Tuesday, 12 April 2016

On the move to find our undiscovered country......

Well it's all been happening, so much planned and pretty much all of it in the diary!!!

Some truly amazing gig photography opportunities

The GTK Studio finally as I wanted it and a layout/set up I was actually happy with

An album of classical music destined for a very possible CD release

A series of distance walks planned with over-night camping

However, it's all changed AGAIN!!!!!!

Owing to unexpected house move, all of the above has either been cancelled or postponed indefinitely. As the French say, "that's life".

When I say "an unexpected house move", that's not entirely true. My fab lady Anne and I had been thinking about moving for some time, and essentially, we've had something of a weird sixth-sense inkling that our genuinely brill landlords might be wanting to sell up at some point. We just hadn't expected it to be now. But, from another point of view, and this is how we actually feel about it all, our decision to move was made for us, and we are not in slightest bit unhappy about it - we have basically got what we wanted and we're excited about it.

We've been experiencing a few changes within the household and family, not least all our three children (Anne has a 26 year old son and I have a daughter of 19 and a son of 17) are now VERY grown up and doing their own thing. We've both come to realise that our lovely home (a rather enviable little off-the-road, 3-bed detached bungalow) had the propensity to be too big for us once Anne's son leaves for distant shores in the next few days. The garden isn't big, but it isn't small, and we are not gardeners. We don't need so much room anymore and we are not one of those desperately sad couples who see a large property as a much-desired, sort-after thing, because that's not the be-all and end-all of our life together or what we want from our life together, we're very happy to simply leave all that for the pre-programmed, conformist, factory-produced and materialistic "achievers" in this world - our mentality is far more evolved and we prefer to be living our lives according to our own terms, not to the dictates of others, the satisfaction of society's expectations or the balance of our bank account. And if you are one those types reading this, a simple message - get a life, you're a long time dead ;-)

So, we now find ourselves surrounded by boxes and dismantled furniture, getting ready to find our own undiscovered country that lies beyond the familiarity of the last ten years in this house. In a break from what is, I suppose, considered to be "the norm", we decided to pack first and then hunt for a new home afterwards, and that's almost where we are now. By this coming Sunday evening (the 17th April 2016), it's more than very likely that we will have completely packed the house up ready for the move. From that point, we will begin our search for a new nest and if fate lends us a little hand, we will be ready to go at a moments notice. We even have the move organised - what will go where and when, we have the move crew sorted and even a van!!! Nothing if not organised :-)

So how does this all change the plans outlined at the very beginning of this post? Well, one thing we have already encountered are the costs of using lettings agencies. My ghast has never been so flabbered. I have to say that lettings agencies make estate agents look positively charitable in comparison. How on earth can you seriously justify such horrendously high fees for basically doing next to fuck all???!!! One agency in Norwich (no names mentioned at this stage) wants £720 in admin fees for a couple and that's WITHOUT fees for credit checks (non-refundable), reference checks (non-refundable) and tenancy renewals. Really, I find that most unbelievable. Needless to say, we are inviting lettings agencies to basically fuck off and do one. The words "scandalous", "thieving", "slimy" and "bastards", amongst a few other more choice offerings, have passed our lips. No. We will NOT be using lettings agencies. If you have any sense, and a basic desire to keep a hold of your hard-earned, you'll give them a very wide berth also.

I digressed, but not indirectly. As we will be dealing direct with private landlords, we still need to raise funds to cover deposits and rent in advance - normal stuff, totally acceptable and without fees - and it has been necessary for me to sell my camera and some music equipment. A bit of a bummer, and trust me, I did have a day or two walking around like a child with a broken toy, but ultimately, it's things, possessions, objects and all of these can be replaced, a roof over the head is of greater importance and priority. On the plus side, I still have an abundance of very high quality music software, so music making will not stop. Once the "Interpretations" album is finished, I already have ideas and plans for the next one, which will be all original material, along with one or two (for me) inspiring titles :-)

Talking of "Interpretations", it's nearing completion. I am going to try and finish it before we move, but that is such an up-in-the-air thing it's not true. If not, then once we moved, it'll be the very first thing I focus on. I'm excited by this album, I really am. I've had one or two very prominent musicians give me some feedback on a few of the tracks and that feedback has basically blown me away - and please note that these people will tell me as it is, so no form of pointless bullshit would ever come from them. It's not an album that a lot of people will like because of the massive classical bias, but that isn't my problem, I'm more concerned with producing and presenting a piece of work that I am happy with and not something that is the expectation or demand of others. Such arrogance eh? You'll get over it.

