Monday, November 23, 2009

Gabriel & Dresden's final DJ set at WMC 2008

If you know anything about dance/house music from the past decade, you’ve probably heard of Gabriel & Dresden. They won dozens of IDMA’s from 2005-2008, releasing a couple dozen #1 hits on the Billboard Dance charts, either as their own releases, or as remixes for other top artists such as Armin van Buuren, the Killers, Jewel, Way Out West, Madonna, Markus Shulz, Rachal Starr, Paul Oakenfold, New Order, Tiesto, Annie Lennox, Nalin & Kane, Sarah McLachlan, Coldplay, Deborah Cox, and Britney Spears. Well, maybe not all of those didn’t make it to number one, but many of them definitely did. Their music has helped define a generation of dance floor fans.

G&D’s last official show together happened at the Winter Music Conference (WMC) in Miami in 2008, at The Pawn Shop. Dave Dresden recently released a recording of that set, which is the whole point of this post. You can download it here in a minute.

I was really disappointed to hear that they had stopped collaborating together. Their last live show together outside of WMC was (to the best of my knowledge) a night at Pacha in NYC. I was actually supposed to videotape that show, because I was working on producing a short video promo for them. On the flights there, I got delayed by a snowstorm in Toronto and missed my connection by about two minutes, so I didn’t actually make it down to that show. Needless to say, it was one of the most disappointing moments of my life. At the time, I thought that I could make it up at a future show. In retrospect, it was one of those opportunities that you never get to have a second time.

Perhaps it is better that they started working independently? Both are incredibly talented, and I'm pretty confident that after a bit of experimenting and reassessment, both of their careers will benefit from the new direction. There is no doubt that their work as a team was incredible, but like anything, change is inevitable, and people who embrace change can benefit. My take on their partnership was that Josh was always a strong producer first and foremost, and Dave’s strength was always as being a superb DJ who could read a dance floor. But that would be a gross over-simplification - in the past twelve months, Dave has already charged head-first into churning out dance-floor anthems, and Josh Gabriel has been confidently exploring his own space both as a DJ and producer.

Dave is now working on a new collaborative project with Mikael Johnston (formerly of the California trance/house group Mephisto Odyssey). Already, they’ve done some major remixes for Nadia Ali, BT, JD Webb, The Crystal Method, and Lily Allen. Their remix of Lily Allen’s “The Fear” is great, and I’ve really been enjoying that remix for some time since I first heard it on one of Dave’s monthly promo mixes. Here’s a link to the video:
Embedding has been disabled for that video, so you won’t be able to watch it directly through this blog post, but you can check it out on the YouTube page. Also, if you're reading this on my Facebook feed, remember that Facebook doesn't import embedded videos so you'd have to click on the direct links anyway.

Here’s a link to the Dresden & Johnston remix of “Love Story.” If you are trying to figure out where you’ve heard Nadia Ali’s voice before, it was probably when she was the lead vocalist for iiO, with dance hits earlier this decade like “Rapture” and “The End.”

Nadia Ali, “Love Story” (Dresden & Johnston Official Vocal Remix)

Direct link to video:

Josh has also been very busy lately. I believe that he relocated from California to Amsterdam this year, to continue his work with Different Pieces and other projects. Here’s a link to one of his releases from earlier this year:

Josh Gabriel present Winter Kills, “Deep Down”

Direct link to video:

Anyway, although I am very excited about their new independent careers and the tracks that they'll both be producing, I'll have to admit that it's nice to listen to another of their sets from back in the day. I was lucky enough to have seen them performing in several venues in 2006-2008: Phoenix, Boston, Edmonton & New York. But of course, their last set at The Pawn Shop will go down in the history books.

It's a big one. Four hours, 600 megs. You can also find a copy of this set permanently archived on the "mix downloads" page on my website, along with a number of Josh & Dave's individual and combined sets. That page can be found here:

Enjoy ...

ETA: And here's a partial track listing, or what's been identified so far:

01. Donald Glaude & DJ Dan - Stick'em (Original Mix)
02. John Acquavida feat. Oliver Giacomotto - Sofa King (Fresco Remix)
03. Catz 'n Dogs - A Chicken Affair (Vinyl Version)
04. Francis Preve - Caboose (Original Mix)
05. System 7 - Space Bird (Dubfire's Deep Space Remix)
06. Faithless - Kind of Peace (Gabriel & Dresden Remix)
07. ID
08. James Holden - A Break In The Clouds (Beat Tool)
09. Josh Gabriel - Azora (Original Mix)
10. Gabriel & Dresden - Like An Enemy
11. Dirty South - Let It Go (Axwell Remix)
12. ID
13. Josh Gabriel - River
14. Junkie XL - Stratosphere
15. Deadmau5 - Not Exactly (Dave Dresden Remix)
16. Gabriel & Dresden - New Path (Dave Aude Remix)
17. ID
18. Sander van Doorn - Sushi (Edit?)
19. Rachel Starr - Till There Was You (Gabriel & Dresden Remix)
20. JF presents Smokecream - Retox (Wendel Kos Remix)
21. Sia - The Girl You Lost To Cocaine (Sander van Doorn Remix)
22. Josh Gabriel - Crosstalk
23. Just Jack - Writer's Block (Remix)
24. ID
25. Gabriel & Dresden - Tracking Treasure Down (Remix)
26. Mescalkid - Magic
27. Depeche Mode - Little 15 (Gabriel & Dresden Remix?)
28. ID
29. Jude Sebastian - Rubberman (Miles Dyson Remix) (Krafty Kuts Re-Rub)
30. Gabriel & Dresden - Mass Repeat
31. ID
32. Marco V. - Sessions (Robbie Rivera Remix)
33. Gareth Emery - More Than Anything (Christopher Norman Dub Remix)
34. The Killers - Read My Mind (Gabriel & Dresden Remix)
35. ID
36. ID w/ Motorcycle - As The Rush Comes (Acapella)
37. ID w/ Paul van Dyk - Let Go (Acapella) w/ Gabriel & Dresden - Let It Go (Acapella)
38. Josh Gabriel - Summit
39. Josh Gabriel - Tone Program
40. ID
41. 68 Beats - Replay The Night (Gabriel & Dresden Remix)
42. Big Bug & Bastard Beat - TI 1.0
43. Martin Eyerer feat. Namito - Quipa (Etienne de Crecy Remix)
44. Eric Prydz - Pjanoo
45. ID

