Making me tick

Programming the MFC101mk2

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I have spent some time doing music recently and part of today’s exercise was learning to program the foot controller for the Axe FX. I put some labels on and moved a few things around so I had the effects I like most just above. I also learnt to move the tuner on to the tap tempo to save space and so I could add the tremolo. I have also added some Moog EP3 Expression pedals (4 actually) as they were much cheaper than the fractal brand.

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I also revamped some of the sound presets using the Axe Edit software as they were getting a bit same same. I have tried to make it so that the effects being used are the ones I can turn on and off. See how it goes. The image above shows my version of a Mesa Boogie 400+. You can see the preset defaults with just the compressor, amp and cab on and the other effects off. Some the delays and effects are really nice quality and work well on bass.

George Orwell

 

I had actually some how been put on to Nineteen Eighty-Four by my art teacher in art college, but didn’t think much about it. I then got on to it again when it popped up in some random reading I was doing on the internet and decided I would see if i could pick up a copy. It so happened i was perusing a thrift shop I saw there Nineteen Eighty-Four on its own, and then this collection of works in one for the same price so I picked up the combo big mac copy. I read Nineteen Eighty-Four and it has really probably changed my whole perspective on life. It seemed like a prediction of things to come perhaps, and yet there was a part of it that seemed for the most part to be already here. The surveillance is definitely already happening but the control is yet to come. That was probably were Nineteen Eighty-Four was borrowing from the ideas of more totalitarian ideas, rather than the social constructions egged on by the big brother we know of today. We are our own wardens and prisoners of our own fear of the unknown. We don’t need the actual guards of Nineteen Eighty-Four, we have the fear already, a silent operation that we know is there, slowly growing and gripping us from acting out. We live to chase the ‘carrot’ for betterment of our selves, to be better than the guy behind or in front, a rat race you could say. More about this another time.

Nineteen Eighty-Four is essentially a love story at its basis and what is beautiful about is that it has inspired artists and musicians to spawn work inspired by the story. One of the most interesting was the rock band Muse essentially building an entire album around the ideas in the story. That album was appropriately named Resistance. I would say there are probably other groups like Radiohead who may have also borrowed themes from Nineteen Eighty-Four.

The point here is that good art, can make more good art, which it’s always so important for creators to look backwards rather than copy the guy next to her. Its good to steal some ideas from somewhere else, somewhere perhaps where you wouldn’t expect and you don’t need to travel the world, but rather think ‘what if I took this and that, then put this kind of spin on it?’ Its a bit like making a pizza. You can put whatever you want on it, but its good to know what the ingredients taste like so you can have a mild idea of what might come of it. Some times it just tastes like shit, but sometimes it’s delicious.

Nineteen Eighty-Four is easily one of my favorite stories and has been a constant theme through my work, even if it’s not obvious. If you steal, don’t make too obvious. Appropriate it, recycle it, re-contextualize it.

If it were a song, you might cover it uniquely or remix it totally or steal the drum beat or chop up the riff slightly. I have to say that a percentage of ‘familiar’ works well. If you  work in completely ‘wack’ way, you will find an audience struggles to connect with you. That said, you could be Avant-garde. A rebel of sorts to break forwards with new and totally wild new ideas.

My fear in this concept is that for the most part, almost everything is derivative of something at some point, not that there is anything wrong with that, and I think to be fair, anyone who really says that any particular person or themselves for that matter is a ‘genius’ and ‘unique’ is a fool themselves. I say that today because we live in a world where our intelligence, resources and history is so well documented, abundant and globally accessible that we can connect almost anything to anything else.

The doubled edged sword of copyright. If you own your art and song now, what you are  really are saying is you own all of this history too, which cannot be true. I beleive copyright as we know it today mutated and flawed.

Counterfeiting or copying direct original art, especially for monetary gain is not okay, and other than sharing the work to wider audience for the original maker sharing can only really help to serve the popularity of the art maker. What if you were to create varied versions, even slight ones? To me, even a slight change, makes it another different work all together. That’s my thoughts. Rather than stating my ranty opinion further, I will ask you a question.

