Sonic Talk 308 – Nick Rhodes and Warren Cuccurullo

 

OFFICIAL LINK: http://www.sonicstate.com/video/index.cfm?keyword=Podcast:

TVMania

As well as doing my own podcast The Creative Catalyst and public speaking, from time to time I enjoy presenting other podcasts and radio shows.

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Nick Rhodes and Warren Cuccurullo about the TVMania project I recorded with them back in 1995 (which was recently released by The Vinyl Factory).

The following program aired on the Sonic Talk Podcast, on April 10th 2013. With permission of the copyright holder, here is the transcript. The article was transcribed by Krystalin Schamber.

Mark Tinley: Hello.

Nick Rhodes: Hello Mr. Tinley.

MT: How are you then?

NR: I’m perfectly acceptable for this time of night. You?

MT: I’m alright. Okay, let’s see. So Anthony and I did an interview with Nick Batt last week and talked a bit about production and technology and I really wanted to get your take on it and Warren’s if possible but it’s probably easier if I call him separately.

NR: Well I can obviously talk about keyboards and stylophone and things like that, but the actual, you know, what we recorded on and everything, I think it’s probably best if you just deal with that.

MT: Perfect. So I think what might work is if you tell the story, once we’ve got into the story of it, then I guess questions will just kind of naturally come about and we can go from there.

NR: I see, Mr. Tinley. Yes, we just need to get into a few areas I guess of the things that you think we should be talking about.

MT: Take us back into the past and just tell us a story.

NR:  Back to 1995-96, I remember the day that you and Warren and I were sitting down watching this Planet Fashion show on TV that used to be on when we got into the studio every day. And we were all sat there watching it and I said, ‘Look.  They’re talking in lyrics!  They’re talking in song titles!  Everything they say could be the title of something.’ And that’s really what happened.

MT: What strikes me immediately when I listen to that record now, is that it’s almost visionary? It’s bizarre in that what it’s about, the whole reality TV thing; it’s just, we made that record in 1995-96. And it’s about now!

NR:  Yeah, I think the thing was that during that time period, we had just finished the Thank You album, which was a Duran Duran cover version album. And we were embarking on a new studio album project, which ended up becoming Medazzaland. But it was quite a difficult album to make because Simon really hit a brick wall with lyrics and he asked for some time to spend searching for some inspiration, which of course was understandable and we said, fine. But as Warren and I didn’t really want to stop working, we stayed in the studio and had to invent something new to do. And we had recently been working with an opera set designer, Stefanos Lazaridis, who sadly is no longer with us. But he was hugely creative and worked with us on the Wedding Album tour. And he said to Warren and I, “I would love to collaborate more, can you possibly come up with something that we might be able to work on together?” So we were thinking in a very visual sense. And it sort of all came about by us discussing what we might want to write about or create a project around. And I had this vision in my head of a dysfunctional family, but real stereotypes. So, for example, the mother was on pharmaceutical pills, the father was a religious freak, the son was a computer hacker and obsessed with online games, and the daughter was incredibly beautiful and just wanted to be famous for any possible reason but didn’t really know why. And it seemed like they were the archetypal modern family with all the things that we were viewing at that stage, because not only was the internet developing rapidly, we were also overwhelmed with surveillance cameras everywhere we went, London being the most surveilled city in the world. And we also were sort of at the birth of new pharmaceuticals such as Prozac, and anything that sounded like an alien in Star Trek…Vicodin. You know, those kinds of things. And so, I think that that all coloured the way we were looking at things. And I really wanted to do a sort of pop culture piece. And we’d never written a concept album. And in some ways, it’s sort of a dirty word because you think of those triple concept albums from the Seventies with drawings of goblins and pixies on the covers. That wasn’t what we were thinking at all. It was something high-tech, modern, and relative to the fabric of our society. And so that’s where we started. And once I got this idea of this family, Warren and I threw the ideas around a lot and came up with this concept that there was a family who were so perfect for the media, that they were discovered by scientists who said look, we need to study them. We need to find out what’s going wrong in the world and find out why families are ending up like this. So they were going to take them and put them in a house and seal them so they couldn’t get out, and they would just film them 24 hours a day. Now, this all sounds rather familiar at this point. But when we came up with this idea, there was nothing, no Big Brother, no Survivor,  and there wasn’t the Truman show either. So we literally based everything on this family and developed the story to the point where we even said, well the family are going to be in there. They’re not going to know what’s going on. The scientists are going to be looking at it and they’re going to realise the enormous potential that this could be broadcast live on the internet and around the world. And they’re going to sell the rights without the family even knowing what they’re doing. And that everybody is watching what they’re doing. So that’s how developed it was.

