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In this episode, Carl King speaks with TIM SMOLENS of Estradasphere, Secret Chiefs 3, and High Castle Teleorkestra. Mr. Smolens shares with us how he recorded an album remotely, with musicians from all around the world. Then, we get a film review of Everything Everywhere All At Once. Then, a new installment of LUX by Chewbode. We wrap up the episode with The Album Of The Week: Victims Family / White Bread Blues.
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SHOW NOTES / LINKS
Sir Millard Mulch / 50 Intellectually Blah Blah Blah
High Castle Teleorkestra on Bandcamp
My Shop: $5 Clearance Sale
Composing With Carl King
Dale Turner / Brian On The Brain
Dale Turner’s Website
Everything Everywhere All At Once on Amazon
Victims Family At Alternative Tentacles Records
Victims Family / White Bread Blues on Spotify
I’m Carl King, and this is The Carl King Podcast, where I talk about music, filmmaking, and general creativity stuff. To support this podcast, head over to Patreon.com/carlking, and join for just $1 or $5 per month. Special thank you to my Illusionist $51 level patrons, both Hank Howard III and Chewbode.
Quick shout-out to my music endorsements: Vienna Symphonic Library, Fractal Audio, Ernie Ball Strings, Toontrack, and Millennia Media. All 5 companies make amazing musical gear that I love to use.
Now let’s prepare to plan on getting ready.
CARL KING UPDATE
Here’s an update on all things Carl King, your Very Good Parasocial Friend.
1 – New VIDEO TRAILER
Update Number 1 – There is a new VIDEO Trailer for the Carl King Podcast. Have you seen it? Well dang, I thought it came out pretty good. Big announcement: I’m in the process of creating future episodes of this show, also in a VIDEO format. The audio podcast will stay the same, but the video version will be published on my YouTube channel every week. Most of the gear is in place, and I’m aiming to make it happen beginning with episodes in September. Oh, and before I forget, you’ll also find select podcast segments, like the film reviews or Q&A up there. I heard from several people who thanked me for my segment How I Conquered My Anger. So head over to YouTube.com/carlkingdom, and subscribe. That is, if you want to see what I look like when I’m confused by the Job Notes.
2 – TuneCore
Update Number Two – All issues with TuneCore have now been straightened-out. Sir Millard Mulch’s 50 Intellectually Stimulating Themes From A Cheap Amusement Park For Robots & Aliens Vol. 1 is now on Apple Music, Spotify, YouTube, and everywhere else. And with CORRECT SONG TITLES. So go and give it a listen on your platform of choice. And hey, it’ll earn me a life-changing fraction of a penny.
3 – $5 Clearance Sale.
Update Number Three – I am having a $5 CLEARANCE SALE on my CarlKingdom Shop. Just go to Shop Dot CarlKingdom Dot Com, and in the top left, click $5 Clearance Sale. There you will find about 30 different musical albums, COMPACT DISCS, I am CLEARING OUT for only $5. There’s some rare Morgan Agren, Marco Minnemann, Aristocrats, Devin Townsend — you never know what you might find there. Shop Dot CarlKingdom Dot Com. https://shop.carlkingdom.com
4 – Composing With Carl King
Update Number Four – I did a live stream last week on YouTube and Twitch, called Composing With Carl King. For 2 hours I programmed some odd-tuplet drum solos over a 7/4 bass ostinato in C Lydian.
I hope to do more regular streams like that in the future. If you missed the streams you can find them archived on both Twitch and YouTube. Those URLs are twitch Dot TV slash carlking and YouTube Dot Com Slash CarlKingdom. Hope you like it.
5 – Dale Turner Composition Lesson
Update Number 5 – I took a Composition Lesson from Dale Turner this weekend. It was focused on methods of using 12-tone and serialism. Taking a lesson from Dale Turner is like “OH! I get it now.”
The last time I took a lesson from him, I turned around and wrote that 45 minute piece of music, Grand Architects of the Universe. So learning from him has been a big deal for me.
Everyone should look up his song Brian On The Brain, from his album Mannerisms Magnified, which is entirely 12-tone. And entirely vocal! I’ll add a link in my show notes.
Now let’s get into the show with some FILM REVIEWS.
Carl King has ONLY A SINGLE Film Reviews this week, and that feels like JUST the right amount.
1 – Everything Everywhere All At Once
This week’s film review is… Everything Everywhere All At Once.
Written and Directed by Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan. Musical score created by 3 different people, all members of a band called Sun Lux, or maybe pronounced Son Lux. It’s a totally wild score. I recommend giving it a listen on its own. Very modern. Very modern classical.
Starring in this movie were Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan, Stephanie Hsu, James Hong, and Jamie Lee Curtis — in a quite unusual role for her.
Everything Everywhere All At Once may have been named after the style of decorating the main character’s home. First thing I noticed is, man, these people have a lot of stuff in their house, piled to the ceiling. Stressing me out.
Before watching it… I already felt skeptical. Because hey. Carl King doesn’t need to see any more time travel or multiple dimension stories. I feel like it’s a worn-out gimmick right now. It’s a complication that distracts from the PEOPLE in the story.
Then again, some viewers crave all that spectacle. Lots of people out there must be way into it.
In the filmmakers defense, I read they had actually been working on this film since 2010, before all that stuff was cool. And honestly it takes forever to make a movie. You never know what’s going to be popular or not popular by the time the movie comes out.
