The Struggles of Being an Experimental Freelance Musician

That’s me a couple days ago when I was thinking about all the struggles of being a freelance experimental musician (I know, boo hoo, right?) haha. Anyway, this post isn’t for you to feel sorry for me, but rather to reach out to those of you that are in a similar boat as me.

I’ve been making music since I was 10 years old, and started producing my own music when I was 20 when I got my first cassette 4 track recorder back in the 90s. Since then I’ve created my own record label called Anthill Recordings and self-produced over 20 albums. As far as sales, some have done okay, some have had literally no attention at all, but absolutely none of them have done extremely well. At this point it doesn’t bother me that much, but there was a time when it did.

When you pour your heart and soul into something you think is unique, passionate, and extremely well done, and others do not respond to it at all, it can be a disheartening experience. At the same time when you observe others seemingly churning out the same old thoughtless dribble and getting praised for it, can be even more maddening. The problem is with our society is it rewards conformity and punishes uniqueness. This is something we all learned well in grade school. All of the most popular kids were doing whatever was cool. Football, cheerleaders, jocks, whatever music is on TV or the radio they liked, they wore all the same name brand clothes. They’re all good little sheep.

So it really should come as no surprise to me when I craft something as unique as my album Turn of The Scroct that has a measly 4 bandcamp supporters, while vaporwave artists are simply re-releasing slowed down previously released pop music and are getting thousands of downloads. Here we are again, people just following what other people are doing. There’s literally hundreds of thousands of releases like this, none of which have any originality whatsoever. Contrary to what I just wrote, I don’t hate vaporwave, and have dabbled in it myself, but took it as inspiration. I didn’t merely copy what everyone else was already doing and slap some statues in front of a Windows 95 screenshot and call it a day.

I spent time making my music, thought about it, tried to make it different, tried to make it unique. I took time to perfect my playing, as a drummer, and with all the other instruments I put on my recordings. Am I rewarded with sales? No. No I’m not. To me it’s not desirable to fit neatly into a specific genre of music. This is a huge problem with today’s music and marketing. If it doesn’t neatly adhere to a specific hashtag, nobody cares about it. Because hashtags seem to define people’s identities these days.

However, I am rewarded with my own love of creation. When I listen back to what I made, I think about how good it felt to finally be able to play the drum part I struggled with, how I was able to achieve such a strong sounding mix, how I was able to press a vinyl record after playing every single instrument on it, recording it, mixing it, mastering the vinyl, all by myself. And the few that have reached out to me thanking me for my efforts have done so in a very heartfelt manor. One listener even called me on the phone after I released my album “In The Park” and wanted to personally thank me for making it. This was really nice.

But again, this isn’t why I do it. I do it because I love the process of creation. Making something that I am proud of, that my own thoughts, ideas, focus and energy went into. Knowing it came out exactly the way I wanted it, and maybe one day people will find it and enjoy it as much as I do. But even if they don’t I don’t care. In a way, I’m glad I’ve freed myself from needing other’s approval of my music. Now I create for me. But what I do wish I was getting more of is….. money.

Yes that’s right, I said money. I work hard and I would like to be rewarded financially for my work. I don’t care if people are calling me a genius, or if my music becomes the next trendy thing, I want money, lots of it. So over time I’ve found little ways to make a bit… not lots, but I keep trying to learn new ways to make more. Some of which are making gear reviews on YouTube with my music, creating exclusive content for music licensing, as well as offering my mixing and mastering services to others. Do I make as much money as the amount of work I do? No, not at this point, but I’m going to keep trying. To me this is the ultimate struggle, but I will never give up.


Sticky Wicket is Becoming My Favorite YouTube Drummer

If you haven’t seen Sticky Wicket yet, you are really missing out. The YouTube Channel, Next Level Chops Has been featuring a series of videos with drummer, Sticky Wicket, who has an amazing collection of real vintage drums, and is a master drum historian.

Their Sticky Wicket Playlist has many great videos of Sticky giving drum history lessons, showing his old timey drums, as well as amazing demonstrations such as the one above. They are a true joy to watch and I highly recommend them!

