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Another Web Project and the Awkward Machines

April 30th, 2008

I’ve been recording every night this week, and while I’m not getting a lot done, I’m doing a better job just by keeping myself in and dedicating my night to sound. Anyways, I’m taking a break tonight because I’m at the tail end of another thing I’ve been working on, which is a complete website redesign for my recording and publishing imprint, Prokiev Projects + Publishing.

Right now it’s a frame- and popup-based site that pulls in the different HTML files depending on what you click on. That means each project has its own HTML file, and all of the files have almost exactly the same code. It also means that any changes in the design have to be applied manually to each page. So I dug a little deeper into using PHP, and learned how to link a database and use variables to create pages dynamically. It’s almost ready. Everything is working properly, the design is cleaner and relies more on style sheets, and I reduced the number of files, (excluding images) from around to 30 to maybe six or seven pages.

the Awkwardness of Machines

Tonight I’m rescanning and cataloging everything under the Prokiev imprint, with the exception of a few really old or obscure projects. I need an archive of medium resolution scans that I can work from to get the site finished. This involves digging out my old laptop (which runs Windows XP) and scanner (which has no driver for Vista, which is what my new laptop runs) and hooking them up and transferring the scans with a flash drive. In the process, I can’t touch the old computer or move it in anyway, or it’ll shut down. The power input and battery are both fried. Hence the external keyboard, mouse and USB router.

I feel like I’m doing some super involved, high-tech work here, with all the screens and wires all over the place, but it’s just scanning.

It’s about time…

April 29th, 2008

I got myself one of these:
Big Muff
A decent distortion/fuzz pedal to replace the cheap one I bought in like 1995. Now that one is getting re-housed into a feedback pedal.

Lost at Home

April 26th, 2008

I need to motivate myself to work on this one:

set down in the middle
don’t walk away
hold on to something
to make you stay

steer clear of the exits
emergencies only
don’t take this place for granted
it’ll burn you out eventually

lost at home
how it all seems new
and oddly strange
what did they do to you?

i’m not gonna argue
restlessness aside
pack me up and put me away
I’m only what I’m trying to hide

Goodbye–I’m going for a ride

My Cheap Rackmounting Idea

April 25th, 2008

One of the most expensive parts of any project is the case, often the most expensive. I read somewhere about using metal studs to make enclosures for pedals, and that got me thinking. I went and got some supplies today and threw this together. Its a new housing for my headphone splitter (which will eventually house other things too since there’s plenty of room.)

Cheap Rackmount
I bought a blank rackspace panel from Guitar Center for $6.49. They’re meant to just cover up empty spaces in your rack, but that’s kind of silly. I got some machine screws and nuts, and drilled the two holes in the panel, and two holes in a 17″ section of aluminum stud and bolted them together. Studs are a couple bucks per 8′ section, so this is totally the cheap way to go for simple projects.
Cheap Rackmount
Then I drilled more holes to mount the jacks and the switch. This got frustrating with my cordless drill because those panels are 1/8″ steel. I need a drill press. I also should have drilled all the holes and then bolted the panel to the stud, because a bunch of burr got caught in the middle.
Cheap Rackmount
I drilled a little too high for the input jack. I had to snip a little piece so the jack wouldn’t short out. The whole enclosure acts as ground for the circuit.
Cheap Rackmount
Installed. Nice blank mystery box. Obviously this only works for projects that don’t take up much space, and that aren’t heavy, but “real” rackmount enclosures start around $60 last I checked.

Another Looper Project

April 25th, 2008

I can’t get shit off my mind tonight. I entered that place in my head where I just start navigating the same paths over and over again, getting nowhere. I decided to start soldering. I found the project here. It’s a looper that uses these little voice recorder toys. You take them apart and wire them up to a simple mixer circuit and 5v power supply. I’m building a case out of a piece of aluminum 2×4 stud.

Here’s the board I made tonight, making up the power supply and mixer circuits. A 9v battery powers the mixer and a 5v regulator, which powers the toys. There will be all kinds of offboard wiring going from this board to the toys and all the pots and switches. I built the mixer on a breadboard this morning, and it works. I have some other ideas I want to try with it. One of them involved housing my old DOD distortion pedal in a new case along with a feedback loop device I built, and I could add the mixer circuit to it to blend in the dry signal.

This is one of the toys still in the packaging. They’re fun. Get them at Target for 6.99, even if you don’t circuit-bend. You can warp the speed of whatever you record. Currently this one makes a high squealy cat noise I made in the car after buying these.

