M-x Kelsin


Tag: music

Unpleasant Guitar Center in Framingham

So I’ve been meaning to do three things for my music creation.

  • Buy monitor speakers
  • Upgrade to Logic 9
  • Upgrade Zendrum

I realized on Sunday that I had two guitar center coupons (from the mail) that I wanted to use. One was for $50.00 off of a purchase of $400.00 or more. The second was 15% off of a midi interface. Now I figured I wouldn’t be able to use both together, but I might as well try right?

I went it and picked up a pair of KRK Rockit 6’s (I had generation 1 rockit 5’s a long time ago and liked them even though they did eventually die on me). The store guy of course told me how I couldn’t get 15% off of the midi interface I wanted to buy and I was ok with that. I just want to point out that if coupons are able to be used on two separate purchases, you should be able to use them together. Anyway this just meant that I would not be buying the midi interface from Guitar Center so overall their loss.

Moving back to the main complaints. This sales guy tries to sell me on their replacement program of course. For $20.00 a speaker I can get my money back if something breaks in the next 2 years. These speakers have a warranty of 3 years from KRK and I don’t travel with them or anything so I told him I don’t need it. A little push back but whatever. After this he went through the process of checking Caitlin’s license (we were putting it on her card) and swiping her card. He also got my email and stuff like that. It took a while.

After this he said he had to get this approved… and walked away. We were spending a total of $371.00, not quite a large amount. I could spend multiple times this at a best buy without needing approval but whatever. He comes back with an older salesman.

This older dude then said (after looking at my account on their screen) “You don’t want your money back?”. After I said “what?” he repeated himself so I said “What money?”. He then tried to sell me AGAIN on the replacement program. I told him how I already said I didn’t want it. He then kept pushing and talking about how it’s not a scam. I’m sorry but I know that Guitar Center doesn’t give a shit about me. If the replacement program costs $20.00 a speaker it means that they make money at $20.00 a speaker on it.

Anyway, this took a while to explain to him that I already said I didn’t want it, and I meant it. After this had asked to check MY license (after saying that it’s not my card) AND Caitlin’s license and card AGAIN.

Come on, in this day and age you need to make me want to travel out to your store instead of buying things online. This experience (while not horrible in any way) doesn’t make me want to go back to this store at all.

Blue Man Group and then Midatlantic!

So I finally got around to seeing Blue Man Group and I really enjoyed it. I did feel that some sections especially in the beginning were a tad slow. I would have liked to have seen more comedy or music in exchange for some of the drawn out segments. I did enjoy the show a lot however. It was a lot more on the “artsy” side than I originally though it would be. I enjoyed that aspect of it a lot. I felt it had a very nice my-first-artsy-theater-show ring to it.

After the Blue Man Show we ate some dinner at Pizza Pie-er before heading over to the Paradise Rock Club to see some co-workers perform in their band Midatlantic. I have seen them twice before (Once at Great Scott’s and once opening for Letter’s to Cleo at the Paradise as well) but this was my first time seeing them with a new drummer and new keyboard player (both co-workers of mine).

Their set was pretty tight. I do have to admit that I really like “Fly Me Home” off their first album (when they were stilled called “The Bleedin Bleedins”) and was disappointed to not hear it. It’s one of those songs where even after the show two nights ago, I left humming Fly Me Home instead of one of the songs performed. But enough about me loving pop hooks, their show was really good.

They have an interesting sound that relies on a lot of electronics. I think one of the reasons I enjoyed them is that guitarist Barry Kelly (fair warning: also a co-worker) doesn’t play guitar like most other bands I go see. His parts provide nice counter melodies and licks that work well with the vocal lines instead of providing a rhythmic base. They rely on their electronic parts (as well as bass) for that. Seeing them with a keyboard player was great cause it humanized that part of the show. While it has always been a great part of their sound, it can continue into a great part of their live show as well. It verged on the line of “backing track” before and now that feeling is gone (at least for me).