Anyway, we have a Mother and Daughter story here. There’s a line of dialogue: “YOU PUSHED your daughter too hard until you broke her.” So that’s the central conflict. And there are other conflicts within the family, played out through a lot of colorful, psychedelic noise on the screen.
But at least if we have dimensional travel, the filmmakers came up with unusual rules to the science behind it. I mean, the method by which the characters jump from world to world was not what you’d expect.
There’s also a heavy dose of non-sequitur, absurdist mythology. In the universe of this movie, food items and silly sexual stuff were given unusual significance.
In another context I would have thought it was great. Maybe if it were a comic book or graphic novel, I’d be way into it.
The movie focuses on mostly the same four people in the family, which is a plus. The background characters were truly background characters, rather than cluttering things up.
Now I’m not into martial arts, but that aspect was creative and well done. Once it gets going, this movie was almost wall-to-wall Kung Fu. Too much for me. About 1/3 into the movie, it was one fight after another, with not much interpersonal connective tissue. I honestly liked the movie better when it was just the normal people doing laundry and taxes.
Here’s another thought — the plot was too much for me. I made a note about 2/3 through, that I’ve watched most of the movie and I think the goal is for the mom to kill the daughter, or at least stop her somehow. I thought to myself, I really have no idea what is going on, but in a bad way.
I found myself getting too sleepy, and said out loud: “oh man, I’ve still got 30 minutes left. I’m really trying to get through it.”
But here’s a plus: The lead actress? Superb. That’s Michelle Yeoh. I mostly knew her as the evil lady from Star Trek. But that tells you how uneducated I am. But hey, I’m working on it.
Now this is another opportunity for me to point out my belief… that just because I personally didn’t enjoy a film, I can still think it was good. We can separate these two things. We’ve gotta be careful to not let our own personal tastes cloud our judgment.
So while I thought it was well done, this movie just didn’t hook me. At least not until the final act. Because right when I had given up, it pulled me in.
At that point, the meaning of the movie hits hard. The message was powerful, and necessary, and it is this… that we have to be happy with what we have, to be happy with. As King Crimson once said.
It sure was slow and agonizing to get there. But it was a solid payoff.
If I were the editor I would try to seriously chop down that middle third with all the craziness.
Maybe the movie didn’t need to be 2 hours 19 minutes? I don’t know. It felt like an indie film that was crossing over into a big budget blockbuster territory.
I’m giving this one 3.5 Out of 5 Stars. Because it was better than average, but my average might not be the average average.
OK, we’ve wasted enough time. Let’s move on to this week’s FEATURE SEGMENT.
FEATURE SEGMENT: TIM SMOLENS
TIM SMOLENS of Estradasphere, Secret Chiefs 3, and High Castle Teleorkestra is joining us today.
Here’s a question. How do you put together a band, from all across the world, to record an album together, remotely? Especially if the members are as far apart as California, Australia, Norway, And Louisiana? Tim’s going to tell us.
The result is a complicated musical DOUBLE-CD, or double-vinyl album called The Egg That Never Opened. It legitimately seems to have 53 tracks. Now, some of them remixes and alternate versions. But wow.
Alongside guitarist Chris Bogen, Tim recruited members of Estradasphere, Farmers Market, and even Bar McKinnon from Mr. Bungle — to form a virtual supergroup called The High Castle Teleorkestra. And that’s Orkestra with a K.
The Egg That Never Opened is a concept album based on a story by Philip K Dick called Radio Free Albemuth. So fans of PKD are going to freak out over this one.
And for Trivia experts out there, Tim Smolens is the SECOND bassist composer genius to record a piece of music inspired by Radio Free Albemuth — the first being Stu Hamm back in 1988. So dig that one up if you need a musical double-feature.
With this release, Tim proved he’s one of the greats in this genre. The creativity and execution slots right in with Mr. Bungle and Secret Chiefs 3. And by that, I mean, it’s really dang good.
First up, so you know what we’re dealing with, listen to this short clip from The Egg That Never Opened.
CK: And with that, let’s welcome Tim Smolens to The Carl King Podcast. Tim Smolens, I’m assuming you’re the main composer on this music. Is that true, and if so, how does that feel?
TS: Glad to be here. Thanks for having me on, Carl. I’ve been watching your Patreon and podcast grow and the unique content you’ve been curating there. I think it’s awesome, man. Hats off to you. That’s a tough question about the composition. I certainly had a big hand in many of the tunes, compositionally, but to answer it properly, I feel like I would need to say that the older I get, the less I seem to care about if I wrote it or how many songs on the album are original versus cover songs. I just don’t care anymore. I just want to make a great recording and arrangement, so a great listening experience, really, is what I’m after, and some people just are way better than us, right? We all know people that we look up to, we’re like, “Man, I could never do anything like that.” Like I hear a piece of classical music like Chopin or Ravel or whatever, and I just think, man, that is like a million years beyond anything I could write. So I kind of thing sometimes, why don’t I just record that and do a cool arrangement of it?
But anyway, it’s humbling but it’s good. It comes down to, to me, the universe is based on musical and mathematical principles and the sort of happy combination of those ratios as both harmony and rhythm, and the pleasure that humans do or don’t get from that is a joy that solely belongs back to the universe. I don’t have an ego about “I wrote that.” I probably did before when I was younger. So I have no problem wearing influences on my sleeve, using stuff from other people, mimicking other artists and kind of putting it all into this unique soup. So, I’ve made whole records that sound like the Beach Boys. But to me that’s cool, I love the Beach Boys, but some people will be like, “Man, you copied the sound.” But I don’t know, I just kind of don’t care about that.
