Like Mood Swings

March 27, 2002

Time to bash my head against the brick wall again.

I was up until 3am last night for a 6 hour mastering marathon. Any mastering engineer will tell you how stupid that was - you should never master your music over an extended period of time. But I was determined to get that elusive professional sound, particularly with so many pressures on me right now (zero cash flow, demands for new private demo CDs).

It's so hard to tell if I'm getting anywhere. One minute I'll listen and think I've nailed it, that the track sounds as good as the Prodigy. As little as 2 hours later I'll change my mind, think it sounds awful and want to throw it all away. 3 hours later I'll think it sounds good again. It's like rapid mood swings, really. It's not dissimilar from something Moby once described in Future Music:

"When you're working by yourself you can lose objectivity so quickly and molehills become mountains. I'll be working on a song and if I can't get the kick drum to sound right I'll think I'm a failure and walk around Manhatten, mourning my fate. It doesn't matter that I've made lots of records in the past. All that matters is I can't get one kick drum right. And all I can think about is my career's over and I'm going to have to become a fries chef at McDonalds."
- Moby (pg 63, Future Music 84, July 1999)

So does my music sound as good as Garbage and Prodigy now? Nuh-uh. But it doesn't sound so harsh, it doesn't hurt my ears to turn the volume up anymore. It's by no means perfect, but it is the best that I can do at my current skill level. With a punk DIY ethic like my own, what more can you ask for? For once, I am happy with my work.

For the digital musicians amongst you, what I did was load my music in Cool Edit 2000 and take several EQ curve snapshots in iZotope Ozone, comparing my tracks to "Smack My Bitch Up" by The Prodigy and "Mofo" by U2. I found my tracks had a huge 6dB peak around 5kHz, so with some radical eq'ng I was able to tame the sound. I then used EQ to make every song roughly match the eq and level of that one namesuppressed song that sounded good.

I must say thank you to my friends and fans. I love you all very much, even if I'm not exactly showing it right now. I'm sorry for being so curt and tetchy with you lately. (What does tetchy mean? "An incorrigibly fractious young man" apparently....) The stress is getting to me, if you haven't noticed, but if it wasn't for your insistence and nagging I wouldn't have a new private-demo CD completed today. I wouldn't have persisted with my mastering to get it to the best standard I'm currently capable of. I love what I do, and I can't imagine giving it up, but when people place demands and expectations on you, you can get sick of things rapidly. It's my own fault for placing such high expectations on myself in the first place. Perhaps it's something I should work on.

I need a break, some quiet time by the river, away from the music, the pressure and the noise.