Ten years ago today I wrote an end-of-year blog post in which I refused to write a review of the year and simply bade 2010 good riddance. As a disease-riddled 2020 sinks into the west, on fire and reeking of grift and corruption, I'm tempted to do the same thing once again; the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Physically, I'm not the man I was ten years ago. Old age is creeping up on me, and these days I'm a bit of a wreck. I had a dreadful night's sleep last night because at the moment, if I turn over in bed, the pain wakes me up.
But even though I've spent pretty much the entire year in isolation and jobless it's not been as dire or dismal as some. I did get the chance to hang out with some of my dearest friends this year.
And musically speaking, I leveled up—both in proficiency and in recording facilities. After nearly fifteen years of my studio plans sitting at the "thinking about it" stage and going nowhere, I finally brought them to fruition. The result is a room that makes me smile every time I walk into it. I've released three full-length albums this year (and unlocked some new Bandcamp add-ons in the process). Being able to make music is what has sustained me this year, and I suspect it will play the same role in 2021 because even with the rollout of several vaccines for Covid-19 I can't see anything like a return to the old ways before we get to 2022.
I'm not getting my hopes up too much for 2021 as I suspect that it will only turn out to be more of the same. While some things may get a little better, others are likely to get worse. But I'll keep on plugging away. It's all we can do.
I performed a thirty-minute set of new material last night as part of the Lockdown Livestreamers V-EM7.0 XMAS event organised by Adrian Hendy. I think I gave a better account of myself than I did in the summer, not least because I've got over a hundred hours of streaming under my belt. I played guitar and synths and MIDI controllers and I think it went well.
If you missed it, worry not; I made a recording of what I did and I will be streaming it tonight in HD on my regular Thursday night show on Twitch at 19:30 GMT.
"It's the holidays," I said to myself. "I'll just stream for half an hour and then have an early night," I thought. Ha—I did no such thing. I ended up streaming last night for over two hours, but I have edited out the more discursive diversions (and there's a great name for an album if ever there was one) before I uploaded it to YouTube. Just as well today's a bank holiday in the UK; I had a nice lie-in this morning.
I need to step back from things for a bit in January. I know I've been saying that I need more rest for weeks on my live stream shows, but once we've seen in the New Year, I really need to ease off on things for a while.
Despite a yellow warning of ice and snow here last night, this morning I awoke to an almost entirely snow-free neighbourhood. There was a small amount on car windscreens and on the roof of my conservatory, which faces north. But that was it. If you gained a bit more altitude, however, things were rather different and the Cotswolds got enough snow for the police to warn people against making all but the most essential journeys by car. I am no longer surprised by southern England's inability to cope with just a couple of inches of snow these days but the evidence has been playing on the news for most of the day.
Around here, the main problem has been with flooding. The road across to Wickwar has been a no-go for anyone who doesn't drive a 4x4 for a couple of days now.
I might still get snow, however. There are yellow warnings of snow and ice in place across the West from now until New Years' Day.
I've never blogged on Christmas Day before, and I've been blogging for a very long time. But this is not a normal year, and we can't do all the things we normally do today. So here I am.
I spent an hour or so this morning editing the HD video from the show I streamed on Twitch last night so that I could upload it today—Christmas Day—because of course I did. It's not like I've got anything much else to do today other than drink bucks fizz and consume my own bodyweight in Twiglets. I'm in Tier 3, I have no bubble, and I live on my own. Despite this, I'm feeling quite chipper today and it's not because I've consumed an entire bottle of fizzy wine mixed with orange juice since lunchtime.
I started off today by tuning in to an hour-long Cosmic Shambles show on YouTube to enjoy festive chat from Robin and Josie, watch Dr Helen Czerski setting fire to Brazil nuts (because physics), hear some beautiful songs from Jim Moray, and Grace Petrie and Ben Moss (and I got the biggest laugh of the morning courtesy of Grace's dog, who completely stole the show by jumping into shot and then knocking the camera over), seeing many guests wearing silly hats, and saying hello to some familiar names who were taking part in the live chat.
I don't know how Robin does it, because I was up until 1:30 this morning watching Mark Thomas's show on YouTube and Robin was one of the late-night guests. Robin was looking far more perky than I felt. Both shows have left me feeling happy and upbeat, and I am not at all feeling sorry for myself.