The new drummer is great and the band doesn’t sound like they’ve skipped a beat with any of these new changes. I liked all three new songs they performed so definitely excited to hear more material and see what ends up on a new album. Having seen the drummer (Rob Fusco) and keyboardist (John Mileham) in their previous bands I know what each can do and I’m excited to see what some of their influences bring to Midatlantic. I definitely wish I could see them over in Ireland later this year!

The Franklin Kite: Explosions and Batteries

Last night I went to the CD release party for a co-workers band: The Franklin Kite. Their new EP “Explosions and Batteries” is available on iTunes (search “The Franklin Kite”) and Amazon for those that are interested.

Explosions and Batteries

My co-worker asked me to help record some drum parts on my Zendrum and of course I couldn’t say no. I loved their first EP a lot and was excited to be able to do some music again. I played one of the 3(?) drum tracks in Antoinette and provided the drums from around 2:26 till the end on Pilot. The main reason he asked someone to come in and play is that he wanted some fills on the end of Pilot. The result was pretty awesome. The parts have been edited, I just slammed on my Zendrum for a while and John edited out some bad spots and did some arranging of the parts. I was really happy with the results. Seeing the concert last night definitely makes me want to record some songs this weekend!

Overall I’m very glad I got to be a part of this EP since I’m a big fan of the music. I’m enjoying every song on it and can’t wait to hear what these guys come up with next!

They Might Be Giants

So I saw my first TMBG show tonight and I really liked it. I can see why so many of my friends (all through my life) have liked this band. Before today I didn’t even own an album. Turns out tonight’s show was one where they were going to play the entire Flood album in order. This made me buy that album and listen to it all day. It’s a pretty amazing piece of artistry.

The two bad things about this show? The lights and sound quality. They had these BRIGHT AND BIG white lights they kept shining on the crowd. The Berklee Performance Center is DARK. VERY VERY DARK. Shining lights in our eyes like that just hurts. They did it a lot… a whole lot. Anyway past that the sound quality was awful. Glad I listened to the Flood album ALL DAY cause I would have not heard ANY lyrics otherwise.

Back to the music, the whole album was great. They had an amazing trumpet player with them. They were fun, the double encores was fun and they played great. I definitely would see them again :)

I lied about the last update a.k.a. I hate firewire cables!

So when I got my macbook I spent all evening installing BFD2, Logic Studio (with all content) and World of Warcraft (plus other blizzard games, go battle.net!). The next day (Sunday) I immediately started recording the proposal song.

First off the sound card did not seem to like being plugged in via the hard drive. I didn’t think much of it. Plugged the hard drive in via usb and sound card via firewire.

Right after adding drums the sound card started producing static and heavily distorting/detuning the output. I got afraid I was overloading the CPU/HD even though neither meter was very high. I did a lot of testing but really couldn’t get anything working that whole day.

Monday night I decided to test everything and eventually ended up uninstalling/installing the Duet’s software (plus full power offs in between of course). I also unplugged EVERYTHING including my USB mouse. The only stuff plugged into my computer was the Duet, power, DVI adaptor for second monitor and Ethernet cable. This let me play guitar for about 20 minutes before it started producing static again (I couldn’t drum cause I wanted to test without ever opening BFD2 and without using any USB midi devices). I got fed up and send lots of emails describing what I did in detail to the Apogee tech support line.

Tuesday came and the email back from Apogee impressed me. Basically it was like “This could only be a bad unit or a bad firewire cable” which proves they actually READ my novel’s worth of emails I sent and actually had nothing else to try. A+ to Apogee for not wasting my time!

I have no other 400-800 firewire cable to try but I did have my hard disk plugged in via USB that I could test. So I plugged that in via the 400-800 cable and sure enough in about 5 minutes I got the mac “Drive disconnected improperly” message even though I hadn’t touched the cable. This pretty much meant it has to be my firewire port (unlikely) or the sound card.

