Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

I’m on the right sitting in the courtyard of Sheffield Corporation with Leighton, co-promoter of Resistanz. Leighton’s first gig as promoter was Ultraviolence back in 2004, and he invited me up to Resistanz last year as a guest. He offered Ultraviolence the chance to play on April 8th 2012, effectively a comeback show as we hadn’t played live for seven years, because of my ill health. I had hoped to be completely cured for over a year before committing to the huge task of getting a new band together and mixing the music up to date, but it was too good an opportunity to pass on.

Here we are on the Sunday afternoon, dressed down rather. Our new singer Sam has chosen a post-post modern  fairisle number, whilst I’ve gone with a blue “save the tiger” T! The show sold out, so an audience  of 1000+ would have intimidated anyone not used to large audiences, however Sam remained composed and sang singing Elektra and Separation, as well as handling the soundcheck well. Most people get embarrassed with the inevitable “one-two-ing” which are part of the job. Sam will be performing more tracks at our next show and I’ll be writing new material for her voice shortly. Being part of an all day line-up can make getting a good sound difficult – my long time sound engineer John Paul did a brilliant job on the mix, along with assistant Tristan and the Corporation’s Pete & Mark.

One big change from the last time we played out is the speed of information with use of smart phones – here Mel Allezbleu has been caught miscommunicating. Mel was Ultraviolence grinder in 2004-5, now repatriated to keyboardist, a role she had performed many times in shows with Icon of Coil and The Chaos Engine, amongst others. Some might be expect that bands with female/pretty keyboard players would be miming, but we didn’t consider that as an option here – it’s all done right or not at all. It’s tough to learn keyboard lines the Ultraviolence way as I tend to go with intricate drones, as opposed to the simple melody approach favoured by much electro-industrial music. After much work we got there, all sounding killer. Luckily Mel’s fave synth, the K-Station as a virtual equvilant in the V-Station so we were able to bounce sounds around via email.

With the band now being a four piece there won’t always be room (or venue licencing) for angle grinder or fire swingers, so we’re hiring on a show by show basis. Here are the brilliant and charming Asha Tank and Eve Dearbhail Travis, master portraits of health and cool. Asha and Eve her good enough to agree to angle grind for us at the last minute when it became clear that the show demanded it, performing on Macochist Fury, Stigmata and Hardcore Motherfucker 2012.

Guitarist and keyboard player Paul Bachelor has been a friend to Ultraviolence since his previous band Ion played with us at The Electric Ballroom, Camden in 2001. We were larking around on Facebook when we came up with the idea of having live guitar in a UV show. This was a pretty big step – I made no secret in previous years of the fact that most of the music was played off a digital tape so to risk the pitfalls of live performance was always a risk. However, I really didn’t want to comeback the same as 2005, so more live stuff was an exciting challenge. We all needed eye protection from the grinding sparks and here Paul sports a pair of shades in a photograph that  brings to mind a cybernetic John Lydon.

A few minutes before stage time and nerves were a bit raw – first live show for seven years, completely new band, six people on stage, fast festival equipment changeover – what could possibly go wrong? I really did think I’d been a fucking idiot and over-reached myself completely at various stages of preparation, but when the lights go down and the music comes on everything changes, the world as I know it ceases to exist and my only purpose becomes to express the side of my personality that I do not otherwise show. To expose the inner soul and to attack. To make the bass drum reign.

I had worried that I would be nervous when onstage but was not so at all and felt completely at home by the end of the second track, Joan. The audience were tremendous – I hope you all know how grateful we were for our awesome reception – we really had no idea what to expect. My muscles were all tensed for the entire 45 minutes but I didn;t notice any discomfort at all at the time. I once came off the stage with a hand covered in dried blood from a hand injury but noticed no pain for hours.

The set worked out that there were quite a few tracks for my vocals, but I still had a fair bit of kit to operate as well. I mixed the live electronics through a 12 channel Mackie mixing desk, along with a Novation Xio keyboard and a Korg Monotron hooked up to a Behringer vocoder. Fucking Beheinger broke, though so no electronic voice sounds. A shame as I spent considerable time and money getting it all going, but on the other hand the show went so well without it’s kind of got that hassle out of the way and I’ll be leaving the stupid thing at home next time. The Xio has a nice XY pad for sound manipulation wich I enjoyed using, especially on Death of a Child. I might expand on that idea and use an iPad next time out in London this August but we’ll see.

