Tuesday, November 30, 2004


Herein, some behind the scenes tidbits from our recording of "All The Bricks."

The TV's being smashed at the beginning of "Another Brick in the Wall (Part Three)" are actually a box full of bottles being bashed to bits with a hammer. The Snapples made some nice popping sounds. The resulting "Box o' Glass" hung around the studio for the next year or so, proving very useful when additional smashing sound effects were needed. A box of broken glass, taped shut and hit on the side with a hammer, sounds very smashy indeed, as dangerous as it might be.

"Work's what kept us happy," in "Nobody Home," comes from Raising Arizona, which we originally were going to use as a recurring theme throughout the record. In the end, only two samples from the film were used. Can you find the other?

The voice of The Judge in "the Trial" is a mix of two performers, Ted Wilson and Dave Cavalier.

I'd heard that Roger Waters wanted to use Hal from 2001 in the Wall (in some capacity). For us, Hal's death soliloquy seemed to make perfect sense in "Is There Anybody Out There?" His performance is only slightly edited for time, and to fit your TV.

The BBC report was ripped from the web by George Vitray. The guns in "Another Brick in the Wall (Part Two)" are from the videogame "Ghost Recon."

The throbbing windlike sound on "Don't Leave Me Now" is a microphone being moved past a running fan. Fun with Doppler shifts!

Yes, we think the baby crying is the same sample that Prince used. A lot of the incidental machinery sounds, trains, and planes came from unlabeled sound effects CD's, which seem to have been passed around a lot. Have they passed into public domain? Probably not.

The band playing at the beginning of "One of My Turns" is our old next door neighbors at the studio. This is taken from a vocal mic in our live room, so you can see how loud they practiced (you're hearing them through the AC vent). As such, the recording itself is ours, but the music is obviously not. Apparently one member of the band is in Spacehog, the other was in Blind Melon, so there's some potential legal action there.

I believe that, at most, we had around 50 tracks in the largest songs, not counting reverb and echo sends.

The record was started on a Blue and White G3 Mac, I think it blazed along at 350 hertz, single processor. Hence the 14 months to finish, as we changed computers (to a G4!) and operating systems (OS9 to OS10) mid record.

No ProTools was used in the recording, mixing, or mastering of this record, except for the BBC report which might have made it's way through the program en route to our studio. The record was mixed entirely within Digital Performer, using no stolen plug ins.

Incidently, it's a 16 bit recording, 'cause when we started that's all we had. There are undoubtably some tracks that were done through an old ADAT, although I don't remember which ones.


If you lived in England 25 years ago on this date, you could have gone to your local record store and picked up a shiny new copy of Pink Floyd's latest, a two record concept album called "The Wall." It was huge, both literally and figuratively, and you were probably living a very sheltered life indeed if you didn't hear "We don't need no education" some time during the next two and half decades.

Today, if you live in Brooklyn, you can stop by my house and hear the Smoke and Mirrors Band's version of the record, entitled "All the Bricks." It took us approximately 14 months to do the thing, and we "finished" last night at about 10:30. Had to have it done by the anniversary, don't you know!

Ted's Blog has already outlined the reasons why we did it, which he sums up nicely-'cause it was there. It was hugely educational. I can read music much better now (though still not very well). I can place a microphone much better, too. I got to know a great drummer (Rob Machold, who moonlights as a biologist), a great guitarist (Dave Cavalier), another great guitarist (Andy Rock), a great singer (Mike Ingenthron, who also plays great bass, guitar, and keyboards). These guys actually played the parts we never could have, and as longtime fans of the record they made it all a very personal statement. Put simply, there's litterally no way Ted and I could have done this project alone; beyond the simple impossiblity of it, it also needs a group of people to filter the music through their own experiences.