Monday, November 9, 2009

Allen & Heath Xone 4D Mixer

I just fell in love, for the second time.

I got a new piece of equipment today, the Allen & Heath Xone 4D mixer. Check it out:

Let me preface by clarifying a few thoughts on mixers. DJ's always seem to have a favorite mixer. As do any real audio engineers or producers. I also have a favorite, the Pioneer DJM-600. And why not - it's an industry standard, and there is a reason for that. It's easy to use, well-built, has good effects, and is fairly versatile in terms of outputs, etc. I can use it in pitch black conditions, simply by feel and familiarity. However, I have also been a fan of the Allen & Heath mixers, because the sound quality has always seemed to be slightly better to me (more noticeable in bigger sound systems).

Do you like more than one type of cheese? Or more than one type of ice cream? Then you can appreciate more than one type of mixer.

So anyway, I was kind of excited to get a Xone 4d, but it took a month for it to arrive because I live in such a backwater town in Atlantic Canada, so some of the excitement was subject to deflationary pressures during the past several weeks. However, the mixer arrived today. And once again, after unpacking the beast, I'm all revv'd up with no place to go.

At this point, if you're not a DJ or audiophile, you may as well just give up on the rest of this post. It doesn't get any better. Scroll to the bottom, take a quick look at the other pretty picture, then surf to Spankwire or something more exciting (and be careful, that site is not office-friendly). But for those of you who like the technical specs on high-end audio equipment, stick around and check this out. Basically, the 4D is a combination audio mixer and MIDI controller. Specifically:

- Start with the audio specs of a Xone 92 (almost). Add 105 MIDI controls.
- 96/24 20-channel USB 2.0 sound card.
- Only four channels, but all triple input (line/phono/soundcard). And with the decline in popularity of tech 12's, four is enough.
- 3-band EQ's (not double-mids), a slight compromise.
- Two SFX sends.
- BPM counter, although you can always put a piece of duct tape over that. Of course, admittedly, it can probably be useful when merging with Ableton.
- 105 basic MIDI controllers, HOWEVER, they are shiftable, giving 227 total. I haven't figured out yet where the extra 17 come from. But it has everything from faders to rotaries to switches to jog wheels. And by the way, I'll admit that no DJ in their right mind probably needs more than 105 controls, except maybe the nutbars like Deadmau5 (and I mean that in a completely appreciative manner). And I bet that Nic Fanciulli could make this thing sing, except I assume that he plays mostly on CDJ's.
- Integration between some of the mixer controls and MIDI, which I think must be where the other 17 MIDI triggers come from.
- Inherent ASIO driver for USB communication, naturally.
- And most importantly, UV Paint!! Ok, I'm showing my geekiness here:

And all this for slightly less than the price of a failed marriage ...

Late Note, March 20th, 2013: I've just put together a very detailed and comprehensive YouTube video about this mixer:

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Friday, November 6, 2009

Video of DJ Colette in Moncton

Not too long ago, I had the pleasure of playing at a show with DJ Colette of Chicago. Colette is, without question, one of the most enjoyable DJ's and producers out there when it comes to house music. Not only does she have a number of huge hits of her own, but she actually performs them live during her shows, singing over instrumental versions and over other tracks.

Colette has quite a few tracks out there, although you'd probably know her best for her albums Hypnotized (2005) and Push (2007), or for being featured on the recent JJ Flores & Steve Smooth track, "Stay." From number one best-sellers at various points on Beatport and iTunes, to featured spots in Motorola commercials and movies such as "The Devil Wears Prada," you'll quickly see that her music has just about universal appeal.

Anyway, check out this video on YouTube which features excerpts from five of her recent vocal releases. All footage was taken at her show in Moncton, New Brunswick, on August 21st, 2009:

If you're reading this on Facebook, it doesn't automatically embed the video in the post, so you have to click on this link to see it:

Special Thanks to DJ Sonny D and to the promoters & management at l'Osmose Club for setting this all up!

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Taylor Mitchell

Today, Canada lost a great young musician. Taylor Mitchell, of Toronto, was attacked by coyotes while hiking yesterday in Cape Breton, during an Atlantic Canadian tour. She passed away this morning in Halifax. Taylor was a 19-year old indie folk rock singer/songwriter, with an idealistic view on life and a love for music.

While you're reading this blog posting, open up her MySpace page and listen to some of her songs:

Taylor was supposed to play in Sydney, Nova Scotia, this evening. Here's a link to an article explaining what happened: article

Toronto Singer-Songwriter Taylor Mitchell Attacked and Killed by Coyotes
10/28/2009 By Brock Thiessen

After just recently releasing her Exclaim!-recommended debut album, For Your Consideration, 19-year-old Toronto folk singer Taylor Mitchell has died after being attacked by two coyotes in Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Highlands National Park.

