Musical Rooms

October 7, 2008

Musical Rooms Part 43: The Creeping Nobodies

Filed under: Interviews,Music,Musical Rooms Series — by Sinéad Gleeson @ 12:10 pm
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“Our space is a basement in a detached home in downtown Toronto. It is an older house from around 1917. Some of us used to live here for a time, but its current occupants are other artists, musicians and other folks – some of who are friends and peers. The basement was renovated a few years back when Chuck lived there, so soundproofing, better walls and insulation were installed. The basement consists of a main rehearsal room with soundproofed doors and walls and ceiling – it’s a modestly sized room painted a deep red with a small chalk board, many instruments and amplifiers, two couches, exposed beams in the ceiling, Christmas lights, some drawers and bins for storage, and a four-track recorder. The floor is wood-stained plywood that has been mostly covered with removable rugs.

There is a small back room off the main room which has been used to record banging and clanging percussion; the clothes dryer has been used for recording vocals and the room has been crammed with items to clear out the main room for a house show. There’s also a separate washroom which has functioned as a control room for recordings from time to time. The house has been a practice space/space for house shows during some heady years in Toronto.

It’s really important things to have proper lighting here – something cosy and non-fluorescent. We like having a lot of percussion or odd items on hand to keep our interest, and for us to have fun trying to do things in less obvious ways. It’s nice once in awhile to share a drink in the space, although not essential by any means. More important than anything else is for us as a group to be excited and well rested.

It’s usually impossible to tell when/what will inspire you, so our method is to get together regularly just to see what might happen. Some of us like to work as a group and on individual time. I find working together and in the same space to be the most rewarding. It also fulfils a need to have a dynamic work method that works on musical feedback and reactions and responses. I also enjoy working in a focused way on my own – mostly to try out ideas or sounds that would not work in a loud setting or a group setting. This is especially true when I want to learn technical aspects or try out new equipment.

Mostly we gather in this basement with our equipment and randomly clang and bang until some interesting sound/motif/melody appears which we all gravitate towards. Sometimes we each arrive with specific ideas or musical phrases which we test out in the context of the group. At others we simply play what we had in mind during a random clang together and if the result is interesting, it will often be picked up on by the group. We record a lot of our practice on a simple four-track cassette recorder with three or four mics that have been left permanently set up in the room. We’ll take these home, transfer them to the computer and MP3’s and then pass them around to each other in order to facilitate discussion and ideas and decide for ourselves what we’re most excited about and want to work on.

Recently we’ve been experimenting with new instruments and sounds, but we regularly use items such as Recorders, Thunderstick, wood blocks, tambourines, metal chains, a metal bucket, a xylophone, a children’s toy with animal and drum sounds (held up to the guitar pickup), an electric toothbrush, a telephone mic, two timpani drums, a homemade motor box, drumsticks, a rattling hand percussion instrument, a piece of sheet metal, pieces of tin, a metal pot, a garbage can lid, cowbells, and other percussion I’ve probably forgotten.

For guitars we use a fender Musicmaster guitar, Fender Jaguar guitar, Fender mustang bass and some sort of Strat copy guitar (Samick? Yamaha?); for keyboards we’ve used a Yamaha DX7, a cheap home use Kawai, a very small children’s Casio and recently a Korg Polysix. Our amps are a Fender twin, a Yamaha solid state twin, an Ampeg V4B & 8×10 cabinet. We also use a Traynor power amp and JBL speaker to run vocal effects and drum pads and such when we have the room to bring it. We also use three Audix OM7 mics because they have a very narrow pickup pattern and we can get away with louder volumes without feedback especially for quieter sounds such as the recorder or woodblocks and other quieter percussion used in a loud setting.

We have a mixer we bring to run our own effects off our vocals. We connect a number of delay pedals to the mixer, as well as a noise gate in order to run the effects loudly without feedback. From time to time we use a Boss drum pad through this mixer and sometimes we experiment with telephone mics and tremolo to change the vocals.

For pedals we’ve long been using overdrive boxes such as the Boss OD-1 (our favourite) and Maxon overdrive, but also other distortion boxes like Rat pedals and an Ibanez turbo tubescreamer and a Big Muff. Recently we’ve been playing around more with pedals such as Moogs – Ring Modulator, Phasor and delay, a home built delay, a Boss Super Chorus, a Boss phase shifter, EQ pedals, as well as a Digitech Jamman loop pedal and we use two signal splitters so that two of us can switch instruments/amplifiers with ease. In the practice space we have a cheap Peavey P.A, a simple Tascam four-track and some regular mics for recording. We transfer the cassettes to a laptop at home via some Opensource recording software and a cheap mic-to-USB accessory.

What we like most about our space is that it’s not a ‘rehearsal factory’. There are no other bands practicing on the other side of a less-than-soundproofed wall. We share this basement with two to three other bands and it means we have a lot of time available. We know everyone else and can have a lot of space and security knowing who else is in there. It’s nice to be able to throw open the back door and be outside in just a few steps. There are squirrels and birds in the trees out back and the odd cat that pays a visit. The space itself sounds great to us – we can hear each other well and while the volume is loud, it doesn’t bounce around the room and become excruciating. For some reason, the room also records well. We’ve been very fortunate in that we can throw up a couple of random mics and when we listen back to the four-track recordings it’s quite clear and very sympathetic to our sounds. We like the chalkboard on the wall where we can leave lame jokes for our friends who share the space.”

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Inspired by such bands as The Ex, Pere Ubu, and The Fall, Canada’s The Creeping Nobodies seek to produce challenging music and are never afraid to explore new territory or re-invent themselves. They play The Boom Boom Room on 34 O’ Connell St, Dublin this Saturday October 11th. Doors are 8.30pm, admission is €10 and support comes from Anni Rossi, Rollin’ Hunt and Thread Pulls. For more information, visit www.myspace.com/thecreepingnobodies.

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