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Beatjazz blog


Sweat, tears and belt packs

This week was the "we support Tacheles vol. 2" demonstration party at Tacheles Kunsthaus in Berlin.  The occasion being to raise money and awareness to keep this landmark art house from falling prey to big money interests.  For my part, I performed live (video coming later in the week).  I used this opportunity to rinse a few new system adaptations.

In the last few weeks, I have become acutely aware of two aspects of concept that were missing; voice and monitoring (the ability to hear one’s self accurately).  I haven’t had a vocal mic in months after my last headset mic died somewhere between Paris and Barcelona last summer, so I just regressed to being purely instrumental.  Not a big deal considering the amount of work necessary to get the controller stable, but it was missed.  So last week I purchased an akg wms40 system with a cardioid dynamic headset mic.  When I played the North Sea jazz fest last year, the stage tech introduced me to this mic and I loved it instantly, so when I saw it on the shelf at Conrad electronics store, I grabbed it.  the first thing that made me sigh in relief is that it outputs balanced line output so I don't have to bring any phantom power to use it.  Just plug it straight into my beat up-ass soundcard and love is in the air!!

With monitoring, I already had the Rolls WPM61 system I bought specifically for when I used to play clubs in NYC a few years ago.  It’s tiny and battery powered. It sounds a bit shit but it’s much better than monitoring thru the house sound system when inspiration draws you to the dance floor to do your set.

so now, with two belt packs and an electrical junction box containing the breath control unit, all needing to be on my person, I had to think of a way to wear all of these joints.  You may be thinking, "just wear them on your belt."  Um no.  First, belt packs are horrendously ugly.  I hate them.  3 of them are too much to ponder.  The only person that can make that many belt packs look good is Batman.  That is one of the primary reasons for the Helmet I am designing; to keep all that crap out of site.  Couple that with my need to keep the breath pressure tube to a manageable length, I decided on something a bit more sci-fi.; a belt pack shoulder harness.
I had the unintended foresight to purchase about 20m of the belt material I used for the straps on my controllers.  Is I got a few more buckles and rigged up a harness that suspends the belt packs and the breath unit between my shoulder blades.  The breath tube is attached to the mic headset.  Everything is zip tied together.  Much more comfortable than having the breath unit dangling around my neck and I really dig the aesthetic and the "feel".  It feels even more sci-fi than before!  It feels like a breathing apparatus for swinmming thrua sea of beats. This project gets more fun every day.

So with the new bits I decided to attack some old issues.  I reincorporated the vocoder systems and got the monitoring dialed in, then went after anything that was either unstable or screwing with my timing.  First was killing off all sample based vsti's (software synths) and replacing them with pure digital synths.  Man!  What a difference! I now use two drum synths for all drums and no drum samples and it seems to have cleared up this "bunching" thing that would happen when I’d play fast drum passages.  Same thing with the sampled basses and keys...all gone and replaced with synths.  That has shaved 30% off my CPU usage and 750mb of ram I can now use for other cool stuff. It’s like getting a new laptop!

After that I started tweaking.  EQ's, compression and, finally, my dubstep wobble bass.  Assigning the left hand z-axis to bass filter cutoff makes a wicked dubstep bass...that is, if you practice...a lot.bouncing your hand up and down, in time, while you play, is doable, but is a definite quantifiable exertion of energy (more on that in a sec).  But since the z-axis defaults to the middle of the range, I can play the bass normally for long passages, then just start "wobbling" my left hand, and it becomes some nasty otherness.

So, with all of this sorted, how'd it all turn out for the show?  Hmm, usual, the sound check was inspirational, and even my side-of-the-stage warm up, courtesy of my in ear monitoring system, was flawless, but as soon as I hit the stage, PD decides that it doesn't want to talk to TouchOSC so everything starts glitching.  I managed to muster a little rhythm that played while I reconnected the two, restarted PD and regrouped.  After this, it was ALL GOOD!  The in-ear monitoring really helped me make sure everything was balanced and the mic captured what it was supposed to without any nasty feedback problems.  The new drums were tight and the bass was booming.  Everything was almost perfect except for THE SWEAT!!