It's the best sounding thing I've ever done, as a whole. From George Vitray I learned an enormous amount about recording, mixing, and mastering. He also did some great vocals (including "Stop" and a turn as the schoolteacher in "The Trial"), guitars, and yelling. While George was careful about the level of his involvement (he's got a lot going on, including our album of original material, and understandably wasn't about to spend 14 months on a bunch of cover songs), we were able to suck him in enough to get a lot of helpful ideas and criticism. George told us when things really needed to be redone, and for the most part we redid them. He also introduced us to a great cellist (and great person) named Gordie Smith, who played on "Mother" while taking a break from "The Defense Department Chamber Orchestra". As proof of their talent, there's an excellent chance you'll hear some of their work on NPR's "New Sounds" sometime in the near future. I'll keep you posted

Lots of other people helped out. Pat Phillips (old friend, proprietor of Grey Cat Sound in Atlanta) did some nice singing (taking the lead on "Young Lust'' and sounding eerily like David Gilmour), as did Chuck Debruyn (the lead on "Another Brick in the Wall Part Three") and Kevin Lacey (who also provided some drums). Annie Rusoff played all of the female parts on the record, so in our version I guess "Pink" ends up taking the operator home. Who also turns out to be his wife. It is a complicated story, after all.

For me, the record hinges around a BBC report about an accidental bombing in Afghanistan, in which 9 children were killed (out of 10 casualties). For Roger Waters, a lot of the record is about a son's losing his father, but I think he'd agree it can be as much about father's losing their sons, or daughters. War isn't any prettier today than it was in Black '44 (when Roger lost Eric Fletcher Waters at Anzio), or in '82 in the Falklands (see "The Final Cut"). "Amused to Death" was as much about the Gulf War as it was about mass communication and "edutainment." Some things never change....

What have we learned in 25 years? A good lick is still a good lick, a great song is still a great song, and the sound quality of the original is still phenomenal. But "The Wall" endures because it's themes are universal; like any great work of art it never goes out of style, just in and out of focus. Listening to our version today, the lyrics and musical themes are as relevant as they were in '79 and early '80, when I was five or six and hearing the cassette version over and over on the bus to and from school.

There are still kids losing their fathers today. "The Wall" isn't about policy, 'though, as much as it's about morals. 'Cause in the end, it's the protagonist himself who's put on trial; it's the building of the wall itself that's the sin.

So keep tearing down those walls....

Thursday, November 25, 2004


I don't live in Afghanistan or Iraq or any of the war torn parts of the world

I'm not on a reality TV show

I don't live in abject poverty

I was given a good education by our public school system

I get to play parts of "the Wall"

I'm not marching in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

I can hear

i can see

I can vote

I didn't live through the Great Depression

I have friends

I have family

I have a home

There's lots of turkey.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004


I may be covering the Wall, but my favorite Pink Floyd record may well be 1977's "Animals." This album, and the subsequent tour ("Pink Floyd In the Flesh") was one of the first (and biggest) bricks in the Wall, after all. It was on the last date of this tour, in Montreal, that Roger Waters found himself focusing his wrath on a particular fan in the front row. In the end, Rog spat on him, and it was just a matter of time before there was a wall between the Floyd and their audience.

The album itself is great. Bookended by two simple acoustic numbers ("Pigs on the Wing," parts 1 and 2), the band rips through only three songs-"Dogs," "Pigs," and "Sheep." An easy way to characterize the three types of people in Roger's world (at least at the time of this record). I'm sure he would have placed himself in the Dogs category, and his audience in with the Sheep. The politicians are the Pigs, and he even gives a little shoutout to Mary Whitehouse, who for thirty years was a public morals campaigner in England. She rose to national attention with her "Clean Up TV Act of 1964," and is immortalized here as a "house proud town mouse" who's "trying to keep our feelings off the street." Think of her as the British Tipper Gore. Roger certainly did.

The 23rd Psalm is parodied in "Sheep," and if you don't have a copy of the lyrics, here they are (as read through a vocoder on the record they're a bit hard to decipher)...

