Music 2022

Music 2022

Here’s my top 16 of 2022. These may not have got the most listens but whatever. It’s a list made by a human to be shared with other humans. It is in no particular order, and I will detail each one below.

Otoboke Beaver
This is a punk rock band from Kyoto, Japan consisting of four women who play fast and noisy and it sounds amazing. They are one of those bands where if someone said “Who do they sound like?” you probably could not answer the question. Their album “Super Champon” came out earlier this year and it’s damn good, as is “Itekoma Hits”. Can I understand everything they are saying? No. Does it matter? Nope. Check things out on Bandcamp.

I found Cerce on Bandcamp when I came across their “Cowboy Music” album, and despite the name and the cover art, I gave it a listen and damn… if this isn’t the sort of brutal hardcore I was listening to 30 years ago, but more refined, and with amazing female vocals. Sheesh! Great lyrical content, talented musicians, and an all around great thrash/hardcore sound. Their album is cheap and their 2011-2013 discography is even cheaper. Find it over on Bandcamp.

Chain and The Gang
I’ve been a fan of Ian Svenonius since the NOU days (See below). Chain and The Gang plays a weird style of rock ‘n roll with clever and often humorous lyrics. I really can’t think of another band that compares to them, at least not one that doesn’t have Ian in it. They’ve got a great catalog of releases, all just a little different but still similar enough to sound like it comes from one band. Check out their stuff on Bandcamp or dig around YouTube for some tunes.

I had heard some Battles stuff before, which I stumbled upon while digging into Don Caballero, but this time I went deeper into Battles and found some amazing stuff. They’re another weird group, they started as a four piece, then became a three piece, now it’s just Ian and John doing everything. Well, Ian does guitars, keyboards, and other sounds and John just does drums. But “just” isn’t fair because damn, that man is one hell of a drummer! I’m not typically a fan of what is called progressive rock, but some of their stuff blows my socks off. Check out Battles on Bandcamp or dig through their YouTube content, and their videos are also visually amazing.

7 Seconds
The one, the only… 7 Seconds. Do I love all of their stuff? No. But the stuff I love? I love. Walk Together, Rock Together, Take It Back, Take It On, Take It Over!, and even New Wind. Fun fact: 7 Seconds is one of the first shows I ever went to, back in 1986 at Cafe Voltaire in Milwaukee. Somehow they’ve stuck with me all these years (on and off) and honestly I don’t know if I can think of a band that’s lasted as long as they have and held up their integrity. Check out 7 Seconds on YouTube.

Beastie Boys
Just classic. What more do I say? So many good albums. I don’t love them all, but I listen to most of them. Innovative, hilarious, good music. My take on the Beastie Boys is that while they took their work seriously, they never took themselves too seriously, and I think that was part of the key to their success. Big characters without big egos. Always wanting to crack a joke, have fun, but not at the expense of their craft. Bravo. Also, great great videos. See them on YouTube.

The Stench
I first picked up a Stench cassette or (7 inch?) at Atomic Records on the East Side of Milwaukee. It wasn’t amazing, but there was enough there to keep me interested, and pick up future releases. They toured, played in Milwaukee (ad the Odd Rock Cafe, which was previously Cafe Voltaire) and they put on a good show. I kept getting their releases, even finding a cassette while my band was on tour and playing the hell out of it while driving. The thing about the Stench is, their music (and lyrics) helped me get through a really rough time in my life, so I keep going back to it. Sometimes music is like that. A few YouTube links; one, two, three.

Who is the real Janelle? Only Bratmobile knows! I love the history of the band, their logo, and sometimes I just really enjoy hearing primitive (that’s a compliment) punk rock. they’re also one of those bands that you hear the progression of their craft over the course of their releases. Good stuff. Check it on Bandcamp or YouTube.

Dissent may be one of the earliest political punk bands I started listening to. (Although often the act of just being a punk band is/was political.) One of the best things to come out of South Dakota, they weren’t around long enough to have a long discography but “The Epitome of Democracy” still gets a listen from me every now and then. They DIY’d the whole album themselves from recording, release, and distribution. Unfortunately Bob and his girlfriend Bobbie were killed by a drunk driver in 1992. I remember reading about it in MRR while at school and being devastated by the news. Here’s one song on YouTube, but you can find others by searching.

Sleep / Asbestosdeath
I still love Sleep, and this is probably an unpopular opinion, but I actually love Asbestosdeath even more, and often wonder how things would be different in the world if Asbestosdeath had continued on. Weird, right? If you don’t know of Sleep, I guess check out Bandcamp or listen to Asbestosdeath on YouTube and decide for yourself.

