Digital Geist in Boston - a timeline

 

It’s a Friday, right?  That means I’m in the garage rehearsing again, right?  Timing my set to be not more than thirty minutes so as to keep the night copasetic?  No.  I have to remind myself that’s not the case tonight, but it has been for the last two months or so.  At least not since this past Saturday when I opened for my favorite band Front 242, something I never thought would happen.  I don’t mean that in the daydreaming, “what if” sense either.  In the eighteen years I’ve been making music I’ve come so close to that goal so many times and had it all come down disappointed that I refused to allow myself to really consider the prospect of opening for them.  How many other more deserving people are out there with their own hard work, their own music, their own live performance style that have to come in front of me? 

In 1999 some friends and I hit the road from Western New York to Quebec City, PDQ to see Front 242 perform twice at Le Fete d’Ete.  We all made music – my friends introduced me to F242 in the first place and I had some synths at my apartment I was starting to get serious with.  This was before 9/11 and we were just weirdos but we got stopped at the Canadian border and detained so long that we missed their first show and had to sleep in the van in a parking spot on the street. Undeterred we explored and I fell in love with the city.  We caught F242’s second performance the following day.  It was the second time I’ve ever seen F242 and it was magical.  I barely understood the words being spoken around us but there was a deep connection.  It resonated with me. 

Afterwards I went to Rants242, the Front 242 email message group and vented my frustration at missing the first show but explained how amazing the second show was.  I even wound up writing a brief show review for my friend Mike’s zine.  I had no idea what was going to happen next.

A few days after giving my synopsis to the Rants242 list, a weird email popped into my Hotmail thanking us for traveling so far to see the gig and if we had a couple pictures, please send them along.  It said it was from Patrick Codenys.  At this point I already knew that F242 had a major show scheduled in their hometown Brussels.  I said sure I’d send the photos (.jpg were really hard to get scanned if you didn’t have a scanner back then) but what if I came to Brussels for that show?  The response I got?

Alex,

If you plan on coming to Belgium for the show in Brussels , I can try to manage some staying place for 2 people to decrease your costs. Also, we can meet and you'll be on the guestlist.

Keep inform and take care.

Patrick

PS : you can Emailme 2-3 of your best pictures if possible

The date of that email?  October 7, 1999.  Remember that.  It was a Thursday and it arrived at 7:21am.  Needless to say, tickets were bought, passports acquired, a trip to Belgium was taken, fun was had and a lifelong friendship commenced.  Ever since Patrick and I have chatted occasionally or met while on vacation for dinner or at a venue prior to a show.  If I had questions about music production or history – or interview requests from members of the Rants group – he was always happy to oblige. 

At the same time, my own musical career was hitting stride.  2003 saw Newt and I performing more often than ever.  In 2005 F242 was due to tour in autumn and Patrick asked if I would open for them in Buffalo, NY.  Chance of a lifetime.  We prepped and promoted like never before and then on November 22, we hit the road from NYC to Buffalo for the gig on the 23rd.  We hit a heavy snowstorm on the way and had to stop at a motel for the night.  It was there that I heard that the gig had been canceled as a result of the storm.  It wasn’t going to happen.  I was crushed.  Everybody was right, this little DG act wasn’t prime time and didn’t have anything to its name, just some nobody from Buffalo.  When you build something up so much in your head and then it doesn’t happen, it’s like a part of you dies or goes into stasis.  Life doesn’t work out the way you hope sometimes. 

Life went on, however.  2006 saw the release (finally) of the album with a remix from F242.  It was a big deal to me and did quite well with reviews and purchases.  In 2009 I went to Belgium again for a DJ gig at Wax Club and spent the week in Brussels.  During that time Patrick and I met a few times for dinner and to “play computer” as my wife says, and we started throwing around the idea of a DJ tour together.  This sounded a lot more fun than trying to actually organizing it was.  Unfortunately even with a window of opportunity I couldn’t find any promoters to take us in.  Here it was, a chance ripe for the picking, but I didn’t have the connections or pull to make it happen.  In the end this withered on the vine.  I’m still shaking my fist eight years later! 

Fast forward to March 2017.  I get a note from Patrick mentioning that F242 is due to tour again.  I look over the dates and locations…what about Boston?  I send an email back asking if DG would work for the gig as an opener.  At first I got nothing back but I kept asking – then I had a friend who was visiting him ask him in person to really [annoy] drive the point home that I wanted this to happen

I didn’t get it until August 30 but I finally did get confirmation that the gig was on.  And boy, was it ON.  I was on the verge of releasing a new 4-track EP at the same time…everything after reading the confirmation I was booked was a blur.  In one night I took every track I had ever made and selected a set of tracks that would fit exactly into my set time.  Once they were selected it was a matter of moving their parts into Ableton Live and constructing a Live Set to perform with.  Macro commands were mapped to knobs on another night – within about 4-5 days I had the set ready to rehearse.  From there I made a rehearsal space in my garage and made it a point to run a stopwatch and rehearse the set twice a night as often as I could until the day of the show.  I recorded each rehearsal after the first ten or so – and I still wound up with 23 different recordings of the same set.  I’d analyze and listen on my drive to/from work making mental notes. 

