The Acid Drops – new single out 25th October

In September I spent a few days at Axe & Trap Studios near Wells, mixing 5 tracks with the wonderful Ben Turner. I know that most electronic musicians (myself included) tend to mix their tracks themselves in their own studio, and I’ve done this up until now too. But with this batch of tracks I wanted to try mixing them in a commercial studio with someone who really understands the mixing process much better than I do, and I’m happy to say that they turned out sounding pretty awesome!

It’s always a bit of a gamble when you start to work with someone new – especially when you’re working on something as personal and subjective as music. There’s even more at stake when it’s your own tracks that you’ve been working on for months! So I initially just booked one day at the studio to work on 2 tracks and test the waters on some critical areas – would I enjoy working with Ben? Would he be sympathetic to my musical style? Would he do a good job on the mix? Well I can confirm that Ben passed all of these tests easily – he’s a great guy to work with and he really understood what I was trying to achieve with the tracks! So much that I booked another 1.5 days to work on 3 more tracks together! I’ve spent the last couple of weeks listening to them on a wide variety of stereo speakers and headphones and I think the tracks are now sounding awesome!

The track listing for the EP is:

  • The Acid Drops (5:39)
  • Positive (4:44)
  • Bank (5:37)

You can listen to the tracks on Spotify:

Or you can listen to them on Apple Music:

Or Amazon Music:

Or most other music services that are out there.

So please give the tracks a listen when they are out on the 25th and leave a comment to let me know what you think in the comments below.

My first live gig and how it all went wrong

Ok so that’s a bit of a click-bait title and not all of the gig went wrong, but quite a lot of it did – let me explain.

I did my very first live gig on Friday at a local “open synth” night (which you should check out if you like synths). It didn’t go very well unfortunately – I had no midi signal coming from my laptop (typically all works fine now I’m back at the studio) so I had to improvise all my synth/drum parts over a very sparse audio backing track. Not great, but I was actually quite pleased by how I coped with this very unexpected twist, and even started to enjoy myself during my final song which had gone completely off piste (as the only audio for this track was a vocal sample)!

But like every mistake in life this “less than optimal” performance taught me quite a few important lessons and I wanted to share them with you:

1 – The old rule of “never change anything on the night of a performance” is really important, but always be prepared to deal with changes that you haven’t rehearsed for. There are always going to be things that are different when you play live such as stage sound, where you can set your gear up, lights in your face (and no lights behind you so you can see your gear), gear packing up on you, no soundcheck etc. which brings me to “what I learned from my disastrous gig experience part 2″…

2 – Get a proper soundcheck number! Because this was an open synth night I had a very rushed setup (20 minutes) with no soundcheck whatsoever. I managed to do a quick line-check for my MS-101 and TB-03 cos they have built-in sequencers or keyboards, and also did the same for my TR8 drum machine. But I couldn’t line check every synth before starting the set. If I had, maybe I would have realised that I had no midi signal and could have fixed the problem. So the first thing I did when I got back to the studio was set up a 1-bar Cubase project that plays a note on every synth I own. So for the next live gig I can loop this bar and do a proper line-check for each gadget before I start to play.

3 – Be methodical when you set up your gear. I’ve been a drummer now for 30+ years and I set my drum kit up exactly the same way every time – bass drum first then snare, hats, toms and finally cymbals. I need to have a similar methodology for setting up my electronic gear which I’ve decided should be: position equipment, plug in power, connect audio, run soundcheck track and do line checks.

4 – I think the biggest mistake I made at this gig was taking too much gear. It was a 15 minute set with 20 minute setup and a rapid tear-down at the end. I had a way too big setup with me which I did set up in 20 minutes but it was a very manic 20 minutes with no room for problems (and there were plenty of problems). I was toying with the idea of just taking my 2 synths with internal sequencers and my modular rig, which would all run from the midi clock of my drum machine, but that would mean creating an entirely new set of songs and I didn’t have enough time to prepare this. So I made the decision to go with the songs I had ready and that meant taking the gear those songs needed.