Before Sleep, who are often credited as pioneers of the sludge/doom genre, there was Virulence. I remember picking up their album “If This Isn’t A Dream…” in 1989 (probably at Atomic Records) and listening to it a lot. It was slow, dirgey stuff… and it was good. I still give it a listen and like to see it as a spark that started a fire. The weird thing for me is, I don’t like most sludge/doom bands that came later. Why yes, you can check out Virulence on YouTube. (Also, I think Fu Manchu sucks.)

The Mr. T Experience
Dr. Frank and whoever he can find have been kicking around forever, and have put out so many gems over the years. I remember MTX staying at my friend’s parent’s house when they came to Milwaukee while on tour back in… 1988 maybe? All I know is they are poppy, punky, and fun, and they might have a song about a girl or something. Search the YouTube to find out more.

Pinhead Gunpowder
Does Pinhead Gunpowder qualify as a supergroup? I don’t know, and I don’t care. Aaron Cometbus is an old friend and while I was not a huge fan of Crumpshrine (sorry Aaron!) I absolutely love Pinhead Gunpowder and consider it the epitome of the Easy Bay sound… in a good way! I can put on their whole discography and not get bored. Amazing, right? Search YouTube for some stuff.

The Nation of Ulysses
I’ve already mentioned Chain and the Gang, so here’s The Nation of Ulysses with Ian Svenonius. This was wild and crazy 1950’s style (!?!?) rock and roll/punk rock from Washington D.C. in the late 1980s/early 1990s and I don’t think there was anything quite like it at the time. Svenonius was probably the key, but the rest of the band was also perfect so it all just worked. Somehow I think I missed seeing them live. I recall them playing in Madison and maybe it was one of those gig where I was outside, broke, just hanging out. I was I had seen them, or remembered seeing them. Fun fact: I got all the NOU CDs from a friend of mine. I traded some Nirvana records about a year before Kurt Cobain committed suicide. NOU on Bandcamp, and NOU on YouTube.

The Rondelles
This might be the only band on the list that my wife introduced me to. The Rondelles have a great lo-fi sound, raw, primitive, and catch as hell. One of those bands that proves you can just start a band and don’t need to be masters of your instruments because being in a band and making music is a journey that changes (and changes you) along the way. The drummer would play a 3-piece drum set standing up, while playing the keyboard with his drum stick. Wild, right? Hey, they’re playing a gig in 2023. Head over to Bandcamp or check out the YouTube.

Good Grief! And then there’s Schlong. Formed from the ashes of Operation Ivy (sort of) and fueled by too much silly and too much beer (definitely). Schlong were amazing musicians and of had the stupidest lyrics, and I’m sure some people described them as “punk as funk” and others may have called their work “jazz punk” but since watching the film about the band (A Punk Side Story) I’ve been listening to a lot of Schlong. “Essential Schlong” on YouTube. Also, Schlong did the craziest thing any punk band ever did when they covered the soundtrack of West Side Story with Punk Side Story. Speaking of story, the story goes that a relative of Leonard Bernstein wrote a letter to Schlong saying that legally they should take action against the release but it was so incredibly well done that they would just allow it.

Liner Notes
Find out who your favorite musicians listen to, or who influenced them. If you read that Rollins loved the Stooges then you go listen to the fucking Stooges.

Likewise find out what people are singing/talking about. If Public Enemy and Ian Svenonius mention Fred Hampton in their lyrics and you don’t know who that is, go do some fucking reading and learn something.

The Other Music
Besides all these “normal” bands who produce “songs” and “albums” I’ve been listening to a bunch of weird synth stuff, mostly on YouTube. Maybe I’ve been watching stuff as well, but mostly listening. In case you missed it I started uploading “synth videos” last year, and I’ve been enjoying the synth community of people who just record themselves and upload it and keep doing it and if only because they fucking love doing it and have no delusions about “making it big” or “being discovered” but just want to make music because they fucking love making music and want to share it with the world. It’s pretty sweet.


Press Better with Sky Creature

Back in 2021 I built a Four Button MIDI Box for the band Sky Creature. The controller itself had to fit certain requirements (with regards to dimensions and functionality) and while I did build at least one more for another musician it was a bit of a pain, so to make things easier I created the MIDI Controller 4 Button LC which was an easier-to-assemble (and Lower Cost) build. I’ve sold a few of them this year… Anyway, back to Sky Creature!

It’s eleven months later and I heard from Matt again and he let me know that Sky Creature did a 42 show tour across the country, as well as a few shorter tours, and the controller held up beautifully. Good to know! I mentioned to Matt that I seldomly get to hear about my devices after they leave the shop, and rarely get to see them in the wild… So he sent me this photo:

I like that they named it “Press Better” as well. As for Sky Creature, they’ve got a unique sound… I mean, what if Enya were in Minor Threat? I’m definitely a fan of their DIY take on things. They booked their tour themselves, and are very much about just getting out there and doing it. Sure, they got some help from Steve Albini to record things, but most smart people do.

