Archive for October, 2007


Killing Joke Bassist Paul Raven 1961-2007


(Mr. Raven was in Prong and Ministry too. )

Killing Joke bio at All Music Guide

Fairly recent gear interview with Patrick Ogle



Who’s Right Slap-Fight

Girls, Girls, You’re Both Pretty

I wrote that VH’s keyboards and not Eddie Van Halen or his guitar tech were the culprit in this clip. For the sake of argument, let’s hear and evaluate the technically possible reasons the keys and guitar are clashing.

Reasons AGAINST the 44/48 explanation:

1) The keys aren’t wrong, Eddie’s guitar was “knocked” out of tune before the song started. Untrue: this doesn’t make any sense because in the clip, Eddie’s whole guitar, all the strings – are in tune with themselves. Therefore, a bonked headstock or a broken string can’t be the reason, it has to be systemic. I received many comments insisting that this was the case. I maintain it isn’t – not even with a Floyd Rose bridge, as many have sworn.

2) Eddie’s guitar tech gave him a guitar tuned incorrectly for the song. If this is true, then it’s the biggest coincidence in the world that (i) the guitar’s tuning is correct for the album’s tuning of “Jump” and (ii) the tech tuned the guitar to a pitch that somehow couldn’t be transposed with the allegedly in-tune keyboards. Highly unlikely.

3) Many posters have claimed that VH has a keyboard player onstage (which we don’t see in the clip), so why use a recording? Even if there were a live keyboardist, if he was playing the part live through an improperly-set digital audio interface, he would still experience the sharpened, non-western-scale pitch. See (Reason FOR #5 below).

4) VH are intentionally playing the song in C# as opposed to the C it was originally recorded in on the 1984 album. The problem there: as far as I can perceive, that keyboard pitch is not C#, it’s north of C# but south of D.

5) “Wolfy is in tune.” This is pretty funny since I can’t, and I challenge anyone to hear – any bass in this cellphone recording. Nor would I expect to – it’s a cellphone recording. I sure can’t hear any Michael Anthony. Oof!

Reasons FOR the 44/48 explanation:

1) The difference in pitch between the keys in the clip and the keys in the original 1984 recording is the same.

2) Eddie never gets back to in tune. If the pitch difference were just a semitone instead of about 1.5 semitones off, he certainly could, but he can’t – the difference in pitch does not lie in the western scale, it lies between the notes of C# and D. He can’t get in tune (without twisting all the tuning pegs of his guitar) because there’s no fret between C# and D.

3) The tempo of the song as compared to the original LP recording is also sped up to just about the degree that a 44.1 recording would be at if it were played at 48K.

4) If, as many have said, Eddies guitar was out and the keys were on, and their difference was just a semitone apart, why in the world wouldn’t one of the most virtuosic guitarists in the world not be able to transpose after a few bars? I say he didn’t because he couldn’t. (see reason FOR #2)

5) This video below demonstrates the principle at play with the difference between 44.1Khz and 48Khz, it actually shows the button, the clips and the match between EVH’s tuning in the clip and the tuning on the 1984 record.

Add these together and then show respect for the simplest explanation and you come up with screwed-up keyboards.

Since it’s not obvious, I should make it clear: I was not there, I was not backstage, and I did not witness the problem’s specific cause. I used my ears and experience and came up with the best explanation.


I Wasn’t Kidding, I Like It Better


This Van Halen video clip is finding itself in a lot of places, and creating lots of typing. Unfortunately, most of this comment and message-board chatter is kind of dumb. Especially the sanctimonious blah-blah from the many pony-tailed inhabitants of various guitar/gear sites. To hear them tell it, this is some kind of moment of failure for the Van Halens and isn’t it a shame?

Listen up, shreddy: It is not a shame, it is transcendent.

While I like VH’s Fair Warning a lot, it’s true that I have always hated 1984’s “Jump”. Thanks to the song’s intense and enduring popularity it has stubbornly refused to fade from my memory as so many REO Speedwagon and Styx songs obligingly have. When I first saw this clip, my jaw dropped as all of yours did, but mine dropped because finally, this song was coming out of the speakers the same way I had always heard it.

