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Did You Know? by Karl Fisch, Scott McLeod, and Jeff Brenman
(rescored with Right Here, Right Now by Fatboy Slim)

Joe Meek was a pioneer of the modern age of music production, most famous for his work with The Tornados. He wrote and produced The Tornados’ #1 hit Telstar in 1962 – making them the first British band to hit #1 in the US.

As Brian Eno has sagely pointed out, ‘no one watches recorded theatre; we watch movies‘. In the early days of cinema, cameras were stationary, merely recording theatre as it was played out on stage – as the art form evolved, however, new techniques came into use such as closeups, the use of multiple cameras, lighting trickery, filters and anything that happens in post-production. The same can be said of music – the result of a work of studio production, while still related to live music, is no longer the same thing. Joe Meek was one of the first to realise this and put it into practise.

The Tornados – Robot

Before Joe Meek, recording technicians were lab-coat wearing pansies who endeavoured to keep the studio as sterile as possible in order to merely ‘copy’ the source material, like with early cinema. Joe separated instruments from each other, used echoes, used reverb and ran tapes through all manner of home-made electro-accoustic devices to end up with a final composite recording that was unique and like nothing that could have been created by the instruments themselves. He added musique concrète techniques to the mix, like the sound of a toilet flushing played in reverse at an altered speed to simulate a rocket blast.

Joe’s work was full of space-inspired titles and themes, like the aforementioned Telstar (named after the Telstar satellite, the world’s first communications satellite) and the only partially released ‘music from another planet’ concept album I Hear a New World. One of his many projects, The (once-again astronomy-thematic) Moontrekkers, famously had their single Night of the Vampire banned from play on the BBC for being ‘too scary’.

The Moontrekkers – Night of the Vampire

If you still aren’t in love with this man, try this on for size: rumour has it that upon hearing Rod Stewart sing (Meek had been brought on board to produce an album for Stewart), Meek rushed into the studio, put his fingers in his ears and screamed until Stewart had left.

Add another name to my list of heroes!

Joe’s career was sadly cut short when he comitted suicide in 1967 at the age of 37. His name, however, lives on in a range of audio equipment. I guess that counts for something. His personal life was pretty messed up, too, which these days means someone will eventually make a movie about you.

Trailer for Telstar: The Movie

mj bushrat

I’ve refrained until now on saying anything in the wake of MJ’s sudden passing. This morning, however, as I vacuumed the house my super-advanced lighthugging space interceptor I was reminded of a few weeks back when the cat hemmed in an Australian bush rat behind the bookcase I was now poking the vacuum nozzle thingy behind.

Atomique was not entirely pleased at having a rodent running around the house, and the cat, being too fat and/or stupid to continue the chase behind the bookcase, had more or less left the rat to its own devices back there. This left it to yours truly to evict the extra mammal. I constructed a simple Goldberg machine to herd the rat into a cardboard box for easy airlocking. It may have seemed like a bit of extra work to go through, but I wasn’t about to touch the adorable little guy, cute as he may have been.  Why? Because it’s still a rat; even if it’s got those goofy round ears and cute little nose who knows where the hell it’s been sleeping, what it’s been eating and what myriad variety of infectious diseases are coursing through its system.

I think, perhaps, that people who are convinced that MJ can’t have been a pedophile because he made wonderful music should ponder carefully upon the tale of Viper Pilot and the bush rat.

As completion of Brisbane‘s first inner-city bridge since 1971 nears, the city is offering the citizenry a chance to name that bridge.

In the lowest-common-denominator fashion so typical of Queensland, there’s an abundance of suggestions to name the bridge after Wally Lewis, Mal Meninga, Darren Lockyer and Wayne Bennet (all legends of rugby league, to those of you outside Oz). While I’m the first to acknowledge the importance of team sports in teaching children about teamwork and keeping them active – and the related importance of having sporting heroes to give kids a motivation to take up said sports – by no means do I consider any of these people to have dramatically shaped this city for the better. All they’ve done is play a game.

If Queensland is serious about changing its national perception from being ‘the state full of corrupt homophobic redneck tossers‘ and live up to its adopted state slogan “The Smart State” then now might be a good time to speak up. Enter Ian Frazer, the guy at the University of Queensland who CURED FUCKING CANCER. Okay, not quite – but he did develop a vaccine for cervical cancer and was named Australian of the Year in 2006 for his efforts.

