Today I signed the lease for my new larger studio space and got the key. It’s a nice-sized room, about 17’x11′, big enough for a few tables and eventually a couch. No one has even used this space before so it’s still bare plasterboard. I went to a hardware store and picked out paint and such, which I’ll buy tomorrow so I can start getting the place together. I’m looking forward to it.

I had various minor projects to work on today, but I ended up having enough time to kill that I could work up a new song. I started doing this for the sunrise2sunset film project which some of you may have watched here on Revland. I’m not a musician by any stretch of the imagination, my education consisting of a year of violin and a year of clarinet in junior high band. But I got this handy software called Groovemaker, which is consumer-level software for creating electronic dance music. It’s sort of a DJ-in-a-box package, and sells for $80. It’s not a sequencer, like Acid. It’s just sort of a fool-around program that produces decent results. It lacks a level of finesse that a true sequencer would provide, which means that the results have a certain sameness to their structures. But it’s quite fun.

The process of creating a song with Groovemaker is more an exercise in taste than composition. It comes with tons of music samples, various beats, loops, etc., and you overlap up to eight samples (all of identical duration) to produce a “groove”, which is eight beats long. You can scale the number of beats per minute (BPM for the DJs out there) from about 60 to 180. You then string together groove after groove to create a full song. I say it’s an exercise in taste because I listen to various samples, pick one I like, see what other samples sound good with it, and keep doing this until I have enough grooves to make a song. There’s some degree of composition involved in that you set up some grooves to be introductory elements, some to be main song elements, and some to be closing elements. But really, it’s just pushing buttons until you get something you like.

The song I did today is called “The Bell Jar” and I’ll post the MP3 up here soon for free distribution. There’ll be a link on Revland when it happens. I’m pretty satisfied with it, though again I wish I had the degree of freedom available in a true sequencer; the fact that each groove is the same length means that changes in sound are predictable, which isn’t a good thing. If I continue fooling around with this software I may eventually be able to justify buying a sequencer package. But it’s just a minor hobby, and God knows I have enough of those already.

Speaking of hobbies, I’ve been playing a great Dreamcast game called JET GRIND RADIO. It’s a heck of a game. You play a rollerblading teenager in a cartoonish version of Tokyo. Gameplay consists of skating all over hill and dale, spraying grafitti tags in designated locations while avoiding the police. It’s a fully 3-D game, in the way that QUAKE or UNREAL are, but the graphic style is that of a punkishly animated cartoon. The result is that the whole thing looks like a hand-animated movie and it’s just stunning as all heck. It’s also incredibly fun to play. Naturally, this game came out a year or more ago and I waited until I could get a cheap used copy.

Speaking of musicians and punky teenagers, my friend Christian Klepac is coming back to town. I met Chris in college at the university gaming club, the place where I started Pagan Publishing and met John Crowe, Blair Reynolds, Jeff Barber, Brian Appleton, and other early Paganites. Chris was just 13 years old, hanging out on campus because his dad was a professor. He was a bright kid, as they say, and I published a scenario he wrote in an early issue of THE UNSPEAKABLE OATH. When we moved to Seattle in 1994, Chris came with us; he was 17 then, and we had to get permission from his parents to drag him across half the continent. I think he was already done with high school by then, being something of a prodigy, but the whole issue of taking a minor across state lines wasn’t something we worried much about.

After four months in Seattle Chris went back home, frustrated by the city’s restrictive policies regarding admission to nightclubs for those under 21–if you were under 21, you couldn’t go to a nightclub at all. Chris was a musician, really into punk rock and lots of other stuff, and the fact that he couldn’t go see all the amazing bands in Seattle really got to him. I haven’t seen him since, though we’ve had sporadic email contact over the years. A couple months back he moved to San Diego with some friends, and now he’s heading back to Seattle. He’s staying with a friend on Capitol Hill for a month, and then may hang around longer. We’ll see. It’ll be great to see Chris again.

Just before he left town, I helped him record an album of his best songs called LIVE FROM THE CITY OF THE DEAD. I videotaped him playing acoustic guitar and singing in our basement, then dubbed that to an audiocassette. It was sort of a record of what he’d accomplished musically up to that point. I’ve been listening to the tape last night and today and it’s great stuff. His playing was still rough around the edges, but the music he came up with and the songs he wrote were amazing. One song was about being a teen prodigy who wasn’t sure what all to do with his talents: “I was a victim of gifts / without form / I didn’t know where they came from / but they kept me warm.” Another was a great song called “Pivot”: “The future is a dream of ending / The past is just a shadow made of wood / The pivot lies and moves beneath us / As we fight just to be understood / The future is a dream of ending / Wake up now and you will start to turn / The past is just a wooden shadow / Make yourself a flame and watch it burn.” Another great one was “Suicide River”: “She hangs out with Jesus / Because he listens and keeps all her secrets / And she knows he won’t try to get her in bed / And she’s carried two children / She always takes care not to name them / She’s afraid if she does she might keep one instead / And I’m stuck in this tower / Every stone is a thing I’ve forgotten / But a suicide river will wash it away / And you think you’ve got power / But the floor that you’re standing on’s rotten / And you’ll fall through tomorrow if you don’t today / Guilt isn’t anyone’s master / You can blow it away if it makes you feel clean / And each day seems to disappear faster / All this wood makes me feel like a broken machine.”

Anyway, it’ll be great to see Chris again and find out what he’s been up to all these years. At least now he’ll be able to see his favorite bands in Seattle’s clubs. And I’m hopeful that he’ll be up for recording another album, setting down the stuff he’s been doing since he left. That’d be a nice milestone.

Well, it’s late and tomorrow I start painting the studio. Wish me luck.