Chris Randall: Musician, Writer, User Interface Designer, Inventor, Photographer, Complainer. Not necessarily in that order.
 

Tags: Kickin It Old School


June 25, 2017

Evolution of a Produkt...

by Chris Randall
 

In early 2008, I got it in my head that Audio Damage needed a multi-band distortion. Like most Audio Damage products, this one came about because of a personal need. I like the general idea of multi-band distortion, but at the time, there was only really one available, Ohmicide. To be clear, Ohmicide is a very good product, one that has stood the test of time. The problem was that it had a very distinctive sound; I could pick it out of a mix from a mile away. And this distinctive sound wasn't really conducive to what I was trying to accomplish at the time.

So after begging and pleading, and much rending of garments, I somehow talked Adam in to making such a product for AD. We decided on a very simple topology, with a multi-selector for each band's algorithm, a simple resonant lowpass filter, and our normal compressor code (as heard in Rough Rider), configured for a one-knob "moar" kind of situation. And Kombinat was born.



This was the first UI we did where there were procedural knobs; this is very much a hybrid UI, where I'm using a fake screen element to display the flat stuff. But you can definitely see how my mind was working at the time.

Anyhow, it did fine, in line with our other products that aren't Eos, Discord, or Dubstation. We weren't going to finally buy that volcano lair or anything, but it sold pretty consistently. Like Ohmicide, it has an unique character that is easy to pick out if you know what you're listening for, but being far less popular than Ohmicide, there wasn't as much of a danger of having That Sound. It worked for what I needed, so I was happy.

Fast forward to 2011. In the intervening three years, screen resolutions had been creeping up, and Kombinat, with its hard-coded selector image maps, was getting difficult to read. I also wanted to experiment with a truly flat user interface, something that, aside from Live, was not common in music software. I'm sure there were other reasons as well for revving Kombinat to a version two, but they aren't coming readily to mind. But the upshot is we decided to rev it, and this is the first UI I did totally flat. It is still image maps, but instead of filmstrips of 3D Studio Max knobs, we're drawing most of the elements procedurally. We named it Kombinat Dva, because "Kombinat" is Russian for "Combination," and "Dva" is Russian for "two."



Kombinat Dva added six more algorithms (including my favorite thing we've ever made, "Nerd Rage"), a second filter topology, and a feedback loop. Since the nature of feeding back on a ridiculous conglomeration of distortion algorithms and resonant filters would result in some fairly hairy tones, I came up with the (I thought) clever idea of giving the feedback loop an envelope, triggered off the input. Which is why it has attack and release controls. Adam was fairly puzzled by this, but he built it, and it works great. The feedback control makes the entire thing fairly unstable, and I'd frequently get customers writing asking could I please make the noise stop and why did I hate them and other such ponderings. I inexplicably decided it needed seventy presets, as well, which is about sixty five more presets than anyone ever uses. Go, me.

Anyhow, Kombinat Dva did significantly better than the first one, but still lived somewhere in the middle of the field as far as our product line goes. Six years on, and Kombinat is now the ripe old age of nine. Time for Kombinat Tri.



Tri is, of course, Russian for "three." So it makes sense and is clever on enough levels that I can feel good about myself. Which is all I really ask at the end of the day.

Anyhow, this version of Kombinat gets the JUCE-ified look that all the current line are getting. Since I did the new Dubstation 2 UI in plain black-and-white (just to see if I could, really), I went the other way with Kombinat Tri and made it very colorful. We also added what I call "the filter package," which is a conglomeration of all our current filters that I like for musical applications. The destruction algorithms are unchanged, but we went through and fixed a couple little things that were resulting in DC offsets that made some people unhappy. And finally, we added a mix control, something that is of incredible usefulness in a multi-band distortion, come to find out.

The UI, like all of the new ones, is resolution-ecumenical. In addition, like all of our current re-rolls, it picks up VST3 and AAX support. It will also get a standalone and AUv3 version for iOS in the near future.

For people that know what a useful tool the Kombinat series is, they'll be very happy with this update, which extends its usefulness while keeping the core Kombinat "sound" totally intact. For people new to the Kombinat style, well, they'll be equal parts frightened and surprised, as has been the case for nine years now. In the Audio Damage store now.

 
July 18, 2016

Four Chords The Hard Way: Tech Talk No. 003...

by Chris Randall
 



Step 1: Plan out a cool video. Buy gear from eBay to shoot video about. Gear arrives broken.

