Our Music

I’m not much of a musician, but I enjoy what I do.  I mainly play electric bass.  I took some lessons for a year or so at a local music school during my university days.   I never really practiced enough.  I still don’t.  My brother Matt got all the musical talent in my immediate family.

This page features selections from some music recorded in my basement.   All music is improvised and recorded live, except for a handful of tracks based on other peoples’ tunes.


Craigmatron

Some of the earliest basement recordings were done with Craig Thornton, an intern from RIM, on guitar.  He plays with a very light, jazzy feel.  These jams were a lot of fun.  Sadly, all the masters were lost, all I have left is a CD of mixes.  Here’s the best one:

Hunka Burnin’ Love [MP3]
  • Matt: drums, keyboards
  • Ron: bass, keyboards
  • Craig: guitar

The last jam of a long night.  I started a weird thing on bass.  It took Craig a while to find a guitar part that worked with it, but it got very cool when he did.  I even attempt a couple bass solos near the end.  Keyboard parts were overdubbed later.


Markmatron

  • Matt: drums
  • Ron: bass, keyboard
  • Mark: guitar

Recorded in 2003, on a Sunday.  In November, I believe.

Mark is a fantastic guitarist, able to play in many styles, and constantly inventing new sounds and textures.  These tunes are much more extended, spacey and weird.  More in the progressive-rock vein.  On a few tracks, we stretched out into some strange time signatures, a hallmark of prog-rock.

I played keyboard on a few tracks here.  I’ve had no training in keyboard playing, and it shows.  My parts are either simplistic, or riddled with mistakes.  Sometimes both.

We intended to record the keyboard parts as MIDI, using VST virtual instruments (Hammond B3 organ and Prophet synth emulators from Native Instruments)  But for some reason, that configuration was crashing Cubase.  Something in the MIDI driver, I think, because the moment a MIDI even came in, it locked up.  So instead the keyboard is recorded as live audio, using the JX-8P’s own sounds through a digital delay, wah-pedal and guitar amplifier.  The wah-pedal allowed me to make the synth parts interesting, without overtaxing my extremely limited keyboard technique.

A much better job of recording the drums than I did on the Craigmatron session.  My new kick-drum mike is amazing.  It picks up almost nothing else but the kick drum.  Five tracks devoted to the drums (PZM microphone under the snare, kick mike, left and right overhead mikes, and a mike above the snare.)

Guitar is recorded on three tracks.  Guitar was played through a Boss VF-1 effects box (thanks Robert!), and the Ampeg V-4B bass amp.  Two tracks are the stereo digital output from the VF-1 effects box, and one track is a microphone on the amp.

Many tracks pick up after they’ve already started.  The guys were too impatient to wait for me to start recording.

Jam 2

  • Drums: Matt
  • Guitar: Mark
  • Almost Tolerable Synth: Ron

This extended two-chord jam reminds me very much of the long chemically-enhanced free-form jams typical of space-rock bands like Amon Duul II.  One long jam, broken (rather arbitrarily) into three pieces.  The third part (Track 4) is the best.

Jam 6 [MP3]
  • Drums: Matt
  • Funkenstein Guitar and guitar overdubs: Mark
  • Synth: Ron

Mark plays a really cool strange riff on guitar, through the VF-1 Funkenstein effect.  I like the way the riff keeps turning upside down.  And the way the drums pick up with a high-hat at about 2:10, after a brief rest.  And my synth part is not too terrible.  A few simple notes, bent around with the delay and wah pedal.  This is the one that sticks in my head.


Rusmarkmatron

Now we’re getting really spacey.  I played a lot more organ in this session.  I’m still terrible at it, but somehow getting better, despite a complete lack of training or practice.

I’d really like to go over some these tunes and fix up some mistakes, and maybe overdub some new synth tracks.  But it won’t be easy to fix anything.  We had so much crosstalk between the instruments, mistakes appear on every track.  Especially my own all-too-common mistakes on the bass.  The hazards of recording live jams in a crappy basement studio with no isolation.

Jam 1 [MP3]
  • Mark: Guitar
  • Matt: Guitar
  • Ron: Pro-53 Synth
  • Russ: Drums

A really mellow two-chord thing.  My synth starts out really rough, but gets better.

Jam 2 part 1 [MP3]
  • Mark: Guitar
  • Matt: Guitar
  • Ron: Bass
  • Russ: Drums

Starts with a cool riff on guitar by Matt, doubled by me on bass, while Mark does a long sustained solo.

A cool change at 4:45.  Mark’s guitar becomes very mellow with lots of reverb, and the bass pattern changes.  At 7:30, the bass starts modulating the key (very roughly at first, but settles into a nice simple progression.)

Winds down at around 10 minutes.  A quiet passage leads us into…

Jam 2 part 2 [MP3]
  • Mark: Guitar
  • Matt: Guitar, Synth
  • Ron: Bass
  • Russ: Drums

Bass continues the same key changes, but quietly now.  Energy builds, noisy guitar in the background.  Faster, faster, until we wind down at 5:00.  First false ending at 5:25 or so, Mark starts playing a tasty little figure that he repeats for a long time.  At about 7:10, Matt starts doubling Mark’s tasty guitar bit.  Very majestic!

Energy builds briefly again, and everything suddenly goes quiet and mellow again at 9:55, another false ending.  A new tasty guitar figure from Mark, that fits wonderfully with the bass.  Matt moves to synth, very rough at first.  11:15, guitar figure thins out, with lots of slides, sustain and tasty barely-restrained feedback.  The synth tries to figure something out, kinda spoiling the moment.

