Making the MC624 Remote (in Exhausting Detail)

I made something.

This thing is a hardwired desktop remote control unit made to interface with the Sound Skulptor MC624 stereo monitor controller.  The remote sends control commands via a serial interface to the MC624 (which performs all of the actual audio handling) and indicates the selected input, output, volume level, and other monitoring functions.

The Eye Socket MC624 Remote.

Designing and building this device was a quite complex and challenging process for me, with a number of peculiar problems to solve and new skills to learn.  The project developed sporadically over the course of seven months, from sketchy concept in February 2017 to finished piece in September.  Reflecting on this process I have decided to document it here.  My hope is that I have included enough detail to be useful to those who might be interested in building a similar device, but not to overwhelm those who are simply interested in the story.

This remote is not available as a product for sale, but all the technical details of my design, including the panel designs, part sources, wiring diagrams and open-source code, are shared freely on Github.   Continue reading

Face to Face – Big Choice reissue

My old pals face to face are celebrating 25+ years as a band with a ton of good stuff.  Their latest album Protection (released March 2016) marked their return to Fat Wreck Chords and has earned great reviews everywhere.  A new 7″ single from the album is coming out in May.  The band continues to tour all over, and in May and June of this year they will reprise their legendary 1996 “Econo Live” tour with a series of small club shows around the U.S.

The band’s classic first three albums have also received long-awaited vinyl and digital reissues through Fat Wreck, remastered by the outstanding Joe Gastwirt.  The second album Big Choice is a special case:  For the reissue, Trever and I remixed the entire album from the original multitrack master tapes.  The new mixes give the album a more honest sound, presenting the band’s performances straightforwardly and without the “studio polish” that adorned the original release.  (See below for more about this process.)

The Big Choice reissue is available on vinyl from the band’s official storeFat Wreck, Amazon, and your local record shop.  It’s also on CD and digital from iTunes, Google Play, etc.

Recording notes:  Remixing a classic record like Big Choice is a perilous prospect.  As a fan I generally prefer to let a work speak for itself as it was originally conceived––to be a product of the people who made it, and of the place and time in which they made it––for better or for worse.  I usually don’t enjoy later “improvements” made to works like the original Star Wars films, or classic stereo (or mono!) records remixed for modern surround formats.  I don’t mean to assert that such modifications are unequivocally wrong; I simply don’t enjoy them as much.  And I know that many music fans are similarly protective about the works they love.

Big Choice is a classic of the genre, and a fan favorite.  But there were aspects of its production that Trever had always found unsatisfying, that kept it from being a pure expression of the songs and performances.  So we set out to present the album in a way that would be absolutely familiar to fans––no changes or edits to anything recorded, the same performances, same balance, same overall aesthetic––but in a more raw state, without the artificial reverb that was used to excess on vocals and drums in the original mix.

The album was produced by the great Thom Wilson and originally recorded to DA-88, a digital tape format that was popular in the mid-nineties but bereft of the flattering sonic effects of analog tape.  Working at Stagg Street Studio in Van Nuys, California, Trever and I transferred the digital tapes to a Studer 24-track analog machine, running some tracks through various analog outboard devices to lend a bit of harmonic “warmth” to the brittle, thin digital recordings.  We then mixed the tracks on the studio’s API console very simply, without automation, referring carefully to the original mixes for balance and energy.  We kept the drums and vocals dry, and accentuated midrange in the guitars.  The new mixes were printed to 1/2″ analog tape on an Ampex ATR-102 machine and eventually handed off to Joe Gastwirt for mastering.  The result is a more straightforward, “tougher” sound that (I hope) does justice to everything that’s great about this record while delivering its emotion and power even more purely than before.

The Short Term – Burn This Bright

The Short Term - Burn This BrightBoston alt-rock trio The Short Term have just released their debut EP Burn This Bright, following their successful Indiegogo campaign.

In what has become a true 21st century convention, we recorded the drum tracks together in a “proper” studio, Q Division in Somerville, and the band recorded the other tracks in their own studio. I then mixed and mastered the record here at the Eye Socket.

The EP is available on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify etc.

Jesca Hoop – birnCORE Presents Five Songs Live

Jesca Hoop - birnCORE Presents Five Songs LivebirnCORE – BIRN Cooperative Recordings, the independent record label of Berklee’s radio station the BIRN – has released an EP by the brilliant singer-songwriter Jesca Hoop entitled Five Songs Live.

The recordings were captured at Jesca’s solo performance at the Red Room at Café 939 in Boston in October 2013 and beautifully showcase her uniquely delicate style, stripped down to voice and electric guitar only.

I produced the record, which in this case simply meant overseeing the careful work of the Berklee students, alumni, staff and faculty who lent their skills to every aspect of this special collaboration.

You can listen and purchase the digital release at the birnCORE shop, iTunes and Amazon. A limited edition 10″ colored vinyl release is also available while supplies last.

Das War Krach – Protokino

Das War Krach - Protokino The first LP from Zürich duo Das War Krach (a new band formed by members of Metallspürhunde) was released earlier this year through German label Danse Macabre Records.

Protokino features eight songs of dark electropop with a balance of dense electronics, guitars and live drums, and German lyrics sung by both Michel and Marion.  There’s a wry sense of humor at work in many of the songs, and although those familiar with Metallspürhunde will recognize the style, this is definitely a new band with its own sound.  The band recorded the tracks in their own studio, and I provided additional production, mixed and mastered the album at The Eye Socket.

Protokino is available on vinyl, CD and digital download through the usual retailers (including Amazon).  More info at the band’s website.