Mel looking magnificently imposing with her K Station perched upon a gun metal Ultimate Support stand,  complete with custom LED’s. The live keyboards added unpredictability and potential chaos to the show, although I detected no mistakes whatsoever. The live filters are never the same twice. Some smart clothes choices and excellent lighting by Tom Arnold helped all of us to look our best.

Paul looks every inch the rockstar here. He even brought along a Marshall amp which sounded totally kicking, a supercharged V12 of a noise. Paul had a bit of a torture test learning the apparently random attack bursts of Electronic Death Resistanz, amongst others but was more than up to the challenge.

All these great photos were taken by Dokka Chapman, who was kind enough to put up with us for the weekend – this is my favourite. I do the occaisional guest lecture to music tech students and I always say that to follow the route my life has – writing and performing leftfield electronic music – you can’t expect to earn than a basic living – possibly not even that. But you may get to keep moments that you  absolutely cannot buy with any amount of money. I have a few – the first playback of my finished first album was the best but what you see here runs it close. I had been in some humbling physical and emotional pain for a long time and to have my music appreciated isn’t something that I’ll ever take for granted. To see myself and the band like this – built from nothing –  is an achievement I’ll always treasure, no matter what happens. In many ways I am very lucky.

Thanks again to the band and everyone else I’ve mentioned as well as Phyll, Stuart, Gadge, Sian, Jaf, Lee and Sam for helping to make this the best Ultraviolence show ever.


Posted: January 31, 2012 in Music
Tags: , , , , ,

Blowing the Ultraviolence speakers lately…

Neophyte  Mainiak

Stunning gabber production from Dutch mastersn bbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbb –  the cat have liked it so much he just ran up to the speakers and  across my keyboard…Neophyte’s usual mix of 909 and hoover sounds is perfected here with an expert build up of fist pumping noise over the 4.5 mins. I heard this on Radio 1 of all places when I got up at 4 in the morning the other night, and I ordered the album from HMV – maybe Neophyte will eventually get the huge profile they enjoy in Europe over here sometime. The last time I bought a Neophyte album I had to import from Holland for a small fortune and when it finally arrived they’d used one of my vocal samples on the first track, The Hardest Remake. I don’t mind the sampling but at least I could have got a freebie, eh, EH?

Motorhead Motorhead

No Sleep ‘Til Hammersmith has got to be the greatest live album ever made, so by extension this has to be the best live track ever recorded…or maybe Overkill from the same album…or possibly Neophyte’s Always Hardcore, which doesn’t, um ,appear on a live album! I’ve been going through music by some my childhood sweetheart metal bands lately – Motorhead still rule for sure, you can truly feel the energy and sincerity in the music, and that never dates. Around ten years ago I was lucky enough to meet Lemmy and he was unlucky enough to meet me…I made a total knob of myself but I’m sure he’s forgotten by now and so should I. But it’s hard. I wrote a whole blog piece about it but it was so fucking miserable I had to ditch it.

Harrison Birtwistle &  David Harsent The Minotaur

OK this is an opera, but it must also be the most truly hardcore music I’ll be looking at today. No CD or download available, you’ll have to sit through all 2.5 hours on DVD or Blu Ray…not such a chore when the stark, monolithic like sets with teutonic lighting are beautifully shot and featuring scenes of cannibalism and rape as the Minotaur contemplates his own dual nature…the monstrous bull and the more monstrous human that lurks inside him, whilst his duplicitous assailants fuck each other over whilst innocents get gored to bits! The atmosphere is almost as crushingly miserable as when I think about the day I met Lemmy.

Ultraviolence vs Beyonce Violent Single Ladies

This unofficial mash-up was on YouTube a while back but got scooped up in the Great Music Purges of 2011. An inspired idea, you will notice from superb production sound wasn’t done in hour on Traktor LE. In fact it is the work of Graeme Norgate, well known as soundtrack composer on multi-zillion seller N64 game Goldeneye and more recently for the audio design of multi zillion selling Crysis 2. I was lucky enough to go for a bite to eat with Graeme lately. He had a,um, Lemmy burger. Download the track here…

I’ve recently been doing a spot of educational work and last February performed a guest lecture to music technology students at Confetti Studios in Nottingham. As a demonstration of shifts in the music making process I made a new version of 1996’s Heaven Is Oblivion single – here follows an explanation of how the chorus section was made with slides from the presentation. Should you have no interest in music technology, but would like to listen to the finished track click here.

