Sunday, August 24, 2014

Building New Toys

So Peppers tour has ended and  walking into the production office after the last show at Isle of Wight I could not resist taking a photo. Three years of on and off travels and another chapter comes to a bittersweet end. I will miss seeing all my friends on world adventures till next time and oh the thought of being home for a while is very very wonderful.

It is a shame those set lists did not go to fans but some things ya just got to let go. It has been a while since I have blogged.  Partially due to recovery from my bike crash, partially due to focusing on dedicating time to finishing Peppers tour, partially from immersing in the business side of Rat Sound and also because I have been working on some new speaker designs and concepts.

As far as bike crash recovery, I am mostly back up to speed with only the odd lump from my broken collar bone, a slight bit of shoulder rotator motion loss and most oddly, I seem to have an altered sense of smell. Some things I just can not smell at all and other things I am quite sensitive to. My sense of taste seems fine though. Ha, maybe light losing sight improves hearing, maybe losing smell will help hearing too.  Lucky me.

Here is a blog post I started a while back and never posted:

Comb filtering is a description of the cancellations created when a signal is re-summed with a time shifted version of itself.  The 're-summing' can be electronic or acoustic.  

If you wish to eliminate comb filtering you need to either reduce the number of source such that only one source can be heard at the listening positions. not allow time shifted versions of the same signal to sum electronically or alter the signals so they are sufficiently dissimilar.

In real world reinforcement applications, comb filtering typically is not solved, it is mitigated. Where it gets interesting is that the humanly configuration of our bodies and location of our ears is such that undesirable effects of comb filtering occurring in the horizontal domain is actually minimized when the sound sources are sufficiently far apart from each other and we are located somewhere between those sources which is why we prefer stereo instead of mono home stereos even when the sound radiated from both speakers is identical or similar.

I personally strive to minimize sending the exact same signal to multiple horizontally spaced speaker arrays. I want the guitar mic sent to the left PA stack to be a different signal than the guitar signal sent to the right.  I want them both to sound good, but not to be identical.  Same with bass, and as many other instruments as possible. This reduces comb filtering and minimizes creating power alley.

And for some newer stuff, last week I did a Dave Rat Seminar for Disney sound technicians. Super cool and I felt quite proud that I have shoveled enough knowledge into my sandbox that I am asked to interact with such a highly respected organization.

Doing the Dave Rat Seminars has helped me clarify some basic fundamental concepts. One of those concepts is:

"One of the driving reasons that humans gather in groups is to experience lasting memories."

We attend rock shows, sporting events, houses of worship, theme parks or political rally's in order to create a memory for ourselves and for others.Those memories are created by connecting the people that have something to say with the people whom desire to listen, watch or interact. The more of our senses immersed in the experience, the more powerful the memory. 

As sound reinforcement professionals, our specialty is the audio spectrum and to work with the visual, and other specialists to create the most powerful connections we can. If we keep our grand purpose in focus we greatly increase the probability of a desirable outcome. 

Sooo, on another note

As far as projects, I am currently working on designing what I believe to be the best sounding, loudest, clearest and most versatile stage monitor ever created. With the assistance of (in no particular order) Mario DiCola, Eighteen Sound, Jefferey Cox, Powersoft, EAW and the key people at Rat Sound, we are creating a stage monitor so clear and powerful, using only the most premium components, that no other stage monitor even comes close to its capabilities.

oooh, powersoft visit

Taking everything learned from building the Rat Sound dual 15"/10"/2" L-Wedge and everything learned from designing the EAW MicroWedge series of monitors and creating a stage monitor that is about the same size as the leading high power wedges and exceeds the capabilities of the L-Wedge and MicroWedge combined. I would very much like to share more as we have a working prototype that literally makes the top wedges currently available sound like they are broken when put side by side. Soon Rat will have 4 pairs of wedges with power that we will put out with some key clients and I will give more details.

Here is a photo of Mario, this is not the wedge but rather an early stage of component testing. 

Working with Mario and Eighteen sound has given us access to fine tuning every aspect of the custom loudspeaker design from voice coil material, voice coil length, cone type, weight, magnet type, strength and material and more. I wanted components for this wedge that have never before existed. Here is a laser testing parameters of one of the custom components.

My long standing relationship with EAW is the foundation for the cabinet construction, testing, specs and processor settings. The developing relationship with Powersoft will optimize the amplification and aspects while us at Rat have developed the actual design look, features and capabilities.

Can't have a new design without napkin drawings

Another project I am excited about is I am building a super compact portable sound system that is 8 inputs, 8 processing channels, 8 outputs at 50 watts per channel and the whole ting fits in a suitcase. I intend on using this as a demo system for future seminars to show the differences between mono, stereo and multi-source audio reproduction as well as use it to test some concepts I hope to apply on a larger scale for future arena tours.

