the Spazmotics

"Keeping You Up to Date Since 1989"

 

 

News

1989 - no news to report

1990 - no news to report

1991 - no news to report

1992 - no news to report

1993 - no news to report

1994 - no news to report

1995 - no news to report

1996 - no news to report

1997 - no news to report

1998 - no news to report

1999 - no news to report

2000 - no news to report

2001 - no news to report

2002 - Spaci's and JAG's first musical collaboration in 14 years. We recorded a blues version of Barracuda after one too many sips of Olde English 80 for that 'optimum blues buzz'.

2003  - The Spazmotics reunite! (sort of)

 

The Songs

Plastic World

Lyrics and vocal by Spaci Traci


The Making of A Comeback Album

Fifteen years after our last musical collaboration, Spaci Traci and JAG are once again recording. Never known to get along well for long periods of time and often disagreeing on just about everything (is Little Rock a city or town?) we have teamed up once again to squeeze yet more mileage out of our famed 80's collaboration by re-recording many of our old favorites. Well OK, we didn't actually get ANY mileage out of them THEN, so why not try again NOW?

The idea hit me suddenly late one night a few weeks ago when I was devoid of musical inspiration. When that happens, I usually steal someone else's song or idea but this time I thought 'why not steal from myself?' Spaci and I have mentioned redoing the old tunes practically every time we mentioned them over the past 15 years. They were recorded on a 4 track cassette and bounced once or twice so the quality was never all that great. Now I have a state of the art digital recording system I can record all the instrumentation myself and have Spaci put the vocals on later.

The idea is to reinterpret the songs as we see fit, anything is fair game: changing from a Stonesy rocker to a country ballad, creating long instrumental break in a short love song, changing the the key and tempo were all A - OK. As long as I didn't complain about Spaci's vocals and Spaci didn't complain about my music. Spaci could also pick her favorite SPAZ tunes to redo, even if they duplicated my choices. Since the only instrument she plays is guitar, my duties will include overdubbing as I see fit, adding pedal steel guitar, bass, drums, etc...

There was just one hitch: Spaci lives in Las Vegas, I live in Austin. This was actually a GOOD thing because being several hundred miles away from each other while recording achieves the best results between Spaci and I. We've been sending audio files back and forth via my ftp site and it works great, except that those are smaller mp3 files. The audio files that we'll be sending will be the much larger AIFF format. Also, up until now, Spaci has only used the Mac to record 'live - direct to disk' if you will with a simple audio app called SoundEdit 16. No overdubbing options exist in SE16 so she would have to use what I use: ProTools Free.

Now, keep in mind that Spaci has never used a computer outside of surfing the net and Word processing. This is where things got a little hairy. ProTools was thrown away 3 times in frustration. (Spaci has little patience for apps that are fancier than say, NotePad). Back to SE16. "BUT I CAN'T OVERDUB MY BAKCUP VOCALS!!" she screamed over the phone. Fine. Re-download and install PTF. Phone call 30 minutes later: "I FUCKING HATE PROTOOLS! IT'S BEEN BANISHED FROM MY HARD DRIVE FOREVER!!" Sigh... She even recorded a song about it.

After MANY reboots, a ground loop hum, relocating the computer several times, troubleshooting (and subsequently replacing) the upgrade card, downloading huge files off the net, she was ready to start. And let's not forget the 1x scsi burner I bought at Goodwill that I had to disassemble and put back together before it worked (I love it when peripheral makers build cases that have to be destroyed in order to open them) and ship to Las Vegas only to find it damaged upon arrival.

 

Recording the Backing Tracks

With Reason software, a few samples and ProTools FREE, I was off and running. The first night I re-recorded "Fade Into Oblivion", a strange mixture of experimental music and pop angst (remember when everyone was using the word 'angst'?) and relearned "Hopeless Case" which was a MIDI song heavy laden with keyboards and one of my rare songs that was written in a major key.