Oh, total side note here… I’m excited for Majel’s new podcast A Music of Their Own, which will “seek advice from women artists that have their act together”. It’ll be on NPR starting December 8th, 2022.

Matt and I are discussing another controller right now, and honestly it feels good to get new challenges for the things I create. I’ve been building various controllers and physical computing devices for over ten years now, and without customers and a purpose it can often feel a bit isolating, even when you are learning new things. Having people use and enjoy thing things you make is great feeling.


Synth Setup for Maker Faire Milwaukee 2022

For Maker Faire Milwaukee this year I was not a producer, crew, volunteer, or even a Maker… I signed up as a “Performer” and asked to be placed in the Dark Room where I could make synth & drum noise as much as I wanted to. I signed up under the moniker NoiseMaster 3000 which I used (along with Maks and Dustin) back in 2017.

Now, originally MFMKE was supposed to be at State Fair Park again, and in the past the Dark Room was filled with all sorts of crazy things. Noisy things, light up things, weird things, etc. So I figured I would fit right in. (Note: Back when I was a producer I would get local modular synth people to come and make noise in the Dark Room. I figured this time it was my turn.)

Well, the venue changed to Discovery World, and I was told there would still be a Dark Room. And… there was. Sort of. It wad a theater, and the only other exhibit was Mark’s Sand Table, Arrakis. (And that was a last minute addition!) So it was really just me… in the Dark Room… alone.

It was fine. The second day Matt convinced me to bring Overhead Makey (one of my most successful exhibits) and I did, and it was grand. I also realized the Dark Room used to be full of stuff because I’d add at least a half dozen exhibits to it in the old days!

Anyway, I’m here today to talk about the setup, so let’s get to it!

I mentioned to someone that I’ve never taken all of this stuff out of my house before, and I’ve never actually connected it all together at once. Saturday was okay, but after screwing around with things all day I wanted to change a few things, so at the end of Saturday I ripped everything apart to reconnect it frsh Sunday morning.

What you see in the photo is what I had set up on Sunday when the Faire opened, and it pretty much remained that way all day. If Saturday was about figuring things out, then by Sunday I had things pretty well figured out.

In the photo above you’ll see the Behringer RD-6 Drum Machine, the Behringer TD-3 Bass Synthesizer, and the Behringer Crave Analog Synth. I sync’d these three together with the RD-6 setting the tempo. The RD-6 can very much be played/tweaked on the fly while it’s running, but the TD-3 not so much. I basically chose between patterns I had created and stored in the past. The Crave was connected to the TD-3 via MIDI so it was getting notes from the TD-3. That worked out fine since the Crave is all about twiddling those knobs to adjust the sounds coming out of it. And twiddle I did. I also invited others to twiddle.

Those three each had their own channel on the mixer. This made it easy to isolate then to explain to people which was making which sound, and I could set it to just output one of them, then show how that one worked.

Next up is the Korg Volca Sample 2, which was on mixer channel 4. (Note: The first day I did not have a cheat sheet to tell me what was on what channel, and mistakes were made.) Since the Sample is sort of a “budget groovebox” it can do quite a bit all on its own. I think on Saturday I had it sync’d to the RD-6for a bit, but honestly having it separate was a good idea because I could have a totally different thing going on with it, and it was my “Second Setup” after the Behringer Trio above. The Sample 2 is definitely a thing that you can play live and perform with. In fact, that’s pretty much the only way I use it now, to build up a beat over time, slowly adding to it, and playing live by knob twiddling and button pressing.

We’ve got the Korg NTS-1 which is a fine little digital synth and effects box. I connected up a small device I made that generates 16 step patterns and then sends them out via MIDI. So basically this was running spacey sounds and every now and then I would generate a new pattern. I tend to mess with the effects and add chorus, flanger, delay, and other weird stuff.Sometimes I would run this on top of other things, like the output of the Behringer Trio, other times I would just run it on its own.

I forgot to mention the Monotrons! The Korg Montron Delay and the Korg Monotron Duo fed into a splitter (in reverse, so a combiner I guess) and joined in with the NTS-1. To be honest I didn’t mess with the Monotrons too much. They are fun, and the Delay is a nice little effects box, but I guess I just focused on the NTS-1 more.

We’ve got the Pocket Operator Crew in the lower right corner. Those feed into a Bastl Dude mixer, which I love using with the PO gear so I can do punk-in/punch-out and adjust levels individually. I pretty much just ran four sixteen step patterns on the drums and then messed around with the bass, office, and factory live. (Note on the Factory, I need to make a 3.3v power supply because batteries suck in that thing and constantly die. Rechargeables do not work, and Alkalines do not last.)

