Archive for the ‘DIY’ Category


Designing wigs (part 2)

Sunday, February 6th, 2011

After being inspired by a “lowbrow art” sticker we found (which came from a cereal box long, long ago), we wanted to have the album art for “Wigs & Liquor” reflect that vibe. I wanted to have a devil girl on the cover, and I thought it would be cool if she was sitting in some kind of dressing room, maybe at a make-up table with a mirror. And there could be booze bottles and wigs all over the place.

Wigs first sketch

Yes, it's on graph paper

Initially I thought it made sense to have the devil girl facing the mirror. I did some quick sketches and thumbnails to see if it would fly. Click on the thumbnail to see a larger version.

I liked the idea of seeing her face in the mirror, but it seemed a little weird to have the cover dominated mostly by her back. I guess it still would have worked, but for some reason it wasn’t working for me. Maybe it was the spine

The other elements, though, seemed cool: the makeup table with the lighted mirror, wigs hanging around, and a bunch of bottles on the table top.

Knowing what I wanted to change, I assembled a quick and dirty photo collage to get a feel for the idea and try out some colors and textures (that’s the image we posted a while ago). For a rough idea it turned out pretty well. So well, in fact, that at one point Mike wanted to just use that image.

Wigs & Liquor rough idea

The photo collage

The rough idea, especially as a photo collage, wasn’t capturing that lowbrow vibe that I wanted. The colors were all wrong, and in my mind it had to be more of an illustration. Anybody can slap a cover together in Photoshop (CD memes, anyone?), but it takes some effort to actually create a drawing by hand.

A lot of effort. Maybe too much effort.

To be concluded…

Designing wigs (part 1)

Saturday, February 5th, 2011
Wigs & Liquor

The wigs... and the liquor

We’ve had a number of people ask us about the inspiration for (and design process of) the packaging for Wigs & Liquor. Since we had a good time putting it together, we thought we’d share how it happened.

While we were working on the music (you know, the important part) we occasionally threw around some ideas for album covers. They came out of nowhere/everywhere like lots of brainstormed ideas will. Lots of funny turns of phrase, and plenty of idea juice lubing up the old art gears.

We decided to call the album Wigs & Liquor based on the experience of a friend. Essentially their story boiled down to, “You know you’re in a rough neighborhood when you see the wig store right next to the liquor store“. This experience inspired the song of the same name, and eventually we were digging on it for the title.

While all this was going on, we were all looking for artistic inspiration. A chance discovery of an old, freaky “monster” hot rod sticker (a cereal box prize, we think) got us thinking about that feel, which eventually led to finding the art of Coop.

His work is plain awesome, and to us it was stylistically a great representation of our music. It would have been great to get Coop to do the art for our record! Except for two things:

1. We can’t afford that kind of coolness.


2. We couldn’t even ask. And if we felt that way, we probably needed to refer back to #1.

Meh. What to do?

Well, we would have to take that inspiration and do it ourselves.

To be continued…

Attack of the clone

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

Last year around this time I was given a cool gift for a music geek.  It was a “build your own clone” electronics kit from (yep, you guessed it)  Since I am currently spending time sitting around with my leg in the air, I thought I’d finally put it together.  Since I was a good boy this year Santa brought me a Pedaltrain pedalboard, so it seemed like a good time to get some pedal stuff together.

This particular kit was for their Classic Phaser.  It was well packaged, and I had printed out the instructions from the site when my initial excitement was high.  I pulled all the parts out, heated up my soldering iron and went to town.

The directions are pretty straightforward – following the instructions and the circuit board layout resulted in just the cutest little schnookie of a circuit board:


Once the board was together I had to assemble the mechanical parts of the pedal.  The inputs and potentiometers and the foot switch all get connected to the enclosure with washers and nuts.


Once the hardware was in place it was time to wire everything together.  While I was doing that I remembered what a pain in the ass soldering in tight quarters can be.  Overall, though, there weren’t many connections so it wasn’t that big a deal.


When all the inputs and pots were wired up I made the connections to the circuit board.  The board has two plastic stand-offs that have double-sided tape on them.  The stand-offs actually attach to the bottoms of the two potentiometers that are mounted on the case.  Christmas Ale seemed to make things start going very smoothly at this point, by the way.


Once everything was mounted and connected, I threw a battery in and connected a guitar.  The final step was biasing the JFETs using the trim pot on the circuit board.


Surprisingly everything worked like a charm.  It sounds pretty cool. Here’s a little clip of a riff from a forthcoming tune:

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So that’s a “hand-wired” pedal.  You can buy hand-wired pedals now (like this), but they cost 150% – 200% of the price of one of these kits.  All told it took me a few hours of work over the course of a couple days.  I have to come up with some labels or stickers to give the enclosure some personality, but that’s the fun part.


The hockey puck worth $120

Sunday, November 15th, 2009

I’ve had an AKG C-414 microphone for about 10 years.  It’s been a good “workhorse” microphone for everything from drum overhead to acoustic guitar to room mic and beyond.  It seems to work pretty well for my voice, too.


The adapter that allows it to be attached to a mic stand broke a few years ago.  It’s a metal part except for the threaded connector that screws to the mic stand.  That part is plastic.  That is also the part that cracked, rendering the whole adapter useless.

I was looking for a replacement, but all I found were shockmounts that were absurdly expensive.  Some of them were almost half the price of the microphone itself.   I could have thrown hundreds at a new mount, but it rankled me that they were so damned expensive.  There had to be a way to use something I already had laying around to hold the microphone in place.

I tried using a regular mic clamp (like this) for a while.  I could squeeze the cylindrical barrel of the 414 into the plastic clip (which usually houses a dynamic mic like an SM 57 or 58), but it wasn’t very stable, and I couldn’t hang it upside down the way I like to when recording vocals.

I had recently gotten an MXL 990 mic for general use.  It’s a steal at $70, although the high frequency response seems to be pretty noticeable (I’ll fix it in the mix – ha!).  It came with a shockmount.  The mount was way too big for the barrel of the 414, though.


Later I was cleaning up the studio when I found a couple of free hockey pucks from the (now defunct) Cleveland Lumberjacks.  They were promo pucks that had been given out during a couple games I had attended years earlier.  I was going to throw them out, but some idea kept trying to surface in the back of my mind and it involved a hockey puck, so I hung onto them.

After I had moved on to doing something else, I finally realized why I had kept them.  They were circular.  Just like the opening in the MXL shock mount.  I could make a “donut” that would fill the space between the MXL shockmount rim and the barrel of the 414.

I figured I could use a hole saw to size the outside circumference to fit the MXL mount, then a smaller hole saw to cut out the hole in the center for the barrel of the 414.

Drilling through a hockey puck is just about fucking impossible.

I had it clamped flat in a vise, and I worked the hole saw down with as much force as I could muster.  The rubber is extremely dense, and it seemed to take a mighty long time before I was able to get through the thickness of the thing.  There was black rubber dust everywhere.  I re-clamped the now-smaller puck and did the same routine for the inner hole.  There was cursing involved.


FInally it was done.  I cut a notch all the way through so that it could “pinch” around the 414 barrel when I tightend the shock mount.  I wrapped the edges with gaffer tape (a must have for studio or gigging) to smooth it out, and I used a strip of rubber inside to tightly grip the 414.


There it was.  A functional shockmount.  In the land of the drunkdude, stubbornness is apparently the mother of invention.  At least when there’s a hockey puck laying around.