Heaven Is Oblivion first appeared as the final track of the episodic Ultraviolence album Psycho Drama. Although, like most of the album, the subject matter was dark the track was upbeat and released as a single in the following year as it was believed by record label Earache, myself and several names in the music biz to have some mainstream crossover potential. (audio example)

All of the Psycho Drama album  was recorded at my home which I believe in retrospect to have resulted in some substandard vocal recording. However, around £9000 had been spent upgrading my home studio to a standard capable of producing the electronic sound I wanted and so there was no further money left for microphones and acoustic treatment or for hiring a commercial studio. There was however an additional budget for the single version and a recording was made during a day at Protocol Studios in London, with original vocalists Didi Goldhawk and D Quest. The Protocol mix was hurried on unfamiliar equipment and was rejected but the 24 track vocal recordings from the session were used for a new, shorter home version that would become the single, mixed on my Tascam M1600 desk. The 2011 version was recorded within a PC computer using Cubase 5. It is my opinion that mainstream DAWs are very similar to one another in nature and quality but differ in respect to interface, quirks and minor functions – in short I prefer Cubase 5 because I am used to it. I like to mix digitally although it took time to get used to after spending years with an analogue set up, where you would constantly ironing out imperfections and seeking complete separation and purity of sounds, where you might need to add “faults” or ” humanity” to a digital mix. Both domains have pluses and minuses and it would be folly to claim one to be “better” than the other.

The chorus section of Heaven Is Oblivion is loosely based on a triumphant four bar melody section from Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, with the more whimsical 4 bars, both appropriate to the subject matter. The simple backbone of the melody was originally created using an Emu Proteus 2 Orchestral module which was supplied with a bank of 128 sounds which were a mixture of synthesised and sample sounds suited to replicating classical music and cost around £800. Here it is replaced with the modern equivalent East West’s Symphonic Orchestra, one of many minorly different VST plug-ins on the marketplace  containing many gigabytes of orchestral samples.  It sells in various iterations, costing from around £100 for the budget “silver” version heard here – the multiple microphone placements and expressions are surplus to this kind of work. It is worth noting that although Heaven Is Oblivion may be heavily influenced by classical music it was not my intention to produce classical music cheaply by using electronics, but more to use electronics to create a new sound that would create the deep textures and resulting emotions possible with orchestral music. (audio example)

The biggest change  in creating music at home over the last 16 years has been, for me,  the physical size and monetary expense of the equipment, and no more extreme example of the latter can be found in this choir section. 16 years ago, in order to have usable choir samples, I had to buy an sampler with at least 8mb of RAM, in this case an Akai S2800 plus a 270MB hard drive all piling in at a whopping £3000. The actual choir sample CD, the decent Peter Sidilocheck’s Classical Choirs was a more reasonable £50. As I didn’t own a CD-ROM (noisy and unreliable) I had to play each sound into sampler from an external CD player.  For the remake I have used East West’s Symphonic Chiors, which weighs in at £300 and 40GB and will run on a modern domestic PC. Symphonic Choirs contains a “Wordbuilder” function whereby the virtual choir “sings” words entered into a text box by the user. Although the technology is still embryonic, sounding nothing like a real choir performing from a lyric sheet, I have used the function can garner some interesting hooks that hint at the message of the track, and the result is more interesting than the generic sampled choir of the 1996 mix. (audio example)

The original bland keyboard sound of the Roland JX1 is replaced by Camel Audio’s Alchemy VST synth, its morphing additive sounds are rather like saples that can be fully manipulated as synth sounds, lending itself well to distinct electronic orchestral sounds, as hear in this synth- wind preset. The arpeggiator sound of the finished track is also courtesy of Alchemy, with some automation of the morph control providing additional interest as well as a dramatic whoosh for the bridge sections. (audio example)

