Category Archives: Ramblings

Vinyl recording – home stretch

So how busy have I been recording all of my vinyl? Have you seen any posts here? Have you seen me post anything on Facebook? Anything on Youtube?
Thats how busy I have been. I work a regular 8-5 job, but other than that, every waking hour has been spent recording.
The second USB audio input got here on Friday, March 9th. And here’s what I have been looking at ever since:

Each turntable going to a USB convertor to a laptop.
Now, Leroy’s version of Murphy’s Law is: “Nothing is ever easy.”
These are my PCs: a 2005 desktop, a 2004 laptop, and a 2000 laptop.
When I went to start recording on Saturday, the 2000 laptop decided that the display should stay off. I’d open it up and the display would turn on a for a second or two, then turn back off.
Repeat this about 100 times and see how frustrated you get.
Somewhere around attempt 150, it finally stayed on, but even a cheap bastard like me has his limits.
I went looking online for a new laptop – not a ‘new’ laptop, I’m too cheap – but a refurbished laptop, you know – not new, but new to me.
Dell had a nice one for 199, but then wanted an extra 25 bucks for shipping that would take a week. That seemed like they were putting some of the laptop price into the shipping – I hate that.
So then I checked out Toshiba – they had one for 229 that included shipping. So it was the same price, but it was a nicer laptop – bigger screen and more memory. Plus, the shipping would have it arrive between Tuesday, March 13th and Monday, March 19th. My eyes zoomed in at that March 13th date. “A new laptop by Tuesday – sold!” (Surprise surprise, it got here on the 19th.)
But the old, old laptop hasn’t broken again yet so the recording continues – day after day.

Normally, sitting in the house recording for two weeks would be a good use of time in a Chicago winter. “Nothing is ever easy.” Mother Nature has chosen this time to give Chicago it’s second warmest winter in history, right when I started recording. It’s normally between 30-40 degrees. It’s been between 60-80 degrees. Not even spring weather – it jumped straight to summer.
Sure, I could postpone the recording and go out in the sun, but sometimes I get focused to a fault. I want this recording project done and I won’t stop until it’s complete.

So I’ve been sitting in the house for over two weeks recording nonstop while summer weather taunts me outside.
And the final pain in the ass? Poor planning. I have my records organized into three different types of crates: The good stuff, the non-so-good stuff, and the complete shit (I won’t mention record names now because some of the ‘pioneers’ get really touchy about their not-so-classic releases). Well, I saved the shit for last. So, not only am I tired of recording and missing good weather – but now that I’m nearing the end of my patience, I’m listening to the worst Z-grade house music ever made!

But I’m on the last crate – should be done on Wednesday.

The great vinyl conversion update

I think I have a pretty decent collection of 80s house/dance/techno/rap on vinyl.
Of course, there will always be someone who has more – lots more – like this person:

but thats ok – it’s not a competition.

Now comes the hard part – the move to digital. Taking all this vinyl and converting it to WAVs (and Youtube videos and Ableton tracks)
As I think I mentioned before, when I first started the process and posting Youtube videos, I would:
Record a track, take pictures of the label/cover, edit/normalize the track, make the video, post it.
This got tedious quickly and I went with the production line – all at once approach:
Record all the tracks, take all the pictures, edit all the tracks, etc.
So thats what I did back in 2010 with 4 crates of some of my best vinyl.
And now it’s time to go through the remaining 7 crates (plus the two missing mystery crates – they are either buried in my sisters basement or my parents tossed them out when I kept them at their house for a while. I don’t see how I could have lost them myself the last time I moved.)
And here are the steps:
1 – take pictures of all records – done
2 – record all records – in progress
3 – edit / normalize all records
4 – edit all pictures
5 – make videos
6 – Warp all songs in Ableton

(Here’s where the OCD starts coming in handy.)
So I already catalogued every track on every record I have back in 2010.
I have about 1600 tracks left to record. I’ll take an educated guess and say that the average song length is 6 minutes.
Thats 9600 minutes to record – 160 hours.
Wow – thats a lot. At 3 hours a day, thats still 2 months. I’m too impatient for that. How can we speed this up?
I’ve got my turntable/mixing box going into my ancient but trusty Roland UA-3 for recording.
But (obviously) I have two turntables and I have two laptops – there must be some way to use both.

