Knowing When to Stop

Well, I guess with my current hardware, software, recording environment, and my very limited singing capacity, this is as good as it is going to get. Nothing’s going to happen if I wait until I’m all pro and perfect. It’s not coming.

I started working on these songs in 2010 after I got my studio monitor headphones. I actually had them done, but there were some rough edges I couldn’t polish with the lack of other equipment. After getting an audio interface, I re-recorded the vocals, tweaked the effects in the tracks, remixed, and remastered the songs. Hopefully, I have polished most of the rough edges, but I know there are more rough edges to polish. When I learn more about music production and have better equipment, I will undoubtedly make time to do further polishing. But for the time being, here are Tandem’s first two songs.

The words are in Filipino. The lyrics for Malastik are below, as well as the English translation.

Malastik

Dahil ba wala kung kaya ganoon na lamang kung isipin ka

Walang magawa, bali wala anumang pilit na limutin ka

At kung malasin ka

Kung malasin ka nga naman

Sino ba kaya talaga ang tunay na tagapagmana

Saan itataya ang ligaya habangbuhay bang ipupusta

At kung malasin ka

Kung malasin ka paano na

Kung ngayon mo lang natagpuan

Suwerte na kahapon mo kailangan

Oras ay ‘di kayang ibalik

Pag nadapuan ka ng unang halik ng kamalasan

Kapag nariyan na ano na ang mababago sa ating dal’wa

Sana’y huwag namang mailang katotohanan ma’y malaman pa

Dahil kung malasin ka

Kung malasin ka paano na

Kung ngayon mo lang natagpuan

Suwerte na kahapon mo kailangan

Oras ay ‘di kayang ibalik

Pag nadapuan ka ng unang halik

Ng kamalasan ngayon natagpuan

Susi na wala nang mabuksan

Oras man ay kayang ibalik

Titikim ka ba ng unang halik

Unang halik ng kamalasan

Once more in English, please…

Is it your absence that makes me think of you so

I can’t do anything. It’s useless however I force myself to forget

Of all the rotten luck

I wonder who the real heir is

What will I bet happiness on? Will I gamble with it all my life?

And if you get unlucky what then?

If you only found today

The luck you needed yesterday

You can’t turn back time

Once the first kiss of misfortune alights

When you’re here, what will change between us?

I hope you don’t feel awkward even if the truth gets out

Because if you get unlucky, what then?

If you only found today

The luck you needed yesterday

You can’t turn back time

Once the first kiss alights

Of misfortune that you found today

A key that no longer unlocks anything

Even if you could turn back time

Would you taste the first kiss?

The first kiss of misfortune

Taning

For the lyrics and the English translation, you can go here. It’s written as a poem there, so there is a difference in the structure.

Advertisements

Siren Supernova

I’ve been mulling over what songs to feature this week. I was leaning towards rain-related because of the recent days, but I couldn’t come up with three without going into the pop or antiquated territory. I decided (like right now) to keep one song and just feature two more songs of the same artist instead.

Maybe she's no angel, but she sure as hell sings like one.

Heather Nova is a singer-songwriter from Bermuda. I first heard of her in the late ’90s, and until this post, I had no idea she has so much material out there. She has eight studio albums, including a 2011 release that was recorded in her home in Bermuda utilizing only solar power. She also has songs in a number of movie soundtracks. The songs below are from the few songs that I know, but I’m beginning to listen to her other stuff (like right now). The first one is from her 2001 album, South. The second and the third are both from her 1998 album, Siren.

1. I’m No Angel

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=43mbxpK1cGs&feature=related”

2. Heart and Shoulder

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jfy7Dxy57aE”

3. London Rain

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VJQRYeBdPRM”

Call It What You Will

If you know me well enough, you know that I do not like Justin Bieber. You don’t even need to hear me say it, you just know. One would never think that I would ever waste time listening to him, much less writing about him, even me. But here I am.

First, allow myself to explain… myself.

A huge part of my dislike stems from being a starving (figuratively speaking) composer/musician (literally speaking). I only have friends to back up the claim, but I am of the mind that I am pretty good at writing songs. Regardless of the actual validity of this opinion, it is nonetheless what makes me not like Justin Bieber. I am simply biased against people who make it in the recording industry (both local and international) who, in my arrogant opinion, have less/no talent. The success of undeserving people, to me, is in the top ten foremost proofs that life is unfair. I can only think of a few things that trump it.