As you can see, the small cabinets have mini pole mounts so you can build erector set type structures.

And now for the serious stuff:

Proof that beer and sound go together

That Leonardo guy was a sharp cookie

Oh, Another project was building a head mounted iPhone steady cam for Josh. I love power projects where you just make something useful from stuff laying around the garage

And finally, a video from Thailand at a little zoo on the beach of little otter with something to say.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Big Owie

I am blogery slacker, just mining for the time to set aside and brain data dump some things to share. I did have a bit of a hutch in my get-a-long as well. I love surfing and snowboarding but decided to take divergence into a 40 mile bike ride.

Which seemed like a reasonable enough idea. Off to the trails in Ojai staring in Ventura and oh maybe 15 miles in or so, KABLAAAM. Another bike rider flying down the trail on a brake-less fixie bike broadsided me and sent me flying. Owie to the bicycle

Owie to my shoulder

And super owie to my head left me 8 days in intensive care and a multi-month recovery

 Anyway, I am mostly healed up and getting back to my scatterbrained and quirky self enough to do some surfing

Hang out with My dog Bones

And especially spending time with my awesome gal and amazing daughters.  Oh yeah, and Gene too! 

Oh, and ya know something really cool about doing some hospital time and getting all screwed up? All the friends and family that come to visit. I can't begin to describe how magic it was to be laid up in a hazy world and feel so loved. Truly amazing and thank you so so much.

On another note, I have designed some BSS 960 fader link knobs 

and printed them out on my 3D printer 

that allow us to EQ left and right at the same time.

ILet me know if you want a set and will print some up. Am thinking 30 in a light gray color plus 2 printed in glow in the dark plastic so you can have a few that mark 250hz and 2.5K

Oh, so today I am in Brooklyn for a Peppers gig at Barclays Center today where I have the most curved line array hang I have ever mixed on.  Hmmmm, not sure I am digging it but we will see.

and then tomorrow Peppers play the Superbowl Halftime show.

And how about some audio nerdery I was working on before I got bike crashed.

Some thoughts on Equal-Loudness Contours (Fletcher-Munson curves)

Compensating for Fletcher-Munson curve effect was quite popular in home Hi-Fi for many years with the "loudness" button that boosted some lows and highs on nearly every home stereo receiver for decades. Interestingly it has all but vanished on current home hi-fi equipment.  Also of note is it has never become popular in live audio reinforcements systems. My personal experience is that it is something where studies and measurements show that it exists yet when I push the loudness button on my home stereo receiver, it makes the music sound unnatural and overly bass and treble heavy. Plus and more importantly the adding of a perceptual based compensation network brings with it some doubt.  Was the recording made with a predictive intent for this button to be pressed to induce a desired alteration? When the band plays soft or loud in the rehearsal space, where is Fletcher and Munson compensating for my hearing? Am I hearing it incorrectly so it needs to be fixed?

My take on it is, yes I believe that it does exist, at low volumes sub lows and HF are less perceptually prominent.  Yes, they can measure and approximate a compensation that electronically corrects for volume dependent frequency perceptions. And I believe that the utilizing the concept of attempting to compensate may be short sighted.

Perhaps just perhaps we as humans already naturally expect to hear less sub-lows and high frequencies at lower volumes, we expect naturally to hear a differing balance at higher volume levels. Perhaps an  automated volume dependent compensation circuit is an unnatural event and though it may correct for our hearing, perhaps these loudness buttons have faded from favor, vanished from usage because though technically an argument can be made that it is a valid correction. For us live engineers there are additional challenges in as we deal with a dynamic range that is so great and the distance variations to listeners so vast and then add in ear plug usage, differentials in age related hearing loss/sensitivity of the listeners and so on.

That is not to say that having control over volume dependent tonality is not useful and valuable. And conversely, a major issue with many sound systems is that the tonality changes with volume in undesirable ways. Most typically when turning up a sound system resulting in having everything go into limit except the 2" drivers which creates a reverse Fletcher-Munson curve scenario, that is difficult to compensate for.

I have had some success with applying Fletcher-Munson curve type compensation in live audio in the form of implementing subs and tweeters on auxillary sends with manual control of the volume that the subs and tweeter limiters.  Soft songs have full subs/tweets, louder sound push subs/tweets into limit offering a Hi-Fi sound at lower volumes and a 'rock' sound at higher volumes.  I do find this useful as a manual control and this had a side effect of increased intelligibility of  the artist speaking between songs. That said, it has been years since I felt compelled to implement that control and on modern high end systems, it just does not seem necessary to add that complexity, at least for the artists I have been mixing.