On Tuesday afternoon (October 27), Mitchell was hiking on the park’s Skyline Trail when the two animals attacked her. According to the Toronto Star, another hiker nearby heard Mitchell’s cries for help and called 911.

Mitchell was airlifted to Halifax in critical condition and died early this morning.

"I spoke to her mother late last night and at one point we thought she was stable," manager Lisa Weitz told the Star, "but she had lost too much blood."

An RCMP officer reportedly shot and killed one coyote overnight but officials are still looking for the second.

Mitchell was in the midst of an East coast tour and was scheduled to perform tonight in Sydney, NS. "She had a small break and [she] wanted to go hiking," said Weitz.

While coyotes attacks are rare, the popular Skyline Trail has been closed and barricaded since the incident.

This was a really ironic incident for me. The previous night, I had been re-learning the chords and lyrics to a hit by another Canadian singer, Joni Mitchell. It was an old song that Joni wrote in the 1970's, called "Coyote." Check out the "Last Waltz" concert by The Band, one of the best Canadian music films ever - I wonder if Taylor ever saw it, since she had listed Joni Mitchell and The Band and several other performers from that concert in her favorite influences. I had even changed my Facebook status, just hours before this incident, to mention the first few lines of that song, "no regrets Coyote ..." I've often worked close to coyotes (and wolves) in my forestry job, and the thought that a couple of these animals could act like this is a grim reminder that you can never know what to expect from wild animals.

Taylor played in my hometown of Sackville, New Brunswick, several days ago. She didn't have a big following yet, but she had big dreams. It's tragic that her goals of reaching out to a bigger audience have been realized at the end of her life, without her knowledge.

I hope a lot of Canadian musicians will see this post and share it on their own facebook pages and blogs. Cut and paste, if you want. Despite the tragedy, I think Taylor would have been happy to know that at least her music will, for a brief time, reach a much wider audience than she might have expected.

- Jonathan Clark
Sackville, New Brunswick, Canada

ETA: October 30th article on CNN:

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Separating a Mixed CD into Individual Tracks

Do you want to split a long continuously-mixed CD up into individual tracks, so you can jump from song to song, but still want it to play "seamlessly"? This page will help you learn how. It usually takes almost an hour to cut a CD up into individual tracks, and definitely longer the first time you do it, but it is fairly easy. Warning: if you aren't at least moderately comfortable with Desktop Audio Software, you might not want to read any further.

This information is useful if, for instance, you have a full CD-length mix, which is one continuous track that has all the songs beat-mixed together. This can be a pain in the ass when you burn the single-track mix onto a CD and you want to find a specific song within the mix, or if you're driving in a car with a poor stereo and it hits a bump and goes back to the very beginning of the CD.

I'm going to use Adobe Audition (formerly known as Cool Edit Pro) and the Ahead Nero burning program in my examples. You can probably take the same approach with most other high quality music editors and burners, but with minor changes to procedures. A lot of burning programs say that you can pick a number of "set-points" within the mix, and the CD will automatically break things up for you. Unfortunately, although I have played around with this feature in a couple of programs, I have never had much success with the "set-points" approach, so I learned to do it manually.

Basically, what we're going to do is very simple. We're going to cut the mix up into a number of different files, and then burn each file onto the CD in order, with no automatic 2-second space between tracks. Let's start with the Adobe Audition portion of the project.

Start Audition, and open your mix in single waveform view, not as a track in the multi-track view. At this point, I should caution you that while I have done this a number of times with wave files, I tried it once with an MP3, and I got little "hiccups" whenever the track changed. I don't know if this was because I was using an MP3 as the source file, or if it was some other problem. I usually work with WAV files, so I didn't investigate this issue any further. To be safe, if you have a choice, you should definitely start with a wave file. Stick with the highest possible quality right from the start. I guess at this point I should also teach you how to convert an MP3 to a wave. It seems redundant to be doing this, since MP3 is a compressed format, and by converting an MP3 to a wave, you are NOT increasing the quality, you are just making the file several times larger. Therefore, the ONLY time you would ever want to do something dumb like this is because of the fact that I don't think an MP3 blends seamlessly when cut up. Anyway, you probably have two choices. You can probably load the mp3 into Audition then choose "save as" and set the filetype to Windows PCM wave. Or, what I have done in the past is to go into Winamp, go into Options then Preferences, go to Output Options, and change the setting from "DirectSound Output" to "NullSoft Discwriter." When you load up the MP3 and play it, nothing will come out of your speakers! Instead, it will "play" much faster than normal, with no sound, and the file will be written to the hard drive as a .WAV file. Where, I don't know. You'll have to check your preferences/configuration settings for the discwriter option and see where the file is going.

Anyway, back to Audition. Now you should have your .WAV file loaded. At this point, chose "save as" and make a backup copy with a different name than the original. You're going to do your editing on that backup copy. That way, if you screw things up, your original is still safe.

The next thing you should do is go through the file and figure out where you're going to put all the track divisions. This will probably take the majority of the time. Once you know where you're going to be splitting the file, the rest of the process should only take about fifteen minutes.