Let me explain: this song’s ridiculous, obvious major-key swells, as used for the the ground under guitarist Eddie Van Halen’s histrionics are intended to be stirring and uplifting. Indeed, this is how most appreciative listeners experience these moments. I’m just not that lucky.

This is the clip’s genius: when the anthems’ most triumphant peaks arrive with an alarming leviathan groan instead of the intended sound of angels gently urinating arcs into the sky, it throws, finally, the overt phoniness of this wretched song into sharp contrast. The dissonance highlights exactly where you were supposed to be most elated, most manipulated by greeting-card level sentimentality — but instead leaves you appropriately laughing. Bless you, Van Halen.

The dissonance itself, well, that’s no crime at all. On-stage dissonance is in fact pretty goddamn cool, as the following clips clearly prove.

(Fred Willard introduces the lead guitar stylings of Mark Mothersbaugh)

(A tender ballad from a skinny bunch)

(The late, great Brainiac)


Where’d All These Dudes Come From?

100% Dudes

Seeing as the spike in traffic at RW370 is due mainly to my October 5 posting of this YouTube clip showing a Van Halen stage mishap, it looks like we’re knee-deep in dudes around here. Sup, dudes?

The thing about dudes is most of them can appreciate a mullet and a pointy guitar, and so can I. Once, I wrote some comedy for a gear website and I appreciated all over some 80s and 90s back issues of Guitar Player. Scientific tests prove it’s nothing less than dudertainment: Eddie Van Halen fans are, on average, 65.4% more receptive to comedy based on guitar string ads. So dudes! – enjoy these selected humor pieces in the Gearwire Gallery:

Saigon Kick unaware of their limited future

A dude, his lady and a broken axe

Jag Panzer’s Joey Tafolla gets raves in The Shred Zone

Damn Yankees shill for Tom Morello’s effects pedal

One for the brits

Testament guitarist bravely gives his life for science


DHS Finally Does Its Job, Strained Quotes Result

What?  Devendra?  How do you spell that?

Nobody’s more surprised than I am at today’s news that US Department of Homeland Security managed to intercept and seize questionable materials bound for the United States, protecting the public from another terrifying spectacle. Sure, preventing the import of a Death Cab For Cutie guitar-player solo record isn’t the stuff of history, but it sure is appreciated. From today’s Chicago Tribune:

Death Cab for Cutie fans may be waiting even longer for a long-promised album by guitarist Chris Walla.

Walla, who was working on the “very political” record in Canada, told MTV that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security confiscated his master hard drive, which held all the song files, at the U.S. border.

[“It] could be a whole lot worse,” he said, laughing. “I still get to play music. I mean, I’m not at Guantanamo or anything like that. … My drive might be. They could be waterboarding my drive for all I know.

Is this country’s sad slide into a corporatist state any excuse for a lax attitude toward indie rock solo albums? I think not.


Internet 2: Electric Boogaloo

The Cat Pictures and Naked Ladies Hole!

Before the internet, we had the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN), and back in the late 1970s, it worked this way: my alcoholic Uncle Todd would, from time to time, pick up his telephone and call the telephone in my house. This created a circuit between us. The PSTN was/is a circuit-switched network. That means that my uncle’s slurred speech and off-color jibes came to my amused young ears via a dedicated pathway – a circuit between his phone and my own. The circuit lasted the duration of the call – it was born as soon as he successfully dialed (undoubtedly after a few tries) and the circuit died as soon as either of us hung up. (Usually, it was him.)

The biggest reason the internet exists today is that circuit-switching poses real problems in mass emergencies. The net is a solution to the problem that begins with the fact that my uncle and I took up one whole circuit between us the whole time during the call – nobody else could use that circuit while we were using it. He and I were tying up a whole pathway – all the wire between my house and the Joe Dano’s Bucket-O-Suds bar payphone. Since there are a limited number of pathways (pairs of wires) in the telephone network, we can’t have too many people using it at once. Reason: if everybody is using the circuit pathways at the same time, or somehow the circuit pathways are cut, new calls can’t get through.

