On my way back from Shannon’s Irish Pub Friday night, I had spotted a Starbucks near the hotel. I took a mental note with the intention of going there for breakfast the next morning. However, on Saturday I discovered to my chagrin that it was closed. Continue reading “BreakOut West, Winnipeg and the WCMAs (Part 2)”
In early October I participated in BreakOut West and attended the Western Canadian Music Awards where my Album Sonidos de Cuba was nominated for best electronic album of 2014. This was my first time to Winnipeg and my first time playing outside of Vancouver so naturally I was quite excited. The festival was structured with conferences, seminars, and mentoring sessions during the day with concerts in the evening and the awards ceremony on Sunday. I had booked myself into two rounds of mentoring sessions with five industry professionals each along with a music supervisor pitching session and a meeting with representatives from FACTOR.
This would also be my first time making use of my new custom flight case from Dinosaur Cases. I thought it would be a good idea to put most of my clothes in the case to lighten my carry on baggage. When I got to the check-in desk and weighed my case I was told I would have to pay a $75 overweight bag fee. I was about to pay the fee when a woman waiting nearby exclaimed “Are you crazy? Wear 3 sweaters! Stuff those cute socks in your bag! It’s 75 bucks!!” I was pretty skeptical that I’d be able to reduce the weight enough to avoid the fee, but I had time so I figured I’d give it a shot. Sure enough, by wearing my jacket, blazer, and hoodie, then stuffing my carry on luggage beyond capacity I made it (narrowly) under the limit. It just meant I was uncomfortably warm and rather silly looking in the security lineup and that my bag was bursting at the seams with socks and underwear.
Upon arrival my timing was quite tight. The rental car agent asked me if I cared if my vehicle was yellow but I just wanted to get it as quickly as possible. “Yellow” turned out to be what I would call metallic spinach-carrot baby poo. I had to go straight from the airport to my first round of mentoring sessions and managed to make it just a little late. Unfortunately I removed my prepared questions when I was taking out all the stuff I had to cram in my bag to get it under the weight limit. I had been studying my questions on the plane so it was fine, but I was definitely more flustered than I would have liked.
The mentoring sessions wrapped up around 4:30pm and I was famished. The only thing I’d had to eat since the bowl of cereal before my 9am flight were a few handfuls of yoghurt raisins. I had a beer and a Reuben at Bailey’s, the pub next to my hotel and it was the best Reuben sandwich I’ve ever had (although I can’t remember the last time I had a Reuben). I got the impression that Bailey’s absorbed its fair share of cigarette smoke back in the days when health regulations allowed such things. Near the entrance was an alcove filled with slot machines. Once fed, I was ready to check into my room at the Fairmont and pick up my festival passes and swag bag. Included was a microphone shaped sponge body scrub thingy and a heart shaped Yoda pin. I vaguely remember requesting a room with a view so I was perched up on the 21st floor with a great vista of the parks lining the Red River. I could also see a sad tattered Canadian flag flying from the building across the street.
That evening I had my first Showcase performance at Ozzy’s. It’s a dark, fairly large space below a hotel with another club upstairs called the Zoo. It was pretty dead when I arrived. It seemed like there was just a dedicated crew of regulars working the slot machines, something you don’t see much of in Vancouver, unless you frequent the casinos. I received load-in instructions, and later beer recommendations from someone who could have either been staff or a dedicated regular. My new case made my setup time much faster. I just opened it up and put it down on a keyboard stand, plugged in my power and a few other connections and I was ready to go. However, for some reason I wasn’t getting any audio out of the MicroBrute! Had it been damaged during the trip? The envelope lights were turning on when I hit the keys, but it wasn’t making any sound out of the main outs or the headphone outs. Just as I was starting to think about how I would do my show without it, I noticed that the VCA switch was stuck between Gate and ENV so the VCA wasn’t being triggered when I hit the keys or when I sent MIDI from the Octatrack. I flicked it back to ENV and it went back to working as usual and I could start breathing again.
Ozzy’s has a medium sized stage made to accommodate bands small bands. Underneath the stage is a row of speakers. Once I dropped my first beat I jumped a little because the stage was pulsating and vibrating with my kicks and bass. I must say it felt pretty awesome! I think I probably played my strongest set ever that night. I felt my transitions were smooth and my trumpet playing was strong. The audience had filled in more than I realized during my set, so I was pleasantly surprised when I finished to a warm and hearty applause.