MT: Well you gave me a script. I remember this huge script that you came in with and said, there’s the outline to the story.

NR: Yeah, well we printed pretty much the same thing in the album packaging. Because I think in retrospect, it’s much more interesting. The reason we dropped that back then in ‘96 is we saw The Truman Show about six-nine months after we finished the album. That came out, and Warren and I just looked at each other and said, wow, well there goes that idea. It’s too close. There are a lot of other people obviously thinking the same things because that technology is out there, it’s in the atmosphere and it’s bound to happen. And a few months later, there was Survivor and Big Brother and everything else.  We know the history.  But what we did have is the music, that we created inspired by that idea of the family.  So when we found samples for things “Beautiful Clothes” or “I Wanna Make Films”, they were for the daughter.  And when we found “Using A Hidden Camera”, that was for the son.  And when we found things for “Euphoria”, that was for the mother.  “What About God?” was for the father.  So it all pieced together and sort of made sense for us.  It’s good to look for inspiration in different places, otherwise we’re back to the same place we we started talking about earlier where everything starts to sound the same.  All the same.

(Laughter)

NR: I think the thing was that during that time period, we were locked into a little room in Battersea for quite a bit of time.  And we were soaking up what was going on in the world around us, listening to the music that was out there, watching things on TV, and more importantly, watching the development of the internet, which was so extraordinarily exciting in the late ‘90s.  And I think everyone involved in the TV Mania project realized the significance of the internet.  I know you were way ahead of most people, Tinley, when you were looking at it and knowing where it was going to go.  What I was curious about was how quick the proliferation would be and how people would adopt it and use it for their own purposes in their lives.  For us, obviously music was a simple transition.  Once I saw Napster, I knew the future was never going to be the same again.  In fact, in ‘97, Duran Duran became the first band to ever sell a legal download online with the song Electric Barbarella. I pushed the button myself, at Abbey Road.  And that was kind of a monumental moment looking back at it, because we all knew you could transfer files and Napster was exploding.  But the fact that you could sell them to people, to honest people out there, and potentially there was a future for the music business online, that was the first time we realized that.  And that was ‘97 and I don’t think iTunes happened for another six years.

MT: No, it didn’t because I was ran that digitisation company and we were doing that in 2000 I think.  And we were a business to business provider. And Apple wasn’t even in that business model at that point.  So I don’t think that happened until after that company folded in 2001 I think.   So Apple didn’t come on the scene till about 2002 maybe?

NR:  Obviously the brand was around a long time but iTunes was launched 10 years ago; yeah, 2003.   It’s amazing what happened in that six year void to me, that nobody really jumped on it.  Of course I think the labels handled it extraordinarily badly, in hindsight.  Because of course instead of trying to smash up this incredible technology they should have embraced it.  Easy to say now, but even then, I did think it was completely the wrong way to look at it, hence we did do the first download with “Electric Barbarella”.  But given the background of that and what we were looking at,  and the technology that was available then, and how we’d moved much more toward digital, we were recording digitally, not into the computer I believe. We were using digital tape machines.

MT: Yeah, we were doing four tracks at a time into the computer.  So we were recording things into the computer and cutting it all up.  And then after using all four tracks in the computer we’d run out of tracks so we’d have to bounce it onto the DA88.  So we were kind of bouncing stuff back and forth between four tracks on the computer and digital tape machines.  So we had 24 tracks of digital tape, but then I had all those samplers as well, hundreds of the damn things…

(Laughter)

NR: Yeah, I think there’s a strange parallel to how people were working in the sixties, particularly The Beatles when they were recording on 4 track, and then I think on 8 track for Sgt. Pepper’s. They had to constantly bounce things and to put tracks together so they could make space for the next thing.  Bizarre that we chose to do it that way rather than tape, but I suppose also it was much more convenient because we were in a tiny room and we couldn’t have had some great big 24 or 48 track tape machine and all the servicing that you would need to make that work properly.

MT: The other technology that seems to be really common and absolutely all over everything now is the vocoded vocal style, the thing we did on “Euphoria” with Madeleine’s voice.  The digitech vocalist.  Now everything sounds like that.  Nearly every record in the charts has that kind of slightly robotic sort of feel to it.

NR: Often for the wrong reasons.  Most people can’t sing.