The 1950s was the short period in US history when the Military-Industrial Complex had not yet completed the transition from its WWII war-effort origins to its current state as, uh, the current state. It was during this time when the Pentagon, through its research arm named DARPA, noticed that the PSTN and its circuit-switching had troubling implications for wartime – and wartime then meant “nuclear wartime.” The PSTN was (and still is) a huge number of wire pairs running between cities, carrying conversations on temporary point-to-point circuits. And that was the weakness of the PSTN: if the Russians were to attack the US by, say, detonating a nuclear warhead over St. Louis, point-to-point telephone communications between, say, Colorado and Washington, DC would be badly impacted, fomenting chaos. All of St. Louis’s wires would be “in use” (knocked out by the nuke) and new calls headed through there couldn’t get through there. There was more at stake than just one very weird, pork-steak-obsessed, hyper-Christian midwestern city – no less than the nation’s strategic communications were at risk. DARPA started researching the problem and ultimately the internet was the result.

The basic design goal of the internet was to replace the circuit-switched PSTN with a new packet-switched network. Unlike circuit-switching, where remember, a whole wire pair is dedicated to my uncle’s slurring, packet-switching takes advantage of digital communications technology’s ability to be instantly re-routed. All communication on the internet is, invisibly to you, broken into a very large number of very small pieces of information called packets before it is sent on its way. And for the benefit of those readers who have remained awake thus far, let us merely say that packets, unlike circuits, can and do flow around the burned-out husk of St. Louis because they can find their own way around. In packet switching, there’s no single circuit (or group of circuits) restricting flow of information. Packets are pretty cool, they brought you this page, they didn’t come to you in order, and they took a whole bunch of different routes to get to you. Packets rule, circuits suck.

So now you can imagine my nerdly shock when I checked out Nate Anderson’s piece in Ars Technica about the next-generation internet, named Internet2. Like our internet once was, Internet2 is found only on campuses, linking about 200 universities together at serious speeds.

Guess what Internet2’s newest feature is? Circuits.

The main network remains IP-based and connects more than 200 universities, in addition to limited connections to government and industry facilities. Each network segment now features a set of 10 10Gbps links, each running on a separate wavelength of light, for a total of 100Gbps of bandwidth. And that’s only the start; Internet2 says it can scale each segment to handle up to 100 wavelengths in the future. That’s… a lot of star charts.

Most intriguing is the network’s new Dynamic Circuit Network feature, which will allow researchers to set up dedicated, 10Gbps point-to-point connections across the network for short-term data transfer. The service will go live in January 2008, but it already works. In a demonstration today, Dr. Carl Lundstedt, of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, set up a connection between his school and the Fermilab research park in Batavia, Illinois. With bandwidth provisioned, Lundstedt then transferred one-third of a terabyte of data between the two places. It took five minutes.

And you thought rock and roll was the only arena where yesterday’s discredited approaches show up in new packages.


Popular Science, April ’33: Build a Proto-Stylophone

How To Build An Electric Organ For About Five DollarsBzzzzzzzweeeeEEEEzzzzzzzz

The always-cool Modern Mechanix ran this 1933 Popular Science story reprint yesterday. The message: chase away the blues of the Great Depression by building, tuning and playing an inexpensive monotimbral “electric organ”. If for no reason other than the one-note, tuned-resistor characteristic, I thought right away of the electrical and likely tonal similarities to the much-later Stylophone – and its good works in the hands of Kraftwerk (“Pocket Calculator”) and Bowie (“Ashes To Ashes”). No matter what decade, it’s always a miracle when you can make music from the sound of a crappy apartment building door buzzer. Plans here.


Robyn Hitchcock “Madonna Of The Wasps” ’89

As the 80s petered out, some traditions on the Late Night set had yet to fall by the wayside. To wit: the enforced appearance of Paul Shaeffer and The World’s Most Dangerous Band as backing players to every musical act to appear on the show. Today the once-reliable tradition has kind of faded away- the guest musicians perform by themselves often enough these days – but this song by the tremendous Mr. Hitchcock serves to demonstrate how aggressive Paul once was in chasing those heightened AFTRA scale payments. And what a great song.


