For about twenty years, I have been playing with myself in the spare bedroom.
That’s the inevitable, masturbatory-reference-strewn intro over, and one few bedroom producers can escape from. But that’s what I have always been, and will continue to be probably for the rest of my life – a knob-twiddling, noise-making producer of music made, on the whole, purely for my own satisfaction.
For the last ten years, I’ve wanted to produce an album. Anyone who has listened to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon will doubtless have wanted to do the same thing themselves, but I’ve technically had the tools to do so ever since my dad bought an Atari ST and a copy of Cubase in the early 90s.
For years I’ve fiddled. I’ve even ‘released’ some stuff, in the loosest possible term, which can be found on my old Soundcloud page (click here). Inevitably, though, my journey through sound has resulted in half finished ideas, completed tracks I’ve not dared put out into the ether and hours of frustrating, key-bashing unproductiveness. Anyone who has dabbled with making their own music, whether it be electronic, rock, pop or simply a guitar and a microphone, will know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s a long, lonely process and one which usually results in 95% unproductiveness and 5% of genuine inspiration. The greats turn that 5% into beautiful works of art we buy and listen to for years to come. People like me make it work for ourselves.
It is with that in mind that I present my first album, Universal Rock. Under the pseudonym, Default Rock Star, which originated during nothing more elaborate than a dog walk, it is something I’m finally happy with. It’ll likely be the only full album I ever release, as I will now concentrate on single tracks and possibly the odd EP.
As a fellow producer friend (the rather excellent Persona1600) recently remarked about his own work, these 10 tracks are the closest things I have to children. Perhaps you’ll enjoy them. Maybe you won’t. Here they are…
Kit list: Apple Mac G5, Garageband, Reason 4, Logic Pro, Korg Triton
Eagle-eyed readers of the previous part of this series will have spotted a somewhat seismic gap in the noted period. Eleven years to be exact, for those too lazy to check.
If truth be told, I continued to make music between 1996 and 2000. This coincided with me reaching my late teens and, as confused as anyone is at that stage in their lives, I gave in to many a distraction. Going out, drink, girls… Work, even. Once you’re unleashed from the shackles of being a kid and suddenly in possession of the keys to your own car, you’re inclined to make the most of it. And more often than not, that usually involves leaving the house.
Consequently, my music suffered and eventually died a complete (albeit unmourned) death in 2001 when I met Lindsey Allen. Lindsey was the beautiful, blonde-haired girl who would become my soulmate and, in ten years time, accept my nervous, sweaty request of marriage on a sweltering day in Kefalonia. Back then, however, we were just happy to bask in all the glories of newfound romance. All of a sudden, making music was of little interest.
Skip forward to 2007. We own a house and have stable jobs. We’ve even shopped at a garden centre. Basically, we’ve grown up a bit.
Before the house purchase, we lived in a couple of tiny places. They were far too small for any kind of studio to exist, however I did, on occasion, dust off the Triton and remind myself of what I was missing. It was only now, with our own bricks and mortar, that I could seriously consider getting back into it. For days, I eyed up the then empty spare bedroom. It was perfect.
So, with little trepidation I began researching the required gear. I didn’t want to go back to the PC, having torn out my hair multiple times in the past building – and consequently fixing – them. No, I decided to turn to Apple.
Initially, a G4 sounded like a safe bet; cheap yet still capable of running some form of midi sequencer. It harked back to the days of the Atari (something I also briefly considered investing in).
Then, I noticed that a G5 could be had for a small premium. And with that, I bought a dual 1.8ghz variant through eBay, from a guy who worked at the Planet Rock radio station (the machine clearly had relevant roots).
My first experience of the G5 was Garageband, which came handily ready-installed. Bearing in mind I’d not properly worked with
any kind of DAW or sequencer for several years, I was entering almost unchartered territory. However, what I discovered was jaw-dropping.
Instantly, Garageband let me back into my midi-driven roots. But along with that was the sheer power of the thing. Bearing in mind this was essentially a free piece of software which came with any new Apple Mac, it was actually a very respectable standalone DAW with plenty of useable sounds. I couldn’t quite believe just how far things had come on. Back in the 90s, you had to be a real geek to have any idea of how electronic music was sequenced, let alone be so easily exposed to the tools used for doing so.
This got me a little excited. If this is what mass-market fodder like Garageband is like…
The next step was Reason 4 and having dabbled with earlier variants and it’s often forgotten ancestor Rebirth some time ago, I was instantly familiar with its self-contained loveliness and addictive tab switching to reveal dangly virtual cables. It was obviously a huge step up from Garageband but it also fully reignited my passion for making music. The sounds you could create were a world away from anything I’d used in the past.
There was only one stop left: Logic. It had been a long time. Would we still get on? Would we recognise each other? What if it had gone a bit weird, met new friends and consequently become a pretentious sod?
It hadn’t. Logic Pro sealed the fate of our spare bedroom. I was back.
I’m not going to dwell too much on why, or go into any detailed discussion on the reason I love Logic (if you’ve kept reading this far, you’re doing well, I wouldn’t want to lose you now), but I’d never have thought after my brief and underwhelming dabblings with it on the PC in the late 90s, that it would become such a staple in later life.
I instantly got to work. Any new piece of software I can lay my hands on, whether it be a DAW, soft synth or effects plug-in, seems to inspire me instantly and Logic was no different. Within a couple of days I’d written a full-length track, the first for about ten years. Listening back, it resembles much of what I’ve described in the last few paragraphs; someone getting reaqauinted with music making. Someone experimenting with a new set of toys. It’s therefore a bit paint-by-numbers and by no means a masterpiece but I do at least have it to hand, which is more than can be said for my earlier works.
So, here it is, the aptly named Returned. I can only apologise for the dreadfully contrived intro:
p.s. My blogging buddy Chris has been charting his own history of bedroom production. It’s quite different to mine and I really recommend a read. His third and final part can be found here.