Blog history

I’ve maintained a few personal blogs over the years. And now, they have all been imported into this domain. I’m certain there were import problems here and there, so any old entries prior to 2010 or so (I have entries going back to 2002, some of which are private) may not be formatted correctly. Certainly older images are missing.

It’s quite interesting looking at over 15 years of writing all in one place. Of course, I used to blog much more heavily than I do now. Ah well… it is fun to browse through. Enjoy.

Back from the dead

This site had been hacked; apologies if it affected you in any way. Looks like it’s been salvaged, so perhaps I will post here more regularly now. Time will tell.

Great Tone in the Box: Using Harmonics and Distortion for Analog Sound in Digital Mixes


My last article for Recording Magazine was great fun to write, since I got to write about the single biggest factor in improving my mixes over the past decade. It wasn’t until I understood how distortion & harmonics can be used in a mix, that I feel like my mixes were finally sounding the way I always had heard them in my head. Before I understood distortion in this way, I tended to overuse things like EQ and compression in an attempt to make the recordings sound richer — only once I started using distortion in this way did things finally sound “right” to me.

Recording Mag has been kind enough to provide a PDF of my article if you aren’t a subscriber. Here is an excerpt, to whet your harmonic appetite:

There is a school of thought that says in this digital age of plug-ins, a recordist is best off recording tracks as cleanly and as flat as possible, to maximize flexibility during the mix. Another school of thought says that you should craft your tones ahead of time on the way into a digital recording system, to maximize the sonic potential and save yourself time during the mix. Both approaches are used successfully every day on recordings, but there is little question that the latter approach generally requires a much higher budget for hardware: analog preamps, EQs, compressors, and other devices to achieve the desired tonality.

In a way, the gear choices that an engineer makes reflects their sonic personality. Familiarity allows the engineer to quickly get the sounds they are looking for. For busy professional engineers who need to work quickly, this approach makes perfect sense, and is at the root of the analog gear explosion of the last decade. The amount of great gear available these days, all made by passionate people, is astounding.

Ask the right question

The new generation of front-end hardware typically has more controls, often a gain and a level knob or perhaps simple EQ or input impedance controls to manipulate tone, rather than just a single gain knob on an interface preamp. Despite the additional expense of many of these units, they aren’t necessarily better—they just sound different, and in many cases the differences are quite subtle. The four main parameters of audio are frequency response, distortion, noise, and time-based effects, so whatever differences in sound exist between audio products like mic preamps can be described in terms of these parameters, and we can manipulate these parameters using plug-ins.

We can debate whether digital distortion can sound the same as analog, but I believe this is the wrong question. Rather, I prefer to ask: can we make a given recording sound better with the tools available to us? With distortion plug-ins, we can add back in much of the tone we associate with analog technology: tape, tubes, analog preamps, etc. We can then fine-tune the added distortion with additional EQ or compression.

Thanks to Mike Metlay, my editor at Recording Magazine, for providing this PDF.

AudioGeek For Hire

Today, my association with RealTraps comes to an end. I have been laid off while the company undergoes restructuring. Therefore, the future of RealTraps is no longer my story to tell. I want to thank the factory crew — Joe Jacobowitz and Sean Kollar — for being so awesome to work with over the past 9 years. And also, thanks to all of my RealTraps clients over the years: I’ve worked with thousands of you to make your worlds sound better, and it’s been a blast. I’ve learned so much from you.

As far as what the future holds for me, first on the agenda is to take some time to rest, clear my head, and strategize. I haven’t had a proper vacation in nearly a decade, since before I started with RealTraps. I know one thing: there will be more & different adventures in my reality moving forward. And I’m certain that I will be spending more time in the Crafted Recordings world. First off will be finishing the album project with the fabulous Eddy Dyer, and resuming production of my podcast. I’m so excited to bring this album out into the world; we’re about halfway through and it is sounding amazing already. Eddy has some amazing songs, with some really good musicians playing them; my task is to make sure each song sounds as good as I can make it, and midwife the project into the world. It’s looking like a late summer/early fall release, so watch this space.