Some straight old skool synth to keep the sound pallet from straying into faux classical territory courtesy of Native Instrument’s Prophet 5 emulator, the Pro-53, replacing Oberheim’s ultra-phat but non-editable Matrix 1000. (audio example)

Plush layers and spot FX were provided by the S2800 which I have spiritually replicated using ReFx’s Nexus sample player. Nexus contains many expertly programmed, lush presets and I have been careful not to over-use it, as productions can quickly sound like a Nexus fest. Such temptations are not beyond the resistance of mainstream producers and you will hear Nexus recognisably in many chart productions. I have used Native Instruments Battery as a sample player, as I have no need for the extra functions (such as complex keyboard mapping) of their more extensive Kontact counterpart. Here it plays a short classical music sample with a little manipulation within Battery for an electronic feel. (audio example) Now we can hear all the chorus layers together, first raw (audio example) and then panned out with a little EQ and reverb. (audioexample)

I do not have the original vocal samples from Heaven Is Oblivion, so I decided to create something completely different using Image Line’s budget DAW Fruity Loops (now rebadged FL Studio) speech generator.  The sounds were manipulated within Battery and through Prosoniq’s classic (and discontinued) Orange Vocoder. I have lifted a single vocal sample from the original CD which adds a euphoric touch, used sparingly save for in the climax of the piece in the second bridge. I believe these vocals to be at least “as good” as those in the original track, so I have turned a limitation into an advantage – something essential when working within a limited budget.

Solid State Logics’s X-EQ is the only equaliser used in Heaven Is Oblivion S2. Firstly because using one type of EQ can gel the sound in the same way as an analogue mixing desk might, and also because X-EQ has a beautifully transparent sound that can also be automated and used for filter sweeps (as heard on the kick drum early in the finished track) – the filter sweep can also act as an EQ duck so you get a “two for the price of one” dramatic effect together with non-intrusive sound separation. The brilliant graphic interface thankfully makes no attempt to replicate traditional controls and also makes use of a spectrum analyser which can be seen in green behind the EQ curve. Careful to turn it off after use, though, as instances quickly gobble CPU power.

When mixing a traditional band  an aim would normally be to place the instruments into a convincing space. Reverb in electronic music is very different in that it is instead used to embellish and fatten sounds and to place them into a deliberately unworldly sound space. The artefacts associated with actual spaces are generally undesirable. The versatile sound of SSL X-Verb wins over convolution or plate emulations – again the modern GUI makes the usable presets easy to edit and wins out over old fashioned dials and pretend LED readouts. Most of the delays in the finished mix are also X-Verb.

The initial mix of Heaven Is Oblivion S2 runs at 2’40” and took around ten hours of programming to complete. It can be heard here. It is adequate in demonstrating the above points and was deliberately made in such a way as to allow for easy remixing – for instance a dubstep or hard trance version could be made by adding rhythms and only minimal changes to the core elements. However (as is often the case) I grew emotionally attached to the track as well as becoming curious as to what would be possible if it were extended to a full four minutes or so, so spent a further fifteen hours or so making what I consider to be a finished version – click here to listen to it. I feel it to be superior to the original from a technical point of view and possibly from an artistic one, as the increase in dynamics and sonic textures make for a more fulfilling listening experience. Of course, the new technology makes this much easier so on a level field I would say the new version is about “as good” as the ’96 version was fifteen years ago. It is unfortunate that the this music will not see a commercial release, but it was enjoyable to accomplish such a piece of music without feeling under pressure and I hope that Ultraviolence fans will appreciate hearing it free over the Internet. There are many more elements of the track that I haven’t had time to go into here – perhaps I will expand on this article at some point.

Links: Confetti StudiosSteinbergEast WestNative InstrumentsCamel AudioReFx, Image LineSSL, Earache Records

Click here to listen to this exclusive track. I was considering making a 7” single and even got as far as mocking up the electro-goat’s skull sleeve design with 80’s punk inspired “sticker”, but it isn’t really representative of the direction that I’m going in and the feedback I’ve had from people is often “where’s the vocals, then!?!”  I used it a while back as a demonstration when I was giving a guest lecture on music production techniques, as it was made quickly and so is simple enough to explain in an hour. However, in the same lecture I suggested to the students that storing up new music on your hard drive is pointless, so as it’s over a year old I’ve taken my own advise and am giving away the MP3. I may well rework it or chop it up for spare parts at some point, in the meantime crank it up and I hope you get as excited listening to it as I did making it…EEEEEELLLECCTRRONNIIKKKK!!!!! On second thoughts, you might break something…DEATH!!! DEATH!!! DEATH!!!

