back in the night – dr feelgood

It’s almost as if my life’s gone full circle. Which is good, since if this is the case, I must be almost finished and can look forward to a nice long rest in the ground.
It’s odd, going back to catering work after all these years. When I abandoned the industry, back in the mid-nineties, I presumed it was for keeps.
Of course, that was the point where I stopped working with sound, in favour of writing fiction. What if my last twenty-five years were just a cul-de-sac? Working in care, writing and performing fiction, mibby these were just a phase I was going through.
Music technology has improved by leaps and bounds since the 1980s. If I want tape hiss today, there’s an app for that, and it probably comes with settings for ‘shitty old ghetto-blaster’, ‘ancient VHS’ and ‘dusty charity shop 7″ reels’. Most bands in those days had one (battered old) synth, often used for that group’s trademark sound. Nowadays, there’s a few dozen given away free with ‘Computer Music’ every month. Searching in DuckDuckGo for ‘VST free download’ coughs up hundreds, if not thousands of synths and effects.
So funny noises can be plucked from the trees these days. With today’s DAWs, the scope for editing and mixing is far beyond anything available during the razor blade years. So why are so many people simply making the same sort of racket as everybody else? In that sense, we haven’t, as a culture, progressed in the last thirty-five years.
I think I’m producing work broadly similar to what I produced between 1983 and 1995, but everything’s smaller. My Zoom digital recorder fits in one hand, a fraction of the size of my trusty early ’80s doubledeck, which could barely be carried and was difficult to hide when I was recording something surreptitiously. The computer I do most of my work on fits on a desk in a room half the size of my bedroom at Halmyre Street with its piles of synths and reel-to-reels and that treacherous carpet of cables to snag the unwary ankle.
Today, I can sit down and potter with MIDI, and if I want a coffee, I don’t have to climb out through a web of cables to get it.
The biggest change for me is in editing. MIDI lets me make changes in minutes that would have taken an hour or two in the olden days. The main benefit of this is that I can have a ridiculous idea and bring it into being quickly and easily. No thinking – straight to stupid.
With this technology, my work with Virullex!, or the Compulsion Brothers would have been quite different. But then so would the work of Opera For Infantry, Un-kommuniti or Trench Music Kore.


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