But do bear in mind that in the case of recording artists, my opinion is one-dimensional. I am merely evaluating their music. I have no idea if there are other aspects of these people that make them deserve their success. But do bear in mind as well that I DO NOT GIVE A RAT’S ASS ABOUT THOSE OTHER ASPECTS. I really am just looking at the discrepancy between talent and success. Quite bitter and unfair, you say? Well, tit for tat and that is that! I won’t even pay attention to the fact that the taste of the listening public plays a huge role in this fiasco. To mind that little detail would mean acknowledging the futility of my struggle. And I will not do that. I refuse to slit the throat of my own dream.

There, I’ve explained myself. Thank you very much. Moving on…

Yesterday morning after breakfast, I was flipping through the very few free TV channels. I got to Talk TV and caught the middle of the opening of the Late Show with David Letterman. Having watched it almost regularly years ago, I stopped to see who the guests were on the show. Then I heard him say Justin Bieber. I was going to change channels but decided to at least stay for the top 10 list. Of course, I found out a few minutes later that Justin Bieber was on the show to present the top 10 list. What the hell!! But I stayed on; I generally enjoy the top 10 lists.

And you know what? (<– That was an automatically generated rhetorical message. Please do not reply.)

It was a pretty entertaining top 10. Here, you be the judge.

So, what’s the point of this post?

Let me clarify that I still dislike Justin Bieber based on the aforementioned criteria of unjust success-to-talent ratios. However, anyone, especially big celebrities, who are game to be poked fun at and have a hand in it themselves can’t be all that bad. At the very least, an iota of respect is due. An iota. And here it is in this post.

So there, I never would have thought I would watch anything Justin Bieber, let alone write anything Justin Bieber. And look, I even linked Justin Bieber.

Cities fell. Earth Opened. Planets tilted. Stars plummeted. And the awful silence…

To be followed by heckling. The godawful heckling.

Rainy Days and Tuesdays… and Wednesdays, and Thursdays, but Not Mondays

The last three days have mostly been rain. Okay, it’s not ’round the clock, but the downpours just stretch on long enough to make the pauses seem out of place. Needless to say, the indoors have been pretty much the setting for the life and times of one Kapitan Tandem.

TUESDAY:

I spent the morning playing Spore. I know it’s more than a couple of years late, but I’ve been wanting to try it out since it was released in 2008. I just never got around to buying it. But last Sunday, the missus and I went computer shopping for their school. We went to Data Blitz to get Microsoft Office, and that’s where I saw Spore. It was going for only 495 pesos, so I thought, “Why not?” All in all it’s a good game, but I should have listened to Byugi98 a couple of years ago when he said the game moved through the different stages too quickly for you to really appreciate it.

After lunch, I took Gray with me to my wife’s school. Gray played while I set up the new computer, activated Windows, and installed all the necessary software. I was able to finish the job in three hours, thanks to low bandwidth and a short blackout.

By six we were home and I started cooking dinner. That’s right, me. I love pork sinigang. It’s ironic that my favorite dish is pork when I’m a chicken person. But that’s how it is. Dinner was great! Piping hot sinigang is perfect for the rainy weather.

WEDNESDAY:

I pretty much wasted the morning playing some spore and being online. I only went out to pick Rune up from school. While the kids took their afternoon naps, I decided to re-re-record the vocal tracks for ‘Taning’. The tracks I recorded when I got my audio interface had very uneven levels and some serious spitting problems (‘s’ sounds). I tried fixing the problems with software, but the ‘fixing’ affected the original sound too much.

I set up my equipment fairly quickly, but the afternoon ended with no recorded tracks. By the time I had the right equipment settings, my voice had become hoarse. That’s what I hate about not being a singer; the quality goes downhill fast. It’s even faster now that I don’t “try to sing” regularly. It wasn’t a total waste though because I made it a point to remember those settings. Next time, it’ll be right from the get go (I hope).

I played some Spore but lost interest after a few hours. I haven’t played it since. Fallout 3 is actually beginning to sound like a good idea…

THURSDAY:

I went out at 7 for the workshop I’m giving some former students on the basics of home recording. Getting on the train felt like 300. Those damn Spartans inside the train just wouldn’t budge! It took me an hour to fight my way onto a train. It was a good thing I didn’t bring my recording gear. When manufacturers say their products have a rugged design, they aren’t really thinking of an undulating sea of people trying to squeeze into a train car.

The session didn’t go as well as I had hoped. We didn’t finish the work slated for the day. Generally, I feel bad when my classes don’t work out as planned, but I know I shouldn’t beat myself up too much over it. My students are just learning the ropes after all, and only Steve Jobs is to blame for Macs.