So all that’s to say for this record a lot of it, the majority of it’s original but there’s a lot of covers and they come from some unique sources. Let me just give you some examples. The first song, this whole album is based on the book Radio Free Albemuth by Philip K. Dick, so first song is chapter one. There’s a narrator working at the record store commenting … He’s in Berkeley I think in the ’50s who’s commenting on all these records people are buying, some he likes, some he doesn’t. There’s weird German war marches and ’40s jazz, pop and showt- Just a whole bunch of stuff, and I was like, “How do we put this …” And we just kind of let the book dictate the arrangement. So, that’s how we wrote that, is it’s very original but it’s all based on what you’d call covers, but it was probably harder than writing an original song, putting that together.
Another example, the second song, Ich Bin’s, is a waltz from a German mechanical machine museum that my parents visited on their 40th anniversary when I was in high school. They actually brought me back a tape thinking, “You like this. This sounds like that new clown music you like.” They were referring to Bungle, of course. So it turned out this tape was awesome and I saved it for 20 years and there’s this tune we had to do. But you would have thought it was a German waltz but it was actually composed … We had to research this very heavily to find out anything about it, but, by an Argentinian immigrant to Paris in the 1920s named Jorge Lu- Jose Lucchesi, I’m sorry. It sounded almost French or Germanic, the way that this machine was playing it, but of course we made a metal arrangement of it. So, it’s a cover song technically but we did something really unique with it.
There’s a Romanian folk tune on there that we modified with polyrhythmic metal, so that’s not our tune technically but we made an experience out of it. There’s even a song from a German Jewish composer, Kurt Weill, where we took out the operatic lead vocal that the song is sort of known for and replaced it with our violin and accordion, change the time signature to 9/8, added some metal and jazz, and man, it doesn’t even sound like the song. People don’t even notice it that know his songs, and it’s a cover too, but …
Bär wrote two amazing original songs, like every single note. Chris wrote one great song, Placentia. I wrote three or four songs on there. And so, yeah, it was a tough question to answer but I hope that gets at it.
CK: And what method do you use for composing music for a project like this? Do you hear music in your head or do you noodle around on your instruments until you find something that you like? Or is it a combination of the two? Tell me about that?
TS: Again, another tough question, because the way I’m doing it now is probably not the same as it was. I took a huge break after Estradasphere broke up and I became a dad. I took like 15 years off of music. So for this record, when Chris and I got together and decided we’re doing an album based on this Philip K. Dick book, we did a thing I’ve never done before and we really let the book guide us. I’m not going to lie and say every note we composed knowing what we wanted it to be. Sometimes you build a context after the fact. It’s not the right way to do it but sometimes you have to, where you just, “I don’t know what this song was about,” and you sort of recontextualize it or whatever, but we were really just letting the book dictate wherever possible. The book dictated the song order. The book in many case dictated which song we were going to place as that chapter and how do we portray the elements of the chapter with instruments? None of that stuff, you really need to know. You don’t need to have read this book to enjoy this music but if you do dive in the next level further, it only enhances that experience.
So I compose … I’ll get a song on there and map out the tempo. I start building my MIDI file, put MIDI instruments as placeholders. I’m really interested in not doing a demo. I always like going straight to the recording. I don’t have time for a demo, so to me I need to build a tempo map, because most of our tempo maps are constantly fluctuating. I don’t like static tempos. I like it more like a conductor, which you can get away with in classical music, changing tempos just like nothing. But when you have a drummer, I think that gets pretty limiting sometimes that you need to sort of … It comes in a lot of ways but with all the covers we’re doing on this album, I feel like it’s more a practice in arranging. We’re composing but we’re also arranging. So, I don’t know. Tough question.
CK: And with recording so many musicians remotely from all over the world, what are some of the challenges, and how do you keep the process organized? How do you make sure you’re getting something you can use and do you ever get parts that completely don’t work?
TS: As far as recording this album remotely with people all over the world, Chris and I are the big day-to-day people, the guitarist who lives in New Orleans and I live in Denver. So we’re the ones just constantly chatting about what we’re doing, and the other guys be more like either they write a song and we help produce it, or we send them parts and they send us stuff back. You know, there is some challenges. I think to make it work organized is like the better I make my file and my MIDI parts and my dynamic click track tempos and write out charts for them so that the form is really clear, it’s a much better chance I’m going to get some good takes back.
It stinks not being there. I’ve become a decent enough producer over the years that I could get a sax player to give me more energy. There’s things you can say to musicians that really inspire them and that’s what producers have always done. So, it’s a bummer not doing that part of it, but most of these guys are good enough where I don’t have to question the parts. I can usually make something work even if there’s something not that good and edit it a little bit if I need to, but these guys are such good musicians, I don’t need to worry about that too much.
CK: Well, let’s listen to another clip from The Egg That Never Opened.
I’m curious, how many vertical tracks does one of these songs add up to in your DAW? Because there’s so many instruments and so many layers.
