Saving the planet

Am I saving the planet by not making any new tracks at the moment? I’ve got lots of things to inspire me and lots of ideas going round in my head, but can’t seem to find the time to put them down on the computer as rough ideas. As for saving the planet, I guess that I’m lightening the load on my carbon footprint by not switching on the laptop and the midi keyboard, but if I’m not making any tunes, the conceited view would be to say that someone somewhere is out burning fossil fuel instead of being at home listening to my music.

I’ve been listening to an old tape I made in 1988 called “PMWW” which stands for “Power, Movement, Wisdom, Words”. It sounds like a strange title, from a time when I would write endless pages of lyrics and try and fit some music around them, and hope they all gelled together into songs. I probably made about 5 or 6 of these tapes, all with about 12 tracks on each, so that’s a fair amount of music. The thing with PMWW and probably all the others, is that although the songs and the singing aren’t particular good and the timing of the playing isn’t perfect, there are lots of that sound interesting and original. It sounds like I’ve taken the time to play around with the sounds and the drum programming, made some interesting intros and solos. Fair enough, my playing technique wasn’t very good, but there are some decent basslines and chords in there. In those days, I had a Jen SX1000 monosynth, a Casio MT31 keyboard, Kay Memory Rhythm drum machine, and a Yamaha VSS 100 sampling keyboard. Listening to PMWW it reminds me that I used to connect the Jen’s output to the line-in on the Yamaha. Then I’d play a note on the Jen and start up the amazing 2-second sampler on the VSS, and build up a few other sounds using the latter’s oversample facility. Then I’d start mangling them with the built-in editor. Amazingly, I’d end up with samples that sounded like the Yamaha DX7 and PPG Wave synths and none of my tracks had the same sounds. They were all original sounds, too.

The point I’m making is that these days, I sit down in front of the computer with Acid Pro open on a blank page, find some loops that sound good together or load up a soft synth and use the midi grid to paint in some notes, and take it from there. So the only thing that a track comes from is usually something that started out being made by someone else. Alright – I usually end up cutting up the loops, or changing a few of the soft synth presets, but the tune more often than not is a some of its parts, until I go back to it a few weeks later and add a bit of my own personality to it.  I guess it all boils down to lack of time. I usually get on the computer about 9.30 pm one or two evenings a week and get constant interruptions, especially as Paul isn’t in school and on Prozac and demands constant attention.

Which brings me back to Power, Movement etc. What little time I got on the PC the other day, I started looking at some of my old VST plugins, and ran them through a little program called Cantabile, which lets you play the plugins using your computer keyboard.  I actually started playing some riffs and experimenting with the sounds, trying to make something original, I got the same buzz I had all those years ago, and I’ve actually been creative!

Finally, the O’Neill surfing clips I’ve mentioned before (and are on my video wall) have found their way on to Sumo TV’s website. Apparently, it’s a bit like Youtube, but the videos can be shown on their satellite tv station.

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2 thoughts on “Saving the planet

  1. It’s definately a good idea to go back to plugins you know well and used to play with. Trying all the new vst stuff that comes out can really rob you of your creativity. Kind of like having gigabytes of drum samples and no creative juices to use any of the 100.000 kicks and snare you can choose from..
    Also, hardware (even if it’s just a keyboard or MIDI controller) can really get you going. Dragging loops on the screen and painting notes in a piano roll just isn’t the same and can get pretty stale…

  2. I’ve actually sat down in front of Acid Pro recently and been totally lost for ideas, even with loads of new samples and loops. I’ve started to bang out a few riffs and stuff on Cantabile, using Acid Pro as a metronome just to have beat going. There are just too many new plugins nowadays, especially free ones, that I keep going back to the old ones….

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