I had a good evening yesterday too. I have now made so many Thursday night Twitch livestreams that it now takes six binary digits to enumerate them all. Or in plain English, I reached show number 32.
If you'd like to grab a free copy of the album that I launched during the show, you can get it here. Less than a day after I launched it, it's already outpaced its predecessor in terms of plays, sales and downloads, so if you were one of the people responsible for making that happen, thank you from the bottom of my heart.
If you celebrate at this time of year, I hope you have a safe, happy and joyful time.
Even before the village ended up in tier 3 I was a recluse. The current pandemic has only legitimised the way I've been behaving for the last eighteen months after I got sick. Although my illness isn't as life-threatening as Covid-19, it's still "it'll probably need surgery" sick. At least this year I haven't been asked to attend any further oncology clinics, but when the surgeon I spoke to back in March said "Let's wait until October or so when all should have blown over," I now realise he was being incredibly optimistic (for comparison, the 1918 'flu pandemic began in March 1918, and the final significant outbreaks happened in March and April 1920, so I reckon we've got about another year to go before things start looking up).
I'm not at all stressed out by being housebound. On the contrary, my anxiety levels are lower than they have been in years; if it wasn't for being ill, they would probably have flatlined. I would much rather just sit in my happy place and make music, and I'm most of the time I'm quite content to hang out with my friends virtually on Skype and Zoom and Twitch and what have you. I do miss company, but meeting up with friends is morally indefensible if it means spreading the virus and people dying as a result.
Despite this, I can't abandon the outside world entirely. I still have to venture out to get food. My recent shopping trips were so traumatic that I started only shopping once a fortnight, instead of once or twice every week. The only thing that is stopping my trips to the supermarket becoming even more widely spaced is that I can't bring myself to drink long-life milk; that's how much I enjoy shopping these days.
Because I have vivid memories of what the shops were like in previous years during the run up to Christmas (and none of them is pleasant), I was so worried about doing the shopping this week that I'd been losing sleep. Yesterday afternoon I decided that I needed to face my fears and get things over with, so I got the car out of the garage and headed over to Sainsbury's in Dursley. I drove straight in to the car park, which had plenty of spaces. That in itself was unusual, given that there were just three shopping days left until the big day. But the sense of strangeness really started to kick in when I didn't have to queue outside before being admitted. At that point, someone on the door handed me a voucher that multiplied any Nectar points I would earn on my shop by a factor of ten. I *like* Nectar points. They let me get nice things. By the time I realised I'd managed to get absolutely *everything* on my shopping list (and it was a very long list) I'd given up trying to figure out what was going on and so help me, I was actually beginning to enjoy a bit of retail therapy: despite the fact that I'm not supposed to eat chocolate (because it's rich in oxalates, which are the primary constituent of kidney stones) I bought myself a Terry's chocolate orange. It is Christmas Eve tomorrow, after all.
But the unreality of the day really ramped up at the checkouts. When I parked myself opposite a busy till to wait at an appropriate social distance, a nice young lady said to me "you don't need to wait sir, my colleague is holding a till over here for you." For a moment I felt like I'd inexplicably dropped through into a nicer, parallel universe. Perhaps I have—I've had several pieces of good news since I got home, and I'm feeling slightly more optimistic about things than usual.
Today I've battened down the hatches (the weather is vile, with a yellow warning of rain here in force until 6 am tomorrow morning) and after a much-needed coffee I will retreat to my studio, where I plan on finishing this month's album ready for release on Bandcamp tomorrow. And despite my good experience yesterday, I do not intend venturing outside again for the rest of the year unless I get truly desperate.
There have been positive developments, so I've taken down my original somewhat ranty blog. Watch this space.
It was the winter solstice at two minutes past ten this morning. Thanks to Covid restrictions, the druids had Stonehenge to themselves; I was busy doing the washing up finishing after my customary pint of coffee for breakfast. I needed the caffeine this morning, too. I had a lousy night's sleep because I just couldn't get comfortable, and I can't blame alcohol for my discomfort, either. It's been too warm in recent days to fill a hot-water bottle at bedtime, but I've noticed that my sleep quality improves when I do—so I'll retrieve it from the kitchen shelf and start using it again tonight.
Even though the solstice took place this morning, the evenings have already started getting longer and sunset tonight took place two minutes later than it did last week.
