Saturday, August 15, 2009

New Album: "My Joke is Ruining Your Joke"

The new album is finished (no artwork yet), but please download it. It's the best record we've ever made.

the mp3 version -

the flac version -

(if you don't know, which one you want, you want the mp3s)

Get the lyrics here. Yeah, it's a text file.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

We needs that crunch.

Having done hours of research today, it looks like I want a low cost, rackmount 12bit sampler, most likely an Akai s900. Something late 80s/early 90s, but that doesn't use some insane and obsolete storage format (like QuikDisk - ha!). S950s are better, but have scsi outs and are more upgradeable = too expensive.

The other (even cheaper, and in some ways cooler) option is a Roland S550. It's the rack version of the S-50. They're extra cool, because you can hook them up to a monitor or TV and program and edit with a mouse. They're super cheap (this one is $100, shipped!). Since I don't need to take sounds from the computer and dump them to a sampler, and I don't need to make hip-hop music with an MPC style interface, I don't need to spend $1000 on a digital production unit. Basically either one of these is just a super advanced Casio SK-1. I don't really need one, but having spent several hours looking at them, I might as well buy one.

My real plan is to take a look at what sampler software I have in storage from 10 years ago and just buy one of those.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Now we are unstoppable.

Two Hand Tapping - Two Peavey Mystics

The Ft. Worth Guitar Show once again delivers! Our friend Rod told me about this blue Mystic he had at the Dallas show back in May, so he brought it with him. It's not in quite as good shape as my red-orange Mystic, but it was only $150. I now need to purchase white, silver and metallic red Mystics for my collection to be complete. I've also got a line on a white Peavey Mantis. Then I need a Razer and then it's on to one of every American Peavey manufactured before 1986. Let me know if you've got something you want to sell me.

Two Peavey Mystics

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Circuit Bent Walkman/Drum Machine/Tape Sampler

Circuit Bent Walkman w/speed control

I've had this broken old walkman (or portable cassette player) lying around for ages (I paid $1 for it at an estate sale two years ago). I've added three pots for varying levels of speed control. The one on the left is the master speed, the top left is double speed and fine adjust and the top right is 1/2 speed and fine adjust. See that grey wire running across the middle? That's an awesome bass boost I added. This hits so hard now, you wouldn't believe it.

The Big Idea here is as follows: you take a cassette tape with a length of drum sample on it. You then press play on the deck and adjust the speed to the desired tempo. If you're super cool, you'll turn the speed of your drum machine all the way, then cut the the speed by half. What happens? Oh no! Your casio is now rattling the dinner plates.

Circuit Bent Walkman - board closeup

Circuit Bent Walkman - side view

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Controlling the Gakken SX-150

Gakken Synth Keyboard Mod

For a while now, I've been trying to figure out how to achieve more control over my Gakken synth without spending a fortune. Sure, I could go the midi controller route, but a c/v to midi kit is $50. I'd read some stuff online about making ribbon controllers so I thought I'd take a shot at it. You know that I'm lazy and don't like carefully executing well planned out projects, so it's no surprise that the end result is less than professional.

What you will need for this project:
a cardboard box or a 3 foot piece of wood
double stick tape
four alligator clip leads
regular point tip test lead
a sharpie
a chromatic guitar tuner
an old data backup tape/pro-grade vhs tape/dat tape

Cut the flaps off the box and fold it down into a strip (or just find a 3 foot piece of cardboard). Run the double stick tape down the middle of the cardboard. Crack open the tape case and pull out about 50% more than the length of the cardboard. Stick the magnetic tape (dull side up) on the length of the sticky tape. Place the clips on each end of the tape (now stuck to the cardboard). Unscrew the two leads from the Gakken's carbon strip [the thing you play it with]. Clip each lead to the respective ends of the cardboard. Using the extra clip leads and test lead, extend the Gakken's stylus so you can reach the cardboard strip. You can now play the gakken by touching the stylus to the strip of mag tape. Look how much more range you have!

Now comes the tedious part. Hook the tuner up to the output on the gakken. Touch the lower left end of the mag strip with the stylus and look at the note it produces. It may be so low that it's silent. Move the stylus to the right until you get a low C. Mark it with a line and the note. Now keep going right and marking every half step. At some point (probably about 3/4 of the way up) the notes will be so high that you probably won't even want to play them. I can't guarantee the scale will be the same for everyone - different brands and grades of tape will have different levels of resistance. I couldn't be more pleased about the outcome of this project. Instead of spending $50.00 - I spend maybe $0.05 - if you include the sharpie I used.

So congrats, your tiny monophonic analog synth is now actually playable. Bueno, no?

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Electro Harmonix Drum Machine

Electro-Harmonix DRM16 Drum Machine

I traded off two cheap Teisco Del Rays that I'd been carrying around to shows for a while for this GOD of a drum machine. Built in 1978, this little fucker destroys with it's built in patterns. It has a dedicated BASS DRUM output. Hmmm... that means it could have a dedicated out for each instrument. After much searching I found the schematics on a German website - oh yeah, I can definitely get a separate out for each. But I don't want to drill more holes in the case. My plan? A 5 pin DIN jack in place of the current OUTPUT 2 jack. Then a DIN to five female 1/4" squid cable for the breakout. I'm also pretty sure that I might be able to bend it by adding some pots in place of the resistors after the IC chip. I'll keep you posted.