Photography-wise, I just don't know. I've already taken the step of closing down the Neil Fellowes Photography project for now as I estimate it will take me a year or two to get back the gear I have. That's fine because I've had an absolute blast, I've met pretty much all my musical heroes and I've found a few more in the process, as well as getting to meet some really great people, many of whom have stayed in touch, famous and otherwise. And who knows what's around the corner, a twist of fate can change so much in a short space of time. Or not. Isn't that quite exciting?

The distance walks will happen at some point and again, probably later this year. I have this wild desire to get out and experience the world around me in it's most natural form, so walking and camping are featuring very heavily in amongst the many things I want to do. For some of it, I will be joined by Anne, my soul-mate of so many years now, and some of it I will do alone. But do it I will.

For that last few days, I've been reading how people in this life regard other people as under-achievers. Sorry, I don't buy into that at all. People will, for the most part, live life according to their own values and means, each person with different hopes dreams and aspirations - and you have to know, in my world, no one is an under-achiever. I look upon those who make these kind of statements with some kind of condescending pity, as it is they who are the under-achievers in this world, they are the slaves of society and conformity, bound by the quest for the next big profit or the vastness of their bank account. Take it from me, when you're dead, you'll be a lump of decaying flesh swimming in your own fluids on a metal table somewhere, just like the "under-achiever" next to you. Money and status are not important, money and status do not make you a better person, money and status do not buy you respect or admiration. That's down to the individual to earn from others, and it's time the world started to see that.

And on that note, I shall away to contemplate another pile of stuff for packing.

Back soon ;-)

Friday, 12 February 2016

Album, goth metal, photographisting and software......

The "Interpretations" allybum has taken a massive step forward with the acquisition of some new studio software that I genuinely hadn't planned on getting, but, as it's all panning out, I'm bloody glad I did (more on those in a bit). I've got four tracks now pretty much finished, save a little bit of mix manipulation/automation/fuckingaboutamation. I'm really pleased with the way it's coming along and I think I have managed to create "a sound" for it that will manufacture the required separation from the very obvious influences of Isao Tomita and Wendy Carlos. I've had a few people "test listening" and the feedback has been pretty favourable, with the comments and opinions offered proving to be highly constructive and very valuable.

One of my few little "jobs" to do over the next few days is to start seriously looking at some sort of kickstarter/pledge campaign to raise funds for expenses such as CD production and associated licencing. As soon as that's sorted, I'll blather on about it here, but I now have something of a ball-park figure and what I need to do to get there. Another of my little "jobs" is to get my websites updated and a little more "with it". All good fun and it's quite enjoyable walking the do-it-yourself route.

I mentioned goth metal in the title on this latest blithering. And with good reason. my son, Callum Raeburn-Fellowes, is a drummer in a goth metal band called What Lies Within. It's your typical wall-of-sound/noise that you would expect from a teenage band with bags of angst and baggage that you wouldn't want British Airways handling. Now, whilst goth metal really is NOT my cup of tea at any time of the day/night/afternoon/early evening/first thing in the morning/a little after luchtime/just before tea, they are actually quite good. With titles such as "Destroy the Tyrants" and "Killhouse", you know you're in for some serious hi-energy,distorted,over-amped,overdriven,fuzzboxed melancholy, but the guys are getting their act together nicely and are starting to make something of a name for themselves in the fair city of Norwich. They met whilst at the Access for Music college (which is operated in a part of the Epic Studios complex in Norwich's Magdalen Street), where they are in the second year of a 2 year Music Performance Diploma. They took the initial college band further, away from the college context after they found that they got on as a group of teenagers, as much as they did a group of music college students. They've been working hard playing as support for a number of the metal bands around not just the city, but also the county, doing gigs in pubs, youth clubs, festivals and "battle of the bands" events (one of which they won). Tonight (11th February 2016), they did their first "headline" act at a popular live music venue called the B2 and it went very well. I am very proud of my son because he is showing a lot of promise as both a performer and as a showman, something that is lacking in pretty much every teenage band at this time, but that's another story for another time. And I feel very proud for the band as they are proving themselves and focusing on the future as much as the present. One of their quirks is that they have a young lady lead singer by the name of Heather who is, apparently, pretty good at the scream thing. personally speaking, I don't get screamo, I fear that those who practice this dark art are going to wake up at some point in their future and realise that, yes, they sound like a fucking three-year-old having a tantrum. However, we must have open minds and accept that one man's art form is another man's "shut that fucking row up". Anyway, I digress. Screamo and indiscernible ear-splitting wall-of-noise aside, I'm pleased that these guys are doing well and naturally, I get to every gig I can, often with my camera (check out my concert images where you'll see pics of What Lies Within). As per usual, I have done my infamous "a million miles around the bush to make the point" thing. I was both pleased and horrified to be asked to help them prepare a demo and that has now started. It's meant a lot of reading and learning new skills associated with recording rock guitars, drums and vocals whilst at the same time giving me the ideal opportunity to use some of the fabulous software I have been amassing over the last 18 months. We're working on a track called "Tyrants" (it was called "Destroy the Tyrants" but I think they got fed of me saying it sounded a lot of like "Destroy the Toilets" when they performed it), and we have a guide drum track laid down as well as the guitar parts. Hopefully during the coming week, the bass player will come in and do his part followed by the vocals. It's been quite fun thus far, they're a great bunch of kids and I'm looking forward to hearing the end result. An electronic music artist producing a goth metal band. Should be interesting.