I managed to score a Red Stripe after a long hunt by the bartender but before learning that my two drink tickets were only supposed to be used on domestic beer or single shot cocktails. Astral Swans were up next and we chatted as I tore my gear down and he set his up. Astral Swans is a solo artist, and the first to be released on Dan Mangan’s Matic label. His dark sense of humour really comes through in his music and banter between songs, but I felt his performance suffered from a muddy mix from the sound tech. I spent a good portion of his set internally debating whether to approach the mixing board or not (I didn’t).
He was followed by Yes We Mystic, a local band that featured five members on violin, cello, mandolin, guitar, Korg MS20, Nord Electro and drums. I quite enjoyed their energetic music and great use of eclectic and unique instrumentation. After their set I brought my gear back to the hotel before heading out to Shannon’s Irish Pub to catch The Mariachi Ghost. They were amazing so I was really glad I caught them. Each member wore Mariachi uniforms and badass makeup with a Mexican Dia de los Muertos motif on half their face. They also had two dancers performing along with them during some of their songs. Unfortunately they suffered from some strange chirpy feedback issues but it didn’t stop me or the rest of the audience from enjoying their set.
For the first time in October, I had to take my gear on a plane. The logistics of transporting my equipment proved more difficult to solve than I anticipated. My eclectic collection of gear was pretty awkward to accommodate. Any bags or cases large enough to accommodate all of my equipment were too big to be guaranteed approval as carry on luggage. If I had to risk checking in my luggage, I wanted to make sure I had a case that would protect my synths and samplers. I looked at a number of cases from a range of companies but couldn’t find anything really appropriate. Finally I decided to give Dinosaur Cases a call. Doug listened to my requirements and gave me a rough quote, as well as a couple other recommendations to try. The more I looked around, the more I realized how reasonable his quote was. Many of the available products were just as expensive or even more. Having a custom case made specifically for my gear had some pretty attractive advantages too.
Earlier in the year I had been visualizing a stand for my Kraftzwerg so that it would sit closer to the MicroBrute and angled upwards for better ergonomics and access to the knobs. If I was paying to have a custom case made, maybe I could have my studio workflow improved too. I ran this by Doug, and while it would increase the cost it would certainly be possible, so I decided to go ahead with the case.
I’m quite happy with the results! The Dinos were able to make a tray with a hinged shelf that sits inside the lid of the case. When I get to the gig I just put the case on a stand or a table, open it up, plug in a few cables and I’m ready to go. If it sits too low I can use the case as a platform and save myself a lot of back ache from hunching over my equipment. In the studio it sits nicely on my desk and the raised back items are more accessible. Plus it looks really professional and dare I say sexy.
Over the summer I took on a fun mixing and mastering project for a synth-pop band called The Boyfriends headed by Marshall Watson. The album is full of catchy hooks, has a diverse roster of vocalists, and a generous helping of awesome. I’d highly recommend checking it out if you’re looking for some motivation on a dull dreary wet day (or on a bright sunny summer day too for that matter).
For this project I made heavy use of the Waves Neve Style Vintage EQs and compressors. I got some great results from the free FXPansion DCAM Compressor in parallel on my kick and snare. I was also delighted to discover the Plug & Mix bundle. They had a promotion selling the whole pack of forty-something plugins, including free copies of any future plugins they add to the bundle for $50 so I had to snatch it up. They sound great and feature stylish but simple, and effective interfaces.
You can check out the album here:
There’s now a music video for Dark Days done by Matthew Barrett which you can check out below…
On June 8th I performed Sonidos de Cuba at the Vancouver Mini Maker Faire. My wife was also showing off her Drift clothing and accessories (you can check out her stuff here). Previously I had used a laptop running Ableton Live with an Akai APC40, a Korg Electribe ES1mkII and my trumpet. This time I debuted my new live setup focused around the Elektron Octatrack. I’m also using an Arturia MicroBrute, MFB Kraftzwerg, Electo-Lobotomy Sonic Forest, Manastone Hank Drum and Trumpet. Changing my setup has caused the songs to evolve quite dramatically. I’m still playing back stems from each song on the album, but sequencing them on the Octatrack has changed the way they’re configured. The Octatrack is also sequencing the two synthesizers which imparts some great new life into the material. Continue reading “Maker Faire 2014 and a WCMA Nomination!”