Sunday, 5 February 2017

Fostex X-15 Multitracker - travelling back in time

I first started composing music, writing songs and recording my efforts back in the 1980's and my tool of the trade was the utterly wonderful little Fostex X-15 Multitracker, a stonking little 21st birthday present from my parents in 1986.


The X-15 is a cassette-based 4-track recorder, that (along with all other cassette-based multitrack recorders of the time and since) used only one side of the tape - each side of a cassette tape has two tracks for the stereo recording you listen to, meaning that when you play these cassettes in a normal player, you only get two of the tracks - turn the tape over and you get the other two tracks......in reverse. Whilst very limiting in some respects, it was a truly fantastic introduction to the world of multi-track recording - record your drums, then play them back whilst recording your bass and so on. When you reached your limit, you would "bounce down", or in other words, record three tracks onto the fourth, leaving you with three more tracks to play with. When you did this a few times, your recordings tended to get a little muddy and dull, but hey, it was still better than nothing.

I loved my little X-15 and was quite sad when a career and a marriage dictated that it had to go a few years later.

So, moving to the present time, whilst rootling about in the loft sorting out some bits and pieces that needed sorting after last years' double house move, I found a bag with a load of cassette tapes that had the recordings I made "all those years ago", and so decided to avail myself of another Fostex X-15 Multitracker. Inevitably, evilBay came up with the goods and few days ago, an X-15 arrived "chez nous". It's box was pretty battered (after 30 plus years, not really surprising) and within, following a truly weird sort of pass-the-parcel moment (wrapped in muchos newspaper), was my new (to me) little X-15. No power supply, but it still had the battery pack (taking 10, I said 10, C2 batteries) and after purchasing and installing the required 10 (yes, I said 10) C2 batteries, I was utterly delighted to find that it worked perfectly.

I wasted no time in getting it up to the GTK2 Studio and integrating it into my system (integrating sounds a bit more butch than saying "plugged it into my mixer with a set of phono leads......"), jammed in a tape and wow, the recordings I made so many years ago, my 21 year old self screeching like a cat in a Nutribullet and melodies and tunes I had long forgotten about, were emanating from the Alesis 520's. It brought a smile to my face as I was back there, but as an observer, quietly watching my younger self delighting in this creative tool and marvelling in the opportunities that lay before me - a pity I didn't pursue those opportunities as I should have done, but as with all things, it's in the past and I'm doing "stuff" now instead of back then. What also brought a wry smile to my face was how utterly shit the recordings are :-D

I don't if I'll keep the X-15 or not. I can't see that it will be a tool I could or would use regularly, if at all. Certainly, I am discovering things that I had forgotten about, things that could be given a new lease of life and I found songs that I couldn't remember how they went or couldn't find any written copies of lyrics and pieces of music that were an outlet for my mind and being at that time.

A few pieces will find their way onto the project I've called "The Splendour Cascade", mainly songs - they'll need a bit of re-arranging or the lyrics adjusting slightly. And some of the instrumental ideas I re-discovered will surely see light of day on the "Altered States" project.