One aspect I have been focusing on more recently is "Should we try and force the sound systems to maintain the same HF EQ at long distance listening positions or is it a do we as humans prefer to hear some HF roll off when the source is far away?"  As systems improve, we are gaining the ability to throw HF father and farther yet in my opinion, a bit duller less edgy sound when listening from long distances can often be a more enjoyable experience and it sounds more natural as long as sufficient intelligibility and volume is maintained.

Ok, no promises but will try and blog and share more soon.



Thursday, August 22, 2013

Amiga, Makerbot and Line Arrays

Anyone remember trying to render graphics or print anything other than text from a computer in the mid 80's? I recall having to wait till sleep to hit the render button with a 50% probability that the computer will crash, only to end up with a crude version of the graphic that took another whole eternity to to create and when it finally came to printing it out after 20 false starts to get the layout formatting correct between lock ups and those darned reboots that required a reload of a shit ton of floppy disks because hard drives were not yet a common consumer item of affordability.

Well, the reason this comical now but frustrating then memory comes to mind is my adventures with 3D printing. Though nowhere near as archaic, the nuances of creating printable drawings and sit and wait adventure while the little nozzle moves around squirting hot plastic brings back those old memories. For those not familiar with how the most common 3D printers operate, basically all they are is a hot glue gun nozzle attached to a plastic wire feeder that can move around in the X and Y axis and a plate that moves up and down in the Z axis while it squirts hot plastic in hopefully all the right places to end up with what was on the computer screen.

Line Array Adventures!
(as promised to answer a twitter question)

OK, so how about taking a look at some aspects of line array HF design? One of the major challenges with designing a line array is getting the sound to radiate out of all places of the enclosure at the same time. This may sound more trivial than it is. Sound likes to radiate outward in circular waves like rings from a stone dropped in water. But line-arrays need sound to radiate more like a flat stick shape from each horn.  If you just use a horn that has a tall narrow opening, the sound will exit the shortest distance first which is the middle and still have an arc shape as it leaves the horn/waveguide.

To get around this, there are several methods that the various manufacturers employ with varying degrees of success. I will divide these up into the three basic types/approaches and gives a brief description of some assets and issues with each as well as a few links to patents from the manufacturers.

The Equal Path Length Waveguides

Three examples of companies that patented this type are L-Acoustics, Adamson and Turbosound.  The concept is to create a waveguide wherein the the shortest distance from the horn driver diaphragm to anywhere the sound can exit, is exactly the same (or of a predetermined minimal offset).

L-Acoustics does this by first determining the distance from the driver to the top/bottom of the waveguide exit, which is the longest distance.  Then designing the waveguide shape such that the sound travelling out of the middle area of the exit has to travel an equal distance. The patent explains it in depth.

Since L-Acoustics had already patented the most simple and direct design, indirect designs started being developed. Nexo came up with an interesting method. How about sending the sound from a compression driver down a horn and reflecting the sound off of a curved surface such that the reflected sound was correctly timed by the time it leaves the horn. 

Adamson came up with another work-around. I heard rumors that some potential infringement questions that arose but I guess the patents were differing enough that Adamson's held. Basically what the Adamson design does is it divides the process into two parts.  The first part over corrects the sound wave so it comes out the top and bottom of the initial waveguide first and the middle last.  Then the second part lets the sound wave expand naturally in the secondary waveguide.  The two waveguides are designed such that the over correction and natural expansion combine to have the sound exit the secondary waveguide at the same time.

Another way to try and solve the equal length conundrum is to divide the sound up into a multitude of smaller tubes of equal length and then rejoin them at the exit. This is the path that Meyer Sound and  Turbosound followed to develop their line array waveguides as shown in. 

You can almost feel the minds churning to create a solution to get in the line-array game. In general, my experience has been that the more complex the design is, the more room for error, resonance issues and unwanted reflections.

The Multi-Driver Designs

This concept goes back pretty far and I was able to find a patent by RCA from 1927. Basically it is simply using a higher quantity of smaller drivers instead of one, two or three larger 2" drivers.  This gets the sources close together and all radiating at the same time.

So with L-Acoustics having a patent on the simplest most direct solution in 1988 and the other 'equal length' concepts to get around the L-Acoustics intellectual property patent yet to be concocted, companies started coming up with various multi-driver contraptions that basically use a multitude of long narrow horns with on each.

Unlike the L-Acoustics and Adamson solutions, the Clair multi-driver approach does not fully create an output where all the sound radiates at the same time. Instead there are a bunch of smaller arcs, one from each horn/driver.  The more drivers the better but the drivers tend to be physically a bit of an issue limiting the maximum quantity. Though Clair did an admirable job by employing nine 1" drivers I believe in their I5 rig, every other driver offset to the left or right so the vertically fit in the box.