TS: Yeah, these songs do pretty much all have a lot of tracks. There’s a lot I can say about that. Being someone who’s always dealt with these really complicated files, I’ve become a fan of doing things a little like they might have done in the ’60s where you just had to record something and use it. I mean, if I get 32 violins that are supposed to make a string section, I am not going to keep it was 32 violins. I’m going to mix it right now to a stereo track. I don’t care if I wanted to go … I’m not a person who looks back on these decisions. Maybe sometimes I make a mistake and wish I could, but if I were to allow every track on this to continue to be its own track, I would probably have between 200 and 400 tracks per song. But wherever possible, like I say, I’m just condensing stuff. All those into one stereo string file. I don’t do that with drums. I keep all those elements separated. There’s things I like to have control over, but I`m also completely willing to commit to a tone and the effects on the tone and just say, “There’s the tone,” the same way they would have to do very quickly pre-digital. It was just something you would do in the studios, like actually get the tone.
Yeah, there’d be multiple hundreds of tracks, but I don’t ever let it get there. It only ever gets to may 100 and 150 that I can see, because I just don’t want to be so overwhelmed by all the tracks, because it’s really easy to get there and the quicker I just made some decision and I pull it up and the tone’s good, the EQ’s good, the compression’s good, the ‘verb or whatever else I’m using is good. There it is, there’s the tone. You don’t have to do anything else. So I like that simplicity and it really helps relieve some of the burden on your CPU as well. I mean, my computers can handle quite a bit but I’ve definitely taxed it out, especially if I tried to record in 2496 and then all the plugins are taking up more power as well. So yeah.
CK: Do you map out your compositions with MIDI mockups and then replace the parts one by one, or do you use some other method?
TS: Yeah. I have used a tone of MIDI for a long time. It’s just easier to … We’re not all in the same room, so like I was saying in the earlier question, it’s like the better I make the arrangement clear, the better they’re going to be able to understand it and send me back a good track. So, I do like to use MIDI, get all those parts, and then I do replace them, and then there’s times I use them. I mean, some of the organs they have these days, some of the analog synth type of stuff, whenever you have a real instrument like a saxophone or an accordion, you can’t really do a good MIDI of those. A guitar is never going to be good. Bass, I don’t like. But a lot of the keyboard stuff, you can really get some great … So I’ll leave a MIDI sound and I actually do a lot of combining. I get sent back a clarinet part and then I have a really nice clarinet sample in Kontakt, so I put them up next to each other, favor the real one and then I see, do I like it better without the MIDI? And for some reason it always sounds just a little better bolstered a little bit.
I don’t mess with the arrangement after we’re done. I consider the arrangement locked, even though I know we could make changes to the arrangement. To me it’s annoying as the producer and the person needing to cut up all these files. I like being done with the arrangement and we just say, “There it is,” and then any changes we’re going to make are just within that. You have to set limitations on yourself because so much of this stuff just gets out of hand so quickly that there has to be a muzzle of some sort to keep it within the realm of possibility.
CK: How much of this material was notated? Do you actually do any reading while you’re tracking your parts or do you just memorize everything?
TS: As far as notating the material, wherever necessary, which is most of the time, I will print out a chart. If it’s Chris, I might just print out … on guitar, I might just print out a chord chart and then explain we want a disco vibe on that part, or we want a tone that sounds like it could have belonged on a Cure album in the ’80s. We usually don’t do that. I did ask for that once, but I don’t know, it might just be a chord chart that I give him specific section notes about what kind of vibe. But the solo instruments, the accordion, tenor sax, clarinet, flute, it’s easier to just actually write out the part, and again, with the notation, I can sit there and I’ll sometimes print out the MIDI notes on a staff but then I’ll handwrite in, pencil my actual notes to them about each section for dynamics. I know you can do that in the computer but it’s just easier for me, and I scan that back in. Maybe I’m old school or whatever.
But yeah, I tediously write out some charts, and I used to be better at that, but I don’t do it that often anymore, so you make a mistake and it’s like … I don’t know, that’s such a hard skill. Imagine how good people used to be at writing by hand. It’s just crazy to think about. Reading while tracking parts … So I think different people would give different answers. I think Bär probably would be reading because I’d sent him some charts or something. Same with Timba, but Timba will come up with his own parts, so I’m not sure if he writes those out or just does them off the top of his head. So we’ll sometimes send him some parts to play but sometimes he’ll just blow us away with a crazy sci-fi string section you were not asking for or expecting and it was just super awesome. But he definitely reads down his parts. But I remember from Estradasphere, he was very good at memorizing too. I used to be on the book, like on these … I couldn’t memorize these little bass lines that never repeat, but he would just memorize whatever. He never used the book, but I was stuck on the book.
I don’t do much reading while I play while I play because I feel like I’m always making up my bass parts as I record, which is really not the right way to do it, but I think of things in little four-bar phrases and I do a lot of punching in and I’ll go back and modify my feel. It’s not that I couldn’t play this or do it, it’s just I’m just so swamped with the rest of the production that I’m just trying to get the bass over with. But luckily it sounds pretty good, so it doesn’t sound like it’s the demo version when you listen to it. But yeah, I’m not reading these parts because they’re just these non-repeating parts that are just really hard to memorize and I’m just trying to get it on with it.
So Chris is probably not doing much reading either because he practices his parts a lot, although he may be using the chord chart. I do that as well. So, yeah.
CK: All right, let’s check out another track from The Egg That Never Opened.
How much creative input do your musicians have during this process? If there were some unique contributions or improvisations on this record, could you name a few? And maybe were there any pleasant surprises that took apart in a new direction?
