Monday, January 28, 2013

Traveling back home!

So, the NAMM show is over. That went by fast. Some great things happened. I got some approvals on a few new Sonic Reality products that involve some partnership cooperation. Very efficient to have a face to face when it comes to being on the same page. Emails and phone calls are fine but it's not the same as the good old "analog" version. Haha. We got a lot done in the studio before and in part during NAMM weekend... even if some of us got slightly under the weather and overly tired. No one got the flu so it could have been worse (burning the candle at both ends). All in all it was a productive eventful trip!

Erik Norlander and I are putting together a really cool tribute to Bob Moog soon. I'll explain more about that in the coming weeks here. 

Now I'm traveling back to Miami to mix the Rush tribute album I'm doing with Sonic Elements (my Sonic Reality Progressive Rock project). The album features Neil Peart on drums via his "Neil Peart Drums" sample library with Sonic Reality. We used his live performed drum tracks I recorded with Nick Raskulinecz (Rush's producer) and then, just as an end user of his library could, we built up tracks around it. We did both covers and some originals as well all infused with his distinct sound and drum patterns. I'll get into all sorts of detail about that when we're closer to release. The album, made up of guest musicians, includes myself on keys, Billy Sherwood (Yes, Circa) on guitar and bass, John Wesley (Porcupine Tree) on guitar and vocals, Randy McStine (Lo-Fi Resistance) on guitar and vocals, Rik Emmett (Triumph) on guitar and vocals, Steve Hackett (Genesis) on guitar, Keith Emerson (ELP) on keys, Erik Norlander (Asia FJP) on keys, Colin Edwin (Porcupine Tree) on bass, John Payne (Asia FJP) on bass and vocals, Fernando Perdomo (Dreaming in Stereo) on guitar, Francis Dunnery (It Bites) on guitar, Alastair Greene (Alan Parsons Live Project) on guitar, Mike Keneally ALSO on guitar and... wow, what a line up of incredible musicians all paying homage and loving respect to Rush, Neil and Sonic Reality sounds on this album. I'm exciting to get it all done!

Other than that I'm turning in a huge batch of sounds for SampleTank 3 which is getting closer to reality (in more ways than one). That's a virtual instrument software product from IK Multimedia, a company I work closely with and have provided most of the sounds for over the years. Time for some NEW sounds! 

That's all. Not really though. There's always more going on than I say. 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Incessant NAMM Dropping

Saturday, Jan 26, 2013 - The NAMM show is still going on. As I was strumming my new (old) Silvertone acoustic guitar this morning I couldn't help but think how un-technologically advanced it was. A sort of ironic new acquisition around a time where everyone gets together to see the latest greatest musical instruments, recording equipment etc. It got me thinking about what the best "quality" of music is. It's the spirit of it. The emotion behind it. Everything else is icing on the cake, the bells and whistles... and it isn't that that's not nice too. But, to me music still has to have that core otherwise it can be an empty shell of contrived "going through the motions" stuff without having any authentic feeling behind it.

So, while I LOVE new technology and quality recording/performance gear I think it is so important not to get lost in it and forget that great music has more to do with the people writing and performing it and what they are sending/receiving than the exterior equipment they use. However, if you have that as a foundation and you add great gear to help produce it then there is an opportunity for both to work together to create fantastic results. So it was a good reminder... not that I really forgot. Anyway, besides seeing the latest gear another fun aspect of NAMM are the musicians, producers and engineers you run into. Here's a NAMM report with a whole lotta name dropping... you have been warned!

Alastair Greene, Alan Parsons, me, David Pack in the Aphex booth

Always nice to see Alan Parsons who I've been working with on various "projects". Alastair, his guitarist vocalist from APLP (which I will be seeing live soon in South Florida) and Alan's long time friend David Pack from Ambrosia who I will be working with on something soon.