Step 2: Plan out another cool video to replace it. Buy gear to shoot video about. Idea turns out to be stupid and not-working, and not in a cool way but in a stupid and not-working way.

Step 3: Look around office for _anything_ to shoot a video about. Shoot video about that.

 
September 30, 2015

Twitching...

by Chris Randall
 

This article on Engadget caught my eye this morning. The tl;dr version: Deadmau5 is streaming his studio work (and gaming, I guess) on Twitch.

Now, everyone reading this is no doubt familiar with my love of process, and while I don't particularly care about Mr. Zimmerman's process in particular, I like the general idea of sharing your work while you do it. I'm a visual thinker, and I get way more out of watching someone do something than reading an article or instruction manual. The vast majority of my learning comes from watching process videos and talks on YouTube. In point of fact, my favorite YouTube channels are Jimmy Diresta and I Like To Make Stuff, both of which are (while not music related, even a tiny bit) 100% about process.

I don't have any particular problem with people watching me work; in point of fact, the results are generally better because of the audience. (As long as I'm not doing vocals. That's a different story.) My questions about this idea is thus: is this something other people find interesting? I mean, would you sit on your couch for an hour and watch someone patch a Euro system or program beats on Twitch or YouTube Live? I personally don't generally watch music production process videos, because they are (and I am in no way tooting my own horn here; just stating a fact) usually put up by people that are far less experienced than I in electronic music production.

It wouldn't be that much trouble for me to pull this off. I have a commercial broadband connection here you can drive a truck through, and the technical knowledge to provide pretty good video and audio streams. However, I honestly have no idea if it's something you guys would be interested in, and thus worth the trouble.

(It would, however, be an excellent impetus to keep my office clean.)

 
May 4, 2015

Explorations...

by Chris Randall
 



For reasons passing understanding, I've decided I'm going to do my next release 100% Euro. So in my munificent free time the last couple weeks, I've been trying out different workflows to make that experience relatively painless, and by that, I mean that I'm looking in to ways that the context doesn't get in my way. My normal course of action would be to do everything in individual passes, and edit/mix/arrange in the DAW, with additional production being done digitally.

For this release, I'm hoping to avoid that and do entire songs in one pass. So I went through the trouble of assembling a Eurorack instrument-unto-itself; I'm still fooling a bit with the exact layout, but I pretty much have it down right now to something I can make complete tracks with. It's a 12U Monorocket case with a pair of Sequencer 1s and an obvious collection of modules. Taken as a single collective instrument, it needs to be learned and mastered. Which is what I'm doing right now.

The video above shows where I am in the process. This is by no means a musical statement, but rather just a recording of me exploring some different methodologies for performing with this thing, and learning what it is capable of. You'll note the thing I'm fiddling with off to the side, which is a Boss RRV-10 that I circuit-bent some years ago. It has made appearances in many of my videos, but it never occurred to me to "play" it in real time. So I'm experimenting with that here. The monome is hooked up to the Earthsea module, and I'm just using it to play the little melody that is running in to the RRV-10.

So, it's coming along. I think I'm getting close to being ready to patch some music in to life. I will be recording these tracks "stemmed" (in a manner of speaking) direct to 8-track tape, where they'll be mixed to my MTR-11 1/4" deck. I will _try_ to make a video of each performance, but I'm not making any promises there. Stopping a good creative flow to set up the camera, and deal with all that nonsense, is kind of a drag.

For an earlier snapshot of the current journey, you can have a listen to this (no video, sorry.) Unlike the above song, I made this before I made the decision to not multi-take things, so it is actually 4 passes, rather than one.


 
February 15, 2015

Eurorack Drums For Maschine...

by Chris Randall
 



In my explorations the last couple days, I accidentally a couple kits of more-or-less traditional drum machine sounds for Maschine (software 2.1.2 or later) with my Euro stuff. Since I'm reasonably convinced this is the sort of thing that is of interest to the above-average AI reader, here they are. (4.3mb zip file.) It is a pair of kits with 15 samples each; I've utilized pad 16 in both kits for the Maschine plate reverb.

These can, of course, be utilized in any sample playback device; there are a pair of folders in the zip containing the raw samples. They will not have the benefit of the (generally mild) production in the Maschine software, as I didn't bake the effects or EQ or anything.

Enjoy!
 

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