Not that you'd notice here. It's been raining all day, and I suspect I've missed my opportunity to see the Jupiter-Saturn conjunction that's taking place at the moment. Viewed from Earth, the two planets are closer together in the night sky tonight than they've been since the middle ages, but the rain is forecast to continue until well after the two planets had disappeared below the western horizon.
Last night's stream on Twitch was in full HD, and things went pretty smoothly apart from the fact that I realised part way through that I hadn't rebuilt a couple of the scenes that I commonly use after I had to redesign my entire OBS setup for the third or fourth time last week. The new camera isn't a patch on the Zoom Q2n-4K but given that it cost a tenth as much, that's not really a surprise. I wish it had a slightly more wide-angle lens, though. I did like the cinematic feel that the Zoom gave to my streams.
In the four-camera shot that I was showing off it's obvious to me that the cameras vary wildly in terms of what they believe the appropriate white balance should be. The cheapest camera has a distinctly yellow cast to it. So after the stream finished, I started playing with OBS's Look Up Table (LUT) filter and found a whole bunch of files online that ostensibly let you do colour grading on your webcam to match common makes of film stock. After an hour or so playing with different files, I came to the conclusion that most of my webcams do such a terrible job of colour reproduction that I was very much on to a loser trying to get them to match. But I've left each camera with an LUT that seems to suit it applied. Even if the colours don't match, at least they look better than they did. You'll be able to see the revised pictures when I go live again on Thursday night at 19:30.
While I've been editing some of my streams recently I noticed that if I switched to an aggregated scene in OBS (that is, one that was made by combining other existing scenes), the audio that was going out to the stream (and being recorded) would suddenly jump in volume. I couldn't hear this happening during the recording, so I'd half-convinced myself that I was imagining things. But last night, someone commented on the phenomenon when it happened, and then other people confirmed that they were hearing the same thing where they were. You can hear what's going on for yourself—I've added a caption for the most noticeable occurrence:
I started looking for an answer as soon as I'd finished the show, and it took me less than five minutes to find out what was going on. The web page that explained the cause (somewhat obtusely, in my opinion as a technical author) didn't really help matters, because the cause turns out to be a prime example of what happens when the development team:
(a) Can't see the wood for the trees, and
(b) hasn't involved anyone with experience of UX (user experience) design.
Because what is happening, put in simple terms is this:
I have a streaming setup. I have multiple cameras. For each camera, I create what's known as a scene in OBS. This allows me to establish particular treatments of the camera feed, such as colour filters or a caption that I want to permanently associate with that camera. Importantly, if I replace any camera with a better version, the idea of scenes is that I only need to update the scene's properties once to roll out the new hardware across every instance of that scene. Sensible, right? Because I'm a streaming nerd, I have a lot of scenes configured in OBS. Nesting scenes was going to save me a lot of time.
Video is handled separately to audio. I already knew that you should disable all the audio sources in the main settings page, because otherwise this causes problems with audio cropping up when you don't expect it (or not appearing when you do.) Instead of relying on the default audio settings, I add a specific audio feed from my Zoom Q8 which has a couple of XLR sockets on the back. I can feed the output from my studio controller straight into the Zoom, which then pipes it separately over its USB cable back in to the PC (which is a really nifty dodge that means I don't have any issues with latency; that's my top streaming tip, there.) So I add the Zoom Q8's audio feed to each of the basic scenes I create: one camera feed, plus the Zoom's audio.
Now that I have my basic scenes set up, I can "nest" each camera feed to have picture-in-picture views by embedding multiple scenes in each new scene. Spiffy, right?
Well, yeah—apart from the fact that each scene that's added has its own instance of the audio feed. And what does OBS do with multiple audio feeds?
It sums them.
Which means that if I put two camera feeds into a new scene, which each use my special audio feed (because, remember, relying on the default audio setup is not a good idea—I found that out quickly enough) OBS adds those two audio feeds together, which makes them twice as loud.
And if you have a scene where you have four camera feeds, and each scene has a copy of that audio feed, the stream gets four times as loud. Trust me on this; it really messes up your audio.
