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2009-06-24 (0 comments)

Improvements

So far so good... I haven't yet mounted the laptop computer in its new rack home, but I've already gotten enough done on it to merit bringing it to the next few gigs. I've already gotten several songs done with the new system, including 'Placebo', 'I Scream', and 'Mallet of Metal', and I have some really good ideas for many more, as time permits. Hopefully we'll be all the way up to speed by the fall... (it's like making up a whole music video for every song, so it's a serious effort!   On the plus side, anything we already have a music video of can be converted easily.)

Incidentally, the next live C.O.G. lecture is at Babelcon in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, 9pm Saturday July 18th. For those of you on the fence about attending this show, here's some things to consider:

  • It's ALL-AGES and early enough in the evening to not cause problems.
  • There is NO opening act to wait for.  We will appear at 9pm sharp and play two generous sets.
  • Unlike last year, there will be a cash bar, so bring your I.D. if you want to drink.
  • If you don't have a Babelcon membership, no problem.  Admission to the concert only is only $5!!!

Now that THAT's all clear, back to my weekly rundown.  Like I said, I've been working on the long awaited new video setup for much of the week.  Also worked a bit on Capt. Mickey's demo last night, with him dubbing bass guitar and some vocals onto the tracks.  They're sounding pretty good!  Catchy material too; it keeps running around in my head at random moments of the day.

Earlier in the week, I finally got to meet with the local space rock band Alias:Orion before their rehearsal.  I found out that they were connected with Tony, ex-guitarist from 'Six Demon Bag', a band with whom I had shared rehearsal space a long, long time ago, in a nearby galaxy named 'Kenner'... (that guitarist has since left Alias:Orion and their sound has streamlined greatly as a result.)  But wow, small universe!

Other cool tidbits... C.O.G. friend and fellow troublemaker Beth Patterson is working on a film score for Mike Judge.  Anybody who knows her knows this is a match made in hell!   I'm currently doing a camera rental for a project of Clint Maedgen's, lending my digital 8 camera to transfer some old Hi-8 tapes he had.  I'm still pulling for C.O.G.'s inclusion in the Bingo! tent at this year's VoodooFest, and hopefully this gesture will help keep him warmed up to the idea, though there's still no indication just yet... fingers are crossed though.

And now for the 'guitar tech' side of the post... non-techies will want to tune out now...

Monday  I spent some time working on Dr. A Rachnid's sound, which had become increasingly degraded in the last few months, despite his equipment not changing.  Rachnid and I got together and focused exclusively on solving this problem.  Rachnid was about fed up with his POD XT digital processor; it had become really stringy and 'digital' sounding.  Now, this processor, albeit a few years old, is still considered very high quality and is the choice of a lot of professional touring acts.  So we started messing with the settings and discovered rather quickly that it was simply out of headroom - over the last few years, settings kept getting turned up and up until there was literally NO MORE VOLUME LEFT.   This caused the sound to get smashed together, resulting in a mangled signal with no room left for even a solo boost.  The solution of course was to lower some of the gain levels internally and on the C.O.G. Main Computer  sequencer (which commands the POD during the show), and just turn up the volume on the amp.  Problem destroyed!  The sound became much smoother and now there's plenty of headroom left, sufficient to produce PAIN if that is what's called for!  I now have to go through our entire song list and reduce all guitar volumes by 30, a small price to pay for excellent sound.

Another problem we discovered was the increasingly loud hum that has been coming from Rachnid's rig.  Through swapping cables, we discovered that the hum was coming from his rack tuner, a Korg DTR-1.  We'd already tried a cheater plug on the three prong power supply to this thing.  Rachnid suspected the output jack, and sure enough when the cable to the POD was plugged into the output jack of the tuner, we got hum even with nothing plugged into the input.  An open and shut case, right?  Welll... I took the entire tuner apart, heated up the soldering iron, and swapped the output jack with an unused one... and the hum was still there.  Hmmm.  Checking the internet, it looked like LOTS of people were having problems with this venerable (but first-generation) stage tuner.  Acting on a hunch, I put an ohm meter between the input jack on the front of the unit and the output jack on the rear.  Over an ohm difference!  Wow, no wonder there's a hum - the thing was manufactured with dodgy grounds, provided by this gimpy little push on connector between the front and back circuit boards.  I warmed up the soldering iron again and added a hard ground between the boards, which helped but didn't entirely cure the issue.  There was still some low-level digital noise leakage from the micro into the guitar signal, which becomes annoying when the gain is turned way up for METAL CRUNCH.  When it comes down to it, the thing just wasn't that well designed / constructed.  A partial solution involved using the back input jack instead of the more convenient front input, but I'm suspecting that some day I'm gonna tear the unit apart and retrofit the necessary board shielding that Korg neglected to provide on this otherwise potentially spiffy (and useful) tuner.


