A few years ago, I was at the winter NAMM show, the insane dog and pony show of musical madness that it is. If you've never been, it's hard to imagine the spectacle of it all; death metalers bumping into the smooth jazzers hanging with the Goths talking to the bluegrassers while the aging rockers and their aging ex-stripper wives compete for face time with aging grey hairs who still run the mom and pop music stores that supply the high school marching band. Dweezil Zappa and Lisa Loeb bump into Stevie Wonder and Gene Simmons, while Herbie Hancok and Bernie Worrell do an impromptu jam down the aisle from Michelle Shocked and Dusty Wakeman, trying to do an acoustic set next to Joe Satriani and the drummer from Poison signing autographs. I just go about my business, there because the business of giving away Tape Op to you for free demands it. Then I saw Ray Barbee walking down the hall, and I was a bit starstruck. Ray is a pioneer of early skateboarding, the days when it transitioned from vertical ramps and pools to the streets of the city. The confines of pools and ramps were replaced with the open expanse of the city and it's ledges, stairs and handrails. Ray was a member of the original Bones Brigade along with Tommy Guerrero. The Bones Brigade was put together by Stacy Peralta and CR Stecyk of Dogtown fame, and the early skate videos they made with young skaters like Tony Hawk are classics of the genre. To watch how smoothly Ray skates is to understand how he made the transition to playing music and why he's evolved into playingguitar in a jazz idiom, informed by hip-hop and punk. As it turns out, I shouldn't have been starstruck. Ray is totally down to earth and a super nice person.
We've stayed in touch over the years and Ray ended up buying my old Allen & Heath console and Fostex 16-track to augment his Digi 001 and Tascam 8- track set up. Through Ray I met Thomas Campbell who did this months' cover art and runs Galaxia Records. Check out the interview with Tommy G. in this issue, as well as the CD reviews section for some other Galaxia & T-Moe tidbits.
"I started on a Tascam 246. That thing was great. It was kind of a glorified 4-track 'cause it had a mixer. It had more sophisticated routing and four outputs. The EQs were better too — they had shelving or peak, and there were more frequencies. That was pretty cool for a 4-track. I got that from my friend, Monet, who used to go out with the Arabian Prince from NWA. She used to do music but got into insurance and had all this '80s music gear lying around and she knew I was into music so she let me use it. So she let me borrow that and a DBX 160x and then a Tascam DA- 30 DAT. So, I had a fun little setup and I used that to do my first EP, Triumphant Procession."
"What happened too was when the guys at Galaxia started talking about releasing that album, they're like 'Let's get you in the studio,' but the way I did stuff was I'd go skating during the day and then at home at night I'd have ideas and start cataloging them and recording them. So I started thinking if I spent time in the studio and I knew I was under the clock, man I don't want to put myself in that situation. So I told them just give me some money and I'll get one of those new digital workstation things. Maybe it'll be an upgrade in sound. So I did a couple songs on it. It was a Roland VS-880, I think it had some data compression on it. So right away I was just like... I let a buddy listen to one song and he's all 'What is that?' and I'm all 'It's a guitar.' It sounded like a dulcimer or something — it was just so brittle. So I got rid of that and with the money I got from that, the first thing I got was the little Fostex R8, which was cool. Then I wanted to upgrade to 1/2-inch, so I got a 38, but that was tough because the transport was kinda loose. I had that for a little bit. Then on Thanksgiving one year, I was recording my buddy's band so I got my 38 and lugged it over to this church. I pulled an all-nighter and when I got home — at that time, my wife and I were living on the second floor, and I was like 'Oh man, I don't want to lift this...' I was gearing up to bring it back up, so I set it down on this little brick platform area and it wasn't balanced so it fell on the top and it pushed the motor into the inside of the deck. So that's how I got a Tascam TSR 8. Then I broke down and got Pro Tools and an 001, and then an 002, so now I'm, trying to figure out the merger of the two. Either starting on the tape and flying it into Pro Tools and then addingtoit.OrsometimesI'vetriedittheotherway. I was so bent on just getting my guitars onto tape, on my TSR-8, but since the stuff was already in Pro Tools, I recorded it onto tape and then played it back into Pro Tools. So I had the original and then I'd fly the tape in and I'd have to line it up and it was crazy because the tape's stretchin. I'm seein' where some points are on and a lotta' times it's off, so I had to get in there and cut it and then get it all lined up. It was tedious...."
The sonics of software:
"I have noticed a difference in platforms too. For my new album, I went out to track with Doug Scharin in Chicago, who plays with June of '44 and Rex, and he had just gotten Digital Performer and we tracked on that. I had to get a computer after that. So my friend Lance [Mountain, another member of the Bones Brigade] who does The Firm, the skateboard company I ride for — I was doing music for The Firm video at the time and I just got...