On my way home, the rain was kind enough to wait for me to get on the train before it unleashed it’s torrent and to tone it down to a drizzle while I walked home from the train station. After lunch, the kids and I slept away the afternoon.

That evening, my wife and our friends/co-administrators decided to cancel classes the next day due to the unceasing rains. Apparently, the amount of rainfall was getting close to the infamous Ondoy two years ago. So, we stayed up and watched 2 movies.

I Am Number Four – this movie has a pretty good sci-fi premise going for it. I mean it’s ye ole alien-VIP-hiding-on-Earth-being-hunted-by-evil-aliens plot, but it’s not bad. What was bad was how they fleshed out (or didn’t) this basic plot. I mean, really? When evil aliens are hunting you down, you go develop some pictures. WTH! I won’t judge the book, but the movie pretty much sucks.. or blows (American or English).

Morning Glory – this one’s about a producer of a small-time, third-rate morning show who gets axed, then gets hired by a national third-rate morning show as executive producer. I enjoyed this movie quite a bit. If for anything, Harrison Ford did a good job playing a really big asshole.

I don’t really know how to end this post, so I’ll just go with admitting a difficulty.

(See what I did there?)

Nightcaps

And another week goes by. I’ve been trying to think of what songs to feature this week. It’s difficult with so many to choose from. At some point I thought, maybe I could have a theme again. I did it a few weeks ago with the sea/ocean related songs. Now, I don’t know why but this is the theme that popped into my head.

1. Tonight, Tonight by the Smashing Pumpkins

The band needs no introduction. This song is a single from the Dawn to Dusk disc of their 1995 double album, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yexoqY8MrFI&#8221;

2. Moonchild by Cibo Matto

Cibo Matto, ‘crazy food’ in Italian, was a duo formed by New York-based Japanese expatriates, Miho Hatori and Yuka Honda. The duo released their first album, Viva! La Woman,  in 1996. Their second (and last) album, Stereo*Type A, was released in 1999 and featured new members, including Sean Lennon. This song is a single from that album. Cibo Matto decided to disband in 2001.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7SEpZmUxH24&#8221;

3. Sherry Fraser by Marcy Playground

Marcy Playground is an American rock band that got mainstream attention with their 1997 hit ‘Sex and Candy.’ This song is another single from their 1997 self-titled debut album. It’s also the name of the lead singer’s then-girlfriend who helped him produce his first material in the early ’90s.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dJhL3VOOatA&#8221;

In Dependence

One century, one decade, three years

and one day ago, freedom was won

Freedom to not learn from past mistakes,

tending to the flaws of culture and society

Freedom to stay shackled and submissive

Different master, different chains, same servant

Freedom to be blind to the real affliction

with a shallow obsession of picking at the scabs

Freedom to watch out for only ourselves

Either too poor, just barely getting by,

or too rich to care about anyone else

Freedom to be disgruntled in poverty,

pointing fingers, victims of social injustice

thinking handouts as fitting reparation

Freedom to categorically deny the truth

that we too are to blame for our inaction

Freedom to abuse power, wealth, and rank

Personal gain in the guise of public service

Gold veins dug up from the limitations of law

Freedom to run from this wretched nation

and be productive citizens in another

Freedom to give up our nationality

to dream the dreams of foreign lands

Proclaiming pride in being of this country

while standing thousands of miles away

But did we not also win the freedom

to be better than this?

Rock ‘n’ Roll About Rock ‘n’ Roll

To be honest, I haven’t been listening to any music lately. I’m on break, which means I don’t go out much. Which, in turn, means I don’t have idle travel time that is ideal for listening to music. Okay, wait. Maybe I wasn’t completely honest. I have been listening to some music, but it’s my own stuff that I’m trying to mix better. Technically, that doesn’t count.

Since my recent weeks have been concerned with my rock ‘n’ roll dreams, I’ve decided to feature songs about just that.

I’ve featured two of the three bands in earlier posts, and thus need no further introduction. The third band, Local H, is a rock duo from Chicago, USA comprised of vocalist/guitarist/bassist Scott Lucas and drummer Brian St. Clair. They’re the only band I know who has one person doing guitars and bass at the same time! Lucas put bass guitar pickups on his electric guitar. Pretty cool, right? Their first album, Ham Fisted, was released in 1995. They got mainstream recognition for their follow up album in 1996 called As Good As Dead. Their song in today’s list is a single from their 1998 album, Pack Up the Cats.

Enjoy!

1. Rock ‘n’ Roll Lifestyle by Cake

This one’s pretty cool, and is a pretty accurate account for the over-the-top rockers of the ’90s. It’s got some pretty solid lines near the end too.