How can one own something today that was not their own or own the one before or own the one before that and the one before that and the one before that and the one before that ….. until you reach the first moment that a cave person scratched in to a wall and rhythmically hit sticks and chanted around a fire?


The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

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Have started reading this. Not an easy read so far. Its made me realize a lot of faults in my personality, which is good to know but I am yet to find a section that has some strategies to help me at 50 pages in.

There are some really neat quotes I resonated with, which might be the whole point, strategies in Ah ha moments, as discussed a bunch of pages back. ‘Always treat your employees exactly how you want them to treat your best customers’ this was the spark in the next section that discusses management, specific to the work environment. ‘How do you shape up lazy employees’ and bang it jumped right out of the page ‘shape up or ship out’.

This is personal and there it was under poor management attitudes. Shape up or ship out. Shape up or fuck off, were more the exact words I remember sitting in the meeting with my fellow teaching staff. Struck in awe, were we so bad? As I put head down in shame, my hands in to my eyes as tears escape, I get up and eventually walk out knowing why everything was happening and that this place was us vs them. What a sick house I was working in. How everyone has depleted everyone else to save their own soul. It was weird and I was upset. Not because our culture as a fighting team was weak, but because I beloved go song long in my boss being able to get us to the win. How wrong I was. It was everyone vs everyone. No one was on the team at all. They were all just trying to unhinge the other so they would look better and blame would shifted to someone else. Of course the boss falls in to this trap. Living in fear of constant mutiny, a sentiment carried on and spread like gossip, like a virus on hunting for witches but killing all the wrong ones all the time.

For months I was angry and then I feel very sorry for my boss. Looking at it now, it was the sinking ship I always thought but denied because I wanted this under dog to cut through the dull on Collins st. Well I was burned at the stake long before the chance to prove my innocence. I’m much pickier now, which is somewhat weird, i mean I should take whatever I can get, but I just can’t allow my integrity to undermined. I have a short fuse. You have to be an exceptional boss to keep good staff. without saying too much, I think filled in the gaps.

Whats next for this book?


Boss ME-70 / Novation Bass Station 2

The Boss ME-70 was my first multi-effects pedal I board after giving up on single pedals. It was more a guitar pedal but I loved the tactile nature of it, built like a tank it would later put enough trust in me to getting the Boss GT 10B.

The Novation Bass Station 2 is an amazing synth for the price but I have my eyes on a Moog Sub 37. It does have a plastic vibe, that said, its incredibly light and sounds amazing!

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Roland Cube

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Used this Cube for a while as practice amp with a keyboard set up. Its was very bright and dry. So I sold it. Just think it’s good to keep a record of gear I have used during my career


Olympus OMD system, and why its rad, in its own way.

When I started working as teacher more and more and the job started to consume me I yearned for a more simple set up I could get easy, fairly good results from. I ended up with an Olympus OMD system set up. Its part of the universal system known as micro four thirds.

Now, first thing you need to know is this is not a professional DSLR camera set up. I don’t care what you say, its just not like the 35mm Canon, it has completely different quality to it. Its not a bad quality. Its just a different quality. The photos require less processing, but they lack heart.

In my experience and opinion, the larger the sensor the better the image quality. What you gain with larger is sensor is a shallower DOP which is fantastic for portraiture and separating your subject from background. There a people who would argue that this is dependent on the lens you use. Yes, that play a part in it, I can tell you a 17mm f1.8 MFT lens will not give you as much separation as a 35mm f2 on full frame. I have included an image (below) that shows the comparison of the sensors of the cameras I have used in my experience so far.

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I don’t like to talking about this in to much technical detail because people will shit post me over this and argue forever over, this and that and but and whatever and I think it’s part of the journey of as creative person to experiment and struggle and feel frustrated with their gear. Being frustrated with gear is good because it keeps you wanting to strive for better push yourself to try new gear.