This morning I returned the cable for another one at the Apple Store. I want to take a second to talk about this too. I called at 8:45 to ask the Apple Store if I need to print my emailed receipt to return the cable. They said no. They don’t open till 9am so I was very happy they answered the phone. When I got there I said I needed to return an item and the guy said “You’re the one who called? Awesome, head right up and grab a new one and let me see the old one.” I go pick out another one and on the way down another employee said “You’re the one returning your cable?” to make sure I wasn’t just taking it away. He said good luck and when I got back downstairs the original guy told me to head to the back counter and they had me all set. Sure enough the guy in the back was like “Here you go” and handed me a new receipt for the cable and I was done. Talk about efficient use of my phone call and multiple employees to make my experience awesome. I love this place.

Anyway, since this morning I’ve been listening to iTunes on my laptop via the Duet at work and no static so far. Lesson learned? Always have spare cables to test with!

Last Laptop Update

So when arriving at the UPS location there is no one there, and no “front counter” area at all. We eventually drive a couple of places and check out this empty room that has some metal detectors in it but no people. I find a security guy that chuckles at me cause he can’t figure out why anyone on the phone well tell me to come here to pick up a package since like… no one is here.

I call the 1-800 UPS number and get a great guy that puts me right through to his supervisor and the supervisor immediately calls the UPS Center that I was at. He puts me on the direct line with the guy at the center who is like “Cool I’ll come right out” and sure enough he does come out of the building with my laptop.

So after a pretty busy week at work, with lots of laptop woes I do now have the laptop and I’m writing this post from it. Hopefully I didn’t lose any twitter followers in the process! Now to install Logic and get some recording done before the day is over!

Update in Laptop Saga

This morning I was REALLY happy when I woke up to a UPS tracking email saying the laptop would get here tomorrow! Then at about 10:30am the tracking info removed the estimated date. I got worried.

Turns out the laptop got held up by the Alaskan volcano erupting ash. I wish I was kidding:


News Story about Volcano

How nuts is that…

EDIT: UPS guy on the phone says the package has cleared customs in paperwork, but they don’t have the pallet that it’s on et (over in Alaska) so it’s staying “Exception” until they get it in theirs hands so they can guarantee a date. Right now he’s saying it’s scheduled for Monday so just delayed enough so I don’t have it for this weekend. The weekend I have at home with nothing to do… oh well. At least the whole idea was to be portable so I can bring it with me to parents house next weekend right?

My Macbook Pro died in a fire (literally)

News story

(Don’t watch the video at the top of that article if you don’t like watching planes crash. I shouldn’t have watched it).

The relevant piece of information here was that my new Macbook Pro was on that plane:

Fed Ex Tracking

I was hoping my laptop was just on another plane but an email from Apple confirmed my fears. My original laptop definitely died in a fire over in Japan. My order now has a new $0.00 laptop on it that’s being processed (not shipped yet). The email said the new laptop would be expedited but the order page still says 2-4 days for building and then 2-5 days for shipping. I hope that’s not true but I will call later to find out for sure.

Edit: Guy on the phone wasn’t very helpful and basically just said that it’s just like me placing a new order today. It will be built in 2-4 days then shipped out. It was pretty clear that he couldn’t do anything about that so I left it at that. Just sucks, I’m not a patient enough guy to wait another weekend. There are only so many Logic Studio videos I can watch online.

Decision Made - Macbook Pro bought

Now I can’t wait for it to get here.

I finally decided to set my priorities for an audio interface (and upgrading my desktop computer in general)

  1. I wanted it to just work. No more googling to find out if a certain PCMCIA card had a certain revision of a certain firewire chipset.
  2. I wanted it to be portable. One of the reasons to upgrade is to get a laptop and be able to play my Zendrum live (hopefully)

Once deciding on this I decided a 2 channel interface is ok. I’ll upgrade and buy a nice multiple channel thing if the need arises later on. For now I only record vocals and guitar so no need for anything complicated. I now started googling for “[audio interface] driver issues” and see what comes up. Two interfaces stuck out as having very glowing reviews and almost no issues coming up in google. Echo Audiofire and Apogee Duet.