TS: Yeah. So as far as creative input from the other musicians, well, how would I say this? It’s not that they wouldn’t be given lots of creative input, but we’re not all in the same room and a lot of these guys are pretty busy with other projects, some of them pro musicians, some of them like Chris and I have other jobs. So I think people don’t necessarily have that much time. Chris and I are the ones really doing the massive lifting as far as all that stuff goes. These guys would be free to say pretty much whatever they want. In this album they didn’t necessarily do that that often because we were just lucky to get the tracks from them, that they fit it into their schedule and were like, “There it is, man, some super sick tracks” that they send us.
Bär’s song, Valisystem A, just this otherworldly, alien pop-funk tune that just … totally unpredictable. Sounds very Bungle organically because that’s how Bär writes. Timba just came back with this crazy sci-fi string sections that we ran through all these guitar amps with reverb just to add this sort of … almost like a Brian Eno type of ambience to them, but they sound … they don’t even sound like strings. You’re just like, “What are those?” Because he’s just learned how to do all these playing techniques and how to record them well. Yeah, and the same thing on the Romanian folk tune that we turned metal. He’s like, “I’m not going to learn the Bulgarian … It’s too hard to learn all those ornamentations. Those guys do that their whole life.” So he figured out how to write one of his style string arrangements on top of that and it just is like nothing you’ve ever heard, because you would never hear those elements in a traditional Romanian song. So, really cool stuff.
And so yeah, we are pretty much open to it. Chris and I are constantly back and forth and have equal input and we will fight about … not really fight, but if one of us feels one way and one feels the other, and we usually figure that out. At the heart of it, it’s definitely collaboration though. Chris and I are just collaborating. We’re just two suburban dads who don’t get our chance to do music, so it’s kind of like our weekend warrior project. I don’t have a ton of ego when people say, “Let’s do it this way” or “Let’s do it that way.” Bär had a huge input into how we were mixing his two songs particularly. He was very particular about certain things when Chris and I were producing them. We have a tendency to overdo stuff, like we said, with all those layers and stuff. He was wanting us in many cases to strip a bunch of stuff back, but I like what he did because it gave it a different element than what Chris and I would have done. So those are super important contributions.
CK: What’s your DAW of choice and can you tell me why?
TS: As far as DAW, I’ve always used the unpopular one that all the movie geeks use, Digital Performer. That’s just what I got started on. It’s all I’ve ever known. Love the program. It does have a bit of a steep learning curve and it’s intimidatingly deep. There are so many features on that thing that I don’t use, it’s insane. Sometimes I look in the little menus and I’m like, “I don’t even know what that means.” You know, I can do some pretty fancy stuff with the arrangements and the tempo mapping and things like that, or, I don’t know, they seem … I impress me with them, but I haven’t really done too many films or anything, so I’m not doing any locking or syncing and all of these sort of adjustments that you can make in there. But it’s just a deep DAW. I’m sure Logic and Pro Tools have most of the same stuff by this point, but the people that have been using this thing for years seem to love it, but it doesn’t seem to be quite as hip as Logic became. So, I don’t know. Love that program and thank God they’re still in business, because I keep wondering, do they have enough customers? Because they never seem to be the popular DAW. But, good stuff, man. Love that thing.
CK: I’m wondering, do you have any go-to plugins you use for effects or mixing or mastering, and if so, would you want to tell us about them?
TS: As far as plugins go that I use, yeah, I really, as you can probably tell, I use a ton of plugins. Part of the reason is we’re sort of trying to imitate these recording type of sounds that we might hear in the ’50s or ’60s, and some of the tones from back then, you listen, they would really just go for it. It seems like we’ve gotten very conservative since we’ve gone digital of afraid for tones to be gritty and stuff. So I use a lot of stuff that really messes up the sound. I know a lot of people would think that’s stupid, but it sounds really cool if you do it on certain elements.
Like let’s say you record right out of your keyboard or something. You record an organ or something off of just like a regular keyboard, not even a soft synth, and you go in and there’s your organ. It sounds kind of like a B3, but something about it just sounds so clean and sterile, and you run it through some cassette deck emulation and put some saturation and you kind of put a little speaker on it or something and it just sounds so much better. But you couldn’t do that on the drums. I mean, you could, but you couldn’t do that on certain things, but you can do it on one thing or two things and it really makes everything just sound better. So I do a lot of degrading sounds in subtle and drastic ways.
Let me go through some of my favorite plugins for you. Wavesfactory makes a cassette deck and it’s more like … There’s a pro, there’s a consumer and then there’s a mini whatever, microcassette, and there’s so many pitch warbling things you can do and overdrive and just all the characteristics of it, and you can make it sound really ugly to subtle. Sounds cool on percussion or something, just to take that pristine edge off of it. Another one I use for that same thing is called XLN Retro Color, and they emulate all kinds of stuff, like an old VHS tape or LPs and you can have it with the noise or without the noise and with the pitch warbling, and you can use half of the effect. You can mix it in as like a mix, so you can be like, “I only want 40% of that,” and sometimes that phases when you do that, but if you set it right, it shouldn’t do that too much. You could put it on an old cassette deck, a new cassette deck, all inside the XLN. It’s a crazy awesome plugin for just making things dirty and old.