What is MIDI? A Noob’s Overview

Sometimes there’s something that seems like everyone already knows except you. This can be the case today with the sheer amount of info online about MIDI EXCEPT the very basics of what it is!

You’ll see all kinds of info about sequenicing, usb midi, and all kinds of stuff, but this post is for the noob who isn’t afraid to ask the basic question of ‘What is MIDI?’.

MIDI stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface and can be thought of as a computer language for musical instruments. The term “interface” can be misleading by today’s common usage of the word, since now an interface is mostly thought of as physical devices such as usb audio interfaces which often have both audio and MIDI ports on them. Sometimes the port itself is referred to an interface, so this contributes to the confusion of newcomers.

So in a sense MIDI encompasses both hardware and data because it is a specification, not just a physical or digital thing. When somebody says or writes MIDI, they could be talking about a port, a file, a cable, a sequence, or all of the above! MIDI data can be note information like velocity, pitch, channel, duration and other parameters.

In the early days MIDI it was largely used for connecting various hardware together like synths, drum machines, stand-alone midi sequencers, and even…. lights??!! Yep lights. This is still actually done since midi is a great way to synchronize music to lighting for stage productions. The early 1980s saw a huge influx of new electronic instruments, but digital recording still had not been perfected, so all of this equipment was largely still being recorded to tape. MIDI enabled musicians to connect all this new gear together and synchronize it musically.

In addition to all of this, there’s also something called ‘sysex’ data. Sysex stands for System Exclusive and it still uses the MIDI protocol for information transfer, however it is not musical information, but instead is information about the particular piece of gear like a synth or drum machine. This is useful because you can store information from a synth to an external device using sysex data. In the early days you could use a sysex data recorder to store the information about that piece of hardware such as a patch or settings. Some hardware even featured a ‘tape out’ which allowed you to connect a standard cassette tape recorder to capture data from the synth.

Once personal computers became more available to the public, MIDI started to evolve even more. Way before we were recording audio on computers, we were already sequencing MIDI. In fact, digital audio workstations such as Cubase and MOTU Performer started out as pure MIDI sequencers until computer power caught up to feature audio recording as well. The Atari ST computer came with a standard MIDI port buit-in to the computer and was heavily used by producers such as Trent Reznor in the early days of computer sequenced music.

Other computers like the PC, Mac and Amiga relied on serial ports and special MIDI to serial adapters and cables to make connections to midi hardware. This eventually evolved into USB MIDI and software synths. Today it is possible to work with MIDI 100% in a computer with no external hardware need. However, since the core protocol of MIDI has never changed, even the oldest MIDI devices can still function with modern computer hardware.

This extremely flexible system has remained the standard for musical data and because of it’s longevity, electronic music equipment made as far back as the early 1980s is still widely used today! MIDI is cool.

Thank you for reading and I hope this article helped you understand exactly what MIDI is.

Aquarian’s Answer To The Classic Black Dot Drum Head (Classic Clear Power Dot)

So many great drummers swore by Remo’s C.S (Black Dot) drum heads over the years such as Tony Williams, Alex Van Halen, Steve Smith, and many more. But these days Remo’s quality sadly just isn’t what it used to be, thankfully Aquarian makes an alternative that is the same concept, but in a far more durable and consistent head.

I recently replaced my tom heads with these and made a video about it. Check it out below.

Recording Multi-Channel Drums With Limited Inputs


from one of my vids

Recording drums is an art-form, and there’s many ways to do it. In today’s era of cheap home recording equipment it’s easier than ever to record yourself. One problem though when it comes to drums is many commercially available and affordable computer interfaces have a limited amount of audio inputs. Most commonly 2 or 4.

When this is the case you have some decisions to make. You can either use less mics, by going for a more distant miking technique, or you can use a mixer to combine signals into less inputs. With this tutorial I chose the ladder. I wanted a more closely miked sound on my interface that only has 4 inputs. I used a small inexpensive mixer from Amazon, and my Behringer UMC404HD and combined some channels to use all 4 channels with the maximum amount of options to use later on in the mix.

In the video below I show you how I recorded kick, snare, overhead, two acoustic toms and two electric toms using only 4 channels, and still having the ability to adjust quite a bit of levels in the mix.