Matthew C Good : Musician, Software Engineer, Hobbyist.

Conrad Posts

Good Vibrations

My tremolo pedal is done.  This is my version of the Baja Trembulator, which i have christened “Good Vibrations.”  A little overspray on the text stencil, but that’s okay.  I’m not very good at this kind of thing, so I’ll take what I can get.

It. Sounds. Awesome.

Homemade “Vactrol” using a red led and a photoresistor in some heat-shrink tubing.  Very fun.  Have to build one of these for Chase now.

Listen to this: Maybe Not

Some of you may remember the Song-A-Week project I had going for a while.  Writing and demoing a new song (almost) every week was a great experiment and left me with like…  60? some odd songs to pick through in various states of completion – mostly really rough, but some a lot more fleshed out.  No more digging around for another song to fill out an album for me, that’s for sure.

Unfortunately, it also left me overwhelmed trying to polish some of these really rough scraps to perfection.  I did work here and there on the songs, but there were so many, and I had more good ideas than good plans.  I moved away from all the drummers I knew.  In short, the songs sat around for a while.

It’s axiomatic that not making music is less fun that making music, so I eventually decided not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good and to put a song “out there” again.

Here’s a version of the song “Maybe Not” from week 23.  You may remember the original demo – it’s not as bad as I thought it might be.  Before I left Nashville, I got Seth Rouch and Ian McDermott to play drums and bass respectively on it, which is why they sound great.  Take a listen:

Maybe Not

Creative Commons License
Maybe Not by Conrad is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.

(That means you can copy the song and do whatever you want to it for noncommercial use.)

Sure the mix was done in just a couple hours and there’s a few edits I still might like to make.  And yes, it’s probably quieter than a lot of your other music.  I just don’t feel like squashing the heck out of my songs anymore.  If it’s too quiet, turn it up.

It felt good to work on my own music again, but it reminded me that I really enjoy working on someone else’s music much more (as long as I believe in the music/person enough).  I think that will have to be next on my list…  Need to find some triangle musicians (and about twenty more hours a week of free time).

My First Piece of Behringer Gear.

I just got two Behringer BCF2000 Control Surfaces (because they were ridiculously cheap) and they are pretty nice so far. Check em out, ready to mix:

Behringer BCF2000s in the studio

Behringer BCF2000s in the studio

I scored these two as scratch and dent deals on for $161 each (including shipping, no tax).  I was worried that they wouldn’t play nicely with ProTools, but it turns out that they do a great job working with the software.  Expect a forthcoming full review, but for now, I’ll just say that I really, REALLY like faders.

Also, I was not able to find anywhere on the internet that could confirm if you could use multiple units at the same time with Pro Tools.  Well, I’m here to tell you that you can.  I probably could have hooked up a THIRD one of these if I wanted to.  You just set up each one in the Setup->Peripherals menu in Pro Tools (use the baby HUI emulation) and they work like a charm.  Shifting through the banks works as expected and everything.  Spiffy.  This should make my mixes better.

Art Inspiration

A while back @chasemacri said to me that he had the perfect title for my upcoming album: Cosmonautical. He was right of course, except for the fact he later pointed out that The Transmissionary Six had already used that name. Oops. So we got talking about album titles and @katiegiesbrecht and @katenetzler suggested some good ones, some of which I threw out. I threw them out partially on the basis that they didn’t line up with the aesthetic i was going for. This is completely subjective of course and I was actually comparing the titles to the music in my head, which I was comparing to a collection of images I had begun to assemble for album art.
So I’m no graphic artist, I’m no visual artist. None of that. It’s not my bag, I don’t know how to *make* something like that. That’s not to say I’m not affected by it quite a bit though. I really get inspired by great images. And I have to translate that feeling into music then. So I thought I’d share some of the images so you can see what I’m shooting for.
Mmmkay, first up: your standard Sci-Fi rag fare.

And a dose of retrofuture, courtesy of the legendary Syd Mead.

Throw in some strange, bizarre elements and you have something resembling magical realism.

Some ACTUAL realism:

(that picture is a thousand times better for the inclusion of the car in the shot)
Add the requisite gratuitous pulpy women & damsels:

(probably the sexiest thing about synesthesia I’ve ever seen)

And get back to your roots.

(Actually, this one could’ve fallen into the last category, too. Allison Hayes is, um, well-iillustrated, methinks)

There you have it. That’s what I’ve been all about visually lately. Hopefully that gives you an idea of the particular kind of beauty I’m after. If that didn’t work, just listen to Aimee Mann’s Lost In Space and try to remember your childhood.
I don’t own the rights to these image, I think that since i’m using them as a reference for further derivative works and this blog is noncommercial, this should be protected under fair use. If you own the rights to an image here and want me to remove it, I’ll be happy to oblige.

