Tuesday 9 October 2007

Bend and glitch and bend and glitch

We're fond off a bit of circuit bending here at GCHQ, we're no experts but we like to dabble a bit every now and then.

This little beauty is a bent Casio SA-1 that we've just finished for our mate Robbie at Cyclick Samples. We've done quite a few SA-1's and they're a great little keyboard to bend. From the left hand side the bends are:

Voltage drop pot
Synth tone switch
2x body contact fuzz poles
Rhythm glitch button
Deep crash button

The fuzz poles are just long bolts that create a different amount of distortion depending on how hard you hold them. Because the shafts of the bolts have a larger surface area than the heads (which I'd normally use) it creates a much wider range of fuzz/distortion/bit crusher effects.

This SA-1 also reacts much better to the crash and glitch buttons than any others we've bent in the past - a few presses and it'll spew forth glitched loops or just plain noise. Lovely, if you like that sort of thing.

You can find some detailed instructions and tips on bending an SA-1 on the forum of http://www.circuitbenders.co.uk/ an excellent UK based bending site. We've had a few bits and bobs off of Paul the guy behind the site in the past. Great stuff!

Sunday 30 September 2007

More retro beats

Okay, we just couldn't leave our vintage drum machine obsession alone (well an obsession with all things beat based really). So here's another couple of old timers to add to the collection.

The larger wooden box (which is frankly huge, it's designed to sit on top of an organ - no sniggering at the back) is a 1969 Acetone (founded by Ikutaro Kakehashi who went on to start Roland) Rhythm-Ace FR2. This was an Ebay bargain featuring all the usual preset suspects (tango, bossa etc) and allows the muting of cymbal, clave and snare.

Also like many of these vintage machines, it allows more than one preset to be pressed at once to create some interesting patterns. The kick on this old beauty is fab, although the cymbal sound is a real dog!

The smaller silver box is a bit of an oddity, a 12 pattern preset drum box made in the 70's by stompbox kings Electro Harmonix - a Rhythm 12.

Although made later, the Acetone pees all over this little box sound-wise, it dones have a certain charm (a reggae preset and a chicken-head knob! Yes, we're easily pleased).

All of these vintage beasts will be featured in a forthcoming Future Music sample commission and we love 'em.

Say it loud

Just got a batch of new Groove Criminals button badges made up with our logo and the rather fab 'beats not bombs' slogan - a sentiment I hope we all can agree on.
If you'd like one drop us an email.

Friday 21 September 2007

Sign of the times

One of our merry band of sample-heads teaches music tech to 17-19 year olds at a local college During the induction week the new intake of students were asked to identify a midi lead and the vast majority had no idea what it was.

Now we’re not going to harp on about the youth of today/falling standards in production and engineering skills/rose-tinted glances back on ‘the good old days’. Basically because we think that’s all a crock of sh*t, and also there’s plenty of magazines/forums that bore for Britain about that sort of thing all the time.

We think this shows is how things in the bedroom-production market have changed in a relatively short space of time. Most newcomers to production or making tunes will be using software rather than hardware. Fruity Loops/Reason/Garageband all live inside a computer and the majority of controller keyboards released at the moment are either USB or Firewire, without a midi cable in sight. Hardly surprising then those newcomers to music production don’t desire a 30u rack stuffed full of modules etc like we did when we first started out.

We like midi, it was developed specifically for musical instruments, unlike Firewire and USB, but we certainly won’t be getting on our high-horse about it either – it’s what you make, not how you make it that counts in the end.

Saturday 15 September 2007

Dit Dit Baw, Tish Tish Poot

Feeling pretty tired this week thanks to the mad scramble to finish the latest Future Music commission on time. Being the shallow gear heads that we are, to cheer our selves up (and a vain attempt to get moving on the next project) we indulged our love for vintage drum machines with another couple for the collection.

The Korg KR55 (the big one) is a preset rhythm machine (complete with foxtrot and 3 bossa patterns!), with that classic analogue sound. It is possible to midi-refit these machines so that the sounds can then be triggered from a sequencer- the KR55 as it stands can’t be programmed. We’re going to look into it and will let you know how we get on.

The smaller machine is a Boss DR110. We’ve wanted one of these for a while and it’s the last true analogue drum machine that Roland/Boss produced. Programmable but with no midi, it’s a great machine with a fantastic clap sound. When we can get our heads round our FTP program we’ll try and get some samples uploaded.

Saturday 8 September 2007

Back for a bit of boom tish

We’re back in the blog biz after a couple of weeks away (one week r&r and one week locked in the studio). Few bits and bobs to update you all on - Firstly Mr Hoodee span some tasty funk on our good friend PH5’s Sunday show The Soul Explosion on ICR FM. All of us here at GCHQ wish ICR all the best as it’s now hitting the legal FM airwaves as well as the net. A true sign of these internet-savvy times as Hoodee’s mum emailed in for a shout out!

On the gear front the Groove Criminals audio armoury has been swelling over the last few weeks. We’ve picked up another couple of truly fantastic Moogerfooger pedals (the mURF and the phaser) and a Watkins Copycat tape delay that is presently being serviced – we’ll post some nice pics when we get it back.

Finally we’ve been busy on a house –based set of samples for FM and got our mitts on a Quasimidi Rave-o-lution 309.

It’s an analogue emulating drum and synth groovebox that sounds great and has plenty of knobs for fiddling with the sounds. Ours has been expanded with the extra ins/outs and the drum/synth expansions as well. It’s a really cool bit of kit and there’s always something about step/grid programming that we really enjoy. Unfortunately Quasimidi have sunk as a company and finding a download of the manual was a bit of a pain – if anyone ever needs a copy (or arrives at this page via Google looking for one) drop us an email and we’ll sort you out with the PDF. Likewise if anyone knows where we can get hold of the rackmount kit, let us know.

