Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Simple machines. The concept fascinates me. The idea that there are simple physical mechanisms that can use leverage to multiply force is intriguing to me. The actual physics of "mechanical advantage" are more complicated than I care to explain (or could do justice to truthfully), but the product of levers and pulleys multiplying the magnitude of a force by any factor is very revealing of man's ingenuity in transforming his world. The idea that several simple machines in conjunction create a compound machine (think bicycle with its wheels and levers and pulleys) inspired my musical design for the new Rebel Wheel album, "Simple Machines" (that and i just love the sound of the term).

The idea here was to create a series of motives that would operate like simple machines, from which we would build longer form compositions (as opposed to say writing a series of pieces called "Screw" "pulley" "lever" or "wedge" say, all of which tend to evoke sexual connotations for me). Coming up with motives was easy, simply because of the visual aspect of a guitar neck and of how notes look on paper. If you visualize a root, a b5 and a m7th (say C, F# and Bb) as a shape on guitar it kind of looks like a wedge. If you think of a series of tri-tones stacked up (C, F#, C, F#) it looks like an inclined plane both on a guitar neck and on paper. If you take a pattern like C to C8va, to A (down a m3) to Bb (down a ma7) to F (up m6) to F# (up semitone) to C# (down a 4th) to D (up a semitone) and put it in motion, it looks like a screw. You get the idea: the actual note patterns are visual more than aural.

These then became the building blocks for the music (which is still being written) and as is always the case, these motives serve more like spring-boards for further machinations rather than hard and fast musical statements. In other words the simple machine cells can be altered traditionally (with techniques like retrograde, inversion, retrograde inversion, expansion, contraction, transposition etc. etc.) or freely.

This is always the fun part for me: taking small cells and fucking about with them. I myself am a simple machine.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

What a Bag of Snakes (or how The Rebel Wheel was re-born)

It has been a long time since our last blog in this series of Rebel Wheel Broadcasts. Usually when someone starts out with "it's has been a long time" they add, "and a lot has happened". Of course it has. The one thing anyone can count on is stuff happening. The longer the time, the more "a lot" enters into the sentence.

In my case, divorce, a series of deaths in the family, several heart-breaks and a lengthy detour down a folk-rock rabbit hole that started so well and ended so terribly is the bulk of what happened to me. Through it all though The Rebel Wheel kept on ticking, albeit in a kind of off-the-radar way as far as the prog-rock community was concerned.

I was also able to finish my 4th Symphony, my 5th string quartet, a whole series of electro-acoustic compositions, a batch of TV work and some hard rocking proggy stuff. Right now I am finishing my master's and am writing a large scale percussion piece using several techniques derived from my study of Bartok's technique of poly modal-chromaticism.

Since Whore's Breakfast (the band's first all-digital release) I have relied heavily on the splendid "bandcamp" site to distribute my music.It has worked a charm. I released four more albums for the Rebel Wheel in succession, all of which were either albums that had been released under other titles (Filth Therapy, Bag Of Snakes) or compilation albums of released tracks (5 Epics) or unreleased ones (3rd Wheel). These all basically helped me keep my hand in the game (foot in the door, head in the clouds).

Last year I wanted to do some hard rock after a disastrous tour to the East Coast with a certifiable sociopathic, megalomaniacal, loud-mouth, red-neck boor. A year of doing gigs with this person pretty much soured any taste I had for doing any work with posers. I should have known better. No matter. The good part was I immediately jumped into a hard-rock odd-metered aesthetic and after writing and recording for a few weeks came up with a new project called Bag Of Snakes. I released it on bandcamp and Cd Baby and it did well right out of the gates. It was only when a reviewer said that it sounded like Stone Temple Pilots meets Rush, did I realize I had basically written the perfect successor to Whore's Breakfast (the two compilation albums and Filth Therapy notwithstanding).

While touring the album with Alex Wickham and Andrew Burns it occurred to me that I also had a new Rebel Wheel unit on my hands so I very gleefully re-formed the band with them and swallowed The Bag of Snakes into the Rebel Wheel canon. Six months later we are writing, recording and rehearsing new material for the 2019 release of "Simple machines" which will be the 9th Rebel Wheel album and the 8th iteration of the band. Here is the Bag of Snakes unit before we decided we were really The Rebel Wheel

Monday, June 7, 2010

Album release date

It has been a long-time coming, lot's of hard work, some tough decisions and a lot of talk, but finally the CD is officially released to day. It can be purchased here .

