Thursday, December 31, 2009

Styling into 2010

Ttam Troll rings in the New Year in style!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Countdown is on...

One day to go and MC2P4 will need to change his glasses!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Any Questions? - The Face

Fueled by
Ferrara Pan Atomic Fireballs and Lipton Iced Tea Mix, I churned out this song and video animation for The Face music video from Any Questions? 1992 release, Prey For Death.

This song happens to be 1 of only 2 songs (Carousel being the other) that had all its drum parts created entirely by using the Drum Editor within Cubase. Using the Drum Editor, I manually placed individual drum hits on a grid within the program and then manipulated the velocity and volume parameters. The benefit of this is that I could quickly create dynamic rhythms patterns that I could have never played behind a drum kit.

Once the rhythm track was created, I began to compose the rest of the song. For inspiration, I stared out my back window and watched the steam from the cooling towers of the Limerick Nuclear Power Plant seed the clouds. That visual backdrop was (and still is) the stimulus for many Any Questions? songs. This song is a perfect example of the dichotomy those images represent. On one hand, you have the soft and almost hopeful sounding synth string sounds which carry the song higher and higher just like the steam that rises from the cooling towers. In contrast, the song is violently interrupted by a stark, pulsing beat and a repetitious droning sample which exclaims "Pray for Death!". A reminder that the end is always near just as the Chernobyl nuclear reactor accident reminded us in 1986.

Work on the video animation for this song wasn't so dichotomous. Affordable video animation that could be done at this time with home computers was very time consuming and crude by today's standards. However, this didn't deter me from spending several days of my life hammering away at my trusty Atari 1040STe to produce the animation. To this day, I'm still not quite sure how I pulled it off though I do remember the pillow of Fireball wrappers that I would lay my head down on to rest when I could no longer see clearly.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Beach Blanket Troll

I thought that I would continue with the vacation/beach theme from yesterday's blog post. It's snowy and cold here in the Northeast so some thoughts of Summer may be just what we all need.

In early Summer 1988, I went to Ocean City, MD with the Ocker family for a fun and relaxing trip. Late at night, I took the opportunity to stroll the beaches alone. Sometimes listening to the waves and sometimes listening to my Walkman. It was during these strolls that I first had the idea for writing a song that would sonically capture the sound of a listless ocean along with the power and elegance of the waves as they crashed upon the shore. This was not a novel idea but for an 18yr kid (excuse me, man) it provided enough stimulus for a creative spark to be ignited.

It took about a year before I fully realized this idea but here I present to you the live version of Floundering In A Sea of Digital Waves as performed by Vizator at the PPG Plaza in Pittsburgh, PA (Summer of 1989). While listening, please try to ignore the incessant guitar synth flute soloing which is going on. It is NOT part of the song I wrote.

P.S. Thank you to Tonya Ocker for capturing this picture of me with "Bedhead".

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Any Questions? - Mutation (Single)

Reaching #32 on the CMJ RPM charts in 2000, our Any Questions? - Mutation CD release was a resounding success. Much of that success was built upon the title track, Mutation, which led off the CD and was featured on radio stations, CD compilations, and dance floors worldwide.

The genesis of this song began in 1997 while I (Ttam Troll) was on vacation in Myrtle Beach, SC. I had recently purchased a Roland MC-303 groovebox but hadn't had the chance to learn how to use it. I figured that there would be no better time to learn it than when I was on vacation. So, I took the opportunity to challenge myself to do two things. First, learn how to program the MC-303 and second, to see how many song sequences I could write in 5 days.

The first challenge proved to be the most difficult. I had been using computer sequencing (Steinberg Cubase) since the early '90s and trying to come to grips with a very archaic hardware-based sequencer was mind-numbing. The six digit display was no substitute for the GUI of the software-based sequencers that I had become accustomed to. However, I persevered and, by the end of day two, I was fully up and running and was able to make it do my evil bidding.

At this point, since I could actually operate the MC-303, I was ready to begin the 2nd part of my challenge. The ideas flowed freely and, by the end of the week, I had amassed 20 song sequences. To this day, I'm still not sure how it happened. I'm usually not that prolific. Was it the 105+ degree temperatures, the subarctic condo, the warm ocean and pool waters, my self-imposed isolation, or the bevy of bikini clad women that seemed to always parade by? Who knows?

Anyway, it was about a year later that MC2P4 and I revisited the song sequences that I wrote on that vacation and one idea immediately stood out as being a keeper. We wasted no time and began adding additional synth and drum parts to it. We later added a round of samples (all from the 1996 movie, 12 Monkeys) and recorded my vocals. I mixed the song a few days later and it was complete. This song also has the distinction of being the first song that we completed for our Mutation CD release.

