Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Part ii) The Execution

Part ii) The Execution

Reviewing musical instruments is a stupid thing to do. Reviewing a claw hammer, now that is sensible. Hammer connoisseurs out there, knowing the finer points of claw hammers, will no doubt ear fuck you with opinions regarding the grip, the shape of the head, the angle and curve of the claw, and could probably argue amongst themselves all day. However, in the end the hammer has two jobs, hitting nails in and pulling them out. Add subduing your enemies or gorging the eyes out of your neighbours dog and the ‘simple’ analogy might even fall apart. In fact, it is the eye gorging that illustrates the point here. You can only review something if you know how it will be used, and this is where reviews of the Voyager fall flat.

The Voyager gets pretty good reviews, apart from Minimoog Model D freaks that their panties and ill kept beards in a knot about it not sounding like the original (see appendix i). The good reviews are a moot point. The last synth designed by Moog before he died was virtually guaranteed to take the world by storm. As some people resent storms, there are also the people that must shake their fists at the storm and screaming “I am an individual who shall differ by principle” (see appendix ii). The problem is you never know where the reviewer is coming from. If, Zues forbid, I was a retro 70s funk producer, I would thinking about how fat funky fresh the bass tone is and leave it that, modulation busses untouched. A trance producer would be pondering how to make a lead sound without the option of 8 unisoned panned out oscillators. A backwards looking prog rock purist type would be peeing his pants over a 70s style analog synth with usuable and reliable patch memory saving himself a world of hell at his shitty cafĂ© gigs. A psy producer would be wailing about the bizarre Voyager HPF filter fucking up his squiggly squiggle sounds. I could go on, but my point is, reviews don’t mean dick unless you are thinking specifically on how YOU produce YOUR sounds.

Rather than going over the specs of the Voyager or a jpg of its triangle-saw-sqaure-pulse wavs, which you can easily find on any of the usual gear magazines, this review is going to be about how I use it. I do most of the leads, strings, fx and scratchy noise sounds, Virul3nt taking care of bass, percussion and vocals, which I think is how it goes down on the album liners (appendix iii). When it comes to my job we are thinking modulation, we are thinking distortion, we are thinking noise oscillators, and that is what Uncle Kong is going to talk about while stroking your hair and fondling your naughty bits.

To continue my new found love of chaptertising everything we have:

Part 1: Teenage Peach Fuzz

Part 2: The Spice Rack

Part 3: Lepers

Part 4: Conclusion (I’m out of wit)

Teenage Peach Fuzz

I have eschewed distortion completely for the past few years, after using far too much of the cheap digital variety in my misguided youth. Until recently, most of my ‘distorted’ sounds came from using noise as a modulation source. This sounds especially good on filters, but unfortunately, very few synths allow you to do this. There are more that allow you to send noise to an oscillator, which also sounds good. The Voyager can do both, but it is slightly disappointing for reasons that will be discussed later.

On its own, the Voyager certainly lacks grit distortion wise. The synth sounds big, bold and full, but kind of in the way fat sweaty men in Hawaiian shirts are big, bold and full. If you want to lose the Hawaiian shirt and a little weight, don aviators, live in a Caribbean mansion and sell pure to finance revolutions, you need a little distortion. You want that guy to lose the facial hair, move to Soviet Russia and become a foxy lady selling other foxy ladies to finance revolutions, you need also need an HPF, which the Voyager gladly sports, but that is another story. That leaves us looking for other ways to get our peachy fuzz on.

On the original Mini D, the oscillators could be overdriven in the mixer section, and a lot of people consider this a large part of the Mini D’s sound. The Access Virus TI has options for adding extra drive at no less than three points in the signal path, though I don’t mean to compare a VA synth to an analog, it is just to point out how important it is. The Voyager doesn’t do this at all. You can have every oscillator turned up to the maximum and everything will be crystal, sparkling clear. Some people think this is a good thing, and I agree, but only given that I have other bits of gear to overdrive the Voyager with.