The thing is, someone in the dev team clearly thought that this was bloody stupid, because when you're monitoring the stream the audio does not exhibit the same behaviour. There's no change in volume. This is what I'd expect the behaviour of the stream to be, frankly. So someone was bright enough to fix the issue for the person doing the stream, but couldn't be arsed to implement the same fix for the poor sods who are watching the stream. They just get blasted at high volume. The kicker, though, is that someone—possibly the same person who came up with the monitoring fix—decided that the sensible thing would be to hide the duplicated audio feeds in OBS's audio mixer (which means that you don't have any visual indication of what is causing the sudden leaps in volume, which might have prompted me to fix things sooner because that would have made what was going on instantly obvious.) When I realised this last part, I eyerolled so hard my eyes nearly fell out of their sockets. I mean—if you're hiding duplicate audio feeds because it's borking things, why don't you, y'know, just disable duplicated audio feeds? That's what I'd have done.
The web page that I discovered suggested that you delete the audio from the nested scenes, which pretty much removes the benefits that I thought I'd get by using nested scenes in the first place. But they were right. I eventually figured out that what I needed to do was to create a scene for each camera or display that I want to stream and add any filters or captions as required (so my Tripodcam is now consistently labelled with a caption of "Tripodcam" whenever it appears), but—and this is the important bit that I hadn't grasped—you don't include any audio in those scenes at all, because you're not going to be using them for broadcast. They're your building blocks. You'll end up with a half dozen or so silent scenes of camera feeds and displays which your viewers won't ever see, so move these to the bottom of OBS's scenes list. The final step is to create the scenes that you are going to be using by nesting each required scene in another scene (one that your viewers will get to see) and only at this point should you add an audio feed as a separate object within the aggregated scene.
Setting everything up like this was a pain in the backside, because I've just had to rebuild all my scenes after freeing up the Zoom Q2n-4K by buying another, cheap full HD webcam. But the payoff is that the sound on my streams is now consistent, and no longer varies wildly in volume between scenes. It also means that each video feed now has a spiffy caption in the top right corner that stays in the same place across every scene I select (and for me that's every bit as satisfying as fixing the volume problem). And best of all, I now have a 4K camcorder ready to use at a moment's notice. The Zoom is, quite frankly, much too good a piece of kit to sit on the top of the screens in my studio in preference to a twenty-quid Chinese webcam. Zoom's webcam drivers also only stream to the PC at 720p, so replacing it with a dedicated HD webcam means that I now have three of my four feeds running at 1080p. I have therefore decided to stream in full HD from now on. You can see how that turns out on my Twitch show on Sunday night at 21:00 BST.
Last night's "Is It FAWM Yet?" show was surprisingly focused and coherent given that by the end of it I'd been awake for more than forty consecutive hours:
Though I might be biased, I think I did a pretty good job, considering. If anything I managed to stay more coherent and focussed than usual, and I had to make surprisingly few edits to the show this morning as I tightened things up and added captions for the YouTube version.
You'll find out exactly why I'd been awake for so long on the show, but if you've read the blog for long you'll probably know that each December the high point of my year is travelling to Hammersmith to see the Compendium of Reason show that Robin Ince and Professor Brian Cox put on every year to raise money for charity. I had a ticket for this year's show on December 3rd, but thanks to the current pandemic the show had to be postponed (it will now take place—hopefully—next July.) I felt rather glum on the 3rd, to say the least. But Robin and Trent Burton and the rest of the Cosmic Shambles team pulled out all the stops to produce an alternative event that streamed live on the web this weekend called Nine Lessons and Carols for Socially Distanced People. There were 140 guests on the bill from all seven continents, and Robin presented the whole thing from the stage at King's Place in London while Steve Pretty provided musical accompaniment. The two of them were on stage for more than twenty-five hours and my admiration and respect for them knows no bounds (and it was pretty high beforehand, let's remember.)
There were so many highlights. Robert Smith performed three songs from The Cure's album 17 seconds from his home studio. Tim Minchin sang his song "White Wine in the Sun" and reduced me to tears (and I'm misting up right now just from typing this and remembering the moment.) Commander Chris Hadfield joined in from Toronto and sang his song about seeing the Earth from the ISS. Helen Czerski was an absolute hero and cycled back and forth between King's Place and the Royal Observatory at Greenwich (and got not one but THREE punctures in the process) to present from the Greenwich Meridian at both the start and finish of proceedings. There was a celebrity reading of A Christmas Carol. Tanita Tikaram sang songs while standing on top of her piano. Harry Hill sang "My Way" with the lyrics written backwards. It was glorious.