With Gavin and Ross

It was great running into Gavin Lurssen and Ross Hogarth. I've known Gavin for years and he used to be my roommate when I lived in LA. He's a prominent mastering engineer (always winning Grammys... it's actually annoying. Just kidding!). Ross is a great engineer and he does some great stuff so it's interesting to hear what he's up to. I think last NAMM it was mixing Van Halen. I think the NAMM before that it was the Doobie Brothers. I can't say what it was this year yet but it sounded cool and he was happy. We've talked about working together on something for years so maybe one of these days we will do that. We definitely like a lot of the same music and have worked with a lot of the same people in different capacities. 

Me with Tom Brislin

Tom Brislin can be found demonstrating in the Casio booth. He's been a writer for Keyboard magazine for years and has played keys in a number of interesting projects such as the band Renaissance and also with Francis Dunnery who I've been working with a lot. 

Fellow Sound of Contact bandmate Matt Dorsey at the show.

With engineer Richard Chycki (Rush, Dream Theater)

The incredibly talented Lyle Workman. He composes a lot of the popular comedy films these days.

With Will Alexander and Geoff Downes of Asia and Yes

Erik Norlander (from the other Asia) with part of his massive Moog "Wall of Doom"

Erik Norlander of Asia FJP (and SR) had his "Wall of Doom" Moog Modular on display in the Moog Foundation booth. We took a picture with Michelle Moog-Koussa here and I've got something cool in Moog-land from SR this year to share that I'm excited about. 

Friday, January 25, 2013

Epic Session and It's NAMM time!

Louise Goffin, Lorelei McBroom, me, Durga McBroom-Hudson

Guy Pratt of Pink Floyd and Toy Matinee fame

The other day on the 23rd of January 2013 we had quite the epic session over at my friend Simeon's studio called "Blue Forest" in Sherman Oaks. It started off with sampling a Warwick bass and a '62 Fender P-Bass with Guy Pratt of Pink Floyd for his upcoming Sonic Reality bass library. We're also recording bass parts for a song Guy wrote with Durga that we're cutting as well. Fernando Perdomo from the previous day's session worked up a guitar and drum track for that. All part of the LA music machine thing I've got going on which is working out fantastically I have to say! What incredible resources for any producer to have and I've realized that just being around long enough in music you accumulate through experience these compatible elements to whatever it is you're wanting to do... people that specialize in one area or another and you know what to expect if you hand them a task for a project. 

So, after we finished up with Guy we went on to do some vocal sampling with the McBroom sisters. Lots of oohs and aahs with soul! After that we did vocals for a cool Pink Floyd song. I won't say what it is yet (gotta leave some surprises) but joining them on vocals for it was their long time friend Louise Goffin. She sounded great and was a lot of fun! It was wild to find out that we had probably met before or at least were standing right next to each other backstage at a concert because she used to play guitar with Tears for Fears when Nick D'Virgilio played drums for them. Kevin Gilbert and I went to go see Nick play with TFF in LA at the Wiltern and she was there! Louise has been doing all sorts of interesting things in the music world for years. Currently she's nominated for a Grammy for producing her mother Carole King!!!! So congrats to her for that. I hope she wins but it's an honor just to be recognized (and an honor to have done it in the first place). Cool to meet and work with the sons and daughters of rock legends! Haha. I joke with Simon (Phil Collins' son) about my family all having absolutely nothing to do with music whatsoever. Even my brother who manages IK Multimedia's US office doesn't actually play a note. He's pure business. I can only imagine the dynamics of what it must be like having a musical family let alone a parent who is a music icon. But, like anything, I'm sure it has its double edged sword (people compare you etc.). It is nice to see something like Louise producing her mother's album. That's really cool. It was also great to not only see but co-write and play on the one song Simon recorded with his father called "The Big Bang". 

