About Dazzle Sound Productions

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 9, 2010 by dazzlesoundproductions

Dazzle Sound Productions is my independent, freelance music production and sound recording business.  If you need a demo, want to record your music or require any kind of work with digital audio; please email me at steve@dazzlesoundproductions.co.uk or call 07900 070738.  See my website here, thanks.

Trash Can Radio

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on October 3, 2016 by dazzlesoundproductions

Ever wondered how much red tape is involved in setting up a radio station?  Wonder no more – it’s a lot with Ofcom, PRS, MPC etc etc all getting up in your grill with demands for money you haven’t got.  Does that discourage my friend Mike Spenser who’s DAB labour of love is Trash Can Radio?  Course not.  TCR plays blues, punk, freakbeat, psychedelia, rockabilly, rock ‘n’ roll and generally anything loud hard and trashy.  Run out of a studio in South London it doubles up with the more restrained Golden Radio during the day but at night lets rip (or all day over the web).  Mike showed me round recently, here he is in the nerve centre

img_20160920_165436

where the magic happens.  There is a wonderous all-valve recording studio next door and various pieces of lush analogue machinery littering the cave.  I am working on a pre-edited show for Mike to help him fill the airwaves, but check the station out as you are sure to hear thrilling, scuffed rock sounds unlike any other.

The personal is political and vice versa

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on September 15, 2016 by dazzlesoundproductions

I am deep into Image result for walls come tumbling rachelwhich is an oral history of pop ‘n’ politics from Eric Clapton’s notorious Brum rant* in 1976 to Thatcher’s third victory in 1987.  The story is told by those who were there which is great, there is no narrative except from those describing events unfolding.  You can see how a party line tends to develop in any organisation and these left-leaning ones are no different.  The fascinating clash is then between maverick musicians who just didn’t think like politicians and er, politicians.  Eventually, there develops an acceptable set of beliefs and whosoever does not share them is marginalised.  Some tragi-comic interludes in the book are one of the founder members of Steel Pulse being ejected because he would not embrace rastafarianism: Rock Against Sexism being comprehensively patronised by the right-on music press; the laughable attempts by the far right to create their own bands and Red Wedge never getting an album together because none of these good socialists could agree royalties splits.  Surely the solution was a live album?

Red Wedge was fatally hobbled from the start because it acted as the Labour party with guitars and could not accomodate anyone who had doubts about both Margaret Thatcher and Neil Kinnock/Tony Benn/Arthur Scargill, which was quite a lot as it happens.  A lot of useful dialogue was started but always ended with an exhortation to vote Labour.  There was no attempt to reach out to the Greens or SDP or anyone else, everything was viewed through the prism of bi-partisan politics.  Oh and electoral reform was a dirty word.  The fact remains that a pile of excellent rousing music was produced by the individual bands within these movements and social attitudes shifted perceptively but as a design for life?  No.  I used to think “the personal is political” slogan was a pathetic cop out, start the revolution without me chaps.  Now I think it could be chiselled on RAR and Red Wedge’s headstones.

*You can find this appalling episode recreated on Youtube.  At best he has only ever half-apologised for this and I find it weird that it has been so expertly airbrushed away.  Also detailed in the book is the truth behind David Bowie’s salute to the crowd at Victoria Station the same year, verdict this time, not guilty, except of reading too many books about the Nazis.

The rest is noise

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on August 15, 2016 by dazzlesoundproductions

The BBC has broached a subject I have moaned about before, although not in one handy place, irksome production fads and tics.  Alongside the usual suspects are the “fry”, “ukeleleitis” and the “dubstep wob” to which I would add the EDM ringmod.  DJ Cliche rolls off the high end to nothing, brings it back (perhaps with some stereo panning) behind a pummeling 16 on the floor bass pulse, stop dead, burst back with main beat and hook.  Cue much waving of glowsticks and pogoing.  I do think slap bass gets a bad rap,  maybe because the problem is that it appeals to proficient over-players who cannot use it sparingly.  Otherwise good call Beeb.

The glory of the grot box

Posted in Recording Technology with tags , , , on January 21, 2016 by dazzlesoundproductions

I’ve got a grot box – and I’m gonna use it!!!

Behritone

Yes, as you will have noticed it’s a Behritone C50A wedged in under my main speakers not Avantone Mixcube.  I did seriously consider the classic Mixcube but the killer was the 2.5 kg power lump, the bloody speaker only weighs about 3!  So this is Behringer’s homage and the specs and performance are close enough for the intended purpose; mid-range hell.  In fact they have engineered this so well that stocks are thin in the UK due to strong sales.

The idea is you add a non-full range mono box to your monitor setup to listen to the all-important middle of your song, not the bottom, not the top but the central girth that is all some listeners will hear on their crappy playback systems.  It ruthlessly smashes your guitars together with the bass and drums in the area of the mix where there is a finite amout of space.  It tells you if you have successfully carved out space for the lo-mids of the rhythm section, if your vocals are cutting through without shredding the mix and your panned guitars are all audible and meshing without losing definition.  Being mono it also straightaway outs any nasty phase cancellation.  All these things are part of a tough, clear mix.  I spent a large amount of burn-in time listening to favourite tracks through this to see how top productions translate on speaker that rolls of both ends of the spectrum.  Not pretty, but solidly focused and with all parts of an arrangement audible, apart from some that weren’t, intriguingly.  My new learning curve is to attempt a mix on this speaker only, then see how it sounds on the main nearfields.  If it sounds acceptable on this it is guaranteed to translate well upwards.  I also plan to experiment with crafting an old school mono mix or two.  When I played the original mono single mixes of “Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere” and “Day Tripper” loud on this box, they sounded awesome.  There’s a lesson right there.