Another version of the multi-driver as implemented in the JBL Vertec systems was just to use 3 drivers and not really be too concerned that the sound all leaves the horns at very close to the same time. Though this was consistant with the JBL design in that the Vertec system allowed for much more drastic angles between boxes as well.  I huge asset in versatility and a detriment in sound quality.

Also there are some other designs that utilize diamond or other shaped 'obstructions'  in the horn that assist in aligning the timing of the sound leaving the differing parts of the horn

Here is another multi-driver patent that I am not familiar with any large format systems employing but is interesting as well,

The No Waveguide Solution

Hey, why not just use a ribbon driver? That's what we want, right? All the sound to radiate at the same time in the vertical domain. I do feel that ribbons logically are the best solution, practically though, there are some challenges. Conventional drivers are most efficient when centered in the gap and as you drive them harder, there is both a mechanical limitation can be a decrease efficiency. This parallels other components in the system to a degree. Most ribbon designs have a perforated magnet in front and behind the ribbon, not only are there artifact from sound passing through the perforation, the harder you drive the ribbon the closer it gets to the magnets creating almost a sonic expander.  Yes, electronics can correct for this perhaps. I do believe major headway has been made in increasing the efficiency and frequency response of ribbons but in my opinion, they are just not yet fully on par with the top level voice coil driven systems, yet.

Other Stuff

A couple other older patents where we can see designs that control the distance sound travels to leave a horn

An older form of line arrays were products like the Shure Vocal Master

A few advantages of the equal path length designs is simplicity and that conventional drivers that are readily available can be used.

Multi-Driver Minimal Waveguide

The multi-driver designs can get costly very quickly but they do allow for separate amplification and processing of each driver. Which brings me to what I believe to be the best version of the multi-driver design is currently what EAW has implemented in the new ANYA system, just as I believe that L-Acoustics has the best version of the equal path length design, Anya has the best multi-driver design.

EAW's solution was to develop a very compact, high power 1" dome driver and use 14 of them on very short waveguides, therefore minimizing the timing errors to the lowes of the multi-driver designs to date, almost forming a perfect ribbon.  Except unlike using a ribbon, each segment of the ribbon can be independently processed and new levels of control realized that no other system has capabilities of accomplishing.

Here is a link to a video that explains more

If it sounds like I am a fan of the L-Acoustics design and EAW designs, you are correct. If you think that I am a fan because Rat Sound owns both those systems, you are incorrect.  The reverse is true. Rat owns those systems for many reasons and one of which is that I believe that the HF waveguide design is a core and critical aspect of line-array design, and also I have a special affinity for the early innovators with the most finessefull solutions. Yeah, 'finessefull' is not a real word but it should be as it is so useful.

Ok, enough brain dump.  How about a few pics to lighten the load.?

So we make the products at Rat and Bryant orders some new tube samples and normally this would be just a simple misprint but....

Ha! Rock and roll.... Off to the big rock show.... I bet you cant come up with any other one-liners. 

One of the wheels broke on the Midas Script Scroller 

Here is what the good wheels look like 

So I printed a new pair of wheels on my Makerbot2 3D printer, and back to good again.

I just had to share this. Left to right, my mom, Mark Schoenfield (former step brother), Me, Steve Schoenfield (other former step brother), my sister Tiffany and my brother Phil. And this was only a tiny smidge glimpse of the oddity of my previous life as David Levine before I somehow was renamed Dave Rat by my pals and peers.

Oh yeah! Did a 9 day train trip in Europe with Daughter Sammy.  It was her turn as Maddie and I did a solo pair run 2 years back. I would not trade those adventures for five worlds!

Not disturbing enough to make you want to poke out your mental eye but a fashion statement none the less

And just a pic that makes me smile from the the trip up to Anchorage for a few Peppers gigs.

Ok, that's enough.  And tomorrow one daughter moves out into an apartment with roommates and saturday the other is off to college in New York. Could not be more proud and filled with apprehension of a major life shift at the same time than I feel right now.

Dave Rat

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Probability of Aliens

Oh so many amazing facts, urban legends and hard to imagine news stories constantly streaming from numerous directions. How does one sift through and distill which ones to believe and which to discard? My mom and others constantly send me absurd email "facts" that are nearly always an urbane legend or biased political lynching thinly veiled as humor . To which invariably,after a brief search, I respond with a link to a version of the same story on discrediting it's credibility and their breakdown of fact versus fiction. Conversely, exciting new inventions with incredible potential really do exist and new ones are popping up all the time like this molecular graphene material that they say is so strong that the point of a pencil could  not pierce it with an elephant balanced on the other end of the pencil

Anyway, the one common denominator seems to be that unbelievable stories turn out being some combination of fact, exaggeration and fiction intertwined. So where does that leave us with the existance of aliens? Do they or do they not exist? Have they visited earth? Well, I sure as heck don't know and even if I did see, touch or hang out with them who would believe me anyway?

