I have not asked for much.
For the Mind Machine shows, I paid rent, bought fog, lasers, water, toilet paper- all out of my own pocket, for our collective enjoyment.
For the other shows over the years, I fought hard and made sacrifices to make it so they were free or as close to free as possible, because I did not want to limit my audience to those with expendable income.
For every gallon of gas, mile on the road, broken light, missing cable, hour spent waiting- there was a smile or two, at the end of the night, that made it all worthwhile.
I believe in the power of music and light. I believe in those who inspire me to push myself further and grow. I believe in our collective ability to create change and inspire others, both within and outside of our little “community” of hippies, freaks, geeks, and everyone in between.
I have not asked for much, and I strive to continue to ask as little as possible. As an artist, creator, and human being, it is and always will be my objective to give more to this life we share than what I take from it.
Now, let me tell you a story…
I spent my summer working with some of the most talented people that I know, in order to create an album that we could all be proud and happy to share with the world. We have come a very long way, and I am extremely close to being able to share this creation with all of you.
I had a few simple goals when I started this project:
1) The songs should never sound the same twice, when performed live- I wanted to be able to manipulate the songs on every level, in real time. This meant no “classic” DJing (no pre-made songs, ever), no “pre-mixing and stacking” of Samples locked into groups (so, no looper pedal, due to the limitation of only having three levels of sample granularity), and no time-based programming (I know when to move from “verse” to “chorus”, the program/machine is to be given no instruction beforehand).
I accomplished these goals by moving my recording, sampling, and performance workflows into a piece of software called Ableton Live. Along with over $2k worth of interface hardware (buttons, knobs, pads, faders…), this platform gives me total real-time control of over 1,000 individual samples that we recorded for the project. It is liberating and mind-blowing for me to have this much live control over my music, for the first time in my life-
a dream I had when I was 14 years old, fully realized.
2) Don’t “fake” anything, don’t steal anything. When I wanted a violin part on a song, I didn’t look online for a simulated violin that I could program- I called the best violinist I knew, we set up some microphones, and we recorded the parts. When I wanted drums, I didn’t pirate an overused sample library and program “human sounding” beats- we locked ourselves in a storage unit in the middle of summer with some microphones and a drum set, sweating through hours of trial and error, until we had recorded the performances we needed. The synthesizers were programmed (no default patches) and played by hand, the horns are real horns, the bassoon and didgeridoo played with real human lungs (and saliva).
The list goes on and on, but the point is, these sounds were all recorded meticulously, by hand, by real people playing real instruments in a room with me, or by me.
3) “Say what I want to say, the way I want to say it, not what I think people want to hear, the way they want to hear it.” If this music doesn’t work for your party, put on something else or change your party. If you can’t dance to it, maybe it’s time to learn how to dance a new way. If it’s too loud, stand further back. I am not compromising this project because some of you want “faster horses”- I intend to give you an automobile, whether or not you know how to drive it.
4) The visual show must be brought up to the same “state of the art” level as the new sound system. The control I have over individual samples should be translated over to the visual representation, giving me control over every individual laser and light beam, in real time. With a little creativity and a few pieces of readily available technology, this is entirely possible. The most bare-bones system I designed, on a modest budget, is still missing the following pieces:
-USB to DMX adapter/controller
This is the hardware piece that sits between the computer running Ableton and the network of lasers and lights. This is how I will “talk” to the lasers. When the bass drum kicks in to a song, Ableton will relay that information, along with a planned response, to the lighting system. The lighting system will then change to react to this new command. When I change the tempo of a song, this same chain of events takes place, to tell the lasers and lights to slow down or speed up to stay in sync with what is happening musically.
These will be used to connect the lasers and lights together in a network, designed to accept a single physical input from the DMX/USB controller. Due to the length and quantity of the cables that we will need, these will add up to a significant cost. Boring, I know, but- necessary.
-2 new LED lights
These will be used to control “room color” and fill spaces with light that would otherwise be empty. While lasers are awesome, these lights will give me the ability to make an entire room or space Yellow if a moment in a song is obviously Yellow. Think of lasers as lighting bolts- these lights will be used to change the color of the whole cloud.
-2 new laser projectors
I already have quite a few lasers. Adding these two additional units will allow me a much more granular control for creating expressive 3-dimensional shapes. Think about it as the difference between a triangle and a pyramid. More lasers gives me more depth, in this case, and a much greater ability to visually represent what is happening within the sonic stereo field.
Currently, the lights are made visible in a room with the extensive (some say excessive) use of Fog. While fog is great and will continue to be used, Haze opens up a lot more possibilities: playing in spaces with smoke alarms, playing in outdoor spaces or larger rooms, adding depth to the light show without considerably affecting face to face visibility within a room, among other benefits.
Goals 1-3 have been completed and/or maintained up to this point. I need some help with goal number 4 to accomplish it before this upcoming holiday season (my target for re-opening the Mind Machine and fully presenting this new project to you all. While I could save up and purchase these items out of my own pocket, that would take me quite a bit longer due to my expendable income being tied up with expanding the audio rig (adding live vocals and live guitars back in to the performances, among other crucial hardware upgrades that will need to be done in order to keep the system flexible and avoid unwanted glitches/noise).
I absolutely do not want to wait any longer to share this music with you, and that is why I started the Kickstarter campaign. With your support, I can have all 4 of my goals fully realized before Christmas, at which point the Mind Machine will reopen and we can all come together to enjoy the next phase of our collective Existential Hive Mind Blues.
So, what do you get out of donating?
A donation of $5 gets you up to speed with RaeF- digital downloads of the three albums released before the start of this new project.
$10 gets you all of the previously released stuff, plus a digital download of 4 new songs, made exclusively for kickstarter and never available elsewhere (sorry, soundcloud; sorry, bandcamp.)
$20 is the true buy-in for the new album. With this, your email address will be linked to a “member number”. This member number, given to you on the back of a lenticular (think GIF but printed/physical) card, will give you access to an “online locker”.
How the locker works:
1) I play a live set and record my master output of the entire show.
2) We master the audio files and put then in a folder, along with a text file that briefly describes the show and any highlights/mistakes/comments I have.
3) This folder is then uploaded to the Locker, where members can freely download it at any time.
4) Eventually, this locker will be full of every performance of every song, since the beginning. I’ll select the best version of each song and compile them into an Album to be released on iTunes, Spotify, Best Buy, etc. This “finished album” will be available to Members for free.
I understand that this is somewhat complicated. Bottom line is, I am about to release a TON of new material (almost 30 songs) performed a TON of different ways, and I am going to limit this access to those of you willing to take a leap of faith and become a part of this project.
$50 and up gets you custom made songs. You can say, for example, “make me a copy of Digital Life (the song) that is long and mild.” and I will do that for you. You can say “make me a super fast and loud version of Nothing Ever Falls.” and I will do that for you. Be creative! This reward is designed to allow you to “push me around” a little bit as an artist, while also giving you something special to keep, along with the value of temporarily becoming a direct/active part of the RaeF creative process. These custom songs will NOT go in the Locker or anywhere else- they will belong to you, and you are free to do whatever you’d like with them (except profit).
I am tired of writing. Thanks so much for listening/reading and helping me realize my goals. I understand that many people are living hand-to-mouth or on very strict/nonexistent budgets- I encourage you to find someone to donate on your behalf if you can’t afford to pitch in. It’s also worth noting here that “waiting until you get paid” to donate won’t help either of us. Kickstarter won’t touch your bank account until November 3rd, and ONLY if the $3,000 goal is met.