I love sound. All my life I’ve been on a quest to create the sounds I hear in my head. They would loop around, create new rhythms, and transform into new sounds. It’s a ongoing obsession.
At the age of 9 or 10, I “borrowed” a portable tape deck that my dad used to load programs onto his Timex/Sinclair computers. It was small and silver and ran on batteries. The one feature it had that intrigued me was that it could play and record at multiple speeds. My voice (or anything I recorded) could be sped up or slowed down.
My first experiments were like little radio plays. Back then, I was really into the old time radio dramas of the ’30s and ’40s that played on KNX 1070AM in Los Angeles. I would listen to these shows on my little alarm clock radio as I went to sleep. I began to make up my own stories and act them out, often recording myself doing voices and sound effects. The recorder could be slowed down to make my voice higher pitched when played back at regular speed. I could also speed up the recorder and make my voice deeper to sound like monsters or devils. These were my first steps into audio production, and I didn’t even know it.
Before long, I was recording myself hitting various objects and making “music” out of anything I had at hand. During this period, I began to discover music.
While listening to the radio in the car, my mother would tune the dial to any station that was playing music and not commercials. Because of this, I developed an appreciation for many styles of music. When I got into junior high, I paid more attention to artists I liked. Sometime in 1990, I found my dad’s Teisco Del Ray ET-220 electric guitar in the attic. It was love at first sight.
I played that guitar for a few few years, with my best friend Andy Smith (who had bought a bass) and we started a band. Soon we had a drummer, who first played a Mattel Synsonic drum machine and eventually a drum set I found in the basement. We played grunge and punk songs and made a lot of racket. None of us had any formal training, but we thrashed on.
We played together through junior high and into high school, but once we graduated, our band split up and we all got jobs. Occasionally we jammed together, but for the most part we practiced solo.
During my senior year of high school, a few ravers I knew exposed me to techno music. I also got in to the MOD file scene on LA BBSes. I started collecting techno and ambient electronic albums. I was a huge fan of Nine Inch Nails and Depeche Mode, but techno was different. The wide variety of sounds and bizarre textures blew me away. The DIY philosophy of the bedroom producer intrigued me. In a way, the Orb’s first album changed my life. It made me want to know how they made their sounds and produced their music. I fell in love (for the second time) with synthesizers.
I knew that electronic music was made with “keyboards”, but I didn’t really understand what they were. So on the next trip to Guitar Center, I ventured in to the keyboard section to look at gear. The Roland MC-303 immediately caught my eye. It had a built in drum machine and various synthesizers. It sounded like the rave CDs I listened to. I took out a loan and bought one the next day. It was my first step into electronic music production.
The MC-303 featured a sequencer that allowed me to arrange songs on it without a PC. This was a lot of fun and I dedicated myself to learning all its operations. Soon I wanted to incorporate samples in to my work, and I saved up for a Boss SP-202. This, along with a 4-Track tape machine used as a mixer, allowed me to play gigs at parties. For the next 3 years, I played parties and raves as often as I could.
I picked up lots of other gear along the way. The internet made connecting with other people and researching easy, but keeping up with the changing technology was difficult. I had to balance my time between school, work, and music. By 1999, time and money was short and little was left over to devote to music production. I moved out of my parents house and had to get a “real job”.
By 2002, I’d decided that I’d given LA my best shot and needed a change of scenery. I visited Austin, TX and dug its relaxed style. I moved to Austin in September of 2002. It was tough that first year, and I had to work hard to pay the bills. From 2003-2006, I struggled and had to face the fact that I wasn’t making music anymore. That was hard to accept, but it was the truth. For want of cash, I sold all of my gear.
Things improved as time passed. Sometime in 2007, I learned about Ableton Live. I used Acid Pro quite a lot in the early 2000s, and Ableton was a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) similar to Acid Pro. However, Ableton was easier to use, more powerful, and made use of freely available soft-synths. Ableton reminded me just how much I loved making music, and that year I started recording again.
It was slow going, but by 2008 I had acquired much of the necessary gear I needed to make music. Music technology was at the point where I could to do more with a small laptop than I could do with all my old gear combined. Since then, I’ve built up a studio and a mobile rig for recording other musicians. From now on I’m dedicating myself to growing as a musician, producer, and engineer. I want to do what I love, and I love sound.