Been a while since the last newsletter, my apologies. Spent 4 weeks in Mexico City recording a third album for the band Guillotina. Some details are on the "What's New" part of my site. This was my first all-digital album: recorded on ADATs, mixed on an all-digital Yamaha Pro-01 board, onto DATs. I knew what I was getting into and managed to make it sound good. In fact it kicks ass. It has taken me a long while to get the knack of recording digitally; one part of the secret is pulling the mics back a bit further from the sound sources, and not freaking out about leakage/bleed so much... anything to get some "air" into it so it is not so damn clean. It worked. (On this subject I'm planning to put up another article on my site with frequency response graphs from different recording formats; I've collected a pile over the years and they sure tell an interesting story, at least to techno-geeks like me. But onward...)
I will soon post a more detailed account of my Mexico adventures on my site, with many photos: my host had a Casio digital camera. ;) Prediction after ONE day with this thing: conventional film is DOOMED! Also got a bunch of close-ups of obscure Mexican all-tube guitar amplifiers from the 70's, which I will post separately, for those as wierd as myself to enjoy.
Mudhoney's long-awaited new album "Tomorrow Hit Today" is out NOW. They are touring the US as I write. See 'em and tell 'em I says "hi". Likewise, Murder City Devils will hit the road in two weeks, supporting their new Sub Pop album "Empty Bottles, Broken Hearts."
Here's something which caught my eye in a recent issue of Replication News (you all read this fine mag, don't you?): a company called Cyberwerks Interactive has partnered with sports card company Upper Deck to make 2.5 by 3.5 inch "audio cards" that play back on conventional CD players when placed onto a plastic disc adapter. They have printed info on the front, and instead of printed ball player stats on the back, they have up to 10 minutes of CD-format audio information. These things are thinner than a credit card and are PRINTED using a holographic film technique, unlike conventional CDs which are injection-molded using stampers. Cyberwerks says the cards can be manufactured hundreds of times faster than conventional CDs. I like this a lot: it means soon we'll have FLEXI-CDs! Yes!
Here's something else I like. Recently in Italy, a judge ruled that the major record labels in that country were collectively guilty of unfair trade practices, namely: price-fixing. You may have heard that it's now cheaper to manufacture a CD than an LP, and wondered why the retail price of CDs has not come down; you're not alone. A group of independent record stores in the US has filed an antitrust suit against the Big 5 record companies charging collusion and price-fixing. They say it is not a competitive market. All you have to do is think about the diversity of book prices, for instance, and this begins to seem like a pretty legitimate complaint. Manufacturing costs are less than a dollar per CD if they are pressed in any reasonable quantity. The labels say the rest of the price charged is to pay for the promotional expenses of running a record company, and for the fact that 95% of releases lose money. However, from what I've seen of the music industry, the amount of money ROUTINELY WASTED rivals that which I saw when I was a Federal Employee working for the defense department! And I ain't talking chump change! Yup, somethin' sure smells fishy here. I'll say this: I recently picked up the second Foo Fighters CD, USED, and was willing to wait a long time to see it at that price, because I simply could not bring myself to pay 17.99 for it new. I bet I'm not alone, right, friends? Ever wonder about this?
The major labels say most of their records lose money, and the "hits" finance the other 90% losers. But on another angle, you could ask why a record that was very cheap to make sells for the same list price as, say, the latest Smashing Pumpkins album which cost a zillion bux to record. Think about this, and you could say that the sales of lower-budget recordings are in some way SUBSIDIZING the bloated costs of the "star" projects. Otherwise, the record that was expensive to make would have a correspondingly higher list price (hey, if all that recording studio money spent is not ADDING VALUE, what the heck IS it doing?), and new artists with low budgets would be free to offer their records for less. I imagine my logic is flawed here but I keep thinking about the book industry, where there is no price uniformity whatever. Hmmm. Any economists out there?
(Actual manufacturing cost of a CD: about 75 cents; source: Replication News.)
Old news, but... from the Billboard website, 7/24/98 (www.billboard-online.com/sites): "THE MAN WHO SERVICED THE WORLD: David Bowie has formed BowieNet (www.davidbowie.com), an Internet service provider (ISP) that will launch Sept. 1. The ISP will service North American residents, then go global by the end of the year." Gotta hand it to old Dave. I looked, and sure enough he's got it up and running. Heck, why am I wasting time playing around with my dinky little website?
Recently TIME (well, I started this newsletter a while back...) published their "Greatest Artists and Entertainers of the Century" special issue. Under popular music, they covered almost everyone you could think of and many you wouldn't have. I was reading this and I suddenly put it down and exploded in profanity. My wife wanted to know what was wrong. "Where the hell is JAMES BROWN?", I wanted to know. The man has had a hitmaking career spanning 5 decades, made a zillion albums and singles, single-handedly created entire genres of music, is probably THE most-sampled artist in history, and... I just couldn't believe it.
Seen recently on the cover of a big music mag: "Kraftwerk: More Important than the Beatles?" That this question can even be asked tells me a lot about why current popular music seems so mind-numbingly dull. Yeesh.
