My Friend Ian, A Pub and a Zoom H4

Ian Bland at The Lomond Hotel © Jools Thatcher 2008
Ian Bland at The Lomond Hotel © Jools Thatcher 2008
Ian Bland at The Lomond Hotel © Jools Thatcher 2008

It’s been a while since we have taken the Zoom H4 on an outing but last Sunday found us at the Lomond Hotel in East Brunswick (Jools and I used to live across the road from it a long time ago). My Friend Ian (hereinafter MFI) had a gig with his band, the Lamington Drive Orchestra.

Jools decided to take along a video camera we had picked up a while back  to see what it did in lowlight etc. We mounted it on a tripod about 3 metres back from the stage, set it on wide and then just used the pan to keep it all nice and simple. Like I said, it was it’s first outing and I’m an audio geek.

It didn’t turn out to bad really. There were no lights to speak of and the vocals were coming out of a PA that was 12 feet up in the air and not really focussed anywhere near where we sitting.  It’s a strange room but when you are there with the band playing it has a nice vibe about it.

Here is the video of “God On The 67 Tram” one of MFI’s more irreverent pieces of social commentary. It’s not one of the pieces that’s on the album, I think it was song Ian wrote for a performance he did on 3RRR a couple of years back.

Next up is a  video of  “Not Going Back”. This is one of Ian’s newer songs and it’s about change. I like this one.

Boring Tech Stuff:

Zoom H4 mounted on Camera Stand
Zoom H4 mounted on Camera Stand

The Zoom H4 recorded in Stereo @ 44.1kHz/16 bit. It was mounted on the video tripod using a Gorilla Pod, but below the pan head so as not to interfere with the operation of the camera. . It was 3 metres back from the stage more or less pointed at Ian (roughly stage centre) and as usual I crossed my fingers. The gain settings for the mics were on on L and the limiter was turned on.

The audio recording was edited in Sound Forge and all I did was cut out below 30Hz (bass lift from the proximity of the ceiling) and add 3db at 1.5kHz to help the MP3 along. I then used Vegas to drop the Zoom audio into the video. It scrubbed up OK I think for a first attempt at this stuff.

Mad Violet, The Front Row, Foldback Wedges and a Zoom H4

About a year ago I wrote a quick review over at duggup of Mad Violet, a killer duo from Canada.

So I was absolutely chuffed when I got a note from Harmony Row @ Albert Park announcing that Mad Violet and Kristina Olsen were going to be playing there. A quick call secured tickets and then it was just wait…

Mad VioletFirst up on the night was Mad Violet. After waiting over a year to see them play, tonight’s the night (good title for a song). Soundcheck was just finishing when we arrived and the sound straight off the stage bodes well.

Albert Park Lounge is a squarish room with a low ceiling, the stage is a small riser and the PA speakers are set wide, in front of the stage were 2 powered foldback wedges. So where did we sit? That’s right… front row centre just behind the gap in the wedges and where did I put the Zoom H4? On the top of my bag angled up towards the mics. Going well isn’t it?

The funny thing is, that live the show sounded great. Brenley MacEachern and Lisa MacIsaac are just fantastic performers. From the moment they started the first song they just owned us. The audience went wherever they wanted to go.

The track I picked to put up is the last one of the set. Brenley is playing a 1957 Harmony semi acoustic tenor guitar and Lisa is on her Taylor for the song and fiddle for the set of tunes.

Never Saw The Ending” and Tunes [audio:MadVioletLive@AlbertParkFeb2008.mp3]
There is a lot of the room in the recording but it will give you an idea of just how much fun they were. The tunes especially are just awesome.

If you get a chance to see them ask them to sing “Ransom” it’s a nice shiny new song that they were playing for the second time and it will break your heart when you hear it. This one sounds amazing as a duo, and when they record it with the band… wow .

Second Bracket is Kristina Olsen & Steven Tabener on double bass
Kristina is an engaging performer with a deep throaty blues voice and brilliant guitar skills, I fell in love with her bright red fibreglass body “Beltona Hi-Life” resonator guitar (Yes I want one). Her bracket like the “Mad Violet” bracket before it went so quickly. Head to her MySpace site and have a listen to “How I Love This Tango”, it was my favourite song on the night.

Steven Tabener on upright bass and occasional vocal gave Olsen’s songs a broader dimension, especially on the blues pieces. He gave them a punch that allowed Kristina to stretch a bit.