I'd like to use this post to thank everybody on the project. First the band; Ange MacIvor, Claude Prince and Aaron Clark for doing such a stellar job. Then the guests; Rick Barkhouse and Guy Leblanc, for considerably raising the bar on our keyboard status. Of course a special thanks has to go out to Guy Dagenais who played on only one track of the CD, but has since joined the band full-time and has had to learn over 90 minutes worth of pretty complicated music. He has done so with aplomb and has also raised the bar for the band.

I'd also like to thank: Matthew Thomas of Shattered Wing for his wonderful engineering prowess, Francis Depuis for his amazing art, Roger Woods for his kind permission to use his iconic clocks, Socar Myles for her Discoverie art, and of course Nick Brisebois for the inspiration for the whole album in the first place.

I'll be sending each of you your very own CD's very soon (or of course you can go to any number of sites and simply download it illegally as so many people have already done). No matter; that's a rant for another post!

Ok, thanks all.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Who does what and we aren't Yanks thank you very much.

As I have mentioned numerous times in the past I love Robertson Davies' writing. In his novel "A Mixture of Frailties" some of the characters have a magazine called "The Lantern". In it they take critics to task for their inaccuracies and ignorant assumptions. Named after Diogones and his quest for an honest man, the magazine ostensibly gives a forum for the artist to correct his critic's unbased assumptions, but in reality is nothing more than a chance to rebutt the opinion's formed and published by them (which in itself is a pretty cool idea).

I remember talking to Guy Leblanc from Nathan Mahl about similar ideas where he would review the reviewers. As vindicating as it might appear I think it ultimately would do nothing more than reveal the artist as petty, thin-skinned and childishly nurturing his sour-graped grudges.

Nonetheless I also think having a blog allows me to address certain issues I have with some reviews we have been getting, so at the risk of looking petty I'm going to set certain trifling yet niggling details straight.

To begin with; WE ARE NOT YANKS!!!! I realize that to some Europeans, making a distinction between Americans and Canadians is a silly and unreasonable one, after all we essentially share a continent, a language (I'm honour/honor bound to say that) and much the same media, but as ridiculous as it might seem, we actually consider ourselves pretty different.

To our German friends who consider my son's "Evil Clock" story as a typically "Yank" (said with a disparging sigh no less) endevour, let it be said that he was only 10 when he wrote it and the Walmart in question (it's a strange tale, but in my son's story the Evil Clock in question gets bested and ends up working at Walmart) is a few kilometers from us and has been a growing (and highly unwelcomed) presence in most Ontario small towns. Working for Walmart then would be a just punishment for the fallen Evil Clock. Weird eh? Maybe there is a language barrier at work, but missing out on THAT nuance is actually missing the point of my kid's brain-power and sense of irony. Calling us typical Yanks as a result would be about as insulting as if we called our erstwhile German critic Norweigan (or Swedish, Dutch, South African whatever, they're all kinda the same aren't they? non-english ie).

To our French critic who thinks that by naming some high-profile (can that term even be used in reference to progressive rock?) prog bands as influences we necessarily think we sound like them; grow up! I grew up listening to Zappa and Gentle Giant and they were huge inspirations to me (among others like Antonio Carlos Jobim, Igor Stravinsky and John Coltrane) but that doesn't mean I write about yellow snow in 4 part counterpoint, play a recorder and love dirty-worded Doo-wop any more than some author who loves Ernest Hemmingway is going to pepper his novel with a thousand "fines" and write about characters who've had their balls blown off.

I guess being stupid enough to play in the "prog-rock" idiom invites these kind of

Ok. That's the vitriolic part of today's post. The other stuff is simply some clarification on who does what. Some reviewers are having an understandably hard time figuring out who is still in the band (we do change line-ups a lot and at any given time have tracks from members who are on their way out sitting cheek to jowl with those who have just joined) and just what each person does. The latter can be attributed to the very small info page included on the CD. It uses a arty little font that, along with its miniscule size, doesn't make sussing this stuff out any easier. The fact we all play keyboards at any given time and the fact that often I'll play bass as well as guitar doesn't help either. So..here's the inside scoop:

Evil Clocks P1
Aaron Clark: drums
Claude Prince: bass on the verses
Guy Dagenais: 5-string bass and fretless bass solos on the chorus,
David Campbell: opening industrial synth ambiences, programmed drum loop, electric guitars (dbl'd left and right), synth solo, acoustic guitar, vocals,
Ange MacIvor: alto sax, vocals.
Composed by David Campbell and arranged by the band.

