Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Dark Side of the Moog!

Today is a BIG day of sessions in LA. For the first time ever Keith Emerson and Alan Parsons will be hovering over Keith's massive Moog Modular synthesizer and I'll be able to show you why later. The reason that's even happening at all is actually a fluke. It was because of schedule conflicts and I had a session with both of them this week for their respective Sonic Reality sample libraries which are in the 'Works' (if you get the pun). They've met before just once briefly and both seemed excited about the other's session so I thought... okay, why not have Alan stop by the session with Keith first and then we'll head over to the other studio to mix Nick Mason's drums and record Durga McBroom (Pink Floyd's backing vocalist for the Pulse and previous PF tours)? Everyone was into the idea so we're doing it all in ONE DAY!!!!! That's today and I'm wide awake early in the morning getting ready for it.

Preparing in the hotel for the vocal session later in the day. 

Keith Emerson's Legendary Moog Modular Synthesizer

Last night I went to the place where Keith's Moog had been fully restored and upgraded with all sorts of cool added features (which recorded a tour of on video with technician Gene Stopp). Even Keith hasn't seen the updates so it'll be fun to capture that on video today (reuniting Keith with his Moog after a little while not playing it). We did all the prep work and some of the tedious sampling parts last night going pretty late... not really that late but I still have jetlag so it felt late to me! That's also why I'm up at 5:30 am blogging. I'm still on Florida time! Plus I'm psyched!!!! I love this kind of stuff... great gear, great musicians, great engineers, great studios... totally my thing! 


I saw a nice set up there with a combination of Gene's and Brian Kehew's Mellotrons and their Modular Moogs. Had to snap a few pics. These are the instruments Erik Norlander and I sampled for IK Multimedia's SampleMoog and SampleTron software. Those are virtual recreations of all the vintage keyboards you've been seeing here for anyone to afford and use in their music. They are 'plug-ins' for popular recording software such as ProTools, Cubase, Logic, Sonar, Digital Performer, Live, FL Studio, Garageband... or you can use them stand alone as long as you have a midi controller keyboard. Even the new iRig Keys (stocking stuffer alert! haha). Everyone I show this to wants one. I'm not kidding. Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford, Alan Parsons, Keith Emerson... as soon as they saw it they said "I want one".  It's light, portable and fun (plus it works with both the Mac/PC and iPad/iPhones). There's a whole range of 'iRig' accessories for the iPhone, iPad, Mac etc. in case you want to sing, play guitar, bass and more on our site esoundz.com. ... it slices it dices but wait there's more! Haha... and that completes the advertorial portion of this blog post! Well, apart from this quick story about my visit to a music store...

I was picking up various accessories for my portable recording rig at Guitar Center and had a trippy experience of walking into a room there and seeing ME on the computer screen talking about "SampleTron". I had to do a double take. "Wait, is that ME???? What are the chances that this is playing just as I walk in?" Weird and cool. Here's the video that was playing that was shot in my studio with prog keyboardist Erik Norlander as the humorous cameraman/commentator:

For a second I felt semi-famous! Haha. But I was quickly humbled in the most unexpected and unusual way. I thought the video was convenient to show the salesperson that I was some sort of 'pro' worthy of a discount... and I usually go into some song and dance about this and that as all musicians do if they have any leverage to get a 'deal'. So I showed him the video and he said "cool!" and I got my discount anyway with or without the video just the same... didn't really matter. But in case I felt like a big shot (which I never do by the way but my ego was tempted this time) we got to talking and it turns out the salesman helping me produced songs from Slash's latest record including the tune with Fergie. I was trying to figure out why he was working as a salesman at a music store but he said he just enjoys it! Gets him out in the world instead of being locked up in the studio. Wow! They're lucky to have him. Brings some experience to the table. Nice guy too... and the Universe had him handy to knock my ego back down to reality. Just kidding! But all of this is very unlikely stuff and also very "it's not the spoon that bends" if you know what I mean. 