Cookin’ Trax

Posted: February 13, 2010 in Music
Tags: ,

I’ve been moving house again, this time shifting 7 miles from suburban Norwich into semi-rural Norfolk. Much less distance and stress than when we came from Edinburgh 18 months ago – I was ill then and the whole deal was nightmare city. After years of renting we decided to buy a house so I’ve been able set up my  studio permanently, and have just finished a remix for electro death outfit and sometime Ultraviolence support band Gotecki,  as well as keeping up regular two hour tracks, click here to hear one. I made a track late last year that I think is good enough to make a single out of, but I haven’t decided how to go about it as yet – it’s short and very hardcore so I may do a DIY 7″…I’m going do a remix for the b-side then see.  I’m becoming competent enough to consider investing time and money in songwriting and getting vocalists in, which I think is where the best of my music has and will come from. Elsewhere around the new house I’ve installed a ball breaking 5.1 system in the lounge, with partner pleasing hidden cabling which took 15 hours. Less ambitious is my kitchen radio. I went with an MP3 file playing Pure Evoke-3, as I wanted standard-ish sized speakers to check my mixes on and I didn’t want a third big install in the house, especially not when it’ll be getting a good daily greasing – I spend much time cooking and it is probably what I’m best at next to music. I thought I’d share the contents of my first SD card with you – it plays the file names in alphabetical order. Let’s see how far I can get in a thousand words…

About You Now by Sugababes (MP3 single download) Had New Order been born 20 years and had 3 soul kittens instead of Barney they’d have sounded like this. Mixed for just this kind of listening environment and sounding fabulous, with some tremendous synth drops and buzzes.

Classic comp, well worth tracking down

Ballz In Your Mouth by Neophyte (from Neophyte Records’ Action Must Be Taken First Compilation CD) The MP3 compression process reduces bass definition and while the Evoke doesn’t lack grunt for its size it struggles with the complex frequency clash in the low end of one of Neophyte’s many hardcore masterworks. Still gives me goose bumps in the sample breakdown, though, as Eazy E accuses Monica Lewinski of being a “fuckin’ ho” and Bill Clinton of being a “godamn pimp!”

Basic Instinct Main Theme (from Omen the Essential Jerry Goldsmith Film Collection CD) I’ve been getting more into Goldsmith’s work since enjoying the Omen triple CD soundtrack set, and rewatching the DVDs featuring informative interviews with the composer. One of his best other works is this short and playful theme from Paul “Robocop” Verhoven’s most childish of adult thrillers, featuring Sharon Stone as pretty killer Catherine Tramell.

End Credits by Vangelis (from Blade Runner OST CD) There’s kick-ass detail on this soundtrack when played the right system – a shame is that the radio simply isn’t big enough to present a cinematic soundstage.

Influenced by video nasties, my kitchen contains many torture instruments

Adulteress’ Punishment and Love With Fun by Riz Ortolani (Cannibal Holocaust OST CD) If the film didn’t make a vegetarian of you, it is quite possible to relive particular sections given a bloody steak and oversized knife. A beautiful score that translates surprisingly well.

Casino main theme by Georges Delerue (Casino OST CD) The second soundtrack to a film featuring Sharon Stone, this time indulging in some pretty killer acting as Ginger in Martin Scorsese’s top flight gangster epic. The film’s soundtrack clangs on and on with its 60s pop music mainstays until it becomes unnoticeable, then at an apt moment crack your heart open with this genius piece, in the same vain and rivalling Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings. Actually titled Théme de Camille, originally written for French film Contempt I keep on meaning to check out more of Deleue’s work.