On Editing Drum Flams

I was editing some drum parts yesterday that my friend Seth Rouch played (for an as-yet metaphysical, theoretical upcoming “album” of mine), and I came upon an interesting problem that I thought I would share with teh interwebs.
Drum flams: where’s the beat? You all may call me crazy, but IT MAKES A DIFFERENCE, I swear.
For those of you that may not know what a drum flam is, you probably won’t be interested in the rest of this post, actually, but I’ll explain it anyway (and try to keep things interesting). Normally, a drummer only hits a drum once with one stick. (Okay, sometimes, the stick will bounce on the head, and sometimes this is intentional, sometimes it’s sloppy. But that’s not the point.) A flam occurs when the drummer hits the head of the drum with both sticks at nearly the same time, but not quite. It’s a sort of accent. You’ll hear it in the clips below, so don’t worry.
So there’s two hits in a flam. Which of the two falls directly on the beat? And which is a little before or after? (Or do you split the difference? I can’t imagine this would sound good, so I didn’t test it, but I suppose it’s a possibility…) Well my friends, here’s a quick rundown of how I tried to edit Seth’s tom & snare flams in my song.
I need to first give you the setup for these sessions. We had VERY little time. I moved all of my recording gear (computer, rack, mics, and all) into his house while his roommate was out of town for a couple days. We ended up tracking like 5 songs or something in several hours. He also hadn’t heard the songs much before hand. So, let’s just say that any slight timing issues are not Seth’s fault. Here’s Seth’s playing in this section, without any editing. Flams are on the toms and also some on the snare.
(All mp3s in this post are encoded at 160kbps.)
The second hit of each flam is louder. I figured this would mean that the first is like a “pickup” to the second and that the 2nd should fall directly on the beat, with the first hit just a teeny-tiny bit before. After several people seemed to agree with this when asked on Twitter and Facebook, I gave it a go. So I edited it all together that way, and came up with this:
[2nd hit on beat]
As I was listening back, I found that I was subconsciously holding my breath. Not a good sign. It sounds to me like the Tom hits are early, kindof like the drums are rushing. This is not good. Not at all. So I said what the heck and tried it so that the first hit of each flam fell directly on the beat, and the 2nd was ever so slightly late:
[1st hit on beat]
Ah-hah! Much better! There may still be some issues with it, but I was breathing normally, things grooved better, and I was much happier. Mmmkay… bit did the snare hits sound a little late now? I made another edit in which the 1st hit of the toms was on the beat, but the 2nd hit of the snares was on the beat. Here’s that one:
[1st hit toms, 2nd hit drums]
Eh… hard to tell. I don’t think I like it. I think I’m getting a little overzealous there. So What I think I will do is make minor edits to the “1st hit” drums. Just to make sure the feel is spot-on.
So… That’s what I came up with. What do you think? Is there a rule here? Is there really a “right” way of doing it, or is it dependent on the music? Is it part of a drummer’s style or groove? Do you like it the other way better? Am I some kind of recording mad scientist, bent on the destruction of all worlds through obsessively-edited drum tracks? Well, yes, but that is beside the point. I would really love to hear your comments, if only to hear that somebody else is just as crazy/obsessed as I am.

Song-A-Nowandthen: Nervous Machine

I found this mp3 on my hard drive tonight. I fired it up and to my surprise found that I had a nearly fully-formed song there that I had completely forgotten about. It has a bridge and everything. I figured I needed to post this so that when i’m on my computer and trying to remember what i’ve got going on and deciding what to work on, that I’ll be able to remember this song exists. I didn’t write down the lyrics I don’t think… I may have been making some of them up as I went along.
I remember now that I wrote this after I got home from Atlanta. I had spent a fun weekend there with kristin, but left without her so that she could stay for an interview. As I was driving home, I missed an exit somewhere, and ended up stretching the trip about an hour. It was getting late, and I was getting tired. My cars have been such pains in the butt, I don’t really trust them fully to get me home all the time. So I kinda wrote this song while I was driving, and demo’d it as soon as I got home. Here it is:
Nervous Machine
(C) 2008 Matthew C Good
It really doesn’t matter
I’ve been up all night driving
I missed my exit somewhere
on the East side of the state.
But I’m not really worried
about the things that usually get me
my dear hopes and fears,
through miles and through years
If this nervous machine keeps turning,
I’ll make it home, I’ll make it home.
If this gasoline keeps burning,
I’ll make it home, I’ll make it home.
I’m watching night bugs splatter
They’re heading for my lights
But I’m not any better suited
for this kind of life.
Cuz I’ve got this illusion
that I’m just passing through,
but gassing up my car, I see
an ugly residue.
If this nervous machine keeps turning
I’ll be okay, I’ll be alright.
With every cylinder firing,
expelling gas out in the night
This lonely man keeps dwelling
on the subtleties of uncertainty.
He’ll go to sleep shuddering
in his bed, or in his seat.
The only car on the freeway tonight
cuz everyone who can be is inside.
It’s not like I can blame them tonight.
I’m tearing through their silence
for my own peace and quiet
It really doesn’t matter
how fast I’m going
It’s gonna take a while
to make it to my home.