Count how many separate tracks you have. For instance, if I was cutting up one of my old mixes (Welcome To The Machine), I would make a list that looks like the following:

01. Playsound, 00:00
02. Spirit, 06:53
03. Losing It, 12:30
04. Waterfalls, 16:24
05. Inkfish, 20:33
06. PFN, 25:34
07. Drifting, 30:58
08. Lovely, 34:24
09. Disorientation, 39:02
10. Girl, 43:02
11. I Love Techno, 49:05
12. Musak, 52:30
13. Tell You, 54:19

Obviously, I have thirteen tracks on this particular mix. Go to the beginning of the last track, in my case, the 54 minute and 19 second mark. If you're just doing this for kicks or to learn something new for fun, you don't have to get any more accurate than to the nearest second - as long as you're close, things are good. However, if you're like me, you want to start things exactly at the start of the proper beat. To do this, I play the stuff on the screen for several seconds before the track split to get a feel for exactly where I want to split it. Then, I highlight about a fifth of the visible screen (as seen in Audition) and then chose the yellow button on the lower left of the zoom controls, which means "zoom to selection." Whatever area you have just selected now fills the entire visible part of the timeline. Play the bit leading up to your cut again, and once more get a feel for where it is. Then, once again, select about a fifth of the screen around your intended track split, and zoom into your selection again. Eventually, by repeating this process a couple times, you'll get to the point where only three or four seconds of the overall wave file are visible on the screen, and you know where the exact beat is that you want track 13 to start on, both in terms of visual representation on the screen, and time-wise.

At this point, you want to test it. Place the cursor at the beginning of the beat you want your track 13 to start on, in other words, just before the graphic representation of the wave starts to get some substance (volume) to it. Now, press play, and see if it sounds like a "good first beat to a track" should sound. If not, move a little to the left or right, until you've found a starting spot that sounds good. Once you're happy, move the cursor over that point again, click your left mouse-button and HOLD IT DOWN, then move the mouse to the right of the screen. The wave file will start scrolling very rapidly (or so it looks) to the right, toward the end of the overall file. In reality, because you are zoomed in to such a high magnification, it may take thirty or forty seconds before you reach the end of the file. Once you stop scrolling to the right, and NOT BEFORE you are all the way to the end, you can now let go of the mouse button. Now, go up to "file" and chose "save selection as" from the drop-down menu. Save it as "track 13 - whatever". Then, hit the delete key once. This will eliminate whatever you have just saved as track 13 from the mix. Your wave file will now contain only the music for tracks 1-12.

Repeat the process outlined above for track 12. Go to the 52:30 mark (in my example), zoom in until you sound like you have a good start point, then highlight from that point to the end of what remains of your mix. Save the selection as "track 12 - whatever", then delete the selection with the delete key, and get ready to start the process again with track 11.

Keep going until you only have tracks one and two left on the screen. Isolate and save track 02 as you have for the other tracks, as described above. Now, all that is left is the first track. Save it as "track 01 - whatever". Of course, this time you're just doing a "save as" with whatever is left, instead of picking a selection. By the way, for all tracks with single digits, it is smart to add a zero to the listing, ie. save "track 2" as "track 02." This matters first with track 09 (as you are working backwards), because it is the first single digit track you will encounter while tracking down. The reason for this will become clear in a minute.

Throughout this entire process, except for the very last track (track 01), make sure you always click "save selection as" rather than "save as". I've made that mistake before, and had to start the whole process over again from the beginning.

Ok, so now you have a folder on your computer somewhere with thirteen different .WAV files to represent the thirteen individual tracks. Of course, the main master .WAV file that you started with may also be there, which is fine. Open up your Nero burning program now. Find the folder. Drag and drop all thirteen tracks into the "burn" panel on the left side. NOW you probably understand why I said to make all the single digits have two digits - because it keeps them in proper order, so your CD doesn't burn in this order: track 1, track 10, track 11, track 12, track 13, track 2, track 3, and so on. Computers aren't dumb unintentionally, they were just built that way. Of course if you didn't add the zeros, you can manually rearrange the tracks so they are in the proper order, but that's extra work that can be avoided if you're smart as you save each individual track.

Now, highlight tracks two through thirteen. Once you have done that, right-click on one of them, and choose "preferences." You will see a window come up with the title "audio track info." There is a place there that says "pause" and there is normally a value of 2 (seconds) in it. Change this to zero and hit OK. Now, tracks 02 and higher should all say 00:00 for the pause value, while the first track should still say 02:00. Basically, there is normally a two-second pause inserted between each track when you are burning a CD full of tracks. However, because you want it to sound "seamless," you don't want that pause to happen. Therefore, you set it to zero seconds pause before each track starts. For some reason, the computer won't let you put anything less than a two-second pause before the first track - if you do, your CD probably won't play. However, that shouldn't matter - it's the start of the disc, and nobody notices. There is probably a good technical explanation of why the first track needs a minimum two second pause, but I'm not going to ask Sony why this is the case - it was probably just one of the conventions decided on when the big corporations came up with a plan about how to structure the CD industry.

Ok, here's the final thing you need to do: obviously, you're burning this as an AUDIO CD and not as a CD-ROM. However, you need to set the "write method" in Nero to say "disc-at-once" rather than "track-at-once" or "disc-at-once(96)". This is the only way you'll get a smooth, continuous flow of music when listening to your CD. If everything worked properly though, you will be able to use the "next track" and "previous track" buttons on the CD player to jump back and forth to the start of the different songs, or I should say more accurately, to wherever you put your setpoints.

By the way, always make sure you "finalize" your CD. If you do not finalize the CD, it will play with no problems in pretty much any computer CD/DVD player. However, if you do not finalize it, it will NOT play in the vast majority (about 99%) of normal home stereo CD players and automobile CD players and portable discman players. It would be embarrassing for you to test the CD in your computer, to make sure it works, then give it to someone and the have them discover that it doesn't play in their car stereo because you forgot to finalize it.