So the lesson from the evening? Zoom H4’s don’t like sitting on foldback wedges (go figure), Mad Violet were fantastic and Kristina Olsen is a great performer and I want to hear more of Steven Tabener playing bass.

All in all a good one.

My Friend Ian, A Party and a Zoom H4

Ian Bland Live At BackwaysLast weekend Jools and I went to the 30th “Festival Of The Sun”, a party held annually by Rob and Doreen. My Friend Ian (yes that’s My Friend Ian of MFI fame) played as usual with his band as he has since the first party. But unusually he also did a couple of acoustic tracks. just voice and guitar so here is a great live version of“Kilcunda Wind” [audio:kilkundawind.mp3]

and also for your listening pleasure, here is “Crashing Into Walls“, [audio:Crashing.mp3] again just Ian on guitar and vocals. I really did well that night I got two of my favourite tracks live (you can checkout the CD at

Jack Rabbit and The Pubic Hares

Next up was the band “Jack Rabbit and The Pubic Hares“, this where MFI rushes into the nearest telephone booth and changes into his Jack persona complete with costumes (hopefully Jools will put some photo’s up at Joolsweb sometime).

There are three tracks here I recorded at the party, first up is a medley of Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band tunes that the band did when it first started up.

Bonzos Medley [audio:01_BonzosMedley.mp3]

It’s a bit rough and loose in places but considering these songs haven’t seen the light of day for going on 30 years(back when I was a member), it is understandable.

Here are a couple of more recent tracks,

Middle Class White Boy[audio:04_WhiteBoy.mp3] more funk guitar riffs than you would believe it was possible to be put in one song. Alan Lawson is the guitarist here. Damn he’s good.

Toy Boy [audio:05_ToyBoy.mp3] I will leave you to wonder about this one. I always do.

To Rob and Doreen: Thank you as always for a wonderful evening and I look forward to another 30 years of party.

Boring Tech Stuff:

The Zoom H4 recorded in Stereo @ 44.1kHz/16 bit. There was a bracket in the ceiling so I used a Gorilla Pod to fly it above the punters heads. It was 3 metres back from the stage and slightly stage right. I angled the Zoom at about a 30 degrees down to more or less point at Ian and as usual crossed my fingers. The gain settings for the mics were on M and this proved to be totally inadequate, the first bracket was a washout. I changed to the L setting and turned on the limiter for the Second bracket. Never trust a sound check… or the guitarist. I should know better. I used to be one.

The recording was edited in Sound Forge and all I did was cut out below 30Hz (bass lift from the proximity of the ceiling) and add 3db at 1.5kHz to help the MP3 along.

Ross Ryan and a Zoom H4 at Capers

The things you can do with your toys eh? Back in July, I wrote a review of my Zoom H4’s first outing which also featured Ross Ryan entitled “Ross Ryan/Spectrum/MFI and A Zoom H4”. Well last Saturday night it was just Ross and friends (Ken Stephenson and Roy Zedras) at local venue Capers and it was a great night. We got two brackets of old stuff and really really new stuff. And best of all a couple of killer versions of some of my favourite songs.

Plane Wreck At Los Gatos (Deportee) [audio:LosGatos.mp3]

Ross does a great version of this Woodie Guthrie Classic, I honestly prefer the way Ross interprets this as opposed to the Springsteen version from the “Til We Outnumber Em‘” live concert back in 2000. We have Ross on guitar and vocals, Ken is playing mandolin on this one and Roy supplies bass, backing vocals and foot stomping.

Pancho and Lefty [audio:PanchoLefty.mp3]

This is another song that Ross introduced me to a long long time ago. It’s one of those “how the hell did I miss this one” jobs. It was penned by the late Townes Van Zandt and is a classic western tale of bandits, the chase, the bad ending. The whole thing in three minutes. It’s a classic. Everytime I hear Ross play this one all I can see is Butch and Sundance standing on the edge and the immortal “the falls gonna kill you” line. We have Ross on guitar and vocals, Ken is playing slide guitar thingy and some backing vocals and Roy supplies bass, backing vocals and foot stomping. Coming Up: Just as soon as I find time to edit them and convert them to MP3 Ross does a cover of Townes Van Zandt’s “Pancho and Lefty” and a Ross original from One Person Queue… yet to be decided.

Boring Tech Stuff:

The Zoom H4 recorded in Stereo @ 44.1kHz/16 bit. Our table was 3-4 metres back from Ross on stage and we were directly centre, the PA was flown overhead. I angled the Zoom at about a 45 degree angle to more or less point at Ross and crossed my fingers. The gain settings were on M The recording was edited in Sound Forge and all I did was cut out below 30Hz and add a bit of compression to help the MP3 along.