The Man and the Arts

April 24th, 2008

You can argue that things are getting worse for the arts in general. At best, one can argue that things are the same. But you’d have a really hard time convincing anyone (artists especially) that things are getting better.

I was driving to to work yesterday. I was about to cross the river on Central when I realized that I needed to go to St. Paul. So I turned and went down 2nd. On that street alone I drove past two brand-new modern buildings that house arts organizations: the Guthrie and MacPhail Center for Music. We also have a new Walker Arts Center facility. In these dark times, why are these places growing and getting better?

I think Minneapolis has a fear of anything that doesn’t come packaged in a shiny box. Large institutions are selling the idea of legitimacy so that we can believe we’re a part of something. Artists, on the other hand, need a community that’s more real and more organic. Artistic community cannot actually be created by an architect and a developer. I think the Walker is actually helping to dig Minneapolis’ artists their graves. It establishes a threshold of legitimacy that pretty much blacklists any upstart gallery from making a mark. It gives the public a cultural outlet they can trust so that they don’t have to be in the know. And now they even have underground parking so your nice car doesn’t get fucked with. Who cares that Joe Nobody can’t sell his art or get a job? This is capitalism. Survival of the richest.

I’m still trying to wrap my head around the music scene. I’ve gotten one response in my search for gigs, and that response was a ‘maybe.’ The one show I had lined up at all this summer was supposed to be at the Belfry. The only thing that really keeps me trying is the fact that I don’t have any real-world job prospects. I’m still creating in a void. No social life, no money, working for my dad, and trying to record interesting music by myself at home. And every day it becomes clearer and clearer that I’m the only one who gives a shit. Institutionalize that, Minneapolis!

No title yet

April 23rd, 2008

Here’s a new song. I wrote the music first and composed it by cutting up the file in Cubase, and then the lyrics came later. Writing songs on the acoustic always seems to put me in a sort of folk-rock trap, so I’m trying to start by writing the drums first. The song itself seems a little bitter:

Somewhere in the old fading light in the sky
we lose ourselves and settle in for the ride
and all our questions turn into dreams
I may be lost but it’s not lost on me

somewhere there’s an old burnt out light in yr eye
yr selfless shadows helpless watching you die
and I’m still waiting for my dreams to come true
I’m sleeping in what else can I do?

The world’s not made for anybody like me
I’ll hold my ground until they beat me free
so watch yr shadows cause they’re all you got left
what you destroy is what yr living in

Music and the performance

April 18th, 2008

In the past week I’ve hit three open mics and sold two CDs. They pretty much went well. I’ve been going to work on my own schedule, which means I’ve taken some days off to work on recording. I realized that I need to relax and not pressure myself, but at the same time work on music every day. I decided I’m going to wait until I have the next project done, and then move. I don’t want to relocate with unfinished business.

I’m having a major problem with this whole gigging out thing. I really don’t know how people do it and it’s a major source of confusion for me. Every time I contact a venue, I don’t get a response. I don’t really have many friends, much less friends who are musicians, much less friends who are musicians who get to pick who they play with. I can think of one time where I was invited to play a show with someone who I included in the past. On top of that, there are not that many places to play, not that Minneapolis is helping.

I keep reverting back to this idea of playing in the street, just because it’s the logical outgrowth of my frustration. Just as I did with the open mics schedule (and completely despite the fact that nobody ever finds out about shows this way and actually show up to them) I’ll post any busking dates on my web site.


April 11th, 2008

A song I’m working on:

I know where I am
nowhere again
or on my way back
to where I began

been feeling lately
my best days are behind me
caught in the machine
it’s all I can see
no beauty, no truth, no meaning
I’m a number in a hierarchy
a fool on the bottom rung
of a ladder no one can even see the top of

like dreams will fade
in the stupid light of a new morning
I too will fall away
from all that I saved
a fragment, a scrap or something
I set aside for the serotonin
the fantasies of giving up
are fighting for all the things that keep me going

Open Mics + More Recording

April 10th, 2008

I did not do the Cedar open mic last night.  I get there a couple minutes late, and I guess the line starts outside before the door opens and then the list fills up right away.  I would’ve had to wait 2 and a half hours, so I skipped it, and went to the Triple Rock to have a beer, and then went home and set up my keyboards.

I’ve been recording today.  I’m monitoring with an amplifier on overdubs (no headphones), which I never thought to do because of feedback, but you can just monitor the mix and not the performance.  It’s much less claustrophobic.

I am definitely playing tomorrow night at Galactic–I won’t skip out.  Besides it starts at 10, so it’ll be easy to show up on time.