Tuesday, February 14, 2006


So this will be my last post.

I've decided to close the door to the Room With No Windows.

Blogging takes up time that I should be spending on the things that are really important. And as much fun as it's been, it's time to move on.

Thanks for reading these little tidbits.

Off to the next world!


Ted has suggested that my memory of the naming of "Smoke and Mirrors" may not be correct.

I recall us working on some kind of project, using digital editing, and telling a client that what we were doing was all "smoke and mirrors." We used this phrase more than once in the early days.

I then recall going home and a little light bulb going off. It would be a perfect name for the studio, which didn't have a name.

I also have vague memories of suggesting it to Ted.

Now, this could all be incorrect. The human memory is notoriously bad, and considering the kind of altered states Ted and I might have been in at the time, it's entirely possible that I'm remembering it all incorrectly. Perhaps we came up with it together. Perhaps it was Ted.

I certainly didn't mean to imply that the idea was all mine. We were definitely both using the phrase in reference to our work, and at some point the phrase became the name. Smoke and Mirrors = us, and we = Smoke and Mirrors.


Last night we recorded the penultimate tracks for the Strikes Again! demo/EP/record thingy. That is, we have the vocals for every song except one, "Hell Disaster," which won't be recorded so much as birthed like an Alien breaking through the Sternum of the Studio.

We spent a bit of time comping the vocals. For those who haven't spent time making modern music with machinery*, this means we recorded several takes of each vocal and edited together final takes from bits and piece of each. In the old days this would require putting takes on different tracks, learning where the good parts are, and playing back the song while whipping the various faders up and down as you record the output of these tracks onto another track. The result is a "comp" or composite track.

Nowadays digital audio software lets you put various takes on a single track and select which you want to hear. So we listen to take 7, for instance, and mark down which lines are good. Same with take 8, 9, 10.... 25, 26, 27.... etc. At the end we create another take and copy in the lines we like. Sometimes lines don't quite match each other, or the edits between them need to be "massaged" a bit, and this is where the fun comes in.

Occasionally an edit will just be too clean. Last night we had recorded two lines - which would end up back to back - as separate bits. When we cut them together something just didn't feel right. We thought perhaps the second line was coming in too quickly, but then realized that the problem was a little deeper. Listening back you'd subconsciously realize that the space between the lines was too clean, that it couldn't really be sung that way live - there needed to be a breath or some kind of slurring of the words between the lines.

We simply went to an earlier take, where we hadn't recorded the lines separately, took the little section where the first line ended and the next began, and edited it in. It was less than a second of audio but it sold the edit.

This kind of problem solving is a blast to me. I love creating the illusion that nothing was created, that it all happened exactly as you're hearing it. It's like special effects in film (or just old fashioned good acting) where you don't question the reality, you just accept it.

I enjoy this kind of thing so much that a few years ago I suggested the name "Smoke and Mirrors" for the studio. It stuck.

* Rush reference

Monday, February 13, 2006


Ah, nothing says rock and roll quite like a big old bag of money.

Here they are - the top earners of 2005. This list doesn't include money earned on royalties or from endorsement deals.

#10 - Elton John, $66 million. This motherfucker didn't even record a new album. Made some of this cash in Vegas.

#9 - Dave Matthews Band, $74 million. Who knew hippies had this much cash in their sofas?

#8 - 50 Cent, $79 million. No comment.

#7 - Celine Dion, $81 million. Not bad for someone who's "retired." Almost all of this money was earned through performances at Caesar's in Vegas.

#6 - Paul McCartney, $83 million. Why is it that only the good Beatles had to die?

#5 - The Eagles, $84 million. One of the worst bands ever, in the history of the world. The fact that these guys can make $84 million last year is a testament to the absolute irrelevance of every musician on this list.

#4 - Green Day, $99 million. Somehow they managed to use the corporate rock structure to rail against the corporate structure, to the tune of nearly 100 million bucks. Truly remarkable, not very punk.