For cleaner side of tape emulation, I like Softube Tape. It imitates a professional 2″ tape and that color you would get off of that, off those big rock records and stuff. So, pretty subtle unless you turn up the input a lot and then you’re going to have it break up the same way a tape machine would if you increase the input too much. So, there’s also a beautiful EQ on that thing, and I don’t know what it is. If you’ve ever used an EQ where it’s one button where you either go up or down and it’s just like the best sounding thing you’ve ever heard in your life as far as EQ, that’s the EQ on there. I’m pretty sure it’s one of their other products that they sort of put under the hood of this plugin. I think it might be something in their brilliance pack, but it’s those old EQs where it’s one knob and you just turn it up or down and this knob is like a mastering type of … I don’t know a better EQ than that for just treble.
I use Altiverb, which is the convolution reverb or space and it’s just … I mean, if I want it to be in a cathedral or a piece of spring reverb that’s sampled or an old Lexicon that’s sampled or just you want to put a drum set that you recorded in your living room into a drum recording studio, so not like a huge space but just to get a little bit of ambience on it, it’s just amazing plugin. It’s very expensive, but …
I like the company AudioThing. They make some really weird plugins. They make a spring reverb that’s a bunch of models and it just sounds so old and gritty and sounds awesome, almost like some of the spring reverbs you’d here on California from Bungle. I know they used the [Firmin 00:35:21] on there which is actually modeled on this plugin but it sounds great for a spring reverb in the computer. Who would have ever thought that we’d have something that good? AudioThing makes speakers where you can put it through anything from like a kid radio to a TV set. I mean, they probably use that a lot in movies and stuff like that, but it’s a pretty cool tool to have. As far as your basic stuff, I love good compression. Native Instruments has the 1176 models, the LA-2A models, the Manley models. They’re all really good. I have their whole collection from having Kontakt.
EQ and preamp, I like the IK73. It’s like a Neve 1073 emulation. So you can drive the input of that preamp and break it up a little bit or a lot or not at all, and it also has a really nice EQ. Another great treble. You just touch it and it just sounds good. Carve out some low mids usually is what I do, about 220 Hertz. Almost always do the same EQ and it just sounds good on that IK73, and I do like adding a little bit of that analog drive. For those people that have never worked with old analog preamps, they’re probably not used to the idea that you turn up the input and it breaks up a little and adds that analog saturation. So you can come up with some pretty cool stuff if you’re willing to drive things a little bit, but you can’t overdo it either.
Softube makes a Trident A-Range emulation. It’s another great EQ. I use some surgical graphic EQ in Digital Performer called MasterWorks EQ that’s really good for surgical stuff. EchoBoy is every delay type of echo module ever. It’s got a really decent emulation of it. So you can do so many things with that. I mean, the sky is the limit for every type of model they have in there. Like dozens and dozens of things. There’s, as far as a limiter goes, man, the Stealth Limiter by IK Multimedia is the smoothest limiter. I never even knew a limiter had a sound or something, but this thing just sounds unbelievable, so I use that for all my mastering as well.
I think that’s pretty much it. I know there’s a bunch more I use, but that’s the jist, and like I said, I will put these things through some radical … I might have five or six of those on one thing, and then I’ll like the tone and like I said earlier, I’ll just commit. Like, “There you go. That’s the track. I’m going to record this to another track, erase all that.” I literally don’t care. I’m never once going to go back and be like, “I wish I’d turned up the spring reverb a little on that, or turned it down.” I don’t stress about those details, and I think that’s the reason why I can make it through such a dense recording, because if I zoomed in too far, this whole thing would probably just collapse, I think. So it’s good to have more of a just kind of go with it mentality.
And I think that’s something we did kind of well here, because Chris and I did this project but, like I said, we both have full-time jobs. He’s in cybersecurity, I work as an ER nurse and we had to really do this on the side without stealing too much time from our families. So it was tough to pull off and it was kind of tying everything up we’ve been talking about, but tough to pull off and to finish it under those circumstances. So everything had to be very well organized, but, yeah, man.
CK: Awesome. Last question, and this was submitted by one of my Patreon members, Smack Stanley. He wants to know what the Estradasphere guys thought about the Sir Millard Mulch track Hardball 2 from the How To Sell album. For those who aren’t aware, that’s the silly Estradasphere parody that gave Trey Spruance the idea of putting the record on Mimicry back in like 2003, I think, he wanted to do that, and it was partially to mess with you guys. So what did you think about all that at the time?
TS: All right, so the Sir Millard Mulch versus Estradasphere stuff dredging up from the past. Gosh, man. You know, at the time it was happening, I’m not sure I really understood it that well or paid too much attention to exactly what Sir Millard’s points were with his gripes with our band. I think I listened to his version of Hardball once or twice but, I don’t know, I don’t remember being like, “Oh my gosh, that’s so …” It was a pretty mocking tune but I don’t really care that much, honestly.
You know, I went back eventually and read some of the little dissertation or diatribe that Sir Millard did on Estradasphere from sort of being disappointed that we didn’t quite live up to … you know, we’re kind of in the shadow of Bungle. I was trying to remember the gist of what it was. I was in Estradasphere, but if I took you album through album, you’d hear a whole bunch of gripes from me about where I thought we didn’t live up to our potential. So I probably would even agree with some of the points honestly.
As far as the Bungle derivative thing, I mean it’s something we’ve heard over the years. I think Estradasphere was a little different in that we were just so organically brought up on Bungle from high school. We were playing rock music and then grunge or whatever, but as soon as we heard Bungle, everything just changed for us. We were so hardcore that we were making an homage album to Disco Volante. While we were in high school, we had a separate recording industrial space and we were pretty lucky to have all that. So, I don’t know, it was almost like our Bungle obsession to me was almost kind of cute just because of how young we are.