The more extravagant solution is to use the very clever insert effect loop on the Voyager. You can break the signal path and send the oscillator output through external effects before returning to the synth’s VCF and VCA. Here I use my Moogerfooger MF-101, not for its filtering (though I sometimes use it to add an extra static resonant peak), but because it has a nice little knob labeled ‘drive’, which really should have been on the Voyager itself. The Moog LP has it, and this sets it apart from the Voyager, especially for bass. I don’t know if it is exactly the same, in that I don’t know where the drive is applied in the chain on the LP, but on the Voyager, at the oscillator stage, it makes a world of difference. Of course, any guitar stomp box could be used here, but I’m pretty satisfied with how the MF-101 sounds.

This also ignores what you might be running the Voyager through from its final output, and of course distortion could also be added there. Now I know how distortion sounds when applied to the oscillators, but keeping the VCF and VCA clean, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Distortion post VCF/VCA can easily kill all the dynamics of a sound, which rubs the wrong way. Regardless, all this adds other bits of gear to the line-up, which is a little disappointing.

Fortunately, there is one very well known trick that also worked well on the Mini D. Connect the headphone out to the external in on either instrument and there will be a significant thickening of the sounds, and lashings distortion going to towards incomprehensible throbbing as the external input level is increased. I have never actually laid fingers on a Mini D, but Moog seems to have designed the external input of the Voyager to be especially hot. This seems to be a nod towards knowing that people will be doing this trick with the headphone output, and also running other external sounds through the Voyager. For both, being able to push the sound into creamy analog distortion is a large part of the point, so I’m glad Moog took this on board. My rig, having both the MF-101 and using the headphone trick, there are two entirely different flavors of distortion to choose from, and infinite number of shades between the two.

If you want the dark and nasty, it would be absolutely insane not to be running the headphone outs in to the external input at all times, and you would be slightly less insane not to have some kind of distortion running in the insert loop. It sounds fine without doing either of those, but the sugar, the money, the power and the women are what it is all about.

The Spice Rack

Comparing modulation to cooking isn’t especially witty, but it really is the best one out there. Let’s say you want to cook some fine beef. Obviously, you need to get some good cuts first, so you go and spend your dough on the more tender expensive meat. Your not home yet, you still have to marinade it, garnish it and cook it. Fuck up those last three steps up, and your fine beef turns to vinegar (or such is my understanding of cooking). The Voyager oscillators give you the beef, but they still need to be cooked, aka Modulation. I just thought a ‘meth cooking’ analogy would be cooler, which ends in fucking it up, your fine meth turning to vinegar and blowing up in your mum’s basement, but I’m just not cool enough to know that’s done.

On the front panel you get two modulation busses. That doesn’t seem like much, and it isnt’t really, but livable. There are more mod options in the menu system, but I really couldn’t be fucked with LCD menus, ever. I would have bought a Voyager Old School if they weren’t already sold out, and I do like my MIDI control over the front panel parameters without having to shell out for an extra MIDI-CV converter. On the Voyager, it is kind of atypical in that you get a mod source, a destination and amount (business as usual), but also a shaping control. This is odd in that the shaping control is so prominent, most synths I have worked with require a second mod source to be applied to the ‘amount’ value of the first mod source to get any kind of shaping control. It makes for a lot of variables in adjusting the amount of both the mod(1) amount vs. the mod(2) amount in an endless merry go round of excessive time wasting thought-per-function ratio. Most of the time I just have the shaper set to ‘on’, because shaping options are just filter env, velocity, pressure and ‘on’. Obviously these options are aimed at performers, and the whole minimoog concept was a reduction of a regular modular death star to a portable road capable death star, so I won’t complain (though as an afterthought, the rack version could well have had something more studio/sound design orientated options on the shaping selection). In the future, I will get the CV expander and Control Processer and have modulation modulating out every hole, but for now, I will have to live with just the two.

The modulation I do use basically falls into just two categories, noise or lfo to pitch or filter. I just want the expanders so I can have more lfos, more noise, and more destinations through the multipliers. This doesn’t really need explanation except for a side note about the noise source for modulation. The noise oscillator is kind of quiet in the audio mixer, and also kind of weak as a modulator (same oscillator, as in literally the same, or less likely, two noise oscillators of identical design and low output, it doesn’t make much difference). Noise to pitch works out well, because it only needs to be subtle to dirty up the sound a little. Noise to filter is where the cute modulator bunny sheds a quiet tear. I want to be able to crank the noise to filter so hard that oscillators are no longer needed and the entire sound can be made from the noise modulated filter envelopes snapping away and filter cutoff slipping around the key tracking. The Voyager can be very crackly when the resonance high, but with zero resonance the modulation is barely present. I have softs that go crazy with some noise modulation on a filter with zero resonance, but the Voyager cannot. Ask not for who the modulator bunny weeps, it weeps for me.