When doing more research the AudioFire turns out to not be good with virtual instruments. While being VERY stable it has too much latency. Just a design decision by the makers. The Apogee reviews however have been great. This seems to be the interface to get if you can afford it.

So now things are pretty much set. Apple laptop (I can NOT see myself buying a windows laptop for music, can you?) with Logic Studio (instead of Cakewalk Sonar) and an Apogee Duet.

The plan so far had been to wait until after wedding but I found a loop hole to follow as long as I’m smart. I did the financing option with no interested for 12 months by signing up for a new card. Now if I make small payments on it on time and pay it off in a year, I’m good. Caitlin said she will help me and now I have a new laptop ordered!

Audio Interface Problems

So a long time ago I had a Echo Gina 20-bit audio card. I recorded my first album with it. It was great. I upgraded it eventually for a Layla 20-bit. This card was also great. Both of these were PCI card devices and worked flawlessly.

Then college hit and I decided that I need a true 24bit high khz audio interface so I sold the Layla and bought a MOTU Ultralite. Into the world of Firewire audio I go. For the most part this card worked ok. I was annoyed at a couple of the problems I had with it. First it would never work in WDM mode for Sonar, only ASIO. At random times it also wouldn’t work but not too often. I was using it with a HP Firewire PCI card that had a VIA chipset.

Then I decided that when I got my Zendrum I would need to get a portable solution. I decided to use my new work laptop that was a Intel Core 2 Duo machine with 4 gigs of ram. Much better than my 2 gig Intel Pentium 4 desktop. I bought my zendrum and BFD2 and took my work laptop home to install XP and a bunch of software. Software all installed fine until I tried to install the MOTU drivers. I got a blue screen of death. I was incredibly mad. I barely used this card and now it won’t work? For the life of me I couldn’t get the Ultralite to work right even when I got around the Blue Screen of death by rebooting the computer a bunch of times and praying. Fed up I decided to sell it and a bunch of other audio gear in order to buy a new sound card and a new Line6 Pod (Upgrading my Pod Pro to a Pod X3 Live).

Ebay stuff worked out and I decided I would buy a Presonus FP10 since they were selling really cheap and it meant I could sell off my Mic Pre-amps as well. This is another Firewire card. When I first installed it I was thrilled. It installed fine and had really low latency. As I played Zendrum more and more the sound card would sometimes not work at all. No sound, no midi, no anything. I eventually found out that these symptoms can mean a bad firewire chipset. I ordered a new Firewire PCMCIA to replace the crappy Bestbuy Dynex card. I also tried plugging the Presonus into my desktop. Even on the desktop some things wouldn’t work the way they should. I also discovered that BFD2 chokes on my desktop as well. Latency was high and CPU usage was higher. My desktop is seriously dead as far as sound production goes.

As I began to look at my situation I realized another big problem. The FP10 isn’t portable at all. One of my reasons to record on my laptop is the Zendrum might mean playing live somewhere other than my apartment. The FP10 really doesn’t solve this issue in a nice way. This and all of my firewire issues (and the fact that Apple doesn’t even have a Firewire port on the new Macbook’s) made me decide to return the Presonus using Musician’s Friend’s return policy. I haven’t even gotten my new PCMCIA card yet but I’m pretty sure this is the right choice.

I’m also trying to figure out what I want to replace my Desktop with when the time comes. Right now I have my Asus laptop (running Debian, going great) which I love to work on and my work Laptop is a lovely Lenovo x61s with Debian. My desktop mainly used to server as my music studio and also my gaming machine. My gaming recently has largely come down to ONLY World of Warcraft (on the computer at least). This makes me want to go Mac. If I switched my desktop for a Mac laptop, I’d have a portable music studio that could play wow. My entire computing life could be in a posix world. This sounds very enticing.