Time for me to go work on a flyer for Babelcon...

2009-06-22 (0 comments)

Putting the C.O.G. show on a diet!

Well, that was a pretty successful weekend. Aside from the literal snoozefest that was Sunday afternoon (hey, I can't be 100% active all the time!) I got some great experiments working - the modern replacement for my venerable Amiga 3000 video computer, and a way of monitoring my guitar onstage via my in-ear monitor receiver (accomplished by a simple Y-cable.)

High on my attention right now is reducing the overall bulk & setup time required to perform a C.O.G. stage show, while simultaneously increasing the impact of the performance. I'm looking at this as a way of potentially being able to perform longer distances from home - we really need to cut down on the weight and complexity. Questions about us booking the band FAR from home get me thinking about how impractical it is to only be able to perform within driving distance. WHY should geniuses be constrained only to road trips?!?? This has got to change.

A lot of the problem, that is to say, the WEIGHT, is centered on the ultra-reliable but aging computers used to run the show. After all, the rest of it is mere costumes and instruments; amplifiers and drums (backline) can be rented or borrowed in any given destination. Stage lights can be computer controlled instead of us hauling around a heavy, complex, and underperforming light show. (That would allow me to ditch *sniff* the hidden, rackmounted Atari 400 (!) that manages control of 16 channels of my old stage lights.) And video projection is getting somewhat standardized at many venues.

Thanks to my efforts this weekend, C.O.G.'s 20 year old video backdrop machine now has a modern replacement, a donated P4 laptop with a broken screen (now removed to make it a headless 'keyboard computer'.) That's gonna be rack mounted on a pull out drawer, saving a bunch of space & poundage in the show rack case. Best thing is, I realized I could start using it immediately by genlocking its composite video output through the Amiga, and just using it on songs I've created new videos for, until every song has been converted to play through it. At that point I can put the A3000 out to pasture. *sniff* Well, it was great for its time, but its time is long past...

Replacing the huge & ultra-heavy main show computer is going to be more trouble; it relies on really arcane tech (ISA peripherals!) that will be a chore to substitute. (On the other hand, I COULD always just record its output onto a laptop, once a song's locked down and finished.) Hmmmm, lotta choices... but I intend to have the whole show operable off of garden variety laptops before the fall. I love the way the old Turtle Beach ISA sound card works and sounds - in a way, it's sound IS the sound of the C.O.G. But I need to start experimenting with other sample playback solutions. Long as I could run my favorite drum samples, a general midi palette (with an awesome piano), and maybe a software reverb, I'd be pretty happy. Any recommendations? I heard that Yamaha had a software midi playback solution... there's also the possibility of using a PCMCIA sound card. Hmmmm...

Later on today, I'm going by C&M Music Center to pick up a cheap DMX LED par light. I intend to hack it, either interfacing it with my existing homemade dimmer packs, or (better still) buying up arrays of cheap LED's and extending its built in complement of LED's to an array of cheapies... perhaps I can buy up some from the dollar store... hmmmm (gotta be a way of harvesting bright LED's for cheap!)

Oh, if you have time, check out this cool hack site. Even if you're not into making cool hacks, there's some great ideas here:

http://hackaday.com

2009-06-21 (0 comments)

Blur of a week...

Last week was such a blur I didn't even have time to post for days... just enough time right now to fix that before I jump back into the fray.

Wednesday we got together with Filbert Snodgrass and went over some material for the 'Crowbar' show in late July. Filbert's done a good job remembering the old songs he helped write and has picked up on a few new ones. We still have a great deal of work left to do fleshing out the 'show' parts of the event. After a quick rehearsal I went over to the practice space of space rock band Alias:Orion and hung out for a few hours to suss what they were doing. Very cool people whom I think we'll be working with very soon...

