XFT, live DJs & LITD 2014

Cool and Groovy Blog graphic by Stevie C

A tale of copyright, raves & gigs…

9th June 2014 - 7th July 2014…

Is XFT a scam? (A tale of Copyright)

I was recently horrified to find one of my photos (specifically of the cloisters at Iona Abbey) had been copied without my permission onto a website selling a fuel additive (XFT Xtreme Fuel Treatment) that claims to increase efficiency while decreasing vehicle maintenance costs. On one hand, I’m happy when someone finds my online photos interesting, useful or whatever - but on the other hand, I’m absolutely raging that a company that only uses stock photography feels the need to steal my intellectual property to sell their questionable product, company shares or whatever they actually do.

A casual glance around their site (particularly a baffling review of their parent company where my image was being used) left me confused whether they were selling shares, the product itself or something/whatever else. Not that my image was in any way relevant to any of the above. After sending them a polite “you owe backdated licensing fees for use of my copyrighted material” email, they removed my image from their site and went quiet. Nice Try. I still have a screen-shot and a copy of their site’s source code proving that my image was used on their site - and, according to the small amount of IP Law research I’ve carried out, I still have a case against them…

So, as many internet users are asking, is XFT a scam? I can’t answer for sure due to certain legal reasons, but I wouldn’t think a legit product/company would need to use stock photos on their website - or use images without the copyright holder’s permission. If they really were making lots of money from such an amazing product, I would have thought that the small license fee for use of my copyrighted image would have been pocket change to them.

Further reading: http://www.prdaily.com/Main/Articles/How_using_Google_Images_can_cost_you_8000_14912.aspx

Roots Went Back To Its Roots

This one of those times where what happened on the road, will largely stay on the road. I was at Mains Castle by invitation of both DJ BGR (Big Gay Ross) and audioWAVE Sound Hire, where me, Dylan & Kev were installing and babysitting 3 DJ PAs for the two floors and the courtyard of Mains Castle, Dundee (which I previously assumed was miles out of town, much to my surprise). With QSC/JBL & D&B systems, this was a reassuringly heavy one. I hate spiral stair cases - I did learn a bit about their purpose, thanks to Kev.

Later, in the van, me & Kev had a moment to indulge in some intellectualized banter regarding the origins of house music and its influences on culture today… And how the Roots… gig was in fact a rave, and not the intimate deep-house gathering I had previously assumed. Whatever it was, it was amazing.

Topics among such banter was my curiosity of if/when it’s ever acceptable to drink during work (what with alcohol affecting our ears and such). The very thought of the combination of drink & work would have some pulling a face like they sat on a hedgehog holding a pineapple covered in broken glass, or whatever they would do in horror/repulsion. From the days of when I first started college (I feel old), when we were told that “a couple of pints throughout the gig is not unacceptable” to the latter years of being told “sensible during the gig, insane after”, there’s no one answer. The conclusion I came to (and was happy about) followed some input from Kev. If you’re being paid to do the gig, it’s probably not a good idea, but if you were there as a volunteer (and let’s face it - I sometimes am), just don’t go crazy. There is a time and a place after all.

Kirrie Baton Relay (Up The Hill)

A week later, I was asked to help with sound for DD8 Music, who were organizing bands to play as part of the Queen’s Baton Relay. As most of DD8’s equipment was at last sitting in Rainbow Music awaiting repair/servicing, I was left with a Phonic PMC 12 channel desk and a pair of Yamaha DXR12s. If I’m honest, I preferred this setup to the usual Peavey mixer & passive speakers (even if only for the fact that everything worked as expected). I’m not sure if this system had any extra headroom, but it felt as if there was far more than ever available on the older system. We’ll see after the older system has been serviced…

After a quick sound test (with Toothless Hawkins and His Robot Jazz Band), I had to admit that I instantly fell I love with these speakers. For music playback, they were certainly powerful and rich enough. The gig went like clockwork, with none of the usual dangers of driving the system to the ragged edge. The only two things of note were this weird phasing in certain parts of the audience (the speakers were at the same height and the same distance forward, albeit on a hill) and the usual incidence of a guitarist bringing his dad along to scream in my ear that I’m not making his son’s vocal loud enough (over his guitar amp cranked up to 11) during the first song (i.e. when setting the levels). I must work on my peopling skills - although the system was louder and clearer, there is still a limit to how loud it can be pushed.