But, just out of curiosity, how about we take a look from the viewpoint of 'probability.' And since I don't really know the actual probability that aliens exist, lets just look at two possible probability extremes:

1) We consider a very low probability aliens exist and therefore there are very few if any alien worlds out there.


2) We also consider a high probability aliens exist, therefore resulting in a high probability that there are numerous alien worlds out there.

If #1 is true, then other life forms across the universe, including us would be hard to find due to scarcity and the probability of  inhabited worlds being prohibitively far apart would be high. So most likely the probability of these very rare aliens visiting earth would be very low.

If #2 is true, then the probability that aliens have visited the earth at some point in time could be fairly high because aliens are everywhere and cruising all over the place. The probability would also include aliens not only finding us but also also finding tens, hundreds or even thousands of other inhabited 'earths'.

Also since probability dictates that a random sample from a group will most likely fall somewhere towards the middle of the bell curve or normal distribution, it is highly probable that as far as life forms go, us earth humans are somewhere right around average, mediocre, and from the perspective of the outside alien life form, we humans are boring, most probably. Now I know we humans love to feel like we are special and the thought that all our humanly selves and our fabulous creations are not worth more than a quick snapshot as an alien spaceship passes by seems a bit harsh, but it is important to realize that research shows that it is highly probable that our viewpoint of ourselves is strongly biased by illusory superiority.

Which would mean that if there are aliens and if they are close enough and smart enough to find us and visit, then most likely we will be fairly irrelevant to them anyway. So, do I believe in aliens?  Perhaps that is the wrong question.  I prefer to look at the world through levels of probability and the associated outcomes rather than tying myself to rigid beliefs when it comes to unproven concepts. What is the probability that aliens exist and probability that they have visited earth and what is the probability that multiple governments can effectively keep a secret? Heck, I don't know but if aliens do exist I guess I 'd feel special if they slowed down for more than a snapshot.

So on to more relevant adventures

Hey, I am super excited and honored to announce that Rat Sound has hired Paul Freudenburg as our general manager. We have worked closely with Paul for many years while he was with L-Acoustics heading up K1 sales for The Americas. Over the past 33 years Rat has grown from a few speakers in the back of my car to a  multifaceted pro audio company offering international touring sound systems, pro A/V equipment sales, installations and manufacturing of SoundTools products. Managing the growing Rat world is a significant challenge and over the years we have gone through multiple transformations while holding on to some core concepts: great gear, great people, don't take the shortcuts, over the course of time - quality combined with honesty and ethical lines will result in positive results. Each of Rat's departments are individually successful as is Rat as a whole.  Next step is to bring all the Rat departments closer together further increasing the quality of services we provide and consistency throughout. Oh, and especially exciting to me is I hope to have more time to work on new speaker and soundtools designs as well as adventure out for seminars and other creative projects.

So at Coachella the EAW ANYA was debuted and we got a first time real world listen.  Rat Sound's position toward taking in a new system is:

"We at Rat do our best to stay aware of new technology and pro audio innovations. We believe that making an investment into a non L-Acoustics large format system that merely offers moderate differentials in maximum SPL, size, weight, sonic signature or deployment features is not worth adding the resulting incompatibilities to our rental inventory. Any large format expansion we do will be focused on products with either a very strong established client demand or something so unique and revolutionary that it solves issues not addressed by conventional line systems"

Well, so far, from everything we have seen, the ANYA System is the first system that is truly unique. The rig dead hangs straight, no "J" shape.  That means the techs can come in, hang the PA first and fast up and out of the way, like we used to in the good old days.  Then after the system is hung, the vertical dispersion can be adjusted to cover.  Set a mic near the barricade and tell the system to find the mic and start covering there, set another mic up in the back of the venue, tell the system to stop covering there. The system then electronically covers the space in between the mics.  All done after the fact, no more dropping the system to change angles, no bumping motors and trying to fudge to cover a new section that was opened after the system was flown. Furthermore, coverage can be increased or decreased in real time, while the band is playing if need be. The system can aim straight up or straight down. a single box can have  up to 180 degree vertical coverage, as can a full 32 box deep hang.

Based on these capabilities, Rat Sound will be taking delivery of an ANYA system later this year and see ANYA an exciting compliment to our L-Acoustics inventory.  A new tool with a differing feature set and differing capabilities. Our commitment to L-Acoustics products is also growing as well and have already placed a substantial purchase request in for more L-Acoustics gear later this year/early 2014.