Squids at NAMM

So now today, the 25th of January is the second day of the annual Winter NAMM show. I've been going to this NAMM show every year since 1989. I go because I'm a gear head, I see tons of people I know, I do business there for my company Sonic Reality (and before that I did sound design for the major keyboard manufactures like Alesis, Yamaha, Roland etc.) and I just go! From 1997 to I think 2009 we had a Sonic Reality booth there. But, from 2010 to now I've been booth free (apart from my second home at IK's booth) and it's a lot more enjoyable that way for me. I've dialed back the sort of corporate approach to my company and treat it more like a production company. Our job is to do the sound development for our own products and license them for other company products whether it's IK Multimedia, Cakewalk, Propellerheads, Camel Audio, NI, Yamaha, Steinberg... and we can do that with any appropriate combination of people in any studio around the world. I can assemble a team of people whether they are ex-employees of SR or just engineers, editors or musicians I know that have the skills and resources to do what needs to get done. I have my core team back home handling the nuts and bolts of day to day business but a world-wide scalable team of talent to do all sorts of fantastic products AND music! Oh yeah... music!!!!! ALMOST forgot about that a decade ago. Now I'm happy to say there's a good balance of both sounds AND music going on (as you can see in this blog!). 

Now, if you've been following my posts on Facebook or reading this blog you know that I'm all about discovering cool instruments so you can expect a "NAMM report" blog post from me at some point. I will probably do it at the end or maybe in a few parts along the way. Fellow gear heads and the sonically curious can look forward to some cool pics and videos. I'm having a great time doing things I love to do and there isn't a moment I'm not grateful for it. Onward we go!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Did you know, did you know...?

Fernando Perdomo, Durga McBroom-Hudson, Lorelei McBroom, Dave Kerzner, Randy McStine

January 23, 2013 - I arrived in LA yesterday and immediately went to Fernando Perdomo's studio to get to work on a Sonic Elements Pink Floyd tribute project featuring the McBroom sisters (former backing vocalists for Pink Floyd). We had to work up quite a few tracks to experiment so I got a team of musicians to help me get it all done. Fernando and Randy are both talented multi-instrumentalists. I worked extensively with Randy on his project Lo-Fi Resistance's album "Chalk Lines". Fernando I've known for years but only started working with him recently on the song "Digital Man" by Rush. He was great! In addition to Randy and Fern I got Billy Sherwood, former producer and member of the band Yes who is also a multi-instrumentalist, to work up some skeleton tracks for us to work with. Basically, I was coming out here to go to a trade show called "NAMM" (National Association of Music Merchants) which I do every year for my company Sonic Reality. Whenever I go to LA I try to get some music work done because I know so many great people and places here for doing that. This time the two McBroom sisters who are normally on two different sides of the country or touring the world were together in LA so we decided to make the most of the limited time we had and get as much recorded as we could. So far we've gotten as much done as is humanly possible!

Fernando recording Randy McStine (Lo-Fi Resistance) playing some Gilmour-esque guitar

Me laying down a vintage-Floyd style Wurly part

This is Fernando's upright piano. It has a great haunting quality to it... and we're going to sample it! "Dreaming in Stereo" is Fern's "prog band project". They have two albums that are really good and I told him that if he does another one I'd love to do something on it. So we'll see! 

It's an interesting type of tribute album that we do with Sonic Elements. The approach in some ways is similar to how Steve Hackett did his Genesis Revisited 2 album where it's centered around an original member of the band but it's still covers and there are guests joining him. In the case of some of these Sonic Elements tribute albums I center it around iconic drummers that Sonic Reality has sampled for a sound library/music software product we're putting out. So, for instance, with the Rush tribute we're doing we have Neil Peart playing all the drums via his sampled drum library with Sonic Reality called Neil Peart Drums. So, for the Floyd tribute we have soon to be released sample library collections done with not only Nick Mason, long time drummer of Pink Floyd but also with Alan Parsons (of Alan Parsons Project and the engineer who recorded Dark Side of the Moon), Guy Pratt (bass player for Pink Floyd and also Toy Matinee, Kevin Gilbert's band previous to Thud) and the McBroom Sisters. What that means is that many of the sounds you'd hear on this tribute are also available as playable samples you can buy if you're a musician. So if you TOO want a certain Floydy drum sound or a really cool fretless bass sound or "ooohhhhwaaahhhh" to play from the keyboard you'll soon be able to do that (taking liberties with the word "soon" there... I mean some time this year). But, of course, if you're not a musician then you can enjoy the music created with these sounds... and an interesting mix of the "elements". 