C’mon Everybody by The Sex Pistols (The Great Rock n Roll Swindle CD) Swindle indeed, as this is Sid Vicious’ solo work and features no original members of Sex Pistols. And it never should have worked, he being a junkie managed by his loathsome girlfriend, drawling covers to a backing of session musicians, but I don’t suppose he cared much for convention. This is first record I ever bought (aged eight) and still sounding fresh and lively. Check out The Filth and the Fury DVD when John Lydon opens up to give a blisteringly sad account of Sid’s death.

Exodus Main Theme by Ernest Gold (L’Chaim! The Ultimate Jewish Music Collection CD) When building cathedrals early last millennium the idea was to make the constructions so huge and awe striking the peasants would have no choice but to accept the existence of God. Here that mantra is applied to music, with similarly jaw dropping consequences. That said, on sustained listening the bloated construction does get boring, so I’ll be deleting it. I went for years mistakenly thinking this music was used in The Ten Commandments.

Sugababe's latter career bears similarities to that of the Sex Pistols...

Freak Like Me by Sugababes (MP3 download) Early Sugababes and probably their best song, with wicked production by Richard X featuring the slammin’ Tubeway Army sample. After nine years of line-up changes Sugababes have, like the Sex Pistols, began to release music featuring no original members of the band.

Pistols guest vocalist Ronald Biggs alongside Friggin' writer Steve Jones

Friggin’ in the Rigging by The Sex Pistols (The Great Rock n Roll Swindle CD) I first heard Friggin in the Riggin in the early 80s and it’s always stayed with me, from vinyl to Sony Walkman to twin CD decks to MP3. Surely it is more, then, than just a set of expletives – I’ve forgotten slightly fewer of those than I’ve heard. The merging of Last Night of the Proms favourite Sea Shanty, given some “bollocks” with Steve Jones reliably attitude driven guitar apparently displays antagonism between two cultures that cannot co-exist. However, whilst  John Lydon era Pistols material may have been politically motivated, Friggin’ is, like Last Night of the Proms simple raucous fun. The demographics may be different, but musically the two genres enrich one another very merrily indeed. The lyrics are loosely based on centuries old drinking song Good Ship Venus and a major appeal may be the aforementioned expletives, however they offer an enjoyable compilation of daft stories, simple like those for children, yet visual and striking as the best children’s tales are. The fact that some words are unintelligible can make for some fun guesswork.

Also on the kitchen playlist…Hardcore HooliganNeophyte, Hymn Stunned Guys, Jumping all over the World Scooter, Last Track of the Night DJ Promo & D-Passion, Live and Let Die Paul McCartney and Wings, My Way The Sex Pistols, No-one Is Innocent The Sex Pistols, Number 1 Fan Neophyte, Rambo Main Theme Jerry Goldsmith, Rock n Roll Swindle The Sex Pistols, Something Else The Sex Pistols , Star Trek Symphonic Suite Jerry Goldsmith, The Dreamer Lenny Dee, The Grower DJ Promo, Untouchable Girls Aloud, View to a Kill Duran Duran


Download exclusive new track Ti Head here

2HourPhotoWhilst I was very ill the only way for me to program music was to do very little each day, which has led me to have many unfinished tracks on my hard drive and has got me into bad habits of leaving bits and going back to them much later, having forgotten what the original idea was or simply getting bored with it. Yuck! That way of working can also lead to over-polishing – adding too many effects and diluting the original idea and sounds.

No more fucking around

In trying to break the habit I’ve decided to write a series of tracks in a strict two hour time limit. Whilst my best works have taken much, much longer than that, most of the tracks from the Shocker album were written very fast, with the emphasis on excitement and attitude and less attention to audio fidelity.

Download the MP3, bender

I’ve put the first one up here. It’s called Bender as the pitch is bent on all the synth tracks. The title may have unfortunate relations with Futurama and homophobia, but neither are bothersome enough to change it. I think it turned out quite well for a first effort, but it’d need a couple of hours more to be more focussed and live out the potential of the ideas. I could do that, cannibalise it for sounds on other tracks or just leave it and move on…I’m undecided. See what you think…


Film remakes often aren’t as bad as you’d think, for every crappy Wicker Man there’s often the irreverent fun of Dawn of the Dead. I preferred Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu to the original, as well as Rob Zombie’s Halloween – apart from the musical score. Even away from films, music almost invariably fares badly at remakes, and I can’t think of a single instance when an artist or band has re-recorded a track over a decade later for it to be superior to the original – it’s a stupid idea.

