I started using FL Studio around 2003 I think, and Sonar a little later. Same as everyone else, amazed at what was becoming possible with a single computer and a bunch of plugins. And so much of it was free! This piece here is all free stuff – mostly the PC51d soundfont and a couple of freebies from the now defunct PapelMedia.
Despite the genre – someone once asked me why I was doing ‘Riverdance music’ and I wanted to shrink to invisibility – I’m proud of this one. I wrote it on a Casio VL-tone when I was about fifteen and never forgot it. The Casio had this step sequencer that allowed you to input one note at a time. I never would have been able to play it on those tiny keys otherwise.
I always had an image in my head of how I wanted it to sound, so as soon as I was able to lay my hands on half-decent sounding orchestral samples I made the effort. Unfortunately, it’s one of the very few things I did manage to finish on the computer.
Continuing the retrospective. Fast forward a decade. 1996-ish? No more bellowing into a tape recorder. No more bellowing at all in fact. I’d given up on singing, instead playing melody lines on a synth. This prompted one of my friends to comment that my stuff sounded like the (crap) muzak covers you hear in shops. Which in turn prompted me to spin a musical cocoon from which I didn’t emerge until very recently.
In the nineties, the only instrument I had was a Korg Trinity Plus. But what an instrument! Beautiful PCM-based sounds, analogue modelling synthesis, multiple drum kits, tonnes of insert and master effects, and best of all a 16 track sequencer. Felt like a moon landing compared to my old Model T mono, the Teisco 60f.
Thin skinned no more, here are a few unfinished pieces, replete with crap muzak melody lines. Still blissfully unaware of EQ and compression techniques, still believing layered reverbs were the solution to any problem. But all performed, arranged and sequenced on one machine. It doesn’t sound that impressive now, since the phone in your pocket can do as much and more, but at the time it was heaven.
Korg Trinity Plus 01
Korg Trinity Plus 02
Korg Trinity Plus 03
Korg Trinity Plus 04
Pretty camp, eh? If left to my own musical devices, what comes out mostly falls into two categories – pseudo-disco and pseudo-classical. There wasn’t much rock in our house when I was young. Plenty Bee Gees, Boney M and Abba though. I expect that’s where the disco comes from, but the pseudo-classical? Who knows.
I still have the Trinity and roll it out occasionally. Some of the patches have aged a little, but it’s still a smooth machine.
The Streichfett was a huge surprise. I couldn’t believe that a modern company would bother to reprise the string machine sound in such a small, cheap and useful package. It was as if I’d made an unconscious wish and it had come true. Fantastic little machine.
An intense 16 year old Mark doing his best to reconcile teenage angst with the day-glo world of 1984. Howard Jones, oh how you encroached on my musical sense. Makes me wonder where I’m getting my influences from now. I suppose you never truly find out until after the event.
There you are again, Holding hands with a smile on your face, But a look that cuts like a knife, Living on again, Statuettes in a game of still life, Still life.
And it’s strange to think, There’s a part of you in me, And it’s hard to believe you’re just part of history, Yes it’s one thing to look but another to see, When in time our memories fade and fail.