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want
He makes me down to lie
Through pastures green he leadeth me the silent waters by.
With bright knives he releaseth my soul
He maketh me to hang on hooks in high places
He converteth me to lamb cutlets.
For Lo, He hath great power and great hunger
When cometh the day we lowly ones,
through quiet reflection and great dedication,
master the art of karate
Lo, we shall rise up
and then we'll make the buggers eyes water.

That's poetry.

In the end, the sheep do rise up, killing the dogs, but the last verse of the song swing things back around....

Have you heard the news?
The dogs are dead!
You better stay home, and do as you're told
Get out of the road if you want to grow old.

So maybe it's just a parable, told from one dog to another.

Are you a dog, a pig, or a sheep? If you'd met Roger Waters in 1977, he could've told you. For now, it's a great album, played by a band that was barely a band, at the height of their powers. Only two years later they'd build the Wall.


The Juno series of synthesizers from Roland were a beloved bunch. The Juno 6, Juno 60, the Alpha Junos, and of course (my favorite) the Juno 106. Basically an update of the 60, with an improved MIDI spec, it was my first synthesizer. I was 15; it was about 6. We both grew up together.

The Juno was my introduction to subtractive synthesis, essentially the dominant form of synthesis for many decades. The idea is simple-an oscillator creates a waveform, which is then sent to filters to remove sections of the sound (hence subtractive). Add a low frequency oscillator (all the better to make it pulse, my dear), some resonance controls (warp the shape of that wave around the filter's cutoff point and hear some weird sounds), an envelope (how does that sound change over time? Let me count the ways. Four-attack, sustain, decay, and release, available to both the volume and the filter). A suboscillator (a square wave tuned an octave down, mix in to taste) and a nice little noise generator (ah, the wind, the waves!). A five octave keyboard, pitch bend, portamento (s l i d e), and even two types of noisy chorus. Heaven!

The manual was great too. It read like it'd been translated from the Japanese to, maybe, Russian, then back to Japanese and then to English. I read and re-read it many times, and there are still some sections I'm not sure of.

But the beauty of this synth was (and still is) the sliders. Grab one and move it, the sound changes, and if you pay just a little attention you'll quickly learn just what the heck is going on. Every function had one slider, every button did one thing. Try to wrap your head around a digital synth with one slider and an LED display and you'll know what I mean. The Yamaha DX7 might have been the best selling synth of all time, but I probably created more of my own sounds with the Juno than a hundred DXers did with their instruments. It was the ultimate teaching tool.

But what of the sound? Well, it was one of the last analog synths Roland made, and it still sounds great and holds its own. The Juno went through a resurgence of popularity when techno took off, because its filters were cool and it made great bass sounds, which could be warbled and twisted live and with little effort. Plus, every slider move on the front panel can be recorded via MIDI, making it a great tool for complex filter sweeps and sound manipulation in real time, all of which could be stored on a sequncer and recreated exactly. By holding down two buttons it can be placed in monophonic mode, which stacks all six voices, a truly thick sound.

I used it to play "Tom Sawyer" in my high school band. Coupled with a set of MIDI pedals, it made me feel just like Geddy Lee, except I was a 16 year old American. It could do a rough "Jump" sound, and "The Final Countdown" was just a few buttons away.

The Juno 106's are still out there, still getting passed around from player to player, still affordable, still very cool. If you have the means, I'd highly recommend picking one up. But you can't have mine. I'm never lettin' it go.

Saturday, November 20, 2004


Friday night, while working on their own record, Mike and Dave from Microdot stopped in to do some work on the Wall.

Cut to 4am, we're wrapping up.

As a joke, around 12:30 (as Microdot was finishing up their session) we said "That's it! We're finishing the Wall tonight. We'll work 'till it's done."

Well, it's not done, but we did a hell of a lot. We went through nearly the whole record and filled up a lot of empty spaces.

Vocals on "the Trial," as well as a banjo part (will that make the cut?)

Rhythm guitar on "On the Run."