Lots of Shambles fans stayed active in the chat on YouTube for the whole thing, even when King's Place's Internet connection went down at three in the morning. And a few die-hards (including me) stayed there for the duration.
There will be an encore on the Cosmic Shambles site next Saturday at 7pm GMT to cover the bits of the show that had to be dropped because of the network failure, and I will be watching once again.
If you can support Cosmic Shambles on their Crowdfunder page it would be much appreciated, as they are raising money for four very deserving charities: Mind: For Better Mental Health, Doctors Without Borders, Turn2Us and the Kings Place Music Foundation. As I already said, the December shows at Hammersmith and King's Place won't be taking place this year and that means that the money that's normally raised for charity by those shows isn't available either. The Hammersmith compendium show on its own usually raises over £60,000 so there's a very big hole to fill as a result of its postponement. I've already donated, and I've also bought a copy of the One Lesson and Carol single that Steve Pretty put together live on stage over the course of the event; proceeds from the sale of the track will also go to those charities. Just playing it back now and hearing the voices of Robin Ince, Stewart Lee, Commander Chris Hadfield and Mark Gatiss is making me smile at the memories I have of it all. I will treasure them. It was such a lovely experience.
I was rather slow to get up this morning after yesterday's exertions. I had got it into my head that instead of driving to the doctors' surgery yesterday to pick up my prescription, I'd walk there instead, and that's what I did. It's three miles or so to Wotton over the fields using public footpaths to get to Kingswood; there's a footpath the rest of the way up the hill to Wotton. I ended up making a round trip of just over eight miles. I might have been better off building up to an excursion that size (it was more than three times my daily step target) but I'm pleased with myself for managing it. It ended up being quite a workout.
What I had failed to take into account was the recent very wet weather, which meant that the going was extremely heavy. After crossing the first field of the day I ended up with feet encased in globs of mud that were nearly the size of basketballs. I immediately realised that it would be a good idea to return home by a different route; at every step I was moving a couple of pounds of very heavy, sticky clay that smelt wonderfully earthy. When I finally staggered home the rest of me smelt the same way, so I hosed my boots off in the back garden before chucking pretty much everything I'd been wearing into the washing machine and then gratefully sinking into a hot bath.
But it felt good to break my current torpid streak with some serious exercise. Over 17,000 steps in one day covering a total of 8.11 miles wasn't too shabby. And burning 2173 calories yesterday should nudge my metabolism up a couple of notches from the idling state it's been in for the past couple of months. When I weighed myself this morning, I'd managed to gain weight from two days ago, but the good news was that the increase was less than a quarter of a pound. Maybe it was muscle?
I can't believe I did my thirtieth Thursday night show on Twitch this week (and even the "Is It FAWM Yet?" show reaches double figures tomorrow night.) The latest creators' email I received from YouTube this morning informed me that I've uploaded 5,123 minutes of video to their platform so far this year. That's more than three and a half solid days' worth of content, and that's a thing that I didn't see coming back at the beginning of the year. Despite saying that I was going to take things easier at the end of episode 29, I ended up having five pieces of music from my next album ready to play, and they seemed to go down well. I had a lot of fun recording them.
I'll be streaming once again tomorrow at 21:00 GMT on Twitch.
There are times when I'm focused on losing weight and trying to get fit, and there are times when I need to eat a big plate of cheesy Stilton mash with bacon and mushrooms. Last night definitely fell into the latter category and I regret nothing. I think it's the weather; yesterday was grey and foggy and last night the temperature outside dropped to -2°C. Today it's grey and drizzling. My appetite may also have something to do with the lack of daylight. This week the sun sets at the earliest time it does all year (today it sets here at four o'clock in the afternoon).
The main reason that I've been putting weight back on for the last month or so is because I've been feeling pretty rough recently, but this week—despite last night's carbs binge—I have managed to reverse the trend. I'm still not feeling that great. It's not just the continual discomfort caused by a stone in one kidney and a cyst in the other, although that is debilitating enough (much more than enough, quite frankly) that I feel justified in indulging in comfort eating. From the symptoms I am suffering from at the moment I think that the depression from which I've suffered, off and on, for the last twenty-five years or so has noticed an opportunity in my reduced resilience and has been trying to make itself felt once again. I'm not really having much of a good time at present. I have resorted to taking the occasional afternoon nap in the last week or so, and that seems to be helping.
