The Void play The Fleece, Bristol – 13th May 2013 (part 1)

ImageHaving been to their first gig back in March at the behest of guitarist Rob and being sufficiently impressed already by their awesome tracks online, I’d promised The Void I would review their next gig.

So, in true gonzo style…

It has been argued before that Mondays (quite counter-intuitively) are in fact the best nights for drinking. So in that vein, what better use of my Monday night could there possibly be than to take a trip to see The Void play Bristol’s illustrious and well-known haunt The Fleece?

Answer: none. But Monday night frolics aren’t for everyone, so I wasn’t sure just how many would brave the chilly spring weather to take in the ‘local bands showcase’, which (besides The Void) featured performances from Broken Kick, The Three Faces of Eve and headliners Drive Through Therapy.

As we rocked up I could see the band milling around outside while the first act tuned up – I said hi and pulled up a seat to roll a smoke. As I rolled, front-man Natt proudly announced with a grin that they’d be playing a brand new song that night.

‘Great – which one’ I asked.

‘The second one in’ says Rob, lighting up.

‘Yeah, we’re not doing Tom Sawyer this time’ explained Natt, as he chased a loose ticket caught up in the wind. ‘The new one’s called Cold Heart, it’s pretty good – well, I think so obviously.’

He retrieved the ticket from a puddle and gave it a shake. A sudden look of realisation came over him as he passed me my damp ticket. ‘Oh, aren’t you the guy?’

‘Yeah, with the thing’ I told him.

‘Yes, you’re the guy with the thing – of course.’ We both knew what we meant – I think.

‘And I remembered to bring the camera this time’ I added, patting my case. I’d been pretty bummed out the last time I’d seen them and not thought to bring it along – a minute into the show and I was kicking myself (I’m not exactly the cream of photography – in fact I’m pretty bad – but I do like to take a few 35mm snaps when I can. Unfortunately, trying to use an ancient analogue camera in a dimly lit room while you’re pissed isn’t always a winning combination, but you can usually yield a few gems from amongst the crappage – so, it’s totally worth it).

Image

‘Excellent! Did you know we’re recording tonight as well? We’re getting all the kit hooked up now, it’s great.’

Natt’s excitement was well-founded, as my past Void experiences confirmed. He and the band absolutely deliver on-stage – each one a master of his chosen instrument. From Rob’s effortlessly cool solo work to Ted’s funky bass-licks and from Natt’s epic power screams and wild energy to Challen’s insistent skin-bashing, they’ve got it down – and it really is something special. They more than live up to the quality of their studio-recorded material.

As I said, the last time I’d seen them was a few months ago at The Louisiana, their very first gig. They’d recorded parts of that and there was nary a problem even then, so I could see why Natt was so enthusiastic.

‘So how are you expecting the crowd to stack up this time round? Looks bigger than last time already’ I said, counting heads.

‘Well I’m not expecting it to be as big as the first one, but anything’s better than last time – that was a disaster.’

‘Yeah, that was pretty shit’ offered Rob with a chuckle.

Natt nodded in agreement.

‘If it’s as busy as the first one I’ll be impressed, but either way it’s good people are coming’ he said, dishing out some more tickets. I could count seven or eight of us stood out there (excluding the band), with maybe a dozen more already inside. Early days yet, but looking pretty good.

By this point the main doors had opened up, so with the first band picking up their kit I got my hand stamped and headed to the bar. The Void were on third, so we had plenty of drinking time to kill watching the first two acts play.

Prior to the gig I hadn’t paid much thought to the other three bands playing. As I’d only really come to see The Void, it was a pleasant enough surprise to find out that they didn’t suck at all – so they merit a few words at least: great riffs and fairly impressive vocals from Broken Kick and a quite literally insane stage act from The Three Faces of Eve – complete with a wide-eyed, institutionally-attired vocalist wielding a huge knife and a red-eyed, fire-charred doll; not at all what I was expecting, but great nonetheless.

ImageWith the second set coming to an end and already a bit worse for wear, I traipsed back outside to grab another smoke before The Void got ready to play, where I bumped into Rob.

‘Wow, those guys were crazy – that was a pretty intense set.’