In addition, the noise oscillator is stuck somewhere between pink and white. I don’t find this a major issue, but being able to tweak between white and pink is certainly something I would be putting on my wish list for Santa.

How important modulation is very much dependant on the genre you are writing in. For some, two busses will be enough, but for me it isn’t. I will get the VX-351 and Control Processor, maybe even getting 2-3 control processors, LFOs, multipliers, attenueators and CV mixers are really that important to me (appendix iv). Moogmusic will be getting a new villa in the Riviera courtesy of my eccentric ass.

The Lepers

Just to make this review a bit more complete, here is a quick low down on the things that don’t matter to me (lepers also don’t really raise my eyebrows, as long as they stay in their cages in the zoo).

The keyboard is of whatever quality. The original one was clearly shit, by anyone’s standard, but Moog replaced it and it seems fine to me. If I could play it well maybe I would think the Fatar board is great, maybe I would think it terrible. Like it said, seems good to me. The velocity response is fine when MIDI sequencing, but is a little sluggy when using the keyboard. Seriously though, buy a pianoforte if piano > forte is that important to you.

There is a nice switch for oscillator 3 frequency modulation of oscillator 1, which I use a lot, and hard synching oscillator 2 to osc 1, which I hardly ever use, especially seeing as I like the way the Freqbox does it better. This isn’t really a Leper feature, but also works in exactly the way would expect, so on the grounds of being adequately satisfactory, with the lepers it goes, so sayeth the just lord Kong.

The touch screen is a novelty for me, but seems well made. Like the keyboard, I’m sure serious performing synth players will have plenty to say about it, I played with it a bit, but morphing multiple parameters isn’t really the sound I’m after (just reminds of didgeridoos, which isn’t especially cool, being out of Australia releases me from having to be stupidly politically correct about it). It transmits MIDI which will be good if I want to fuck with it live, recording the MIDI output and then use it to multitrack some synth layers, but like I said, didgeridoos. I can get enough automation action by sending MIDI CC to individual parameters. In combination with the cv output expander you could control multiple parameters on any analog synth with just a single finger, which is also cool. My main fear was that it would be flimsy and prone to dying, as most touch screens are, but feels tough and roadworthy.

The envelopes are farking snappy. You might feel either way about this. I actually find them a little too snappy at times, but that might be because I’m usually dead against compression on anything except vocals. We are in one of those retarded periods of history where people are heading off in one extreme and in a few decades we will be shaking our heads and feeling ashamed of ourselves (think the holocaust, slavery or reality tv). At the moment, every layer in your average tune gets compressed to hell, then the tune gets sent to a mastering engineer, who compresses the hell out of it some more. I don’t mean organic tape saturation or tubes, I mean ham fisted digital plugins with everyone panting about ‘brick’ wave forms on the screen. It means your tune will survive the ipod vs. traffic noise ratio on the way to work in the morning, but fuck you all the hell to putting that as your first priority in music and may the good, old school lord give you the gift of tinnitus. When my chorus kicks in I want it to be louder than the verse, terribly old fashioned. Anyway, better to have envelopes with excessive snap rather than lacking in snap, so all is well.

I am feeling pretty elite about reviewing a Moog instrument without talking about the filter. It is very cool. Having twin LPFs means you can have two self oscillating peaks sliding around… which I have never found a musical need to do. I’m not sure if the key tracking is in tune on this more recent model of the Voyager, but I don’t really care. You can also send the two filters to right/left outputs for pseudo stereo effects, which nobody in their right mind would do, but it is nice to have made the option. You can select the filter pole from the menu, though, like most people out there, 4 pole is the business and I don’t change it often. The env>filter amount goes into both positive and negative values, which is a very nice touch as well. The HPF, however, does concern me greatly, I like my business quite thin, and there is a problem…