The photographic side of life is starting to pep up again. I have three concert dates in my diary with, hopefully, a few more to follow. I'm kicking off the gig season tomorrow night (12th February 2016) with Public Service Broadcasting at the OPEN music venue in Norwich. Really looking forward to this as I am quite the fan of PSB, who I first encountered back in 2014 when they played as part of the Norwich Sound and Vision evening of electronic music alongside Ulrich Schnauss and the Radiophonic Workshop (yes, THAT Radiophonic Workshop - I got to meet them as well the gentleman that created the TARDIS sound and the Dalek voices, Brian Hodgson - my chum, well-brilliant togger Simon Watson, and I were in serious fangirl mode and I thought I would self-combust that night!!!). Anyway, PSB headlined and they were basically brilliant and got a new fan. Talking of Ulrich Schnauss, I will be snapping and reviewing his performance at the Norwich Arts Centre on the 25th March 2016 (another one I'm looking forward to). And talking of the Norwich Arts Centre, I'll be heading there on the 24th April 2016 to tog and review Earl Slick and Bernard Fowler performing David Bowie's "Station to Station" album - support on that night is the lovely Lisa Ronson, daughter of Bowie's Spiders from Mars guitarist Mick Ronson, and a terrific performer in her right. The begging e-mails are out for other gigs, and as soon as I have some sort of confirmation, I'll blither about it here.

And last on the title of this postering was software. And on boy, the software!!! Waves Audio have been insanely generous again with their sales, and I've taken full advantage. The Nx virtual mix room demo I mentioned in the previous post to this one has now been bought and is really doing the business - it's given me a lot more flexibility and less time needed checking mixes on the studio monitors after a late night session using headphones. I cannot recommend highly enough that, if you are a recording musician, you at least give this piece of programming a try - it's fucking brilliant and worth every penny of the asking price. They will be releasing a headphone attachment soon that will negate the need to use a webcam, and I for one will be wanting that. Also from Waves Audio, was a curious little plugin called Center (I so want to change the spelling of that to what it should be!!!). It allows you to either hear only the sound that comes from the sides of your stereo field or the centre of your mix or a blend of the two. It's fantastic for tracking and getting a finer balance of frequencies and sounds within your mix and when couple with other products toys such as compressors or EQ's, you have a very flexible workflow. It took me a matter of minutes to get the gist of what Center was about and how it does what it does. Again, try it, you won't be  disappointed. And lastly, I got hold of Waves Audio's hugely popular and very famous L1 Ultramaximizer limiter plugin. I did two nights of YouTubing and reading to get to the heart of what this thing does and can do and oh boy, it's a killer. The name of the game is subtlety, too much and too little can seriously screw up your mix, but if you keep it restrained, the end effect is nothing short of stunning. My mixes have gone from "yeah, that's kind of okay" to "WOW!!!" - I'm very excited about completing "Interpretations" to hear the end result and the difference that the L1 has made to my mixes.

Right, enough already.

Time for bed.

So far, I have no work tomorrow, but that can change in an instant, so I'm hitting the hay and aiming to be up reasonably early to get some more work done on the album, before going into photographist mode tomorrow night.