All of the Pocket Operators use a Sync Splitter so I can plug each output into the Dude mixer. I’ve explained the Sync Splitter before

Here’s a Moukey 6 channel mixer that everything ran into. I then had a splitter coming out of it so I could run to the amp and to my headphones, and to the old Zoom recorder I had to record everything. (Yeah, I’ve got over 10 hours of audio!) I wasn’t able to lower the input to the Zoom on the Zoom so I set the output from the mixer to a good level and then adjusted the master output volume on the amp. (Note: There is an 8 channel Moukey mixer. I should consider getting one of those for the additional two channels.)

Speaking of the amp (if you can call it that!) I used an old car amplifier I had lying around, paired with some old stereo speakers that had been sitting in the basement for years. Everything is mono so stereo is a bit of a misnomer here. This setup worked pretty well. I didn’t need to be super-loud but could get plenty loud for the quiet theater I performed in. Oh, I managed to fit all of my gear into a suitcase and the speakers took up half the space!

You can’t run all this gear with a lot of POWER!!! Just kidding, I do have a lot of wall warts but I was probably pulling well under 5 amps, maybe under 3 amps. (And all the Pocket Operators and the Dude were battery powered. I did plug in the Volca, though it could have run find on batteries) It’s a bit of a mess, of course, and there’s another power strip out of view for the light, battery chargers, and one synth.

I did bring the Arturia BeatStep and tried to use it a bit on Saturday but by Sunday I just put it to the side. I sort of ran out of room and I didn’t get it connected in a way I liked. I may need to make note of how some things get connected for the future. I do like the BeatStep for screwing around, as demonstrated in this video.

Finally, there was a small scrap of paper to remind me what devices were on what channels of the mixer. With all this gear, I got confused a few times on Saturday, so the cheat sheet worked well. I basically had four sequences running at once and could switch between them which made things a lot of fun. If I ever do this again (?!?!?) I’d probably do something very similar.

Okay, I hope you enjoyed this (very) lengthy write-up about my set-up. As I mentioned this is my first time doing this, and overall I pleased with how it went. It was a super-low pressure gig where I could just have a good time. Cheers!


Pocket Operator Album

Hey, I’m recording another album. You may know I recorded three albums as part of the RPM Challenge back between 2008 and 2011, and before that I did other recording, playing, performing, and touring. So this isn’t totally new…

What is new is that I am recording all the “songs” using only Pocket Operators. Those tiny little synths that make bleeps and bloops. I started acquiring a collection of them in the summer of 2021 and at this point I’ve got four of them, and I use three or four in song. Also, all of these songs are short! Nearly all of them are under one minute in length.

I should point out that I am far from the first person to produce a Pocket Operator album. Others have done it, though that really wasn’t the inspiration for this. Basically, someone asked for it! Splorp is (partly) to blame. Yeah, seriously.

Anyway, head on over to and grab it if you want it. It’s a “name your price” thing, so it can be free. If you pay for it I’ll probably just use the money to buy more Pocket Operators. Oh, I also plan to keep going, so more songs will be added over time.

Oh, if you prefer these songs with some (uhhh) visuals, you can check out the YouTube Playlist which has some older material not included on the album. (The album versions pull the audio from the video and just do a quick cleanup to make sure the levels are good, but otherwise there is no editing.)

Too lazy to click those links? Just use the player below. If you want to use these songs for anything let me know. There’s a 99% chance I’d be cool with it. If you want me to record something else for you, get in touch with me and we can discuss it.

(Note: This is not a physical album and I’m sure it will not be one in the future. The photo at the top is just a silly graphic I made.)


Pocket Operator Programming Chart

I’ve been doing these Pocket Operator Jams for a while now and I noticed that the more complex ones (with multiple Pocket Operators) require some notes when programming the sequences. I was hastily jotting down notes but then I came up with this Pocket Operator Programming Chart. (You can download a PDF of it!)

Pocket Operator Programming Chart

The way it works is simple. You can keep track of each PO by number (or name) and then create the sequence, writing the pattern numbers. You can just leave it blank when you want a PO to drop out (or write in a blank pattern number). I’m still experimenting with this stuff but it’s definitely come in handy. I’ve said it before, programming music sequencers is a little like programming computers, but more fun.

The paper is super-handy to look at and follow along with while you set the sequence for each PO. I tend to read the chart, count out loud, and press the appropriate buttons. Works for me.

This 16 step chart works for most of my jams since it keeps things under a minute at 80 bpm. Since the PO-12 and PO-16 can only chain up to 16 patterns, this works out well.

Here’s some examples of using the chart.