WTF!?! Ever since started performing with this system, I don't know if it’s just THAT much more work or what, but I sweat like crazy!  I mean, i used to sweat a lot before but nothing like this. This is something beyond.  Like i'm turning into water-man!  I literally can’t see anything after about 7-8 minutes.  After 12-13 minutes my clothes are soaked and after that I start to worry that it’s draining into my controllers.  This week I will be investing in swim goggles and wrist sweatbands. #nojoke

So as for the next couple of weeks, I will be working to finish a few things like the MAKE mag article and the TRON campaign EP,DVD,and book, as well as possibly going Rotterdam to busk a bit around the Northsea Jazz Fest.  Busking is still the best way I know, to work the bugs out of this system, play,travel, and make a bit pocket change while getting my "10,000 hours" in. I didn't submit to the fest for this year because I knew I’d be working on getting the system functional, but next year I’m all over it.  Until then, I figure I may go there and Amsterdam for a few days, busk the North Sea fest.   I am open to dropping some funk at some clubs in Rotterdam and Amsterdam as well, so if you would like to talk about such a possibility, feel free to contact Susanne at

Aight, back to the grind.  Holla.

Lovin' that new "site" smell!


Oooh, do ya smell that?  That’s the virtual version of new car smell.  Just sitting behind the wheel, pushing the buttons and adjusting the mirrors for the first time.  That’s how I feel right now.  Welcome to my new website! go ahead.  Look around.  Chill out.  Can I get you a coffee?!

This new site has all the tools for the concept going forward.  As well as the updated music links (still Bandcamp because they are the bomb), there are pages for events, photos videos, THIS blog, which is now my main blog (although will remain online) the newsletter and FORUMS!!  Yaaaaay!!!  All cohesive and wonderfully easy to maneuver around and easy for me to update regularly.

So where did I get such a groovy site from?  this cat, Jason Martin, from Belzo Media contacted me last week and offered to build it and conceptualize it and everything, but that's not the dopest part.  As soon as I screamed "YES!!" back to him thru our email correspondence, he was off to the races!  He sorted out all the particulars and had a basic page up in a few hours and this beautiful site up in a few days.  He grasped the idea of where this concept can go and brought in features and designs to present it properly.  Jason is the MAN!!  He designed a site that is aesthetically pleasing while adding functionality that ensures this won’t just be showcase page, but, I hope, will be a hive of activity in the coming weeks and months.

I finally am voice capable once more.  I went and got a mic a couple of days ago.  It will be the first time I have used voice since building the new Beatjazz controller system.  I had used vocoding in the old days (read 8-9 months ago),but I have been fixated with getting the controller systems stable so I put the vocal processing on the backburner, but now I feel like I can incorporate it properly now.  Which means multiple vocoding setups, and chords (roger troutman tribute, here we come!!)

This aspect will lead smoothly into the nextbig phase of learning and implementation for me; dynamic abstractions and PD audio processing.  Up til this point, I had only used midi and datastream processing.  Now I will start to route my audio inputs thru pure data before sending them to the looper and out to the system.  This looks to be quite a bit more involved than the midi data stuff I’ve been using.  You can easily end up over in the DSP brainiac area that usually makes my head hurt.  So don't expect any grand audio centric constructs for at least a couple of months.  For the time being, it’s all about the vocoder and the looper and the stuff I learn from those two things will inform everything after that.

so that gives me 3 days to get the vocoder jumping, have studio maestro Vernon D. Hill help me to get my drums popping (this cat is heavy, Google it) and refine my, now, stable z-axis wobble bass, before dropping on cats at the Tacheles Demonstration Party Saturday night at Tacheles in Berlin.  I want to come with my A+ game not just because I want to set it off, but because we cannot let this place close.  It is too important to not gentrify Berlin to death.  I don't want to move again.  Everywhere else I have lived, is cool, then it becomes all about money then arts are seen as "a hobby" which is when you know it’s over.  In this place we are a valid segment of the population and the economy and we will not let this symbol of Berlin’s artistic heritage be converted into a high-priced Gym!  So come out and get twisted with us on Saturday night!!

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