After a long and exciting wait, the cover art for my up-coming novel Parting Lines has arrived! It is an original illustration by the talented local artist Beaumont Jardine (http://beaumontjardine.com) Keep any eye out on http://dangarstu.com for the novel’s imminent release.

After a long and exciting wait, the cover art for my up-coming novel Parting Lines has arrived! It is an original illustration by the talented local artist Beaumont Jardine (http://beaumontjardine.com) Keep any eye out on http://dangarstu.com for the novel’s imminent release.

A simple ballad about ships that pass in the night.

Well, the day has come and our debut single ”One Moment for a Teardrop” is now available for purchase! We will be giving all the profit from sales and advertisements to animal care, so if you grab a copy you will also be contributing to a great cause.


Thanks to Ilonka Rudolph who wrote the original instrumental and for her trust and inspiration, and also to Vectiva Recordings for releasing the song.

This track is a collaboration with my new friends in Germany. Working from Ilonka original concept, this track was written and produced by Tris Sonority SLB, Sven Lindemann, Robert Bartu. The lyrics and vocal melody were written by me and the vocals were also performed and recorded by me.

The Ableton Push may rock, but I still love my APC20.

The Ableton Push may rock, but I still love my APC20.

Novel Progress

I’ve now hit the 25,000 word mark my novel, tentatively titled Parting Lines. Over the next few posts I’ll talk a little bit about my approach to the writing process, including the two main pieces of software I use: Storyist (http://storyist.com/index.html) and East Timeline (http://www.beedocs.com/easytimeline/). In the meantime, the above photo shows the first page of the book and pretty much sets the tone. 

Alfa Romeo Mito QV Review

About six months ago I bought an Alfa Romeo Mito QV. This review is just my amateur opinion on what the car has been like to live with on a day-to-day basis. When I started looking around  for a car to buy I was very interested in this comparison: http://www.caradvice.com.au/108077/alfa-romeo-mito-vs-citroen-ds3-vs-mini-cooper-sexy-hatch-comparison/ On paper all the cars look quite similar, but she who must be obeyed didn’t like the look of the Mini so it got ruled from the get go.

I went to McCarrolls in Artarmon as they sold both the Citroen and the Alfa. I probably walked in the door favouring the DS3 after it had had so much Top Gear love heaped on it, but I tried to stay open minded. I told the dealer that I was thinking of either the DS3 or the Mito and he looked taken aback that I should be torn between the those particular two. He then went on to explain that the cars were nothing like each other. In my mind they were very similar (in fact the above article singles them out for direct comparison), but you know, he was right. He didn’t see a table of vaguely comparable stats. He saw French refinement vs Italian spirit. 

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This track, “One Moment for a Teardrop,” is the product of a collaboration between myself and some Internet friends in Germany. The original instrumental track was written by Ilonka Rundolp (https://soundcloud.com/ll11-ilonka-rudolph) then remixed by Tristan Schubert (https://soundcloud.com/neon-circuit) who also asked me to write and record some vocals for it. 

I’ve been involved with several other (attempted) collaborations, and so far this is the only one that has managed to produce with something worthwhile. Tristan manages to create instrumentals that have that element of melancholy that I feel comfortable writing vocals for while simultaneously adding the rhythm and intensity that I struggle to do on my own. In that sense I consider it one of the perfect types partnerships: enough crossover to be able to relate to each other’s music yet still having different strengths to bring to the table to compensate for each other’s weaknesses and therefore end up with a more complete track. I hope you like it.

First mix of a new track called “Miracles” featuring special guest Zena Smith. This is my first song recorded with Zena, hoping to do many more! :) Recorded using Ableton Live 8.

Collaborating with other musicians

I have recently started getting involved in a few musical collaborations so I thought I’d write a post about my experiences so far. Collaborating with others obviously has great potential for reward, but also has great potential for difficulty too. So far, I must say, I’ve been lucky, but I can definitely see how your luck could run out and there are a few things I wouldn’t leave to chance in the future. Collaborating with people is a minefield, collaborating with people you don’t know doubly so. Although I have collaborated with friends in the past, the particular collaborations I’m focusing on in this post are those with people that you have never met, and as is often the case, people where the offer to work together is the first time you’ve ever heard from them.

That moment of the first offer is an easy opportunity to say no. Saying yes, or even maybe, and then deciding that it probably isn’t going to work out will only make life harder for you. People get their hopes up, they start sending you tracks and eagerly awaiting your contribution to the project. So when do you say yes and when do you say no? Well, here are some of things I would now take into account:

1. Do you have time to get into a collaboration? If you have a backlog of half written songs of your own that you are trying to find the time to record then I would say no. More often than not offers of collaboration revolve around you adding something to a song that someone else has started, not that person helping you finish whatever you might have in your backlog. Just have a good think about what is actually being offered and how it fits in with your other priorities. 