Check the sounds straight out of it:
Discover Simple, Private Sharing at

Sunday, April 19, 2009

You know we love drum machines.

So having been a longtime fan of Audio Playground's Virtual Drum Machine Museum, I'm always into checking out new online drum modules. Enter the n00b on the nettubes: Hobnox Audiotool. It's German, it's flash-based, it sounds awesome and it's new favorite timewaster. It features a 909, an 808, a 303 and a ton of effects. It's all point and click, it's easy enough for a kid to use but poweruser enough to keep me interested. It would be an amazing way to teach signal path and effects chains to school children (or adults, most of whom don't seem to understand it).

I'd especially like to try it on a large 32" touchscreen. It will be nice to see how they develop it and what other features they add. I think a lot of users would be willing to pay for extra modules (other drum machines/synths/samplers - i'm thinking MPC) and you can't save your sessions (though you can record and upload your mixes).

I think this is an awesome (and free!) alternative to VST plugins for your average person. It's simple, unpretentious, accessible and it doesn't cost $1000. Check out the Stereo Detune and Bitcrush effects plugins. They're neat.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

New Album Title? Confirmed.

Megan came up with the best possible album title for the currently titled, "Moon Mission Death Squad #6", scheduled for release on Aug. 15th, 2009. And the title is:

My Joke is Ruining Your Joke

It's perfect, isn't it? It's a total stroke of brilliance on her part. Thanks Meg!

Friday, April 03, 2009

Portastudio 414

Tascam 414

I love estate sales. $15 for this perfect 4 track. I was going to save it for the guitar show, but I think I already have a buyer.

Tascam 414 (CloseUp)

Monday, March 30, 2009

Drum Machine into the Tape Deck

pic via our friends at matrixsynth

OK, new tricks:

VL-Tone drum machine --> Input 5 on Tascam Board -->
Submix Out 5--> Tascam 122 Tape Deck --> Tape Monitor Out on 122 -->
Input 1 on Tascam Board --> Buss 4 on Tascam Board --> Fostex 250 4-track

Does that seem complex? Well... it is. Basically what I'm doing is using the board and 122 to overdrive and eq, then tape saturate the signal before bringing it back into the 4 track. In more simple terms I'm recording the recording of the VL-Tone. It's fucking awesome. Additionally I cranked the bass at about 60hz to make it hit a little harder.

You have to be careful with it, but you can also get an infinite repeats feedback loop going by feeding a little of Submix out 1 (the signal that's going to the 4 track) into the 122. Cranking it past 1 or 2 will blow everything up (which might be cool if you sampled it), so be forewarned.

You get a lot of natural tape compression from the saturation which I think adds a ton of punch (or Dick/Fuck as we say in the industry) and I might start doing it with all drums/drum machines. Sadly this technique can only work with the first track you lay down because of the several ms of latency between the original input and the output from the 122 back to the 4-track.

Remember you can only do this if your tape deck has 2 or more heads and both a TAPE and SOURCE monitor switch. Of course if your deck has a speed switch and fine adjust knob, you can use it as a slap back echo.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Crushingly, my famed Fostex 250 is not doing so hot. Considering that it's over 25 years old, and has seen umpteen hours of use in the last 3 years, this is less than surprising. As luck would have it, however, I responded to a craigslist ad for a Tascam 464. The 464 is the upgraded version of the classic 424 (not to be confused with the 424 MKIII - the 464 is still better). Arguably the best tabletop 4 track Tascam ever made (the 234 is cooler, but rackmount). A good condition 424 goes for $100-$175 on that eeebay, but no one knows about the 464. I paid $65 bucks for this beast and am damn pleased about it. The transport is super-stable and the pre's sound great. I'm of course still running everything through the board, and the only drawback to this unit is that it doesn't feature direct tape inputs (which you could probably hack into by looking at the insert returns on the first two tracks and duplicating the wiring on 3 and 4 - it's probably a lot of work though). I've dumped the tracks off the Minidisc and am ready to record some vocals, so we'll see how it turns out. So far I'm immensely pleased with this purchase.

As for the Fostex, I'm going to try and either swap the pinch roller off a newer broken tape deck, or pay $35 for a reconditioned pinch roller from Terry's.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Korg EX-800 Mod, Part 2

EX800 Moog Slayer Mod - Finished

After seven years of talking about it, I finally modified something. I went ahead and did the Moog Slayer mod (cutoff and resonance knobs for the filter), the FM mod for DCO1 and the noise control knob. Here are some pictures of the process.

EX800 Grounded Pot Assembly - Step 1
I drilled the case out, installed the knobs and grounded them together.

EX800 Pot Assembly - Step 2
Here I've attached the leads to the pots.
Top Left is Resonance, Bottom Left is Cutoff, Top Right is Oscillator, Bottom Right is Noise.

EX800 Pot Assembly - Step 3
Larger view of compete front panel assembly.
The pots with marker on them are the pots I added. The middle three are original.

