About this site:


A scary cornfield.

It's corn. Run for your lives.

This is the home of the Chicago-based electronic music of December Agents, a recording project that tries to pick up where I left off in an earlier project I was in from 1986-90. That band was in central Illinois, in the rural part of the state, where on a typical dark night, you can hear the corn calling to you softly in the wind, inspiring you to do evil. (You've seen Children of the Corn, right?)

At that time, I was playing drums and doing Midi production, but since then I have branched out to add guitar and bass, and of course the world of DAW-based computer recording has now entered our lives. (Is that good?) I still strongly believe in real instruments -- analog synthesizers, rack effects, tube preamps and compressors, etc. I will use specific software plugins if the sonic results they give really deliver, but for the most part, I still record the old fashioned way: by playing physical musical instruments through physical audio equipment, mostly analog.

60's mixer with quadrant faders

The real truth:

It's all about tone.

Over the past several years, I have become addicted to tone.

It wasn't true in the beginning. Originally, my intention was to simply be the best drummer I could be, and I saw all of music through the lens of drumming. I listened to Pat Metheny and Chick Corea and their various derivitive solo projects from their members, tried to perfect the best playing technique, and tried to learn from as many kinds of music as possible...60's psychedelic, new wave, industrial, Afro-Cuban/Latin, Indian raga, 70's progressive rock. It was all about playing technique, and the notes you played, usually a lot of notes. Fusion people like lots of notes.

But at some point back in the 90's (awful decade), I had a sort of epiphany. I discovered tone, and became a born-again tonechaser. I discovered what was missing in my life, mostly from the lack of it: In the 90's, everything went sterile. We had awful cold digital reverbs, awful EQ, awful mastering, digital synthesizers, digital mixers (first generation -- the sterile "early adopters" gear). Even the video codecs that were being used in cameras were the early generation DV codecs that made anything yellow look very, very yellow.

Basically, the 90's were, among other things, just tone-deaf and color-blind.

The overall tone and texture of everything was just wrong. I found myself missing the thick, punchy saturation of tape, the warmth of resonant filters in real analog synthesizers, the crisp-yet-smeared sound of tubes. I started to realize that it's really all about tone.

80's MTV

MTV is totally broken.

And yes, that does matter.

Ever since the death of the pop music industry (and please, let's all face it -- it's dead), I've been hearing from various people that it's not so bad, because good music can still be found if you're willing to dig for it.

I don't think you should have to dig for it.

I think that if good and weirdly brilliant music is so obscure that one needs to go on an Indiana Jones expedition to set out and find some, then that music has failed. That is to say, the "pull" model will not work. We cannot expect current and future generations to wake one day and say, "I've never been inspired before by a psychedelic vision of sound that changes the way I see everything, but still, today I'm going to go look for one. I will miss what I never had." Won't happen. Music needs to be where people can hear it. And in this, the pop industry once led by MTV has failed us.

The ultimate portent of the times, for those who could bear to watch it, came in 2010, when MTV came out and admitted that the "M" in their name no longer stood for music. In a further admission that one just couldn't make up, they even admitted that they didn't really know what they wanted to say the M does stand for. (No joke, they actually said this in public.) MTV even changed their logo in an attempt to de-emphasize the "M".

I believe that it is important for pop music to come back from the dead. While I listen to lots of music myself that will probably never be on any chart, I also must see that for rock music (and all its derivitives) to avoid the fate that happened to jazz (and its derivitives), in which it is now taught in colleges and largely thought of as something from another era, it must become creative and weirdly imaginative once again on the pop charts, and not just in some obscure source that someone could find if they knew why they would want to. People will not go seeking what they never had and do not miss.

A nice wall of analog synths.

Keycorner Recording Studio, Chicago

It's full of the stuff I like.

At Keycorner, I have a growing assortment of nice tools I'm very attached to, which you'll hear on our recordings:

Keyboards:

  • Oberheim OB-8
  • Multimoog
  • Siel DK600
  • Ensoniq ESQ-1

Guitars:

  • 1998 Epiphone Les Paul
  • Peavey Millenium AC BXP bass

Drums:

  • Gretsch 8-piece Catalina Maple
  • Simmons 12-piece with Roland PM-16
  • various Zildjian cymbals

Audio gear:

  • Allen & Heath GL2000 40-channel mixer desk
  • Bryston 3ST studio amplifier
  • JBL 4311B monitor speakers
  • AKG C414 XL-II condenser microphone
  • Earthworks TC30K matched pair condenser mics
  • Lexicon PCM90 reverb
  • Lexicon MPX1 reverb
  • Symetrix 606 delay
  • Ensoniq DP/4 effects processor
  • Bellari RP583 tube compressor
  • ART Pro VLA II tube compressor

Computer peripherals and software:

  • 3.2GHz AMD 4-core running Gentoo Linux
  • 8GB memory, 4.5TB disk
  • RME Hammerfall / Multiface II audio interface
  • Ardour, Muse, Hydrogen, Swami, the Calf plugins