Song-A-Not-So-Weekly #49 – Two Sides

Hey guys. The songs in between “What Now” (#43) and this one are mostly really short ideas – so you’re not missing much. You may see a few of them pop up here – I apparently won’t be keeping stuff in sequence much. Oh well. Here’s a new one.
Two Sides
(C) 2008 Matthew Good
I take care of myself
before I think of somebody else.
It’s not that I’m a greedy man,
despite the mounting evidence.
It’s just that I don’t trust
my fellow man enough.
It makes me wonder which came first
the water rights, or the thirst.
In every song I sing
The narrator embodies me.
But he’s not who I am,
he’s a much better man than me.
Cuz I’m not full of love
and I’m not full of charity.
I mostly deal in fear,
and paranoid anxiety.
Every now and then,
despite who I’ve become,
I lend someone a hand who needs it.
There two sides
to my life,
and they struggle
For my attention.
You’ll know
my true love
by the last kiss
of the evening.

A lot of the songs for song-a-week haven’t necessarily been autobiographical. It’s kind of hard (not to mention egotistical) to write some new “profound” thing about yourself once a week. So I had to fictionalize a bit. But this time, it’s definitely me singing.
When I got my first job and started making and spending more money than I ever had before, I started doing some reading on what the heck you’re actually supposed to do with this crap. And when you talk about investing, the ideas of fear and greed come up. They are generally presented as opposites. I think its Buffet who is referencing Graham who always says “Be greedy when others are fearful, and fearful when others are greedy.” But when you are not used to a bunch of responsibility, or an actual awareness of the limited nature of any and all resources, and you rather suddenly experience both, fear and greed are synonymous. That’s what I’m talking about in this song. Hope you like it anyway.

With Appologies to JLB

I think I’ve decided that the name of my next album/ep/compilation will be:
It. Is. Perfect.
Except for one thing: Dreamtigers is the name of a Jorge Luis Borges short story and was (briefly) the title of the book “El Hacedor” (The Maker) after the original publisher thought the original title was too theological. I’m not clear on copyright law as it affects titles of 48-year old works being used by completely unknown artist of a different medium out of respect and admiration. I don’t think there will be a problem, but I like to give people their due. My last album had a Cash cover on it, and I paid the royalties on that, fair and square, for instance.
I had this epiphany last night. After seeing the two Katies play a few songs at the French Quarter and eating one of their shrimp baskets, I went home and tried to go to sleep. After an hour, I gave up and grabbed my Borges and headed for the living room. It wasn’t long before I realized that (unsurprisingly) everything that I had been thinking about and writing about had already been thought and written – and here it was. The story ‘Dreamtigers’ does not measure even a full page. But it was long enough to sencapsulate the last few years of my life.
That’s why it’s the new title, and that is why Borges was a genius.
I also had an intense desire to learn Spanish at that moment. For those of you who may not know much of Borges, he was an Argentinian author who wrote in what is known as “Magic Realism” or “Irreality.” One publisher notes that The Maker aka Dreamtigers “explores the mysterious territory that lies between the dreams of the creative artist and the ‘real’ world.” A lot of his work deals with the truth or concreteness of the imagined and ephemeral, and his storytelling weaves quotations, historical narrative, fiction, the gods, and the impossible together in such a way that each is completely inseparable from the other… heck, unless you are as obscenely well-read as Borges must have himself been, its not just inseparable, sometimes its indistinguishable. The point is, Borges has really affected my songwriting after “The Shortest Distance…” and you should read him.
In other news – comments are working – all the comments you left lately have not been lost and are posted now. I just had to approve them – DOH!

#43 – What Now?

So I’m calling this #43 – even though the last song you’ve seen is #36. I’ve demo’d some songs that I haven’t uploaded, and to keep the numbering consistent, I’m calling this 43 – deal with it.


Album Title Brainstorm

Album Title Brainstorm:
Fairy Tales
Now What?
Science Fiction
Worlds Unknown
Boom Times (song would need re-writing to use this name)
I don’t know if comments are back up or not yet. Sorry, k-dog is working as hard as he can on them.