TTFN xxx

Friday, 29 January 2016

"Interpretations" Update

With the GTK Studio computer now fully operational and possessed of a lot more grunt on the processing front, I've been hammering ahead with the "Interpretations" album in pretty much every bit of spare time I have (which hasn't been a lot, I can tell you).

Tonight, I've been working on a piece of music from one of my favourite composers, Sir William Walton, and it's called "Crown Imperial". William Walton wrote it for King Edward VIII's coronation scheduled for May 1937, but alas it didn't get used because the king decided to abdicate to marry an American divorcee called Wallis Simpson (a bit bloody inconvenient if you ask me). Fortunately, it managed to see the day of light later that year with the coronation of Edward VIII's brother, King George VI and then, with something of a substantial revision in 1953 for the coronation of the present monarch, Elizabeth II. It's a very stirring piece of music that, even in its quite modernist form, invokes all the pomp and circumstance that so many associate with our country.

This one has been something of a challenge, because it's quite tricky to take a piece of music that has been written for a high state occasion, full of fanfare-type themes and motifs with orchestral string passages and present it in a more electronic form. I'm kind of there, but something of a concession has been made in terms of the use of percussion and certain instruments, namely the strings and the church organ. To minimise the overall impact of this compromise, I turned to one of my main influences for this project, Wendy Carlos, and listened very carefully to her first two albums, "Switched On Bach" and "The Well-Tempered Synthesizer" to try and draw inspiration for a way through. That happened and manifested itself with one synthesizer that has now seen extensive use throughout this track (and indeed the album thus far), Arturia's Mini V2, an excellent Minimoog emulation. When you eventually hear this piece, the fanfare brasses, woodwinds and some of the basses (alongside basses from ReFX's fucking amazing Nexus²) are all the Mini V2 - it's proven to be a hugely useful piece of software and something of a workhorse.

I still have a way to go with "Crown Imperial" as I replace orchestral sounds with electronic/synthesizer sounds, in particular the percussion sections, the timpani kit really makes the piece come alive and finding an electronic counterpart without compromising the integrity of the track and the project is a bit of a challenge. That said, it's really getting there and I'm very confident that I'll retain the intense majesty (no pun intended) of the original.

Here's a YouTube video of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra playing "Crown Imperial":

Whilst working on "Crown Imperial", I took the opportunity to try out a demo of Waves Audio's latest release, the Nx Virtual Mix Room. The idea behind this is to allow the user to conduct mixing sessions using headphones, something that's a bit of a no-no in the production world. This is achieved by attaching a webcam to your computer, which then tracks your face. You also have to tell the program the circumference of your head and the distance between your ears, measuring around the back of the head. You can then alter the position of the speakers within the program and get it to lock onto the sweet point (the optimum listening position). A lot of people will be highly sceptical of this program, and some would say with good reason, as headphones really are not ideal for mixing because you don't get a true spectrum of sound or a properly defined stereo field. What Nx does is to evaluate the speaker positioning and the  physical properties of the user then adjust the output of the headphones accordingly. I approached this with a totally open mind, not placing any expectations (negative or positive) and found myself pretty much blown away by the clarity, depth, balance and transparency of what I was hearing through my StudioSpares M1000 closed-back headphones. If you're in this music game thing, I seriously and strongly suggest you try out the demo. I've just finished nearly three hours of studio time, all done on the headphones, and the mix sounds as good across my studio monitors as they do on the headphones. I think it safe to say that I will be parting with my cash for the licence before the demo expires!!!

More "Interpretations" updates coming soon :-)

Friday, 15 January 2016

Software Update - Celemony Melodyne

Just had to pop a quick note here about the recent update to Celemony's truly amazing Melodyne pitch-shifting software, of which I use the Melodyne Assistant option.

I installed the new version 4 of Melodyne Assistant last night and it's a really cool piece of work. Amendments to menu systems and a one window interface have given it a really nice look and made it much easier to navigate around it, the pitch detection algorithm seems to be more precise and there's more keyboard short-cuts, something I am a big fan of.

Very pleased, nice work Celemony.

The GTK Studio

My little studio.

My little piece of heaven.

My sanctuary.

My retreat.

It's true to say that over the last four-five years it's seen a number of changes. From next to nothing, to being filled to the brim with synths and tech, back to virtually nothing again. It's really been a whole lot of fun seeing the equipment come and go, doing the deals, plumbing it all and moving it all around only having to plumb it all in again, selling it, doing more deals and then going VERY virtual.