The major gripe with the HPF is the envelope control (prepare thyself for tech boredom)… in LPF/HPF mode the filter envelope affects both cutoffs in the same way. This is completely retarded. COMPLETELY RETARDED. When will synth makers learn that the HPF needs an inverted envelope to make the slightest bit of musical sense? The Virus offers the same complete retardation and I have to modulate the HPF cutoff from the modulation matrix to get an inverted envelope signal, which pisses me off no end. I can’t be the only person thinking this. I would make a diagram to show ridiculously stupid it is to have the LPF and HPF cutoffs moving in the same direction, but I am far too lazy. For the bandpass kind of sound it is nice to have them going the same directrion in terms of a filter sweep, but for the note by note triggered envelope it is CUNT CUNT CUNT, I can’t think of a better term, CUNT. It is fortunate that I prefer my filters to be fairly static envelope wise, otherwise I would be having a fit right now. The only reason this is in the Lepers section and not getting an article entirely devoted to it is that other manufacturers suffer the same drooling vacant eyed retarded problem, so there might just be something my ape brain is missing here. If there were a reason to go modular, this would be it. Fuck these people, maybe those hermits in the hills have a fucking point. Blah.

Now I have that off my chest.

The Conclusion:

Despite the niggle with the HPF, it rocks da house, as young affluent white kids from the suburbs would say. I don’t know why I feel like I should add a conclusion, but it is kind of like cuddling after intercourse. Neither party wants to, but one thinks the other would be upset if it didn’t happen, and the other would be upset if the she thought the former didn’t think to think she would be upset if he didn’t. You know you understood that sentence. So cuddling happens, though both parties are really thinking about a co-worker or mutual friend. Yes, if I am insecure, I want everyone else to be the same. Enjoy your next post coital cuddle.

Appendix i

I think we should get over that now. The Voyager is like the Minimoog D, the emphasis being ‘like’. Maybe the difference is just 30 years of dust collection, or intergrated circuits, though I gather later Minimoog Ds used ICs anyway…I really don’t know, I’m talking out my ass here. Something I read even bitched about the Voaygers using op-amps, which I wikipedia-ed, and sure as fuck looked pretty fucking analog to me. Given the choice of a Voyager and a Model D, they sound more or less the same. Add complete MIDI control, NOT having it serviced every six months, dedicated LFO, adjustable performance parameters us digital kids grew up and take for grant, tech support, need I go on? I would take the Voyager hands down. If someone is pissing in your ear about how the Mini D is the business and the Voyager is a pale marketing ploy, chances are they aren’t signed, chances are they have never even finished tune, chances are they know a shit load more about resistors and capacitors than they know about music, and almost definitely they have an ill kept beard. Don’t listen to these people. Let them piss away their electrical engineering job dollars on museum piece synths, MIDI retrofits (or worse, analog sequencers) and have their elitist get togethers with like minded hippies and leave the actual music to musicians. Think of it this way; think about how pissed all the harpsichord aficionados were when the piano was invented. Suddenly all there mad skills at breathing life into an instrument that had no dynamic variation was pissed away with an instrument that could actual respond to how hard you hit the keys. They grew poor beards and met around secret bonfires are made forum posts on how the piano just don’t have that genuine plucked sound warmth you can only get from a genuine fucking whatever…

To be serious, the Voyager is a great instrument, but it doesn’t mean your music will instantly kick ass. Whether the original Minimoogs or the Voyager sounds better, it is less than 1% of the equation. It comes down to how well you use it. They sound virtually the same, but the Voyager is infinitely easier to use, meaning more time spent on writing music, therefore better for actually writing MUSIC. It is only chumps like me that are willing to spend thousands of dollars to get ‘that’ sound that keep companies like Moog in business, but I don’t put my bets on making sweet mullah in the music business on it, I just have too much disposable income and my life plan doesn’t include a car, a house or a retirement plan. There are plenty of artists out there getting more love than me just using soft synths. If I were to be talking to some young go getter about taking his/her first steps in to electronic music, I would say go straight to softs. I would shoot myself before saying “well, first you have to invest tens of thousands in elite analog equipment, because your music is going to suck if you don’t” (and believe me, I was told that by a cocksucker back when I was a young).

