My friend Dylan (of the Juggernauts) asked me about my preference for recording systems. think he was expecting a line or two in response. Here's the essay he actually received. Enjoy!

Tascam Porta-Two

I started off working on my buddy Memphis's cassette 4-track. Nice little Tascam, got great results. I was fresh out of college and just bursting to experiment. Perfect machine for it. It allowed a lot of freedom, but because repeated overdubbing results in so much noise, the freedom was limited. I've always worked better with some sort of external parameter.

Parenthetical Aside

Memphis and I recorded our first CD at the Ostrich Farm, in Northfield. That wasn't the real name, but we called it that because the space was indeed on an ostrich farm. Our friend Craig Wasner had a studio set up in one of the buildings. We recorded "old man will travel" out there on an 8-track reel-to-reel. That whole process is painstakingly documented here: Memphis's "Story of omwt"
...back to our story]


in 1997 Dave upgraded to ProTools 4.0 and I did a few recordings there as well. It wasn't quite so much fun, because seemed like everything needed to be more perfect. On the up side, everything turned out more perfect. These tracks came out on "Art Is a Lie, Baby."

Sony TCM 939

This isn't the same kind of "recording system," but it deserves a mention here because it's an important part of my song-writing process. Since college, and perhaps before, Memphis has had a similar machine, which he used to document new song ideas. When I was about to depart Northfield for Chicago, he bought this one for me. So again, the credit goes to my dear friend, both for the object and for the inspiration. We use these recorders to document new song ideas and create "NSI tapes." It is quite interesting (sometimes delightful or astonishing) to pop in a tape from years ago and discover the kernel of a favorite song buried in quite different form, often surrounded by dross. Memphis is far more conscientious (cumpulsive?) about cataloging his NSI tapes. Mine are always more of a surprise.

Tascam 244

I moved to Chicago in the fall of 1998, and the following February bought myself an old Tascam cassette 4-track. This one dates back, I beleive, to the early late seventies. It weighs four times what Memphis's Porta-Two does, but it had a lot of nice features. I recorded "The Chicago Tapes" in an apartment on Ashland Avenue. Then it broke down. It still have it and intend to fix it one day.


Returning to Wisconsin in 2000, I bought an iMac, CubaseVST, and a Tascam remote unit to go with it. There were innumerable headaches associated with this purchase, and my faith in Tascam was shaken. Eventually, I got it up and running. Now, six years later, it still works well. Mostly. I recorded all of "Nothing Strange" on it, except a few tracks that were done by Memphis and Scot Ninnemann at their respective homes.

Other Systems

I have also experimented with Garageband. It's OK, but has nothing like the capabilities of Cubase. I tried out a mini Tascam cassette unit once, in Kansas City. Terrible. When my Mac finally gives up the ghost, I will look into other possibilities - Audacity perhaps. It's freeware, and it's strengths lie in audio recording. I do almost no MIDI work at this point, so that's all right.


My Opinions - Heed them!

I loved working on tape, though a reel-to-reel would be nicer that a cassette absed system. Part of tape's appeal is the physicality of it. Maybe it's human nature, maybe it's just the old habit of a pre-computer revoloution childhood, but having the music sitting there only in digital makes it seem somehow fake. I know, a person can't actually see the waves recorded on magnetic tape, but still...

I will continue, I believe, to work primarily digitally. First, the editting is so unbelieveably easy. Second, while I can (or at least imagine that I can) tell the difference between digital and analog, I don't believe most people who'll listen to my recordings can. Or if they can, that they care. My online recordings are all mp3, which limits the quality anyway. I'm guessing most of my CDs get played on a $40 dollar boom box. Certainly, someone who will criticize my music for digital dryness will find many other glaring problems to distract them.

A Nod To Web 2.0

Send me your reactions, and I'll post them here.