Going Straight: Week 3 – The Dream and the Fulfilment

Balham, a little while before the turn of The Millenium.

This was the first time I had moved out of home and my life is a haze of Northern Lights and Squishy Black. Doves, Mitzubishi and Red Bulls cost 15 quid a pop, I go clubbing at Heaven, Tennents Super actually tastes nice and “music is my life man!” The music I am obsessing over is The Chemical Brothers, Underworld, Nine Inch Nails and I’ve Just heard Aphex Twin’s Come To Daddy for the first time. My band mates have all buggered off to Uni and I can’t be arsed to find new ones so it is at this point I think Dance Music is the way forward. Guitar and Peavy amp mothballed in Ma n Pa’s attic, I trundle into the nearest WH Smiths and pick up the latest Music Tech Magazine (or it might have been Future Music.. not sure).

Adorning the front in glorious red and blue are KORG’s EA-1 and ER-1 Electribes. I fall in love with the look before I even know what they do, the CD given away with the mag has some samples and they sound just so.. so good! This surely is the heart, the squeal and chainsaw buzz of the music I love! (at this point I had no idea what a 303 was).

I then read the price tag: £350. So not gonna happen. I only just maxed out my first credit card on an N64 and Turok two years ago and really can’t do that again.

Upon further investigation it looks like you also kinda need a PC to do all this Dance Music malarkey and I don’t have one of them either. So I buy the mags for a while, read the articles and looks at all the pretty pictures (keep hold of the cover discs just in case, for later) but slowly the plan dies and I get distracted. The glowing and flashing KORGs get forgotten.

Fast forward a decade, three kids, a wife, a mortgage and a beer gut or so and we find ourselves on eBay again staring at this blue thing with buttons on it. And a wheel. And some pads that look suspiciously like they may glow in the dark… a quick internet search later and my heart leaps! Flashback!

This is the lead/acid synth I was looking for!

There are a steady flow of these going throught eBay it seems and they tend to be on Buy It Now for about £150. Some patience however can (as ever) reap dividends. After a fortnight of looking I found one on a 99p start that ended on a Tuesday morning(!?!) and snapped it up for 70 quid. 70 quid!!

It’s pretty knackered to be honest, scratched and dented to fuckery and some of the pots are a bits sticky but by God does it sound special. My first two hours were spent just playing with the cut off and res on all the pre-sets grining stupidly to myself. “Lookameee! Josh Winks!”

I’m just waiting for the wife and kids (and maybe neighbours) to all be out so I can run it through my Boss ‘Metal Zone’ distortion pedal. Hehehe, hehehehheeee.

NEXT WEEK: Second Hand Software.

Going Straight: Week 2 – The Plan and The Purchase

..and so it was that having decided to rid myself and my HDD of this illegal filth I thought I’d get all James May on the task and try and go about replacing all my bits and bobs in a sensible, logical and cost effective manner.

As discussed briefly before, it looked like Reaper is going to be the way forward as far as a DAW was concerned and to that end I have set aside some PayPal balance for it to be purchased later this month after my 30 trial runs out.

I though the best way to organise my shopping list was to look at my most commonly used bits of kits and find specific replacements. I’ve been flogging stuff on eBay over the last month and had gotten together a bit under 300 quid so had a half decent budget I reckoned.

While I have nothing against freeware I had my heart set on owning a couple of ‘big brand’ bits if I could and so it was back onto eBay and checking out what second hand stuff their might be. Turns out there’s a steady flow of it if you are patient. Of course they joy of ‘second hand’ software is that (barring scratched discs and registration problems) there is nothing second hand about it! As long as you are happy with a slightly battered box (fnarr) then there really is no point in buying it brand new… is there?

I was also in a mind to buy some of the stuff from the people I had previously not given any money to. If you know what I mean. The whole ‘try before you buy’ ethos perhaps actually ringing true.

With this in mind I started my search for the first thing on my list:

Primary lead/acid and bass syth.

I have used Rob Papen’s Albino 2 and 3 on probably every track I have ever made. Simple layout, obvious controls, easy to learn and the best arpeggiator I have ever used.

Sadly there was no second hand Albino software that I found and brand new it costs a hundred quid or more and I didn’t want to spend that. What I did find on my search was an LE edition of Blue! I had tried Blue a while back and I didn’t remember it being particularly ‘lead synth’ material but that it had some great pads and really intricate and delicate stuff on it. It’s an FM synth and so not directly comparable to Albino but I like Papen’s stuff so well worth a punt at £35 (+ £6 p&p….).

Anyway having used Albino, SubBoomBass and the awesomely evil Predator for a while nowI though maybe I owed him some of my 300 squid!


So first purchased made: Rob Pappen’s Blue LE.

The LE edition looks pretty much like this but has fewer presets and also fewer editable parameters.


NEXT WEEK: Primary Lead Synth yearnings still not utterly sated.. Hardware!!