Aaron Clark: drums
Claude Prince: bass
David Campbell: vocals, electric guitar, keyboard drones (bass swells at beginning and after solo) and mellotron pads in chorus,
Ange MacIvor: distorted organ, string synth pads in chorus, soprano sax solo
Music by David Campbell, words by Geordie Robertson. Arranged by the band.

Aaron Clark: drums
David Campbell: electric guitars, mellotron pads at intro, bass, acoustic guitars, synth solo, organ and electric piano.
Ange MacIvor: vocals, soprano sax solo
Composed by David Campbell, Ange MacIvor, Aaron Clark. Words by Ange MacIvor.

Scales of the Ebony Fish
Aaron Clark: drums
Claude Prince: bass
David Campbell: vocals, keyboard ambiences, acoustic guitar, electric guitar,
Guy Leblanc: synth solo
Composed and arranged by David Campbell.

Settling of Bones
David Campbell: electric guitar, synths , bass, vocals, drum loops, pads
Ange MacIvor: lead vocals
Music by David Campbell. Words by David Campbell and Ange MacIvor.

Aaron Clark: drums
Claude Prince: bass
David Campbell: electric guitar, synth solo before sax solo section, vocals
Ange MacIvor: keyboards, alto sax, vocals
Composed by David Campbell. Arranged by the band.

Hags 1
Aaron Clark: percussion
David Campbell: classical, steel string and 12 string acoustic guitars, ambiences, mellotron (strings, vocals and flutes), vocals
Ange MacIvor: vocals
Composed and arranged by David Campbell.

Mad Night
Aaron Clark: drums
Claude Prince: bass
David Campbell: electric guitar, synth line after guitar (leading into B section), B-section synth swells, electric guitar solos, synth solo, vectory loop, whispers, autoharp
Ange MacIvor: main synth bass riff, B-section synth pads, alto solo
Composed by David Campbell. Arranged by the band.

Hags 2
David Campbell: classical, steel string and electric guitars, ambiences, mellotron (strings, vocals and flutes), vocals
Ange MacIvor: vocals
Composed and arranged by David Campbell.

Invitation To The Dance
Aaron Clark: drums
Claude Prince: bass
David Campbell: electric guitar, mellotron at intro and exit, electric piano
Ange MacIvor: soprano sax
Rick Barkhouse: electric piano solo
Composed by David Campbell. Arranged by the band.

Hags 3
David Campbell: acoustic guitar, mandolin, electric guitar, ambiences, mellotron (strings, vocals and flutes), vocals
Ange MacIvor: vocals
Composed and arranged by David Campbell.

Invitation To The Dance
Aaron Clark: drums
Claude Prince: bass
David Campbell: electric guitar, loops and ambience, screams and hollers
Ange MacIvor: synth lead
Composed by David Campbell. Arranged by the band.

Evil Clocks 2
David Campbell: synths and ambiences

Friday, May 28, 2010

Some new tunes

1st the new stuff. Lately I have been on a Charles Bukowski kick and among all that reading, I have been writing stuff that tends to focus on the similar seedy underside of life (read lots of substance abuse, grimy apartments, general low budget days and mostly transient company). I have had a ton of these type of tunes in my day stretching back to Vancouver 1979. In fact one of my favorite lyrics dates back from then (I have stains on my fingers I smoke too much). Really.

Over the years I have written various pieces with that same perspective and on the first Rebel Wheel CD as part of a larger suite there was an instrumental piece called Whore's Breakfast. I wrote that particular section during a week-long acid buzz in some hotel room in Brockville in 1981. I always meant for it to be the centrepiece of a song collection, but I was having difficulty reconciling an almost modern classical instrumental with more lyrical songs. Several times through-out the years though I was able to get close.

Now, thanks to Bukowski, I have managed to get a bit closer, so with that in mind, I'll post some new tunes that try to encapsulate that part of my life. Keep in mind these are demos only and that I have tracked all the instruments myself.

The drums are Toontrack's Vintage and Custom kit samples and I used heavily edited midi files as well as my Roland midi kit to trigger them. The bass is my Fender Jazz through my Millenia media pre-amp and the gtr is my Howard Roberts through my Mesa-Boogie amp (mic'd with a Neumann and Millenia pre). The vocals are through the same mic and pre configuration.

The drum parts were played on an old ludwig kit and edited pretty heavily to create a passable performance. I also used some edited midi files. The bass is again the Fender Jazz through the same rig. There is no guitar on this one, rather I used Logic's electric piano, clav, synth and organ plugs.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Something else again.