Just so we’re on the same page here, let me dig up some stats. Wikipedia tells me that there are an estimated 233,000 deaths from cervical cancer each year. ZOMG. Granted, the vaccine isn’t going to get to every one of those people, but this guy’s work is going to save a metric assload of lives.

And he’s not done yet – dude is going to pwn skin cancer next.

So please (please, please) help me in convincing the city council that we ought honour a man who’s made an amazing difference for the better to people’s lives around the world when we cross this bridge, not remember Mal’s ‘fucken awesome try in the 1990 grand final’.

Yarr!  Look out, me hearties – there be a rapping man inside yer computer-picture-box who’s looken’ to steer ye clear of copyin’ yer floppies!

Don’t Copy That Floppy

The video game the kids are playing might be the lamest video game ever (or not).  I’m not sure why anyone would want to copy it, since the ‘skill’ required to play it appears to be the ability to mash the home row as frantically as possible; actually watching what you’re doing might be only tangentally necessary. Maybe the boss fights require watching the screen?

I know you turned the video off after the mullet-man and nerd-lady started to explain why piracy is bad and GAME MANUALZ R AUSOMES, but there are more rappy bits if you persevere! Joy!

I can’t imagine why this video didn’t stop the rising tide of piracy in the mid-90s. Thankfully, its failure didn’t lead to the ‘end of the computer age’, because I’m pretty sure my life would suck without my gadgets. Whew.

This kicks ass. It’s a gorgeous short animated film about a block-man searching for his block-head in a city of blocky things.

Um, ignore me; just watch the damn thing:

At ease, recruits.  I know you’re all clamoring to find out how the last sortie went, but I hate to tell you it’s all still classified. Suffice to say that massive audio bombs were dropped on the Beetle Bar, and the casualties on the night included one very melty amplifier and a couple of smouldering mixers, along with all the brains that were destroyed by round after round of audio satisfaction.

That out of the way, I think it’s time we get back to basics: music, technology and the awesome place where they meet.  Enter the Evolution Control Committee.  These bad boys of music have been making mashups since before they were called mashups. Back in the day – way back to the early ’90s – building on the tail end of plunderphonics, they pioneered cut & paste bastard pop. When I say cut & paste, I mean it in the old school manner of actually cutting and pasting pieces of tape to create their mashups.

Fast forward to modern day, and they’re still doing the bootleg thing, but blazing trails with new toys. Check out the VidiMasher 3000:

The VidiMasher 3000

The VidiMasher 3000 in action at Bootie SF

If anyone has some spare Wiimotes and a spare projector to throw my way, I could certainly use one of these myself…

Another technomusical goodie on my radar is AudioMulch. I had the opportunity to meet the creator this week (a fellow who also helped out with the software algorithms for the Reactable, which I’ve blogged about before); we sat down for a quick show and tell of the software. Very quickly, my mind was blown clean up by the possibilities of this visual music studio. Plug sounds in, tinker with the effects visually, in real time, and make awesome shit happen. Girl Talk (the world’s most famous mashup artist (some day I shall dethrone him… some day)) uses it for its mad looping capabilities, but it can be used to manipulate any piece of audio in a multitude of ways.

It’s not designed to be a visual show like the VidiMasher 3000 is, but the above video gives a brief example of what’s meant by ‘visual music studio’. That’s a small part of the interface – check out the AudioMulch YouTube channel to see the full (potentially overwhelming to the unitiated) interface on display.

Girl Talk using Adobe Audition and AudioMulch to mash things up

Finally, nuggets, since good things come in threes, here is a podcast from a bus: The Buscast. Nothing technologically startling there, but I do defy you to tell me that ten years ago such a thing would have ever existed. Time and technology, hand in hand, march ever onwards.

The Buscast archives have only just hit the intarwebz again after an extended period of downtime. Since recon flight leader Debenham punched out before his wing could paint the bullseye, he had the time this weekend to perform maintenance on the Buscast while the taxpayers refitted his bird.

That’s enough for this lecture, noobs. There will be an exam in this room in seven days time on William Shatner and how his creative legacy effected the ‘post-American Empire’ years of the late 21st century.

Watch as IBM tell us how your DECISIONS will be BOLDER as you make them ONLINE in this totally capital slideshow from the 70s:

Viper Pilot Audio

Looking for music by Viper Pilot? This blog is the current home of Viper Pilot's Munition Works, where he stores all of his mashes and mixes.

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