Wednesday, January 26, 2011

On a shoestring project part 22

  I'm standing in a middle of a rehearsal room filled with guitar amps, 4x12 cabs, two drum kits, flight cases, guitars and all sorts of random stuff. I'm holding on to my guitar, fingers are aching and I'm starting to feel a bit of a strain in my voice. There is a smell of winter, mixed with burning dust from a small blow heater that keeps the room warm. The sound system has developed a serious hiss, and my ears are ringing from the noise of a rock band squashed in a small room. We have been here since 9.30am and now it is getting closer to 3pm. There has been no mercy in this rehearsal. We have played all 14 songs through and many of them several times, dissecting them, reworking parts, ironing out mistakes. I look a round, Sebastian is staring in to space with an empty look in his eyes, sitting behind the drum kit. Tomek is sitting on his bass amp and holding his shoulder that has started to complain from the weight of the bass. I think it's time for a well deserved coffee break. Lazy bastards, you might think, but let me ensure you, there had been nothing lazy about this morning! It is a little bit of hope that makes you push yourself harder, and friend of Tomeks back in Poland showed some interest in organizing concerts for us later on in the year. So the race is on, we need a demo and pretty soon! So the extra hours, blood sweat and tears is what is called for. Album is one thing, but the live performance is what most musicians very much live for. And the knowledge of possibly bringing our music out of the rehearsal room in to front of a live audience just makes my fingers tingle with excitement. Even though this will be long time from now, and we will most certainly do our best to try to organize a concert in Dublin long before that. At the same time, I have been doing this long enough to know that most of the concerts that people try to organize, never happen due to the absolutely over whelming work load that goes in to organizing a successful concert. But Tomeks friend has the infrastructure and contacts in place, so I have a good feeling about this :-) And it is a solid piece of hope, and never underestimates the power of hope.
As always we have big plans, and we are putting them in to action. Only time is bit limited with our other work, so bare with us. We are working hard on some full band tracks and some video as soon as possible to share with you guys. And as soon as we have them up you will find them here on this blog, on the website and on all the social media sites. To make sure you won't miss anything, I once again urge you to sign up to our Emailing list. It is run through They provide a great service, reliable and safe. You will only get Emails from me, written by me, no junk and that’s a promise. So if you have not yet signed up, you can do so here.
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  Also I have been busy songwriting again. Poor guys in the band, as soon as we are getting on top of the songs we have at the moment, in walks J.P. with a new song... And back in the square one ;-). I do have constant need to keep the music fresh. I have few fellow song writers that only sit down once a while (sometimes not even once a year...) and decide to write a song. For me this is completely bizarre. Every time I pick up the guitar, potentially I can come up with an idea, guitar lick or chord progression that leads to a song. My mind always works on some sort of an idea. And for every song that I bring to the band practice, several others never get finished. It’s the strong ones from the crop that stand out and evolve in to finished songs.
And here's another thing. Being a full time musician you need to get pretty smart with your finances (Sometimes I wonder how I managed this far...). And things like updating your equipment can be very expensive. I have become pretty resourceful in terms of fixing guitars. So the obvious way for me is to look in to good quality second hand equipment, especially when it comes to guitars. And I have found here in Ireland websites like and are a great source. During the week I exchanged some equipment, no cash involved, just a direct swap. So now I have a lovely new Telecaster (can't have too many telecasters) that I can't put down. It just sings!  Also in the deal I got an Blackstar HT-5, a nice small, but surprisingly loud amp. In fact it is so loud I haven't been able to try it out properly yet. But the next rehearsals should sort that out;-). I'll let you know, how I get on, or maybe even a sound bite.
  So that’s all for now. Have a great week and pop back for more next week.