18 months later, I don't miss the hardware at all, in fact, it was probably the best thing to do for me as an individual. I really do prefer the immediacy and flexibility of software-based synthesis and music creation, but it's not for all. And personally speaking, I don't care one little bit if the Arturia Modular V 2 doesn't sound like a real Moog Modular system - never played with a real one and probably never will, so it makes any kind of comment or remark totally invalid and a basic waste of time doesn't it. Anyway, it's software all the way now with a few cool (and aged like me) MIDI controllers to keep it in check.

2016 saw a much-needed update to the GTK Studio music computer. It's nearly five years old now and whilst working on the "Interpretations" album, I've been experiencing it's limitations. However, the positive side of this is that there was no need for me to buy a whole new system (and really, this is where a lot of people go wrong and the computer shops rub their grubby hands with glee), because DIY upgrading is as simple as it comes. Here was the plan:

1. Renew the processor (the most important upgrade)
2. Replace existing HDD with a Solid State Drive (SSD)

I had a budget to work to and so I decided that I would go for a newer and significantly more powerful processor, but, because of the budget limitations, it would not be the very latest one. On the RAM front, I had already upgraded the system's memory from 8GB to 16GB last year, so that was one less thing to consider.

The GTK Studio computer came with an Intel Pentium G840 2.8ghz dual core processor, and it has been brilliant to work with on the music and photography. However, my increased use of high end processing and synthesizer plugins pushed the G840 well past it's capabilities, plus 2016 will see more photography and also more video work linked to the music. I opted to stay with Intel, and the processor I chose to upgrade to was the Intel i5 3570 3.4GHz quad core, which is proving to be an absolute diamond of a thing.

For the SSD, I chose the Kingston SSDNow 120GB V300. It's bloody amazing. The speed at which Windows 10 boots is phenomenal, as is how fast programs such as Photoshop, Cubase and VideoStudio fire up - I certainly wish I'd invested in SSD long ago. However, I made something of an error regarding the choice of SSD size - 120GB has proven to be too small and I am still having to use the original hard drive for the music software, so I have somewhat held the speed back thereby slightly defeating the object of getting an SSD. That said, the 120GB configuration is actually working fine at the moment, but I plan to get a much larger SSD later this year which will mean another re-install session, but I'm okay with that as it will be worth the time investment.

The sale of the hardware back in August 2014, provided me with the funds to really go to town on the software, and one of my first purchases was the incredible Omnisphere synthesizer from Spectrasonics. It's a beast of biblical proportions and can create the most amazing layered sounds and textures. Coupled with the equally fantastic Nexus² from reFX, and you have a real behemoth of a sound palette.

Another favoured company of mine is Waves. Highly regarded and with good reason, their  products are basically excellent. Over the last year, I have taken full advantage of their regular sales and stocked with some pretty stonking bits and pieces, such as the indispensable C4 multi-band compressor or the fabulous V-EQ3 and V-EQ4 equalisers. I have a new and very loving relationship with their dbx-160 compressor/limiter as well as their linear phase multi-band compressor and linear phase EQ.

So, the GTK Studio computer is now beefed ready to tackle the demands of the "Interpretations" album and I have to say that it is like having a brand new computer, such is the speed provided by both the processor and the SSD.

Saturday, 26 December 2015

Oh, there's a new album very much in progress!!!

Oh my, it's been a VERY long time since I posted a blog - my bad. Life has been very busy with family, work and photography since the last time I took to the keyboard, but as we approach the end of the year, things are starting to find something of a balance. But please don't tell anyone ;-)

Anyway, what a year thus far. The photo side of life has seen some seriously cool adventures, not least getting to shoot Heaven 17 in concert, as well as a gig done by legendary producer Tony Visconti, original Spiders From Mars drummer Woody Woodmansey and Heaven 17's very own Glenn Gregory and to top it all, a fabulous opportunity to photograph my favourite electronica lady Tara Busch, who was only supporting none other than Gary Numan and who I invited me to shoot his concert as well. Quite an evening that was as I ended up at the after show party and got to finally meet one of my musical heroes and influences - I wasn't disappointed either.

Musically, I took something of a little sabbatical after wiping the entire "Hollow Sun" album off of my computer - long story, too painful to relate just yet. And because of work commitments, I was unable to continue working with Dean Burnett and Weathered Wall - a shame as we were coming up with some seriously cool ideas. In the meantime, I've gathered a few more bits and pieces of software that have been a real asset to the GTK Studio, not least the acquisition of reFX's utterly fabulous Nexus 2 synthesizer - I also purchased a series of expansion packs as well. This is a synth that I have hankering after for sometime and now I have it. It's basically fucking amazing and I love it!!! I've added a few very nice effects bits as well which greatly improved the overall sound of things, such as Waves' Multi-Band Limiter, H-EQ and TrueVerb.

