Sound Check Gunshots, Explosions, and Such
posted by December 13 at 13:35 PMon
Truckasauras - Touchdown Sounds.
On the planet of the interstate, an 18-wheeler towing a load of destructed Gameboys, joysticks, and sub woofers is inbound. It does 85. In the trailer, hundreds of synthesizers and speakers have been taken apart. Circuitry and wires dangle exposed. Quarter-inch cable winds like ivy over piles of discarded plastic casing. Four men huddle, hooked into a 16-channel soundboard. They sit on beanbag chairs and pull sips of Colt 45. A TV screen shows footage of Gravedigger the monster truck high in the air. An Eazy-E beat is looped, doubled with distorted bass, and synced to the touchdown sound from an old Mattel Electronics football game.
This is Truckasauras—the future of derivative techno. From the height and hustle of their rig, they can see the curvature of da earf.
Truckasauras makes dance music. Crunk, it has been called. They mate Donkey Kong to 2 Live Crew and project visuals of Hulk Hogan coming off the top rope. They are Adam Swan, Tyler Swan, Ryan Trudell, and visualist Dan Bordon. They have a raw and unique play of American game.
They also have gear—lots of it. And they are here with us today to share how they make their sets go bump in the night:
(Truckasauras play tomorrow, Friday, the 14th at Vera Project with U.S.E.)
Ryan has a museum of vintage analog gear. We are all hopeless gear nerds.
We run midi out to a converter that syncs up the Gameboy. The Gameboy is equipped with the Nanoloop cartridge. Nanoloop essentially turns the Gameboy into a drum machine/synth sequencer that uses its sound card. Think gunshots, explosions, and such as drum sounds, and the synth sounds of the soundtrack music combined together. We synced it up with old-school drum machines and synths to beef up the sounds and get more musical all the while showing off the gear.
I used to use an actual Commodore 64 with a keyboard/synth program. I would bring the whole unit, a TV, and the keyboard to all the shows. Needless to say, it blew up pretty soon after that. (Not really road-ready). So now I use the Elektron Sidstation that has the Commodore soundcard in a synth module running through various delays such as an Electro Harmonix Memory Man and a Boss DD-5 Digital Delay (I miss my Echoplex though, which is on the album).
For the visuals, Dan uses two VHS VCR decks hooked up to an Edirol Video mixer like a DJ’s turntables to project our images of hot wrestling action and Corey Haim humping hay at our shows.
As far as the process goes, we drink copious amounts of whiskey and beer to keep it rock ‘n’ roll. This is very important.
Ryan comes up with stripped-down sequences on the Gameboy, Tyler messes around drumming things out to program the sequences, and I come up with a melody for the top. Dan is usually watching really bad movies to find clips. Really bad!
Essentially, Ryan is kind of the overall songwriter, Tyler is the drummer, and I fill in the rest as either bass or melodies. Danbo’s Visuals are the front man.
Hereís what we use, and how we do:
Sequential Circuits Tom: This drum machine has an immense amount of programming possibilities, with cartridges to change up the internal sounds. Our favorite is Contemporary, with the “scratch” and “laser” sounds. It is also the master of the midi/sync setup.
Next in the chain is the FutureRetro Mobius. This is a step sequencer that is set up like a Roland TB-303 but has a million more perks. We use this to sequence the SH 101, but it also converts midi into dinsync and also has C/V gate as well. We use all of the different outs.
The Din Sync out goes to the Roland TB-303 (the staple of acid) and the Roland TR-808 (the classic drum machine everyone wants, has, or sampled the fuck out of). It sends start/stop signals.
The C/V out triggers the Roland SH-101, like the 303 sequencer. It sends notes as well as start and stop.
Ryan Trudell adds:
The name of the sound chip used in the sidstation and C64 is the MOS6581.
As far as the Gameboy goes, you create measure-long loops that are then saved into the Nanoloop cart’s memory. The loops can then be loaded in real time and each loop’s parameters (octave, waveform, filter resonance, frequency modulation, etc.) can be manipulated live.
The 808 is ridiculously awesome. The kick is so big that the decay needs to be set no more than about halfway open or else it drowns everything out of the mix. If we’re playing a venue with a good system, Tyler will frequently “open the flood gates” and fully open the decay in a stripped-down portion of a song. With the decay fully open, the kick makes the deepest organic “boom” I’ve ever heard. The illustrious Sir Mix-A-Lot summed it up in “Posse on Broadway” when he declared that “the 808 kick drum makes the girlies get dumb.” I can’t attest to its effect on the “girlies,” but when the kick decay is fully open on a big sound system it usually makes Tyler and I giggle like little school girls.