Several subscribers sent me links to that Steve Albini article, "The Problem with Music", that I mentioned in my last newsletter. I guess it has been posted in a number of places, although I can't vouch for whether copyrights have been observed. All but one of the links was missing an entire section entitled "What I Hate About Recording".
The link below has the complete article. I strongly urge any of you who are aspiring career musicians to read it through.
Since I've been doing more "mastering" lately, I added a new section to my FAQ explaining exactly what it involves. I've noticed that people often confuse "mastering" with "mixing".
Soon there will be a new TAD 7 inch on Up records. Look for it in December.
Heard some of the new Afghan Whigs record in someone's car, an advance promo. Sounded very, very good.
Dave Crider at Estrus is trying to negotiate the US release of the second HELLACOPTERS album, "Payin' the Dues", and I believe Sympathy will issue the second Turbonegro album. Rock is alive and living in Scandinavia.
Ben McMillan, ex of Skin Yard and Gruntruck, tells me he has a new band called Mona Diesel. Scott McCullum drums. Ex-Skin Yard and Endino's Earthworm drummer Barrett Martin will be playing some sort of music festival thing in, get this, Cuba, with a bunch of other big-wig entertainment folks, some sort of apolitical cultural-exchange thing. Pat Pedersen, Skin Yard's last bassist, is in a promising new band called Bullet Train. Daniel House is still running C/Z records, and his website is www.czrecords.com.
According to a recent copy of Billboard, the band REO Speed Dealer (these guys are friends of Zeke) recently got a cease-and-desist order from lawyers representing the long-defunct REO Speedwagon. Henceforth they are to be known simply as "Speed Dealer". Damn, such a great band name too.
Mark and Sonny from Zeke have a side-project band called Family Sex Jackpot, who are rumored to be quite entertaining. I need to see 'em.
By the way, I now have Jack's Online Garage Sale up and running. Check it out and help me clean out my garage. No musical equipment though, sorry, mostly CDs and various "Seattle Scene"-type memorabilia.
And finally, on a personal note, I just got a new computer, it's an obscure Mac clone called a "MacTell XB-603". Actually it's a Motorola Starmax 3000 (AMT3200) under another name. Sys 7.6, 200 MHz, 4 gigs, 48 megs, 5 PCI slots. The price was extremely right - they were practically giving 'em away. It smokes but is a very quirky thing. The motherboard is a discontinued Mac design code-named "Tanzania". I spent about a week installing, and re-installing, and re-installing again ALL my software and finally concluded that no version of Netscape or FreePPP would run dependably on it, period. IE works fine, oddly enough, as does Open Transport/PPP. Even the free demo of Protools 3.4 that Digidesign has been giving away runs fine on it, and it's not supposed to. Soon I will finally have MPEG and Realaudio capability. Anyway, my point? Well, any Starmax 3000 owners among my subscribers? I would love to hear of your experiences with this beast. Thanx in advance!
Hey, everyone, I recently was struck by a mad scheme. I get VERY frustrated because I work with so many great bands who will probably never get their music heard by anyone. It drives me nuts. Not being ready to start an outright record label, I instead conceived the idea of a cassette "magazine", just a limited-run comp cassette I could put out maybe twice a year or as often as interesting stuff piles up. Not a new idea obviously, but I have always felt like I am in the middle of a lot of great music on a daily basis, most of it voluntarily (I only work with bands I like) so you would be getting a little piece of Jack's world each time I guess. It would primarily be stuff I've been recording, though I would reserve the right to use other cool stuff by friends, if there was some connection that I thought my subscribers would be interested in. If you've seen my discography and are on this mailing list you probably have some idea of my music taste so you know what you'd be getting into, and what it would sound like technically. What you'd get is the stuff that maybe DOESN'T get famous, or stuff I did in other countries, or new Seattle bands without deals yet, etc. I don't know what it would cost but first I have to gauge the interest level that might exist. So, if any of you think this would be a good idea, send me a note and I'll just save it in a file, and if that file gets big enough I'll do it and let everyone know. OK?
By the way, anyone still using my yahoo.com temp address, please lose it now.
Next newsletter: The new thing is "Stoner Rock", I kid you not. Get ready.
P.S. Bumper sticker seen recently in Seattle: "LINUX. IT'S NOT JUST FOR BREAKFAST ANYMORE." [2013 note: It still took until 2008 for me to start using Linux every single day of my life.]
P.P.S. A subscriber shared the following baffling story with me:
Here's a story I thought might amuse you.
Recently, a friend of mine brought home a cassette of Bad Religion's "Suffer" album, which he purchased from a big-chain record store (which will remain nameless).
When listening to the cassette, we happened to hear some other music under the Bad Religion songs. After examining it closely, I realized it was none other than Gruntruck! The album "Push", which came out in '92, could be heard under the "Suffer" album, which came out in '88!
There's no real point to this story, but I just found it funny to hear the ghost of Gruntruck under a "professionally recorded" (?) album bought at a major record store.'
(This still has me scratching my head!)