The AZURA STUDIO
Where we ride ...
012612: We're getting our studio back on-line after the five honkin' windstorms over the monsoon season of 2011 did so much damage. For the uninformed, we had some really heavy duty Haboobs over summer of 2011 that did a bunch of damage to our climate controlled pedal shop. Since then we had to move Farndurk into our studio, which pretty much forced us to tear the whole studio down to make room for workbenches, staging shelves (used for organizing batch builds into groups by the "stage" of construction they're in. I'll be abandoning that method once the prepaid backlog is completed as it was developed to deal with production-based ideas that we no longer employ). Since I'm going back to a sortof "one at a time" system after the backlog is done the old staging system is obsolete. So then .. slowly .. we're been ~shitting our get together~ and getting the Farnshop rebuilt out there (to much tougher standards than our local building codes this time around). This is allowing us to s.l.o.w.l.y reassemble the Azura studio again....
A new approach to studio design ... Oh happy friggin day!!
So I've been putting the studio back together as little bits of the Farnshop get put back where they belong and studio space once again becomes available. This time around we're going out of our way to actually create a mental space. Not only are there musical endeavors in the studio, but it's where we do all of our reading and such as well. Missi does all of her book reading in the studio too. It's a space created to allow your head to breathe a little. It's just a mindful place. Were refitting the entire studio to accomodate our newest musical outlet ... the ~jam band~ we casually call AZURA. We have *roughly* 400 square feet devoted to this cause (approximately a 20ft by 20ft space to work with). It's all coming back together nicely. We're totally devoting the studio's setup to deal with live recording rather than track recording. And all of the gear is being setup for studio use, rather than keeping it all configured for "playing out" or local gigging. So we're sortof ~hardwiring~ it all with the idea being that the entire pile is staying put and not playing out. Prior to this we had our entire rig setup to play out at a moment's notice. Well, this time around we're really "digging in" and creating an aural space that the instruments become an integral part of. This allows me T-O-N-S of freedom to create much more capable systems. Things that are impractical for playing out become totally practical in a ~permanent studio installation~ setup. However we're not going with the whole "control room" type setup where everything is through monitors/headphones and is all post-board. This time it's being set up as a live-jam recording studio. This way we'll still be able to track record as well as room record while everything is played ~live~ ... and the studio is being setup as such. Think of it as a permanently setup "stage" all prepared for live playing and recording from the deck right off of the mics. Except instead of the gear all prepared to be torn down and moved to the next gig, it stays put (which allows a ton of hardcore setup freedom). The only thing we're missing is an actual drummer but we have the available room should one ever present themselves.
My playing position in the studio (named "the hole") is better than it ever was. I now have both of my Hammonds in there ... Morticia and The Preacher ... as well as my 4-string bass and both of my 6-string guitars and my 6-string slide guitar (a converted-to-slide-only Dean ML Noir with a locked-up Floyd Rose and a heavily trimmed body. The instrument sits stop one of my Hammonds and is piped in through the JTM45 and the 2x12 closed back cab. So the hole is outfitted with...
- 1964 Hammond A102 "The Preacher". My main axe and strongest voice amongst my personal choir. I keep this Hammond pretty much setup ~one way~. I use one amp, one cab, and one recording method. All of the sounds I get from it are made within the confines that the equipment restricts me too. That attitiude allows me to focus on getting the most within the limits of the Hammons abilities and not augmented by effects and such. Tube amplification, transistor assisted distortion, electromechanical rotary speaker system, 18 inch spring reverb tank with a fully tube powered reverb tank driver (the reverb amp has SIX TUBES and it operates at Class-A voltages .. it's not one of these 9 volt tube reverb drivers.). So staying within those technological limits is the idea behind The Preacher (named after one of the sonatas in the Tarkus suite by ELP).
- 1955 Hammond M3 "Morticia". This one is used for more experimental .. with the emphasis on ~mental~ .. sounds. I have modified this machine to have a both a guitar-level signal as well as a line-level output signal. This opens up the entire world to this organ .. every type of effect device made is now accessable to this machine.
- 2008 Telecaster "Shredbilly". Heavily modified Telecaster, if you can even call it that. I built it myself with a pile of various Warmoth parts. The body has a radical orthopedic cut to deal with my spinal T7 injury. Has Seymour Duncan Quarter Pounder pickup with coil taps.