Some of those elements can be the musicians with their particular style and sound. I've had the chance to mix some unlikely combinations of musicians together in a song. The most recent one that I've been working on features Keith Emerson (ELP), Steve Hackett (Genesis), Billy Sherwood (Yes), Francis Dunnery (It Bites), Neil Peart Drums (Rush) and myself (Squidttthhhh!). I've mentioned it already but I'm still excited about that the more I work with it. It's also interesting that it spans two songs that relate to each other. More will be revealed about that soon. 

Alright so that's it for now. I have to either get back to work or catch some Zzzz's so I have energy tomorrow for another mega session this time at another studio in the Valley. We'll have Guy Pratt in the early afternoon and then some major sampling with the McBroom Sisters. Then in the evening a vocal session with Louise Goffin (Carol King's daughter). That should be fun! After that I head on down to Anaheim for the NAMM show... but somehow I am going to try to do some sessions here and there too because if you haven't noticed I'm a bit of a work-o-holic! No, seriously, it's all about people's schedules and when you have a slot open you gotta take it especially if you're producing an album on a budget. Nothing beats being in the same place at the same time. Plus some musicians are autonomous with their own studios (like Billy or Fern). You give them a track and they add their part in their studio and send it in. We did that when we played on Steve Hackett's album and he did that when he played on this. Other musicians you need to book a studio and have someone be there to direct and/or engineer it... and sometimes that someone has to be you (or you leave to much up to chance). 

Anyway, I'll leave you with this video interview with Steve Hackett and Roger King talking about how we sent in tracks for them to use along with guys like Steven Wilson, Mikael Akerfeldt, Neil Morse, Steve Rothery, Nad Sylvan and many other people who guested on that album from around the world. Gives you an idea if you're curious of how that's done these days. 

Friday, January 11, 2013


Got a bunch of things going on this month one degree from the band Genesis (but actually each don't have anything to do with Genesis music directly). One is a track from the Rush tribute album I'm producing for my band project "Sonic Elements" where Steve Hackett, former guitarist for Genesis, is going to be a special guest! I'm so excited about that. He's a great guy and his guitar playing is always so creative and cool. I think he's probably one of the most under-rated guitarists when it comes to being innovative and melodic. He actually did the hammer on finger tapping style before Eddie Van Halen (Return of the Giant Hogweed is the prequel to Eruption! haha). Anyway, I earned a favor trade with Steve for my contributions to his Genesis Revisited 2 album and I used that card for this session favor back... but secretly I wish I had 100 Steve Hackett favor cards! It was tough picking which song to ask him to play on but it was a wise choice and you'll see/hear why later.

Francis Dunnery, Keith Emerson, myself, Billy Sherwood and Neil Peart (via his sample library Neil Peart Drums) all play on these two songs (one Rush cover and one original). Current and/or former members of Rush, Genesis, Yes, Robert Plant or It Bites all in one song with El Squidsarino? Pinch me. But it's possible because of Sonic Reality sample libraries and a little Squidsifying. Fortunately everyone involved happens to be REALLY cool, very down to Earth and people I genuinely enjoy being friends with regardless of their status as "rock legends". They don't go around acting like they're superior or anything! They know who they are and they have nothing to prove. These projects are more about the love of music and combining different sonic flavors to see how it comes out! Much how I experiment in the kitchen. 

Mushroom Truffle, Balsamic Roasted Garlic and Asian Red Sesame Chicken Salad Dips. I like to improvise and mix flavors in the kitchen. 

Sticking with the Genesish theme of this blog post I had a lengthy conversation last night with Simon Collins, son of Phil, about the release of our new album "Dimensionaut" from our new band Sound of Contact which you can read about here. We talked about the possibility of touring Europe in Q2 this year... nothing official yet just some talking for right now. We'd have to find he right drummer for the tour who can play in that style since Simon drums on the album and sings (which itself is pretty Genesish at least as far as that dual role goes... and live we would probably do the double drum thing as well since Simon DOES want to play drums as much as he can live and there are a number of instrumental sections on the album to do that).