#3 - Kenny Chesney, $110 million. Who the hell even knows who this guy is? He was married to Renee Zellwegger for, like, 15 minutes.

#2 - U2, $150 million. The second biggest whores in the music biz. I do like their music, up through "Zooropa." Sold their souls to Apple. Not much left musically.

#1 - The Rolling Stones, $168 million. The biggest whores in the biz. Haven't been musically relevant since the early 80's, but still pull in the big bucks, despite mediocre musicianship and a style that hasn't changed in nearly 30 years. The biggest piece of evidence that the music business has nothing to do with music and everything to do with the corporate structure; there is no one more corporate than the Stones. Somehow they manage to convince their fans that this is really "rock and roll."

When you're charging $100 a piece for tickets to your show, it's easy to rack up numbers like this. Fortunately, as we all know, there's still plenty of room in the music business for smaller acts to be nurtured and encouraged.*

* sarcasm


Doesn't it suck when the stars don't shine?

Michelle Kwan is out of the Olympics, victim of a groin injury.

NBC is so desperate to keep her involved that they ran a "Tribute to Michelle Kwan" last night and offered her a job as an analyst. (She turned the offer down.)

A Tribute? She's one of the most decorated figure skaters ever, sure, but she's never won the gold. Why should she get a tribute during the Olympics? It's not like she died. She has a groin injury, arguably the funniest of all injuries.

And that Apolo Ohno. His face is leering at me from phonebooths up and down 5th Ave, but he nearly fell on his butt trying a risky pass in the 1500m short track. The pass was ill advised, but so is his soul patch.

I love how casual speed skaters look. They move in almost perfect synchronization, arms clasped behind their backs, like a line of ducklings. Really fast ducklings, in spandex.


Today I will start with... snowboarding.

Snowboarding is not a sport. It should not be in the Olympics. According to my standards (the only ones that matter, since this is my Olympics coverage), any activity that is featured in the "X Games" cannot also be in the Olympics. Sorry. It's one or the other.

If you say it's a sport, here's my response:

What are the rules?

What are the rules of snowboarding? It's like skateboarding (also not a sport). There are no rules for skateboarding, you just get on your skateboard, attempt to flip it over, and (unless you're a professional) fail. Then you pick up your skateboard and try, then fail, again. That's not a sport, it's a passtime.

There are some equally questionable "sports" in the Olympics, but at least these have been around for a while, so we'll grandfather clause them in. Luge... OK. You're in, because you've been around longer than MTV, and there's never been a Moutain Dew commercial with a bunch of Lugists. Street luge, maybe, but that's DEFINITELY not a sport.

How do you win at snowboarding? You don't.

Hey - the Americans swept the snowboarding medals at the last winter games!! Of course they did. If you make up the tricks and then get scored based on them, you'll probably win. It would be like if Olympic basketball were scored based on the quality of the dunks. You'd expect the Jordans would clean up in that one.

Watching 5 minutes of Olympic snowboarding is like sniffing glue without getting high. You just feel your neurons atrophy*. What the hell are the announcers saying?

If snowboarding's in, than you better put skateboarding and surfing in too. Bungee jumping and Ultimate Frisbee and taping Dead Shows as well. Then you can just show the Olympics on MTV and ESPN2 and be done with it.

* atrophy - to waste away or decrease in size

Friday, February 10, 2006


Who cares?

Thursday, February 09, 2006


I didn't watch them. I was recording music.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006


This is funny.

And educational.


Tuesday, February 07, 2006


Today was my one year anniversary at my job.

No comments from my boss or coworkers.

Oh, well. Here's to year two. Let's hope it doesn't actually last a whole year.


Last night we hooked up our old pair of NHT Model 13's, which were used in the studio until they were blown out by a pesky power amp a few years back. The 13's are kind of an updated version of the Model 1's, which were NHT's first speakers.