- 2006 Dean MLX. One of those crappy two hundred dollar Deans for beginners. I put SD "59's" in it at both ends and mofified a bunch of other junk on it ... BAM .. this thing is magic!
- 2010 Iceman Kinda. This one is an inverted-body oddball that someone special ordered at Warmoth and then didn't accept it. So I scooped up this painted inverted Iceman body for less than the cost of a totally bare body. Mohogany body in gloss black with another unfinished Padouk neck (just like my Shredbilly Tele), it has a complete set of SD Phat Cat P-90s in it and is wired just like the Shredbilly is (a single volume and tone control for the entire output regardless of pickup selection). This rounds out my guitar collection ... I have a single coil axe (Shredbilly) and humbucker axe (the Dean) and a P90 axe (this inverted Iceman). All fitted with high quality pickups and hand wired by yours truly using the best quality components I can dig up. For instance the Dean got gutted and all new stuff put in it .. not just the new humbuckers. So it got totally rewired and done so in the same manner which we wire all of our pedals araound here.
- 2002 Cort Artisan 4-string active bass. Simply called "The Cort" around here. This guitar has outlived over two dozen other basses. From 1992 to 2007 I went through 26 (twenty six) bass guitars. This silly little Korean made Cort with active Bartolini "licensed" pickups and preamp has made the cut while over two dozen others have not. I'm talking Ricky's, Warwicks, Fender Jazz and P-bass, Carvins, Deans, .. all in 4, 5, and 6 string variations. This silly Cort has hung in there throughout the storms. It has the lowest and deepest low end of any bass I've ever owned. It's 14 pounds of solid maple! It thumps like Godzilla and has a distorted sound that Geddy would be envious of.
- Dean ML Noir with Floyd Rose. I cut the wings off of this thing, locked up the trem, bolted the severely cut-down body to a base-board and set it on a flat surface (on top of Morticia to be exact). This is my ambient and lead slide guitar. At times it gets used much like Emerson used the Moog Ribbon Controller in that I can heavily effect the thing and pull-off some sounds even Tom Sholz would be envious of (stuff like "The Journey" from Boston's Don't Look Back album.). This guitar was a total piece of fargin shyte. It has a really flat shredder fretboard (16 inch radius ... I just can't play that thing!) And I couldn't seem to sell it either (I had it as low as $200 on Ebay ... no luck). So instead of "giving it away" I ended up taking The Saw to it and making it a useful part of our jamming efforts. I hated playing the damned thing, and I sounded like cats fighting when I tried to use the tremolo like normal guitar players do. So it got turned into an instrument I can use. I use the micro-tuners on the FR bridge to purposely knock it out of tune when I use the slide. When I distort it that selected ~out-of-tune~ sound is really cool when I want it, and very easy to retuned on the fly. The little tuners being near my picking hand make the whole idea practical.
- The Farnmodules. A modular synthesizer-looking gizmo I made up of all of my Farndurk circuits. It uses patchcords and everything. It allows me to openly develope anything I want using the dozen-odd circuits that we have in the Farndurk arsenal.
- The System. A collection of synth modules that comprise things like really trick ring modulators, sweepable filter units, LFOs with several waveforms, EQ modules, on and on. It really isn't much of a "synth" in that I don't actually play it with a keyboard .. but I do run other instruments through it to provide me with some synth-like textures. So is it a "synthesizer"? Well .. yes and no. Technically yes, however within the common useage of the word as a sound generator played with a keyboard .. no it isn't.
- Mondo-modded Marshall JMP 20 watt Lead/Bass. A kit amplifier that I modified for use with my Hammonds. This thing sounds saa-WEET with my Leslie! This amp is the voice of The Preacher (my Hammond A102). It simply makes my Hammond friggin scream with all of the exacting and perfect frequency response that a Hammond needs to really cut without allowing it to sound ~reedy~ as so many amps do. If your gear ain't right a precious Hammond can sound like a common VOX organ. Yuk.
- Heavily modded Marshall JTM45 clone. Kit amp that I tweaked pretty hard. I use this amplifier with my guitars and usually a 2x12 closed back cab stuffed with Greenbacks all wired at 16 ohms. I dig Jeff Beck's more recent sounds as well as what Trower was doing back in the 70's (Bridge of Sighs, and all of that) so I gravitate towards Marshall heads.