Geek Box VST

Fwonk*s very own Styli has recently unveiled the fourth version of his free Geek Box VST. It’s like an LFO filter but with high frequencies used to modulate the cutoff. A lite version is included, and this does the same thing but without the sequencers.

[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/14660140″]

You can hear the lite version in use on the above Styli track “In Boxes With Toys”.

download (zip)

Why Creative Commons?

Why does Fwonk* use a Creative Commons license? Hell, what even is a Creative Commons license?

Simply put, Creative Commons is a licensing format that – instead of the traditional copyrighting laws – is built for the modern, web based world. All Fwonk* releases are released under what is called the Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License. This means that the public (i.e. anyone) is free to share, re-use and – crucially – remix the work as they see fit, provided three conditions are met.

Firstly, the original artist of the work must be given credit for writing it. Secondly, the music must not be used for commercial purposes – this ensures that CC licensed music isn’t nicked by TV/film/music executives to be the cheap-skate soundtrack to the new series of CSI: Taunton, Z-Factor, or whatever tat they are peddling. Thirdly, all resultant products – remixes, DJ mixes, short films – created using these works must also be shared for free via the internet (and preferably licensed with a Creative Commons license). Other types of license are available via Creative Commons, but we feel that this best serves the interest of Fwonk* artists and listeners.

Unlike the recent changed to Copyright law across the EU, which permits Cliff Richard to sit on his bony arse, watching the tennis and continue to make money on 69 year old records, and sue mere mortals for copyright transgressions, the use of a Creative Commons license is a spur to creativity. Do you want to take apart my carefully constructed glitchcore masterpiece and make a blasting gabba version of it? Do you want to use that melancholy piano concerto in your new short film? Feel free, as long as you give credit, make no money from it, and share it on the web.

It is this difference that has allowed musicians – many of them amateurs, or based in their bedrooms – to make music that can be heard around the world, remixed, remastered and brought to audiences in new ways. A whole network of Creative Commons sites have sprung up (see the Netaudio Index for one), including each and every Netlabel, fostering unprecedented amounts of creativity. And Fwonk* is proud to be part of that.

For more netlabel music, see our Netlabel Index.

Bandcamp – the best music solution yet?

Bandcamp - best music solution yet?

We here at Fwonk* love Bandcamp. We feel that it is currently the best, free, social platform for musicians to release their music and get it to a wider audience. MySpaces have come and gone, Facebook is bugger all use for musicians, Twitter doesn’t offer album downloads and the Internet Archive hasn’t moved on since 2002.

Soundcloud is fantastic, but unless you fancy spending lots of money getting extra space, it is rather limiting. Bandcamp, however, offers unparrallelled features for musicians. And when we say unparrallelled, we mean no-one else has bothered to do any of this!

For instance, the ability to ask for a donation for your music, rather than giving it away (or charging lots of money that no-one will pay). Or the fantastic analytics monitoring for all you stat g33ks out there.

Here at Fwonk* all of our latest releases are made available via Bandcamp, and we are offering a new solution for artists releasing music on Fwonk*, whereby the artists Bandcamp site becomes a Fwonk* site with a few easy mouse clicks and keystrokes.

But what do you think, readers? What’s your favourite social site for music? Let us know in the comments.

By the way, do people still use words like ‘whereby’ or am I reading too many Victorian novels?

Hello and Welcome!

Hi, welcome to the first post, and a new start for Fwonk*.  We’ve given the site an overhaul, added a blog to bring extra features to lovely listeners out there, give musicians more chance to become involved in and be part of Fwonk*, and bring you exciting new features that will be introduced, added and developed over the coming months. So what’s going to be happening?

Remix Competitions

Yeah, you read the right.  Remix competitions –  we’ll be running competitions with remixes of the latest dancefloor tunes, or tracks from Fwonk*s very own archives.  Details will be announced here, and you’ll be able to follow progress on the forum.  The sets of finished songs will be featured on our Soundcloud pages.

Monthly Podcast

We will be launching a monthly podcast or radio show featuring some of the very best, and very freshest Creative Commons released music and the best that Fwonk* can slap you between the lugholes with.  Featuring a roster of DJs curating their own choice of material, this will be a varied listen, bringing you the tunes the breadth and depth of popular (and unpopular) music.  Shows can be streamed from Mixcloud, but also downloaded from us here.

Greater flexibility for artists

For existing artists within Fwonk*, or those who want to become part of the netlabel and community, we offer the chance to have your own Fwonk* subdomain for your own Bandcamp page. This means that a normal Fwonk* release can be hosted on your very own Bandcamp page. You host your own music, and are responsible for the format of it, and you control it.

Tutorials and more!

This blog is going to be the gateway to online tutorials – a great series of Ableton Live videos is ready – some links to some great tunes and other music sources, and much, much more.

And if all this works, we’ll do even more.