Guitar figure dissolves and fades out at 13:10, leaving only the bass and drums.  Mark returns shortly with lots of reverb and tremolo.

14:50, guitar and bass fall silent, except for a slow strangely Ennio Morricone sort of Good, Bad and Ugly thing, while the drums go all jungle on us.  But what’s this now?  Matt on the synth is doing some really weird techno thing.  But it sounds cool!  Spaghetti-western vs techno.  Who will emerge victorious?  The drums don’t seem to be choosing sides, they’re off on safari.

Everyone falls silent, except for the weird techno sound.  Which leads us into…

Jam 2 part 3 “I like that shit, man!” [MP3]
  • Matt: Synth
  • Russ: Drums
  • Ron: Bass

The drums fall into line with the cool techno synth thing, with some rimshots.  It gels for a moment.  Very cool.  Finding our way… what shall we do with this?  Bass tries to find a place in the scheme.  But it never quite comes together, and we stop.  Tracks 2, 3, 4 and 5, all one continuous take.  It’s been a long one.

Jam 3 [WMA]
  • Ron: Organ (Native Instruments “B4” software Hammond emulator)
  • Matt: Drums
  • Mark: Guitar
  • Russ: Bass

I’m not a keyboard player, and it shows.  But the organ playing here almost works.  There are moments in my playing I’m quite proud of.  And other moments that blow.  I like the bass playing, too.


Hellephant

Hellephant is my brother and his friend Jari (from the band Warsaw Pack).  They occasionally do shows around the Hamilton area of live improvised jams.  Matt plays drums, Jari usually plays bass.  When they come to my house to record, I usually play something as well.

Over the last year, we have recorded various things in my basement studio.  There have been some very nice moments captured, which I will include here.

Accelerando Jam (7:10) Accelerando Jam


June 5, 2004

  • Matt: Drums
  • Jari: Bass
  • ?: Guitar

I did not play on this one, wasn’t even home at the time, I don’t think.  But I really like it.  It’s the end of  a very much longer jam.  To me, the only part that’s really good.  This is some great Jari-style bass playing.  Continually inventive, but with a relentless and irresistible groove.

The guitar part was parachuted in from an entirely different jam.  I’m not sure who played it (not me), but it’s done with E-Bow and slide, and loads of digital delay.  It works really well, adding some cool spacey sounds to complement the throbbing rhythm.

Plant Food



August 5, 2004

  • Matt: Drums
  • Jari: Keyboards
  • Ron: Guitar

The Plant Food jams were actually a single extremely long recording, which went through many phases, with aimless noodling dividing sections of collective inspiration.  It was fairly easy to isolate some nice, fairly self-containted pieces out of the chaos.  The sound is quite Floydian, very mellow and spacey.  Long gliding electronic sounds are actually guitar, played with E-Bow and slide, and lots of digital delay.

The name comes from the organic farm near Hamilton where Matt volunteers in the summers.  They would play these jams in the fields while they worked.  Apparently they make good environmentally-friendly fertilizer.

El Gusano [MP3]


Mezcal bottle with worm
September 8, 2004

  • Matt: Drums
  • Jari: Keyboards
  • Ron: Bass

One of my favourite recordings.  A cool sound, lots of interesting development, building to a climax that just crushes everything in its path.  Play it loud, and imagine the strobe lights and fog machine pumping, what a blast!

El Gusano is Spanish for “the worm”.  This piece is named after the inhabitant of a bottle of mezcal that Jari and I had shots from just before recording this.  You can really hear the worm in it.

The keyboards have an interesting sound here.  We piped the keyboard MIDI simultaneously to the B4 Hammond emulator, and to a grand piano sampler.  On short notes, the piano sound dominates.  Hold the notes longer, and the organ sound dominates, with a piano-like attack.  It’s an interesting effect, I like the sound of it.

Hellephantom [MP3]


Recorded Dec. 29, 2004

  • Matt: Drums
  • Ron: Bass
  • Jari: Keyboards

This is my attempt to play a bass part in Jari’s style.  I don’t think I quite got it, but it’s still a pretty cool bass-line, burbling along down there.

Hancock Knot [MP3]


Recorded April 7-9, 2005

  • Matt: Drums, rhythm guitar
  • Ron: Bass
  • Chad: Keyboards

This is our deconstructed cover version of Herbie Hancock’s Chameleon.  It bears no resemblance to the original whatsoever.  It’s also the least improvised track we’ve done.  It’s been constructed very carefully in layers.

We started with a MIDI file of Chameleon from the Internet.  We put the drum track from the MIDI into Matt’s headphones, turned up the tempo, and Matt recorded a drum line using the original as a click-track.  I played bass simultaneously, hearing only Matt’s drums and nothing of the original.  Rhythm guitar parts were overdubbed later with new changes.  I recorded a new bass line, based on the changes in the rhythm part.  Some editing and mixing, and we had a backing track that rocked pretty hard.  But it needed some melody.

I called on my friend Chad Faragher to come by on short notice to record us some keyboard parts.  He gave us a Hammond rhythm part that fills the spaces in the guitar part.  And a screaming crazy organ solo after the crunchy break in the middle of the song.  And he made up a melody part, played on synth in the first half, and organ in the second half.  It took a while for me to edit the various takes together into a single performance.

Because of the click-track basis of the song, it has turned out to be extremely editable.  No tempo mismatches, changes occur nicely at measure lines.  So, we may keep working on this one.  I think it’s a little too long (though it is one of the shortest things we’ve done.)  And I’m particularly unconvinced by the weak-sounding Casio-esque synth patch I mastered it with.  And a guitar solo might work nicely, too.  We can do better, I’m sure.

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