The method that I've outlined here SHOULD work and SHOULD be transferrable to other programs with a minimum of hassle, but if it doesn't quite work right the first time, just play around and experiment. You'll learn more by experimenting than you will by emailing someone else who doesn't have time to answer you.

One final note that I should point out is that it is not necessarily a wise move to "cut up" mixes that you're distributing on the internet, because of potential legal issues. If you separate a mix into each of the individual tracks and then offer it free to the world on the net, you are going to really piss off the artists that have tracks on the mix. Cutting it up makes it easier for people to get free copies of their music, which is frustrating for music producers. A mix that remains fully mixed is generally tolerated because it features the artists' music and often encourages other DJ's to purchase some of the better tracks that they hear on the mix. But if the mix comes as a group of individual songs, the incentive to go out and buy the songs is negated. So the main reason that I'm providing this information is for personal use only. I don't offer any cut-up mixes on my website, for the very reasons that I've just outlined. I want to support the artists who make the music that I play, rather than reduce their potential sales.

Good luck!

PS: If you want to cut a CD up into parts for use in the car, etc., but don't want to take the time to find the exact perfect moments where one song "becomes" another, just cut the mix up into five minute sections. The "songs" may not start at the beginning of a song, but at least if the CD skips and goes back to the beginning, you can forward through it in five minute chunks to approximately where you left off.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Separating Vocals from Songs

I've gotten quite a few inquiries from people recently on how to separate or remove vocals from a song, so they can then remix those vocals into a different track. It's very difficult to do, but it IS possible in some cases, so I'll outline a way to make it happen here.

First, in order to do this, you need to find a radio edit of the song that you like, with vocals. Then, you also need to find the exact same version of the song but as an instrumental, ie. without the vocals. If you can't find both of these two versions, then this trick won't be possible.

Next, you need to import the two audio files into your sequencer. Line them up perfectly in parallel, down to the millisecond (actually, to the exact sample). You need to be able to play them simultaneously so that they sound exactly like just one song (except for the vocals standing out, of course).

Now, convert each track to mono, so the two stereo channels are combined in each track. They need to be panned to the center.

Once you've done the above steps, and you know that they are completely synchronized, then take the instrumental track and invert the phase of the entire track.

Now, play the two tracks together, or bounce them to disk. The phase inverted version in the instrumental will cancel out the waveforms of the music in the vocal version, leaving only the vocals behind.

Now if you cannot find the full song as both a vocal take and an instrumental with the same arrangement, then you're almost out of luck. The only rare exception is that if you have just the vocal version, sometimes (in theory) you can pull tiny snippets of the vocals out from the track by cutting it up and following the steps above (for instance if there is a chorus with vocals and another "chorus" chord arrangement in the song without singing). This wouldn't work with rock songs, because they are recorded live and they won't be exactly the same, even if the musicians tried to play them exactly the same. But in today's studio-heavy world, some pop songs which are computer produced are probably generic enough to make it work. I've never actually tried this, but in theory, you might find some songs that you could do it with.

Let's step back for a while and ask why you're separating the vocals from a song. I presume that you're trying to remix a track that you like. Are you doing it because you like that track specifically, and no other? If you're doing this as a project for an artist, they should be able to provide the vocals for you. If you're doing it for yourself, then you face a bigger challenge.

An audio file that contains only vocals and no instruments at all is called an acappella. This term is actually a contraction of two Latin words, "a cappella," which literally means "from the chapel," or figuratively, "from the choir." You can do internet searches for acappella tracks in all kinds of places: Google, torrent sites, and legitimate music sites. The trick is to remember that many people spell the word incorrectly. To search effectively, you should search for "accappella" and "acappella" and "acapella" (this last one is the most common spelling and yields the best results in searches, although some people argue that the one with two P's is more correct). If I had a preference, I'd like to see things spelled correctly. So if you're a producer who is releasing acappellas, let's see if we can change the world together, and start spelling it with two P's.

Personally, rather than bang my head against a wall trying to find vocals for a specific track that I want to remix, I do it this way: I'll spend half an hour on the net, trying to locate an acappella for that particular song. If I can't find one in that amount of time, I'm probably not ever going to find one. Sometimes, it is better to just admit defeat and look instead for acappellas in general, and then pick one that you like which is already available.

There are a lot of acappellas out there. If you search download or torrent sites, you can find lots of legal ones that you can download very quickly. Some have to be purchased, but many are free, depending on which sources you use. Go to as an example. Enter "acappella" into the search engine, and you'll find several hundred tracks to choose from. Enter "acapella" and you'll find thousands.

In rare cases, if you are looking for a specific song, you can actually contact the artist and ask if you can have a copy of the vocals. Some artists will give these out, although it's pretty rare on major labels unless you happen to be a very well-known remixer with a lot of previous credits on your resume. Many smart studios/artists will recognize the fact that the more often that their songs are remixed, the more publicity (and therefore royalties) that go to the copyright holders for the songs. The remixer doesn't get any royalties (except in certain uncommon exceptions for top remixers). Usually, all the money is made by the original artist (or I should say, more accurately, by the studio). Of course, you do also have to recognize that a bad remix of a track doesn't help much, because it won't get played and therefore won't drive radio-play or other royalties. Some artists/studios will provide vocals under strict conditions that the artist/studio gets to review the remix first before it is allowed to be released, and they have the right to prevent the remixer from releasing the remix if they don't like his/her version of the song.