EX800 - Liquid Electrical Tape
Instead of using heat shrink I bought some Liquid Electrical Tape.

EX800 Liquid Electrical Tape Drip
It works really well, but it smells awful and it's super drippy.
It took two coats to get really covered.

EX800 mod finished pot replacement
Internal board with mods wired in. I chose not to replace the resistors on
the board because I didn't want to ruin it.

EX800 Grounded and Reassembled
Finally, I grounded the whole whole thing. The red wire on the right
has a resistor covered in liquid tape running to the cutoff pot.

The big question is, "How does it sound?" It sounds amazing.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Korg EX-800 Mod, Part 1

Korg EX-800

I'm going to attempt to modify my Korg EX-800. "Atom Smasher" from has a fairly easy looking filter mod known as "The Moog Slayer" for my rackmount Poly-800. It involves removing two trim pots from the board and case mounting them so you can manually control the analog filter. While I'm at it, I'm going to swap the NOISE control trim pot on the board for a case mount pot as well.

He also has a slightly more complicated mod where you jump one of the points on the DCO's IC chip and control the oscillator's cutoff with a knob. I'm not really sure what that means, but if the filter mod goes well, I might try the other one.

I went ahead and removed the trim pots and I've ordered the parts along with a step drill bit to put clean holes in the metal case.

Korg EX-800 Mod: Step 1

VR5 is the resonance, VR2 is the filter cutoff.

Korg EX-800 Mod: Removing Trim Pots

Korg EX-800 Mod: Removing Noise Pot

VR3 is the noise level.

Korg EX-800 Mod: Removed Trim Pots

Trim pots after I de-soldered them from the board.

Monday, March 02, 2009

MMDS & Springsteen::Kennedy & Lincoln

The TEAC 4-track recorder Bruce used to record Nebraska -- that's it above, the very one. And you'll be able to see it up close and personal at Cleveland's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Museum in less than a month. On April, 1, during the Rock Hall's 2009 Induction Week, they'll unveil their latest exhibit, "From Asbury Park to the Promised Land: The Life and Music of Bruce Springsteen."
via backstreets

Hmmm... who's 4track does this look like? Our Fostex 250 is almost identical to the TEAC 144. See, we're just that awesome.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

dbx Model 700 Digital Audio Processor

Uh... did you know this existed?

The dbx Model 700 Digital Audio Processor was a professional audio ADC/DAC combination unit, which digitized a stereo analog audio input into a bitstream, which was then encoded and encapsulated in an analog composite video signal, for recording to tape using a VCR as a transport. Unlike other similar pieces of equipment like the Sony PCM-F1, the Model 700 used a technique called Companded Predictive Delta Modulation, rather than the now-common pulse-code modulation.
Yeah, did you understand that? It's a rack unit that records 644kbs audio to a VHS tape. I would give up one of my toes for one of these. Any information regarding where one of these units might be aquired would be greatly appreciated. Check out this period review.

Monday, January 12, 2009

"Get Ready and Roll the Cassette"

Estate Sale. 25¢ each.

(05) Maxell MX 110 - Metal Type IV HIGHEST BIAS EVER
(10) Maxell XLII 100 - Type II High Bias
(08) TDK SA 90 - Type II High Bias
(02) TDK SA-X 90 - Type II High Bias
(02) Maxell UDII CD74 - [it always seemed odd to me that you'd manufacture a tape that was the same length as a CD since that makes each side 37 minutes long. Most cds are about 45-50 minutes long, so it actually makes the most sense to buy 110 minute tapes and put an album on each side. The drawback of course being that 110 minute tapes snap fairly easily.]

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Ghosts of Moon Mission's Past

Today was transfer day, and by that I mean I finally got around to running a bunch of 10-15 year old cassettes to the PC. (I ran them at 48/24... i know it's silly to use such a high encoding bit rate since they're old tapes, but it's just a thing I like doing.) It was mostly some old 4track mixdowns from junior high (most of which is just bizarre), a tape of my metal band Malidiktor from the 7th grade - early 7th grade at that, and a MMDS show I taped from 2003. They came out pretty well for using the IdeaPad's sound card (which does leave quite a bit to be desired for pro-audio purposes) and Audacity (which I love and swear by).

The live show was in pretty bad shape, but it's cleaned up fairly well. I recorded it as an afterthought on a crappy 70's Panasonic school tape player (the same one I now use to listen to tapes on my bike) sitting in front of the tiny PA at Shooties' Lounge (no longer in existence) on Reno and Sooner in Midwest City, OK. It's actually a pretty good show for me having called Daniel and said, "Bring your drums, we're playing a show tonight." I know there are a couple of songs that he'd maybe only heard once and we just decided to wing it. I think that's a strong testament to what a great drummer my brother is when he wants to be. After soaping out all the motor noise and hiss, it's thin, and the vocals aren't quite as loud as I wish they were, but it sounds sort of OK. I'll post it after I cut it up and convert it to MP3.

On the whole there weren't really any "uncovered gems", but I didn't expect there to be. I do wish I had more live shows taped, but oh well. If you ever played a show with us that you recorded, let me know.