


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Tonite at Bizarre Bushwick

Yo.  Message to peeps:  We play tonight at Bizarre Bushwick.  I see a lot of curated shows, and with most bills, you are lucky to see one or two other bands you like besides the one you came to see (us).  But I will say that for the shows we’ve put on lately, we’ve been joined by our favorites.  That’s especially true tonite, with Tom of David Cronenberg’s Wife (UK) kicking it off around 9, followed by Uncle Djuzeppe, us, and then the amazing Psycho Pat.  This is a show worth coming early for.  Dinner is available at the venue, so call your friends, or go on Tinder and invite someone new, and eat there.  You will want to arrive early to ensure seating and see the whole thing.  Come on over!


#brooklynbands #brooklynmusic #bushwick #ukbands

Anti-Kleptocracy Fest

Hola amigos and amigettes.  Consider this your formal notice that at our April 3rd show, we have added a very special guest:  all the way from Englandio, that famous nation that is, for now, part of the European Union, Mr. Tom of the band David Cronenberg’s Wife, will be joining us.  Mind you he is a champion roller skater, and that alone should earn your respect.  He is also in town to speak at the Anti-Kleptocracy festival at Columbia University on the day proceeding our concert.  But the real meat, fabricated from plants, of his visit will be his appearance at our show.  If you’ve never met a British person, now is your chance.  And mind you that he is an excellent performer, at least as good as Beethoven of Tchaikovsky, but probably much better, objectively speaking.  Anyway, this is in addition to the already announced performances by ska band Uncle Djuzeppe & the Mob and a fucking psycho who calls himself Psycho Pat.  This show will be off the hook, like a tuna trying to escape.  So pack up your bags and camp outside of Bizarre Bar in Bushwick now, because you won’t want to miss this.  Oh, also, we are playing too, Milf City that we be.  C u there.

Chairs mates,
Lord On-Time Machine

Mark yourself GOING:

Bushwick Bizarre gig on April 3

Hola friends and friendettes.  This is a quick note to inform you of our next gig, on April 3rd at Bizarre Bar Bushwick.  I guess there is now another Bizarre in Greenpoint, but we play the original, Bushwick one on Jefferson.  So far on the bill we have an awesome Russian ska band from New Jersey, Uncle Djuzeppe & the Mob, whose upright bass player will be slapping away.  We also have a Psycho Pat from the Rockaways, who plays an Nirvana’s Insecticide inspired shit.  These are some awesome dang bands, and we aren’t done yet.  More will be added to the bill soon.  Be sure to mark your calandar because you won’t want to miss thiss.  You’ll want to nbot miss it.  More soon.  Cheers!

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Wednesday, I said.

From the point of view of the moment I’m writing this, we have a show TOMORROW.  But if you are reading this tomorrow, then we have a show tonight, unless it is tonight, in which case, get your ass over to the Footlight in Queens (in Ridgewood).  But presuming the show has passed as most eyes in the history of time will read this message as it hangs indefinitely after this show, then you really blew it.  Sure, it is the future, from our perspective, and the at the present, from your perspective, we probably have another show coming up soon that you will surely want to catch, but the show I’m writing to tell you about now (our perspective) is going to be better than  that one.  You missed us your prime.

Anyway, here is the Faced Book e-vent (electronic vent) regarding TOMORROW night’s show.  It is on Wednesday.

Be there and eat ice cream.  Also bring ice cream.