In the meantime, if you are interested in my audiogeek services, let me know what you have in mind, and let’s work together!

A Parable for Earth Day

Dixie_Apr22-2016So we added a new family member today. We adopted a dog — her name is Dixie (see note below) Doxy, and we don’t want to change it because she knows it and responds to it. She is 5 years old, and for the first 4.5 years of her life she belonged to a breeder.

She’s a bit skittish, and very shy. For the most part her movements are slow and deliberate, with some exceptions: if she thinks she is in trouble, she flinches and cowers, and is very fearful.

We were told she had 2 litters, one via conventional birth and one via C-section. Part of me suspects they said this merely because any vet will know she’s done both at least once. I can’t help but wonder if she’s had more. She seems tired, and acts older than her 5 years. Edgrrr, our other dog, is more than double that age and exhibits more energy (of course we’ve had him since he was a pup so he’s much more comfortable and less traumatized).

She will have a much different life with us. It will be calmer, with far fewer other dogs to compete with, in a calm environment with lots of love and affection. I really look forward to seeing her personality unfold in the coming weeks & months.

So the parable? What happens if we view the Earth as something to love as opposed to something from which we can extract products to sell?

(UPDATE, 4/25:  we have officially changed her name to Doxy. We couldn’t stomach Dixie, and she still responds to Doxy. We also considered Pixie. She is still adapting well, settling in and getting comfortable. Her bark is adorable, but we’ve only heard it once so far.)

Acoustics Myths and Their Hidden Truths

My next article for Recording Magazine was published in the November issue. It’s called Acoustics Myths and Their Hidden Truths, and was a fun way to integrate my love of mythology with my audiogeekery:

I have a deep love and respect for mythology (Norse is my current favorite). While the myths and stories of our ancestors may not be an abundant source for scientific truth, they are packed with meaning that can inspire us and enrich our lives. This kind of meaning is what drives art in general, and without artistic meaning, what’s the point of recording music?

As a result, I’m not a big fan of “mythbusting” or “debunking”. Implied in these terms are absolutes that I rarely agree with: that the “myth” (taken as a synonym for “lie”) being “debunked” has no truth to it whatsoever, and that anyone who “believes” in it is therefore ignorant and/or stupid. On the contrary, I find that many of these “myths” have their roots in truth. More often, the problems tend to come when the truths are misinterpreted or taken to an extreme that isn’t always the most accurate way to think about the problem at hand. Like all mythologies, audio myths are an invitation to think more deeply about a given scenario.

I am happy to say that my editor provided me with a PDF copy of the article that I can distribute. If you find this stuff interesting, I urge you to subscribe to the magazine, it’s one of my favorite audiogeek magazines going.

This is by far the longest article I’ve yet done in Recording, and it was a fun one to write.

Overheard at a Park Bench in Bangor

“Hello Sir. What are you reading?”

“It’s an essay called ‘The Will To Believe,’ by William James.”

William James.
William James.

“Oh, nice, I haven’t heard of him before. what’s it about?”

“Well, basically it’s a philosophical justification of Belief, in which it can coherently exist alongside rationalism and science.”

“Oh, interesting. I’ll have to look into it. William James, you said?”

“Yes, he was an American philosopher and psychologist who wrote in the late 19th and early 20th century, around the time that psychology was becoming its own discipline, separate from philosophy. You might be more familiar with one of his most famous books, called The Varieties of Religious Experience.”

“I’ll have to look into it. So, what do you believe?”

“Well, I don’t really believe in belief.”

“What do you mean?”

“Put it this way, I’ll give you another line from one of my favorite writers: Belief is the death of intelligence.”

*blink* *blink*

“What does that mean?”

“Well, I interpret it to mean that when we fixate something into a belief system, we tend to close ourselves off from the possibility of novelty, and seeing the world in a different way than we did yesterday.”

