In 1986, Steve Capps invented Macromedia's SoundEdit, a simple digital audio editor for the Macintosh computer. I purchased a copy with my allowance in 1988, and soon began experimenting with sample-based musical composition, or as it was called then "making beats". From that point I made a beat with SoundEdit at least once a week for the next fourteen years. This album is the apotheosis of the process.
The simplest thing to do in SoundEdit is to record a few seconds of something and make it loop. Sometimes a simple loop from an old record is enough to hypnotize you for hours. I got so thrilled by this minimalist pleasure that I would start listening to records just for that three second gem hiding in the grooves. To this day I have boxes of truly awful records that I love for those three seconds.
A harder trick to do is playing two loops at the same time in harmony or synchronicity with each other. SoundEdit has a pitch shifting control that resembles a piano keyboard, with an additional numeric input. I gradually figured out that if you divide the length of one loop by another, you could enter the quotient in that pitch shifting control and get a matched set. I would hunch over my computer for hours with a pocket calculator at the ready.
You can also layer loops in SoundEdit. At first only two stereo tracks, and later multiple tracks limited only by your computer's memory. I would layer samples together, mix them down, and add more loops. Sometimes the final mix would only be one track, meant to repeat unchanged indefinitely. Sometimes I would mix down to stereo tracks and output to a simple mixer so I could have two tracks to crossfade live. One track for bass and drums say, and another to come in at the chorus.
Live shows would generally be in my bedroom, or an adjacent room. A party atmosphere. In 1993 I met Lance, who would rhyme to the beats while we got high in my Mission Hill home. Years later I would discover that his rhymes were lifted from albums I hadn't heard by rappers I didn't appreciate at the time like Chill Rob G and Kool Moe Dee. Still, Lance's contribution to the music elevated my experiments into a more tangible pop sound, and we motivated each other as much as we could. He also introduced me to August and LT and Dawn and Darnell and Red and we got a little crew together called R.P.A. There's some rough evidence of this on cassettes somewhere. Holmes was there too, from the beginning. I still see him nowadays but the others are long lost to me.
I moved around Boston a bit and always took my studio with me, irritating roommates and landlords and girlfriends. I spent a lot of time with that pocket calculator in front of my computer. I learned what to do with quiet parts of records, and how to make a drum sample sound like a rap beat. I carried my beats on floppy disks, and zip drives, and larger and larger hard drives, and at the end of the decade I had about a thousand beats with me, all on one 4GB SCSI drive. The fact that I could fit them all, CD quality samples in such a small space is laughable now, but since they were mostly loops that I would sequence live and on the fly, most of them were less than 10 seconds of sound.
In 2000 I moved west, and took that SCSI drive with me. I left my records boxed up in my mother's basement, and everything else I could fit in my Taurus wagon came with me as Holmes and I drove to San Francisco. Holmes went home soon after, and I bounced around on couches for a couple years. At some point I ended up in Marc's basement, where he happened to have a dozen discarded Power Macs from his job at Macromedia. With all those obsolete Macs around and a whole lot of time on my hands, I cobbled together a unenviable DAW and tried to piece together a four minute song from all those beat parts. I'd mix live on one machine and record on the other, transferring files via AppleTalk and monitoring it all on my vintage Fisher solid state amplifier, adding a bit of AM radio for color.
I can hear all fourteen years of music in this album, in the techniques learned and in the samples themselves. I can hear the dollar bin records I bought as methadone to my once expensive vinyl jones, and the noise rock records that I would sometimes get for free at shows or from friends. I hear the girls I was in love with then, and the rappers I started talking with on instant message, many of whom lived in the hometown I missed so much. I still hear the mistakes I made, in the music and in my life. Hopefully you won't.
I returned back to Boston soon after finishing this album, and carried the mono AIF files with me on that 4GB hard drive. I made a few more beats after returning, but soon I started playing keyboard in Magic People, and after years of programming beats, I got hooked to a more immediate form of expression, to play live with other people. It seems unlikely to me today that I'll ever repeat the cloistered months of plugging away on a pocket calculator that brought this album to fruition.
Recorded at the Unicorn Precinct XIII in San Francisco over several nonconsecutive days in 2001.
Dedicated to Plookie.
released September 1, 2002
everything mixed by Al Deaderick