Excess ain’t rebellion.
You’re drinking what they’re selling.
Your self-destruction doesn’t hurt them.
Your chaos won’t convert them.
They’re so happy to rebuild it.
You’ll never really kill it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aLEG2YMAQgs&#8221;

2. Sell Out by Reel Big Fish

The title of this punk-ska track says it all; the worst crime any rock band can commit.

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xr5zo_reel-big-fish-sell-out_music&#8221;

Because Sony Music Entertainment did not make this video available to the Philippines on YouTube.

3. All the Kids Are Right

This one, despite the humorous take, deals with a couple of important things that some bands forget. And if you don’t know what Scott Lucas and Brian St. Clair look like after watching this, you probably never will.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bF_oW1KxdzA&#8221;

First Recording Session (2011)

At long last, I am back into recording material for Tandem. I was finally able to buy the audio interface I’ve had my eyes on since May. The Avid Recording Studio is nothing fancy, but the little box pretty much has everything for my recording needs. The unit also came with an installation disk for Pro Tools SE, including 3GB worth of loops. I don’t use Pro Tools, but it is necessary to install it to install the drivers for the audio interface. I didn’t install the loops though. Not only because I won’t be using them often, I also found out that in Windows explorer, if you view hidden files and folders, you can access the loops folder and just copy loops to your hard drive as necessary!

I’ve rerecorded the vocal tracks for the two songs I worked on last year. Oddly enough, I ended up recording during the wee hours of the morning. Nobody has complained yet, so I think it’s all good.

Here’s the setup I’ve used. As you can see, it is very low-cost and bare-bones, still needing a considerable amount of equipment. Among the more immediate purchases for my setup include a balanced cable to reduce noise, a proper microphone stand, a good enough set of speakers for monitoring my mixes, and a REAPER license while it’s still at $40.

Hardware

Audio Interface: Avid Recording Studio

Preamp: Behringer Tube Ultragain MIC200

Microphone: Shure C606

Headphones: Behringer HPS3000

Speakers: Just hand-me-down generic PC speakers

Software

DAW: Cockos REAPER 3.76

Plugins: Native REAPER plugins and a slew of freeware VSTs and VSTi

The Recording Session

Installing Pro Tools and the drivers for the Avid Recording Studio was a cinch. Installing REAPER was also no problem. Setting up my VST folder was considerably more time-consuming because I had to check the plugins I used in the songs when I worked on them last year. Then I had to make a new plugins folder and extracted the plugins one by one.

What I love about REAPER is that it detects your audio devices automatically! I had no problem getting the interface to work with REAPER, though it took me a few minutes to remember how to navigate REAPER. What took a more considerable amount of time was getting the right levels and settings on the preamp. I wanted the highest input signal possible without any clipping. After several trials, I was able to get the right settings.

Our apartment is VERY small. Even if my recording setup is inside a bedroom, the noise generated by the refrigerator and light fixtures are picked up. Short to say, the recorded tracks had a good heap of noise. They actually had more noise than the old vocal tracks where I used a generic PC microphone to record, but in a bigger apartment. However, the new recordings of the vocals had significantly better sound quality than the original ones. Since it was impossible for me to eliminate the ambient noise, I did some research on how to remove noise using plugins. It turned out that REAPER had the answer all along. I used ReaFir to remove as much of the noise as possible while retaining as much of the sound of the vocals as possible. With a little tweaking, I was able to get a good-enough compromise.

I’m in the middle of mixing and mastering the two songs. Hopefully, I’ll finish them later today and be able to start working on another song.

A Rare Gem with Perfect Cuts

I was recently reminded of songs that remind me of summer… or was that the summer reminding me of the songs? Which ever way it goes, the fact was that at the time, I forgot one of the songs that I usually associate with summer. Having remembered it now, I’ve decided to feature that and the album that it is from. The song I’m pertaining to is Summertime by the Sundays, and the album is Static and Silence.

The masterpiece.

The Sundays is an English band that was formed in the late ’80s. They released three albums in the ’90s, the third of which is Static and Silence, released in 1997. There is absolutely nothing to throw away in this album. All ten tracks are worth listening to again and again. It contains their most successful single, Summertime. The other released singles from the album, When I’m Thinking About You and Cry, also became quite popular.

The masters.

Harriet Wheeler’s voice is just plain beautiful. It blends in smoothly with the instruments, and it really makes the lyrics of their songs come to life. The album is top-notch listening for those laid-back afternoons, just taking it easy. But when you’re pining, this album just magnifies it ten fold. You have been warned.