“Ah, so you have to keep thinking and challenging yourself.”

“Sure, something like that.”

“We believe that too. I’m from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.”

“Oh, cool. I have a copy of the Book Of Mormon in my library. One of your colleagues gave it to me, probably 30 years ago now.”

“Have you read it?”

“Not all the way through, and honestly I haven’t picked it up in years. I find Mormonism to be one of the most interesting religions out there.”

“Oh, how come?”

“Mostly because its history, how it was founded, is a great story. I really like stories about Christ that are outside the norm, as portrayed in the Gospels. Also for other little things that make me go hmmm. For instance, that they call someone as young as yourself an ‘Elder,’ if I’m reading your nametag correctly. In my tribe, that term is used for people with quite a bit more life experience than is possible for one so young.”

“What religion are you?”

“Well, I don’t really believe in Organized Religion with capital letters, and for the most part I think monotheism is a blight upon humanity. But if you want to call me something, call me a pagan.”

“What do you mean, pagan?”

Pagan is Latin for Redneck.”

*blink* *blink*

“Well, that stuff you were talking about earlier, about not stopping thinking when you believe something, well we believe that too.”


“So, would you mind if we stopped by sometime to talk to you?”

“Well, I don’t live here. I’m in town for a gig, I live 100 miles away.”

“Oh. Well, can I give you this card? You should look something up on the web, I bet you’d get a lot out of it.”

“Sure, if I can give you a copy of my Radical Paganism pamphlet. I bet you’d get a lot out of that, too.”

“Have a good night, Sir.”

“You too.”

Radical Paganism pamphlet

Tomorrow is Maine Pagan Unity Day in Portland. I am giving a workshop with C.S. Thompson, that I am greatly looking forward to. C.S. and I both write for Gods & Radicals. This should be a fun workshop.

Radical Paganism: Magic, Capitalism & Resistance

The processes that gave birth to the modern, industrialized world were the same processes that drove people off the land, severed their connections to ancient, magical ways of being, and forced them to subsist as worker/laborers in the capitalist system. People all over the world resisted these changes by calling on Gods, Land Wights, Spirits of Place, Faerie Queens, and other indigenous energies as allies in resistance. In this workshop, James Lindenschmidt & C.S. Thompson of will look to their examples as inspiration in our own quests to resist beautifully & re-enchant the world.

There is also a handout pamphlet I made, that you can see here. It’s a 4 page pamphlet, that you can print on both sides of a letter size page, and fold in half.

Radical Paganism: Magic, Capitalism, & Resistance

So yeah. If you are anywhere near Portland tomorrow, you should come check it out. Lots of cool workshops, and I’ll also be doing sound all day.

Music of my Ancestors?

Did the Vikings have rock stars? I imagine the music of my ancestors must have sounded something like this.

Did the Vikings have rock stars? I imagine the music of my ancestors must have sounded something like this.


It has been a busy summer thus far. In addition to my day job at RealTraps, which keeps me quite busy by helping people make their realities sound better, I have been writing quite a bit, and also doing some mixing & recording.

alley-fistMost of the writing has been over at Gods & Radicals, where I’ve written 3 articles since the last update here:

Also, I published here my first ever published article, written way back in 2000 when I was a student at USM. It’s a piece called A Barnraising In Cyberspace: Linux & The Free Software Movement, and is an analysis of my early days using Linux back in 1999, as well as some of my thoughts about the broader potentials of the Free software movement as a commons (though I didn’t really have that language of the commons back then). I think the piece holds up really well, if I do say so myself.

In addition to the writing, much of my free time has been spent working on Morgan Lindenschmidt‘s next EP, which is coming along beautifully. Not that I’m biased, but it’s great fun watching this young artist continue to grow in every possible way as an artist. I can’t wait for the world to hear this stuff.

I’ve also been trying to spend more time outside, given that it’s summer and I live in one of the most beautiful places on Earth. So, yeah. Busy time of year. Not too conducive to lots of writing online. Let the lamentations begin.