Roberto’s Amigatized Tunes

That’s what I called my music back then… so that way when they were sold in “public domain” disk collections, they could be called “RAT” disks. I’m not sure how much they ended up spreading, but I know they ended up in at least three catalogs back then – when you still had to get things like this by ordering and receiving physical floppy disks in the mail. 😏

The videos that I uploaded to YouTube yesterday show my original tracker songs being played by Modizer, an app for the iPhone. But if you view the videos full screen, you’ll still be able to see how the whole thing works. You’ll see which track is playing the drums, which one does the vocal, etc… and that’s what got me interested in creating music this way in the first place. πŸ€“ When I can see how something works, I can almost always then use it for my own means.

Okay, so let’s pick my favorites from the songs I’ve done…

  • Keep Feelin’ Fascination – I’m probably biased towards this song because it was one of my favorite songs from the time back then. That and it’s fairly simple, so it didn’t require much extra work to get it to sound similar to the original song.
  • Pyro! – This was a song that I created for the guy who ran the Pyro! BBS in Canal Winchester. It uses samples from other songs, to go with the pyro theme, plus it was basically just a “jam” song where I sat and came up with a few different beats, a few stolen bits of songs that I recreated… I dunno… I guess I like that it allowed me four or five musical varieties in a single songs. No rules.
  • Howard the Duck – I’m one of the few dozen people who actually liked this movie back then, and still like it today. You might have read here in the blog a few entries ago about how I gave props to Lea Thompson (on Twitter) for her musical performance in that movie and she actually replied and thanked me.
  • Obsession – This is another track that I did because is was rather simple and easy to emulate, plus it was one of my mom’s favorite bands of the moment back then – Army of Lovers. A very visual band, but the music was still good as well.
  • Mu – This is another “jam” song, where I didn’t have an idea when I started, but just sat down and started banging things out and ripping off bits of other songs to throw into this amalgamation. Experimenting with songs like this was as much about learning the software and methods as it was about creating a song.
  • Man on The Corner – Since Phil Collins and Genesis were two of my favorite artists back then, of course I had to make some attempts at covering their music. I think I actually did four of their songs in total… and I think this is my favorite mostly because of the odd beats and percussion sounds. (See also: I Don’t Care Anymore)
  • Myself – This was a track that I did after I bought my own sampling device for the Amiga 500. I wish I could remember the name of it… but imagine, back then, being able to sample my own voice and then use it to create a song. It was almost unheard of… heh… but yeah, every sample you hear in this one was created with my mouf.
  • The Best is Yet to Come – Samantha Fox was another artist I loved back then (and still do) so I actually did covers of a few of her songs. This one was simple, but it had some harmonies and I hadn’t done any slow songs, so I gave it a shot. (See also: True Devotion)

You can click here if you wanna see the entire playlist of 21 songs that I uploaded. I probably have about ten more that I didn’t upload, as they were basically my earliest practice songs or almost exclusively looped samples. But yeah, working on these songs back then, it actually helped my ear become more trained to isolate individual instruments in every song that I hear to this day. To build a song you lay down the drums, then sit and listen to just the bass in the original, then just the melody, etc. You literally dissect the original and reassemble it via the program, unintentionally learning how to identify and recreate chords, “slide” bass notes up and down, etc. In one way it could seem like a pointless exercise, but I’m glad that I did it.

I’ve got a Windows 10 tracker program, which I think can have up to 64 tracks to use, and there have been times when I’ve thought about trying to build a few more songs… but man is it hard to jump back in to something that you haven’t done for decades, and having to learn a different program to do it on top of that. (Despite the basics still being quite similar to how it was done back in the day.) Never say never, I guess.

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Building Songs

In the early 90s I had a pretty decent phase where I created music on my Amiga 500 computer. I can’t say that I wrote music… because I didn’t. What I did was more akin to “building” songs, using audio samples placed on a vertical digital conveyor belt. (Think “player piano”) Each sample on each position can also be played as a different note, with individual options for volume, echo, vibrato, portamento, arpeggio, etc… so even though you don’t have to be able to read or write sheet music, you do kinda have to “have the music in you” to create tracker songs.