Last night, while I was trying to find a reference in a book, I ended up leafing through some old diaries, and started reading the diary I kept back in 1999. As I read the entries for December that I wrote as the turn of the Millennium approached, it's now blindingly obvious to me that I was extremely ill with depression. Every day I write about experiencing one or more classic symptoms of the condition. But did I do anything about it? Of course not; I just thought I was tired and I didn't know that all my symptoms amounted to anything more serious. What bugs me is that although I was clearly struggling, nobody else said or did anything either. My mental health had to deteriorate much further before I recognised how serious things were and did something about it; it took another ten years before I was diagnosed. Back in 1999 I should have been getting treatment and support for depression instead of trying to pretend that everything was fine and forcing myself to go in to the office every day—which only made things worse. I was suffering so badly that last night it was quite upsetting to read my twenty-year-old words. I wonder: how different might my life have been since then had I only had enough gumption to go to the doctor and get help a decade earlier than I eventually did?
These days I don't have to push myself so hard, for which I am very thankful, and I can get out of bed when I want, not when an employer dictates. I was really glad of that fact this morning, when I was still in bed at 9:30. I need to give my brain chemistry a bit of a kick start this week, I think. I plan on going for a walk or two, as physical exercise definitely helps get my much-needed endorphins flowing again.
What's getting me out of bed and through the days at the moment is being able to make music in my bedroom studio. Since this year's big studio refit, my spirits lift every time I walk into the room. I should have done this years ago but it seems that I need to reach a certain level of discomfort or frustration—and perhaps lose my usual amenable and easy-going preparedness to put up with things not being as good as they could be—before I do anything about what's upsetting or annoying me. I'm beginning to realise just how much that tendency has held me back over the years. I also have a pretty good idea of who was responsible for me learning that behaviour as a small child, but I'm not going to go into that right now.
Creativity is medicine to me; it's what has sustained me this year and helped me get through some challenging times. I've needed a lot of sustaining in the past twelve months, clearly; I've produced more music this year than I've managed at pretty much any other phase of my musical adventures. As I listen to what I'm creating at the moment, I can hear what I sound like when things aren't holding me back so much: goodness knows what I'd sound like (and how productive I'd be) if I was healthy. Last week's album release is already a distant object in the rear-view mirror and I already have four tracks under my belt for this month's release of instrumental music. More on that as things develop.
A few years ago I noticed that when I switched the oven on in my Neff cooker, it would occasionally trip the master RCD on the house's mains supply. Unfortunately in the last six months or so this behaviour has moved from "occasionally" to "reliably". At the weekend I got so frustrated by all the lights going out again that I finally caved in and ordered a new cooker and the nice people from John Lewis will be fitting its replacement on Saturday. Despite being a Neff fanboy since the early 90s, I have picked a Bosch this time around because I kind of expect a high-value item to last a little longer than this one did; the Bosch will be the third cooker I've had in my current kitchen. I am looking forward to being able to cook once again without plunging the house into darkness.
The expenditure on kitchen gear has therefore curtailed the latest phase of Gear Acquisition Syndrome (GAS) that I've been in since I started the studio refit, which is a shame as I discovered last night that Arturia have just dropped version 8 of the V Collection, which now includes emulations of a Juno 6 and an E-Mu Systems Emulator II as well as their excellent take on the Oberheim OB-Xa which I bought when it came out months ago. I suspect, however, that it's their new Moog Vocoder emulation that I'll have most fun with. Oddly enough, just a couple of days ago I'd been thinking to myself that it was about time a new version dropped, and here it is.
I don't need any new gear at the moment, anyway; I've got more than enough new stuff to play with as it is and the Native Instruments S88 Mk 2 that arrived last week is a joy to play.
I ended up having a bit of a rant during last night's live stream on Twitch. I've sanitised it somewhat for the YouTube version, which I've embedded below. I found out last night from the FAWM Facebook group that one of my songwriting friends had one of his rough demos played, without his permission, on The Tonight Show last month. The sole purpose for which Jimmy Fallon played the demo (which was not finished, and which my friend had only put on Bandcamp so that he could listen to it away from his recording space) was so that Fallon and his band of extremely highly-paid, professional musicians could mock it for not being as good as they were. Apparently this is thought of as comedy in some circles, presumably by the sort of person who thinks that behaviour like this is acceptable in any shape or form.