(Laughter)

NR: Mind you, there are lots of people that can sing perfectly well and use it as an effect.  Yeah, I mean, for us, we have always tried to use the latest technology in the best possible ways to adopt it for our sound.  So when a new box arrives that does something that we haven’t discovered before, of course we want to explore.  And I think the Digitech vocalist, on that, was one of those prime examples where we got it out, didn’t even read the book properly, and started playing with it to see what we could do.  I think it’s held up well on “Euphoria”.  I think Madeleine’s voice sounds great. But also all the stuff at the beginning with all the harmonies on it, you haven’t heard that sound.

MT: No, people don’t use it for harmonies very much and it does do that remarkably well.  But I guess that’s because people are using Auto-Tune or Melodyne or some other kind of tuning method and then maybe they are not thinking so much about the harmonies.

NR:  Yeah, quite possibly.  And I think it’s a fashion, that’s what’s happened to the sound.  It’s something that people are used to and it feels familiar and good to a generation of people.  Actually I’m to the point where if somebody doesn’t start using it differently I’m going to have to block all new music out of my life I think because I have to confess it does drive me a little crazy.

MT: Yeah, me too.  I think the antidote is to go listen to Iggy Pop And The Stooges, if you listen to some of that early stuff.

NR:  And how unbelievably new does it sound when you parallel it to the homogenized sound that is so ubiquitous now.

MT: But he’s such a raw kind of cool; out of time and out of tune, that he’s almost not in the same arena as the band.  It just sounds really energetic and fresh. Like, human!

NR:  People used to want to capture a performance.  We appear to have gone backwards in many, many ways.  You’ve got to make decisions, intelligent decisions about how to use it.  Because if you just let it take over, you say well anyone can make a record now; you push all these buttons, you go onto a Garage Band, you do what you want, there are plenty of nice sounds in there, and that’s why everything sounds the same.

MT: Even to the point where like all the plug-ins pretty much sound the same, actually.

NR: Well it was inevitable.  It’s become like fast food.  It’s pre-prepared meals; that’s what people are making songs out of.  And occasionally somebody comes along and says, ooh, I’m going to make a sound myself that’s different from those other sounds, and actually, I’m going to use a completely different arrangement and I’m not going to use the same beat we all have to listen to, ad nauseum, every day.  And you end up with something more interesting.

MT: I think my brother is a good example of that actually.  His Neo-Waltz thing is extremely interesting.

NR: Yes, indeed.

MT: I went to one of his evenings and there were a whole load of people dressed up in really over the top fetish wear and crossed with Victoriana, all waltzing.

NR: Sounds perfectly normal to me. I think it’s important to always try and keep a perspective on music.  What’s great about what’s happened on iTunes and digitally for all of us is that you can discover lots of different types of music.  Pretty much everything is now available on iTunes or Amazon or wherever you go.  And you can find things really quickly.  You can have it there in a second.  What more could you possibly hope for? When we were kids, if someone said look, you just click something and it gets delivered to you immediately, in the middle of the night from wherever in the ether…  We would never have believed it possible, of course.  But now everyone takes it for granted.  I have to say, on another angle, I keep talking about the past here which I don’t very often.  But I must say I’m very happy to see the rise of vinyl again.  It’s a shame about HMV here in the UK being the last great record store chain to close down. But great news about vinyl.  When we were releasing the TV Mania project I absolutely was insistent that we put it out on vinyl because I wanted to have the most amazing sounding fidelity experience that you could.  And it worked out incredibly well, we did it with the Vinyl Factory here who are absolutely brilliant.  Really, the future of music, bizarrely being vinyl.  And obviously, downloads.

MT: I’ve noticed this happening on Facebook, everyone discussing vinyl.  And in people’s Twitter feed.  People are saying they went out and bought a record player.  And then people are going out and buying records and having vinyl parties.  They’re getting hold of loads of old records and getting together and playing records.  How cool is that?

NR:  Absolutely.  I agree.

MT: So I guess ours will be amongst that.  People will be able to play ours while they’re having vinyl parties.

NR: I hope so.  Because I am thrilled that it’s out in that format.  I still think it’s the most valid audio experience format out there.  We were all completely conned by people saying that CDs were actually better quality; less noise. Maybe less noise, but of course, we like the noise.  That’s the other thing that everything sounds so clean and perfect now.  I spend most of my life in the studio, if I’m dealing with anything digital, smashing it up so that it doesn’t sound like that.

(Laughter)

MT: We did that with the K2000 though because I seem to remember running everything that was in the K2000 through your AKS Synthi. So everything had that filter on it.  Everything got kind of processed with Spring Reverb and the old fashioned 24 pole filters.