I keep meaning to get a T-shirt printed that says something like: “Yes, I’m an Aspie and I am happy - please do not tell me to smile or cheer up. No, I can’t make it any louder. Yes, I’m the DJ. No, I can’t play something off your phone.”.

DD8 Music Queen’s Baton Relay at Kirrie Hill Camera Obscura, Yamaha DXR12, Phonic PMC 12

DD8 Music Queen’s Baton Relay at Kirrie Hill :)

Do DJs “Play” Live?

I got into trouble for posting some of my upcoming gigs to various Facebook groups, as the groups proclaim that they “are for the promotion of live local music - no DJs allowed!”. This got me thinking - why aren’t DJs live?

A simple online search of this question would have you believe that most DJs “are just pressing play” - why then would clubs pay someone to stand behind a laptop and dance stupidly when they could do the same themselves with iTunes for much less? Putting aside the fact that only a select few top (by which I mean overpaid & under-talented) DJs are “just pressing play”, I firmly believe that DJs can and do fit into the “live” category - to varying degrees.

On a related note, photographers are just pointing and clicking, sound engineers are just pressing record and surgeons are just cutting someone with a knife.

Unless just relying on a laptop (and even then some decently live stuff can still be accomplished), there’s a whole world of stuff that a DJ can be doing on-the-fly, such as: beat matching, scratching, looping, sampling, glitching/effecting, cueing audio to different speakers, mashing up, re-sampling/re-playing with a Koass pad or MIDI keyboard (even adding in live instruments like cowbells, as done at various Reading Rooms events), reading the crowd and adapting a playlist suitably and so on… It’s not as if a guitarist wouldn’t play the exact same thing at the exact same time for every show he played.

However, I’m basing my argument on local DJs who select, play and edit good music, not bedroom DJs who think they’re Scott Brown just because they can play Happy Hardcore volume 107 on a CDJ while dancing like they’re trying to shake their trousers off.

Next you’ll be telling me that acoustic guitarists with loop pedals aren’t playing live either…

Further reading: http://gizmodo.com/5921053/all-djs-are-glorified-button-pushers/1578500319/+marioaguilar

LITD: Live In The Den 2014

Speaking of DJs and acoustic guitarists with loop pedals, this brings me to DD8 Music’s Live In The Den 2014. This year wasn’t flooded out, however the day did start out very dreich only to brighten up later and attract some semi-nakedness to Kirrie Den. I’m seeing a pattern from previous years. Also, speaking of DJs playing live, we had the fantastic Shane Forge DJing in between bands - and yes, he was live scratching and re-mixing. Korova Conspiracy, watch out!

As I had been intending to bring my laptop & M-Audio interface to a gig that audioWAVE was doing for DD8 for the purposes of a live recording for some time, I decided that I should finally take the plunge. As Mitch usually uses an Allen & Heath GL series (with group outputs), I could just pseudo-multi track as I usually do: record stereo stems of: Drums, Backline, Vocals, Keys/DIs (or a variation thereof) thus, still allowing me level control of each instrument. So, with my interface looked out and dusted off (it’s been a while), some HDD space freed up and Logic Pro configured - I was ready, or so I thought. Because, Mitch turned up with an Allen & Heath QU-24 - which, let’s face it, I’ve fallen in love with. After a frantic scramble to source a type-B USB cable, I was able to stream 16 channels of audio down a USB line (the desk is capable of more, sadly my hard disk is not). I did not believe USB 2.0 to be capable of the constant bandwidth required for 16 (let alone 24) channels of 48kHz/16 bits audio…

Mitch explained to me that this was made possible by the desk using “Magic Fairy Dust’, as I’d always suspected.

Aside from the temporary HDD overload (due probably to the fact that I freed up space from all over the drive, probably causing mass file allocation fragmentation) and the drunk guy coming over and sloshing his drink everywhere (a buttock-clenching experience if ever there was one), which led me to fashion a festival poncho for my Mac, the recording process went smoothly. The recorded raw files turned out crisp and clear, and sound amazing. I love the QU-24.

Allen & Heath QU-24 and Macbook Pro Live Recording at DD8 Music Live in the Den Kirriemuir 2014

My Mac wearing a festival poncho-thing :)

Rather than bore you with more text, here’s some photos.