‘I know – that’s a hard act to follow to be fair! Were you saying something about an interview before? What kinda things are you gonna ask?’

‘Well, yeah – I was thinking of doing some kind of interview review thing, but I didn’t really manage to come up with any deep or meaningful questions, so I don’t know… Any prescient words before you go on?’

‘Damn, prescient words?’ He scratched his chin and laughed. ‘What the fuck, that’s like more pressure than the gig itself man. I don’t know what to say… If you want an interview, speak to Natt – he’ll love that.’ We could both see Natt’s ears prick up from a few metres away.

I shook my head.

‘At this rate I won’t be in any state to do anything soon, so I wouldn’t worry too much. I’m sure I’ll probably just make it all up anyway.’

Rob laughed.

‘That’s reassuring.’

‘You’re on now anyhow, so I’m going back in.’ I finished my cigarette and wished him luck before heading back inside.

From my spot at the bar I could count upwards of about forty people in the crowd – not too shabby for a Monday night! Taking up residence by a table in the centre of the room, I readied my camera and put down my pint.

Up on stage the band launched into their opening number (possibly the first Void classic) ‘Someone Else’s Queen’ – a great track with a driving rhythm section and a sprinkling of instantly memorable guitar riffs.

I spent a moment setting the levels on my camera and reeled off a few shots before taking a swig of beer. Looking around, I could already see heads beginning to nod.

Watching Natt belt the title lyric out at an ever-increasing pitch and jump about the stage like a man possessed, it was hard not to share in his apparent delight (I believe this is something he refers to as ‘shred’ – look it up), as the infectious music by now had my full attention.

ImageAugmented by Natt’s commanding power-vocals, the song inevitably built to an incredible crescendo before Rob seemingly channeled Kurt Cobain’s spirit straight through his guitar with a scorching solo. With Rob’s spellbinding solo still hanging in the air, Natt pulled out his flute for one more catchy little riff as the song drew to an end.

If you haven’t actually heard The Void before you may have just said ‘…what the fuck?’ It’s hard to explain, but like chili and chocolate, Natt’s ethereal notes fit right in with the grungy guitar riffs and crashing cymbals, providing a strange kind of musical counter-balance.

To be continued…

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On our headphones: Rancid – I Wanna Riot

This week we are mostly bin listenin’ to… Rancid – I Wanna Riot

As thousands take to the streets of the UK to protest the £6,000 a year tuition fee increase proposed by the shady coalition government, it should come as no surprise that playing on our headphones this week was Rancid’s anarchic punk anthem I Wanna Riot.

Released at a time when several relatively unknown punk bands (now recognised the world over) were smashing their way into the consciousness of more mainstream audiences, I Wanna Riot was first heard on Epitaph’s seminal compilation album Punk-O-rama in 1994; an alternate version can also be seen a few years later, featured in the classic Beavis and Butthead do America movie.

Oi!

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Building your own home recording studio – part 1

In these harsh and unforgiving times of cynical post-postmodernity and 21st century fatalism, you might be forgiven for wanting to bury your head in the sand – or at the very least barricade yourself indoors… after all, it is a mad mad mad mad world out there.

But fear not, o faithful reader, for when better a time than now to lock yourself away and begin work on your very own hi-tech digital audio recording studio? Yes, the modern world may seem a vast and confusing place, but at least the advent of quality, affordable home music production has finally arrived!

This series of articles will be offering you advice on all aspects of putting your studio together – from component selection to recording your first song – but lets not get too far ahead of ourselves just yet.

In 2010 there are as many different ways to record your music as there are celebrities in rehab – so before we jump right into looking at mixers, mics and audio interfaces, we really need to work out the best way for you to record – so ask yourself:

  • What is my BUDGET?
  • WHO‘s using WHAT?
  • HOW will it be used?

Ok, so unless you have tons of money stashed under the floorboards or some other significant source of cash, the importance of the first point should be obvious – set a budget and stick to it: don’t overspend if you have little money to spare unless you enjoy living off beans on toast!! You will essentially build your studio piece by piece, over a number of years if necessary.

