Ah, do you see Tom Hanks‘ expression here? The veins in his forehead about to pop. The eyes welling up with tears out of sheer anger. Yeah, well that was me last night. And Tom sure leaves out some hefty profanities that I guess just weren’t PG13 for Columbia Pictures but sure felt good when I snarled ’em last night through my pale, tightened lips really fighting the urge to slug a computer monitor for the first time in my life. But why ruin a half-decent anecdote by starting off with the ending?
Now, as you may or may not know I am an 100% audiophile and I’ll probably stick with the analogue side in that (old? tiresome?) analogue-vs-digital debate until further notice. There is a warmth and presence in its sound that just can’t be achived with the ones and zeros of the digital age. And when it comes to achieving kick ass effects by just slamming the controls and pretty much overdrive/distort it into what I call the “whoa! territory”, analogue gives you and the project often mind blowing new directions where digital will just end up giving you awful white noise. Ever wondered why distortion sounds so odd these days compared to the fuzzed-out punk of the 60s? Well, that’s a long, dry (and boring) explanation, but basically the digital format just can’t handle it.
One thing this format has going for it though is the immense control you have when it comes to editing and mixing. It’s insanely good. Wanna make a snare drum hit pan fast to the left speaker or make your keyboard pan right to left, do a 360 twirl before it fades into the background? Well, I’ve already done that with The Norliss Tapes It’s Halloween Outro and in the spatial stereo mix of ESP Dub respectively (check it out here and here). Now, ask an engineer at your local 24-track to pull that off and he’ll probably look at you like you just told him you saw his Mom in Grannie Gets Gangbanged 4. Edits and effects control has risen to a whole new level and I’m not surprised remixes, dubstep, mashups, “crunk” and whatnot is becoming the new direction in popular music because once you realize what can be achieved even working on sheer milliseconds you kinda go crazy creatively. If you ask me the ultimate setting for preserving music is analogue tracking using tube equipment with mixing and edits handled digitally.
One thing I do loathe about it though – and yes, my frustrations with it is to the point I’m going Shakespeare on its ass – is the whimsicality of the damn thing. There’s no other area in our daily life where we’d calmly (well, that’s objective I guess) accept that the thing can (and will) stop working at any time without any notice whatsoever. If your car, coffee maker or TV behaved like computers do there’d be full-blown riots in the streets. Which brings us to my story: Spending what little spare time I had this past week collecting, editing and just structuring new samples for this coming weekend – slated for work on new songs for Call Me Greenhorn‘s first full length – I sat down late yesterday afternoon with a nice cup of java, opened the folder with new samples just to start listening in and see what kind of ideas it’d spark. Imagine my horror when my audio editing software told me that every single damn one of said samples somehow was saved in a file format it couldn’t read. That’s when I had my first aneurysm.
Now, I always go for either .wav or .aiff (depending on if I’m handling the final stages of the “product” or an outside source that uses a PC), but somehow the software added some weird codec or something that just made them unplayable. Re-opening them in the audio editor I used to create them in the first place I got the same message. The software couldn’t read what it made. And being one of those kinda people that always erase files that are no longer of use I didn’t have one single original song left on my hard drive. That’s when the second aneurysm happened. Thank God for those computer wizard friends we all have! Texting a friend of mine he told me to be calm and suggested some deleted file recovery programs that’d help me with the damage control.
So I googled, found one that works and proceeded to download and install it. It was a ten-day trial demo version and I thought “Cool. I’ve already learned my lessons, so I just need to use this once to save my ass and then I’m good and back on track.” It slowly began going through the hard drive – that had an impressive 480.000+ files on it I might add – and as it progressed it looked like it’d turn into an all-nighter. I remember the progress status saying something like “200.000 files recovered, 12 hours left”, but hey, you can always leave the computer on when you go to sleep. Around 9:30 pm I was pleasantly surprised to see the scan being finished and immediately proceeded to look through the audio folder. And sure enough there they were. About 1 GB’s worth. Glorious. I exhaust in relief, select the folder and press “recover”. And receive the message that since I downloaded the free-ten-day-trial-version I can “only recover one measly file with the maximum size of 10 MB’s.” And that’s when I kinda turned into The Hulk and went “you go die now!”
Now, I sure wish I remember the name of the software company, but as I was verbally going off like a stereotypical pirate while really fighting the urge to slug a computer monitor for the first time in my life that I threw it out in disgust. We’re talking an evening that turned out to be a complete waste of time after spending a week’s extra work that also turned out to be a complete waste of time. So, instead of just having a lazy, creative weekend I’m gonna spend it trying to get back on track in about 48 hours. There’s no need for bitching as there’s no way around this. Just man up, fire up the ol’ coffee maker and dig in in front of the computer for the rest of the weekend. Hear my mantra:
This is my cup of coffee, there are many like it but this one is mine. My coffee is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I master my life. Without me it is useless, without my coffee I am useless…
See ya next week!
UPDATE: Oh man, I can watch this clip over and over. And almost find a perverse sense of satisfaction in doing it. If you haven’t seen Mike Judge‘s Office Space make sure you check it out. It’s pretty funny.