Note to the Zoom people, a battery meter would have been such a useful addition, I lost the last two songs because the batteries died. Yes I should have had a spare battery pack,,,

Also see –

UPDATE: Ross has put a video up at his site of “A Town This Size”, with the promise of more to come.

Ross Ryan, Spectrum, MFI and a Zoom H4

Zoom H4 ToyNow as some of you are aware I am a toy junkie, and for some months I had been reading about the Zoom H4 and it’s brethren (actually I was lusting after the Sony PCM1 back in 2005). You can read the O’Reilly Review of the Zoom H4 Handy Recorder by Mark Nelson or just Google Zoom H4 if you are interested. I actually tried to buy one for the Evermore/F1 concert but there wasn’t one to be had in Melbourne (or Canberra) and it was too late to fly one in from the states.

Bear with me, I’ll just do a little more scene setting here.

It was a dark and stormy night… actually it wasn’t it was just a cold Friday night but Ross and Spectrum were playing at the Trades Hall Bar in Carlton. They had jointly announced the dual CD launch via their respective email lists (some a few more announcements than others… yes that would be you Ross). I actually wonder how many people are on both lists… but I digress. 10 hours earlier I had picked up my new toy (batteries included) from Manny’s in Fitzroy and having had a busy day “server wrangling” (it was a draw), I had only read the manual.

OK,I lied I took the recorder out on the tram, I’m a toy junkie remember and the batteries were included, and in less than 30secs was making a test recording. It worked. Put it back in bag and then read the manual.

{time passes}

I walk in to the bar, spot some friends (including My Friend Ian who is now back from the UK), order a drink, chat and then realised I had to setup. The actual setup took less than 90 seconds. I took it out of my bag, pressed record to arm it, set the level, (turned on the built in limiter ’cause I’m a wimp), put in the middle of the table and aimed it above the heads of the punters in front and went back to drinks and chat.

When Ross started I had a quick look at the levels figured they were a bit low but experience has taught me that it would be a self correcting problem as the evening moved on. I was right.

“So”, I hear you say ” What does it sound like?”

Stroll over to duggup and check out the MP3 samples I recorded on the concert review there (yes I am too slack to upload them here as well).

I love it, as a recorder the Zoom performed brilliantly. If the table we were at had have been about 6 feet closer to the stage and the mix a fraction better, I suspect the results would have been even more impressive than they already are. MFI (you remember him) is in a band and it has a gig next week so I will go along and see how that works as a theory.

So after getting home after midnight I plugged the unit into my workstation (it was the Windows one) and once again it just worked. It appeared as a USB drive. I just copied the .WAV files across and they were there ready to be played back in Soundforge. No fuss no hassle, it just worked.

Now those of you who read the MFI or What Bland Did Next post may have worked out that this would be a killer toy to get round the recording problems I detailed there. Well yes it would be, but next time he can take me and I’LL push record, you can’t be too careful with technology.

UPDATE: Further adventures can be found at Ross Ryan And A Zoom H4 At Capers/

Remix the Ring

OK folks is make your own music time again.

Remember the hard drive music competition? (Refresh your memory here and here)

Well this time we aren’t messing around with mechanical noises, no sirree bob. This time we have real music.

Wagner… it doesn’t get much real than that. (You know the stuff that Inspector Morse used to listen to.)

So here’s the deal. The CANADIAN BROADCASTING CORPORATION is making available a two and half minute section of the Ring cycle. The Ride of the Valkyries to be precise.

Here is the hype…
CBC Radio: Wagner’s Ring – Remix the Ring
  {sadly CBC have deleted this }

You are invited to Remix The Ring! Well, actually just part of it-the famous Ride of the Valkyries. Download the file of Richard Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries and remix it in any way you see fit. Mash it, chop it, layer it, turn it upside down. Your remix can have a dance feel, or be completely avant-garde. Let your imagination be your guide.

About now I should probably do the “We have good news and bad news” bit.

The bad news is that you have to be a Canadian to enter the competition to win the prize.

The good news is… WHO CARES. This is just too silly a premise to go past.

DOwnload the sample do the remix, mash up, exorcise it, whatever. If you send it to me in MP3 at wagner mash @ gmail com by August 21st 2006 and I will pick what I think are the best and put them up for you to have a listen to.

No prizes, no guarantees, just silliness. Can’t do better than that.