Now, back in the distant past (2011), I started a small "just-for-fun" project recording various bits and pieces of classical music. Instead of using MIDI files which are very readily available on the internet, I went about this using old and dusty manuscripts from my youth that I found in our garage whilst on a clear-up/out mission and played or step-programmed the pieces into the computer, thereby keeping to the original arrangements and replacing the orchestral instruments with synthesizers. Okay, I know this is nothing new or ground-breaking but as I mentioned earlier, this was nothing more than a little something to do between my many other bits and bobs of life. I've spent the last 4-5 years recording the pieces into the computer and every now and again, I would go back to them and perhaps change a sound here or add a bit of reverb there, nothing elaborate, just something to help me relax and enjoy with no thought of ever doing anything with them.

Well, after the Great Album Wiping of 2015, I lost the will to do any original music, but still dabbled with the classical thing, and then a couple of months ago, I realised what I had sitting on my hard drive was tantamount to an album of music!!! The purchase of Nexus 2 was a massive game-changer as well because three of the expansions I bought were by my favourite sound designer, the truly gifted BigTone (aka Brok Landers) and his sounds perfectly fitted the style of the music I was doing. So as it stands, I've been spending pretty much all my spare time recently working on this material to bring it up to a level that would be suitable for release and I'm getting there. I've also had to check up on licensing as well, and my how brilliant the Performing Rights Society have been - a huge shout out to them as they have been so incredibly helpful - and patient!!!

The next thing I need to look at is the cost of CD manufacturing, which was something that stopped my son Callum and I releasing the F/R-F album on CD - too bloody expensive!!! To try and raise the necessary funding, I am in the process of investigating some kind of kick-starter project, so more on that as it happens.

Assuming that the required funds can be acquired, I'm hoping for a release in the late Spring/early Summer, the date of which will be determined by the success (or not) of the kick-starter campaign if I go down that route. As for the album itself, it will be called "Intepretations" and it's character will be a fusion of a number of influences that will be recognisable, ranging from the inevitable Isao Tomita and Wendy Carlos to people such as Kevin Kendle, Bekki Williams and Billy Currie (his solo instrumental works). Here is the current track listing (definitely in no particular order):

Gymnopedie - Satie
Dolly - Faure
Nimrod - Elgar
Preludium - Grieg
Danse Macabre - Saint-Saens
Toccata - Widor
On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring - Delius
Masque - Khachaturian
Venus - Holst.

There will be others added I'm sure as I have quite a few that could make the album.

So, once this Christmas and New Year insanity is properly out of the way, I'll be making a lot more blog entries, in the main about the "Interpretations" album.

Hope you're enjoying whatever it is you do at this time of year :-)