Nick D'Virgilio and I on stage performing "The Shaming of the True"

Speaking of the right drummer (if he wasn't so busy with Cirque Du Soleil that is), my ex-bandmate from Kevin Gilbert's band, Nick D'Virgilio is in town for a couple months. I just spoke to him on the phone. Nick got to play on the Genesis album "Calling All Stations" and there's a great story behind that but I've probably told it already in this blog. If I haven't I'll perhaps tell it at some point when it feels fresh, timely and relevant. Also some great stories about the mid-90's working with Kevin and there will be more to tell about the "Shaming of the True" gig we performed together recently celebrating Kevin's brilliant rock opera (and a DVD coming out this year of the show!). Anyway, we talked about the possibility of getting together in the studio while he's here and I'm trying to coordinate Francis Dunnery coming down for a big writing/jamming session with the three of us. I think he just needs to book some house concerts, Nick needs some days off and the stars have to align!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Larks Squids in Aspic

Deep in wiring and almost coming up for air. I've been setting up a new project studio space so I can focus specifically on music I'm producing and sample sessions I'm doing for my company Sonic Reality. My former bandmate from the Kevin Gilbert "Thud" days, Nick D'Virgilio (also of Spock's Beard, Tears for Fears, Genesis CAS fame...) happens to be in town with his family since he tours with Cirque Du Soleil and they are camped here in Miami for a bit. So, we're making plans to get together. Not sure what we might work on. I know there are drum and vocal sessions for Sonic Elements (my progressive rock revolving door of musicians project doing covers and originals) but ever since we performed "The Shaming of the True" (Kevin Gilbert's rock opera) I've been thinking "this would be a really cool band to write some new original music in this style with". Those guys all seemed open to it but there's a difference between a cool concept and actually doing it... being in the same place (especially when writing and of course jamming) does make a difference so perhaps we can get something going along those lines.

While I'm wiring I get this opportunity to put on albums of longer music just playing while I do hours of work (that I should have just hired someone to do but this time I wanted to do it myself which I slightly question now but too late!!!! At least I know where everything is). I've been listening to the Steven Wilson remixed versions of King Crimson albums such as Red, Starless & Bible Black, In The Court of the Crimson King... in fact while I was doing that I was enjoying it so much I went to go order the rest of the catalog from their site. I was having some technical difficulty with my browser and when I got to talking to the support people there I was saying that I couldn't check out... then I said "you can check out anytime you like but you can never leave" and then I said "Wow I just quoted Eagles to the Crimsons" and then I said "The Crimsons would be a good name for an animated series" and then I said "I'm a weird customer aren't I?" and they said "Not even close". Thought I'd share that exchange with you. Kind of funny. I still haven't ordered them but I will. Lark's Tongues will soon be in Aspic! 

I'll tell you what else I've been listening to. Some Jason Falkner (ex-Jellyfish & Grays) who I think is grossly under-known and under-appreciated considering how good he is. I've been listening to a bunch of classic Rush. I'm actually friends with the people at Rush's label (the band and various staff use our products plus we have a product with Neil) so they sent me the entire "Sectors" box sets which was very nice. I'm listening to "A Farewell to Kings" right now actually. I'll be getting in a "Rush mood" because I've got an entire album of Rush music to mix this month with Sonic Elements! More about that later (I've mentioned a bit in this blog already). 

Another cool thing I've been listening to is Steven Wilson's "Grace for Drowing" album, the special edition box set which I also got as a gift from Steven since I played on the album. (I don't always get albums as gifts and actually I quite enjoying buying them and supporting the artists, labels and resellers). I actually played more on the song Raider II than what ended up in the final mix. In fact I have several unreleased versions of that and other stuff I can never share with anyone publicly but fun to listen to as an alternative (I like outtakes and alternate versions of songs particularly if they have something else special about them and these definitely do). I came across my name in the creative credits (see pic below). 

