June 2015 - I've been meaning to upload this for years!!! I will link the text to instruments and other people when I have the opportunity. If you enjoy or not, let me know. After initially loading the page, It may take a little while before the songs and player become available. If you don't feel like reading, you can jump to the first song.
Note: All songs (c) David Kaufman unless otherwise noted.
During the early period of The Nails, I was new to composing music. I first collaborated with Marc while with The Ravers and continued during The Nails' early days. This allowed me to learn the craft of songwriting, arranging instruments and vocals and adding instrument fills to keep the music interesting. I also learned how to record using the technology available to me at that time, incorporating the new devices I acquired, whether it be echo devices for ambience, drum machines for rhythm, my first synthesizer and even Midi (musical instrument digital interface) as the computer age dawned upon us in the mid-80s.
I learned the craft of my instruments, primarily keyboards. I taught myself punky electric guitar. In addition, after moving in with my brother George (1979, The Nails' bass player - d. 2009) at the living loft that became 151 Studios in the Chelsea section of New York City, I had the opportunity to learn how to play drums because of the several bands rehearsing there and the availability of different instruments for me to play including bashing the drums. I was into multi-track recordings whereby I could play all the instruments and sing all the vocals by myself. I learned the recording process, how to produce and engineer my own recording sessions. I wrote, played all the instruments and sung all the vocals, except where noted. Perhaps these will give you insight into my point of view and what I contributed to The Nails.
After The Ravers moved to NY, and I procured my first apartment in November 1977, I began to write songs in earnest. I was paying $130/month(!) for a furnished studio in the East Village. I had primitive recording equipment to record my songs. I had a Wurlitzer Electric Piano and later a Crumar Electrapiano, a solid-state electronic piano. And then … my brother George’s Hagstrom 6-string electric, but also used a Hagstrom 12-string guitar in one of my songs.
I recorded using a Sears? or Lafayette? two-track tape recorder. I don’t remember the exact method but it was probably recording a part into 1 channel of the tape recorder. While that part was playing back through a cheap speaker, I played a second part. Therefore, both parts were now on the second channel. While this was playing back I added a third part on the first channel, so then the first channel had all 3 parts, and so on. This was a primitive version of bouncing tracks (see below). I continued to record and layer parts until I realized the arrangement I heard in my head after completing the composition.
Most of my lyrics dealt with the American rite of passage of living alone after leaving your parents’ residence. I also wrote about being alone as I did not have the social skills to relate to women. When I met one and got along, we’d end up having a one-night stand or not at all because either way, I was unsure of the next step. So without any further adieu, here are my versions of The Shaggs.
Caution: these are very primitive-sounding recordings. Some songs have out-of-tune instruments; some I sung out of tune, but I improved as time went on. At least I think I did! And the cassette player I digitized them with was not of the highest quality and probably a bit fast altering the pitch of the songs.
1978 Apt. Sessions Lower East Side (Age: 24)
1979 – First Loft sessions (mono) (Age: 25 years old)
My brother George (GK) collaborated with me with better tape recorders (Teac – a 4-track and 2-track Teac and Pioneer for 1 weekend before we returned it. See below for recording techniques), arrangements and microphones. And George could play guitar!
1980 – Tortured Soul sessions (simulated stereo) (26 years old)
151 Studios, NYC. At this point I began to work with a 4-track Teac tape recorder. I would record 3 parts, then “mix” the 3 parts onto the 4th track (this is actual track bouncing). Mix meant balancing all the parts so they would sound just right. This would free 3 additional tracks or more if I recorded 2 more tracks, then “mixed” 3 more tracks onto the free track where I’d now have 5 parts recorded. The final version would be mixed onto a different 2-track machine so I was no longer stuck on one tape recorder. The simulated stereo came into play via a switch-box where I could cause the last 2 parts to be separated into right and left channels. Only two parts are separated with the remainder of the recording being mono.
