PhiLiZound Recordings
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Page updated: 23-Feb-2020

Biography & Studio background

I started learning/dabbling with keyboard, acoustic guitar & recording as a hobby and diversion from working 9-to-5 with computers. Being a knobs & switches person at heart and influenced by the flashing light brigade of Tangerine Dream, Kraftwerk, Jean Michel Jarre, ELP etc., I built up a small recording setup over the years. Although it was a drain on our finances, my wife says at least she knew where I was in the evenings.

Studio

Studio-related gear, such as a DotCom modular synth, EMU samplers, Tascam porta-studio etc. is described separately here. The following is a potted history of the studio itself.

1970/80's: Studio gear was incredibly expensive back then, so first dabblings were with a home-mode 8-track mixer designed using various circuits from the Mullard book 'Transistor Audio And Radio Circuits'. It had submix outputs, EQ on each channel (a basic Treble & Bass circuit), and stereo PPM output meters using a design from Studio Sound magazine. I knew nothing about meter movement ballistics, so just dismantled some old volt meters, painted the scales black, and added numbers with letraset... the patience we had in those days :)

Shift-work provided enough money to pay for a much coveted Revox 2-track tape recorder - the A77 with 15ips, so tracks could be bounced between this and another (unknown) stereo tape deck - more pics of the first ever recording 'session' are here.

1980/90's: A move to a smaller house meant getting rid of the piano and harmonium. The electronics keyboard was superseded by various Yamaha PSR models over the years, and a desktop computer was used for sequencing running Prism by Music Quest - frustration with sequencers spawned the first development of Sequetron.

The desktop PC was later replaced with a very early laptop (to the left of the chair) - a Toshiba with an 80486 processor and a fabulous colour screen... but horrendously expensive so needed a loan to pay for it. Note the old Hi-Fi speakers mounted on the bookshelves - not the best place acoustically, but spare bedrooms are never big enough!

studio v1

A few years later, a problem with one of my ears gave me a reality check so decided to 'get serious' with music before the other ear stopped working, and the gadget spiral really began with a Korg i30 arranger keyboard, Yamaha cassette porta-studio for mixing, a Samson power amp. and a couple of Spirit Absolute 2 monitors... although stereo was a bit of an overkill with only one good ear.

A 2nd hand Cheetah MIDI keyboard was added later...

Korg i30 and Cheetah MIDI keyboard

More gear followed (it's a known illness - look up Gear Acquisition Syndrome), such as a Supernova synth and an 8-track hard-disc recorder... which of course justified an 8-track ADAT for backup purposes. This meant building DIY cabinets to house them...
and then it just had to be a bigger mixer... and the downward spiral went on...

studio v3  studio v4

Hi-Fi Quad electrostatic speakers as monitors - well, somebody had to try it!...

Electrostatic monitors

As with all hardware, it comes at a price...
...wires... lots and lots of wires... double the no. if you use patch panels!

Wires

The weight of all the cables kept pulling the jack plugs out of their sockets, so these DIY brackets were developed to take the strain. MIDI gear was also routed via the same standard 1/4" patch panels using this DIY mod.

2006: A house move meant yet another layout... started off with two music rooms, so ideal for a control room and music room... but found it impractical dashing between rooms - would be better with an assistant. Eventually traded rooms with 'the other half' so ended up shoe-horning everything into one. This video shows it under construction (skip to 1m54s for the final result), and here's an attempt at an arty-farty version with music & effects.

2018: Another house move, another teardown...

teardown1             teardown2

2019: Good news is more floor-space so racks don't have to be so high, but bad news is the asymmetric ceiling... maybe having only one good ear will be an advantage.

Layout in December with wiring almost finished...

studio-07    studio-09

studio-08

2020: Feb: Layout finalised and wired... finally! Video.

Songwriting

The C.A. Blues
Song writing started after some spoof songs went down well with friends and colleagues. On one occasion my wife was struggling with a course assignment for a diploma (eventually published), so I tried cheering her up by writing a song about it. Feeling quite chuffed at finding a rhyme for the phrase 'concept analysis', I recorded a song on cassette. This was all a good laugh until we were invited to an end-of-course dinner along with all the other students and lecturers, when half-way through the meal an embarrassingly familiar tune came over the restaurant p.a.

News for You
This was my first serious song, which evolved from a chord sequence I was dabbling with on the i30 using one of its backing styles. It was also my first stab at using a proper singer on vocals, and it took some time to pluck up enough courage to play it to a 3rd. party. It was a strange but rewarding experience hearing sounds which had always been 'in my head' finally being realised properly.

A Minor Excursion
Bizarre as it sounds, an interest in astronomy and the cosmos spawned this science-fiction mystery concept-album project, inspired by books such as Stephen Hawking's 'A brief history of time'. The underlying story is based on current scientific knowledge, but is told from an unusual viewpoint and interweaves fact & fantasy to speculate how the universe begins & ends... with an intriguing twist.

The demo recording is only a rough outline of the idea using my limited musical skills & even more limited vocals, so if there are any musical/theatrical producers, arrangers, musicians or vocalists out there, please get in touch. The project has been shelved many times over the years, but it would be nice to finish it before the universe actually ends otherwise it may spoil my version of events.

The Gate
This was my first acoustic guitar piece, and it took longer to play the song well enough to record than it did to write. Although not religious, I was intrigued by the thought of a conversation at 'the gates' when judgement time finally comes. The new arrival would be blaming everyone else; the management, the government, the system etc., and the creator(s) would be asking 'Yes, but what about all the fantastic things we made for you?'. The initial lyrics seemed hauntingly appropriate for various man-made atrocities, and they evolved into the final version after the Sept 11th incident when the line 'Why did you spoil it all?' seemed so poignant. My simple vocal & guitar demo leaves a lot to be desired but I think it captures the essence.