Appendix ii

User reviews are about as unreliable as the magazine reviews. Oddly enough (or not), if you want to a host of negative reviews, go to the forum of a competing product. In this case, the closest thing would be DSI mopho and it’s larger brothers. Both modern analogs designed by old hands in the synth world. Oddly enough, the DSI forums were full of people complaining about the Voyager sounding too “70s”. That just blew my mind. What do you want? An original DX7 to push you into the 80s, a Nord Lead to get you into the 90s, or a plugin for 00s?? What the fuck is wrong with you people?? 60s and 70s synth sounds were cool, then everything turned to shit in the 80s, a decade to which this day regular more American folk will either think you a gay bear disco freak or maybe a gay twink disco freak for liking synthesizers (depending on body hair levels). If you’re lucky they will say “oh, yeah, I like Tietso guy”. It kills you on the inside and you begin to feel maybe a better use of your 20kg monosynth would to be bash their indy-rock heads into a bloody mushy pulp.

Appendix iii

As this is article published, the two discs released by Shiv-r (Parasite Ep and Hold My Hand Lp) were written before I owned a Voyager. Mine will be featured a plenty on the next Shiv-r CD. I just want to point this out lest the synth be judged by the sounds on the first two discs. The bass sounds on the discs, on the other hand, are almost exclusively from a Moog LP, courtesy of Virulent, and they rock, so judge away.

Appendix iv

“Why didn’t you go for a modular some heckler” down the back cries? Because time is money, and nobody’s paying for you to sit there wondering how to hook up your whatever-module to Doepfers fancy pants internal cv/gate kajiggy whatsamebob. I do dream of going modular, and did think about going that way instead of the Voyager. The real turn off came in when listening to audio samples. The ones I liked the most (Motm, DotCom and some of the Modcan stuff… ¼” jacks sound cooler for whatever reason, science has proven it) were all unique sized units and would leave you dependant on ‘some guy’ in his pokey workshop to be sorting out any tech woes forever more. Most of the Eurorack stuffed sounded appalling, with the big exception being Macbeth, which has some of the nicest sounds I have ever heard (I thought of writing a ‘shit list’, seeing as there are so many companies riding the modular pony at the moment that just sound awful, but good taste dictates I shouldn’t). Going Eurorack would have the advantage of being an increasingly universal format, so if something broke, worse comes to worst, you can replace with something from another manufactuere. Some might think it would be indy and hip to be getting backyard synths, but wait until you have a real problem with a $4000 piece of equipment, nobody to fix it, and a deadline. Suddenly your kajiggy whatsamebob seems a little less cool and a lot more silent.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Part i) The Acquisition

Gather round yee children and I shall tell y’all a tale.

Once upon a time there was an eager young man of the synth, with a wad of cash and a desire to buy something big. The young man had the umm and the errr and thumbed through pages of decrepit ‘mint’ rarities and modular death stars. Being not a man of the patience, the electrical ingenuity, or the ill kept beard, neither the vintage nor modular fulfilled the young man’s condition. And so, the young man concluded, the world of the false dichotomy appealed. As to put away his member and revert to tongues not up one’s ass; I bought a Minimoog Voyager.

And fuck me, what an ass fuck it was.

I will be reviewing this baby in three parts, so as to reflect the ass fuckery of it all, as well as the glory it has brought in life. It will be….

i) The Acquisition: buying it, shipping it, fixing it.

ii) The Execution: getting past its hippy name and into the dirt.

iii) Kong’s wish list for Santa

Without further ado…

Part 1: The Acquisition

In the past I have heaped praise on UPS for their service here. I have never mentioned it before, but I have given Customs enough over the past year in import tax for them to buy a playboy mansion and bathe in champagne. I have also never had to contact tech support for any of my gear before. For the first, I say double penetration with a rusty spoon, for the second I say a plague upon your childrens' limbs, and the last, you are my heroes and may bear my children at any time….

Not many companies are willing to ship here. It’s understandable. This place is known as a hotspot for credit card fraud and what not. The reality is a little different. While it ranks  high on some nappy wearing NGO corruption index and you can buy passports and driving licenses on the street, the countries bureaucracy is more than functional and public institutions like the Thai postal service are more reliable than a lot of western countries (though I end up using private couriers for everything). Regardless, one of the few distributors that don’t flat out refuse to ship here is NovaMusik, and most of what I own has come from them. When it came to getting my Voyager, naturally, I ordered from them.