A bit thick…

So, while I’m learning the new equipment in my studio I’ve decided to rework some old tunes. First up is I, Destructor which was my first single for Earache Records in 1993. It subsequently remixed and retitled I am Destructor for the album Life of Destructor, upon which this version is based. I haven’t fucked with the arrangement much, but I made mostly new sounds and used all new toys for the mix. Was it really a stupid idea, or is the only thick in the kick? Click below to find out…

Ultraviolence – I, Destructor Redux


I’ve been back to it a month later and made some improvements, resulting in a clearer and louder mix, especially the percussion which was a little floaty in the first version. I used Twisted Lemon‘s fantastic Sidekick plug to tighten it up a bit – this really is a super-bargain plug at a tenner, and far better than the bundled Cubase sidechainer.  See how the bass kicks now…

Ultraviolence – I, Destructor Redux v1.1


Johnny Violent: Driven insane by the pain

One thing that I didn’t wish for the New Year was a painful long term illness, after all I’ve already got a substantial one of those and I’m not that greedy, however after spending half the Xmas period in the half abandoned Norwich and Norfolk General Hospital sharing floor space with the blood flecked amputees-in-waiting and piss-soaked lost souls I bring you…Recurrent Corneal Erosion, which means every time I go to fucking sleep for more than a couple of hours my eyelid attaches to my cornea and when I move or open my eyes it takes a little piece with it. I could take it for the first week or two but it’s driving me fucking mad, and I’ve taken to switching on an alarm to wake me up every 90 minutes, which is making me totally loony tunes. I caught the my bloodshot eyes on camera and Photoshopped them up for the previous post…

I’m seeing a specialist in a few days and the problem should sort itself soon, so it’s not hopeless like my chest sometimes seems, but that’s a little better right now and I’ll write a whingathon on it in a month or so when I’ve been to the “awesomely named” Pain Clinic for drugs and agony coping strategies. Meantime, here’s a rundown on some CDs I’ve been enjoying lately…

defqonDefqon.1 Festival 2008: (3xCD) compilation

I’m a huge fan of the Stunned Guys and it’s a great shame they don’t have a full length CD out – here there’s around a 40 minutes DJ set. When people talk about Gabber or European hardcore it is often labelled as dumb, gratuitously aggressive and overly repetitive and here the Stunnies demonstrate complete mastery of all three attributes for everyone to love or hate. Also banging set by Evil Activities – any chance to here Neophytes Always a Rubberboot is fine by me. The other disc of DJ sets is slower trance and hardstyle which aren’t genres I listen to much, so it’s interesting to hear what is going on, especially on a technical level. Some huge meisterkickdrums break up the 140bpm strobe-gazing and over familiar preset synth sounds. CD3 is a mixed bag of tunes by the artists who appeared at the Defqon festival, the vocal introductions to which are mostly hilarious for one reason or another… 

Update (March 2009): I’m still regually listening to the Stunned Guys mix – I think it’s got the perfect balance between aggression and audio fidelity – really modern and powerful. The Void Settler track on CD3 has about the heaviest kick drum I’ve ever heard.

omenOmen Trilogy: OST

I can only think of two “devil” films that are close to being frightening; Rosemary’s Baby and The Omen, which is nearly as silly a film as The Exorcist, but Jerry Goldsmith’s pounding choir and orchestral soundtrack cranks up the fear level without the need for any visuals whatsoever. You could take just about any two bars from the first track Ave Satani and loop them with a suitable drum break for a seriously floor-quaking hardcore track. Best played very loud in a darkened room, just like most music. Classic.