The problem I’m struggling with is justifying the cost. For the cost of a Apple Macbook (or Macbook pro) I can build a SCREAMING windows system (top of the line Nvidia card, 8 gigs of ram, etc). Is paying a ton of money for a Apple laptop worth it? My co-workers say it is if I put a non-zero value to my time. That’s a good point. I’ve spent a lot of time and money into trying to get an audio card working nicely in windows and been having many issues. Most are not huge but I’m VERY sick of googling firewire cards to see what chipset they have.

My current setup: I’m now using the crappy audio interface that’s in my Line6 Pod X3 Live. It can record my vocals and guitars (what I need anyway) and playback latency is great. No problems when using my laptop. My desktop still can’t handle BFD2 so I’m afraid the current desktop really is dead to me as far as music goes. I’m using my Korg Padkontrol as my midi interface. Ridiculous but it works. This doesn’t solve my long term problem of Zendrum playing live though. I really don’t want to bring my guitar pedal and midi pad controller to a gig to function as a audio interface and midi interface. It will work for now since I don’t have anything better but eventually this needs to change.

What I’m thinking about: A Apple laptop with a nice small portable audio interface. This does mean that I have to ditch my Sonar/Project 5 software which would be very sad. I would want to keep using Rapture and Dimension of course but since they have VST, AU and RTAS versions I feel pretty confident that I’ll be able to use them on anything. My current thoughts are pointing me towards the Digidesign Protools LE series and getting a MBox2 maybe? I’ve heard these things work really nice (and are stable) and then I’d have a Protools system if I wanted to keep using Protools. I’m also heavily looking into Ableton and Logic as other options. Clearly if I don’t go Protools I would be able to try out other audio interfaces. I’m looking at Edirol and Echo ones. Echo doesn’t make a non-firewire interface (pci but that’s not portable for a Macbook) but I’m hoping that on the Macbook I’d have better luck.

Any advice? I’m looking for any options for audio interface and recording software to use with an Apple laptop. I’m also open to going back to MOTU for audio interface. Anything that’s solid and works well with the Apple Laptop. Solid enough to gig with!

Flogging Molly at the House of Blues in Boston, MA

Flogging Molly is great. They are my favorite Irish-Punk (or whatever you want to call it) band that I’ve heard so far. Before too many comments fly my way: I haven’t listened to very many.

The show was excellent and I think I heard every song I wanted to. Most off of Float and Drunken Lullabies as is expected. They sounded great. Lead singers voice was excellent and they definitely showed a ton of energy. I can’t think of anything really negative to say about their performance. It’s what I expected.

I did hate the venue. After looking at the seating layout I assumed it would be like the Palladium and we could go up to the 3rd floor and sit in seats. Turns out the GA tickets don’t let you up to the seats. I don’t know if those tickets were cheaper and I just didn’t know, or if they were more expensive but I don’t think I’d see a show at the House of Blues without getting seats again. We got directed up to the 2nd floor which is just a big U around the main floor. The problem is that due to it’s height above the stage, only people in the first row could see anything (unless you were very tall) and there were about 4 rows of people there.

We eventually found a place to sit where you could only see through the bar railings. There was wall above them creating a awkward area to sit and watch. I guess I’m getting to old for concerts but I was pissed the whole time that I was paying to sit on concrete and watch the band through bars. If the people in front of us didn’t move I would have been crouching the whole time very uncomfortable trying to peer through bars.

Oh well, not to harp ont he venue too much but it’s no Paradise. Like I mentioned above, I will not be paying to see a band here again unless I got seats or the band was a could-not-miss opportunity.

Bottom line is Flogging Molly is really great and I’m very happy that this recent album was so good. I’ve wanted to see them live at some point and I think I got very lucky with the time frame cause I enjoyed the set list a lot, even if the venue sucked!