So... I'm listening to music while I work. Is this what you wanted to read about? Haha. Maybe? Other perhaps cooler ACTUAL news is that one of our sample editors at Sonic Reality, Mike, just turned in a first version of the Nick Mason, drummer of Pink Floyd, sampled drum kits! Gonna check that out tomorrow. We recorded Nick in England with Alan Parsons as our engineer and me producing the session. Alan originally recorded Dark Side of the Moon with Floyd and he and Nick haven't worked together like that since the mid-70s. So everyone was totally psyched (no one more psyched than I though). I'll be sharing a lot more about that in the coming months. It's pretty incredible and I'm so grateful to Nick, to Alan, to Guy Pratt and all the people who helped make this possible including Tony Smith, Nick's manager who also happens to manage Phil Collins and Genesis! In fact that was a very funny conversation we first had when discussing the project. I wonder if I mentioned it earlier in the blog... I don't want to repeat myself. Anyway, once we knew who each other were things warmed up... because otherwise he can be pretty tough (as most managers of big name artists probably would be). 

Alan Parsons and Nick Mason on Squids Side of the Moon

That's what I have to report so far. No traveling at the moment but I'm always on some sort of adventure. Even wiring has a story to it (as you can see). "Yep, we all have stories" - Swingers (I like to quote movies). 

Monday, January 7, 2013

Getting ready to go back to LA!

Squids here in the New Year giving a quick update on things. Just got my ticket to go to LA/Anaheim in a couple weeks for the Winter NAMM Show. That's a trade show that happens every year for makers of musical instruments and equipment. I've been going to them each year without fail for over 20 years. I would originally go just to check out the latest gear and technology but then in the mid 90's I started going as a music product vendor myself with Sonic Reality sample libraries. I think when I get a minute I'll tell some stories of past NAMM experiences. One of the best times was showing keyboard drumming tips to Stevie Wonder who was playing my drum samples in 2005 on the last day of NAMM. I think there's even a video of that but here's a picture:

Stevie Wonder playing Sonic Reality sounds at NAMM in the IK Multimedia Booth

Whenever I go to LA there's always a few sessions and sushi. It's a must! One of the sessions I'm doing this time is with both McBroom Sisters, Durga and Lorelei who each sang with Pink Floyd as well as many other artists. I've already done sessions recording them individually, one with Durga in LA engineered by Alan Parsons and another in Connecticut with Lorelei. Not only are they singing on Sonic Elements' special Floyd tribute album that I'm co-producing but we're also doing some cool vocal sampling this time and more. I'll be able to share all about that later. But I'm looking forward to it! Their voices compliment each other so well. Plus they're a lot of fun.

Lorelei and Durga McBroom

I'm going to meet up with producer/engineer Ken Scott who I worked with on creating "EpiK DrumS" featuring Billy Cobham, Terry Bozzio, Rod Morgenstein, Bob Siebenberg and Woody Woodmansey (the drummers of bands Ken produced and recorded back in the day such as Supertramp, David Bowie, Missing Persons, Dixie Dregs, Mahavishnu Orchestra). We're going to go over new updates to the series that will be released in 2013 plus a possible music project involving various well-known names in rock. Once again I'll have to wait to share the details but that too is exciting!

Producer/Engineer Ken Scott (Beatles, Elton John, Bowie, Supertramp...)

In fact, 2013 is going to be a great year for music and sampling projects. We've got the release of the debut album from a band called "Sound of Contact" that I'm in with Simon Collins, son of Genesis frontman/drummer Phil Collins, the release of a Sonic Elements Rush tribute album featuring Neil Peart Drums which I'm mixing this month and so much more! Always busy with something and there's never a dull moment. Even just the other day apparently Timbaland stopped by my studio partner's room and they "jammed" on some keyboards. I totally missed the event because I was deep in wires. I'm in the midst of re-wiring my studio for upcoming mixes. That same day I was working on a track with Francis Dunnery, Keith Emerson and Steve Hackett (Steve's parts being recorded this month)! Talk about unusual combinations of musical activity condensed in a day! But, I like it like that. If you've been following along with this blog you know I do.