NR: Well as you know, I’m a big fan of processing things to try to see what you can do.  I very much look at making music like making a painting.  And you have lots of different things available to you.  Lots of brushes, lots of paint, lots of different dust you can throw all over the paint.  And if you choose carefully and you develop your technique, that’s when you find the most interesting things.  All the records that I like have that element to them.  New records, there are some of course, but thinking of when dance music was changing again. When the trip hop thing happened and Massive Attack and Tricky and Portishead. It was the last time I actually remember thinking, wow, okay. That’s really interesting because they’ve done something very different with what we had available.  And obviously, Hip Hop; I think a very significant album is Fear of a Black Planet by Public Enemy.  I think that was around 1990.  So that was 5-6 years before we started the TV Mania project.  And the way they used samples, which were not from television but from other people’s records.  But they used so many, and they really cut things up in a very new way.  And I feel that they were way ahead of their time.

MT: So tell me about the franchise. Because I actually think that sounds like a really innovative idea.  And it sounds like something which can be a very interesting way for people to get involved in the music industry and to promote their own ideas within TV Mania as an existing brand.  How does that franchise thing work?

NR: It was actually a very simple idea I had.  Because of the way we made the TV Mania album which was using samples from television and old rhythm units, some analog gear and a few other samples and processing a lot of stuff and building the tracks up together.  It was almost like a junk shop of bits and pieces that we had.  But a beautiful junk shop, where you can find gems.  And we used to, as you know,  lay the samples out over the entire keyboard and you’d just let Warren and I play.  And sometimes he’d be at one end of the keyboard and I’d be at the other one.  And he’d be playing some of the more rhythmic parts and I’d play the samples that I wanted to become the lyric, or vice-versa. And so because we made it in that sort of scrapbook way, it was very hands on.  Almost William Burroughs cut ups but made out of music, the whole thing, all the samples.  I felt that what’s happened since we’ve made the record is that music has moved more in that direction except that it’s become more formatted and more traditional in that people use samples.  You don’t hear people singing a whole song anymore.  You just sort of hear them sing a chorus and it gets repeated and copied and pasted into the next one.  And the technology I was hoping would be used more for experimentation has been used more to make the same pattern time after time.  But, having said that, I’m sure there are a lot of creative people out there, some who are already musicians or DJs or artists, others who have never touched anything.  And I would say to all of them, you should try to make something if it’s appealing to you.  And you’d be surprised with the technology if you’re not familiar how easy it can become.  And don’t be afraid of doing something that you think might be wrong.  That’s probably the best thing to do.

MT: Yeah, absolutely.

NR: And explore something and try to find ways to make something that is appealing to you.  So, what the franchise was really about was to say look, TV Mania is not an active band.  In fact, we sort of sadly disbanded seventeen years ago after we made this record.  Of course Warren and I still know each other and we communicate and we had a lovely time when we launched the project in London together.  But we’re not going to be going out playing shows.  It seems a shame to not have this TV Mania mentality out there in the world.  So I just thought, well, if there was anyone who wants to make something and would like to find a channel to put it up online, if they follow the simple manifesto that we’re going to put up on the website, tvmaniamusic.com very shortly, the idea is going to be, here are some rules.  You can break rules, that’s what they’re there for. But it’s just some guidelines to give people some ideas of what it’s about.  For example, use analog rhythm units.  Sample people talking.  Use any kind of sounds that you find that you think will work with what you’re doing.  It’s just a few guidelines of how we made TV Mania and a few interesting ideas and principles.  We’re trying to encourage people to make what they want and upload it to our site and put them all together.  So you can get a TV Mania franchise.  For example if you happen to live in Mumbai, you can apply for the franchise for TV Mania Mumbai, or equally for TV Mania Adelaide  or TV Mania Hong Kong. If these start springing up in different countries or areas, we may have a mini-genre of our own of people who make this kind of music out of the things we’re going to provide as options because well, you prepared, Tinley, a fantastic selection of sounds that we actually used on the album.  So people have that, and they can use that.  Or they can use whatever they want.  One thing I must make very clear is that if you’re using a sample of anybody you must try to clear that sample before you can use it for anything commercial at all.  But otherwise, it’s quite an open book.  And I like the idea of different people from different areas of life and culture creating something when they haven’t necessarily done this before.  So we’re just sort of opening the doors and saying, please come in.  Send something in.  Of course whatever you make you own the copyright on and you never know what might come out of it.  It’s a bizarre new way of trying to make a reality project creative, rather than trying to find the same thing again and again.

MT: It takes the concept of remix to a completely new level.