I ordered the rack version. Being an expat means international moves are constant background paranoia. I also don’t have much room in my shoebox for a 20kg monosynth. I also don’t have much room in my life for patience. After ordering the rack version from Nova I quickly got an email back saying they were out of stock, and wouldn’t be getting more for another two weeks. Add another week or two for delivery and we were looking at a month of waiting to get my Voyager, which isn’t Nova’s fault, but you must understand that this was simply NOT GOING TO BE THE FUCKING CASE. They had a demo keyboard select series with a whitewash cabinet (read my moogerfooger reviews to know how I feel about whitewash), but with nice backlighting and a screen shots better than the nastiest midget on donkey porn you can imagine. Getting something demo didn’t really worry me, my Virus TI is demo stock, 4 years demo in fact, and it’s fine. The demo Voyager wasn’t too much more than the rack, so I wrote and asked about the usual business, how long it had been out of the box, warranties etc.

Nova got back to me, and in the good grace that preceded the industrial revolution, they offered me a new select series, custom made for Nova, for the price of the demo. We are talking about saving a snoot load of dimes, as well as having something to instantly impress the panties right off that elusive hot synth loving female I shall be meeting some time after the four horsemen do their thing. Within the day a big fat slice of gaudy coloured analog liability was heading my way. Halleluiah and all praise to the Old Testament God that smote motherfuckers all the time, before he got all loving and preachy about turning the other cheek (I mean, wouldn’t that mean you just get slapped twice??).

So, NovaMusik are one of the heroes of the story, and have got their due plug.

The Voyager arrived in Bangkok on a Saturday. Thankfully Thailand is one of the few countries that maintain a 6 day working week. Sure, it is shit working six days a week, as I do. In contrast, look at your failing economies while Asia trounces all over your dumb asses. While at work, I get a call asking for my passport details from UPS. Anxiety level jumps, they have never asked for my passport details before, and I have gone through UPS multiple times. Still believing the synth will get through on Saturday, I maintain hope and filling the significant amount of desk space I had cleared before its arrival. Unfortunately, most of Thailand really has a 5.5 day working week, unlike my very real 6 day week, and by the time I get back to my computer in the afternoon, the lazy UPS people have gone home. I consider writing an email explaining that any reasonable man needs his Voyager in a timely manner and that it being delayed is NOT GOING TO BE THE FUCKING CASE. To make things worse, the UPS tracking page (which is awful, by the by, I have had things listed “in transit” to Bangkok airport, only to land in China and then randomly sit there for a couple of days) lists the package as not having “power of attorney documents”, hence cannot be let through customs. I sent my passport details and signed something taking power of attorney that morning, so this gets them their first rusty spoon.

Wait until Monday, to resume spoon fights with UPS customs. Long story short, they didn’t know what was in the package (synthesizer doesn’t actually translate well in Thai) and they guessed, correctly, that the package value on the customs declaration was incorrect. They had only put down $1400, which might be the actual price of a Voyager, who knows? End of story is they tear apart the package, but thankfully stop before unpacking the actual synth, which was cocooned in no less than three cardboard boxes like those Russian dolls, but charge my import tax by the retail price listed on the Moog website (there was something horribly violating about having the packaged opened, second rusty spoon for UPS). I had to pay $400 in import tax and wait until the Tuesday to get my synth. This should NOT HAVE BEEN THE FUCKING CASE. It is also for this delay and the obscene amount of import tax I wish a certain institution’s children to be deformed.

Finally, I get my Voyager, and it is everything I had ever hoped for. It sounds awesome (don’t go by the presets, they don’t diddle as they ought, but tell me a synth that does ship with usable presets), and it looks fucking amazing. I played around for about ½ an hour, then, sadly, had to go to work. Before going to work I noticed something a little disturbing. The lowest C on the keyboard needed a lot of pressure to trigger. I was on too much of a high to care, but it was nibbling at my soul…

As soon as I got home, I turn all my business on and hit C, it seems ok, and get down to midi sequencing some lines for a Shiv-r tune (I can’t actually play piano, a year of jazz piano and a year of classical piano was forced down my throat at uni, and I still can’t play keyboard to save my life…I guess I am just un-educate-able). Still, the C thing irks me. Eventually I give everything a careful once over. The upper end of the keyboard triggers with less than the 50% of the key down, the mid part of the board triggers with the key fully down, the lower part of the keyboard needs active pressure before triggering, the lower C needing a real pounding.