At the end of the day, I have researched it all and consumers and photographers need to understand that some systems just work better than others for certain kinds of working and certain kinds of styles. If you work in a certain way and shot a certain subject, use the equipment appropriate to that, make you life easier if you time is short. Otherwise i dont want to really advise you. I think you should struggle if you have time. Its sucks but its a magical experience. You’ll push the gear in unique ways. That said, I am happy to help anyone who needs some help finding something that best suits you needs. I don’t work for anyone, I am not sponsored or anything, I’ll just give you my 2 cents on what i think would work best. Try to figure out or contact the people who work in the way you want to work. Ask them what they use? Most artists are happy to talk to others, especially photographers, about gear. Before you buy anything try to borrow some gear from someone, you’ll know pretty quickly what feels right and not. Go against the grain, I want you to make me look stupid with my advice. I’d love to see someone shoot street with Mamiya 67 and 100MP digital back, let me know, I want to try it out myself. Explore, have fun. Anyway, back to reality.

The OMD pictures are very sharp and they are very achievable. Often I had to shoot extra curricular activities for work and that means people care less about the artistic quality and more about the moment and capturing, say their child. This camera is the best momentary snapper I have every used and its why i used it to shoot a whole series of street themed work. It works well for recording film as well. Nice and clean and sharp, although Olympus really dropped the ball on have some kind of decent audio connectivity.

Pictures to come.


Canon Set

This is my set up I should on on for more serious creative work. I actually left the Zoom lenses in Australia. I have always preferred primes, not because i am wanker, but because the are lightweight and have great low light capacity, good background qualities too on a full 35mm like the 5D Mark 2.

 

 

 


Australian Bass Rig

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This is my Australian Bass amp rig. Sennheiser ew 300 IEM G3 and a Sennheiser ew 100 wireless instrument system (same as Canada). Ampeg SVP Tube bass preamp, QSC 2450a Power amplifier. The Cab is a Ashdown ABM810. Very similar to the Ampeg 810e. If anyone knows where I can find a replacement 10inch for Ashdown cab let me know, ina callous turn of events, a guy I used to live with pushed a screwdriver through one of the speakers and it now has a huge tear. It’s not really noticeable but because of my OCD, it just bugs me.


Fender Squire Modified Vintage Jaguar SS Bass (Thomas Black)

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Probably my number 2 bass. His name is ‘Thomas Black’. Strung up with Ernie Ball 110-50 heavy strings this bass is tuned DGCF. Really handy bass tuning, Feels much more natural than standard drop d, namely because you don’t have to shift you thinking much, Just play as if you playing E. No loss of tension, very tight sounding bass. Lots of grafetti on this one.



Seymour Duncan Quarter Pounder Pick up in the neck and Seymour Duncan Hot Stack Pick up in bridge. Gives a brighter grinding sound. They are basically twin brothers, this one is the naughty one. Also put on some Chinese Straplocs. Everything else is stock.


Fender Squire Modified Vintage Jaguar SS Bass (Thomas Red)

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Probably my number one bass. His name is ‘Thomas Red’. Strung up with BEAD with Ernie Ball 125-65 strings, most of you, I would expect, would be thinking what the f are you doing considering it is a short scale of 30inch? But I love the feel of it. I have installed some Seymour Duncan Quarter Pounder Pick ups bigger fuller sound. Also put on some Chinese Straplocs. Everything else is stock.


Fractal Audio Axe FX 2

One of my favorite pieces of gear. I don’t care if you are guitarist or a bass player or just like multi effects, I think these are really amazing units. Worth every cent, but not cheap sadly.Awesome that you can edit presets on your laptop.

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If you were wondering what the other stuff is in the rack is a Sennheiser ew 300 IEM G3 and a Sennheiser ew 100 wireless instrument system and also a back up stereo Power Dynamics PDD1200 D class power amplifier.