NR: Yes. I think that particularly the samples that we’ve made available, you could make a remix of several of the TV Mania songs, but make a new version of it. For sure, because you have all the original parts that usually would only go to selected remixers.  We’re making them available because I think it would be interesting to see what people would do.  Nothing more than that.

MT: We haven’t spoken about Warren very much have we?  Anthony and I have spoken but Warren hasn’t  really been involved in this conversation.

NR:  I’m sure he’d love to be.  Call him and I’m sure he’d talk with you.

MT: Warren used to record it on cassette I think.

NR: Yes, on VHS videotape.  That’s we had at the time.

MT: And then I used to sample it off the videotape.  And cut it up into hundreds and hundreds of samples.  I’ve got a thousand samples!

NR: How much fun is that?  That’s the next three concept albums.

MT: Yes, exactly.  (Laughs)  All the keyboards you had that had MIDI on them had the MIDI out routed into the computer somehow so there was a set of samples on about four or five different sets of keyboards maybe all around the room.

NR: Yeah, it was a sample factory for sure.  I remember it incredibly fondly. Because it was pure exploration and experimentation.  And I’d be the first to say to write a really beautiful song that means things to people, that touches a nerve, that’s skill that you need to develop.  You need to think about it and you need to really have something to say and craft the song very carefully.  But once you move away from that for a minute and say, right, we’re going to create something that is very different.  There aren’t any rules, we’ll just do what we want.  It doesn’t have to go, intro, verse, bridge, chorus.  You can just put whatever you like on the canvas. And that’s what we were doing.  And I think that even though it’s seventeen years late in its release,  it’s held up much better than I could have imagined.

MT: I mean even to the point with what Anthony did with some of those sounds, it was incredible.  If I listen on my laptop, I look at my laptop and I look at where the sound is coming from and I think, why is the sound coming from over there?  It doesn’t sound like it’s coming from the laptop at all. It actually sounds like it’s coming from two feet either side of the laptop.  It’s just such a huge, wide sound.

NR: Yeah.  Well it’s extraordinary.  What was interesting about that was if you remember when we finally found the tapes and we’d mastered everything, you and Anthony and Warren were all saying the master sounds amazing.  And I was listening to it saying, no no no, there’s something really wrong with this.  The vocals, they’re just not right.  And I couldn’t understand why.  Because everyone else seemed so clear.  And I thought, surely people are hearing this!  And you were the one that actually figured out the MacBook Pro I had, that particular model…

MT: Yeah, you have the one with the dodgy subwoofer haven’t you?  (Laughs)

NR:  Well it had a problem with processing that sound. Therefore it wasn’t sounding the same as it was when I listened on someone else’s Mac that was at time three months newer than mine it sounded perfect.  But on mine it sounded horrendous.  So there goes technology for you.  That’s what happens when you change the format every 5 minutes.  I have to say I’m very happy with my new MacBook Pro.

MT: Have you got an iPad yet?

NR:  An iPad?  Yes, I do of course.  I’ve got the MS-20 it’s fun. Have you got that? It’s fun.  There are so many great things on the iPad. It’s joy. New joy to our lives Mr Tinley.

MT: Yeah, I have. Because I can touch it with 10 fingers at once, it means that I can kind of take a sound and do something really expressive with it.  Which I can’t do with a guitar and I can’t do with the keyboard.  So then of course it has the motion sensor and all the other stuff in it.

NR:  Fantastic. Excellent, Mr. Tinley.  Right.  I believe I better go.  So I hope you have enough there.

MT: I’m sure I have.

NR: Alright, Mr. Tinley.  Lovely to speak to you.  Talk to you soon.

MT: Cheers.  Bye.

Warren Cuccurullo: Hello.

Mark Tinley: Warren.

WC:  Mr. Tinley.

MT: Hello, I’ve finally overcome dyslexia and dialed the right number. Having dialled the wrong number several times.

WC: Jesus Christ! Alcohol does that to you too.

MT: Well I haven’t been drinking alcohol, I’m just dyslexic.  (Laughs) So how are you?

WC:  I always say the worst thing anyone could ask Warren Cuccurullo is, so how’s it been going?  What’s been going on?

MT: So what has been going on?

WC:  Anyway, how did it go?  Nick’s in rare form, isn’t he?

MT: Yeah, so I’ve done two things.  I’ve done the recording with Anthony and we did that on video and that’s gone on YouTube and it’s gone on SonicState.com And we talked about the franchise and we talked about all the technology we used.  And then I phoned Nick last night and we had a conversation on basically how the project started again, some of the technology we used.   I don’t know how you want to do it, if you want to answer the same kind of questions or just talk about the TV Mania project…

WC: Yeah, sure.  Let’s do it.