Here it is for your listening pleasure...

P.S. The picture of a portly Ttam Troll was taken in 1998 at Floating Fish Studios during the actual vocal recording session for this song. Also note the pumpkin necklace, a standard fashion accessory for Ttam Troll during this time period.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Final Rehearsal

Ttam Troll (front) and MC2P4 (back) during the final rehearsal on 10/29/09 for the Any Questions? - Alive I Am Tour.

Any Questions? - Minds Curl (Demo)

Recent events reminded me of this murderous song about euthanasia and the icy thoughts which spawned it. During a depraved and grueling overnight recording session in 1991 at FFS II, MC2P4 and I (Ttam Troll) began a sonic experiment which quickly spiraled into this brutal track.

I offer this previously unreleased demo of Minds Curl as a stark reminder to the fragility of life under a merciful or merciless hand.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Miranda plays at Rainbow Bridge

The FFS family lost its littlest member today. Miranda Marie McConnell (02/02/92 - 12/19/09) will be sorely missed.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Obomatic Photoshoot (2003) Part 2

Here's a previously unpublished Obomatic band pic from our 2003 photoshoot.

Front Row (L to R): Steve O, Jason Yeagle
Back Row (L to R): Scottologic, Troll IO

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Dan Jam 1/91 Revisited

Back by popular demand, here is another classic from the Dan Jam 1/91 recording sessions. This song, entitled Operational, was recorded near the end of our second day of continuous recording. Fatigue was starting to set in and our improvs were becoming more and more abstract. This oppressively, repetitious sample laden track was built upon a simple sequence that I programmed. The line up on this song is Ttam Troll - Synthesizers, Samplers, and Programming, MC2P4 - Synthesizers and Electronic Toms, and Dan "The Man" Fiber - Roland GR-77B Bass Guitar Synthesizer.

Come and follow us down the rabbit hole...

P.S. This photo of Dan "The Man" Fiber (right) and MC2P4 (left) was taken on 12/12/09 at the 2nd Annual FFS II Gathering by Dave Chandler.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

MC2P4, a Zombie, and some Bruthas

MC2P4 (2nd from right) posing with a Zombie and some Bruthas at the FrightWorld movie premiere on 10/31/06. Any Questions? provided music for the film and Floating Fish Studios handled all the audio post production work.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Mr IUP and The Greg Wood Band

The Back Story:

The Greg Wood Band was formed by Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) undergraduate Greg Wood to support him during the talent portion of the 1988 Mr IUP Pageant. Greg had contacted my friend, Sam Gabud, to help him recruit a bass player and guitarist. Since Sam was my drummer-in-crime for several other IUP ensembles, I offered to fill the bass slot and to help Greg with his bid to win the pageant. Though Greg won the talent portion, he was not the crowned the overall winner of Mr IUP. I'll share more of the ugly details (along with pictures and video) of the Mr IUP Pageant in a future post.

The Video:

This performance is from a live TV broadcast for Operation Bundle Up (a charity drive) at the Regency Mall in Indiana, PA during December 1988. Though this video is severely degraded and missing a section, it is worth showing since it is simply hilarious. In it, you'll see our rendition of Elton John's Crocodile Rock and a Dancing Santa. That's right, I said a Dancing Santa! You'll also bear witness with what has to be one of the worse vocal performances ever. Regardless, it was still fun and, if you watch closely, you'll see Sam and I rolling our eyes and laughing on several occasions.

Friday, December 11, 2009

My First Musical Instrument

When I was 8yrs old (Christmas 1978), I received my first musical instrument.  I wonder what I was thinking...

1) "What in the hell am I going to do with an acoustic guitar!"
2) "I really want to play with that Star Wars Imperial TIE Fighter."
3) _________________________________________________________    
    (Insert your best Al Jaffee line here!)

The voting lines are open.  Post your votes and comments now!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Dan "The Man" Fiber Comes to Town!

In honor of the return visit of Dan "The Man" Fiber to Floating Fish Studios for the 2nd Annual FFS II Gathering this upcoming weekend, I would like to share an unreleased track from the FFS Vaults.

In January 1991, shortly after the start of the first Gulf War, Dan "The Man" visited Floating Fish Studios from the icy northern wasteland of Albany, NY. Our mission was to enter the studio and see what we could create. The result was two days worth of completely improvised music. The personnel for these recordings were Ttam Troll, MC2P4, LTJTHC, and Dan "The Man" Fiber. We alternated instrumentation so, on any given song, any of us could be playing synthesizer, sampler, electronic drums, bass guitar synthesizer, or even singing.