Thursday (and Friday) evenings I got together with Rachnid's old rhythm guitarist, police capt. Mickey, and began recording his demos. He's got two songs, one of which is a Johnny Cash type number and the other of which sounds like the Byrds. They're both catchy and fun to work on. We laid down a guitar guide track, then drums, then doubled 12 string rhythm parts on both with a pretty Yamaha acoustic 12 string. After that we did some vocals. Next thing will be Rachnid coming in and laying down bass parts and some backup vocals...

Friday morning I got a call back from MTV networks. Interesting! Perhaps they're not totally cold on my involvement with their weird superhero project (see my post a couple weeks back)... and I'd be only too happy to appear in-character on national TV, as long as the conditions were right. More on that if it develops...

Later on Friday I got an email from Dee Long, the writer of DeeSampler, saying that he'd solved the midi program change problem in his otherwise outstanding program. Excellent! With that hurdle removed, I can now integrate full streaming video playback into C.O.G.'s stage show. I settled on a laptop with a broken (and now removed) screen to do the actual work, donated by the very generous Petri Laihonen. It's a Dell 5150 3Ghz P4, and it does a fine job on video clips encoded in xvid. Hopefully next time we perform, our video will be a LOT more professional looking! It's also finally starting to push me into a more modern mindset that would make it possible to deploy a C.O.G. show from much less weighty equipment. The computer rack I've used for all these years has been a heavy albatross indeed... time to do something about it, methinks!

I now have to decide whether to stick with the old composite cable, or string a 50ft s-video cable to the projector. Does anybody have a Dell composite adapter that I can borrow? I would like to see how much better s-video would look. (50ft. of VGA, sadly, is out of the question!)

Friday afternoon, to make a good day even better, I got a nice gift in the mail... really nice footage of us performing in Pensacola. As usual, the sound isn't that good but the visuals are great - John Hand, the cameraman for Nightmare Theater, really knew what he was doing. Their invitation to appear on their show later this year was also very appealing. I think we'll be playing there again, as soon as it starts to cool off a bit.

Saturday I got together with longtime C.O.G. writer Hacksaw and one-time C.O.G. comic artist Ben Beamis, and hashed out plans for a new C.O.G. comic book/web comic. More on that as it develops!

Now it's time to get some BBQ and treat my dad to a well deserved Fathers Day...

2009-06-16 (0 comments)

Happy Spinal Tap day!

In commemoration of our great forebears Spinal Tap putting out a (mostly!) new album today, I dedicate this video of the Consortium of Genius performing Tap's epic classic 'Stonehenge'. This was taped September 19th at One Eyed Jacks club in New Orleans. Big thanks as always to Beth Patterson for her fairy-light touch on the Bouzouki. Enjoy...



2009-06-15 (0 comments)

Wot's next?

Fun time Sat. night at the Hi Ho, albeit not without its little problems and idiosyncrasies (mostly due to breakers failing; strange, as we somehow avoided that problem last time we performed at the Hi Ho.) The owner was, as always, an extremely gracious and appreciative host. Summer heat and a 'Peaches' concert across town cut into our crowd a bit but on the other hand, we saw some faces we hadn't seen in a while, which is always good (such as Sean from Rock City Morgue, Chris from Supagroup, and Casey from the New Orleans Bingo Show.) Tommy from Alias:Orion was in the crowd too; I think a show with them would be a good thing...

Opening act 'Hairy Lamb' were loud, loud, loud! Just the way they like it! Dave Stocker, our fill-in soundman for the evening, had things sounding fantastic as usual all evening long; don't know where we would have been without him (I suspect 'unhappy' is where we would have been...) The mighty Cyberludite was an unflagging trooper with his roadie assistance (as well as this show's bit part as psycho killer Jason.) We sounded tight that evening and had fun onstage, although the vibe in the place was just a little off... don't know quite why, but it didn't spoil our fun. The new album by the almighty Spinal Tap, played before and after C.O.G. also made the time go by sweetly...

And now onto the next chapter! Babelcon is where we're playing next, July 18th in Baton Rouge. Quick poll: if you're going to see us at Babelcon, would you prefer a 'plot' based C.O.G. show, or just more music?

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