MT: There’s this woman called Diana Deutsch and she’s a musical psychologist.  And she has identified that if you repeat dialogue over and over again, there’s something the brain does in that it starts to hear it as music.  I think you’re very good at picking out musical hooks that are naturally in the way people intonate.  I think your brain must be wired to heart that stuff way quicker than everyone else…

WC:  See, people who think they’re not talking in melodies are actually wrong.  People who think they’re not talking in rhythms are actually wrong.  Because everything you say or hear is a melody and a rhythm.  There’s just no way around it.  Some of them are more interesting than others and some of them will certainly pop out, just like a thunder-clap does.  That’s how it is to me.  I mean, same thing with phrases; it’s not just the actual sound of the sample, it’s just the phrase that somebody could say. You know you have to have the kind of a Tarantino radar on all the time. It’s like anything you hear anyone say might be worth writing down.  Zappa was a big one on that.  Anything you think of that you think is okay, write it down.  Because you’re going to forget it.  My thing was always. I don’t want to write it down because I want to work on it in my head and make it worth remembering and unforgettable.  And if I forget it, it wasn’t worth working on.

MT: So it must be different for you now because I remember with the TV Mania record when we were doing that, we had four tracks of computer recording and we had 24 tracks of digital audio.  But I  seem to remember you being forever frustrated because I could never make those machines work as fast as you could think, so it was always like, hang on, I’ve just got to back all of this up to CD!  Because we only had that tiny little hard drive, and hardly any memory or anything!

WC:  I know, but you know what that’s helped me with?  I just brought this up yesterday to Eric, who I was working with at his studio.  That has given me an unbelievable amount of patience.  Even when it becomes like the DMV, (laughs) because when we were working together, which I always thought were miraculous times, we always just came up with the most incredible stuff.  And it was a great, creative environment.  But the computers were so slow.  And you were one of the only guys I knew, you and John Jones and Eddy Clothier were the only three people I knew who knew how to do something with the computer.  I was just always so anti-it.  Now things can take a long time too.  One because, yes, I do think very quickly, and I like to spit out an idea.  And I don’t want to sit for 25, 35, 45 minutes with the idea in my head, and I might even get bored of it by the time I get to try it out.  And that makes work a little more stressful.  But because of what we did back in the early days, I’m just kind of used to sitting on the couch, and kind of waiting.  Maybe work on something else, but in the meantime, don’t want to forget this one.

MT: Music is a language, music is a sort of series of words, phrases that we learn as musicians, that’s our repertoire of language that we can then construct music from.  I suppose you finding music in language is a very interesting twist on that.

WC: Yeah, I remember back years ago, Frank had a song called “The Dangerous Kitchen” and he was just kind doing his funny kind of talking, but he had Steve Vai transcribe it exactly and play it on the guitar. (Laughs)

MT: Well of course you can do that on the computer now, can’t you?  I can put dialogue into the computer and turn it into MIDI notes, which is kind of weird.

WC:  It’s really important to write stuff down.  So it’s not just developing a tune in your head.  I can get a track going in my head from like a germ, and it will just develop and develop.  Since I’m not really a technical guy, you know, I can play an instrument but I’m not really good with machines that are used for recording.  I’ve never really got into being a guy who can record himself.  I just never wanted to get into it.  Now, what I’m doing, is I feel more like a fashion designer trying to get the Spring line ready, just on one song, it’s like that.  Or a movie director who knows he has to get a million things together, but it’s gonna be done on this day and we’re going to have it.  I feel more like that than a “guitar player”.   And I love playing guitar.  To me it’s like one of the ultimate ways to express.  But there’s something about kind of directing a project, it’s more like being  a designer.

MT: See, I’ve never understood that with grooves. You know like when you get a groove going, and then someone says oh you’re going to change all the chords for the chorus.  I’ve never got that. That’s why I love “I Wanna Make Films” because it just doesn’t change.  That bassline.  That’s the groove.  You don’t lose the groove anywhere in that song by going, oh, I’m going to have to change some notes so I can do some different chords.  And I suppose I tend to write basslines that stay the same all through the song and will work through a different set of chords. Which is sometimes limiting, but it’s the reason why I always want that groove to always be there.

WC:  Yeah.  But, that’s where Trance came from, baby.  (Laughs)

MT: Yeah. I guess so.

WC: Well that’s what it is.  It’s just hypnotic.  You know, just stay in key.  Indian music, drones.  You know, it would bring you into another place, wouldn’t it?  A lot of droney music does that.