Hey wait – I’ve still got the M-Audio Fast Track Pro collecting dust in the basement (damn drivers don’t work worth a crap on a laptop with an AMD processor).
It didn’t work for the two outputs that I bought it for, but certainly it can do one input, right? Nope – I only messed with it for a few minutes but I couldn’t get it to work. Back to the basement it goes.
So I ordered a Behringer UFO-202 USB interface. It got decent reviews and looks like it should do the same job as my Roland but without the digital optical input and output (which I never used).
Ok, that will be here Friday (yay – free shipping with my Discover card) and cut my remaining recording time in half – but I should keep working until that gets here.

Now, if you keep making the same mistakes over and over again – well, you’re dumb. But if years pass in between those repeated mistakes, cut yourself some slack.
I’m recording my vinyl on a very old laptop. It maxes out at 512megs of memory. Web surfing is painfully slow and it can’t even play most Flash games / videos.
But it’s more than fast enough to record audio and thats all I use it for.
I’m using Cool Edit Pro – which is about as old as the laptop, but when something works, I stick with it.
I recorded vinyl for 5 hours straight last night. There was a possibility that Cool Edit, being an old program, would get confused after 4 hours once the WAV size went over 4 gigs. It seemed to handle that fine, but something else happened I can’t explain. Once I stopped the recording and it showed it onscreen – the left channel had stopped recording after less than an hour.
It’s not a huge hard drive but I had enough free space for 5 hours of audio. But I didn’t have twice as much free space. I seem to recall a problem I encountered years ago where I needed twice the space for what I was recording. It would first record to a temp file, then copy that to the actual file. But that was long ago and it may have even been different software.
And that still wouldn’t explain it only lost the left channel. Maybe it was just tired and needed a reboot.

Anyway, almost all of last night’s recording are gone. Maybe I’ll take Thursday off and just wait for the second USB interface, or just record them all again tonight.
There were certainly some good tracks I haven’t listened to in years – Colonel Abrams, Ministry, classic Tommy Boy tracks.
For now – recordings complete is at 8 percent. I hope to greatly increase that number by the end of the weekend.

Update to Skibone studios

Say Cherita, I’m ready to Jack this studio up. Look at this sad-ass empty room. We can’t have this at no party. Whachu say Cherita?

Well Tony I say you’re right. I mean – no turntables, no APC40 – we just can’t stand for this. I mean some of this carpet is ugly, but hey, I’m ready to jack this house. So let’s you and me get some record crates up here, not one – not two – but four at a time!

And no, I’m not David Guetta. I’ll actually plug all this equipment in and turn it on before I mix with it!

Song of the Day: Steve Silk Hurley – Jack Your Body

So many comments to make on this song.
If you’re going to start a new record label (Underground Records), it helps to have the first single end up being the biggest hit in Chicago house history.
This is a song that shined a spotlight on the differences between US and UK radio. US – this was an underground club hit, reaching 25 on the Billboard Dance/Club charts. UK – this was number one hit – not the club charts – the number one single for two weeks in Jan/Feb 1987. Chicago house was in it’s prime and US radio ignored it while UK embraced it – a difference that I think continues to this day.

US radio doesn’t want instrumentals – they don’t want faceless producers. They want a crazy frontman/woman that can star in videos.

Liam Howlett and The Prodigy figured that out in the 90s. After two chart topping albums in the UK and no love in the US, they gave dancer Keith Flint a freaky mohawk and had him do vocals for ‘Firestarter’. Boom – instant US success.

Enough rambling. I’ve included the 4 mixes on the Underground Records release of this plus the ‘Monty Remix’ that was put on one of the UK releases of it.

(Do you think Steve Hurley really has a keytar like on the B-side picture?!?)

Steve Silk Hurley
Jack Your Body

Underground Records UN-101
Written and produced by Steve Hurley
Monty Remix by Simon Harris