Two GBAmp3, one new speaker and swedish coin for size.
I haven’t grown tired of making chip music on my two Gameboys yet but one thing I have come to dislike is how quiet they are. Like, how in the world could kids hear anything on these things back in the day. It’s close to impossible to sit on a train with headphones and try to make music on it when there are people around talking.
I searched the net for a solution and found this little wonderful amplifier made and sold by Anton Veretenenko on Tindie. Not only does it bump up the volume a lot, but it also cleans away the high pitch noise. I bought one for each Gameboy and one new speaker to the Gameboy Color. I haven’t installed them yet but I will try to get it done this weekend. Stay tuned for sound examples.
It being close to 20 years ago since I produced and released my debut CD album 64, I thought I should write a few words about that whole process. Technology has evolved so much during these 20 years. Even the thought of putting music on a piece of plastic seems a bit strange today..
I guess I got the idea of releasing my own CD when I met Norwegian composer and Amiga legend Bjorn Lynne while visiting The Gathering in Norway. He was selling his CDs at a table and I thought, hey I could do that as well: producing my own and market / sell it myself. I have tried for several years to get a record deal but to no avail. The cost of printing CD:s had gone down quite significantly in the mid 90s, especially if you hired a service outside of Sweden, like in Germany. I figured I could easily sell a few hundred copies to people who knew me from my days as a musician on the Commodore 64 and to other persons interested in the demo scene.
So I started to form a plan on how to get it done. I had a bunch of finished songs from around 90-93. They were all produced with the sequencer software Dr T on my Amiga 500 and a cheap Roland D-110 sound module. The music was recorded on a four track tape recorder, called a porta-studio. In the mid 90s I had bought some more synths and gear and wanted to use that to make my older tunes sound a bit less.. 80s and digital. Also the sound quality of porta-studio recordings wasn’t exactly CD-quality. I figured I would have to get hold of more hardware and re-record everything again.
In August 1996 I had saved up enough money to buy a decent PC. I got one with a good sound card, a Turtle Beach Tropez+ capable of recording one 16 bit stereo track at a time. I started to re-record all my old tracks and a few new ones made together with my friend Johan Lundin. I used the Amiga as a sequencer and recorded everything to the PC in one take, wet with effects and everything. On the PC I used Cooledit’95 for basic editing and SAW Plus for multi-track stuff and basic EQ. I didn’t really understand how a compressor worked at the time so I set the volume of all tracks individually, so they would fit together on the CD.
When all the tracks were finished I had to figure out how to burn everything to a CD-R that could be sent as a master to the printer in Germany. CD-burners cost A LOT back then so of course I didn’t own one. I found out about a local guy that had actually bought a burner and could make my original CD, for a price of course. Now came the problem of how to send him 650 megabytes of WAV files. In 1996 the internet was mainly accessed with modems in the range of 28 or 56 kbit/s. And of course USB sticks didn’t exist yet. Luckily we both lived in one of the first cities in Sweden with “broadband” speeds of (up to) 512 kbit/s and we were both connected to it. I set up an FTP server from which he would download the WAV-files.
When the CD master was burned it was time to make the artwork for the CD and jewel case. I worked as a printer at the time and had pretty good knowledge of what needed to be done. I think I used Corel Draw for the design. Photos and computer graphics were done on the Amiga, imported to PC and then put through some filters in Photoshop. The cover had the left side of my face, heavily blurred and the back had my right side, put through some trippy filter. If you put them next to each other you will see the whole of my face.
I pondered sending the finished EPS-files with the cover design on a diskette to the printers in Germany but it was actually cheaper for me to make my own CMYK-films for print and send them. A local company helped me with that and since I knew them through my work it didn’t cost me that much.
64 was printed in November 1996. Early on I had decided to only make a few hundred copies of it. Mainly because it was a niche CD and I didn’t think I could sell more than 200. Turns out I had to print at least 500 copies since that was the minimum the printers would do. Also turns out I was right. I still have around 200-250 copies of 64 left in my closet. The rest of them I sold myself at various computer parties, on BBSes and on the internet.
So that was the story about how I produced my own physical CD, then marketed and sold it on the net in 1996-1997. Let me know on my Facebook page if you have any questions.
Edit: I found my old article “How to make a CD” on Waybackmachine. It’s in Swedish and super detailed on the whole process of recording and printing CD in 1996. Could be fun to read if you are interested in the trials and tribulations of a home studio music producer in the 90s.
My GAS level went up a bit for this new module from QU-Bit. The Chord is a four wave oscillator with individual and summed outputs. All voices are tuned together, allowing for quick and easy sequencing of chord progressions. Lets see if I can find a place for this little beauty in my modular rack.
Chord from Qu-Bit on Vimeo.
Yesterday I visited a local synth yard sale. Well actually it was more like a basement but anyway. People were selling used synths, studio equipment and what have you.
I got myself this little nice MIDI keyboard for just 300 SEK (around $35). I plan to use it whenever I’m too far away from my main keyboard, like when I’m playing on stuff at the left side of my studio.
I did an extended version of my Gameboy techno tune and replaced the old one on Soundcloud. I think it turned out pretty good. Check it out.
Throwback tuesday!! A couple of years ago I did a live recording of my 1975 analog synth Roland System-100, where I used the sample & hold function to create loops and noises. Everything was recorded in one take and only some reverb was added afterwards. Check it out if you like phat analog bleeps and bloops.
Lots of fun toys to play with…
SoundStage: VR Music Maker is a virtual reality music sandbox built specifically for room-scale VR. I haven’t tried this but my initial reaction is.. W T F! 🙂 Being a hardware guy I really can’t see this replacing a real studio anytime soon. Could be fun to try out though. So far I haven’t seen any obvious killer app for VR.
I still think it’s pretty fun to make noisy noises on my Gameboy so I’ve just spent a few hours finishing up the track I made a demo of the other week. I have given it the name Crunchy Beats and you can listen to it below.
Now I must concentrate on finishing my album, which will sound completely different. More analog and much less 8-bit digital. 🙂