DD8 Music Live in the Den Kirriemuir 2014 with Gary Taylor and his loop pedal DD8 Music Live in the Den Kirriemuir 2014 with Quiet No Longer

Gary Taylor & Quiet No Longer :)

DD8 Music Live in the Den Kirriemuir 2014 with The Blend and an unexpected guest

The Blend & dancing guests :)

I have been doing a few rough mixes in Logic, but will be getting the tracks into Cubase to perform a better mix. I’m not sure if it’s just a placebo effect, but I think I mix better in Cubase than I do in Logic. I prefer Logic for live recording, but find things like editing, overdubbing and side-chaining easier in Cubase. Speaking of which, I have assured Gary that we can overdub part of his guitar playing in the style of Talking Heads / Stop Making Sense (seeing as Graham filmed the event as well). Also on the subject of editing, I have always stood by the fact I would only edit something as if it could be performed that way - so while I would edit out a bum note, I wouldn’t auto-tune something. Largely because I can’t, but also because I don’t think it should be done.

Live recording sample:

Kirriemuir Den Band Stand Tannage Brae hosts DD8 Music Live in the Den 2014

Live in the Den Kirriemuir 2014 :)

But first, lemme take a #Selfie

Graham told me that as I was at LITD with DD8 Music, I had to wear a hi-viz vest. He Didn’t specify how or where.

As I was at LITD with DD8 Music, I had to wear a hi-viz vest.
Graham didn’t specify how or where. :)

#IndyRef: Just Another Opinion

What did the US celebrate on July 4th? Was it “Separation Day” or “Independence Day”?

The only thing I want to know is: will I be able to buy incandescent light bulbs by not being part of the EU? (think festoon harness).

Why would the Tories care if Scotland left the UK? The fact that they make so much noise about it just confirms my suspicions that they themselves will be worse off somehow if Scotland leaves.

The fact is, I want Scotland to go independent, but only if we can take Carlisle, Brighton, Manchester, Yorkshire, Wales and a few other places with us.

One More Thing…

As an ardent fan on the Bon Scott Statue Facebook page asked,
“Do you support Bon’s Erection?” :)

Stevie’s Top 40

I should probably point out that unlike my Last.fm profile, these Top 40 are just the songs I love the most at the moment - not necessarily what’s been played the most or been recently added.

  1. Living Well Is The Best Revenge R.E.M.
  2. Halcyon Jon Hopkins
  3. Walking On The Moon The Police
  4. Brick House (K Theory Remix) The Commodores
  5. Sexy Ladies Goldie Lookin Chain
  6. 100 mph Stereophonics
  7. Bite My Tongue Quiet No Longer *
  8. Another Brick In The Wall The Blend *
  9. Halcyon Au5 & Fractal
  10. Toothless Hawkins (And His Robot Jazz Band) Varien & Razihel
  11. Dreams Fleetwood Mac
  12. You Could Be Mine Guns n Roses
  13. Pushing On (Original Mix) Oliver $, Jimi Jules
  14. Swing Star (Part 2) Todd Terje
  15. Your Woman White Town
  16. Ketang Kasabian
  17. Lazy Sunday Aaron Bond
  18. Glottal Stomp Opiuo
  19. Concrete Jugs Wannabe *
  20. Raised On Rock Scorpions
  21. La Fong (Original Mix feat. D-Sens) Opiuo
  22. Snorkle (Original Mix) Opiuo
  23. In Yer Face 808 State
  24. On The Road (Live) Motörhead
  25. I Want Your Love (Todd Terje Edit) Chic
  26. Killing For Love (Todd Terje Brokeback Mix) Jose Gonzalez
  27. Spiral Todd Terje
  28. Inspector Norse Todd Terje
  29. Bad Stone The Crystal Method
  30. Too Real The Levellers
  31. Real Love The Beatles
  32. King Of Everything Boy George
  33. Coming Home (Marc Vedo Remix feat. Boy George) Dharma Protocol
  34. King Tut Paul Hardcastle
  35. Todayo Teenage Bottlerocket
  36. Unchain My Heart Joe Cocker
  37. Spaced Invader (J Majik Remix) Hatiris
  38. The Sex That I Need (feat. Avenue D) Cazwell
  39. It’s My Life Talk Talk
  40. The Music’s Got Me Bass Bumpers

* Bands I have been mixing

Echo Echo Echo Echo Echo Echo Echo Echo Echo …