"Rotten Metropolis #2"

The tape of the band with no name that started it all.... Two people... one week... lots of learning and experimentation....

"Rotten Metropolis #2" was the direct ancestor of Jeberrekeñelle. It was very much a "concept" band, and ended up developing into something much more significant. At the core of "Rotten Metropolis #2"'s existence is the idea of "anyone can start a band." The truth or falsity of this statement can be clearly heard in the songs presented on the tape. The music is definitely worth a listen, but mostly in a "historical" context.... And the members, Lazy Boy and Mr. Braids, both knew this and accepted it as the truth.

"Rotten Metropolis #2" only produced one tape.

The Balcony...

According to the liner notes that accompanied the "Rotten Metropolis #2" tape, here's the story and some other DIY advice the members had to offer:

The Search for the House

This tape is the result of an experiment between two people and various instruments. With a week of spring break coming up, we started an idea brewing of putting together, playing and releasing a tape within that week. It seemed like an impossible goal since we didn't have the money for tapes, or a place to play, or any talent to speak of, or even people to play all the instruments usually used in the musical process. But we did it anyway.

The original idea was to find someone who'd be out of town for the week and needed someone to watch their house. In return for feeding their pets, watering the plants and generally keeping their stuff safe, we'd be bale to wreak audio havoc amongst the house. This proved to be almost impossible. Hardly anyone we knew was going anywhere, and those who did had at least one family member being left behind. The only person who was going to have an empty house was only going to be gone for two days and since the neighbors were pretty close, the house wouldn't have suited our needs anyway. So the search continued.

The Balcony

Eventually we had exhausted every possibility of a free home so we searched for someone tolerant enough, into music enough, or crazy enough to let us take over the house while they were in it. So in the end, the burden of noise and food consumption fell on the parent of the boy with 40 braids and swarthy skin. Quite cheerfully, his mother agreed to have us stay there and record our album as long as we cut out the really loud stuff after five. We had played there before and for the boy with 40 braids, it literally had all the comforts of home. All agreements settled, we moved in.

Studio With A View

After a few days it was decided that an organized recording and monitoring system had to be set up. After being cooped up for two days we moved outdoors. The speakers, effects boxes and 4-track were moved out and onto the wide wood balcony with the mike cables and power cables leading indoors. A light, as well as spooky death-rockish candles, was brought out for nighttime sessions. Amps were moved outdoors as well as vacant speaker cabinets for chairs. The studio was finally set for action.

Cooking

The arrangement reached turned out to be greater than we could have ever expected. The noise didn't seem to bother anyone, and for the Lazy Boy, the household held great rewards. The Lazy Boy had never eaten the food of the mother and the grandfather of Mr. Braids. The food was delicious. Some of it was said to be East Indian, and it is assumed that most of it was Trinidadian, since that was the family's origin. It was spicy hot and indescribably sumptuous, every granule worth the licking of a plate.

Top Ramen

Every Afternoon between the hours of aural excitement, Lazy Boy and Mr. Braids would trot downstairs for the ritual Top Ramen feasting. It seems that it is wide public opinion that the Top Ramen is unworthy, disgusting food. These kinds of words are met with great defense because for the boys Lazy and Braids, Top Ramen had become a must. They didn't stop at just adding the powder and the oils supplied in the packets, but concocted substances that would be looked forward to every afternoon. And by weeks end, the boy Lazy would weep at the thought he may not see Top Ramen for quite a while.

Guitar Technology

After the first days, satisfactory recorded sound had not yet been achieved from the guitar amps and so a totally new system was created. The idea was to deaden the sound, a theory taken from nothing. It just felt right. So we aimed our small "Backstage" Peavey amp at one of the beds, stuck the borrowed sixty dollar condenser between the box spring and the mattress, put pillows on either side of the mike, on both sides of the amps, stuck a "free-with-4-track" Fostex mike into the back opening of the amp, and covered the whole beast with a down comforter. This served the double purpose of theoretically deadening the sound and muffling it for the neighbors and other inhabitants of the domicile. However, this was altered later by putting our friend's Roland amp onto the bed and setting the condenser and the Fostex in front, padding with pillows, then covering. However, this still was unsatisfactory due to our lack of decent mikes and our total lack of knowledge of adding reverb or placement of mikes or anything else that allows people to make quality recordings, so another alternative was found.

How to Make Your Own Drum Kit

The final drum set-up

(The Real Primitive Shoe-String Budget and Stuff Your Mom Threw Away Way)

Lesson 1: The Toms

The Toms

Ingredients: Coffee cans with plastic top. The Trader Joe's ones work real well; the only qualification is that they be long with cardboard sides with a metal lip and a metal bottom. Leather, duct tape, strips of wood or other hard stuff.

What You Do: Take the plastic top and duct tape a 2 inch circle of leather to the bottom. Put it on the metal bottom, duct tape the edges (optional) and put a 1 inch square in the center. Now cut off the bottom portion. The more you cut off, the higher the pitch will be. Take the part you just cut off (The metal edge) and cut around leaving a 1 inch rim. Now cut off about ¼ to ½ inch off the rim (see picture). Put this part on the inside of the tom with the metal edge sitting on the cardboard edge. Cutting off the ¼ inch should allow this part to go in perfectly. Now duct tape this in, and you're done. Altering the amount you cut off will affect the pitch as well as adding more leather or other padding. If you have a few, line them up (we used three) and you'll have a series of pitches.

