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Random Musings

December 1, 2003
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Random Touch's third CD release, Hammering on Moonlight (Roadnoise Productions, 2002), is graced with complex, evolving sound sculptures and spirited musical conversations. Although the improvisational duo's music could be considered free jazz, it incorporates many varied elements. Christopher Brown cites Jimi Hendrix, the Grateful Dead, and Traffic as early influences. “At the same time, we were into the so-called 20th Century classical tradition,” he adds. “We also loved John Coltrane, Herbie Hancock, and Miles Davis's wilder electronic stuff. We let all those mingle.”

Brown and keyboardist James Day have played together since 1971 and launched Random Touch as a multimedia project. For Hammering on Moonlight, they collaborated with Joe Zymonas, who played a Chapman Stick, a Kurzweil K2000, a Zeta Music Systems Strados Crossover Bass, and Roland V-Drums. Their compositions often begin with interactive jams followed by overdubs, processing, and editing. “Many tracks are finalized before we've mastered some new piece of hardware or software,” says Brown.

Brown and Day built a studio by demolishing the one-car garage on Brown's property and building a new room. “Our studio is a 500-square-foot space built to our specs. It has double walls and a double door, with about six inches of dead space between the inner and outer walls,” Brown says. Their space accommodates guest musicians as needed for occasional soundtrack sessions.

It is outfitted with a Yamaha 03D digital mixer; a Mac G4/733; a Digidesign Pro Tools 24|Mixplus system with two 888-24 I/O audio interfaces; and outboard gear that includes a TC Electronic FireWorX multi-effects processor, a dbx 266XL compressor, and a Summit Audio TPA-200B Dual Tube Preamplifier. Hammering on Moonlight marks Random Touch's first foray into Pro Tools. “Our previous recordings had been two-track stereo,” Brown says. “We used a Tascam DA-P1 [DAT recorder], and two tracks on Hammering were recorded on it.”

They recorded most live sessions to eight tracks in Pro Tools. Brown played acoustic drums and percussion while Day played Alesis QS8 and Kurzweil K2500 and K2500R synths. Zymonas often coaxed guitarlike sounds from his Chapman Stick using a Line 6 Pod. “All of the vocals were dubbed in later,” Brown adds.

One incident gave Brown an inspiring source of sounds. “I set up an Audix OM-5 behind the drum set and accidentally left it on,” he says. “The [resulting] mono track offered a spacious version of the drums. I processed the mono track of the entire drum set using Waves UltraPitch and Digidesign Reso plug-ins, and found that it required less power than processing a duplicate of the primary tracks.”

Random Touch further spiced up Hammering on Moonlight with overdubs of unprocessed samples of scrap metal being tossed around. “I put my favorite sounds into the K2500 and used my Zendrum [MIDI percussion controller] to trigger them,” Brown says. They used the FireworX to mutate vocals, drums, and much more. “On track 2 [‘Drunken Parade’], some of the handclaps ended up sounding like trumpets. We did a fair amount of that sort of stuff.” They often applied finishing touches with TDM plug-ins such as Waves Gold Native bundle.

“We're currently getting radio play in Europe and South America,” says Brown. “We've been making music without regard to commercial success. We've both had careers outside of this, so we haven't had to cater to any trends. We just like to play.”

For more info, contact Roadnoise Productions, LLC; P.O. Box 1683, Crystal Lake, Illinois, 60039; Web www.randomtouch.com.

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