I still didn’t believe it was going to happen.  Not at the moment we parked the car outside the venue or when I loaded in and set up or did my sound check.  Or when the doors opened.  Or…I was still having my doubts on my way to the stage to play when Patrick cornered me in the crowd to say he would be watching!  Then, once I got up there it just went as smoothly as I could’ve hoped.  The crowd in Boston – where I had never performed before – was sensational.  So much so the notifications are still coming in through social media almost a week later and I’ve made some new friends that I know will be long lasting relationships already. 

It was thirty minutes on stage, playing my music.  If you remember the first email I got from Patrick I mentioned earlier, you’ll notice it was 18 years in the making – to the day.  And I want to thank everybody for being a part of it. 

Testing out the iZotope Neutron plugin

I tested in Cubase 9 Pro today, macOS Sierra with my Mac Pro trashcan. It's a clean install since I upgraded to Sierra last week. Some notes after a one-hour session on a somewhat light project (2 instances of Kontakt, 1 of Massive, 2 instances of Stutter Edit - about 9 tracks total loaded with Neutron):

 

iZotope Neutron comparing 2 tracks for possible frequency masking

iZotope Neutron comparing 2 tracks for possible frequency masking


Track Assistant managed to do a few things I hadn't considered with a few tracks. On the whole it guessed bass and percussion great. It thought some of the Stutter Edit stuff I was doing was guitar, so close enough. Piano on the mid-high register with a lot of reverb it kind of shrugged on but cut the low end and raised the highs. The EQ curves it assigned were not 100% spot on but with a dense project I could see an argument for it if you're pressed for time or want to learn WHY it's making those choices in those situations. A good learning tool! 

I am my own worst enemy when it comes to the masking feature and if you plan on using Neutron heed this advice: Keep everything clearly labeled
This is beginner stuff but I'm lazy, so this older project I was using had tracks labeled "Audio 01" and "MIDI 03". Not a big deal for me but when you start loading instances of Neutron into a project, it names them "Neutron 1" etc depending on which tracks you put Neutron on first. So when I put Neutron on my bass on MIDI 01 and then on my pad on Audio 06, it named the instances within Neutron "Neutron 1" and "Neutron 2" when I went into the masking part. You can rename each instance of Neutron on the top left corner of the plugin window and the instance will take that name globally. I'd strongly recommend naming your tracks, then making sure your Neutron instances get named exactly the same to spare confusion.

As for the actual masking function, it's great. Just make sure you're thorough about checking everything. You can only A/B with Neutron, so only two sources at a time - at least that's what it looked like to me while using it earlier today. So a kick and a bass you can check for sure, but a kick and a bass and a low tom you should def use your ears to make sure things don't sound funny. It was easy with two sources to see where the muddiness was cropping up in my project.

As I flesh out the track I was using with it more, I'll have more input for sure. I did a test export of the track so far so that I can A/B that with what I would consider the finished project.

Also I forgot to mention - and this could be Sierra, Cubase 9 Pro, my setup or Neutron itself - I noticed my CPU started getting loaded with about 9 instances of this. I was hearing some crackling too but it could have been that I haven't set my latency yet in the app. I wasn't expecting it to go easy on the processing but the reviews I've read all say that it was a light load. I have one of those crazy workhorse Mac Pros w/64GB of RAM and the processing was up around 60-70% with what I'd consider a light project (~10 tracks with some FX).

Release Music Magazine overview of ROTOR Rewired

From my friends over at Release Music Magazine:

Release first caught on to Digital Geist in early 2003. This electronic music project from Fairfield, Connecticut has pressed on a with a few releases and multiple remixes. 

Digital Geist is an enduring project that was spawned in an 1999 viewing of the sci-fi cult film “R.O.T.O.R.” (1987) by Cullen Blaine. The aim was to recreate the badly composed mono voice and background music.

Digital Geist’s Alex K brought forward this idea and has created an entirely new audio experience to the cinematic background of film. It is being offered as a limited edition video with separate music clips on a branded USB stick.

- Since Digital Geist has done mostly instrumental music anyway, it became a really fun challenge by the end and the ROTOR project has inspired me to try this type of audio/video approach again in the future, says Alex, who’s daytime job is post-production engineer.