So anyway, the moral of the story is that if you have your heart set on remixing one specific song, sometimes there are options. But usually, I find it is best to listen to some of the thousands of vocal recordings that are already out there, and choose one of those readily-available tracks to remix.

Good luck with your remixing projects!

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Halifax Classics Reunion 2009

This past weekend I played at a private event, held in Nova Scotia at a private camping site with a number of cabins and chalets. Approximately a dozen DJ's played in total, and the sets were a lot of fun, because I was playing with a bunch of old friends. Essentially, the guest list for the event included a lineup of DJ's who have all been playing in Halifax and throughout Atlantic Canada & beyond for at least ten years or more, and the attendees at the Reunion (a little under 100 people) were all people who partied a lot in Halifax in the 1990's.

The rules were simple. Each DJ got about an hour to play, and the goal was to try to play on all vinyl, and to use only tracks that were produced in 2000 or earlier. There were some legendary Halifax DJ's playing: Tommy Knuckles, Jorun Bombay (possibly my favorite set), Charife, Nick Nonsense, Mad Mike Mathers, and half a dozen others. In addition, legendary house DJ Terrence Parker flew in from Detroit to play a two hour set as a headliner for the evening.

I recorded my set, and if anyone is interested, it's available now for downloading. Be forewarned: this is old music! And not just old songs, but old vinyl, so the sound quality isn't quite as good as most mixes that would be released nowadays. Some of the tracks that I played were definitely big favorites many years ago, and I've played them so many times that the vinyl was almost worn out.

Here's a track listing:

   01. Echomen, "Substance"
   02. 16B feat Morel, "Escape (Driving To Heaven)" [Omid's Dark Dub]
   03. Trancesetters, "Roaches" [Peace Division Remix]
   04. Halo Varga, "Future" [Original Mix]
   05. Tilt, "Seduction Of Orpheus" [Tarrantella vs Redanka Remix]
   06. Datar, "B" [Tarrantella & Redanka's NYSC Mix]
   07. Jason Downs, "Cherokee" [John Creamer & Stephane K Remix]
   08. Killahurtz, "West On 27th" [A Tribe Called KHz Mix]
   09. Jimmy Van M, "ECIPS" [Medway Remix]
   10. Art Of Trance, "Madagascar" [Cygnus X Mix]

As you can see, the set was mostly very heavy and darker progressive/tribal stuff, although I did end things off with a trance classic, in honour of a good friend of mine, Darin Lee (Thrills), who couldn't make it for the weekend.

Click here if you want to see a small photo gallery from the event.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

-Live at Photosynthesis- mix now available

The set that I played at the Photosynthesis 2.0 Festival in Trout Lake, Washington (on August 7th) is now online.

The set is a little over two hours long, and it was a spontaneous show. I showed up at the festival on Friday night, just to relax for the weekend and help my friend TProphet, who was running the Techno Barn stage for the weekend. However, five minutes after I arrived, someone asked me if I would be willing to play since the scheduled DJ was stuck in traffic and couldn't make it in time for his set. I ended up playing in that slot, plus the one immediately afterward (for the same reason), which gave me a completely unexpected two-hour set. I wasn't really mentally prepared for this, so my programming & mixing was a bit disjointed for the first half hour, but then I got into a groove and had a lot of fun with the set.

Here’s the track listing from the set:

   01. Arnold, "Am I."
   02. DJ Wope, "My Generation."
   03. Artificial Dreamer, "Dusted."
   04. Audionova & Electrobios, "Pacific."
   05. Prospect, "Tok."
   06. Wawa & Thomas Gold, "Latin Thing."
   07. Dfuzhion, "Unidentified."
   08. Carl Jurgen, "City Lights."
   09. KT, "Riders On The Storm."
   10. Sensorica & Omen, "Another Day."
   11. Mark Ronson, "Oh My God."
   12. Danny Teneglia, "D'Ibiza."
   13. Nicholas Van Orton, "Evil Forces."
   14. Etienne Osborne, "Drums Of Afrika."
   15. Creamer & K, "Forget The World."
   16. Reead, "Nobody's Innocent."
   17. Basement Jaxx, "Raindrops."
   18. Kurd Maverick, "All Over The World."
   19. MattLok, "Rock The Box."
   20. Heaven & Earth, "And Let's Disco."
   21. Bailey & Fauvrelle, "Pushing Beatz."
   22. Cedrick Gervais, "Electro Therapy."
   23. Maska, "Late."
   24. Chris Scott and Dmitry Bobrov, "Too Much Is Not Enough."

You'll notice that I didn't list the exact remix that I used for each track. That's because none of them are conventional remixes. I've started taking every track that I play in sets and doing a "Bolivia's Edit" on the track. I usually cut out the major breakdowns entirely, to keep the dance floor moving. Sometimes I mix and match between a couple different remixes of a particular track. For mid-volume breakdowns, I often increase the volume a few decibels. I add one or two effects throughout the track, or drop-outs on key beats. And then finally, I boost with a hard limiter so the volume ends up being fairly consistent throughout, even through the breakdowns. All in all, that keeps the dance floor a lot more aggressive and energetic. If I ever want to give the dancers a quick break, I can reduce volumes on breakdowns on the mixer. I find this keeps things fresh and higher energy. I'll keep a few originals with breakdowns in my crate, so I can play to a lower energy level early in the set if necessary, or so I can give the dance floor a real break late in the night, but 90% of the tracks that I play are ones that I've modified before the show.