Coming soon to your website: videos you don’t like

Sergey And Larry Of Google Share A Moment Of Grave Concern

Google’s confusing purchase of YouTube has so far borne little in the way of a public proof of the concept behind the purchase. It is fair to expect such a proof, monumental as it would be: the public emergence of a business model that is based on selling your neighbor’s house and possessions is a historic development we eagerly await. Presuming it is not our neighbor placing our home on the market, naturally.

Google’s AdSense program, wherein space on web site pages are occupied by ads served by Google and paid for by Google’s advertising clientèle includes hundreds of thousands of websites. In an effort to leverage Google’s purchase of YouTube (to do something with all that video) and simultaneously expand and strengthen AdSense, Google will announce today that YouTube videos are being added to the AdSense program. This means those easily-ignored text ads in the right-hand column will now include video clips, targeted by subject just like AdSense ads are now. From Miguel Helft’s piece in today’s New York Times:

The service, which represents the first major combination of a Google product with YouTube, will give video creators wide distribution beyond YouTube via Google’s network, known as AdSense. Since the videos will be surrounded by ads, the service is another way for Google to cash in on the huge number of video clips stored on YouTube.

Several other networks distribute videos and ads on the Web, but none reach as many Web sites as AdSense.

Google said it would share revenue from the ads with the creators of the videos and with the Web sites that embed them, though it declined to specify what percentage of the revenue will be kept by each party.

“We are creating incremental distribution for our content providers,” said Christian Oestlien, product manager for AdSense. Mr. Oestlien said the system would also allow publishers to make their Web sites more compelling and give advertisers a new way to reach customers.

While many Web sites already embed YouTube clips in their pages, this system would allow them to make money from the clips. They would not, however, have the same level of control over what clip gets embedded.

Sure, if your definition of “compelling” includes handing over more page space to quasi-random clips of god-knows-what production value, usefulness, quality level, credibility, etc. At least the thorny issue of YouTube video ownership has been sidestepped (yet again):

For now, the system’s scope, and its potential to deliver new revenue to Google, is limited, because only about 100 media companies that have created YouTube videos will be participating.

Google declined to give a full list of participants, but of those it listed, none were large media companies. They include Expert Village, a producer of how-to videos; Ford Models, a modeling agency; and Extreme Elements, which creates videos about extreme sports. Over time, Google expects to use AdSense to syndicate other types of content besides video, the company said.

Seems like a long way to go just to assemble a list of 100 companies who make videos nobody wants to see.

And about these videos: is there an end in sight for this charade where we pretend that a media asset has no important qualities beyond its indexability in a search engine? As we watch the craft of filmmaking succumb to the same race to the bottom that music, graphic design and print each suffered in the wake of the personal computer, is there any chance we will notice that, contrary to Josef Stalin’s famous comment, quantity does not have a quality all its own?


Jump (in pitch)!

So what happens when you’re Van Halen, the last song in your set list is the million-seller “Jump” with its synthesizer-keyboard opening…and the recording you’re using to play back the synth is accidentally run at 48K instead of 44.1K?

What happens could be this (recorded in Greensboro, NC four days ago):

I can’t tell which is funnier, this long-hated cheesebag-anthem turned into a much more interesting, atonal mess in front of thousands of paying customers or the hilarious soldiering on of the Van Halens as they look at each other from inside the trainwreck. Eddie tries to transpose on the fly and match the wildly fucked up keyboards but the great thing there is the difference in pitch is non-musical – about 1.5 semitones sharp. So there’s no frets he can choose to fix the problem!

I know I’m courting my own on-stage disaster by making fun of this. But so what, it’s not like you’re going to be there to see it.

UPDATE: For a technical discussion of what is going on in this clip, click here.



rob [at] warmowski [dot] com

@warmowski on twitter

Rob’s Bands

Rob Warmowski entry at Chicago Punk Database
1984-89: Defoliants
1991-94: Buzzmuscle
2001-05: San Andreas Fault
2008- : Sirs
2008- : Allende

Rob at Huffington Post

October 2007