Wayne Foreman 

So so sad to say goodbye and lose a wonderful friend and magical human. For all those that knew Wayno and his passion for life and huge smile, you are super fortunate. I just posted a super cool video of  Wayno giving a tour of a meal he was cooking for Chili Peppers. Also check out Wayno's Catering 

Sooo, on a less somber note, hey! my twin daughters both graduated high school with honors and I feel like such a proud nerdy dad. Plus both are going to college, a challenge I never quite conquered.

And for now, I guess that's all to share.  Lobby call soon and off to go to the gig as Peppers are playing Firefly Festival in Delaware tonight.  Hey, I think this may be a state I have never mixed a show in.  That leaves only Alaska and one of the Dakotas and I will have worked in all 50.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Changing Patterns

My current ponder revolves around changing patterns. Now that I am relatively home for a while after spending a significant portion of my life over the past two years globe travelling, the impact of pattern change takes hold. Patterns, routines, and predictable familiar outcomes feel simultaneously as desirable as monotonous. Mono-tonos, a life of singular tones and right now that makes me happy. Surfing in the mornings, seeing the mostly retired C-Street surf crew and having breakfast at one of the three main destinations that each day gets determined as if some brilliant new idea was proposed. Vagabond, Busy Bee, Main Street, each with a half century or so legacy of relative insignificance other than being a consistent detestation for a predictable meal.

Meanwhile this surf and breakfast routine recycles whilst I come and go on my travels. With each trip to far away lands, the allure of the assorted destinations begins to fade into a routine of it's own.  I realize that I set up a routine as a launching pad for adventures. Without a predictable life pattern, an adventure away provides no contrast, no thrill. I wonder if this internal motivation to build structures to launch from is purely playful or perhaps founded in something more instinctively fundamental. While washing my hair with a nearly empty giant bottle of Bed Head shampoo I briefly side-thought into whether I would buy the same brand next time, and then skip to the same thought about soap and then expand to all the familiar products and the contrast between repeating purchases or switching to new flavors. Could it be an instinct based in self preservation, to establish patterns for efficiency then alter them for safety? Perhaps one shampoo or soap cleans most but not all types of undesirables away and not switching brands allows an accumulation while switching provides a fresh, not necessarily better, but different angle of attack. Maybe to be too predictable in the routes we travel allows predators or competitors to gain advantage? Coaches of sports teams being replaced after a bad season only to get a job with a different team, why would a new team hire a losing coach? Repetition becomes stagnation. A well balanced and successful company bringing in new talent purely to open new avenues and keep things fun, interesting and growing. The creation of patterns so we can comparatively disrupt them. Something about this whole concept makes me happy.

Not only am I mostly home from tour but this is that last summer, so perfectly timed, before my daughters Maddie and Sammy graduate high school with honors that exceed any level I ever reached scholastically and then head off to their respective colleges on the east coast. The world of Rat Sound is doing really well and some new exciting news soon to come.

I believe that in life nothing ever stays the same. The illusion of stability only occurs when the observational time frame is overly limited.  Sufficient expand the time frame perspective and change will always be evident. So if that is taken to be true, then everything can be perceived as either growing or deteriorating, expanding or contracting, solidifying or crumbling. To stop is to begin the process of deterioration, motion is life and a healthy balance between change and consistency is happiness.

So, speaking of restaurants, I have decided to share my favorite the three sets of three, one for each meal that are in my home dining pattern. I thought about driving around and taking pics of them all but then decided that I will post them after I eat there and also remember to take a picture.  All of the restaurants are have a settled in feel and something about them makes them wonderfully unique. So first up is:

For the lunch - Spencer Makenzie's super clean tasting, fresh and a unique Cali-Mex food. It is so hard to find a quick meal that is not heavy or greasy but their grilled fish and shrimp tacos, the ceviche, they make their own cool hot sauces and the fresh cabbage/lemon that seems to be the building blocks they create from, always leaves me feeling refreshed after eating there. Plus their little logo drawings are awesome.

And on to next in the list of scribbles I jotted to blog about. Peppers at RFK Stadium 1992..Peppers and crew all headed to DC to do this Free Tibet concert and it was a bit of mess.  Fruciante had recently rejoined the band, there was no real band management at the time, it was pouring down rain and and there was some growing tensions between the Free Tibet organizers and the Peppers tour manager at the time. I guess some details did not get sorted regarding whom would pay which expenses, the organizers were pissed that Peppers' costs were higher than expected, the tour manager felt that since they were doing the show for free, expenses should be paid and the band members were kept out of the loop and then it starts to rain, really rain, torrential downpour, and thunder, and lightening and BOOM! Lightening strikes inside the stadium. Panic, smoke or steam, paramedics, cancellation and rumors flying.  Someone got hit, several got hit. A girl, a cell phone she was holding, others nearby. Pack it up.  Off to the hotel.