Wednesday 15 August 2007

More Stevie

Another couple of Stevie bombs.

Here and here

Right back to work !-)

Get back to work!

Okay, okay we should be working (UK grime and tings for Computer Music), but stumbled across this

Future-retro-groovalious baby!

Sunday 12 August 2007

Couple of youtube gems

Okay it's been a lazy Sunday (helped along with a few pints and a pub lunch) so we plop in front of the computer and for the first time in ages have a peek at youtube (as you do) and found these couple of gems;

First up is Stevie Wonder rippin' it up on the kit - bloody fantastic.

Second is a really well put together little piece on the Amen break - this has done the rounds a bit (and not much to look at!) but worth sitting through if you've not seen it.

Saturday 11 August 2007


We’ve had a bit of a clear out here at GCHQ. We’re real gear hoarders so sometimes we have to be firm with ourselves and let some stuff go we don’t really use or want any more. As well as a stack of guitar pedals (we just luv ‘em) we also said goodbye to our Powertrain T2000 analogue mono synth.
Originally supplied in kit form this synth was a bit of an impulse buy and never really worked (found out since 2 of the chips had gone) – we used it as a synth FX generator for a while but never really got much use out of it. Anyway it’s gone to a good home and is well on the way to being restored back into full working order.

Of course us being us, when something goes another bit of gear is sure to replace it ……so hello our V1 Sherman Filterbank!
Haven’t had time to get into it yet as we’ve been pretty busy poppin’ and lockin’ (see last post), but we’ll post a report when we give it a good run out. Apparently it’s a bit of a beast – sounds good to us!

Desperately seeking Linn

Apologies for the lull in posting but we’ve been at full tilt finishing the latest commission for next months FM. The theme is 80’s b-boy electro (think “Planet Rock”, “King of the beats” etc), and we wanted to hire a Linn LM1 or Linndrum to get some totally authentic samples from this groundbreaking drum machine that really helped shape the sound of early 80’s dance and pop music.

Anyway could we find one? Three of the big hire companies either had sold their advertised unit (try updating your websites/stock sheets whydon’tya!) or it wasn’t working after being left under a blanket of dust for years! Anyway after a chance meeting with a great bloke called James, it transpires he had an LM-1 we could borrow. Not only was it in really good nick it was also one of the 30 or so that the great Rodger Linn made himself in his garage before the units were produced in a factory. A really rare bit of drum machine history that still sounds great! Huge thanks to James for lending it to us.

Monday 30 July 2007

New Toys!

Got hold of a couple of new bits of gear for GCHQ and thought we'd share some thoughts about 'em.

First up this the MoogerFooger ring modulator, we've been after a moogerfooger for a while, this one came up secondhand at a reasonable cost (for once!) so we jumped at it. The black moog expression pedal was off Ebay and really adds a great live tweaking element.

As well as the mad ring mod stuff this also does the best, creamy sounding tremello we've heard - good news for us, bad news for all the other trem pedals that have served us so well over the years.

Last but no means least is a fuzz pedal by Devi Ever USA. Quite brutal sounding, osculating fuzz that sounds as good on guitar as it does on synths, especially our Roland SH101. Devi's a really nice bloke too who makes small batches of hand built pedals and sells them via his Ebay shop .

Saturday 28 July 2007

Glyn Johns method

We were lucky enough to do a recent drum session with one of our resident stickmen Simon Edgoose, for a forthcoming Future Music commission. The brief was ‘country crunk’ a kinda cross between country and hip-hop, so we wanted some straight country grooves and some more swung laidback beats using brushes and hot rods.

To mix things up a bit more we also decided (on Simons suggestion) to try out the Glyn Johns four mic method of recording a kit. We were very pleased with the results, a nice wide, open sound, so I thought I’d drop the basics here (taken from the Mike Dolbear forum):

Overhead 1: in front of the drummer, 36-40” above the snare, pointing directly
downwards at the bass drum pedal between the bass drum-mounted toms. Pan right
(3 o’clock). Use your tape measure to measure the distance from the centre of
the snare to the mic diaphragm.

Overhead 2: to the right of the drummer,
4-6” above the top of the floor tom pointing across the top of the snare towards
the hi-hats. Pan left (9 o’clock). Measure the distance from the centre of the
snare to the mic diaphragm: it must be exactly the same as the distance used for
positioning Overhead 1, or you’ll encounter phase problems.

pointing at the centre of the top of the snare, 2-3” from the head, positioned
between the hi-hat stand and the crash cymbal stand. Pan centre (12 o’clock).
Don’t position the mic too close to the snare head or you’ll encounter proximity

Bass drum: depending on the mic and your required sound, either
inside the bass drum and close to the head (more attack) or outside the bass
drum. Pan centre (12 o’clock). Again, don’t get the mic too close to the head.

And that’s about it – we used a Shure 57 on the snare, SE1 pencil condensors as overheads and another '57 on the kick as well alongside a Yamaha subkick mic (basically a repackaged speaker cone) for some crack and boom.

I’ll post a photo or two (the session was photographed for the mag) when I get hold of ‘em.

Wednesday 25 July 2007


Hi there.

Welcome to our new blog page. Okay, okay I know we’ve not been what you could call reliable with other attempts at keeping pages like this updated but we’re really going to try and keep this blog on top of what’s happening around here at GCHQ…honest.