First port of call is google. It turns out in 2009 Moog had some problems with Fatar, the Italian company the makes the boards for the Voyagers (or more like Fatar had some problems, which in turn fucked up Moog). They switched to a Chinese company for a while, before returning to Fatar. I was unlucky enough to get a horrible Chinese board (I’m part Chinese, but no amount of ethnic pride is going to fix my dodgy keyboard). Not all the Chinese boards are bad, just a few that slipped through. I wrote to Moog tech support to see what could be done. Obviously, I wasn’t going to ship the damn thing back to the states and back again, but after a few emails, Moog offered to ship me out a new Fatar board. First thumbs up.

This sounds simple, but it sure as fuck isn’t. The Fatar boards have a different mounting than the Chinese boards, meaning a new base plate for the entire synth. The Fatar boards are also wider, meaning a new cheek board for the synth. The cheek board has the control for the backlighting of the entire synth, so that needs to be replaced and reconnected which means opening the front panel and playing with the cables. Moog shipped a new board, a new base plate and a new cheek to me free of charge. Second thumps up for them.

All the new stuff arrived and it was surgical suite time. As I type my hands are still covered in blisters and cuts. The base plate was done (I guess) with tiny self threading screws and an electric screwdriver, try getting those out by hand. I broke two screwdrivers in the process, one belonging to my office, the other to the security guard in my building. Added to this, one of the numerous screws was a different length to the others. I can’t remember which hole it came from, and I currently have the longer screw sticking half way out of the base plate after trying to get it in to one of the shallower holes. The connections between the keyboard cables and the left hand control > to the actual synth were held in place with silicone gel which I had to cut through. The original cheek was too big to get out with anything other than brute force so there are some scrapes on the upper deck (cannot be seen once the synth is fully assembled thankfully). When I finished and turned it on again the keyboard didn’t work. The female connector from the board is keyed, but the male is not, I had it in backwards etc, etc.

I have to say Moog was awesome about it. They could have, by all rights, asked that I ship it back to the states to have the keyboard replaced, they didn’t. They could have even told me to suck it up, seeing as the keyboard wasn’t actually dead, just poor quality. They didn’t. They shipped a 10kg package half the way across the world to me for free and gave me enough instructions and trust to install myself. Compare this to the tech support from any other company and daresay you will come up short. Third plus infinity thumbs up for them.

The End of Part i) is, if you like buying fancy pants audio gear, you probably shouldn’t make Thailand your home. It is one of the most famous, centralised, cities in the world, yet getting this kind of gear happening makes you feel like you’re in Antarctica with SS guards at the gates and rapid German shepherds specially trained to sniff out contraband synthesizers around every fucking corner ala wolfenstein style. The second conclusion is, if you are thinking of going Moog, do it NOW. Sounds kick ass, and from the horses mouth, they will take care of you when things go ass up.

Parts ii and iii coming when I have time.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Shiv-r guest vocals for Reaper

I had the honour of doing guest lead vocals for the new single by Reaper; "Dirty Cash".  Check out a video preview below with some studio-vlog footage from myself and the other contributers and remix artists involved in the single:


Saturday, September 4, 2010

Shiv-r no longer accepting remix requests

Kong and I have decided to make an official announcement that we are no longer accepting remix requests.
Since work on our album "Hold My Hand" finished, we have made no less than 14 remixes for other artists and as we have said in a couple of recent magazine interviews, we are facing burn-out.  We are excited to work on our own material for our 2nd album, but our schedule has consisted entirely of remix-deadlines for so long, which takes our focus away from our own material, that we have reached the point where we must say enough is enough.  Given that Kong and I both have to work dayjobs, we only get a couple of days per week to make music, so that time is fucking sacred and we have to focus on our own material for a while.  Today we just handed in our last remix and as of now we won't be taking any more remix-jobs.
We are aiming to complete and release the second Shiv-r album in mid-2011.  Once we have completed work on the album, we will start accepting remix work again for a limited period.  But until then, please don't ask us for a remix as we'll have to say "no".  And to be honest - we don't want to know what remix-opportunities we're missing!