The Linear Canvas
This journal is about the wrongs and rights of the world, as I see them.

The Linear Canvas

My Newest Recording – Does It Matter (remix)

June 3rd, 2012 . by Alexander Fisher


timlar1Does It Matter was at one time, my favorite of all my originals. It was early in my recording history and I thought it was well written and recorded. With each new recording though, it became just another of the many projects I had completed. Somewhere along the way I had let it fade off into my distant memories.

The song is about a lot of things. Apathy mainly, but also religion, fear, politics, societal pressures, corporate lies, repression, and propaganda. It’s about the slow motion coup d’état that the corporatists have engaged in, in earnest, since the early 1980’s. Subverting our society so slowly no one notices their rights, jobs, and lives being drained away. Kind of a giant sucking sound, but not just from down Mexico way. From all directions.

Recently I realized that I hear an echo of a quotation by Martin Niemöller, a German pastor and theologian of the early 20th century in this song, I wrote the song long after Mr. Niemöller wrote his piece, but years before I actually read it. I just seem to be stating the same thing, only with more lead guitar.

First they came for the communists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.

The analog tracks on Does It Matter were originally recorded on a Yamaha MT-100 II 4 track cassette recorder using high speed (3.75 IPS) and dbx noise reduction. It was recorded some time around 1995. I tried to capture the analog audio digitally as 24 bit at 48 kHz. I ended up with 32 bit and 44.1 kHz. When I realized that, I was half way done with the project. The reasons are, I had a cold and I started to do this on my new Cakewalk Sonar X1 installation. I have only had it a week and only got a book for it today. I soon figured out that the time stretching property sheet was hidden somewhere or not a part of the audio workstation software in the way it was before. I had been having trouble with the X1 envelope tool as it had changed as well. But the main reason I finished the mix on Sonar v8.5 was that the project wouldn’t open in X1 anymore. Because of the time base issues I was going to have to do it on v8.5 anyway.

I re-mixed this song once before back in 2010. But I wanted to change the drums to something a little more current sounding, though they really didn’t sound that bad. The original drums tracks were played on a cheap Yamaha MIDI drum pad using my Boss Dr. Rhythm drum machine. I used a click track to establish the beat and came back over and played the cymbal and drums sounds separately.  No sequencer was used. The tempo ended up at 127.84 beats per minute. I would guess the original drum track was probably 128 bpm. I would also guess the variance is mostly mechanical issues with the tape recorder. But the drum machine clock could have been off some too.

I played all the tracks into my computer from my 4 track tape deck. Then I cut up all the new digital tracks into the 3 sets of 4 tracks that I ended up synchronizing. Out of the 12 total tracks there were 2 sets of 2 tracks that were sub-mixes. Although I did not use the sub-mixes in the final mix, I was able to synchronize the other tracks using them as a reference. That left me with just 8 tracks to mix. I then used the two analog drum tracks to create the MIDI drum sequence and then muted them. That left me with 6 mono audio tracks and the Session Drummer 3 MIDI drum plug in, for the final mix.

The technique I used for recording way back then was probably unique. It made it harder to do a remix, but with one tape I could record up to 12 tracks or so without destroying the original performance. I used a second cassette deck with dbx noise reduction to record the sub-mix and then recorded that back to the Yamaha; As either mono or stereo tracks. I would add more parts, do another sub-mix and repeat until the tape was full. If it wasn’t for my odd recording technique all those years ago, I would not have these high fidelity recordings that I am able to manipulate so easily now.

Each set of 4 tracks had its own time base. That came from many things. All tape recordings have wow and flutter. That means that any tape is never perfectly stable in speed or pitch, ever. Some were very close but never absolutely perfect. Add in variations in the tape manufacturing, dirty tape mechanisms, wear on rubber parts, and even how much tape was on either tape hub. Those and other factors cause a slight difference in tape tension and tape speed at any given moment. I would do a sub mix on another tape deck too. So that added to the variance from the original tempo, and its own unique distortions along the signal path. Some of the tape decks I used developed mechanical problems and varied in speed substantially. One deck in particular, but all had their signature speed issues. Luckily when a tape recorder was working as well as it could, those variations were minimal.

After squashing, stretching, and sliding the audio tracks around for about an hour I was able to get all into sync. I’m actually pretty good at that now.

I played electric guitar on a Fender Stratocaster and an Ibanez Les Paul. The bass was a Rickenbacker 4001. Around the time I recorded this, my friend Tim Larkins had told me he was using some overdrive on his bass rig. On this recording I processed the bass through a distortion pedal and that gave it a high frequency bite. In two places during the song, I play high on the neck using a lead style. Using the overdrive gave it that lead tone that cut through all the rest of the performances.

The drums and cymbals, plus some digital editing, are based the original recording I made using my Boss Dr. Rhythm drum machine and Yamaha MIDI drum pad. I used Cakewalk Sonar’s AutoSnap feature to identify the drum and cymbal hits, called transients. Then I used the Copy As MIDI command to create a MIDI drum track that mirrors my original performance. Using that I was able to change the sound of the drums to higher quality modern samples. In this case, Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham’s drum kit.

I digitally processed the instrument and vocal tracks using Cakewalk Sonar v8.5 Producer DAW and Sony Sound Forge 9 audio editor. Hopefully I can use Sonar X1 to do my next project. But I haven’t had it long enough to know where they moved everything.

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