Glory to the World - Single - J.P. Kallio

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

On a shoestring project part 21

  It’s ten to nine on Monday morning, Gaslight anthem playing on the background. Coffee wakes me up slowly even when I've been functioning already for few hours. New week, new tricks. Last weeks problems with the rehearsal room seem to be sorted. The Volt studios where we have been rehearsing found us another room that was just about in our non existent budget. This really is a great relief. I had this in the back of my mind constantly for the past few weeks. The thought of not being able to rehearse was just unthinkable. But this will be a nice room. Once again we will be sharing with two other bands, but it’s a big room so this shouldn't be any problem.
  I have also started recording some guitar parts. I know this is not very traditional format to start with, but we need the scrap tracks for recording anyway, so I thought to make them as good as possible. And if I end up redoing them, so be it. But for now I try to do them the best I can. I had this idea of recording electric guitar, and I decided to put it in practice. Basically as I live in city centre apartment, neighbours are a consideration every time I record something bit louder. So I put my guitar amp (Fender blues junior) in to closet, facing up. I had one microphone (Sure beta 57) right on the speaker cone, and then a condenser microphone (Akg perception 220) further up in the closet. On the mix I pan them left and right. It gives the guitar a bit of a stereo feel, more space.

Here is a small snippet of a take, just to give you an idea what it sounds like. Let me know what you think. Tele P90 sample by jpkallio
Oh yeah, and the other reason (part from the rehearsal room trouble) I did not start the recording with the drums, was that Sebastian (more on him and Tomek bit later;-)) just purchased him self a snazzy new drum kit, and it is only fare that he can set it up nice, new skins and tune it the way he wants before we start on the drums. But I thought to share you a picture the proud new owner sent me ;-)
I'll get you a picture of the full new set when we get to it.
So I think it would be only fare to let you know little more about my two partners in crime ;-) So as far as I can remember, roughly about 3 years ago while I was playing a gig in the Porterhouse a friend introduced me to their friend from Poland who played bass, it was a busy night in the Porterhouse, I was playing with Sliotar and he was with a big group of friends so we didn't talk too much. But over the following months we pumped in to each other more an more. And the more we talked (and shared beers, yes there were many of them) we realised our musical tastes were very similar, we both listened to same bands over the years, and it seemed it was the same things that musically got us exited. From the get go we wanted to do something. We wanted to play music together. But as so often, life just gets in the way. But about six months ago I felt the time was right for this project, and I knew Tomek Jastrzebski was the first man to talk to.
And as a daughter of a good friend of mines girlfriend said “If you don't have soul, you can't rock n' roll”. And soul was what I was looking for. Tomek had it, bags full of it. He's an old school punk rocker, and a mighty bass player. Also Tomek is what I call a get goer; with him around you nothing is impossible. Even though I am a very positive person, sometimes there are tasks or goals that just seems too far, but for Tomek it’s just another problem that we need to find a solution to. And as I mentioned in the past the importance of a good team, he is the kind of personality that you need around you. So then we had a problem together, we needed a drummer, who was mad enough to join a band with no guarantee of nothing else but early mornings and hard work. Tomek had met once long time back, in a party I think a fellow Polish musician, they had exchanged phone numbers and both told each other that they are looking a band to play in. So it was time to see if he was still around, interested, suitable and all that. So we had our first full band rehearsal in the beginning of October, and with in a half an hour the music just started flowing and by the end of our rehearsal we knew Sebastian Bachowski was going to be our drummer!

So what else can I tell you about these guys? Well I thought they could tell you more about them selves through these five questions:

Who is your biggest influence?

Tomek: “Les Cleypool, Pearl Jam, Polish punk rock from 80's and 90's”

Sebastian: “Music has been with me from very early on, I remember sitting with older friends on a hot summer night listening them play guitar. Around about that time I came across a Polish company "Defile" that manufactures guitars. And bands like AC/DC, METALLICA, IRON MAIDEN, SLAYER, LED ZEPPELIN, and many others whose music I consumed extensively:)
I would say the biggest influence on me was Miroslaw Musicant (Musician, composer and most of all, a great drummer). Under his guidance I learned to play the drums.
Then I discovered Progressive Rock and Jazz Music. Bands like GENESIS, TRANSATLANTIC, SPOCK'S BEARD and Drummers like GARY NOVAK, DENIS CHAMBERS, VINNIE COLAIUTA, DAVE WECKL, GREGG BISSONETTE, changed my life forever ;)”

What is your favorite food?