"Fade" was left pretty much as the original but updated with more contemporary drums and keyboards. Spaci often remarked that she hated the "seagull sound effects" in the middle segment of the song so I made sure I added similar sound effects with more contemporary sounds at the same spot of the song. The hardest part was figuring out the angular sequence that pops up in the chorus. Since I'm not really a keyboard player, I learned the sequence on guitar and recorded it via Reason by slowing down the tempo dramatically. Works every time. In about 2 hours my part was done. The next hurdle was trying figure out how to get the track to Spaci via the internet so that she could add her vocals to it and send it back.

"Hopeless Case" involved a little more work. First I had to relearn it. Since I'm not a keyboard player, I learned it on guitar. The plan at first was to use my Roland GR-30 guitar synth but it sounded too much like the original song so I experimented with electric guitar, then finally settled on my Regal resonator (Dobro). Success! Using the reso totally changed the sound and feel of the song. Now it took on a much more 'rootsy' feel but still had the same chord changes and melody. About that melody... I had to add an integral part of the song which was originally played on my old Roland synth. This time I wanted an acoustic instrument of some kind to play it. I flipped thru my Roland Guitar synth patches and came up with a suitable candidate: the ocarina. This is the whistle type instrument you hear on many Celtic songs. Perfect.

I made an MP3 of it so send to Spaci. She thought it sounded like Hawaiian music played on a ukulele. I reminded her of our agreement: no disparaging comments. She sighed over internet chat and acquiesced.

Next was a remake of 'Plastic World', a Stonesy send-up with a rockin beat. This tune was originally recorded in traditional tuning with an electric guitar and drum machine. The guitar was massively compressed, taking out most of the 'punch' (why did I do that?) I was also way off in my 'Keef emulation', in the intervening years I've spoofed the Keefster's G tuning and suspended chords to a 'T'. But instead of an electric rocker, I opted for a resonator guitar and slide, turning it into a more bluesy song. It worked perfectly. I scanned my drive for a suitable drum sample and quickly came up with a very Charlie Watts 'behind the beat' pattern. This REALLY took the song to the next level. Most people aren't aware of how important Charlie's drumming is to the Stones sound. Playing behind the beat gives the music the famous 'swagger' that so many people refer to when describing the Stones' music. It did the same here, especially with the much more reserved sound of the resonator. Next was a funky bass line that fell into place easily once I decided to play the bass like I play blues guitar: claw hammer style. I use my thumb in a down stroke for the bass strings of the guitar and my first and second fingers for the other notes with an upstroke. I'm so used to playing this way that my hand goes into this position automatically when I pick up a guitar or bass. Interestingly, this style of bass playing was very popular in the 50's and 60's but you hardly ever hear it anymore. One proponent of this style is Neil Young's original bassist from the Buffalo Springfield (who's name slips my mind at the moment). This style of playing allows you to mute the strings and results in a very 'Motown' style of playing.

 

Next were Spaci's vocals which added a bluesy feel to the song. All I had to do was eq them and add a bit of reverb and compression and the song was complete.

(....to be continued...)

 

9/12/03

 

Spaci recorded her vocals for "Plastic World" and I successfully imported them into ProTools and mixed the song. The only change I made was duplicating a segment of the chorus and using it for backup vocals. You can hear the final result here. This is the original version of the song from about 1988.

 

 9/29/03

Spaci recorded vocals to Hopeless Case, a love song that was originally recorded back in 1988 on my Fostex four track. She recorded one lead track and 4 backing tracks and uploaded them to my ftp site for me to download. I had already made a test mix of all the instruments (resonator guitar, slide guitar, ocarina guitar synth, bass and organ). In order to have enough tracks, I created a new ProTools session and imported the mix of the instrumental track which took two tracks, then imported all 5 of her vocal tracks. We were at 7 tracks, one more master volume fader and ProTools FREE was maxed out at its limit of 8 tracks. The mix down was very simple as Spaci's vocals were recorded at a steady level, no pops or distortion to account for. All I had to do was add a touch of reverb and compression and 'Hopeless Case' was anything BUT a hopeless case. Everything fell into place and worked out fine, no runs , no drips, no errors :)