Vocals on "In the Flesh?" (the first one, in our version)

Rhythm guitar on "Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)". I layed down a new bass as well (I think the synth bass we had is gonna get thrown out).

I used the Juno 106 to create a "helicopter" sound for the segue between "Another Brick (Part 1)" and "Happiest Days of Our Lives." What a great synth. It's getting a little more flakey every day, but I love it . Someday I'll write a whole blog about it, but it was my first synth. I was around 15, and it's played a lot of Rush licks, and made a lot of NUTTY sounds.

Layered vocals on "Bring the Boys Back Home." Mike Ingenthron should be commended for his harmonizing. The guy's got talent. All three Microdotters do; part of the fun of the Wall is just getting to hear them perform bits. Mike and Dave were downright adorable in the booth, sharing a pair of headphones.

All in all, it was a good bunch of bricks...

Friday, November 19, 2004


For fun, let's look at a few seniors' quotes from my High School Yearbook. Haddam-Killingworth Class of '91.

"Nothing matters but the weekend." (WPLR)

"Run until you die." (Sean Dennis, a good runner)

"Good God Almighty, bless my soul. I got the right key, baby, but the wrong key hole!" (Steven Tyler)

"Come sweet death/One last caress." (the Misfits)

"In search of the eternal buzz." (Anonymous)

"You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars. You have a right to be here." (Desiderate)

"Now it's time to RAMBLE ON!" (Robert Plant)

and of course my geeky quote...

"What you own is your own kingdom, what you do is your own glory, what you love is your own power, what you live is your own story." (Neil Peart)

Seems like we all understood a lot more back then.

Thursday, November 18, 2004


Yoda was better as a puppet.

"I don't really care what it sounds like" is not a good thing to hear in a recording studio.

Guerilla wars are hard to win, unless you're one of the guerillas.

On the West Coast, Monday Night Football starts at 6.


Well, it's Thursday, and I'm still not feeling so great. My throat has been bothering me since Monday morning, my head's stuffed up, and I've basically been sleeping for three days. It's a bit depressing. I hate being pulled away from work, from music; these are the times I wish I still had a home studio.

I have to quit smoking.

Tea, orange juice. Need to switch to Vitamin C-garettes.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004


On November 17, 1968, NBC televised an American Football League game between the Oakland Raiders and the New York Jets.
In a tense battle between two great quarterbacks, Joe Namath and Daryl Lamonica, the Jets took a 32-29 lead on a Jim Turner 26 yard field goal with 1:05 left to play.

But it was 7:00 p.m. on the east coast, time to start the movie "Heidi" on NBC. During a commercial break an NBC executive made a decided to cut from the Oakland Coliseum to the Swiss Alps. An innocent little girl, Jennifer Edwards, instantly became the most hated person in America. Football fans flooded the telephone lines to NBC with cries of protest.

The Raiders scored 2 touchdowns in that final 1:05 minutes to win the game 43-32.

Now THAT's a football controversy.


Only 13 days left 'till November 30. That means we have two weekends left, and one of them is Thanksgiving weekend.

Not looking good as far as finishing "The Wall" goes.

I have to admit, I'm more than a little burned out on the whole thing. The fact is, any time you try to record almost 30 songs, which you didn't write, and which millions of people know by heart, you're gonna miss a few things that you just didn't feel were important, but which define the record for someone else.

There will always be other ways we could've done it, but you know what? We didn't. Maybe we were lazy, maybe we were too busy on other projects, maybe we should have actually listened to the original while we were covering it (still haven't, mind you).

None of it really matters, after all. I know I'm gonna send a copy to Roger Waters. I'll bet he was happy with his initial demos, all done with acoustic guitar, and which other members of the band have called "unlistenable." He liked the songs back then, they're the same songs now, even if we do end up with a crappy version of "The Trial." A song which, by the way, we all know was Bob Ezrin's fault anyway.


Things have changed in the music business.