Ampeg CL bass head and 810 Cabinet

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Purchased my first all valve head. Ampeg SVT CL. It was a little rough so my friend and I worked on it to get back up to shape. Works brilliant. I really love worn out looking equipment.

If you like Ampeg bass gear here’s their site


Dark Werks – Brom

A great book from the who I think is the greatest fantasy artist ever Brom, sadly gave this book to one of my students when I was teacher, Merry Christmas! Dammit!

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If you like his work you should check it out his site


The Journey is the Destination – The Journals of Dan Eldon

A wonderful book, unfortunately I have no idea where it is now.

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If you like his work you should check it out his site


Ye Old Big Mac Double Set up.

This was probably the best digital editing set up, but I found the desktop set up felt like desk job. I found I like to sit on the couch these days and work. 10320426_10152426849874329_5930592465786108051_n


Studio Photography punches on in Frankston

Nikon D200 + Tamron 17-55mm 2.8 shooting on to white wall. Love Studio Photography, the lighting was out of shot but I included details of the Bowen’s below.

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I wanted to also add that in around the same time, I purchased a 20mm 1.8 Sigma prime lens (30mm on the DX D200 Body), a fantastic lens and if I hadn’t met and used a few full frame Canon Cameras would have stayed with me.I sold it off course to fund my 5d mark 2

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At this point I was tired of under powered mini battery powered strobes on my D200 with its 3200ISO and limited Dynamic range, I was seeking some power to shoot at lower ISO’s. I paid way to much for a set of 2 english made Bowens esprit digital 250DX strobes but they did come with a heap of modifiers, brollies, snoots, soft boxes that no more than convenience was worth it in some way. I was less patient back then as well. I had used Bowens on a few gigs as working photographer and it seemed that never broke down and I thought, fuck it, and I had a bunch of money so I invested it. I still have them today and they are fucking amazing and will never sell them.

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Vivitar Strobe set up

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So it was 2010 and I was enrolled in a Graphic design course and decided to work on my studio photography skills instead of the random street style I had been working in for the last 2 years. While they look pretty shitty, these flashes were really good value for what they were able to achieve. I learned how to bend and bounce strobes using this set up. I did however sell it and moved on to a Metz CL4 (above) as I preferred a flat light when I had gone through my experimental phase and preferred the one light set up for simplicity. These came with a whole bunch of gels as well which we fun to play with too. The little Chinese trans/recs were actually very reliable and had great battery life.


Nikon D40x

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So from time to time I have these little breakdowns. Its an artistic sensitivity thing. Anyway, one thing lead to another and the D200 above is not the first Nikon D200 I owned. I actually owned another one with DX 35mm 1.8mm lens and 50mm Lens. I sold it in a rage one day. I regret it everyday. Any how I ended up buying a D40x because I wanted something lighter for street photography. I hated this camera and its 18-55mm kit lens. It has nothing on DXXX series which are a mile ahead in build quality.

That said, I loved the Sigma 8-16mm lens which I bought for it, but the body still sucked and I decided to sell the lot.

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Metz Flash Guns

It might come as surprise but I bought Metz flashes before Canon or Nikon Automatic flashes. I liked them because I was used to shooting manually and they were very powerful and had very even light.

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Metz 5 76 with a SCA 3402 Adapter (Nikon iTTL)

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Metz CL-3 with SCA 343 adapter (Auto Thy)


Canon 1Ds

I bought this camera in 2010 and it just didn’t work out. It had too many faults 99errors and lens errors it was a totally unusable. When it worked it took fantastic pictures and eventually I want to get another 1series Canon Camera because the balance in your hand is perfect.

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Nikon D200 (my first DSLR Camera)

I don’t have a photo of the original Nikon D200 I owned. But I have some pictures of the lenses I used: Nikon 80 – 200 pump, Sigma 150mm 2.8 Macro and Nikon 20mm 2.8. I also used a 50mm 1.8 and 28mm AIS Manual Lens, Tamron 19-35mm Zoom. Digital was pretty shitty quality to be honest looking back, but from shooting on film 36 exposures to having over 246 shots on 1 card and considering its costs nothing in time or money to process, was very freeing, even if quality suffered a bit.