Now, before you go ahead and set your budget, consider the following two points:

  1. WHO will be using the equipment – are you in a band, or are you a solo singer/songwriter with demos to record, or maybe a bedroom DJ trying to record your mixes? Plan your studio accordingly – an orchestra can’t do much with a little 2-bus mixer, likewise a 48 channel mixing desk would be lost on a solo acoustic artist.
  2. HOW will you have your studio set up? Who is using the equipment will largely determine how it is used – but also more generally what is used.

There are a variety of ways and means to record your tracks to studio quality on a fairly impressive budget these days, so which direction you take really does depend on your situation (obviously if you are a solo artist you won’t necessarily need a multitrack recorder; conversely your six-piece Ska band won’t get far with just one mic – I’m sure you get the picture). I am going to take it as a given that you already own two things which are essential to this process:

  1. An instrument: be it guitar, trumpet, turntables, jaw harp or even vocal chords, you will need an instrument of some form and you will need the appropriate connections to get the sound of your instrument to the next essential item:
  2. Your computer. This is obviously not the only way you can record music, but it is one of the most popular and affordable ways and it is for that reason the method we will be focusing on in this series.

The ideal is that you have a dedicated computer (or a few if you’re lucky) that will deal with all of your recording and editing software without having any of the clutter of your home PC (we will get to the importance of a clutter-free desktop in part ii) – the ideal, he says. I understand many people will be hesitant to get another computer or laptop just for their music, so don’t worry – it’s not essential, but it is something you will want to think about doing in the future. Remember – piece by piece!

Diagram of a basic modern recording setup

The diagram above is a fairly basic setup (you can get more basic, but anything less than a decent mic and mixer and a computer that ‘runs’ is at risk of stifling your creativity and delivering crappy sound quality – in the long run it’s not really worth your while), other configurations would work better for situations where several or more channels are required to be recorded separately. For now, let’s go through the components in the example:

  1. The instrument: this is the cause of the sound – voice, speaker, string etc. Remember – this doesn’t have to be external to your computer, many synth instruments can be controlled directly from the software on your PC (thus skipping out numbers 2 – 4).
  2. The microphone: different mics are better for different tasks and sounds (e.g. vocals vs a kick drum) – the mic picks up the sound around it and sends it to…
  3. The mixer: this is where the sound (signal) is processed. Most mixers will have a pre-amp built in, and all should have volume and stereo faders to mix the channels.
  4. The USB audio interface: this is the mediator between your live gear (i.e. your amps, mics, mixer etc) and your studio-brain/computer. The interface allows the signal to travel into the computer and to the audio software of your choice, where it can be saved in superbly high quality on your hard-drive.
  5. The computer. Once saved you can use your computer to do whatever you like with your recording – and I mean that literally: the only limit in sound recording is your own imagination! Finally, you can also use your computer to master and then burn your tracks to CD and make some neat artwork.
  6. The monitors: the monitors shown in the example are near-field monitor speakers, which means that they are designed to be listened to at fairly close proximity, i.e. from across a desk in a studio. Studio monitors are designed to give a ‘flat’ frequency response – this is to give you an accurate, uncoloured or ‘transparent’ reproduction of the source audio. If you are just starting out, please don’t wet your pants when you see the price of a pair of these things – for now you can get by for just so long using an intermediary pair of PC speakers, but please promise me that you will get a decent pair of monitors soon!

Come back soon for part ii, where we will be looking much closer at the components involved and at the different ways you can record your music.

pax
tD

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Green eggs and spam

History is full of iconic female figureheads: Napoleon had his Josephine, Romeo his Juliet; John had Yoko and Paul had Linda… we have the egg – and over the next few months this egg will be bringing your attention to a wide range of different subjects, authored by the many creative faces residing at green leaf records.

The idea is that this blog will feature articles from the contributing artists at GLR, covering topics from Apple to Zappa – from music reviews to art and comic strips and from contemporary satire to kitting out your own home studio – the egg will bring you what you need to quench your soul’s eternal thirst for music knowledge.

But for now…


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The egg has been fertilised…

Brought to you by the folks at greenleafrecords.com. Check back later for more updates.

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