MT: I like those kind of sort of beyond blue notes they do in Indian music.

WC: Do you know who invented Auto Tune by the way?

MT: The company is called Antares.  Whether they invented the first automatic tuning program, I don’t know.  But Auto-tune came after the DigiTech vocalist, didn’t it?

WC: Do you have to do it completely out of tune for it to do its most radical thing?  Or can you just sing it and correct it?  Because like with Emma, she’s so in tune.  When I try to get a robotic effect on her voice with AutoTune on Melodine? even, it’s not correcting it at all because she’s so spot on.

MT: You may need to get another vocalist.  Not another vocalist as in a physical female vocalist, but as in one of those rack units.  Because you are able to plug the MIDI keyboard into the back of that unit and play it.

WC: Play it, yeah.  But you’d be doing that anyway with the mouse.  You’re telling it play this note, play that note.

MT: There’s a lot of parameters to change doing it like that. It’s much quicker to play it in from keys.

WC: I’d rather play everything in from keys.

MT: Yeah, well the thing with the Melodyne, there’s three or four different things happening so there’s the note correction, and it doesn’t always do like absolutely hard note corrections so you have to go and manually edit it. Then you’ve got modulations, and then there are slides between notes, and you’ve got to edit all these things.

WC: What I’m saying is with all the tweaking I have not heard it do what I’d like it to do yet.

MT: I think you should buy another Vocalist Rack? then. I am sure you an do that with a TC Helicon as well though.

WC: I want to start thinking about those other two TV Mania albums.

MT: Yeah, where are they though?

WC:  I’ve got the multi-tracks.  So the Blondie songs we did at the end of the tape, those are on there as well.

MT: Well there are about 50 songs aren’t there?

WC:  Yes, it was quite a lot.  It was a trilogy, the album.  So, if we do want to get it to Broadway at some point in time, it would be good to finish these songs lyrically.  These are the songs that will lend themselves to explaining more of what’s going on.  They were prettier, more song-like traditionally.  And those songs will be used to flesh out the characters in the storyline.  Now that TV Mania actually exists and we’re getting feedback, it makes me wonder if we should complete the other two as part of the show.  So that we have all of the material needed to flesh it out.

MT: It does sort of make sense, especially now that we don’t have to rely on ISDN and dodgy internet connections…I can send you a gigabyte of data in about thirty minutes probably… And everybody is in the same kind of game now rather than we need it in this format or that format otherwise it won’t work…

WC: Yeah, we’ve been through some stuff in the nineties. It’s unbelievable.   And we thought we were in the future then!

MT: I do keep harping on about this but I just got an iPad mini.  And I’ve just been playing around with that this evening.  Can you remember the guy who came to the studio with that box with hexagon shaped buttons on it?

WC: Dude, I bought one for Paul Allen.

MT: Ever since that guy came I’ve always wanted one of those.  I just bought an iApp and it does wireless MIDI, and I can walk around my house and play the iPad, and it comes out of my computer!  I know how it’s working but it just seems incomprehensible compared to what we’ve done with the TV Mania thing.

WC: It’s almost like for me, on many levels, TV Mania really couldn’t have come out at any other time than now.  It’s a bizarre thing, but it just feels completely right right now for some reason, where maybe 2002, 2003, 2004, maybe it wouldn’t have.  Because it has blown up, this social networking thing.  It’s a bit much, I know.  I don’t participate in it in any way, shape or form.  But dude, I love the idea of being able to write an album and a billion people can buy it on their phone.  We couldn’t say that in the 90s.  They don’t even have to go to the shop, they can just do the whole thing like in the song, “Paramount”, right there, just point, buy the track, done.  Strange.

MT: So then again, that’s all part of what TV Mania is about, isn’t it?  About people losing their lives into a system.

WC:  Yeah, it certainly was.  It’s was about a scary future scenario that came all too soon, didn’t it?  A lot of people were thinking about it and writing about it.  Like the script writer for the Truman Show, all the reality shows.  I remember when we were working on this stuff in Privacy.  We were talking about something that was going on in Japan, some guy that wouldn’t come out of his room or something.  And something else going on in Holland based on this kind of filming and unusual circumstance.

WC: Well dude, I think I’ve got to…

MT: Yeah, I was going to say, I think we’ve come to a natural conclusion.

WC:  Yeah, awesome, dude.  I’ve enjoyed it.

MT: Okay cool. Thanks so much.


I hope you got some insights into the technology we used to make the TV Mania album.