1981 – Not Fashionable Sessions
151 Studios (stereo here on in) (27 years old). I mic’ed The Nails’ drummer’s (the late Tommy Cotogna) drums with 7 or more Shure SM57s and proceeded to record these stereo drum parts during 1981. I’d record the bass part first to a metronome (called a click-track in recording circles), then do my best to hear the bass part I recorded while I bashed the drums.
Another band (The Mental Notes) rehearsing at the loft had acquired a better Teac 4-track, which recorded at a faster speed (15 inches per second (ips)) as opposed to our 7 1/2 ips 4-track). This allowed me to “bounce” to two tracks on the second recorder thereby preserving a stereo “mix.” Then I would add two more tracks, mix again, and perhaps add two more tracks for the layered sound. The increased speed of the 2nd recorder contributed to enhancements in the fidelity. We also had a decent Kelsey PA and then Teac mixing board where I was able to balance the sounds more accurately than before as well as adding effects (reverberation, repeating echoes, etc.).
I developed a more positive lyrical point of view when I was 27 but still with the proverbial dark side. I must have spent many weekends alone to record these. It probably took months of weekends since The Nails did not rehearse on weekends except for Friday nights.
1982 Sessions - 1 song (Age: 28 years Old)
1982 brought me to the end of playing drums and using electronic drum machines, the first one being the Roland Drumatix TR606. You can program I believe 16 patterns then string them together into a song. led lights on the cute little silver box would give you a rough sketch of the pattern you created. Its output was mono but full-bodied.
I always treated drum machines like real drummers. I don't like songs that have repeating patterns or loops with no variation. To me, that is disrespecting and minimizing that part of an arrangement to rhythm only. I always tried to insert fills, stops and starts, so, hopefully the songs sound like groups as much as possible.
The Nails were pretty busy that year. Also rare for me, I had a girlfriend for 6 months, so I wasn't always alone for the weekends!
1983 Hello sessions, 151 Studios, NYC (Age: 29 years old)
I recorded 7 songs with the Roland Drumatix 606 using the same technique as Not Fashionable. I believe we had a Teac mixing board at this time, which facilitated easier mixing of the songs, and more outboard effects, such as a Furman reverb and a Simmons claptrap. More weekends alone but well worth it!
1988 Don’t Walk/Midi Machine sessions, 151 Studios (32 years old)
During The Nails’ heyday I wrote some of these songs but did not have time to record. After The Nails got dropped from RCA I took a break from The Nails (opted out of the Corpus Christi sessions) and put this together ostensibly for my own record deal. I was unaware that nobody cared about me, a major label keyboard player with no following, management and a “failed” track record. This project introduced major technological changes:
An 8-track Fostex tape recorder where I no longer had to bounce tracks. I did need to “sync” the tape recorder to the Midi tracks using a box – to be discussed for early 90s sessions.
Midi sequencer for my Commodore 64 and then Atari 1040ST computers. These programs allowed me to create the parts with software and the computer played back the parts exactly to my specifications. I was able to correct wrong notes yet also was able to have accidental mistakes so the songs didn’t sound, I hope, too mechanized and I still had to sing! Many of the parts I played into my computers live and then corrected the timing by "quantizing" so the notes are near or on the beat. The Commodore had limited memory causing me to repeat some sections and program directly on the drum machines. The Atari had seemingly unlimited memory with a whopping 1mb of RAM. I never had to repeat anything unless I want to.
Programmable stereo drum machines that had real sampled drum sounds within. Because of midi sequencing, the drum parts could be programmed from the computer, instead of the drum machines themselves. The 2 used were a Korg DDD-1 with various optional percussion cards and a Roland TR707, a digital sampler ultra large version of 606.