We had left them in the hall, where they were rescued by Glauco and brought back to life. He then resold them to us for the cost of the new speaker cones. As Glauco says, they "kick AHHSSS."

So we plugged them in and took 'em for a whirl. They're nice and pleasant to listen to, sort of NS-10ish. Not a lot of low end (when we switch back to the 20/20's you can really feel the difference) but not fatiguing at all. David Gilmour's first solo record sounded great through these things, although that may have something to do with the Honky Chateau...

At some point we'll get a proper power amp for them, but until then they're being run by our Pioneer receiver, which also powers our shitty little bookshelf speakers.

So we're now at three sets of speakers for mixing, and will be adding the crappy old Sony boombox back into the mix (so to speak) soon.

Monday, February 06, 2006


My post about my cousin (below) generated a lot of very kind messages from y'all. Thank you very much. It's amazing how many good people I've come in contact with over the last few years, and that I haven't alienated them all.

The weekend was busy. Friday night we did two mixes for Geek Farm, destined to go on a demo CD they'll use to get gigs. We're going to do one more and then I expect the Geeks will be coming soon to a theatre near you. Once the three are finished we'll put them up on our podcast as well.

I'm sure I did something Saturday but I can't remem- oh yeah, we spent the day working with KIDD, tracking for his "mix tape." Most of these tunes are made up of beats you may have heard before, but with KIDD's own lyrics and hooks. It seems you can purchase the beats used by folks like 50 Cent and Eminem, in some cases before the stars' versions of the songs even come out. I'm not sure about the royalty structure for this kind of thing, but KIDD isn't selling anything, so.....

Anyhow, lots of rap on Saturday. We did mixes of 5 songs in about 45 minutes (not recommended) and sent K I Doubles on his way.

Yesterday Mike and JohnBass (not his real name) from Strikes Again! came in and we worked on the mix of "Ripped Open," roughing it up and working on automation. As I said to Mike at some point, the first stage of automation (writing the moves the faders make as a song progresses) is just to make it sound like there is no automation; to keep all of the relative levels the same even as things are getting louder and softer. We're making progress.

Wrapped things up with the Super Bowl. Happy the Steelers won. Didn't have any wings, but Annie made some nachos and Buck played with his Giggle Cow, so it was all good.

Friday, February 03, 2006


It's been a bit of a trying week.

Last Friday night, my cousin Mark - who was 10 years old - died in an assisted living facility where he has been for several months.

He was one of triplets, born on the Fourth of July, 2005, to my aunt (my mom's sister) and uncle who thought they would never have children. He had medical problems since his birth, but he was a happy, smiling baby.

At 3 months he had an aneurysm in his brain that required very risky surgery. The surgeon was successful in securing the aneurysm, but then something happened. Accounts vary, but people who were in the Operating Room at the time claimed that a medical Resident came in as the surgery was wrapping up, and the surgeon put a scope back into Mark's brain to show off his handiwork. He knicked a blood vessel, causing internal bleeding.

For the next ten years Mark was unable to move, speak, or see. But he lived at home, was cared for around the clock by a team of dedicated nurses (and his family), and undoubtedly made my aunt and uncle stronger and more compassionate people. And only after ten years, when it was clear they could not care for him adequately at home, did my aunt and uncle make the decision to move him into a full time medical facility.

Of course, after years being in a state like this the muscles deteriorate and the heart and lungs gradually give out. This is what happened last weekend.

Some people have been really kind and supportive (MikeDot, for instance, wrote a very nice and simple message to me that meant a lot). Some theorized aloud that it was probably not as bad to lose a child in this way, and to them I say I'm glad I'm not in your family.

But for the most part, our friends and family came together and surrounded my aunt and uncle - and my two other little cousins - with support, and for that I'm grateful.

Anyhow, to those who had kind words, thank you. And to the rest of you, fuck off. Life's too short.