Lesson 2: The Snare

The Snare

Ingredients: Big metal can with a plastic top. We used a Kayser's Hercules Flip Mix Can. Leather, duct tape, and some sort of loose chain. Really sharp scissors.

What You Do: Cut 2-3 inch circle of leather and duct tape it to the bottom of the plastic top. Put the top onto the metal bottom. CAUTION: DANGER PRESENT IN THE FOLLOWING STEPS.... Now cut out the rest of the can till you have about 3-4 inches left, bend the razor sharp edge down with pliers and cover with duct tape. Before moving on to the next step, clean out all wounds inflicted with the previous step. Tetanus shots may ensue.

Now take the chain (it should be as long as you can get). Hopefully it is a loose chain made out of hard metal like the ones you get on Nike shoes or maybe even a chain off a snare drum. Now take the chain and bring it end to end so there's about ½ to 1 inch on either side to fit in the drum and apply duct tape as shown. This effect only really works when miked, but it makes it seem professional. Now apply tape in the center and around the head of the drum for years of drumming pleasure.

Lesson 3: The Bass Drum

The Bass Drum

Ingredients: One keyboard, one stick or other hard substance (sheet metal, plastic, bone....) one amplifier with the proper cords, one mixer with the proper cords, duct tape.

What You Do: Put the keyboard on the ground next to where your foot naturally rests or wherever you ant it. Duct tape to the ground your wood or other long, hard substance to it lays on the bass end of the keyboard while not pressing on the keys. Turn on the keyboard and set it to an effect that comes closest to a bass drum kind of sound. If you have a keyboard with drums on it, you're pretty much set. Now if you're lucky enough to have a real snazzy keyboard or lucky enough to have a friend with a snazzy keyboard (ahem) you'll be able to hook it up to an amplifier using the ¼ inch outs or RCA jacks and let the bass roar. If you don't have a guitar amplifier, you can probably hook it up to your stereo, given you have RCA inputs and the proper jack. If you're miking your drums for recording, set up your mikes. From here, you can either let the bass bleed into one of the mikes or plug it straight into the mixer.

Lesson 4: The Cymbals, etc....

Cymbals

Ingredients: Extremely hard metal sheets or bowls etc....

What You Do: Well, you're pretty much on your own here since there are no specific products that can be named. What we did, however, was take a gong that was given to Mr. 40 Braids, turned it upside down and put a roughly 6x6 inch sheet of brass in the center giving it a sort of hi-hat sound. We imagine any combination of hard metals can produce a hi-metal crash sort of sound giving a definite industrial feel to anyone's playing. Again, experiment and chances are you'll end up with something that fits your needs. Just don't break down and buy anything!

Here're some of the other percussion instruments used in our set: Cookie tins... these tins are imported from all over the world and sound really nice. Some of them have brassy sounds, some have a high snare type sound, and after a while of hard pounding, some take on a great steel-drum/timpani kind of sound. Cookie tin tops... these can be combined to make cymbals. We've also combined them with pennies to make cymbals. Play around!

Lesson 5: The Mighty Arrowhead Bottle

The Arrowhead Bottle Drum

Possibly the single greatest gift of God, the Mighty Arrowhead Bottle is an absolute necessity to any homemade drum kit. This single piece of plastic contains possibly an infinite amount of drum sounds ranging from snare to bass to marimba to timpani. You can play it with the tips of the sticks, ends of the sticks, wooden clubs... all will give you different effects.

Unfortunately we only had one Mighty Arrowhead bottle, but we plan to obtain more for different positions on the drum kit. The position we had ours in was the horizontal suspension position (see diagram). Addition of different materials to the bottle's basin opens up a whole other world of sounds as does the different positions the bottle can be placed in as does cutting out sections. An important note about this wonderful piece is that they are almost absolutely indestructible. John Bonham once said, "The day Arrowhead starts making drum kits is the day I burn mine."

The Vo-Calls

Although a semi-decent reverb effect had been achieved early on in the session, it was decided that the vocals sounded far too fake. Theory was taken from the failed guitar miking attempts to be applied to the vocals. Two mikes would be used, the cheaper low end Fostex and the condenser. The Fostex mike would run straight to the mixer to the 4-track, while the condenser would be run through the effects box, run through the mixer and then to the 4-track. A third mike was used to mike the host family's intercom system with one end outside on the balcony, with pillows covering, and one inside with the mike setup. All three mikes would then be mixed together, usually using more intercom for a rougher feel, and a little reverb for a more clear sound. On one song, the mixer split into two lines which took up two separate tracks with the intercom in one and the clean in the other. The intercom sound was more prevalent in the final mix down.

The Final Set Up

With the studio outside and our miking techniques failing miserably, we decided once again to change our techniques. The guitars ended up being run straight through a Yamaha Rex 50 Digital Effects Processor instead of running through the Heavy Metal supplied by friends. This distortion did not quite have the low end one desired, but it would have to do. The bass ended up being taken from a direct output on our bass amp with the knobs set to different levels especially created for recording (a.k.a. a lot of bass, little treble) and a decent sound was achieved. The drums, although snubbed by the neighbor's complaints and the stringent sharp noise rules of the inhabitants were miked with the Fostex mike near the snare, a condenser mike about 1-2 feet away from the right corner of the set, and the mystery "stereo" microphone being laid under the "hi-hat." The bass drum was eventually hooked straight into the Boss 4-channel mixer which led to the 4-track. Both guitarists used the cheap nylon picks instead of the professional plastic ones.

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