2. Okay, so you’ve got the time, and/or you’ve exhausted your own ideas and are looking to collaborate with others to work on brand new material, great. But how much do you know about each other? Rather than jumping straight in, these days I’d be more inclined to have a few email exchanges first, even a Skype chat. Talk about what you expect from a collaboration, exactly how much time you are able to give (are you a full time worker with kids or a student on an eight week summer break?), and what each of you are going to bring to the table. 

3. Ideally you should each bring a different but complimentary set of skills to the table. Most of the collaborations I have been in have involved others creating instrumental tracks that I have then layers vocals over the top of. This works pretty well as the instrumentals can be quite complete before the first word is even written, but there are a few less obvious things to think about up front. For example, who controls the final mix? Is the instrumental being given to me to add vocals or am I giving the vocal to my collaborator to add to his or her instrumental? A subtle but important distinction that can make or break the project if not discussed first.

4. Talking about licensing up front is very important too. What license is the finished product going to be released under? Is the instrumental a rework of someone else’s work? (Something that is much more common these days than I realised.) If so, what license was it originally released under. If we end up having different views on what the final product should sound like can we each release our own versions or is the other person just going to revoke your right to use their part at all? My preferred situation would probably be that the instrumental is released under a CC licence before we start. This means that I can take the track and do something over the top that I am personally proud of and then release the track with appropriate attribution to the author of the instrumental. I would of course release that under a comparable CC license allowing further remixes to be made.

5. Musical taste and ability are probably the next things I would look at. One of the main benefits of a collaboration is that it can take you outside of yourself, so meeting someone with a different style to you is generally a good thing. Obviously there are limits, but if you’ve got this far you probably see something in each other’s music. Ability and experience is probably more important. If you are try to communicate a subtle clash in harmony or leaving a space in the frequency spectrum for each other to work with and the other person is still coming to terms with what a chord is, it just isn’t going to work. 

6. So far I’ve not worked with anyone that uses the same audio software that I use, and I must admit, there are times that I feel like making this a hard and fast rule when it comes to working together. People spend a lot of time learning the software they prefer so I can understand people not wanting to change, but there must be a lot of people out there who do use the same software as me (Ableton Live in my case,) so why not just team up with those people? It is true that you can bounce mixed down WAV files back and forth but at the end of the day I found that quite limiting. 

Finally a day off in the studio! Draft recording of “The Invisible Woman” finished, time for a beer…

Just finished a new recording of the song “Stars” giving it more of a soft rock groove. Stars is a song about taking the time to rediscover what is important to you after being buffeted by the hustle and bustle of modern life. Enjoy!

Forcing myself to record more original songs without taking too long over each one. This one’s called “Immortality.”

FabFilter Twin 2

Well, I’ve finally decided to get my butt into gear and start recording again. I’m beginning with a song called Miracles and I still have a lot to learn about electronic music as I continue to make the transition away from more traditional acoustic instruments.

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Mastering

Mastering audio is commonly said to be a black art and I must confess, I too consider it to be a bit of a mystery. The basic concepts of level adjustment, equalisation and compression all make sense, but I think it really takes a lot of experience to truly make a song sound better, not just different.               

I had been thinking for a while about investing in one of the many mastering software packages out there, but eventually decided to try one of the online mastering services available. There are pros and cons to both approaches I guess. The one-time investment of software certainly makes a fair amount of financial sense, but then again, at the rate I manage to finish recording songs using a professional service isn’t a huge burden. Software also allows you to re-master your song if you decide to change the mix down the track. Having using a commercial mastering service I now feel pretty committed to the mix I sent them. It would be interesting to see how long a service store their settings for and whether they offer a cheaper rate on re-mastering a new mix of the track. The final advantage I could see to using software was that it offered an opportunity to learn more about the mastering process rather than just outsourcing it, but at the end of the day there just isn’t the time to know everything about everything. 

In the end there were two main factors that finally made me decide to try getting a song mastered professionally: being able to benefit from the engineer’s years of experience and the benefit of having a different person listening to the song for the first time with fresh ears on different equipment in a different room.

I spent a bit of time looking around and eventually chose to go with Studios 301, located here in Sydney (http://www.studios301.com/mastering/mastering-engineers). This time I simply sent a WAV to them through their website but one day I would also like to book a session where you sit in with the engineer. A number of different engineers work at Studios 301 and you get to select the engineer that you would like to work on your track. I chose Sameer Sengupta due to his focus on electronic music and I was very happy with the results. Studios 301 were very pleasant to work with too. I uploaded the song on the weekend and received a call from them first thing on Monday morning to confirm a few details and take payment over the phone.

The main thing I noticed when I received the mastered version (on the same day) was that I could now hear things in the mix that I just couldn’t before. In particular the bass has been quite muddy and that repair alone was worth the price.

The song I chose to get mastered was The Glass Slipper and you can have a listen to the end result on SoundCloud.