Welcome to part two of this series of blog posts about my own personal home studio journey. I’m writing these to really just give you an idea of where I’ve come from and where I’m at today. Maybe you can relate to some of my experiences. If you’ve read part one, thank you for being interested enough to carry on.
So, without any further preamble, on to the second part of my personal DIY music history…
Over the years after getting that first tape four-track I was really focused on creativity. I was writing my own songs and recording them on the Portastudio, as well as getting to grips with a couple of sequencing programs. Initially OctaMed on my Amiga 500 and then FastTracker 2 on my parents PC. I had also by now developed a taste for electronic music such as The Prodigy, Leftfield, Crystal Method and Funki Porcini. And this was having a big influence on the music I was creating. I still hadn’t even thought about learning anything to do with audio engineering and although I was creating a lot, the sound quality was always very amateur.
In 1999 there was a major fire at my family home. Fortunately no one was hurt but the damage to the house was extensive and all my music was destroyed, the recordings, the floppy discs, even the PC was smoke damaged beyond repair. Aside from being a pretty traumatic experience this was also a huge setback in my musical progress. I was able to get a few things replaced by the insurance, such as guitars and keyboards, and my old tape four-track was replaced by a more modern digital four-track, the Yamaha MD-4S, which I still have in a box under the stairs to this day, but years of my own material was gone forever.
It was very shortly after the fire that I went to University. I left my home in Wales and moved to Plymouth where I studied a course called Media Lab Arts (since renamed as Digital Art and Technology, I believe it was also called ‘Digital Futures’ for a while. Totally Nathan Barley, yeah?). I took my four-track with me and, although I still wrote and recorded sporadically, the whole music thing took a bit of a back seat whilst I focused on my studies. However, I did still become known as the go-to guy for audio and, via the loan of a PC with a copy of FL Studio (or just Fruity Loops as it was back then) installed, I was able to provide bits of music for other students to use in their projects as well as some sound effects and the like. But I wasn’t really making much progress musically until my placement year.
As part of my course I was required to go out into the real world and get an actual job. Which I just about managed to do and ended up working as a designer and account manager (among other things) for a CD replication company in Andover. I didn’t know anybody in Andover at the time and it’s not the most lively place in the world, so I found myself with a lot of time alone. I got the MD-4S set up in my spare room and would spend pretty much every night writing and recording. My set-up was basically one guitar, one bass, one microphone and the four-track with an effects send going through a DigiTech Quad4 effects rack, which was a pretty powerful processor. It was during this time that I began to better understand effects such as reverb, delay and chorus, and how they could be used to create the kinds of sounds I was going for. However, I was still missing the knowledge required to get anything approaching a professional sound. I recorded an EP during my placement year, which I called “Not for the General Public” because I didn’t think it was good enough for anyone to actually listen to. And it really wasn’t very good quality, though I’m fairly pleased with some of the songwriting and often think of re-recording, or at least remastering, a few of them. At that time though, I still had a lot to learn…
Thanks for reading part two of my home studio journey. I hope you enjoyed it and will check out part three. Please do feel free to let me know your thoughts in the comments or via the contact form. Please also give the DIY Music Facebook page a ‘like’ and follow me on Twitter to keep up to date with my latest posts, articles and tutorials.