Tomek: “Ruskie pierogi (dumplings)”

Sebastian: Nothing can compare with my Mother's and my Girlfriend’s cooking. Enough said in this subject.”

What is your ideal day like?

Tomek: “Wake up beside my girlfriend, scrambled eggs and coffee, relax relax relax, Long walk with my girlfriend and after the walk, play bass.”

Sebastian: “Every day is perfect for me to do something good (except when I have migraine), and try the best to survive it :) “

What is your favorite drink?

Tomek: “Beer"

Sebastian: “Beer of course :-)”

What would you bring with you to Desert Island?

Tomek: “MacGyver tools, and a box of bees”

Sebastian: “I would bring good friends, nothing is possible with them beside me.”

So thats all for this week, thanks for stopping by. You can sign up to our mailing list here, and leave comments, we like them:-)

Glory to the World - Single - J.P. Kallio

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

On a shoestring project part 20

  I don't mean to sound like a broken record, but blog number 20! How time flies. As with most musical projects, when I first started, I thought by now we would be further in the recording. But these things take time, and putting a strict time schedule in to a creative process just does not work. At the best of times it is only a guide line. So now we have a bit of a rehearsal room problem... meaning by the end of the month we need to find a new rehearsal space. We were sharing a room with two other bands, but now all the amps and drums of three bands just won't fit in to one room anymore, and as we were the new band in the room it is only fare that we'll go. So now I need to shop around all the possible rehearsal rooms around Dublin, or any other suitable space (with very understanding neighbours...). Unfortunately this will once again delay the recording somewhat, especially the drums, but never the less I will get on recording guide tracks and some guitar parts.
  In the mean while I will continue on the subject of the basic recording set up. The week before last we talked about the computer, if you missed it check out the week 18 blog, and in last weeks blog we talked about the audio interface. So the next thing you need is a microphone. And once again there is overwhelming selection in the market. I have rambled on about microphones in the past blogs, put I'll just go through the basics quickly here. First of all there are two basic types of microphone (actually three, but I will exclude ribbon microphones here), dynamic and condenser. Surprisingly lot of detail goes in to the inner workings of a microphone, but the basics are as follows: Microphone converts sound pressure (your voice) in to an electrical current. Dynamic microphone, Shure SM58 probably being the most common example here, are rugged work horses that take more abuse, can handle moisture and can produce pretty loud sound before feedback becomes a problem. Condenser microphones have higher out put and the frequency response is in general much better. But also because of this they are pretty sensitive to feedback in live situations, so mostly used in studio environment. Most Condencer microphones require phantom power from the mixing desk, or from your audio interface. The general rule would be to use Condencer microphone in studio, when you need anything with lot of detail, like Vocals, Acoustic guitar, Drum overheads and also I like mixing Condenser and Dynamic microphones when I record electric guitar amps. Dynamic microphones are used when the sound source is loud and moves lots of air, like drums. I was told about month and a half ago in certain music shop in Dublin, that my trusted Shure beta 57 is not really recording microphone and that it is only really good for live sound... Just proves the point that you should not always just take advice from a music shop sales person, who just wants to sell you a product. I actually listen to them some times and just let them go on and I just pretend to know nothing. I know weird, but it keeps me entertained ;-)
  If you can afford to spend the money on condenser microphone, go for it. And the price of them has come down a lot in the past ten years or so. But if you are stuck and you have a dynamic microphone already, don't let this stop you recording. There are some very famous singers that prefer to record their vocals with dynamic microphones. It might just require bit more careful microphone technique, but despite what our friend in the music store says, it can be done ;-). As to what microphone you should buy, again you need to go out try few, see what you like. I wrote a short review of the AKG perception 220 on week 14 blog, and I like it. Rodes are great for the money as well. On dynamic microphones, I am a big fan of Shures microphones. But as I said, go out and try few and see what you like.
  So that is your basic recording set up. On top of this, some studio monitors or headphones are a must, preferably both, but the basics are here.
  Next I’m moving to something completely different. I just finished reading Keith Richards book “Life” and I must say I was really positively surprised. He goes in to a lot of detail of the song writing process and recording of many of the Rolling Stones albums. This is a good read for any songwriter, let alone a Keith Richards fan ;-)
  Anyway, what's in the plans for this week? Lucky enough we still have few weeks in our old rehearsal room. So back rehearsing this week after the holiday break. Can't wait :-)