I did a little music shopping the other day which was fun even though it was an ordeal hunting record stores (now a rarity sadly) around LA. I tried to go to Amoeba, this awesome place on Sunset that has actual vinyl and tons of rare CDs... but there was a freakin' PARADE going on. A bunch of confetti and people waiving to you from some giant swan... people standing around for hours with no real 'action'. I don't get parades.... and they blocked off all the roads so I had to skip that place and find what I needed somewhere else. I had to find the Dark Side of the Moon Immersion Box Set for reference when Alan Parsons does drum mixes today from a session I did just a few weeks ago with Alan in England recording Pink Floyd's Nick Mason (reference earlier blog post). I actually own the box set already but didn't bring it with me. Alan offered to bring his but I thought it'd be better if I got another one so I could get him to sign it. I'll either keep it or give it away for some contest or charity... or I'll do all three somehow! 

I have to tell you a really trippy cool thing about these sessions and gigs I've been doing with these progrock heroes. To be familiar with what I'm working on I've had the relevant albums on CD in my car or in my iPod on planes and trains as the 'soundtrack' to the journey. I was listening to Genesis, Francis Dunnery and Pink Floyd before when working with guys from those bands in England. Now I'm listening to ELP before working with Keith on recreating those classic synth and organ sounds. That alone is wild because I truly enjoy listening to it and coming off listening to it and being in a session with them recreating those sounds is a 3D experience of virtual reality... as if you could super impose yourself and be the producer of a classic album. Can you imagine what that's like? So unique. It's all in my head of course (and not going to my head don't worry! haha... this is just "Sonic Reality" not "Real Reality"). But, you're sitting there getting the same classic sounds and yet you're the one deciding what to do next, everyone cooperating to help make it happen... just MIND BOGGLING if you think about it. I've tried to capture a lot of this stuff on video so you can feel like you're there too as a fly on the wall. In some cases there weren't cameras in the studio when a lot of these albums were recorded (Dark Side being the exception and there's a great "Making of" video of that which we've used as a great reference). So this should reveal some secrets behind the sounds decades later and offer all sorts of fun insight for a fan of any of these artists. Also great for any musician who is intrigued by the sounds and the process of creating and recording them... and wants to interact with them via music software to use in their own music (like having a virtual Keith Emerson and Alan Parsons on your own song which is possible with products from Sonic Reality and our partners like IK Multimedia and more).

The Deluxe Edition of Tarkus with remixes done by Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree. I played on Steven's album "Grace for Drowning" on the song "Raider II". He also used IK Multimedia and Sonic Reality software like SampleMoog and SampleTron on that album. 

There is another 3D life effect that I've been enjoying thoroughly and it's happened many times in the past couple of months. I'll be sitting there listening to It Bites or Francis Dunnery solo material and the phone rings and it's Francis! I talk to him a lot so that's happened quite a few times and it's kind of a trip... especially because he'll sing something on the phone a lot of times as part of the conversation. The same thing happened the other day while I was listening to Tarkus on the ride over to the session. The phone rings and it says "Blocked" and I knew it was Keith. So I turned down the music - a young version of Keith ripping it up in the 70s - to talk to the new version of Keith Emerson now. We'll be talking about some bad curry he had or I'll ask him a question about which Hammond organs he used on what and when... then when the conversation is over I crank up the music again. 3D!!!!!!! 

Anyway, this is the kind of thing this blog is useful for. A lot of people work with iconic musicians so it's not such a huge thing but how often to you get to hear what goes on when it happens and in particular what that person makes if it all? Are they humbled, honored, psyched, appreciative... or are they just going through the motions not really getting the most out of the experience? I'm all of the first things and more. Most people I know who love these guys, this vintage gear and this classic timeless music would be too. I'm a LUCKY MAN! 

(We dialed in that sound last night... man did it sound good!!!! That low note is ridiculous!)

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