I am not a Musician, I am not a ‘Producer’. There’s just a sound in my head that I’m trying to get out…
Finally having some money of my own, I began slowly collecting vinyl in 1997 which eventually led to some great DJ gigs when living in London, Dublin, Berlin and SanFranciso. I loved the music and to DJ, but frankly I soon tired of ‘the scene’ filled with pretentious party bores. I am not DJ so-and-so, I am me.
However a flame still flickered within: To make my own music, from the ground up, and to play this live for the pleasure of other people (esp the ladies hihi).
Discovered VST Synthesizers – purchased FLStudio and RGCAudio’s Z3ta+ and PentagonI bundle. To me, Z3ta+ sounded incredible. I had no knowledge whatsoever of how to program a synthesizer, but I liked the results when I loaded-up a preset and moved the sliders. This instrument intrigued me, but I could never spend serious time with it because of more pressing life matters. I continued to dick-around whenever I had a precious few minutes, with no great results to call my own. Plus there were distractions caused by new, apparently better, VSTs, trying various hosts, configurations, workflow, etc. AAaaargh!
The first foray into hardware was a HUGE mistake – the Novation KS-4. At half price, I thought I was getting a bargain on a new synth and MIDI controller after foolishly heeding the magazine reviews. The idea of a 4-voice K-station was appealing, but in the end I wasn’t happy. I found it generally thin, unrewarding to tweak and overly drenched with ‘the Novation sound’, which just doesn’t appeal to me. Too smooth, soft, whatever. The build quality was disappointing too, and the crappy envelopes were causing clicks. The thing is also quite ugly, and just ended-up gathering dust. I didn’t have a dedicated space, so it rarely came out of the closet, much to my shame. Never sold it, but keeping it for a future building project.
At the same time I had picked up a Korg ER-1 which was MUCH more fun to use. I spent a lot of spare moments making dinky sequences, but it was only after seeing other users on Youtube that I realised the true potential of this drumsynth. I still have it, but it has been superseded in use by it’s descendent, ESX-1 (see below).
After spending far too much time browsing audio hardware forums, and fatigued by using clunky VSTs (I must have knobs to tweak) I decided that I needed an E-Mu Command Station. It seemed the logical step-up in power from the ER-1, and I liked the idea of moving away from the computer to an all-in-one ROMpler/synth/sequencer with FX . So I scooped an XL-7 off ebay for €300, and haven’t looked back. Though I’ve had serious doubts.
At around that time E-Mu had been bought by Creative Audio, who were based in Dublin, as was I. I had a drinking buddy who worked for Creative – he told me about their stock clearance of sound ROMs and gave me a number to call. The XL-7 comes with only1 32Mb ROM card (consisting mainly dance-orientated samples), but there are 3 additional ROM slots. For a fraction of the street price I filled the slots with the Vintage ROM, POP Composer, and the quite rare and wrongly-maligned Ensoniq Project ROM. I couldn’t have been happier.
However a lot of this was still aspirational – I still didn’t have the time or the space to have a permanent setup that I could just switch-on, compose and tweak. The XL-7 is a deep and quite complex machine, coming with a fat manual. Many nights of sneaking a peek at the manual and running upstairs to try something followed. I wanted so badly to understand this machine, and to eventually master it. Although I recognized it’s potential, I allowed myself to become frustrated – mostly because I didn’t have enough time to myself. Compounding this was the thought that this time could, and shouldm be better spent actually learning a musical instrument and, ya’know, playing music. On top of this, my girlfriend was quite demanding and a little scornful of my meagre progress. Something had to give! I decided to act.
First came the understanding of my priorities, and that making music could be one of those. However I couldn’t let it be my main priority, even if I really wanted to. Second came the realisation that, even though I am getting older, there is no rush to all of this. I should aim for a leisurely target that fits my other priorities. Thirdly came the conviction to focus on working with only a small number of well-considered quality VSTs and hardware. With these in mind, I set myself the following goals:
- Learn to play Keyboards and Guitar competently, by ear, within 6 years.
- To compose, perform and produce an album of varying musical styles that I can be proud of, and perform it live within 10 years.
A long time you think? Maybe, but what’s the rush? Isn’t that what life is about? Well I’m happy with this – it has taken the pressure off, frustrations have dissolved (mostly).
I immediately bought a guitar.
By the time I reached these conclusions, and thus started the clock, it was…
…aaaaand work takes over. Endless travel, no routine. Chaos.
More to come…maybe