5 – Finally, be prepared for if/when it all goes completely wrong! Luckily I’ve been playing live gigs (as a drummer) for a long time now, and plenty of things have gone wrong along the way. You learn to adapt and change what/how you’re playing to cope with this, but more importantly you just keep playing and remember that the audience might not have heard this stuff before so to them it just sounds like you’re doing what you rehearsed. So that’s exactly what I did. To the audience who hadn’t heard any of my tracks before they would have sounded very sparse and empty, but they were still tracks and I still performed which is the most important bit.

But anyway – I’m really pleased that I did the gig, and the audience was very friendly and really seemed to appreciate the tracks I played. The organisers were lovely and very patient when I was scrambling around unplugging and plugging in wires etc. I even managed to get a devent bit of video from it too! Here’s an excerpt from the final track I played. It should have been a remix of a song called “The Blue Pill” by the truly awesome Jessi Frey but at the gig it turned out to be an acid/techno jam which was actually quite fun!

Releasing My First Single – Bank

So… I’m about to release my first single via the wonderful Distrokid service, and it is due for release on Friday 7th June. The track is called Bank and there are definite throwbacks to Leftfield and The Chemical Brothers in there.

It’s been a pretty painless process – the most difficult bit was getting a master of the track that I was happy with, but with a bit of tweaking here and there I’ve got that sorted.

The next most painful thing was coming up with a packshot for the single, but my daughter sorted that one for me with this lovely painting that looks like some weird fleshy steak thing!

It will be available on all popular streaming and downloading services, but seeing as though pretty much everyone just uses Spotify anyway, the lovely Distrokid service also generates this cool pre-save page that you can click on (yes you!) and pre-save the track so it appears in your Spotify library when it’s released:

So – click the link, pre-save the song and stream it from the rooftops!!!

Laters x

Studio is looking a bit better now…

So I finally moved into a permanent studio space and also bought a Jaspers keyboard rack which is truly awesome! Plus I’ve added a few more gadgets (yes I may have GAS) as you can see in the photo below.

Scrumptious studio setup

Obviously there’s an acoustic guitar in there and surprisingly yes I can play it. I have fat fingers though so it doesn’t sound great… but I do and can play. You won’t hear acoustic guitar on any of these tracks though – that’s just a step too far in the wrong musical direction!

I’ve also upgraded Cubase to version 10 (Artist, not Pro) which was a “fun” experience that took a few days to sort out…

I’m now working on putting together a live set which will probably consist of around 8 songs and hopefully be around 30 minutes long. Looking forward to starting to play some of this stuff “live” very soon!!!

Laters 🙂

Hello Cleveland!

I haven’t blogged for ages! The last time I rambled into a laptop as about 3 years ago and it was about a totally different subject to music.

Times have changed and last year I moved to a bigger place and was able to dig out all my studio equipment that has been in storage for the past 5 years. And although I’m still working on getting my studio room sorted, I improvise a studio setup either on the kitchen table or on the floor in our spare room in-between decorating it.

My current studio setup looks a bit like this:

Jamming at the kitchen table, covered in jam…

OR alternatively it looks like this:

Nice walls dude…

And also sometimes like this:

mmm modular
mmm modular…

My current setup consists of:

  • Novation Bass Station II rack synth
  • Novation A Station rack synth
  • E-mu Orbit sound rack synth
  • Korg N1R rack synth
  • Zoom RFX-1000 digital reverb and mult-effects
  • Lexicon MX200 Stereo Reverb/Effects Processor
  • Roland TR-8 drum machine
  • Spirit Folio SX20 mixing desk
  • Focusrite Scarlett 8i6 Audio interface
  • Eurorack modular synth (more about that in another post I reckon)
  • Yamaha HS50M monitors
  • Carillon Control25 midi keyboard
  • Cubase Artist 8.5

Oh and I’ve also pre-ordered the Behringer MS-101 which I’m very excited about!

And although I do seem to be spending most of my spare time at the minute working out how to connect all this stuff together (I spent 3.5 hours the other week soldering together some custom-length midi cables for example) I am also working on finishing off a bunch of songs that will form my first album later on this year.

So – exciting times ahead and watch this space for more confused rambling. Think Jack Kerouac but without the psychedelics or literary talent. Sorry about that…

Maff x