Workspace and Environment: Captain Ahab
Hey people. Hope you had a good weekend. I've been slightly busy at work (they had me here on Saturday), so I skipped out on posting on Monday. Justin managed to guide me on how to put up the e-mail address here. It's on the right, so send us comments/feedback or simply a 'hello'. We love e-mail! Here is Jonathan Snipes from Captain Ahab to start off this week.
How did you start off?
I've been making music with computers for about 17 years. At first it was writing little monophonic tunes with the PLAY command in GW & Q-Basic, then finally getting a real computer (that could run Windows!) and playing around with Cakewalk and Noteworthy Composer.
What is your current favorite piece of hardware?
My Synthesizers.com /MOTM / Blacet /Tellun /Wiard /CGS /Oakley /Bananalogue Analogue Modular Synthesizer is my favorite (almost my *only*) piece of hardware. People talk a lot about the versatility of an analogue modular environment, but coming from computers and (particularly) MAX/MSP, I find modulars *fairly* limiting ... it's kind of the lowest amount of customizability that I find acceptable in hardware. I can't really see myself buying any synthesizers with fixed-signal paths, except for ones that I think are fairly unique in their sound/approach (i.e. Yamaha FS1R, Oberheim OBMX, etc. ) What's really astounding about all this analogue gear is who phenomenal it sounds. Those of us who have grown up with computer-based music production systems have often been only using things that attempt to emulate the sounds of analogue (and fall short) - this sounds good almost no matter what you do, so there are no more excuses. You make a shitty track with Reason or something, and you say, "Well if I had some better gear I could make better music." This is it. This synth sounds fantastic, so it's all up to me to write things for it that are good. This in conjunction with Redmatica Autosampler kicks ass. Any sound I make I can then sample in a few clicks, and have forever in polyphony inside logic. Awesome.
Max/MSP & Pluggo. I can build pretty much any effect I need and have it as a plugin inside logic. AND, the plugins can share information back and forth. Like audio - I can send audio back and forth between plugins on different channels without the use of Buses or Auxes. pretty sweet. Max is so versatile. I use it for almost everything. From building synthesizer and plugins to building cueing engines for live theater to building loop management playback systems for live Captain Ahab shows. Can't say enough good things about MAX. I make all my tracks in Logic, which I probably use more than Max, but Max is my favorite, no question.
How does your physical space and surroundings influence your workflow?
I'm not in an ideal space by any means, if it affects my workflow, it's probably an extremely negative influence. I'm still pretty poor, so I have a kind of crappy house. It's full of termites and mold, and the plumbing backs up a lot. That sort of thing. My studio is situated in the garage, where there's lots of mold and dust, and the lighting is just absolute shit. The room itself sounds really bad too, lots of slapback & ringing echoes. I recently made a curtain over the garage door out of packing blankets. This has improved the reflections & isolation somewhat, but I need to get more blankets and do up the rest of the walls too. These things being said, this is the first time I've had space to spread out, which is really great. In previous apartments my studio has always been just a corner of my bedroom, doing vocal recordings in the closet. Having a separate building allows me to be really messy without getting in the way of the rest of my life (which, of course is also really messy, but in a different way). That's good. Whoever lived in this house before us clearly also used the garage as a recording studio, because they had built a vocal both in it. Very recently I've torn it out (because the walls were moldy and the door didn't shut) and now I'm rebuilding it better, trying to make it deader & give it more isolation.
Are you involved in any music/sound work?
Yes - I've been working with composer Bear McCreary (Battlestar Galactica) on making synth sounds & loops for some of his scores. We did Wrong Turn 2 (direct-to-DVD horror movie starring Henry Rollins) together, and currently we're working on The Sarah Connor Chronicles (Terminator spin-off show on Fox this January). I also do quite a bit of composition & sound design for live theater. More and more live theater performances involve me bringing the modular out & making soundscapes live.
What was the first piece of hardware you remember buying?
I got a Kurzweil K2000 in 2001, which was pretty much all I used for a few years. The first couple of Captain Ahab releases are pretty much 100% K2000, sequenced in Cakewalk, then later in Logic. Before that I just had a computer with cakewalk 5 and a Yamaha PSR of some variety. I also had a Mackie 1402-VLZ pro and a Digitech S100 effects box.
What is on your current wish list?
Metasonix Wretch Machine, Yamaha FS1R, Hartmann Neuron, Cynthia Zeroscillator, Millenia HV-3D, Oberheim OBMX, Sound Devices 722, SSL Duende, Meyer HD1s, Max 5, Buchla 200e, Metric Halo 2d card, Yamaha GX1, that new Livewire oscillator, the Cjweman compressor, etc etc etc
Do you have a mobile studio setup?
I have a Marantz CF recorder & AT-825 for making field recordings, but if I really need high-quality recordings, I bring out my MacBook Pro, Metric Halo ULN-2, and Neumann TLM-103.
Do you have a setup for live performances? What does it include?
MacBook Pro, MOTU Ultralite, Shure SM58, Max/MSP, Faderfox LD2 & DJ2
How many physical locations have you had your studio setup in over time and how have they changed?
I've had my studio in five different places over the years. My mom's house, my dorm room, two apartments, and this current house. I suppose a dorm room studio doesn't really count - I couldn't really do any real work/recording there, and I didn't start making records until the next apartment, where I was doing all my vocal recordings in the bathroom. Yeesh. The next apartment at least had a closet (acoustically treated by my hanging clothes, of course) for vocals, but I was still set up in my bedroom. Now, this is the first place I've not had my setup in the same room that I sleep in. Now I'm not even connected to my living space. This has its advantages & disadvantages. I don't keep my roommates up all night by playing the same loop over and over and over again, but I also don't have as easy access to everything - when my setup's in my bedroom, I can just leave a song open, then go make dinner and run in and work on it for 2 minutes while the water is boiling or whatever, but with everything in a separate building, I have to divide my time more specifically. I've been struggling with that, as I have a pretty short attention span and like doing 100 things at once in little 2 minute bursts.
Jonathan Snipes was born in Riverside, CA and resides in Los Angeles, CA. He is a part of Captain Ahab and Unnecessary Surgery. They can be found on Deathbomb Arc, Irritant Records and Experimental Music Research.
Captain Ahab Music
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