 

 

 


University with the MacBook Pro

After high school I wound up working for sign company in my home town. This was an awesome job, cutting and applying vinyl to just about anything. It also helped me save a lot of money for college and allowed me to get a laptop when I went.

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This was it. The specs were Intel Core 2 Duo 2.16Ghz, 3Gig Ram, 120G HD, Super Drive, and it had wireless! I will post and actual picture of mine when I go back to Australia at some point because it has worn out keys which looks so cool. Its still runs to this day. That’s crazy reliable.

After fucking about with painting for the first year of art school and feeling really frustrated, my lecturer turned around and said:

‘look, why don’t you do something with the computer? It’s legitimate art form is it not? Its just another tool like a brush or canvas!

It really blew my mind, while I have recently returned to traditional drawing forms, using the computer and Photoshop really changed the way I worked. The weirdest things you could imagine you could do and it also played to my interest in photography and collage and the movements of cubism, surrealism, pop art, pornography and pretty girls.


First Computer – Apple Macintosh eMac

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So I was in high school and while most kids were saving their doh up for turbo VL I was actually saving up my IGA and KFC mule’ for my first computer. Not just any computer, A mac. What the fuck…. Yep, I was super-dupey-film-nerdie-home-video-junkie. The specs on this beast was PowerPC G4 1Ghz, 786mb RAM, 80gig HD and SuperDrive, FW400 ports (for the camera below) no wireless connections here. LOL!

To explain this madness of not wanting a VL, basically I was young and dumb and all I wanted was to have my own TV or radio show where I could announce advertising will ridiculous amounts of swearing. Then I realized the only way you could swear on TV or radio meant you had to be comedian. So I took a step back behind the camera. This Camera actually.

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It took these weird things called miniDV Tapes and they were basically like a mini VCR.

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It also had a memory card which you could save stills too, although it was point and click and I craved the control that things like a Red Camera (which wasn’t invented or available, at the time), and is how I turned from video to photography later on down the track.


TRANNY: Confessions of Punk Rock’s Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout

By Laura Jane Grace with Dan Ozzi

For the first time in while I have had some time to read. It’s not something I do often, but I have found myself in situations that have allowed me blocks of time whilst traveling around North America where I can sit and read on the bus or on a flight – what a joy it is. I found the book in Ottawa out of chance while looking for the Contemporary Photography Museum that I had later found out upon trying to navigate to in -8 Celsius weather was closed down (thanks Google maps). A bookshop has replaced the museum and so instead I had a quick browse and came along a book by Laura Jane Grace. If you have no idea who this is, that ok, because I to be honest, being interested in punk music as a young person, I didn’t know about Against Me! either – but hell, I do now!. Laura Jane Grace is the lead front women of the band having publicly transitioned after a leading as band as male for 20 odd years. I picked up a copy of her wonderful and turbulent autobiography titled, startling as, ‘TRANNY’. I have to say it’s rare to hook me on a read, but I read the whole thing (and I am a slow reader) in 3 days flat. I was hooked. The drama and tumultuous life Laura had and the stories she told of the road, the gender dysphoria and her relationships with bands, girls and record companies is the stuff of some kind of gritty Australian film. I don’t want to give it away too much, but I highly recommend it to anyone wanting to understand the struggle of transitioning, as the person transitioning, or someone who is struggling with coming to terms with a loved one transitioning. I had some many moments thinking: ‘Oh my god, that’s exactly what I felt like’. It was validating and helped me realize that perhaps transitioning shares some very common experiences when it comes to anxiety, denial and self-destruction. I would read it again, but like all the good reads I always give them away so someone else can enjoy them, in particular to a guy who served me at Eddy’s Burgers in Ottawa. Make sure you get copy from you local bookstore, online or at the library. It’s a 10/10 from me.

Sienna Armstrong