This was the second year for Photosynthesis. The festival was organized by Kyle Bove, a friend of mine from Seattle who is a talented musician himself. It featured some really amazing acts over the weekend, including the Lawn Chair Generals, Amon Tobin, Daedelus, and Kid Koala (and about fifty other talented acts). In addition, a big highlight for me was getting introduced to the music of Bryan Zentz, who played a set starting about an hour after I finished. To put it quite simply, he rocked. It's probably been about three or four years since I've enjoyed a set as much as his, and I've seen some pretty top notch "A-Class" DJ's in the past few years. I think that a lot of the tracks he played were his own productions, and I was thoroughly impressed. If you like progressive house, check out his work.

This mix can be downloaded as part of an archive of all 28 of DJ Bolivia's available recordings of live shows, from the following Google Drive link:

The recordings are compressed as a RAR archive, which can be opened natively in Windows.  If you're using a Mac, you can use a free utility to open the RAR (popular examples are "The Unarchiver" and the "UnRarX" app).  The password to open the archive is simply 'bolivia' and the size of the download is 5.6 gigabytes.  If you have problems downloading this archive from the above Google Drive link, you can email DJ Bolivia at for an alternate download link.

Additional information about finding any of DJ Bolivia's older mixes can be found at this link:

Thanks for your interest in these old historical mixes!

Anyway, please email the link to the mix to any of your friends who might like listening. It's not quite as professional as the set that I recorded in Vegas the week before, but there are a lot of good tracks in here. Only eight of the twenty four tracks in this set were also in my recent Vegas set, so the two mixes don't overlap much.


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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Best Live Rock Concerts

Although the name "DJ Bolivia" probably makes most people think of dance music, I've got a much broader musical background than just electronic beats. I probably listen to more classic rock and indie rock than dance tracks, and I also listen to classical and jazz music fairly often. Anyway, I was asked a few weeks ago what my favourite live album would be, and that was a really tough question that got me thinking. So I came up with a list of my top seven picks for live rock albums.

I also have to comment on one thing that's always bothered me. Quite often, the soundtracks to live albums have very little resemblance to videos produced from the same shows. Bands have frequently remastered the soundtracks, adding overdubs, combining parts from multiple performances, and even adding studio tracks into the middle of the albums. And almost without exception, I've preferred the soundtracks to the videos. I know that they are usually less "true" to the original show, but the sound quality and content is usually a lot better, in my mind.

Top Pick:

01. Genesis, "Seconds Out" – Genesis released several live albums, but this one has got to be my favourite. This album was recorded after Peter Gabriel left the band and Phil Collins took over as lead singer, but still contains many older tracks that were originally sung by Gabriel. "Three Sides Live" is another great Genesis live album, but I prefer "Seconds Out" because it focuses more on the band's more complex older material, before they started writing shorter mainstream tracks. Strangely enough, of the top seven live albums that I'm listing here, I think this is the one that most people would enjoy the least. But personally, I like it a lot, so there you go. Sorry, there is no film version available.

Other Favorites:

02. Dire Straits, "Alchemy Live" – I listened to this album hundreds and hundreds of times before I ever knew that it was also available on film. You don’t need to see the film. Put the album on, close your eyes, and enjoy. Now you’d know where "Romeo & Juliet" (The Killers) originally came from. Incidentally, I just noticed a couple days ago that the film version is going to be re-mastered and re-released next spring.

03. Pink Floyd, "Delicate Sound of Thunder" – This album, more than any other, turned me into a Pink Floyd fan, and this is one of the rare picks where I prefer the film version rather than the album. This was recorded in 1988, and was not received as well as their 1994 live album/film, "Pulse." I’ll admit that the production and film quality of "Pulse" is a lot better. However, there’s something about "Delicate Sound Of Thunder" that just stands out for me, even though it’s quite a bit shorter than "Pulse." I think it might be because of the recording for "That Great Gig In The Sky." The version on "Delicate Sound Of Thunder" is far better than the "Pulse" version, and the video shot of the girl in the crowd fluffing her hair always blew me away (this was maybe at a live show at Versailles Palace, if I recognize the background correctly). I think that for a long time I was in love with Rachel Fury, the first of the three singers in the "Delicate Sound Of Thunder" version, although admittedly the next two singers gave better vocal performances during this track. Unforgettable. Watch the movie, don’t just listen to the soundtrack.

04. Talking Heads, "Stop Making Sense" – If you don’t know this one, you’re missing out on some classic Rock 'n' Roll history. But first of all, let me admit something embarrassing. I have listened to this soundtrack for twenty years, and I only saw the film for the first time ever this week. And that's crazy, because I've known about the film for twenty years. The premise is simple – the show starts out with just the lead singer (David Bryne) performing "Psycho Killer" on an acoustic guitar with a synthesized drum track. As the concert progresses, more and more band members and equipment are slowly added to the stage. Anyway, the soundtrack only contains nine songs, whereas the film contains almost twice as many. And the soundtrack was heavily re-edited, so when I saw the film last week I thought it must have been from a completely different concert, but it wasn't. My recommendation is that you stick with the soundtrack here, although you need to watch the film at least once to understand it better.

05. Tom Petty, "Pack Up The Plantation" – This is classic summer cottage rock at its best. Apparently, a video exists to accompany this album, but you don't need to watch it. This is all older Tom Petty material which some people might not recognize, but it is great stuff. Do you remember the "American Girl" sequence in the movie "Silence Of The Lambs"? This soundtrack has, in my opinion, the best recording that I've ever heard of "American Girl."

