28 Dec

All Tech No Brains – The Phone Bill

african_safari_pith_helmet

Welcome back! Today I have an unmitigated pile of steaming silliness for your consumption.

Wait.

Maybe that should be a steaming pile of unmitigated silliness.

There’s another of those pesky “flaming herring juggler” problems. (You’re free to do a site search on that one.) In any event, “Phone Bill” is the fourth entry of the five into this dastardly waste of our time and effort. To list some of the high points of its pedigree: It is somewhat politically incorrect. It holds the record for involving more household trash items in the recording phase. It may be the one that still elicits a few chuckles from me when I hear it. Or at least it ties with the giant octopus part of the fifth and final work. Hard to say, really.

Once again, the scene is 1992-ish. It all started with some changed plans, when Tom and I both found ourselves “at liberty” one Friday evening. So, to record! But what? As I was loading my gear into my somewhat beaten up 1985 Nissan King Cab, I started to look around the garage. Here was a set of toy bongo drums–who knows where (and when) they originated. And over here was a plastic document mailer tube. These are mostly cardboard now-a-days, but this one was almost like a chunk of PVC pipe, with two rubberized caps. Sure seemed like the evening’s recordings would involve some rhythmic elements.

I couldn’t have been further from the truth–but that was more in the vein of personal failings where the word “rhythm” is concerned…

Anyway, I also found a hardwired intercom that I had once purchased at a garage sale. It is so old that I can’t even find a picture of it anywhere on the web. But the units were beige, connected with 1/8″ phono connectors, and had these giant yellow TALK buttons. I tossed them into the truck with all the other stuff.

At Tom’s, the “drums” were brought in last and met with great glee. I guess sometimes enthusiasm may be worth more than careful planning–however this wasn’t one of those times!

We rolled tape on the two of us giving our new percussion instruments the “what for”. Tom was on the toy bongos playing barehanded. I had opted for the “shipping tube” with one end removed. Eschewing the use of a drumstick (not that we had one), I was using an ink pen. I’m pretty sure that we dropped a cheap RadShack microphone down into the tube for those big, ill-defined, boomy sounds. That and all the reverb on the tape.

Right here is where that planning thing would have come in to be useful. We both started playing random rhythms…and changed rhythms throughout the course of the tape. We probably intended to see what worked, and then go back and re-do it… But we didn’t. I can’t explain why.

And to top it all off, this was before I forced myself to develop my own sense of rhythm. To put it simply, we didn’t have great timing (the failings I mentioned earlier).

In spite of all these factors, once we listened back, it actually sounded tribal. So, speaking into the shipping tube drum, I sampled the phrase “Oom-Laba, Oom-Baba”. At least I think that’s the proper spelling, I don’t have the ancient text on hand at the moment… No matter, this sample was queued on the Quadraverb to be triggered at the press of a button. This sample was added in on final mixdown–I remember triggering it by hand. We also added in someone tapping the plastic tube with a fork or something…don’t re

What I don’t remember exactly is the complete order of events that followed. We either bounced out a tape of the “drums” and my synthesizer part. Or Tom (after a significant amount of writing time during which I ground and brewed some blue-berry infused coffee beans) recorded the voice over. I think it was the later, which I believe we ran through the intercom system. Gave it that great, phoned-in, scratchy quality.

That just left the synth part, which should have been played on the mix-down (less bounces means better “quality”). However, I know that I trigged the samples, so it had to be on tape.

So…here it is. Wish I could say it was life-changing, but I do hope it will give you a smile. If you scrub up to about the 1:00 minute mark, it won’t hurt my feelings. That’s where Tom will be heard to say, “I was hunting asparagus deep in the jungles of Kenya…”

asparagus

Oh, and one word of warning: The last line is proceeded by a curse word. Many may feel this particularly expletive to be relatively benign in today’s culture, however, I disagree. Actually, I believe that, at the very least, the use of curse words to be an indicator in one’s character that vocabulary and good manners are severely lacking. Now, this is certainly not the case with Tom, who was one of the most intelligent and erudite people I’ve ever met. I believe he included it here as a callback to phrases like “balderdash” and “pip, pip”. In other words, to further portray the pith helmet, monocle, and pork-chop-sideburns set.

Title: The Phone Bill
Album: All Tech No Brains
Artists: Tom Murray and Joseph Baxter
Target: Great White Hunters

Whee!!! Only one left. I think it is probably the best of all–no mean distinction, that. It is called “Little Pebble”. It makes me giggle like a silly schoolgirl whenever I listen to it. In addition to all this, it is probably the most complex musically and may even have the highest concept. Well, relatively, that is.

See you, Space Cowboy.

24 Dec

All Tech No Brains – My Buddy Eddie

atnb

There’s just no good way to classify some things:

  • Duckbilled Platypus
  • Plasma
  • and “My Buddy Eddie”

For the purposes of honesty, maybe I should add Richard Simmons to that list.

Maybe not.

Anyway, heretofore with these recordings I could always offer a general target at which the mockery aimed. This one…well…not so much. From the very first, “Hey, come on in, man…” to the last strains of the ill-advised kudzu solo, “My Buddy Eddie” escapes classification.

I guess the closest I can think of is this William Shatner album:

william_shatner_transformed_man

The phrasings from this particular piece seem to pop into my mind as much or more than the others for some reason: “Sit back, relax, yeah, be cool,” in particular. Perhaps it was just the way Tom rattled it off. Oddly, I don’t remember even paying attention to what he was saying at the time. Which is even more odd when you realize that there was no drug or alcohol use involved with any of these.

Seriously.

Let me deconstruct the layers a bit. It sounds as though we had at least two tapes queued up. The first one was Tom’s voice-over part. Obviously, we couldn’t get enough of my bass head’s tube distortion on vocals. There may have been a little reverb on it as well, or that may have been applied to the entire recording as it went to tape. I don’t know, I wasn’t really into consistent professional approaches to my mixdown procedures then.

casio_cz1000

I’m pretty sure that Tom’s little synth was this Casio CZ-1000. The pad I was playing was probably a preset. I ran it through the processor with some reverb, chorus, and a dash of digital delay. And for Heaven’s sake, could we even begin to record something without that STUPID panner?!?!? We mixed this into the second queued tape of some custom patches Tom whipped up (or hastily edited) that sounded a bit like sirens. I love to hear those operators burbling along there in the lower parts.

Analog synthesizers are just cool.

So, I started playing the pad and using the bend wheel rather than fingering. About a measure in, Tom started the tape with the siren sounds. And after killing everyone softly with my song, he started the vocal tape (with a massive hiss injection). And then for some reason, after the VO was done, he grabbed a mic, brought up the level, and started playing kudzu.

Completly atonally. Creative differences like this have broken up more that one band, let me just tell you!

Well, the defects (outside of the kudzu, that is) are pretty obvious. Like most complete tyros, we went on way too long with the first bit. It really shouldn’t have been interesting enough to warrant such attention. That said, all-in-all, I still think “My Buddy Eddie” is achieves it’s immediate goal of being funny to at least Tom and myself. Which was all we were asking for.

Title: My Buddy Eddie
Album: All Tech No Brains
Artists: Tom Murray and Joseph Baxter
Target: ???

Wasn’t that fun? Oh? Well, look at it this way, only two to go. And the next one, that we’ll just call “The Phone Bill”, isn’t particularly politically correct. But it is one of the most silly.  And that is saying something!

See ya then.