The scramble and the decisions to reorganize, and something is not good.  They are squeezing bands into the schedule that cancelled yesterday but on the new schedule, no Peppers.  So what now? One thing is for sure, it always sucks to be cancelled.  The unfulfilled feeling, travel, setup, expectation then nothing. Now the band members know something is amiss though I am not sure how much they were made aware of. "Why were we cut? We want to play." but to no avail, the organizers will not budge, perhaps by grudge or wedged between too many bands and a curfew, either way, an amicable solution was not only not realized, there was a distinct "no way the Peppers will play" sentiment being propagated by someone in charge.

And the the hush info starts to spread. We are staying on site till the show ends.  Be on call when Pearl Jam starts.  Ok, there is a plan on the down low.  A secret coup. Pearl Jam, the Day 2 headliner takes the stage and plays a great set and then walks off the stage before the encore. The backline techs all head out and do their thing and after several minutes instead of Pearl Jam, Red Hot Chili Peppers come out and play four songs on Pearl Jams' equipment, to cheers from an audience that had been informed Peppers would not perform. The bands took it into their own hands. The band members of Pearl Jam and Peppers worked together and created a solution that others were not capable of accomplishing.

Soooo, we are at the airport not long after, I can not recall if it was the next day or in a different city. The Peppers'  band and crew, somewhat shell shocked by the roller coaster adventure and we are just getting out of the town cars and beginning toward the check in counters when the tour manager's cell phone rings. He hands it to Anthony and heads over to talk to the town car driver, they chat for a minute before Anthony gets in the car and drives away. "Hey where did Anthony go?" I here someone say. "A change of plans, he is staying, that girl, the one hit by lightening has just awakened"

Ok, I have reached my bloggery time limit.  I write with my laptop on battery and must complete the project before the battery dies.  


Sunday, May 12, 2013

Yay for adventures we love to remember

Well alright, Peppers rocked an afternoon gig as the finale performance of the Environmental Summit in Portland, Oregon.  It was super cool to see and hear the Dalai Lama rap about all kinds of stuff. The guy is super lovable, humble, happy and is really good at saying things that make a lot of sense.  I especially liked the way he answered a question about what to do' when one is faced with issues that feel  insurmountable, yet one cares so about deeply them to the point of dismay' or something down that line but worded more eloquently. So in response he says something like "When an issue can not be solved, just do something else that is also positive instead." Anyway, whether that's what he meant or not, I find the concept that regardless of the size or solvability of the task at hand, what is really important is the state of mind we maintain when approaching the challenge or put another way, it is unhealthy to be so passionate about an issue that it makes you miserable and it is a more wonderful and successful choice to embrace positive productive mindsets.

This was not my first close proximity to a Tibetan Monks adventure. Back in '94 when I was mixing sound for L7 on Lollapalloza tour some of the Dalai Lama's Tibetan monks performed a prayer chant on stage to open the show.  The Monks, invited by Beastie Boys Adam Yauch, being somewhat budget conscience or just plain humble, were travelling in a rickety old dilapidated tour bus.  Well, a vintage tour bus in itself is not necessarily a bad thing but add in the persistence of the mechanical failures (think 'no air conditioning with a ton o monks on an over stuffed bus on a summer tour') and even more challenging, the fact that the social qualities of a bus driver tend to be proportional to the age and quality of the tour bus they drive.

I can't remember his name but I would regularly chat with the somewhat scraggly long haired tour manager who had the task of making sure a dozen or so non English speaking monks checked into hotels, showed up for lobby call, rocked their opening slot gig on time and found vegetarian meals across the US. All the while doing his best to convince their irate hillbilly bus driver that "no these are not some wacko robe wearing cult members smuggling drugs or creating terrorist plots."

Meanwhile the Monks were super polite and so curious about everything that looking after them was akin to herding cats. I recall one show but I don't remember the city where I was doing what we sound engineers do on a festival tours after an overnight drive straight into the next show, we wander aimlessly around the venue between catering, the bus and in my wanders I stumble across some back stage video games with unlimited free credits. I proceed to park myself there for a while when out of the corner of my eye, I spot one of the red and yellow robed monks looking over my shoulder. So after I die, I turn around, look at him, look at the game, look at him again and motion the international sign for "would you like to join" by pointing my hands in the direction of the open joystick and buttons for player #2. I motion again and finally, cautiously, reluctantly he begins to to move forward, I start the game, select his character, grab the control on his side and show him how to move the player around and push a few of the action buttons and then return back to my player. Walk to the left, then to the right, I get close he backs away, he comes closer and WHAP! I punch him in the head followed instantly by a feeling of remorse. I look over at him for a reaction and he is locked intently fixated on moving his little scantily clad female character. His little 'she' backs away sort of doing circles and aimlessly kicking  and punching air as he tries to discover the controls while I walk over, kick him in the head, SPLAT! specks of blood fly and I feel terrible again. The rest of that round and the one more round we played after was pretty much spent doing these little dances and I decided I would walk up and try and get in front of his punches and kicks, occasionally succeeding. After the second round, and as in awe of the absurdity as much as feeling traumatized by not knowing what to really do, I step back from the game, turn to him and smile, he smiles, he bows, I bow, I wave, he bows again and I walk away a word never spoken.  And that was the first and last time I played Mortal Kombat with a Tibetan monk.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Dave Rat Blog - Art, Adventure and .....

