Today’s entry in the continuing saga of Live Electronics with Your Old Pal Aen focuses on my electronic setup with my rock-ish band The Ronald Raygun.
Until recently, I was using a Moog Sub Phatty for most of my synth duties in TRR. I also used a midi foot controller to play bass notes, all my Red Panda effects, and an old-ass delay.
This was all kinds of fun, but Korg was really calling my name with that Minilogue. As usual, I flipped some gear and grabbed one. With some help from a Tascam Portastudio, I was solving problems and writing new parts with it in no time.
One of the Raygun’s newest songs (currently called Bunny) was pretty vexing, because I was imagining a huge wash of sound during a chorus that I was unable to get right. In my mind, I imagined two hard-panned guitars, my Ultra VI doubling the chords an octave down, and then a massive synth bass grinding under it. The closest I got was to play the chords on a Schecter Ultra VI while stomping the bass notes into the Moog via my enormous midi floorboard. Even that I was pretty iffy on, I don’t think I ever really nailed the changes.
With this in mind, I set up the Tascam and my new Korg.
I had ordered a couple “endless tapes” here: https://www.duplication.ca/shop/Endless-Cassettes/
I fished them out of my recently moved studio disasterspace and eagerly plopped one in the Tascam. Not only did I forget the length of the tape loop, but I wouldn’t even know how that translated to the “extra fast” recording and playback speed on the tape deck. So I watched the tape - there was a little white spot on it very near the beginning. I watched and watched and watched for what seemed like a lifetime, but finally the white thing came back around. 252 on the tape counter, give or take. NOTED!
Next I set to transcribing my chords and finding my spots on the keyboard. I had no interest in standing at the keyboard holding a chord for 252 counters. Luckily there are a few drone tricks on the Minilogue.
The first, and most universal, uh, synth hack is a simple matter of wedging shit in the keys. I read about this in an interview with The Beta Band many years ago. I remember them saying they preferred some synth over another because it was easier to wedge cardboard between the keys. SMART PEOPLE!
Unfortunately, my chords were not available in “chord mode” on the mini. Not a problem, because I am a smart guy who watches a ton of youtube videos about his gear before it arrives, so I knew that one of the arpeggio modes might do the trick.
In any of the arpeggiator modes, you can hold down the ARP mode selector and your current selection will latch on. If you select “poly 1” or “poly 2” your note selection will repeat in unison in time with the tempo control.
“WELL A DRONE DOES NOT GO ‘DOOT DOOT DOOT’ AEN.” No, I suppose it doesn’t. That’s why I crank up the decay, sustain, and release controls on the amp envelope so the arpeggio turns into a droooooooooooooooone.
1,008 tape counters later I had three endless chords, and one sub bass drone, each on their own track on the tape loop. So when that section arrives in Bunny, I stop playing bass, and slam those faders up and down to get giant 5 note synth chords!
I also found a huge, slimy bass sound as well, and quickly found I could cover and even improve my Ultra Vi part on the synth. Making this my first “all electronic” contribution to a Raygun song.
I got so high on my own hubris, I went ahead and loaded up the next endless tape, because I had more sounds to cover.
First up was my Moog/Particle drone. I had been meaning to address this one way or another for a while. I have to keep a close eye on the drone when we play live, to avoid as much “bass muddling” as possible. I do a lot of tweaking of the resonance, to squeeze the right amount of bass out of the signal, and sometimes I even need to jump up an octave, depending on the room, amp configuration, etc.
Of course, when you put a drone to tape, you don’t have much control over the sound, other than level, pan, and very basic bass and treble EQ knobs.
My solution was very simple, but so far, it has been very effective. On track one of the tape, I put the deepest version of the drone, and did a small amount of tweaking on the particle while recording, resulting in a slightly animated “breathing” drone.
On track two I played the drone an octave up, and tweaked the particle A LOT. The idea here was to have a lot of high end audio information that was constantly moving and changing. When it comes time to perform, I simply mix the tracks to taste via the volume sliders.
So with this new setup I went down from a synth, effects pedals, and a giant midi controller to a synth, a tape deck, and a tiny mixer. And maybe a bit more fun?
You may notice that leaves two tracks open on a tape loop… well, I can’t tell you everything, but I can tell you I recorded some drum machine action with a prototype for an upcoming Dwarfcraft Device.
Check out the video to hear all this stuff in action, and keep on tweaking!