I'm disgusted. Last night I was fuming, as you can see:
Punching down like this is not just inexcusable, it's bullying. It's malicious and grotesque behaviour by a high-profile public figure who clearly has no sense of the responsibility that comes with his position or gratitude for being given a platform on which his work is watched by millions. My friend has yet to receive any compensation for the use of his work by someone making a tidy sum off the back of it; Fallon earns a reputed sixteen million dollars a year. And that's a story that we've heard before here in the blog recently, isn't it? Believe me, when it happens to you you're left with a horrible, sickening feeling that stays with you for a long time.
Despite completely gutting the room that I use for my home recording activities just over six weeks ago and completely refitting it, I have somehow managed to record an entire album's worth of instrumental music since Fifty/Ninety drew to a close. I'm describing the style as "ambient synthwave pomp rock" because that's what I reckon it sounds like. But you can judge for yourself, because here it is:
I published the album live on air during my latest Twitch show last night, and you can enjoy that little gem—all two hours of it—here:
Those two hours seemed to go past in a flash, because I had a lot of things to cover, but this time I didn't forget my notes and thanks to my dear friend the caffeine molecule, I was pretty much on top of my game throughout. That made a nice change.
As you'll see in the video, my studio refit is now officially complete. The last piece of the puzzle arrived on Tuesday, and since then I have been deeply immersed in getting it fully integrated into my workflow. It's a bit of a monster and I keep discovering more things that it will let me do. Oh, and the coloured LEDs are extremely pretty and useful with it.
I have a lot to learn, though. Even with fibre broadband, the studio PC was downloading content almost continuously from 4 pm on Tuesday afternoon until just after 1 am on Thursday morning. In the end I worked out that I'd downloaded 175 gigabytes of new home-recording toys, so I will be spending the rest of the year exploring what they do.
And as I explained last night, the easiest way of doing that is to use them to make more music, so I'm aiming to release an album a month on Bandcamp from now on.
I must be mad.
The album that's been the subject of many of my live stream shows over the past couple of months is nearly finished; I should complete the mastering process today. I'll give it a thorough listen on the various music delivery systems I have in the house and if nothing egregious hits my ears I'll be uploading it to my Bandcamp page in readiness for this week's Bandcamp Friday event.
For the mastering process I have to switch between viewing the work as a whole and zooming in to focus on minute detail. It's surprising just how effective the switching process can be, as you tend to notice new things on the journey. Yesterday I found one note buried deep in the layers of synthesizer backing tracks that was a semitone out of tune. I must have listened to the track forty or fifty times before and never noticed it. I also went back to one track so that I could rerecord its piano parts, which I had accidentally originally recorded in mono. You may have already realised from this that it's at this stage of the album production process when I tend to get rather carried away.
That's not really been helped by another big change that I've made to my workflow this time around. I've started to use iZotope's Insight plugin at the end of my mastering chain to make sure that the loudness levels of my tracks are consistent from start to finish. I was very surprised by how many discrepancies it showed up, and it forced me to go back and do a better job of mixing several of the tracks that I've mastered so far. Each time I've done so, the mixes have ended up sounding way better than they did before their "final" check, so I'm now a firm believer in Insight's usefulness as a production tool. It's taught me new ways to listen to my tracks, which was a surprise. The fact that it's an excuse to spend even more time on the mastering stage did not come as so much of a surprise.
I'm putting in all this effort, but I'm not counting this as a formal "new album" release—I'm not making this album available anywhere other than on Bandcamp. Quite frankly, it's just not worth it for me to release anything on Spotify or iTunes these days. And on Bandcamp, I'll be making the album a "pay what you want" deal, because I realise that times are hard for everybody at the moment. The main objective I had in making this album was quite simply to keep myself relatively sane; the knowledge that I was working to create something uplifting and pleasant to listen to isn't going to pay for my shopping this week, but as a bolster to my well-being, it's priceless.
And it's making music that motivates me to get out of bed these days. This morning I was up and about by 7:30 am because I had set myself the target of finishing the mastering process today. By ten o'clock I'd had breakfast, written today's blog, changed the bed linen, and done two loads of laundry. But yes, I am well aware that just yesterday I was blogging about not pushing myself so hard and learning to relax. Waking up three and a half hours earlier than I did yesterday is yet another sign that my health is nowhere near 100% at the moment. Once I've uploaded the album to Bandcamp's servers, I'll kick back and relax a bit.