Raspberry Pi of Death Blog

By N. Leveck

On electronics and music

So, I am a software guy. Wrote my first line of code in 1985 at age 9. It was in LOGO on on contemporaneous computer of the era. I was living in a small village 45 minutes outside of Erlangen, West Germany at the time. nostalgia

I hold a degree in microcomputer electronics, but never intended to do anything with the electronics side. In 1998 I got a job as a computer tech / programmer, then in 2005 I got the job I have now as an electronics technician in the oil-field. I just kinda fell into that one. I have only had two real jobs in my adult life, and intend to retire from the second one eventually knock on wood I am good at what I do, I can fix equipment over the phone with another person's hands. But, I still remain a software guy.

The point of all this is combination: the aggregation of one's skills to create something rad. In music I love to be unorthodox. I have crafted extreme metal albums which utilize only country western drum patterns. I love to put noise as a layer under the instrumentation, entire ambient soundscapes living under blackened metal. Midi is awesome for this sort of thing, but so is AM radio not tuned to a station. Maybe AM radio not tuned to a station, fed thru a guitar pedal. Maybe an altec freq generator lined in and tuned to get almost a synth effect. Maybe a contact mic'd mbira (thumb piano) run thru a distortion pedal. Maybe a recorder playing into a folgers coffee can covered in socks. It is getting to where I am looking forward to these next days off because I have ideas floating around in my head...

Speaking of electronics: my drum kit. It started life as a cheapy $250 mideli (read: generic) electronic drum kit. Upon the frame this came with, I built my own drum pads -- remo practice pads, foam slit in half, 8" cake pan bottoms, piezo transducer, 1/4" mono jack. Then I purchased a roland trigger module and a double kick pedal. All told the drum kit project cost me $2,400 (there is some midi electronics, cabling, stands I bought to kill cross-talk, etc...), but the wife didn't balk because I worked months on this and it was not an all-at-once expense.

Then there is a couple drum machines... These can feed via midi to become, well anything at all. So you end up with a rhythmic synth. Maybe feed it to a sample of my pan pipes or whatever. It is only a lack of imagination that is limiting.

Frequency can also hold emotion. I have entire albums when there is an underlying low frequency drone of the binaural beat equated with fear. It generates anxiety when you listen to it. I am also a huge fan of recording guitar dry, then feeding it thru two different amp sims on the left and right, usually pushing the right channel a few milliseconds ahead of the left. This also tends to generate anxiety. I was able to induce vertigo in an acquatence in Mexico using this technique.

I like to record vocals with multiple mics and move while performing. With hard panning, the vocal track will move around your head. It is a good effect. I have four different "go-to" voices I like to use. Black metal rasp, death metal growl, punk/thrash throaty yell, and a rock voice that sounds David Bowiesque. Reverb (but not too much) is necessary for vocals. They do not sound right to me wihout some reverb.

Speaking of reverb: space. At age 13 I read The Hammer of the Gods, the Led Zeppelin bio. It details their use of space. Mic'ing amps from several feet away or across a room. This captures room reverb and your ears detect the space between the sound source and the mic. I love recording my drum kit lined into a PA, with at least two mics in different parts of the room.

I also love to play different instruments, and I have a lot of them. Many woodwinds, guitars, various stringed (violin, mandolin, banjo, hurdy gurdy, autoharp, bass), accordian, harmonica, struck/plucked types (glockenspeil, mbira), keyboards, etc. Notes are a matrix, you can find what you need given any instrument. I am not a virtuoso on anything, but I treat them all as ingredients. Layers and mixing.

I also love recording to cheap cassette tape via a cheap cassette recorder. A couple of examples: Natanas - Spore From A Mushroom0, and Boarstusk - Collected Rehearsal Recordings1. No extra mixing, just layers of tape recordings, using the built in mic on a $20 tape recorder from Wal*Mart. The analog fuzziness is something I am a fan of.The feel of old thrash, death, and black metal demos left it's mark on me. The ambience added by uncrisp recording is part of the experience.

Yep. I need to clean up the studio...

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