Then by the time we got to Estradasphere, I mean Estradasphere is honestly pretty different than Bungle, right? We don’t try to have a Mike Patton. There’s a lot of lame Bungle ripoffs. We were obviously inspired by it but I don’t listen to Estradasphere and think that it’s that much like Bungle, you know? Except to the general public, they would probably think that. So, on that gripe, I don’t 100% agree, but I kind of did agree with the “didn’t live up to the potential.” I don’t know, I always felt like we could’ve done more. The album I like the best of ours is the last one we did, Palace of Mirrors, where I just think it’s a good record from beginning to end. It doesn’t have too many extra excess cuts that should have been taken off or whatever, and conceptually it was really strong. Sort of a science fiction narrative, which is not that far off from what we’re doing in High Castle now.
So yeah, eventually Carl, you and I hung out in Santa Cruz and I don’t remember a ton about what we did that day. I remember we went up to my place. I was definitely playing you some Beach Boys songs without vocals and you were like, “Whoa, why don’t they just leave the vocals off?” Because you could hear so many of the details of the production and I was showing you some other stuff, and we had a pleasant time together. And over the years I sort of read the follow-up of how you were saying you were angry those days but, you know, I’d never really read too much into it. But it was cool that we could connect and bury the hatchet if there really was one, which there kind of wasn’t.
And like I said, I probably would agree with a good amount of the criticisms, because I like to criticize things. I don’t like to be some person who gets offended by hearing what could be better, because I think we could all be better, and it’s not a big deal for me to hear some of those live shows … Some of those shows you did see that shaped some of those thoughts, I didn’t always love those. It was a big compromise sometimes. We weren’t all on the same page, where John was trying to throw in his jam song and Jason wanted to do a Beatles cover and I might have wanted to do some other song, and it was like we were all just wanting to do, like, “Here’s the song I want on the set list,” rather than, “What would be a good shape of a set list?” By the time we got to Palace, it was predetermined, like we were just going to do our arrangement of the record. So, I sort of prefer that angle.
So, honestly some of the gripes were probably well founded, but, like you said, you were probably also in a dark, angry place in your life where it doesn’t seem much in line with your character now. So, anyway, thanks for having me on this show. I’ll come back any time where we can chat about music stuff or about anything and I’m super, super happy to finally get on here and I wish you all the luck getting this thing and continuing to grow it through such unfavorable circumstances for people like us that are trying to grow these sort of small, organic operations without any support from the big mega-dollars or whatever.
But, thanks for having me on, man. I had a blast, and let’s stay in touch.
OK. Thank you, Tim, for this educational and technical interview. Just the kind of interview Carl King likes. Maybe in the future we can go even deeper. Listeners, I encourage you to go and listen to what Tim and his companions are doing.
Grab their latest album, The Egg That Never Opened on Bandcamp. That url is High Castle Teleorkestra and that’s Orkestra with a K, dot Bandcamp dot com.
LUX PART II
And here’s the second installment of LUX, a fantasy fiction serial… by Chewbode.
Evil stood all around him. The first thing Cantau noticed was how the boiled flesh was sliding off the infant’s arm onto both the cobble of the tunnel floor as well as the pus-engorged blacked, burnt flesh of a demon’s foot.
Re-focusing, he looked up and saw It was Chol, one of the most powerful demons Cantau had ever fought. The putrid skin sloughed off his body regularly resulting a disgusting trail of carnage wherever he went. Body parts, skin and SIN-you dropped off the half-eaten baby Chol carried around,
A clicking sound caught Cantau’s attention and he tuned to see Tertex, the most successful of all of the Minotar gladiators. The beast measured almost two and a half meters tall and was hunched over in the tunnel.
Tertex held a one-meter wooden club in one hand and in the other, his prized Death Sticks. Even though he had never seen him fight in the stadiums, Cantau knew the power of those Sticks and feared them more than the man-bull.
Yet another corridor revealed a large, gelatinous object had filled the hallway from side-to-side and top-to-bottom. It was there, waiting to dissolve Cantau’s flesh, and probably his bones as well.
And from behind him, from the way in which he had come, Cantau heard a familiar chortle of a laugh. He turned and was surprised to see a familiar face.
“Three moons have past, Cantau. Three!” The anger in Pilmar’s voice grew. “I would have thought you’d have come back for me by now.”
He posited while slowly bringing his hand up to touch the protection spell that encased Cantau in the middle of the dungeon intersection. As couple of small sparks jumped from it to Pilmar’s fingertips.
As the air lightly hummed of magic, Cantau spoke softly. “Pilmar… We had all presumed you dead. After that fall from that bridge, we went down into the crevasse, and searched until we were weary.”
“Weary!?” Pilmar burst out. “It took me three days to dig myself out of the rubble! Any magic I could conjure only lasted for a short time. Many bones were broken. I was frequently passing out due to the blood loss and pain not to mention all of my fingernails had ripped off from clawing through the boulders.
I DO NOT want to hear about your weariness…” he trailed off as the features of his face twisted into utter rage.
Cantau could feel the danger rise in that instant. The creatures behind him were restless and they began to probe his arcane shield for weakness. Trying to calm Pilmar, he uttered a phrase that comes all too naturally from a cleric’s mouth.