From those legendary Dan Jam 1/91 recordings, here is the epic 12+ minute bonus track entitled Foopher Pain. The line up on this song is Ttam Troll - Roland GR-77B Bass Guitar Synthesizer and Drum Machine, MC2P4 - Synthesizers, and Dan "The Man" Fiber - Vocals and Synthesizers.

P.S. This photo of Dan "The Man" Fiber was taken on 11/24/90, M Scott and Jackey McConnell's wedding day.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Any Questions? - Charlotte RIP

This song was written in 2007 for a film which still remains unreleased. We were asked by the director to compose a track which was reminiscent of The Cure's Charlotte Sometimes but with a more uplifting sound. Drawing inspiration from thoughts and emotions of brighter, more youthful days, I crafted this pensively uplifting instrumental with the aid of MC2P4. I hope you enjoy this "softer side" of Any Questions?.

This photo was taken during my brighter, more youthful days back in 1989.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

This Mistress - Carport Band

Back in the Summer of 1988, This Mistress ascended upon Scotland, PA for an outdoor concert which was, well, in a carport. As the partygoers played volleyball, enjoyed the cool waters of a swimming pool, and feasted on BBQ, our motley band of misfits slaved through a set of original and cover songs for the drunken masses who would request our cover of Metallica's Master of Puppets between every song.

This classic line up of the band included Ken Chandler - Vocals, Matt "Scrap Pap" Skirpan - Guitar, Kevin "Bart the Fart" Wilson - Guitar, Scott McConnell - Synthesizer, Matt Norcross - Bass, and Tim Harrell - Drums. Though not a truly inspired rendition of Led Zeppelin's Dancing Days, this video is a testament to the rhythmically tight and lead loose nature of the band. That remark is not meant to be disparaging. This dynamic mixture of musicians simply spawned unexpected surprises which would end up entertaining both the band and the audience.

It is also worth noting that I had to leave this show before it was over because I had to be at PenMar Park to perform with The Sounds of the Decades (the Big Band that I played electric bass with). This didn't stop This Mistress. They soldiered on and finished the set with Scott playing synth bass and fun was still had by all.

Special thanks to our longtime videographer Steve Olsen for shooting and editing this performance. He has been responsible for capturing a lot of our live shows and video shoots over the years. It is because of his hard work and dedication that the video section of the FFS Vault is so large.

Friday, December 4, 2009

"The Plant"

It's been awhile since I've posted any house-related entries so I thought that I would take this opportunity to introduce you to "The Plant".  "The Plant" is a 15+ year old African Violet (Saintpaulia ionantha) which originally belonged to my grandmother.  It was passed onto me and I've cared for it ever since.  

As you can see, it "appears" to be healthy and is currently blooming with purple flowers.  It likes to be watered and loves sunlight.  I've found that my kitchen table seems to be an ideal location for it and I rotate "The Plant" every couple of days to keep it from becoming lopsided.

I hope you've enjoyed meeting "The Plant", another valuable member of the Floating Fish Studios family.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Nuclear Winter

While being trapped in the studio during a blinding snow blizzard, I slowly churned out this dirgelike hymn of isolated despair. In the days leading up to this recording, I had become increasingly more disconnected than usual from those around me and began to retreat further inward. The manifestation of that exploration is what I now reluctantly share with you.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Studio Line from L'Oréal

Vizator members Matt Norcross (C) and Dave Irish (R) perform at PPG Plaza in downtown Pittsburgh, PA (Summer 1989).  This was during my Studio Line from L'Oréal period.  In contrast, Dave was in full on mullet mode.

P.S. Thanks to Mitzi Moyer and her sister for taking this picture.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Any Questions? - Strange Days

Strange Days was the second video off our Any Questions? 2000 release, Mutation. While preparing for the Alive I Am tour in 2004, we needed to quickly shoot and edit videos for the new songs that we were adding to our set list. These songs were Evolution and Strange Days.

To tackle the video for Strange Days, we set up a location shoot in MC2P4's shed on one VERY hot Summer day in June 2004. The shed was about 10' x 10' in size and, of course, we closed the door, blocked off all the windows with black scrim, turned on the par cans and strobe lights, and blew fog all over the set. The end result was a sweat lodge of radioactivity, terror, and disgust.

We first shot the calm footage of me (Ttam Troll) wearing a clean room suit, respirator, and goggles while fake typing very poorly at a computer terminal. I, obviously, needed to work on my acting. Next, we captured the video feedback footage and then it was time for MC2P4 to don his infamous "wire costume" and put on another tour de force performance of blood, disgust, and sweat.

