In 1996 I was a freshman at Kecoughtan High School in Hampton, Virginia, and already I knew that all I wanted to do was make music, write lyrics, and create artwork. I was heavily into punk rock, hardcore, industrial, and experimental music, and I didn’t know many other young teens with similar interests.
My parents were early adopters of the home computer. They had purchased a Macintosh in the early 90’s, and somehow I got my hands on some early wave editing software that allowed you to record, copy, paste, overdub, reverse, and add effects. I began producing very primitive electronic music with this editor, grabbing drum loops from Prong or Melvins and adding atmosphere’s from Pink Floyd flipped backward, with movie samples from horror flicks added in. The name of the project was Perpetual Taxidermy.
At the time, I was heavily influenced by industrial bands such as Skinny Puppy, Nine Inch Nails, and Ministry. Listening to SP’s “Bites” and NIN’s “Pretty Hate Machine”, I decided that was what I wanted to do with my life.
I met Arin Bennet at Kecoughtan, and almost immediately, we hit it off. He was a bass player in a local rock band but had begun experimenting with electronic music using DOS software called MOD Trackers. After sharing some of my Perpetual Taxidermy cassettes with him, we met at his house, where he taught me how to use these MOD Trackers.
A MOD tracker was a DOS-based sequencer and sampler. On the screen, it looked like a spreadsheet type grid that moved from the bottom of the screen to the top at a BPM (speed) you selected. As it moved the play bar, samples (sounds) would activate, like a player piano. These samples were programmed on the grid at frequencies (notes) that the musician selected using the computer’s keyboard, thus making music. MOD tracking software was a staple in the studio from 1996-2000. Most of my early albums were entirely programmed in MS-DOS.
Arin Bennett and I created Breech Doll in 1996. The project was mostly instrumental work, with occasional effect driven vocals. Arin owned a Tascam 424 four track cassette recorder, where we would dub down the MODs to tape using tracks one and two for the left and right stereo signals. This left two open tracks for guitar, vocals, or keyboards. The writing, recording, and production process during this time involved the two of us trading MODs on floppy disk for several months until we were ready to complete an album. Once we had the majority of the album complete, we woud stay the night at each others houses, pulling all nighters, high on caffeine and sugar, producing the early Breech Doll and Another Earthly Dimension cassettes. The first cassette we produced was Breech Doll’s “Population of Loss.”
During this area, I also began operating an experimental solo project, called Cage Clinic. The project rejected drums and beats and used everyday items recorded on a portable mini-cassette recorder and looped to make haunting “rhythms.”
In 1997, my parents gave me a Tascam 414 for Christmas, making me entirely self-sufficient for production. Arin and I continued for about one more year but musically drifted apart amicably as my output increased tenfold. Wanting to add more vocals, Breech Doll was abandoned, and Another Earthly Dimension was created by myself and mutual friend, Mike Gosselin.
The writing and recording process was very similar, except tracks were programmed with the express intention of adding vocals to the mix. Over the next few years, a revolving cast of musicians were brought in to guest on AED songs. Mike Gosselin, Arin Bennet, Shane Culliton, among others contributed programs, guitars, bass, etcetera to AED from 1997-2000.
Beginning with AED’s “Emotional Masquerade,” I began slowly going digital, adding a Mini-Disc recorder to dub cassettes down for digital masters.
In 1999, after recording AED’s “Baptimcision,” a new recording studio had opened in the area, Beach Road Records, and Arin was being mentored to work there as an engineer. Before the studio fully opened, Arin and I was in the studio dubbing “Baptimcision” down to a fully digital DAW, using Syntrillium’s Cool Edit Pro, a software that would eventually become Adobe Audition with the help of studio engineer, Jacob Satterfield.
Arin persuaded Jacob to take me under his wing and begin mentoring me as an audio engineer in the studio as well. The next and final AED album, “Friction In Fiction,” was the first fully digital AED album, using no analog tape mediums from start to finish. The album was also the last album to use MODs as the primary production tool, as more contemporary software DAW’s were hitting the market, such as Image-line’s Fruity Loops and Propellerhead’s Reason.
I would work with Beach Road Records as an engineer and website designer off and on until 2004.