Categories
Opinion

Loop Research

Justin, Billy Martin and me

Are loops interesting? Are they useful? Why, or why not?

I started asking these questions in graduate school, and browsed through scholarly sources. I didn’t find a definitive answer from others, but I will put forth that “Yes, they can be intersting and yes, the interesting loops are very useful.” Maybe the why doesn’t matter.

I recently visited the studio of one of my favorite drummers, Billy Martin, in search of more information. He’s inspired me for many years, from the first time I saw him play at the Knitting Factory in NYC with Calvin Weston and John Lurie, to the time Medeski, Martin, and Wood rocked the Ottobar in Baltimore. His short instagram loops have certainly informed some of my S.Ex work (putting an iPhone under the drums on selfie mode, particularly). So it was a thrill to stand in the room where he makes this stuff, and be able to ask a few questions.

Billy is easy going, and generous with his thoughts. There were probably 10 or 12 other people there, and he spent time with everyone. I enjoyed the whole day very much.

I’m about to embark on another studio building project, and he answered my questions about his own studio, The Herman House, which is behind his home in NJ.

A barn like building surrounded by bamboo.

After spending time looping sounds in this place, I came away encouraged by how much I’ve figured out on my own this past year. I have the feeling I’m on the right track (for me, that is). And a few thoughts drifted to the front of my mind.

It’s important to get it recorded – get it on tape, in your phone, in the computer, as it’s happening. Don’t wait for perfection, and don’t lose it by spending time getting set up, practicing, etc. The content of a loop can be simultaneously magical and imperfect, and therein lies charm. They are highly usable that way. I’ve found that a lot of cool loop segments have incomprehensible time signatures, and I get lost trying to find the “one” downbeat when I’m trying to play along with them on my drums. Billy said “forget about finding the one. Just find a shape and go with it.” I really like this idea, and playing this way is new to me. Something the either adds tension to the loop, or supports it, so I’m going to work with this for a while.

Ultimately, if it brings joy, then it’s working.

Categories
Music

S.Ex no. 7 – Walk Good

I took a lovely 1.5 mile walk along the skyline in Shenandoah, Virginia. This is the at the end of the Hawksbill Summit Trail. The drums are Remo Roto Toms from a guitar center sale. I think they sound pretty good.

Categories
Music

S.Ex no.3

I spent the weekend hacking tape players, and fooling around with electronic components. Here’s a cool xravistan that adds tremolo functionality to a cassette player. The LED shows the pulse.

I randomly recorded myself playing drums, and then listened back. There’s a break in the loop (not sure why) and then I played along with it. It’s difficult, in a way, because unless you sync to the length of the tape, you can end up with a glitchy section in the loop. This one kind of works.

Categories
Music

The Septic Bank

The Septic Bank

Back in the 90’s, I bought some cheap pick-ups at Ted’s music in Baltimore, and I installed them in some galvanized buckets and trashcans. This became my electric drum set – the bucket drum set.

Bucket Drum set

I was very pleased with this approach.

I made a few recordings with these, and even played out with mh pal, Diana Froley, at the Theater Project, and a small club near the stadium. The name of the club eludes me as I type this.

I would mic them, and also run them through some guitar pedals into a mixer/PA.

I decided to release some of the tracks on Bandcamp.

http://jimdoran.bandcamp.com/album/the-septic-bank

Categories
Music

Inner Ear (Drums)

In July/August of 2004, I had the pleasure of recording most of the drum tracks for Patrick O’Donnell’s CD, Cold Drinks. The really cool part for me was the fact that we recorded at Inner Ear in Arlington, Virginia. Many a fine Dischord Records release have come from there, and enjoyed working with Patrick and Chad from Beauty Pill/Smart Went Crazy.

While my drums were set up, I recorded a bunch of tracks to use with future material in my own studio, the Dead Chicken Ranch. Today, I received a DVD of the audio files and the timing couldn’t be better. The DCR is just about to open its doors again. More on that soon.

Here are some pictures of my set-up from that session:

Drum set up @ inner ear

Another view of my tubs

birdseye view of my drums

One last picture of my drums...

I think this CD is Patrick’s best yet. It’s coming out shortly on SKODA records (Patrick has been very busy making films in New York).