Wednesday, February 23, 2005

You curdled minds,

It is time. You have reached that age. It is time that you know what went on during the dark final day at that recording studio...


Thursday, February 17, 2005

You cackling warlocks,

We wrapped recording last week, and the results, from what we can tell at this stage, will probably alter the world as we know it, one child at a time. It's come time to append a satisfying conclusion onto our MacArthur grant-winning news coverage of the recording process, with all its hills and valleys, its hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of cans of beer. Said conclusion will comprise two parts, the first of which you're already 0.002% finished reading. Press on, loyal reader! And later this week you'll be rewarded with Part II, which unlike Part I is guaranteed to contain at least one true fact. But now to digress.

The old days when records were recorded using little more than an acoustic guitar, some wax, a "microphone" (really just a coffee can on a wire), some beans, a top hat, a meter stick, a working knowledge of the calculus, and a drum -- those days, for better or worse, are over. Nowatimes we have a quiver of high-tech tools and droids to assist us in sculpting the sound we desire; the thought of having to do without this army of wonderful assistants is enough to make a modern band queazy.

In this news update, then, we'd like to introduce you to our crew of digital henchmen, our infinitely helpful electrical aides de camp. For those of you who are in bands or like to geek out on musical equipment, this will add another dimension to your picture of us as a band. For those who aren't super knowledgeable about this stuff, consider this a crash course.

Let's start with maybe the single most important piece of equipment you'll find in a modern studio. It's called the Fidgeter.

Keeping guitars, vocals, and even drums in tune over the course of multiple takes is a tedious task, yet failure to do so can set a recording back hours, even days. Enter der Fidgeter.

We practically consider this device a god. What it does is this: say you're singing, you're singing along, and you're really belting it out and the tape is rolling, but guess what -- you're singing out of key. Bam. The Fidgeter starts fidgeting. Like fucking crazy, truth be told. He shimmies, he squirms, he rattles and bucks, shivers, lunges, wheels, and jumps. It's not the sort of thing you can ignore; the Fidgeter's signaling is adamant. Thanks to the Fidge, our record is in key.

But what if you need to know not just when your junk is out of tune, but when it SUCKS, when it's really actually junk. Introducing The Skunk Trunk.

Here's how it works. You see the tape spools? Okay, well when you're playing or singing and what you're bringing into the world is junk, The Skunk Trunk spins those wheels and shoots tape out onto the floor. Imagine giving a roll of toilet paper a good spin on its spool and you've got a solid idea of what this looks like. You can't ignore it! What's more, it makes you feel terrible. It's way worse than getting shocked with electricity. It makes recording a pretty dreadful process; you just stand there playing very mechanically as your mental attention glares anxiously at the The Skunk Trunk -- Is Skunk Trunk about to vomit its awful brown spit into the air, signaling my suckiness? Does Skunk Trunk think what I'm doing is junk? Will he sound the alarm? This is what you're thinking about instead of playing your part well for the kids in China. J.C. Chasez won't work with a Skunk Trunk in the building, he fears it so. TV personality Bill Maher refers to himself, perhaps presumptively, as "Society's Skunk Trunk". It's known that Dick Cheney calls himself that as well. Does Dick Cheney also recognize Bill Maher as Society's Skunk Trunk? What about the inverse? Does Cheney refer to Society's Skunk Trunk, the abstract concept, as Bill Maher? Unknown. All unknown, and perhaps unknowable. This machine, though, the Skunk Trunk, is GREAT.

Hey, here's another gadget:

What's that you say? You say that's not a gadget at all? You say it's nothing but a bag of average everyday totally un-exotic pencils? Well, wrong. First of all, they don't even look like pencils; if anything they look like cotton swabs. Pencils? Jesus. Sometimes you can be really thick. Goddamn. Can't believe you said that looks like a bag of pencils. It seems to us maybe you don't even deserve to know what exactly these special guitar pics do. Well, we're feeling generous, so we'll tell you; in the future maybe just try to think for five seconds before burping out a word that appears in your head. So here's what these guitar pics do: they allow the user to very gently pic the strings of his guitar. And yes, they're roughly the size and shape of pencils, but how you failed to take in anything about them beyond their rough size and shape... sometimes you baffle us. Not in a good way.

But enough about that glorified sack of pencils! Let's have a look at the g-damn motherload! The guitarist's PEDAL BOARD...

Okay, so number one up there, that's the Scum Puppy; it gives the guitar a really clean, pretty sound, like a harp. Number 2 is, as you can see, the Memory Man. It's a voice recorder, like you might carry around in your jacket pocket to record song or business ideas, but this one is right there on the pedal board so you can bottle ideas that come while you're shredding. Number 3 is an extension pedal. Let's say you have a ten foot cord and a 12 foot cord but you need 20 ft. of cord distance. All you gotta do is plug the cords into either side of the extension pedal, you're done. Number 4 is called The Tug Boat; it's an effects pedal that gives your guitar sound a very subtle, very mild tugging sound. Just a minor tug; you almost don't notice it. Now, number 5 is obviously a FULL-DRIVE 2 pedal, which basically drives the signal that's coming through a cord from your guitar, drives it into another cord. So it's sort of the 'Kleenex' of extension pedals. It's a great extension pedal. What else is there?

Okay, pedal 6 there is what's called an 'MD3', or a 'Metal Detector 3'. This baby detects metal, detects it big time. You play a metal riff, the little red LED light lights up; you play non-metal -- nothing, no light. Can be very useful. And then number 7 is obviously a little power station for all your pedals, but since it's made by the dark-minded folks over at Voodoo Labs, you know there's something special about it. And indeed there is: this pedal has the same power as, like, a charm or a talisman. Finally you have pedal 8. Alternately known as The Green Goblin, The Green Machine, The Greengrocer, The Thing of Green, Old Green Eyes, The Shrub, Soylent Green, Green Gourd, and Gourd of Green, is this pedal.

Have you ever seen one of these?

Sure? Take another look:

It's a lamp. A common house lamp. Some call it a 'lantern'. Some call it 'boy'. Embarrassed? That you didn't recognize a lamp, as common a household object as you could ask for? Get out of here. We can't bear the sight of you. Go -- just go. Click here and be gone.