In 1953, "How Much is that Doggie in the Window," words and music by Bob Merrill, recorded by Patti Page, went to Number One on the pop charts.

Saturday, November 13, 2004


Friday night was Microdot night. Listened to rough mixes and then got the tracks into ProTools over at Skyway Studio (George Vitray's lair). Now George gets to beat the roughs.

Mike Ingenthron (singer/bassist) did some vocalizing on "Carnie." Best lines... "Left the worm farm for a dream." "Tossing rings and riding the big wheel." (I think those are right.)

The first big wheel, of course, was George Ferris's invention for the 1893 World's in Chicago. It was big. 2600 people could ride at once, in huge cars, each with a lunch counter.

Check it out

You don't really get 'em like that anymore. The first is so often the best.

That same world's fair brought us Cracker Jacks, Pabst Blue Ribbon, and was a triumph for Nikola Tesla and alternating current, which powered the entire fair. It worked so well that now we've got AC in our homes.

Check it out

Here's a good book about the 1893 fair. It's all a true story.

Check it out

The fair featured America's first serial killer, H.H. Holmes. No one knows how many he killed, but it was a lot.

The very first midway was also at the fair, which (of course) is where the Ferris Wheel was, and where you throw rings today (don't know if they did back then). Which brings us back to Carnie.

Friday, November 12, 2004


It took less time to build the one in Berlin...

Wednesday night we had a visit from Dave Cavalier, guitarist, who was kind enough to supply a guitar solo for "Young Lust," one of the last bricks. I think we've finally got all of the pieces. Now for some mortar.

I've learned so much about recording in the last year that I question many of the sounds that are now on the record. That's ok, though, since this was supposed to be a learning experience. Not all of the mixes are going to be perfect, but that's not a disclaimer, just a reality. Overall we're just proud to have done it. The best part is that it's been a communal effort; lots of people have helped out. (You'll all get a briefcase of cash when it starts selling.) The record definitely resonates with our generation. Everyone (especially us) has had a chance to live out a little bit of the fantasy, but now it's time to get back to reality and make our own records.

Just over two weeks left. Let's stick a fork in it.


Talking about creationism in biology class is like talking about nudism in sewing class. It might lead to some lively debates, but it ain't all that relevant.

Classical guitars, like musicians, just need a little time to settle in.

The Wall is a bit too long.

This, too, shall pass.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004


Saw two movies back to back on the Sundance channel last night. Went from hating musicians to loving them all over again.

The first is called "Dig!", a documentary about two bands-the Dandy Warhols and the Brian Jonestown Massacre, and the relationships between their members-mostly between their respective singer/songwriters, Courtney Taylor and Anton Newcombe. In short, the Dandys deserve their success and Anton from the Massacre is about the biggest asshole you could ever hope to meet.

He stalks his "friends" in the Dandy's, physically and emotionally attacks bandmates on and offstage, kicks a fan in the head at a show, alienates managers, record company people, family, and everyone else he comes in contact with, and generally acts like the spoiled, irresponsible, selfish, childlike, egomanical fucked up junkie he is.

Contrast him with the subject of the next film, "The Language of Music"-legendary engineer/producer Tom Dowd, who made records with Aretha, Otis Redding, Ray Charles, Cream, Clapton, Derek and the Dominoes, Skynyrd, the Allman Brothers, Booker T. and the MG's, Ornette Coleman, Sam & Dave, the Coasters, the Drifters, Ben E. King, Coltrane, Wilson Pickett, Tribe Called Quest, Mingus, Patti LaBelle, Gladys Knight, Primal Scream, Dusty Springfield, Rob Stewart, and some others you might have heard of. He taught a man named Phil Ramone how to be a record producer. He had legendary ears, but the first thing everybody says about him is what a good guy he was.

The artists interviewed talk with great love, respect, and thanks for a man who brought out the best in those around him, who made artists comfortable, and who was as great a listener (which is what all audio engineers are supposed to be, after all) as ever lived. He died in 2002, and until his death he still talked regularly to many of the musicians he'd worked with.