I have been having a blast configuring and re-configuring my pedalboard. In my last post I mentioned it would probably be something else again by the time we gig and while that is certainly still possible (likely even), it turns out I changed it drastically since the last post.

I had mentioned I wanted the EH ring modulator in the loop (literally) and with some tweaking and honest decision making was able to do that.
I dropped my Boss chorus, MXR compressor and Fairfield Circuitry distorion box out of the board and added the EH like I had wanted. The truth is, with the exception of one spot, I never actually used the chorus and the compressor anyway. I had liked the idea of switching between two effects loops and I remember reading the blurb the loop switcher maker wrote. In it he had said something like "imagine being able to instantly switch from a compressor and chorus as a clean sound to a distortion and delay for a lead sound". I liked that and as I had most of the effects I bought a chorus and compressor and I did just that. The truth is though I never liked the chorus sound, or rather, having used a Jazz Chorus for most of the '80s, have grown quite sick of the sound. Deciding to get rid of it all saved a few power cables and lots of real-estate.

Losing the distortion wasn't as easy, but truthfully, I prefer my Mesa Boogie for that kind of thing and I also have the Fulltone front-end which can yield me that sound before the buffers in the Radial ABY box so the Fairfield got the boot as well.

So. Now I have the EH ring modulator ("Frequency Analyzer") in loop 1 all by itself (which is convenient because I prefer to leave it on as it hasn't a led status light) and in loop 2 I have the EH phase, the Boss slicer and a Boss delay. I have also midi'd the slicer up to the Adrenalinn so now I can have both units in perfect sync via MTC. The Adrenalinn has its tempi pre-programmed per patch and now when I change patches via the FCB, the Adrenalinn and the Boss change tempo according to the song's pre-programmed BPM. I can also tap tempo on the Adrenalinn if I need (and of course the Boss follows).

What I also am finding is that the pedals are easier to acces when there are fewer of them. It was getting tricky there to get my big boots onto the right pedal, especially when we are ramming it out live. Now it is easier.

This certainly isn't big news (not that there's ever really much of that hereabouts) but lots of fun nevertheless. Here's a pic.

Monday, May 10, 2010

More gear info.

Ok. Like I mentioned earlier we are now re-visiting the material with a sweaty-prog band attitude (ie a pretty scaled down trio of guitar, bass and drums). I also mentioned I had originally decided to eschew effects pedals this time out. Of course like a typical guitar player that idea has been changed. Typically I use no effects at all other than a channel switcher and maybe a wah/volume. Then of course I decide maybe a wee bit of delay would be handy here and there and over the course of several months I end up creating a huge rig of pedals and switchers. Then I get sick of it all and go back to square one.

Well I was at square one a few months ago and when Guy first joined our rehearsals were pretty gear-deprived affairs. Once the flood-gates opened to allow a few effects, then in typical fashion I am now lugging my pedal board and midi pedal controller around too. The rig:

So here is how it works. The guitar goes into a Fulltone Fulldrive 2, then to a wah/volume. From there it goes to a Radial switchbone A/B/Y box.

A-side continues on to a custom made effects loop switcher with two seperate loops (another A/B/Y configuration). A-loop has an MXR dynacomp, a Boss CH-1 chorus, a Boss SL-20 Slicer and finally a EH "Small Stone" phase. B-loop has a Fairfield circuitry "The Barbershop" overdrive and a Boss DD-3 delay. The looper pedal has a mute and a tuner out switch and for the tuner I use a Boss TU-2. The output goes to a Mesa-Boogie Maverick.

B-side goes to an Adrenalinn III controlled by the Behringer FCB-1010. The output goes to a Fender Hot Rod Delux amp.

The whole unit is on a Pedaltrain pro and uses a Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 2 as well as an onboard power bar for the Adrenalinn and the Radial power supplies.

The system can go from full-on to bypass with the switch of one pedal and the ABY configuration allows me to keep the Mesa side mostly for overdriven sounds and the Fender side for clean. I might get another looper switch pedal for that side so I can bypass the Adrenalinn properly (unlike the other side, it doesn't have
true bypass) but seeing as how I mostly use that side for the Adrenalinn effects that isn't so problematic.

Unfortunately I ran out of room for my EH ring modulator and even tjough I seldom use it I do want it for one solo. In the meantime I am using the Adrenalinn for that.

So...that's the fullout version, knowing me, what I actually will use when we do finally get out will be likely be something else again.