06. Neil Young, "Rust Never Sleeps" – It's hard to get excited about such a short cross-section of Neil Young's career, as he is probably my favourite singer/songwriter, with hundreds of great songs to his credit over about five decades. But this album is great, especially the acoustic hits like "Thrasher" and "Pocohontas." Don’t worry about seeing the film – the album is good enough as a standalone product.

07. Allman Brothers, "Live at Fillmore East" – Classic, classic blues rock. From the opening licks of "Statesboro Blues," to the epic 23 minute long "Whipping Post," you can't go wrong. Grab a case of beer, head to the cottage, and start the party right by throwing this onto the stereo. I don't think there are film versions of this.

There you have it. A great selection of live shows, and almost without exception, you can focus on the albums rather than on the video recordings. Track some of these down and give them a listen today.

Now it's your turn. List some of your favorite classic (or indie) rock concerts in the comments below ...

Sunday, August 16, 2009

-Live In Las Vegas- mix now available

The set that I played at DefCon 17 in Las Vegas (on July 31st) is now online.

This mix can be downloaded as part of an archive of all 28 of DJ Bolivia's available recordings of live shows, from the following Google Drive link:

The recordings are compressed as a RAR archive, which can be opened natively in Windows.  If you're using a Mac, you can use a free utility to open the RAR (popular examples are "The Unarchiver" and the "UnRarX" app).  The password to open the archive is simply 'bolivia' and the size of the download is 5.6 gigabytes.  If you have problems downloading this archive from the above Google Drive link, you can email DJ Bolivia at for an alternate download link.

Additional information about finding any of DJ Bolivia's older mixes can be found at this link:

Thanks for your interest in these old historical mixes!

The set is about 77 minutes long. I actually played about fifteen minutes longer than that, but I cut the last couple songs out from the recording so it would fit onto a CD, for those of you who listen to mixes in CD players instead of on mp3 players or on computers.

Here’s the track listing from the set:

     01. David Jones & Aqua Diva, "Thriller."
     02. Electrixx, "Tetris."
     03. Creamer & K, "Forget The World."
     04. Sandy Rivera & Andy Daneill, "Whatever."
     05. Jean Elan, "Killer."
     06. Basement Jaxx, "Raindrops."
     07. Mark Ronson, "Oh My God."
     08. Reead, "Nobody's Innocent."
     09. Bailey & Fauvrelle, "Pushing Beatz."
     10. Chris Scott and Dmitry Bobrov, "Too Much Is Not Enough."
     11. Dextro, "My House Is Your House."
     12. DJ Wope, "My Generation."
     13. Heaven & Earth, "And Let's Disco."
     14. Leron Yves Eaux and Luke Star, "Fashionized."
     15. Felguk, "All Night Long."

For people who were at the party and who are wondering what the last tracks (not included on the download mix) were, I finished the set with:

     16. Levan, "Miau."
     17. Milk & Sugar, "Let The Sun Shine."

You'll notice that I didn't list the exact remix that I used for each track. That's because none of them are conventional remixes. I've started taking every track that I play in sets and doing a "Bolivia's Edit" on the track. I usually cut out the major breakdowns entirely, to keep the dance floor moving. Sometimes I mix and match between a couple different remixes of a particular track. For mid-volume breakdowns, I often increase the volume a few decibels. I add one or two effects throughout the track, or drop-outs on key beats. And then finally, I boost with a hard limiter so the volume ends up being fairly consistent throughout, even through the breakdowns. All in all, that keeps the dance floor a lot more aggressive and energetic, and if I ever want to give the dancers a quick break, I can reduce volumes on breakdowns on the mixer. I find this keeps things fresh and higher energy. I'll keep a few originals with breakdowns in my crate, so I can play to a lower energy level early in the set if necessary, or so I can give the dance floor a real break late in the night, but 90% of the tracks that I play are ones that I've bastardized prior to the show.

Please email the link to any of your friends who might like listening.


Saturday, March 28, 2009

Armin van Buuren Photos

This past Sunday night, I got a chance to see Armin van Buuren in Halifax, Nova Scotia, courtesy of Underdog Productions. I wasn’t actually playing on the bill that night, I just went to relax and take some photos. It was my first night using a new camera (a basic Canon XSi digital SLR), but I managed to get a few decent shots. Here's the link:

I owe a big thanks to Armin for being so accommodating with the photography.

Armin has been ranked by DJ Mag as the #1 DJ in the world for the past couple of years. To lend credence to this assessment, consider this: his signature A State Of Trance radio show is listened to by thirty million fans - every single week. Wow. I’ve had my website online for about seven years and I’ve only had around fifteen thousand mixes directly distributed during that time (although I’m sure with pass-alongs, the number is probably a lot higher).

Armin is Dutch. He’s got a law degree, but wanted to give up that career to pursue his love of music. He’s a producer, who has a number of huge hits, both as singles and from the several albums that he has self-produced. He doesn’t use an engineer – he does all of his own production work. He loves his fans, and is always happy to sign autographs and shake hands at the end of his shows.

Some of Armin's well-known hits include Love You More, Blue Fear, Exhale, This World Is Watching Me, Communication, In And Out Of Love, Burned With Desire, Serenity, and Yet Another Day (and a few of the older tracks in this list have only been officially released on YouTube very recently, so they haven't had a lot of views yet). But that's only a very short list of tracks that I could quickly find videos for. For a full look at his portfolio, check out Discogs. The list of work that he has produced is simply staggering.

Check out his website at