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

More studio stuffs and other stuffs……

Been a while since my last posting, but trust me, these hands have not been idle!!!
I’ve been enjoying some great photo opportunities, not least electronic supergroup Node and the legendary Toyah Willcox, both of whom were an absolute delight to photograph – photos from the Node concert appeared on the cover and as part of an article within a leading music trade magazine called PSN Europe, a definite high-point of the year so far for me. On the exploration side of things, I've enjoyed a couple of cool locations, one being a former World War II airfield and the other a former steel works - both places afforded me some amazing opportunities for some great photos. I've also started dabbling in using studio strobe flash lights - a new and very different direction for me, early days yet, but it's quite fun. Here's a quick photo of a set up I was using recently in my living room:
Many of the post-Christmas sales from on-line retailers have been rather good this year, and I’ve managed to snaffle a few bargains along the way. Here’s the latest baggings for the camera bag and the GTK Studio:
The increasing volume of gig photography I have been doing led me to a point where I realised that I needed a second camera body. I already had a sufficient collection of lenses, but it was getting increasingly more difficult to keep changing them on the body during the course of a concert. For the Node all-dayer, I borrowed my sons Canon 1100D camera body as a second camera and that pretty much signed the deal as far as I was concerned. A nice second-hand prive on eBay has gotten me a second 1100D DSLR camera and the easy life has ensued.
This has been a real boon to my camera set up and a lens which I use quite often. it’s very light in weight, has incredible clarity and was a very good price. I’m using it for both concert photography and explores and it’s given me plenty of really photos.
There are times when the on-board flash on your camera doesn’t quite make the mark, and when that happened to me, I headed straight to the Internet (on the advice of an old friend) and picked myself up one of these Speedlite type flashes. It’s a manual flash in that you have to set it’s power level, the only communication with the camera is the actual firing of the flash, but it is zoomable and can be used in a number of different configurations owing to the movable head. It can also be used as a slave flash, thanks to the sensor on the front of the unit (this means it can be fired away from the camera by another flash unit with the need for cables etc). it has a very good price tag and has proven to be a valuable addition to my camera bag.
Okay, so it’s a camera bag – or perhaps I should say backpack for the pedants amongst you. My Tamrac System 3 shoulder bag was ideal – until I bought a second camera body. Sadly, there was insufficient room for carrying the gear about and meant a lot of faffing about when on location, be it an explore or a gig venue. So, I headed back to the Internet and found this little beauty on Amazon as part of their “AmazonBasics” range. it’s ideal in that I can carry both cameras with lenses attached along with all the other paraphenalia we photographists truck around with us and it has straps to take the tripod as well – that has proven to be very useful as I was getting very sore shoulders from carrying several bags!!!. Highly competitive price and good quality as well.
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This little MIDI keyboard controller is shaped and laid out as a replica of the classic vintage Korg MS-20 synthesizer, and it's design concept was to be used as a controller for the company's software emulation of the same synth. It's a great piece of kit which we're all having a lot of fun with, it might have mini keys and is only 85% the size of the original, but it's doing is job perfectly, even down to the use of patch cables!!! It's also getting as rare as hen's teeth, so I'm particularly pleased that I managed to attain one as I have been wanting one of these for a very long time.
This was a competition win from Dolphin Music, an online music shop. Another cool piece of kit, it's pristine sounding and has three USB ports built in which is perfect when using several USB MIDI controllers as I do.
The Waves HLS Channel is a modeled mic pre-amp/EQ plugin, based on the rare 1960s vintage Helios console as used in London's famous Olympic Studios and developed in association with the legendary producer/sound engineer Eddie Kramer (Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones to name but a few). For this plugin, Waves actually used the Helios desk from the Rolling Stones mobile truck, which was used on a slew of classic recordings during the early 1970s. It's very capable at giving a warm authentic vintage colour to a mix, a really cool thing when working with digital synthesizers. Sounds great when used in conjunction with the Waves Kramer PIE Compressor.
The Waves Kramer PIE Compressor is modelled on a rare 1960s vintage compressor (as used in the Olympic Studios) built by electronics company Pye (those of a certain age will remember their televisions and radios) and developed with the help of the above-mentioned Eddie Kramer. The Pye compressor was something of a mainstay in a number of the top British studios of the time, and even now, the original Pye processors are generally considered to be among of best buss compressors ever. Another highly useful plugin that provides some excellent compression and a certain vintage feel.
This is one plugin pack that I have been hankering after for some time, it didn't come cheap, but you certainly get what you pay for. The three plugins that make up the Brilliance Pack were meticulously modeled on the RS127 Rack, RS127 Box and RS135 units and definitely give some of the finest treble equalisation I have heard. The original units were built exclusively by Abbey Road's own in-house engineers during the 1960s and were something of a secret weapon. Softube state that these three units have never been available outside of Abbey Road Studios before the release of the plugin pack. So, these three plugins, the original grey RS127, the green RS127 with added transformer and the 8 kHz only RS135, seriously add beautiful sounding treble and presence that has no harshness and give a real sparkle to individual tracks as well as a full mix.