Addition of Casio CZ101 and Yamaha FB01 synths and modules (synth without a keyboard; you play it with an another synth with a keyboard via a midi connection). The Yamaha was called “multi-timbral” because you can program multiple parts via a midi sequencer, up to 8 different independent single-note parts or combos therein. I usually used a bass for 1 part (the end of my bass guitar playing), a 3-note chord part, and two 2-chord parts for accompaniment. I had a Korg Poly800 (analog synth with digital controls, no knobs) from The Nails, which I also used in this project.
On the negative side, some of my instruments got stolen from 151 studios, including my Cat synthesizer and my Roland VK09 organ. The crazy analog synth sounds used for previous parts were gone. Other crazy stuff was in its place.
1989-1990 East Harlem Apt. Demos (35-36 years old)
I call these demos because I created the songs on my Atari and then recorded the vocals live into either a reel-to-reel or cassette recorder, I don't recall which. I also frequently played guitar live while I sung the vocals. I must not have had multi-tracks at the time though the music sounds fairly complete due to midi instrumental arrangements. This was in a 4th floor walk-up on East 99th Street. The bathtub was in the kitchen. Rent was astronomical at $450/month for a 1 bedroom.
"Broccoli Rabe" Demos - 1990 (36 years old)
I saw an ad for a management agency in Village Voice classifieds. I sent them a tape and they liked my songs and wanted to record 2 songs in a Caldwell, NJ studio called Broccoli Rabe. Based upon their scant experience I probably shouldn't have let them do it, at my expense of course. The 2 songs turned out to be more demo-like than full-blown recordings, even though the recordings themselves had higher sound quality than my home recordings due to being in an actual recording studio. Unknown musicians made the music tracks and I only did vocals. Nothing came of these. They don't sound soooo bad, but the vision is not what I had for these 2 songs.
Forest Hills Sessions (1991-1993, 37-39 years old)
We moved to Forest Hills in Queens, NY to a more spacious apt. in an elevator building with laundry in basement. A step up! I acquired George's 4-track Teac as well acquiring an Atari Mega STE, a more powerful Atari. Dr. T's Keyboard Controlled Sequencer (KCS) became Omega and Omega 2, a more graphically oriented midi sequencer than its previous iteration as a list of musical notes with the only graphical portion was a multi-track tape recorder. I also acquired an Emu MPS digital synth the first one with sampled sounds: more realistic guitar sounds, even acoustic, as well as shimmery keyboards and many effects, echos, reverbs, flanges, all easily controlled by midi control change (cc) events where almost every parameter of an effect as well as sounds can be altered at any time.
I also used a midi sync box that recorded an audio track onto 1 track of the Teac that caused the Atari to play back the Midi tracks. This allowed 3 tracks of vocals, which I mixed to a VHS tape on my then VHS recorder. Supposedly the audio quality was high due to the "helical scan" which was equivalent of mixing to high quality high speed audio tape.
Age of Digital Audio - Forest Hills (1995-2002 - 41 to 48 years old)
In 1995 I acquired my first Mac, called a Power Mac, forgot which model, but had a horizontal tower configuration with a built-in CD drive. George recommended a program called Deck. You can record 8 tracks of audio and syncs with MIDI. Therefore I aid all the MIDI stuff on the Atari Mega STE. Once the MIDI tracks sounded reasonably balanced, I'd record that on 2 tracks of Deck, then record vocals on the remainder tracks, then mix to a stereo AIF file. I only recorded 1 of my songs using Deck and another of a friend's song who had a baby in 1998.
I then "graduated" to Cubase, which had some internal instruments as well as using external keyboards which needed to be recorded into Cubase. I only recorded 2 additional vocal songs using Cubase as well as 2 instrumentals based on the General MIDI spec.
Future? (circa 2015 - 61 years old and beyond)
I no longer have Cubase - I now use Logic Express and fooling with Garage Band on an iPad but I don't do as much music as I used to, but I have 2 songs in progress the last couple of years I have not finished plus on in Logic Express I orig. wrote in 1999. If they come to fruition you will see them here.
Thank you for taking the time to read and listen. - Dave K. (April-June 2015)
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