Hard to believe he and the loser from Brian Jonestown were supposed to be about the same thing-music.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Came back from Atlanta yesterday morning. There were no presidential debates this time, just Christian rock, hum in the studio, and lots of college football.

Stayed up 'till 1am Friday trying to diagnose the hum. Seems an electrical outlet (or a whole circuit) in Grey Cat Sound is going bad. Band arrived at 8am next morning. That's right, am, as in "Ahhh, man. It's early."

Wednesday, November 03, 2004


Record voter turnout is great. The fact that millions of first timers voted is great. But I wonder if people haved missed the point with the whole "This is the most important election of our lifetime" thing.

Maybe, just maybe, the LAST election was the most important of our lifetimes. After all, that's the one where GW Bush got elected in the first place. The war in Iraq is already happening, and wouldn't have ended today if Kerry had won. International support for the US has eroded and will take years to rebuild; a victory for Kerry wouldn't have changed this overnight, either. Where was everybody four years ago?

I'm happy people are more involved in their political process. I just pray that, next time, we'll break the records again.

Otherwise, it's just been a fad, which is a bit scary.


The best part of this election is that it's over. Almost.

It figures that Ohio would be the state everything hinges on. I know of a couple of Cleveland residents that drove all the way to New York to make some trouble during the Republican National Convention, and were promptly arrested.

They missed their recording session at Smoke and Mirrors as a result.

I just hope those fuckers voted.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004


Well, November 30th is fast approaching. The 30th will be the 25th anniversary of the release of "The Wall" in the UK, and it's been our deadline to finish "All the Bricks," our cover of Pink Floyd's record. After over a year of work, we now have four weeks. There's still a lot to do, and in the spirit of web logging, I thought I'd detail the final month here.

We've been working on the record in 4 parts, corresponding to the 4 sides of the original vinyl release. We're at the point now where we're taking mixes of the songs and sticking them end to end, with segues, to hear how they're flowing into one another.

Spent some time yesterday getting the final chords of "The Thin Ice" to ring out properly, so the big distorted guitars will morph into the delay guitar that starts "Another Brick in the Wall (part 1)". It went well; i think we're got enough to make that segue work.

Mixes of "When the Tigers Broke Free" (with Vera Lynn doing "The Little Boy That Santa Claus Forgot" as an intro) and "In the Flesh" are essentially done. "In the Flesh" is a live take, Rob Machold on drums, yours truly on bass, and Andy Rock on guitar. Overdubbed organ (some done with an Alesis Nanosynth, some with Native Instruments' B4 virtual Hammond) and vocals, sound effects of the plane crash and baby crying at the end. Basically ready to go.

"The Happiest Days of Our Lives" and "Another Brick in the Wall (part 2)" are built around a BBC news report of a bombing in Afghanistan that accidently killed nine children (out of ten casualties). The teachers are thus recast as well meaning but ineffective coalition forces. This is part of why "The Wall" is still relevant today; the themes aren't stuck in 1979. We still don't need no education, at least not this kind.

Did a new bass part for "One of My Turns," which revealed that one of the original guitars is out of tune. I've been messing around with the mix to try and remedy, but we may be looking at another Andy Rock session to fix.

The rest of side 2 is in good shape. We need to put the guitar solo in "Young Lust," which we're hoping Dave Cavalier of Microdot will do. Currently the song breaks all the way down for the beginning of the phone call section. Annie Rusoff plays the haples operator, as well as the groupie, who in our version comes back to the studio in Brooklyn (not the hotel room in LA) to watch our hero go nuts. The groupie section also contains music from our old neighbors across the hall, who played so loud that I got a nice recording of one of their songs through the AC vents. It bled onto our mics, and now it graces our recording. Apparently one of the band members was in Spacehog, so maybe we'll get sued.

More to come....