For a very long time, the name Lexicon has been synonymous with a kind of gold standard digital reverberation, and despite being the entry level reverb plugin, the MPX Reverb actually delivers that legendary sound. It uses just one polymorphic interface, offering seven different types of reverb types and a real stash of hugely versatile and well put together presets. It may be the entry level software reverb, but it's Lexicon, need I say any more? The quality you expect from Lexicon is what you will get from the MPX. A reverb that oozes class.
I've been using EZDrummer for a while now so had no qualms in upgrading to version 2. It's better. All round. It has already proven to me to be like having your own drummer in your studio, without the hassles of kits, mics and attitudes. Version 2 two offers more flexibility in it's programming and overall use, it offers 5 drum kits, 2 drum libraries, 16 multiple outputs and a plethora of MIDI and audio options. I cannot wait to get going on a few tracks I have that need drums on them. As I said, I loved EZDrummer, but I adore EZDrummer 2.
iLOK USB KEY (2nd generation):
I've resisted getting the iLok USB key (a form of copyright protection using a USB flash drive) for sometime now as I have never really felt comfortable  with them, having seen the issues that other muso chums have had with them. But, in order to run the Softube and Lexicon software, I had to concede and so the GTK Studio computer is iLok'd.
For much the same reason as the iLok, I had avoided going down the eLicensor route, but again, to facilitate the use of things like Cubase Elements (which was and still is an absolute pig to install, not helped by poor assistance from Steinberg) and future soft-synths I plan to get in the future, I had to give in and get one. I've got it now and it's installed. Wish I could say the same for Cubase Elements. However, that served as a reminder as to why I use Reaper.
Now this was something of a discovery. I had seen the SynthMaster on various adverts and cut-down versions on magazine discs, but never took the time to check it out. One remiss that has now been well and truly resolved!!! SynthMaster is a bit of a synth Swiss Army knife in that it  a semi-modular soft-synth and effect plug-in that offers a multitude of different synthesis methods including VA, Additive, Wavetable, Wavescanning, Phase Modulation, Frequency Modulation, Pulse Width Modulation, Ring Modulation, Amplitude Modulation, Physical Modeling and SFZ Sample Playback synthesis. it's oscillators are multi-synthesis and it has some pretty serious analog modelled/digital filters, flexible effects routing with 11 types of high quality effects and a massive modulation architecture with 95 separate modulation sources and 650+ modulation targets. Take a breath after that lot!!! And you know what? It's sounds great.
The Sonimus Britson plugin is based upon the classic British Neve 8014 mixing console, and it's design seeks to emulate the workflow and sound of an analogue mixing console. The Britson really has a personality all its own and more than ably gives a certain vintage warmth that works incredibly well alongside the Waves V-Series. Already, a template I created in Reaper using the Britson with the Waves V-EQ4 is now my go-to starting point.
The Waldorf Edition 2 contains updated versions of their D-Pole filter, Attack drum synth and the breathtaking PPG Wave 2.V synth emulation. To my ears, all three products have a sharper, crisper sound and the nicely updated GUI's are, to my eyes, an absolute pleasure.
This bundle from Waves Audio contains the products, the V-Comp compressor and the V-EQ3 and V-EQ4 equalisers. The V-Comp is based on Neve 2254 buss compressor and provides vey clear compression, limiting & de-essing. The V-EQ3 is based upon highly revered Neve 1066 & 1073 modules and is great for both tracking and mastering, providing a real 1960s/1970s feel. And the V-EQ4 is based on the equally applauded Neve 1081, providing a seriously smooth and responsive performance with a very authentic vintage sound. The V-Series delivers a fabulous vintage vibe, full of warmth and character, particularly when used in conjunction with the Sonimus Britson console strip.
Vertigo is a top class additive synthesizer and is providing some beautifully crystalline synth textures and sounds. It also creates wonderful spectral type sounds of which I am rather partial. Offering 256 oscillators WAV / bitmap re-synthesis, 2 morphable layers, dual filters that can be run  in serial and parallel modes, FFT view and 8 effects. I'm already getting really lovely shimmering textures and tones, particularly when using a convolution reverb.
An excellent companion to the equally brilliant Shimmer reverb from Valhalla DSP, the simply named Room reverb has become something of a go-to reverb. Room is a true stereo algorithmic reverb, with eleven different reverberation algorithms (with names such as Nostromo, Narcissus, Sulaco and LV-426!!!), and it produces some really cool natural-sounding reverberation, comparable, I think, to some convolution reverbs I've heard. Wonderful sound and highly flexible with a terrific price, get this in your set up now!!!


A few plans for the coming weeks. I have a number of photos events such as Heaven 17 live at The Waterfront in Norwich alongside a series of “related” explores and further daliances with my set of studio strobes. I’m also helping my son, Callum Raeburn-Fellowes with his debut album, “Autumn’s Breeze” and his pending debut solo live performance at the Awakenings Evening of Ambient and Electronic Music. Work is continuing on a new album with Dean Burnett under the name of Weathered Wall and we’re starting to put together a set for live performance. My work continues on my next album, despite irretrievably wiping the entire thing from my hard-drive a couple of weeks ago – yet another fresh start, but I am quite confident of a release before the end of the year.