Update (March 2009): On further listening disc two is numbingly hammy and overblown, featuring an unessesary pipe organ. However, disc three (Final Conflict) is a, ahem, revelation, taking the themes from the first film and adding an epic good vs evil element it is remanisant of Goldsmith’s work on Star Trek V. I’ve just ordered the film trilogy for a fiver from, as it contains a documentary on the score.

goblinGoblin: The Fantastic Voyage Of Goblin: The Sweet Sound Of Hell 

Sticking with horror movie soundtracks, this CD has a couple of pieces from Goblin’s scores from the 70s and 80s, standouts being (especially) Susperia, Profondo Rosso and Dawn of the Dead. Disappointingly, Tenebre lacks the slamming main theme but don’t worry as the CD can be had for around a fiver, and the odd prog-rock dirge aside, shows genuine invention and transcends it’s time period. Unlike the dorkish title and sleeve design.

blade-runnerBlade Runner: OST (standard edition)

Maybe I’m listening to too much retro soundtrack music. I’ve always liked this but haven’t bought a copy since I got stung by the ridiculous “jazz” reworking that masqueraded as Blade Runner for years. Here we have Vangelis’ authentic score, but if I wanted to hear voiceovers from the film scattered over the music I’d have bought the (cheaper) DVD instead, which also comes with visuals. I can’t really recommend this recording.

m83M83: Before the Dawn Heals Us

Most of my CD collection is hardcore and classical/soundtrack music so I’m trying to find some modern electronic music I can listen to in more social situations such as when my girlfriend’s in the same room as me. I’ve only heard this once – I like the synth layers which give a nice Pink Floyd-esque expansiveness but could do without the over-excited clacking of the “real” drums, as well as some deliberately aimlessness lyrics. We’ll see…

Blue Monday: art over wealth and ego

When I was awarded my first recording contract in the early 90s I was shocked at how the music business still encouraged childish images of rebellion and pretentious attitudes from artists, because I thought that had all been killed off. Not by the then current rave culture but by New Order, surely the best band of their era. The most iconic image, for me was their Top of the Pops appearance for Blue Monday. Seemingly dragged from Manchester via the Co-op clothing department, they looked gaunt and uncomfortable as they shambled their way through their beautifully melancholy electronic symphony. They imsisted on playing live and, as though to prove it, even the synthesizers were out of tune. Such a world away from Miami Vice, big hair, big grins, big voices, big wallets, wanker DJs, the whole shebang.

Hearing recent pastiches of their work by The Ting Tings and Sugarbabes reminded me to restock my New Order CD collection, as when my old discs were either played to death or killed by trampling and oxidisation. All their 80s albums now come remastered in a collector’s edition with a second CD of remixes. The original album tracks still sound fresh, with Bernard Sumner’s little stories and/or streams of consciousness are always poignant and warming even when intending nonchalance and sarcasm. The backing is mostly inventive, and can fluctuate from charmingly naïve to toweringly statuesque in a brilliantly disarming fashion. The effect is heightened by the fact anybody with a modern PC could theoretically make this music, but nobody ever will. The remixes, however, from the likes of Shep Pettibone sound hideously dated and weren’t that great in the first place, overlong and literally laced with bells and whistles. Blue Monday ’88 sounded bad by 1989, its shameless commercialism standing in monotonic contrast to the accidental ethics of the original’s infamous loss making sleeve design. The pleasingly restrained remastering process whilst adding nothing to the recordings, doesn’t spoil anything, making it no worse than pointless. The Perfect Pit is a glaring omission from the Lowlife CD – a short deconstructed version of The Perfect Kiss which I beleive to be the precursor of 808 State’s Cubik – the track which defined early ‘90’s hardcore and remains influential.

New Order were so hardcore from a marketing perspective that many of their singles didn’t appear on the albums at all. But the remastering of the relatively recent singles compilations has fared much worse than the albums, with the sound compressed to all but eliminate dynamics in order to raise the volume – perhaps to appeal to the severely disabled listener incapable of adjusting his or her hi-fi controls. I don’t really see the point of remastering old material at all – the originals sounded fine and translated well to CD so what’s the point? Current music is mixed in the knowledge of what the modern mastering process involves, and therefore is well suited to the procedure. Take the aforementioned Sugarbabes’ About You Now, for example. Its titanium clad production thrives on the mechanical pummelling and squashing like a super-knight, but older recordings cannot survive the punishment that they were not designed for. There is no point in imposing these 2008 production values onto old recordings, any more than there is a point to applying 21st century moral values onto a 17th century witch-hunt.

So as well as recommending the old editions of the New Order albums, a real must-have is Substance 1987 – now widely available for well under a tenner. Over two hours of New Order single heaven with their own remixes, completely untouched by misguided tweaking. The one problem – you might have to turn the original masters up.