1. Summertime

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lcN5Vaqd9sg&#8221;

2. When I’m Thinking About You

There seems to be no video for the studio version of this one. Too bad.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JgfRqXmiimI&#8221;

3. Cry

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V0e_-0Az2gs&#8221;

Go Fish (3 of 3): Fish We Shot and People We Wanted to Shoot

One would think that a three-word sentence would be easy to understand and keep in mind. Even more so when the words are familiar, and when they are posted all over the place. And with staff also repeating and rephrasing and explaining the sentence, it should be a no-brainer, right? Wrong. Apparently, “No flash photography” is a rocket science.

At the ticket counter, at the entrance, and all throughout the oceanarium of the Manila Ocean Park, you will see signs reminding you of the facility regulations. There are only four, and the first among them is “No flash photography.” While my family and I went around the oceanarium, I was reminded of why our country is in a deep, deep rut. The Philippines is in its shitty state because a lot of Filipinos don’t give a flying expletive about anything except their own interests. And you can tell that the problem is very deeply rooted when you see that people can’t even get themselves to follow simple regulations. This is why we need those horrendous lane barriers along EDSA. People won’t honor the bus lanes if there are no physical barriers that would damage their vehicles.

When we went into the oceanarium after lunch, so did a whole swarm of people. For a person such as myself who is fascinated by all sorts of wildlife, it was great. I get to see what I would normally only be able to see if I went diving. And I’m sure that this is true for a lot of the people who visit the oceanarium. But the greatness was more than slightly tarnished by all these people who kept taking pictures with their flash bulbs on. Some of them just forgot, and I could tell because they turned off the flash in their cameras after being reminded the first time. But most of them just didn’t care. Flash here, flash there. Flash, flash, flash, flash, expletive-in-the-progressive-form flash. And that’s what got our goat. Some of them weren’t even interested in the fish! They just used the aquariums as backdrops for their cam-whoring!

There was even one lady who sassed an employee of the oceanarium when she was reminded a second time to turn off her flash. She even said she was a teacher as though that exempts her! A teacher? Really? I’m a teacher, damn it! And I am ashamed to share the profession with her! There was also a group who were reminded a second time. They did turn off the flash in their cameras, but they made fun of the employee to no end. Quite audibly too. I really, really wished I had a gun. I really wanted to shoot those maternal parent expletive-conjugated-as-a-noun-in-the-plural-form.

Yes, I am a teacher, and so is my wife. We take our jobs seriously, so we try to live what we teach. Since it didn’t sit well with us that so many people were categorically neglecting their responsibilities as guests in the facility, we reminded our fellow guests when ever we saw them taking pictures with flash. Of course, we did it politely. However, there was one instance when the staff had just given a reminder to turn off the flash in the cameras when this woman next to us took a picture with her tablet. Guess what. Flash. So, my wife reminded her a little more bluntly, “Wala ngang flash eh! Ang kulit naman!” The woman looked insulted, but she just walked away. It was probably best for her.

We also talked to the staff who were in charge of making sure that the guests followed regulations. One of them said that they really are undermanned. There is no security to back them up. They do their best, but guests usually take offense and become rude when reminded repeatedly. She also said that when guests complain about it to the management, they (the staff) usually get reprimanded. Now, that’s just expletive-in-the-past-form three ways from Sunday. But what could we do about that? Well, we reassured her that if she is just doing her job, it doesn’t make her wrong even if she gets reprimanded or treated rudely. She’s the one who’s right, and the other people involved are just assholes. That and we asked where we could find the administration office.

When we got to the administration office on our way out, we asked for a feedback form. Surprise, surprise, there were none. They gave me a blank sheet of paper to write my concern on. I did. I wrote a two-page business letter basically saying:

  1. Filipinos need more than signs and verbal reminders of regulations.
  2. You need security personnel who will confiscate cameras, delete pictures, and throw off repeat offenders out of the premises.
  3. You need to support your staff for doing their job, even when it’s a source of complaint from your customers.

Now, I don’t know for sure if my letter got to the person who I addressed it to. And even if it did, I’m not sure if it will be read, much less my points taken into consideration. But short of going Chuck Norris on them people to fight the good fight, that was what was in our power to do. And we did. Now we can just hope, as always.

Well, that’s over and done with. I’m still more than slightly miffed, but I’m better now. Moving on, it’s actually pretty hard to take good pictures of the fish in the aquariums that were not so well-lit. Some fish also move too fast to get really good pictures. This is especially true for a couple who are not photographers. Not even novice. But here are our best shots.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Thanks for taking the time to read! Special thanks to those who read all three parts. Regular thanks to those who read one to two parts only.