Glory to the World - Single - J.P. Kallio

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

On a shoestring project part 19

  Happy new year every one. I hope all the heads are clear from the bubbly;-) With the new year we are marching on with the project with stellar termination. Back to rehearsing after holiday break and I am not willing to put off the beginning of the recording any more:-)
  Now last week I started talking about the basic recording set up you would need to make a CD. And we talked about the root of the system, the computer. But this week We figure out how you can get the audio signal (Basically anything your microphone will pick up) in to the computer. First lets shortly talk about the actual connection. In the days of the mini empire state building sized desk top towers, you used to have a sound card that had its connection (PCI)to anything from a small desk top box with one line input to larger rack units like the oh so famous Pro Tools HD system. Did it revolutionise the recording industry? Yeah! Is it still the only real player in town? No! Not by any stretch of imagination. Then we moved to fire-wire, as Apple and Digidesign favoured this, and still about five years ago, you would not consider having a recording computer with out Fire-wire port. But today the quality of Audio Interfaces with USB 2.0 (USB 3.0 on the way)connections is so high that I find it hard to recommend anything else. Now don't get me wrong here, the top notch PCI system is still the fastest connection in the game, but you limit your self to a desk top. And again the top ones come with a massive price tag. There are two main aspects in Audio interface that will affect the sound of your recording: The Quality of the analogue to digital converters and the built in pre amps. The AD converter is little bit more technical matter, but basically what happens is this: Sound is wave form, a continuous graphic, if you like. The computer needs a binary code to input information, and binary code is different compilations of 0 and 1. So the converter chops the audio in to very small samples and gives them an value that can be understood by the computer. This is also what happens on CDs, 44100 times a second! And obviously this all happens other way around again for the playback. The Quality of the converters comes down mostly to the quality of the electronic components used in the Audio interface. The second major factor here is the preamp. Now this is something you can bypass with an external preamp. But before you do, let me just say this: Most of today's Audio interfaces have descent enough built in Microphone Preamps. They are not the top of the range magical “Professional studio” miracle makers (That of course make every one sound like rock star, in your imaginary world), but to get better you would need to spend some serious money. My advice is once again back to basics: Microphone positioning, careful level checks and lots of patience.
  I have no interest starting to recommend loads of different audio interfaces here, do your research, that's how you learn, that's how I've learned. But I have sheared my experiences of few (Zoom R16, Line6 UX1) in earlier parts of this blog. Also If you insist on PCI card, check out the EMU, Amazing quality for the money.
Once again I find my self apologizing about the technical nature of this weeks blog, but it is all part of the project. I am not a big tech head, but I am learning as I go along. And that's the way I do most things in life. Good thing I don't have big urge to learn sky diving... Not yet anyway;-)
  As you know I took few weeks break from Playing over the holidays, and it was great. But now I am itching to get back! I have noticed in the past that If I stop playing cold turkey, my shoulders start to complain few days later. And sure enough it happened this time, but lucky enough Piotrek (girlfriends sisters husband) dragged me to the gym and put me through a work out, and I must say it made a world of difference! And I know it is an old cliché, but keep your body in some sort of order and you will play better! For guitar, you really need to care for your hands and arms. And stretching or swimming will do wonders to keep your shoulders moving. And I don't care what you say, but standing up with a strap while you play is million times better for your back than humping over the guitar, believe me here! Had some serious back pains in my past. And if you sing, you need some serious stomach muscles, especially if you sing any kind of rock music. New year is always famous time to start a new fitness routine (that usually is long forgotten by March), but I will challenge all my musician friends to take better care of their bodies this year:-)
  So that's some thing for you to digest for the first week of 2011. Back next week for some more on the basic recording set up and hopefully some updates on our recording:-) And once again, leave comments below.

Glory to the World - Single - J.P. Kallio