Art, Adventure and ......

I have been pondering the art of complaining. I see it in others and am dismayed when I find myself immersed in it. Complaints are often descriptions of circumstances or situations that we are trying to convince other people that somehow have happened beyond our control. While indeed many things are beyond our control, the attitudes that we embrace to face challenges, remain fully within our power.

When something goes wrong or fails to meet out expectations, somewhere inside our minds we make a choice of whether to use anger, frustration or in general 'go negative' or perhaps we find a way to laugh and joke about it and grab a hold of a way to minimize the negative impact and probability of recurrence.

Happiness is a decision, happiness is a skill. 

For some it comes naturally, for some it takes practice and others remains illusive. Regardless, happiness is not a stationary state but rather, a trajectory, a direction headed. This motion can come from inside us or an outside influence. If I find myself waking each day trudging through the realities of my life and if suddenly a phone call with a new opportunity comes, happiness follows if I am open or able to accept it. Otherwise if I am closed to the option, the opportunity may have the opposite effect and I feel even more trapped or down trodden. The passive 'wait for someone else or something else to bring happiness to me' mindset is a perfect scenario to become a chronic complainer. 

Hmmmm, what are complaints and are they actually bad? My take is that complaints are pretty much exactly as they are meant to be; a process of annoying others such that others may feel inspired to do whatever it takes to stop you complaining or join to in whinging with you. Fair enough and at times perhaps a useful process, but for the complaining process to work, the complaints need to be well directed, used in moderation and have some sort of resolvability, else they serve no purpose other than making the complainer a less desirable human.
Who would you rather hang out with? The constant complainer over every little unsolvable thing or the person that smiles and overcomes even the most traumatizing of challenges? Which would you rather have other people perceive you to be? 

People that non productively complain are just the people that have not taken control and accepted responsibility over their own happiness trajectory.

Alternately, we can make an internal decision to accomplish a task or set a goal and as we progress in the desired direction, happiness builds. With each goal and step, however slow or small, we can gain more and more control over our direction and happiness and become less of a powerless ship adrift at sea awaiting currents and wind to bring us to land.

And on to more curious things!

Yay! I bought a Makerbot Replicator 2! Ooooh, the idea of having mind pictures become real in plastic.  All I need to do now is commit to learn some 3D software. I typically use Corel Draw now for designs and such and am pretty well versed in it. I do not need perfection, just the shortest time frame between concept and rough prototype would be ideal. Suggestions? Do I really want to commit to AutoCad? CorelCad? SolidWorks? Blender?

Back in time rewind, first a bit too far, here is an old page from the legacy Rat Sound Web Site with a bunch of cool old punk rock flyers and such

And then forward to Peppers tour in Cape Town

I must say I really like it here, cool people, everything is interesting and truly look forward to returning.

Plus, people often talk about being well grounded, well I can honestly say that South American power is well well grounded. Holly crap, that is like a 50 amp ground pin on a standard wall outlet. What kind of catastrophe are they preparing for?

I did a sound seminar on show day and another super group of sound humans! Great questions and I know I keep saying it but it amazes me how universal

Awww, so cute, just a tiny little 60,000 capacity stadium, feels so small.

The show was fun in Cape Town too. Last night of tour and the roadies gather at the watering hole

 we really do have a great group and after nearly two years together the camaraderie is strong

Just for fun, I remember this growing up, my mom is the blond gal in this commercial. Crazy to see it after all these years!

I guess I should really cover some sort of sound subject.  Hmmmm, well my current ponderings are focused on expanding and refining a few of the fundamental concepts I have been exploring in the sound seminars.

1) Nowhere in nature do multiple unrelated sounds radiate from a single source, yet with audio reinforcement/reproduction we do it all the time.

2) Nowhere in nature does the exact same sound radiate from multiple sources, yet we do it all the time with audio reinforcement/reproduction.

3) When the same sound radiates from multiple sources we must address polarity, time, distance and phase issues.

I believe that these concepts hold the critical clues to solving issues and gaining control of comb filtering, sub woofer arrays, steering, sound coverage, sonic realism, power alley and the list goes on and on.