It is also worth noting that this video features the "$5 champy". A non-functional, custom built home stereo receiver system which I bought for, you guessed it, $5 at a used musical instrument store. When we opened up the unit to find out why it wasn't working, we discovered the previous owner's stash of crack cocaine. Unprepared and unwilling to "experiment", we contacted an appropriate disposal service.

On the final edit, we also cut in scenes from the movie Strange Days, which was the original inspiration for the song.

This was done quick and dirty, guerrilla style but it is still a favorite among us and our fans. I hope you enjoy it.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Awash in blue glow

Any Questions? awash in blue glow at Tesla Nights 2009 Halloween Party on 10/31/09.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Telephone Call

Here's how my Thanksgiving Day telephone conversation started with my littlest friend, Miranda.

Miranda: Stampy
Matt: What?
Miranda: It's Gaybuck!  Hahahahaha!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

An encounter with B Hatch

Ttam Troll (left) chatting with Eyes of Chaos creator Mike Bohatch (aka B Hatch) at the FrightWorld movie premiere on 10/31/06.  Any Questions? provided music for the film and Floating Fish Studios handled all the audio post production work.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A light moment

Ttam Troll enjoying a light moment before performing sonic calibrations and signal rerouting at Platinum Recording Studios on 11/23/09.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Ode to 1 Gold St

Sadly, this post marks the end of Floating Fish Studios Holy Grail Week.  I hope you've enjoyed the past week of "classic" audio and video from the FFS Vaults.  Some of the material was funny, some serious, some controversial, and some downright hilarious but I hope you found it all to be entertaining.  While raiding the vaults, I came across more rare material so be on the lookout for a future Holy Grail Week.  Until then...

I'm pleased to share with you Ode to 1 Gold St.  1 Gold St or as it was otherwise known, Der Palast des Goldes, was the house I moved into with MC2P4 and LTJTHC when I first came to the Philadelphia area in Fall 1989.  After the long and turbulent Vizator Summer, I was glad to be able to get back to some fashion of normal life.  

The three of us wasted no time in setting up a studio in the house and the rest, as they say, is history.  When not at school or working (which wasn't very often), I was busy learning how to use all of the equipment we assembled in the studio and spent hours composing music.  Our set up was pretty small but, looking back, that turned out to be an advantage.

As evidenced in this song, taken from the final day of recording at 1 Gold St in the Summer of 1990, MC2P4 and I pulled out every bit of sonic might from the gear we had.  This majestically thematic improvisational jam was our final farewell to 1 Gold St.  Shortly after, we were off to Pottstown PA and the creation of Floating Fish Studios.

Friday, November 20, 2009

FFS Blog Hits 100!

This entry marks the celebration of my 100th Floating Fish Studios Blog post. I started the FFS Blog back in June (2009) as a way to let people know that FFS moved, share pictures of my new house/studio, and to keep everyone up-to-date with the latest FFS news.

Since it's inception, the FFS Blog has done all of those things but it has also expanded to cover much more. It is now an important platform for releasing previously unreleased audio and video from the FFS Vaults, an outlet for sharing sordid tales and backstories from the FFS universe, and even a way for me to embarrass myself with pictures and stories from my youth.

Though preparing/creating new blog posts is very time consuming, I'm having fun doing it and plan to continue. However, I would like to find out what you, the reader, watcher, and listener, think of the blog. Feel free to post a comment or send me an e-mail to let me know.

Here's to another 100!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Any Questions? - Numan (Madonna's Puss)

Floating Fish Studios Holy Grail Week wouldn't be complete without the inclusion of this song. Numan (Madonna's Puss) has always been one of our most talked about performances. It's one of our earliest song ideas and was never officially released.

Recorded in Fall 1989 at Der Palast des Goldes, this song's music is completely overshadowed by MC2P4's indignant, humorous, and evocative lyrics. One moment he's singing about the trials and tribulations of corporate life and, in the next breath, his topic has changed to being about seeing your mom in bed.

I'll simply leave it at that and let MC2P4's lyrics say the rest.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Any Questions? - Scrape The Pus (Live)

Tonight's Floating Fish Studios Holy Grail Week entry is an "insensitive" one.  To protect the innocent, I've altered the image of the protagonist in this story and, instead of explaining the back story of the song lyrics, I'll simply say that they were inspired by a medical procedure and a Ho Magos comic (aka Kenny's Cartoons).  I challenge the listener to try and decipher the blasphemous words.  Those in the FFS inner circle know the story well so you need no explanation.  