“My friend, please. You must understand…” But he was not allowed to finish. Pilmar’s entire body grew by three or four inches as he leaned forward toward Cantau.
And at that time, a red glow emanated from his hands. Pilmar raised one of them and began slowly, arduously forcing his hand into a fist.
The bluish sphere around Cantau jolted for a second and shrunk three inches. The force was so violent that it caused a slight tremor in the ground and Cantau fell to one knee. Small pebbles rained down on top of the shield and rolled down the sides to the ground.
“Friend!?” Pilmar’s voice boomed. “You are no longer a friend of mine. As I struggled to find you…” Pilmar closed his fist more and the shield crushed down another few inches. “… as I struggled to rejoin my friends, the hate for all of you grew inside of me.”
He crushed the bubble down more and the gelatinous being began to creep over the top whilst the demon laughed, punching the shield with the baby. The minotaur pushed his club into the magic as if a spear.
“And you see my NEW friends here.” Pilmar motioned with his free hand. “I need not worry about their loyalty beyond that of a few coin and some simple sorcery to fulfill their contracts.”
Pilmar smiled as he closed his fist further. Cantau pushed upward against the ceiling of the bubble. “No!” The cleric uttered as he struggled against the shield.
“Yes, my old friend. Yes. This is where you die.” Pilmar beamed as he closed his fist further.
I don’t know about you, but I’m worried about how our hero is going to get out of this. He’s surrounded by a Minotaur, a Demon with a half-eaten baby, a Gelatinous Cube, and a pissed off comrade. Tune in next week for Lux Part 3.
And now, to wrap up this episode, here’s CARL KING’S ALBUM OF THE WEEK.
ALBUM OF THE WEEK
This week’s Album of the Week is… White Bread Blues by Victims Family. That’s right, going back to 1990 here. Because I never said which WEEK I was referring to. So why not a week that occurred 32 years ago?
You’re wondering… now who the heck are Victims Family? Well, they were actually the first rock band Carl King saw live in concert, back at The Ritz in Ybor City. On The Germ tour. I think I still have some bruises from it.
So here’s what’s special about Victims Family. A noticeable thing… is that each member of the band has a strong identity. It was like they all thought, how can we do this a little bit differently? Or a lot differently.
You’ve got Ralph Spight, the squawking singer and guitarist. His guitar playing, especially on White Bread Blues, is a sort of funky, chorus-y scribbly style. But with blasts of thick distortion.
His feet were constantly switching the pedals for different tones, rapidly back and forth from clean to overdrive to saturated metal. Lots of the songs had a signature trick or little guitar technique to them.
Then there’s Larry Boothroyd, the bassist. He plays a bass, I think made by Danelectro… called a Longhorn. It’s got a CRAZY amount of frets. Like maybe 32? 36? He had all these twisted, bright bass lines. Go look for a picture. It’s wacky.
And here’s a little story about that bass… I went to a Victims Family band practice in late 2000, out in Oakland. The band was taking a break outside the practice space, and I asked Larry if I could play his setup a bit.
Well. I strapped that bass on and it was the loudest and most magical bass tone I’ve ever experienced. I played just a few notes through that amp and felt like I was levitating from the sound waves. In fact, Larry came running back into the room in a panic because he couldn’t believe how loud it actually was.
But here’s the thing about Larry’s bass. Aside from it having like 32 frets or something, I also found it super hard to play. Because it had REALLY high action. Like, unplayable. But he’d pick it up and it was effortless for him.
I wondered how the heck he manages to play so fast with it set up like that. All that slapping and slamming power chords. I definitely stole some of my bass style from Mr. Boothroyd.
Then there’s the drummer, Tim Soya Solyan. He’s got this minimalistic drum kit, a four piece – kick, snare, two toms, hi-hat, and one cymbal. The trick is, he plays the hi-hat in different ways to get ride cymbal sounds, or crashes out of it.
And of course, all his drum beats have a cleverness to them. It’s never just a normal drumbeat. I’d call his playing thematic.
I think the lineage might indirectly come from Neil Peart. Because I hear that melodic inventiveness in drummers like George Hurley of Minutemen and Firehose, Sim Cain of Rollins Band… so maybe Tim was kinda part of that whole thing. Maybe even subconsciously.
And his snare drum tone, wow.
Victims Family, particularly in that White Bread Blues era, has this wildly shifting syncopated jerky style, with blasts of punk and groovy pentatonic rock and heavy surf.
There’s always comedic pauses and punctuated notes, funny bits of quiet noodling interspersed with frantic screaming hardcore. It’s like… very noisy musicianship.
My band in high school got to open for them on the tour after that, for Headache Remedy, and it was a big deal for us.
Anyway, white Bread Blues was the first Victims Family album I got ahold of. And you should get ahold of it too. It’s a a total classic and a perfect starting point for the world of Victims Family.
OK, that’s the end of this Episode of the Carl King Podcast. Remember to subscribe on Spotify, Apple Music, or anywhere else you listen to podcasts. And support the creation of more episodes by joining my Patreon for $1 or $5 a month. That’s Patreon Dot Com Slash Carl King.
And as always, special thanks to my $51 a month Patrons, at the special Illusionist level, Chewbode and Hank Howard III. Thank you to ALL of the Very Good Friends of Carl King for listening, and I’ll clairvoyantly see you next week.