Sound on Sound were sniffy about the C50A claiming mid-range distortion and slow transient response.  Phooey say I.   Of course the ‘cube is superior but there is 80% of the performance here and it doesn’t come with a free heated housebrick.  And anyway the key function is mid-range investigation and that grotty black hole is giving me the information I need to mix better.

The Stone Tape

Posted in Recording Technology with tags , , on November 9, 2015 by dazzlesoundproductions

As part of the BBC’s Fright Night this Halloween, Radio 4 premiered a new adaptation of Nigel Kneale’s Stone Tape, a drama about psychic investigators who stumble upon the seeming evidence of a theory that past traumatic events can be stored in the fabric of an ancient building, replayed and, just maybe,  recorded on a Naga 4 tape machine and a Sennheiser MKH 405 microphone.  This version is set in 1979, six years later than the original and supernatural detective work is not the prime purpose of the team but nonetheless gets in the way of their real work.  The head of the unit becomes obsessed with capturing the sonic creepiness and pushes on to an open-ended confrontation with the “other side”.  The in-depth discussions of how best to flush out the ghost in the masonry with audio technology was undeniably geeky but necessary I felt and the soundscape was amazing.

The director is Peter Strickland who helmed the similarly themed horror film “Berberian Sound Studio” (see previous post) and he is a fellow intrigued with the possibilities of unsettling sounds.  Stone Tape was intended for TV but was downgraded to radio which was perhaps blessing in disguise.  I listened on my PVR through the television with its less than steller speakers but still got my balls rumbled as it were.  A super-charged 3D version was available on the iplayer for a while but no longer sadly.  This is the youtube re-post which may still give you a frission of haunting possibility.  Remember, deep below the noise floor, you never know what may be lurking…

The Song Machine: No Ghosts Here

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on October 19, 2015 by dazzlesoundproductions

 

120326_r22008_g2048-320

A book recently published that will be of interest to anyone who listens a bit too closely to music is John Seabrook’s Song Machine: Inside the Hit Factory, which grew out of this article.

Ever wondered why Top 40 crud is now impossible to ignore as it pours out of radios, shops, fast food joints?  It’s because it is precision engineered with heavily compressed batteries of “hooks”, earworms of particularly vocalised beats and synth sounds and rhythmic samples.  Songwriting has been formularised to a terrifying degree by an elite group of mostly Scandinavian digital technicians who marshall battalions of writers and arrangers, focusing their skills on crafting three and a half minutes of pure sugar rush, flavoured with a triple shot of porno lyrics.  This book lays it bare, it is fascinating and also disorientating.

Seabrook is a middle-aged journalist who should be preconditioned to despise this virulent all-conquering phenomenon, the Japanese Knotweed of pop.  But he admirably set aside the prejudice to dig into the process of construction with a musicologist’s eye and ended up taking the monster home.  He shows how teams of writers specialise to a crazy degree (top-line only, chorus only, ring-mod breakdown only) to distill the product to super-strength, and he spots some interesting wrinkles; ever wondered why so much of the sex-obsessed lyrics have an infantile feel?  They are written by composers in their second language so elegance goes out the window in favour of crunching groin-level impact.

There’s no escaping the commercial forces driving this development either – the music is the sound of decline.  As revenue from recorded music collapsed, the big labels realised that there was no room for sentiment.  If they were going to commit big budgets to new artists they wanted no holes out of which air could escape.  The wall between composing and fronting/performing which the Beatles had demolished came up again, the professionals moved into forensic songwriting and the Rihannas, Katy Perry’s and Nicky Minaj’s became the public faces, with a co-credit once they had sold enough to insist on being cut in.  These “smash hits” don’t generate anything like the money they used to, but they hoover up what’s left of the cake and keep the music industry alive even as it circles the drain waiting for streaming services to (possibly) put it to sleep permanently.

Where does it leave those who aspire to write for themselves?  Out in the cold frankly.  The song machine runs on singles with big-selling albums much thinner on the ground, but autonomous artists have had to vacate the mainstream or accept the shackles of co-writing.  The very idea of a major (EMI) giving a 17 year old prodigy (Kate Bush) an advance and mentor to develop her songwriting and hoping for the best is laughable today.  But hey, when 1% of the roster generates 80% of the profit complaining is like throwing tomatoes at a tank.  There are examples of the 21st century craft that force even cynics to make the shoot sign (Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass” to pluck an example out the ether is an outrageous pimping of 60’s girl group pop) but mostly it is like liqueur chocolates being forced into your eardrums, the handy bottle-shaped ones I guess.  The book does a sterling job of showing how the edifice is made in studios in London, Stockholm and LA but left me feeling much as I do when surveying Euston station – I can’t deny it’s huge but I don’t want to go inside unless it’s to leave again.

The Greater Game: Part 5

Posted in Recording Sessions with tags , on September 25, 2015 by dazzlesoundproductions

So just a quick note to say it’s here – download for free or listen at the website where you can learn more about the story of Frank Edwards and his experiences in war.  I’ve learned a lot about the manipulation of pure sound and how to build an atmosphere around dialogue and create a whole sonic picture, I hope it resonates for listeners too.  Next up, back in my comfort zone with a busman’s holiday working on my own songs with my own band and a couple of client projects.  Watch this space.