I can’t count the amount of forums that I’ve gone into on websites such as Gearslutz.com, HomeRecording.com and the like, where invariably, someone has begun an ‘Analogue vs. Digital’ thread and the proponents of each format are eyeballs deep in a vain attempt at convincing the other camp of just how little mental aptitude they possess. I, of course, (being the advocate of so little, yet instigator of so much) am more than ready and dive headlong into the fray. In this case, however, I will, without question, take the side of the Analogue Junkies.
Even as I word process, my tape machine is lying in well designated piles on the studio floor. It seems that one of my female cats took advantage of my absence in the studio, where a well aimed 2 second spray is going to end up costing me several hours disassembling the deck in order to de-wee-wee the channel switching shorts.
As an aside, many may wonder why a musician or studio owner would have a cat in the first place, but it has been my experience that most folks in the music business prefer cats to dogs. After all, cats can be left alone with only food and water for 48 hours at a time, and when the owner returns, rather than going ape shit, they respond with indifference. They can be unpredictable at times, if not a downright pain in the ass, but they’re a lot like most musicians: generally they can’t be bothered, rarely follow someone around as if they’re lost, don’t give a damn what anyone else thinks, and they don’t bark in the middle of a take.
I like working on stuff. I took my toys apart when I was a kid. My mom knew it too, and bought them accordingly. God forbid she ever purchase me a kaleidoscope. I did get a Etch-A-Sketch, but she threatened me with a beheading if I should attempt to open it up.
As I grew older, I took apart transistor radios, walkie-talkies, and electric motors. I modified an old VHF receiver to pick up frequencies that are illegal to receive, listen to and/or record, and built bombastic shortwave and longwave antennas.
Hey, I was in love the first time I got shocked by 117 volts. “What the hell sort of thing, which couldn’t be seen, could give me that feeling?” I wondered. Electricity was my first drug. I loved the taste of electricity when I’d put a fresh 9 volt battery to my tongue. My secret wish is to be killed by getting struck by lightning. I want to know how it feels.
Anyway, at a later date, I was disassembling lawn mowers and anything else that was held together by screws. I didn’t know what “No User Serviceable Parts Inside” even meant. That crap applied to some other lackey. Screws were God’s way of telling me to open that sucker up and see what made it tick.
Finally, I rebuilt my first automobile engine. It was a four cylinder Ford Pinto engine. But I I didn’t just rebuild it, I built it. Chrome piston rings, Exhaust header, Offenhauser intake, Racer Walsh adjustable cam gear, Crane cam, solid racing tappets. I even rejetted the little two barrel Holley-Weber carburetor. My Pinto outran every Datsun 280-Z I encountered.
My hobby turned into an occupation for many years. I’d taken apart so much, I’d fix other people’s junk for a living.
One day a client asked me if I knew anyone who could lay ceramic tile. “I can do it,” I replied. So he gave me the job. After the client had departed, my son, who was working with me at the time, looked at me and said, “Do you know how to lay tile?”
“Hell no,” I told him. “But if any other alcoholic monkey can do it, I can figure it out.” After giving it considerable thought and a bit of research, I laid the stuff like a professional drunk. That’s just how I am.
Finally, as I acquired more expensive, professional recording gear, and it eventually malfunctioned, I had to decide: was I going to rout out some crusty old coot to do the work, or was I going to become my own tech and do it myself? You already know the answer. Needless to say, I ended up designing my own guitar circuitry, modifying my tube amplifier, and modifying my tube microphone. I built a ring frequency modulator (which is basically a fancy term for a useless piece of junk) and took apart a hollow-bodied electric guitar in order to replace the potentiometers. I bought an oscilloscope to align my deck and, wouldn’t you know it, I took apart the oscilloscope.
Whatever the case, if I used digital equipment to record music with, if the cat had pissed into the computer tower, I’d have to either take it to the computer tech, or buy a whole new one. But I can take apart my tape deck a piece at a time, clean it up, and put it back together.
That’s why I’m an Analogue Junkie.
Johnny Nowhere is a songwriter, recording artist, engineer, producer, owner of Hell Paving Company, music publisher, and a damn good layer of tile.