This live, improvisational jam was recorded in 1991 by the three member line up of Any Questions? which consisted of Ttam Troll - Vocals, MC2P4 - Synthesizers/Samplers, and LTJTHC - Electronic Drums.  Musically, this is one of our most inspired improvs.  After months of nightly improvisational jamming during and after the first Gulf War, we had become a very tight and cohesive unit and it shows on this track.  The song intro slowly pulls the listener in before erupting at the 1:48 minute mark with a barrage of electronic drums, synthetic warfare, and vocal shriekings.  The sonic terror that ensues is some of our finest music!

All that's left to say is...

"This is your dance remix!"

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Any Questions? Power Trio

Floating Fish Studios Holy Grail Week continues with a live recording from The Any Questions? Power Trio (pictured above in 2004 from L to R - LTJTHC, Ttam Troll, and MC2P4) .

In Spring 1990, we (Any Questions?) converged on P&G Studios to work on new demo ideas.  Up until this point, we had only been working with programmed electronic drum machine parts but the larger studio setting afforded us the opportunity to set up a full acoustic drum kit.  We took advantage of this and recorded a series of songs featuring LTJTHC on acoustic drums.  What makes these recordings so rare is the fact that they are the only ones ever made by Any Questions? to have acoustic drums.

Taken from the Live With Two Mikes session, on this track you'll hear LTJTHC's ride cymbal charged drum performance setting the groove for MC2P4's slithering Moog Bass synth line and Ttam Troll's relentless Peter Hook-style electric bass soloing.

I hope you enjoy this previously unreleased track!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Any Questions? - Oil In The Gulf (1991)

We start off the Floating Fish Studios Holy Grail Week with some absolutely "classic" raw video studio footage. Only the FFS inner circle will realize the full "classic" nature of this but, hopefully, everyone else will at least be entertained and amused by it.

This chemical-fueled video studio footage was shot at FFS II shortly after the end of the first Gulf War in 1991. MC2P4's lyrics for this song were inspired by the fiery oil rigs that littered the Kuwait desert and sprayed their precious crude all over everything and everyone. His one-man, one take performance was captured by Brian "Who" Black and has long been hidden in the FFS vaults.

The audio for this song was recorded shortly before the video shoot and was our first (and last) attempt at multi-track recording using the Ensoniq ESQ-1 tape sync feature. As you can hear, the angular and disjointed music has a visceral, jerking quality that can't be blamed solely on the "altered" sub-humans that recorded it.

For the collectors out there, here is the original never-before-released audio recording for Any Questions? - Oil In The Gulf. Enjoy...

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Holy Grail Week!

It's Holy Grail Week here on the Floating Fish Studios Blog.  I was tied up last week in the corporate world and was unable to post my usual number of blog entries so, to make up for that and to mark the push to our 100th blog entry, I plan to celebrate this week with "classic" and very rare audio and video from the FFS archives.

Get ready...

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

This Mistress Pin Collection (1988)

Recently unearthed, the This Mistress Pin Collection is a must have accessory for any leather wearing rocker. Tighten your ammo belt, strap on your spikes, and pin on the "baddest" looking pin set you've ever seen!

The top pin features the early '88 6 piece incarnation of This Mistress. Shot at Long Pine Run Dam, this line up included (from L to R) Tim Harrell - Drums, Kevin "Bart the Fart" Wilson - Guitar, Matt "Scrap Pap" Skirpan - Guitar, Matt Norcross - Bass, Brad Shaeffer - Vocals, and Scott McConnell - Synthesizer.

Order your pin set today!

P.S. In case your wondering, this pin set is not for sale and is literally the "baddest" (as in NOT good) pin set I've ever seen.

Friday, November 6, 2009

A Menacing Troll

Ttam Troll menaces the audience during the Any Questions? performance at the Tesla Nights 2009 Halloween Party on 10/31/09.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Any Questions? - Dismembered (Live)

Here's the soundboard mix of Dismembered, our final song at the Tesla Nights 2009 Halloween Party on 10/31/09.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Any Questions? Tesla Nights Sound Check

Here's Any Questions? sound check from Tesla Nights 2009 Halloween Party on 10/31/09.  We were still a little water drenched from moving our gear in through the rain and hadn't set up our video projection or strobe light system but it gives you a good behind-the-scenes look at the band preparing for a show.

You also get to see our friend Steve O from Steve-O-Lution Dawn & His Robot Attack Band providing hand claps during Sharing The Plasma Pool and directing his favorite line ("Lousy human bastards!") in Lousy Human.

Special thanks to Dave Chandler for shooting this footage and posting it on YouTube.