The tracker that I used was called OctaMED, and even though it could do 8 tracks (using software tricks) I almost always used the better sounding 4 track mode. One track for drums/percussion, one track for bass, one for “vocals”, and the last track for whatever else was needed… guitar, piano, horns, etc. That’s the simplest way of thinking about it anyway. But since it is a sample based format, you could use complete drum fill samples, samples of piano chords, horn flares… so even though it was technically “only four notes at a time” you could fake it for a fuller sound. I barely touched on this in my creations, but some people really pushed this for some amazing sounding songs. (Making me and my songs look like chumps… heh)

This will seem silly, but sometimes I sit around and wonder what effect I’ve had on the world… what I’ll be leaving behind when I die. With over 28 million photo views on Flickr, I can safely say my work there has had an impact – and then I remembered these songs that I made. Like, there are certain SID songsΒ (C64)Β that I still play now and it takes me back to my childhood… and one of my favorite musicians in that format passed away years ago. Yet here I am, still listening to his music and keeping his name alive in my thoughts. I guess that’s what prompted me to throw my songs up on YouTube… so I’ll know that at least a few times a month, someone will probably click, view, and have me in their thoughts. Like I said, kinda silly…

I’m going to make a separate post here in a bit, so I can pick out some of my favorites from the songs that I created and give a little more insight into each of them. I’m not exactly sure what I’ll have to write about them, but I’m sure it’ll come to me as I’m typing.

Apes… Together… Strong

I’ve struggled these past few days. 😞 Mood was decent until my neck started acting up. Didn’t really do anything that I can think of that would have provoked it. I think it just decided that I hadn’t heard enough from it lately – so it made itself better known. 😣 So I just limited my activity, waited it out, and I think I’m coming out on the other side now. 🀞🏻

During my down-time I ended up renting War for The Planet of The Apes on Google Play (first time I’ve used that service) for which they also gave me a “free copy” of Amityville: The Awakening to watch whenever. πŸ€·πŸ»β€β™‚οΈ But I’ve been anxiously waiting for the “Apes” movie to be available, and I wasn’t disappointed. πŸ˜ƒ Me, the computer nerd, the animation guy… you’d think that I wouldn’t be able to truly enjoy the movie because I’d only be able to see “computer monkeys” πŸ€“πŸ™ˆ but everything was rendered so authentically that I barely thought about all that through my first viewing. (Yeah, I watched it a second time the next day, even though it’s almost 2 1/2 hours long.)

The other movie… heh… it was an acceptable jump-scare movie, but not much more. No, wait… it also had way more of Bella Thorne’s ass than I anticipated. 😯 (For the record, I anticipated zero ass. πŸ˜…) Another Disney Channel kid that had to prove that she isn’t a kid anymore, I guess. And sticking to the “media” theme, today I got home from running some errands and found a new book in my mailbox. Commodore: The Amiga Years, which is a book that I backed during a crowdfunding campaign by an author who has already done a thick, hardcover Commodore: A Company On The Edge book – which I also happen to own. 😁 (Don’t ask me how much I’ve actually read though. πŸ˜• Gawd I wish I could make my brain slow down enough to actually read.)

Commodore and their computers… for better or worse, they’re a big reason that I am the way that I am today. 😏 From my first VIC-20 that Dad brought back from Hamvention for me in junior high, to my C64 setup in my high school years, then various Amiga computers after I graduated and was out on my own… so I’m hoping that one day when my brain allows it, I’ll be able to sit down and learn all the “behind the scenes stuff” that the world never knew about. Kind of like a written version of Halt and Catch Fire. (Who’d have ever thought that a network would sign off on a show like that, eh?)

All of it was a welcomed distraction.