Oh, if only a GPS existed back in 1996. If only one existed now that could help you find your way out of internal disillusion back to emotional well-being.
I posted a few days ago about having had the “living bejeebus” disappointed out of me. It would come back, or I would rediscover it, for long spells afterward, up till the last of the Fulcrum sessions in the above-mentioned Chateau de Colicky Baby, but it was around about the time I went to live in Binghamton that I first noticed it had gone off missing and I simply couldn’t find it again. So if you see a living bejeebus up that way that might resemble me, do let me know won’t you?
Carlos Santana had a very telling thought which I’ll paraphrase here (because I don’t have his actual quote handy): that music is a very stern, unforgiving mistress, and if you allow her to leave, eventually she will. Perhaps the fastest way to allow the muse to leave is to just not pay any attention to her. Well, I ignored her for as long as I could, as I struggled to learn a new job in what I believed then would be an exciting career in IT…
… And visualized myself as an old man wondering if I had really given it my best shot, back around the turn of the century, when I was still relatively young.
When my job moved back to Connecticut in 1997, I began playing loose jams again, here and there, trying out for other people’s quasi-prog projects and never getting a second callback. Looking back at those auditions it wasn’t that I couldn’t cut the material, but that rather I went into them with all the hubris in the world, thinking that once they got a load of my compositions they would want to relinquish control to me on the spot.
That didn’t happen. Everyone’s an auteur, after all.
And so, proceeding on that assumption, and sensing that no one was going to take my own claim to that title seriously unless I could do it myself, I decided that I would.
And here is where a GPS would have come in handy. I was not an engineer. I had only the vaguest idea of getting things on tape, only the faintest scent of pushing the needle into the red without overly distorting one of the four tracks on the metal-oxide cassette. Hell… while we’re on that subject, I was using four-track cassette, and not a name brand either. That might have been fine for Bruce Springsteen, but clearly for my purposes it would take better equipment than that which I had available to me.
It took me until 2000 to obtain it: a 400 MHz P4, with a whopping 384MB of RAM, that ought to have run Cakewalk Pro Audio under Windows 98 SE without any issues whatsoever. The sound card then is the sound card now: Echo Layla 20-bit.
And, as far as it went, it did. At least, Cakewalk didn’t seem to be the cause of the routine system freezes that would occur every half hour or so. The problem was of course on the mainboard, a cheap PC Chips board which I had bought because it was cheap (remember, money was an issue). It used a support chipset that was not an Intel BX7 chipset but an incredible Taiwanese simulation. Which is to say, an incredibly bad simulation for my purposes. The BIOS made reference to features that were not on the mainboard, for example overclocking and AGP. The onboard graphics were barely up to the task– I cannibalized an old Matrox board from a PC my brother had gotten rid of, and that seemed to do the trick.
From there it was a lot of trial and error: first, learning to get the sounds onto disk and not having them sound limp-wristed, as both previous opportunities had done. I could not for the life of me figure out what was different about those all-digital albums that I had listened to and revered– besides the fact that the studios had about ten times as much equipment as I had.
On a lark, one night, I patched my old Carvin powered PA desk inline between my K-2000 and Layla. And the answer to that question at least came clear. Here was the color, the warmth I had been looking for.
Which only left the trial and error of deciding which of the old Fulcrum né Radiant City né Fulcrum songs I was going to record, and the trial and error of actually recording them and not making myself sound too much like an assclown.