You can find out more from tvmaniamusic.com

You can find out more about Nick Rhodes from duranduran.com

You can find out more about Warren Cuccurullo from cuccurullo.tv

See you on the other side of the looking glass,

Anurajyati (be in love!)

Mark Ty Wharton (AKA Tinley)

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SonicState Podcast: Freeware AU Plugins Round-up

 
Podcast Notes
These are the show notes for the Podcast from Mark Tinley covering his selection of the finest Freeware AU plugins available.
The podcast was first made available during the first few days of 2007.

CRITERIA

Universal binaries must be available
Units must validate in LOGIC and Garage Band
Must need no additional software (PLUGGO MAX MSP RUNTIMES)

SOUND GENERATORS

automat
http://www.alphakanal.de/
overview: three osc synth with vowel filters and shapers

crystal
http://www.greenoak.com/crystal/
overview: FM and subtractive synth
additional + 20mb sound fonts

triple cheese
http://www.u-he.com/TripleCheese/index.html
http://www.digitalmusician.net/index.php?id=63
overview: comb synthesiser
favourite: spooky fondue and clavi phase

destroyfx turntablist (not really an instrument but too good a sound generator not to list)
http://destroyfx.smartelectronix.com/audiounits.html
http://www.bioroid.com/plugins.html
overview: load a sound sample into the plug-in and it acts like a turntable with hands on control of the sample

EFFECTS

BEST DELAY EFFECT (INCLUDING GRANULAR)
PPC plugin of note: Kingdubby
http://www.lowcoders.net/kd.html

Bouncing Ball Delay
Crazy Ivan
SupaTrigga
http://bram.smartelectronix.com/

KTGranulator
http://www.koen.smartelectronix.com/KTGranulator/

Fire
LiveCut
http://mdsp.smartelectronix.com/2004/01/audio-units.php
overview: granular style delay and autoedit fx

BEST REVERB EFFECT
freeverb on dfx site overview: sounds a bit like an AMS

Convolver2
http://www.teragon.org/products/Convolver/index.php
overview: convolution reverb

BEST MODULATION EFFECT
destroyfx.Transverb
BEST DISTORTION FILTER
PPC plugin of note: Frohmage
http://www.ohmforce.com/ViewProduct.do?p=Frohmage

mda.Combo
http://www.mda-vst.com/
overview: amp and speaker simulator
favourite: 4 X 12 close miked

plugin installs with rest of following package

mda.Degrade – Sample quality reduction
mda.Detune – Simple up/down pitch shifting thickener
mda.DubDelay – Delay with feedback saturation and time/pitch modulation
mda.Dynamics – Compressor / Limiter / Gate
mda.Leslie – Rotary speaker simulator
mda.Re-Psycho! – Drum loop pitch changer
mda.RingMod – Simple ring modulator
mda.RoundPan – 3D panner
mda.Shepard – Continuously rising/falling tone generator
mda.Talkbox – High resolution vocoder
mda.TestTone – Signal generator with pink and white noise, 1/3 octaves and sweeps
mda.Tracker – Pitch tracking oscillator, or pitch tracking EQ

BEST LEVEL COMPENSATION
PPC plugins of note:
Blockfish – compressor
Spitfish – de-esser
Floorfish – expander/gate
http://www.digitalfishphones.com/main.php?item=2&subItem=5

SSL LMC-1 PPC
http://www.tsamm.com/TSAMM_ssl_duende_en.html#LMC1

CamelCrusher
http://www.camelaudio.com/camelcrusher.php

soundhack +compand
http://www.soundhack.com

BEST UTILITY
soundhack +phasescope

Sonalksis Free G
http://www.sonalksis.com/index.php?section_id=99
overview: long fader / fine metering plug-in

BEST SFX PLUG-IN
mda.RingMod – Simple ring modulator
mda.RoundPan – 3D panner
destroyfx – Geometer
destroyfx – Polarizer
destroyfx Scrubby
destroyfx Skidder
destroyfx Buffer Override
http://destroyfx.smartelectronix.com/audiounits.html
overview: insane granular delay fx and worse 🙂

USEFUL OTHERS
voxReducer
http://primo-media.com/?page_Request=Downloads

Vinyl
http://izotope.com/products/audio/vinyl/
overview: record deck background noise sim
favourite: crackle

About Mark Tinley
Mark is a talented musician/sound artist with many years of professional experience. His recent years have been occupied working for Duran Duran and especially Nick Rhodes, with whom he has a close working relationship. he is also a regular contributor to the Sonic TALK weekly podcast. There is much more to him than just this though – take a trip over to www.likebeing.com for the bigger picture.

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