- 1965 Leslie 251 rotary cabinet. This cab has a 15 inch lower speaker with a drum-rotor mounted below it. It also has the standard Leslie upper horn that looks like a double horn but is actually only a single horn with a fake horn to balance it out and make it look kinda cool. The stock Leslie amplifier has been removed and is not used at all (I use modified guitar and bass amps to drive this cab). There is a crossover network box that is set at 800hz which divides the amplified organ signal into two separate speaker lines ... one below 800hz which is sent to the 15" speaker and one above 800hz which is piped to the upper rotor. I have this Leslie setup so if I like I can also bypass the crossover network and actually bi-amp the two rotors using separate amplifiers to drive the upper and lower rotors. But at present I'm using a modified bass head to drive both rotors (see above for more dirt on that). Each rotor has it's own separate drive motor system which is independently controlled by a custom designed switch matrix of my own invention. It allows me to have two speed selections (A and B .. rather than the common "fast and slow"). I can have either rotor (upper or lower) spinning at either fast, slow, or off speeds in either "speed channel". So each rotor can be set at FAST, SLOW, or OFF on either speed channel A or B. One switch selects speed channel A or B, and you select what combinations of speeds the tow rotors will have on each spped channel. Instead of only being able to select "both rotors SLOW or both rotors FAST", I have two main selections (A or B) and each selection can have any combination of slow, fast, or off on either rotor. Mega-cool .. right? So it works out pretty well this way. It wouldn't be too practical in a live-gig situation simply because of the added 125VAC lines needed to address the four separate rotor motors (upper slow and fast, and lower slow and fast ... four motors total). But for hard-lined studio use it really rocks!
We've set up the computers in a nice enclosure that houses both of them. The enclosure used to be one of those sortof slim-tall things that nice modular stereo gear came in (with the glass door and all). This partticular one was for a Technique's stereo system from like 1988. It's like five feet tall and two feet wide and made of actual mahogany and we call the whole abomination "HAL" after the ominous computer that suffered from conflicting moral programming in the 1969 movie "2001". It also houses our audio interfaces, some power conditioning stuff, 3-ring binders stuffed with hand-written notes and diagrams of wiring and grounding stuff, software owners' manuals, and output EQs for the monitors. We use HAL for both recording and backing track playback for jamming against. HAL also provides the occassional soft-synth. We keep one of HAL's computers set up with a couple of favorite virtual synths (Minimoog, Yamaha CS80, several others). These are nice for doing arpeggio runs and simple bass lines through the loopers.
She's set up with her own ~planet~ as it were. She's limited herself to just the Rhodes and everything that we can pull from it. We've been using ring modualtors, manually swept chorus pedals, pahse shifters, EQs, the works. Fun musical tool.
- 1977 Rhodes Stage 73 key electric piano. This thing was one hell of a buy. She's had it since around 2007 or so and it's one really sweet specimen. We do all of the internal setup ourselves. This includes tuning it, setting each key's pickup height, setting the tonebars up properly, adjusting the action.
- 2006 Fender FM100 solid state guitar head. This amplifier has been modified a lot. It's all set up for use with the Rhodes however it still works just fine if I need it to test out a Farndurk pedal with a Fender-type rig (2x12 open back used.). This amp also has a pretty nice spring reverb tank in it that works well with the Rhodes. The EQ and overall general voicing of this amplifier really suits her Rhodes very well ... very cost effective choice as well that lends itself nicely to modifications and changes. 100 watts too!
- 2x12 open back cab with V30s all set at 16 ohms. TONS of projection for her piano with this cab.
- Two each Traynor 2x8 floor monitors modified for use with the Rhodes. These help define the panning tremolo and vibrato effects and also help create an aural spaciousness.
- The System II. Another ring modulator/custom effects unit built from various sythesizer modules that deal with swept filtering and ring modulators and LFOs etc. Defies decription.
- Her "tone rack". It consists of an MXR Phase 90, some Farndurk custom compression and attack generator circuits, an Electro Harmonix Poly Chorus (these things are sick! ... the matrix-filter abilites are truly useful), an attenuator in the FX-Loop of the amp, an overdrive or two, and a BOSS DD-20 delay. We all use these same delays as they sound great and are super easy to use. The BPM display makes it uber-easy to lock everyone in to the tempo too. The distortion units that we've come up with for her make the Rhodes have some synth-like qualities that can be shaped into very useful and musical tones.
To be announced.