Tascam 464 four track recorder 1991-1992

Tascam 464 four track recorder 1991-1992 Tascam 464 four track recorder

It was an amazing bit of luck to have access to this, and we used it to record the vocals for 11 of the tracks on the CD. Possibly because I was paranoid that I might wreck a piece of gear that belonged to “Nivek Ogre”, I treated it with great reverence, and it served me well. This is not to say that I had a lot of success in terms of the quality of the results, but getting the vocals recorded without breaking the machine was a success in itself. The EQ had one semi-parametric band, which was a handy way for me to make the vocals as shrill and horrible as I possibly could. Mission accomplished!     

Atari 1040 ST/Creator 1991-1998

Atari 1040 ST/Creator 1991-1998 Atari 1040 ST/Creator

Other than the TX16W sampler, this was the “brains” of T4M for the duration of the most active period of the band, from 1991 to 1995. With a comparatively (to the QX-21) whopping potential for up to 32 MIDI tracks, an intuitive graphic interface, an honest-to-goodness mouse control, and for our purposes UNLIMITED MIDI event memory, Creator was a significant leap as a compositional tool. Prior to the integration of software multi-track digital audio workstations (DAWs), it was the absolute go-to program for sequencing. One of the first things I did was transfer files from the QX-21 into Creator and - get this – save them to floppy disk. I never looked back. To this day, both Gabriel and I still compare the effectiveness of contemporary DAW MIDI sequencing environments to Creator. Many of them are very effective and probably better, but subjectively lacking in the magic.

A point of dubious interest, the file names needed to be 8 characters or less, so working song titles tended to be very short, most of which became the final titles on the CD.  

Sequential Circuits Pro One 1991-1992

Sequential Circuits Pro One 1991-1992 Sequential Circuits Pro One

Ogre lent this synth to Gabriel, and in retrospect, I have no idea why I didn’t use it - possibly because anything that didn’t have a MIDI plug on it was dead to me, but I was a great fool. Had I had any sense, we could have cooked up tons of good sounds on it, and then sampled them.

I’ll leave the overview to Gabriel.

@Gbrl says: "This was a brilliant machine. It was the kind of synthesis that I was actually comfortable with . A lot of the percussive sounds on 'Plague' were actually synthesized and sampled from the Pro One. Probably bass sounds are what we should have used it for more, but those were different times... actually there's no excuse, we should have used it for more bass sounds, period.

The only problem was this particular one had a problem with the keys. No idea why, but they worked intermittently, and never had very good feel. Still, would cheerfully kill to have one now."

Akai S900 sampler 1991-1994

Akai S900 sampler 1991-1994 Akai S900 sampler

Initially loaned to Gabriel by Ogre, I bought one later. I sort of wished I’d bought a second TX16W instead.

The S900 (1986) came out two years before the 16W (1988), and it was essentially the first inexpensive and most popular “professional” sampler on the market, so I assumed that it was superior on all fronts. Compared to the 16W, the S900 was far easier to work with in terms of editing and…well, everything. On the down side, it was limited in terms of the number of possible simultaneous instruments (polyphony), as well as the over-all efficiency in terms of sample quality. Basically, I could just pack more sounds into the TX16W than the S900, which was what mattered most on my budget. Alas, the overwhelming advice I had received was that an S900 was the best deal, and this is why you should never, ever trust musicians, salespeople, musicians who work as salespeople, or salespeople who play music.

After a year, the disk drive on mine died, and it was probably traded for cigarettes.

1991 - State

David (L) and Gabriel (R) "Let's see your pupils, son." Martin Shelley, aka Jerry Deyotte Martin Deyotte, 5th beatle, pimp, and glee club for the 4th man, New Year’s Eve, 1991

I met Gabriel through Martin in 1990. There were a series of converging events, and by mid 1991, we had pooled our music equipment in Gabriel’s apartment and started to work on music for “The Fourth Man” in semi-earnest.
Leading up to this, Gabriel and Martin had become acquainted with Kevin Ogilvie/Nivek Ogre from Skinny Puppy, who had temporarily lent Gabriel a collection of gear, including a four track cassette recorder which actually recorded. Around the same time, I had upgraded my MIDI sequencing capabilities from the humble QX 21, with its two tracks and 6000 note memory, to an Atari 1040 ST computer running a program called Creator, which NEVER ran out of notes. 

The result was that all 3 of us were not only enthusiastic, but also had access to enough equipment to put together some ideas, and possibly a demo tape.

There were a few sticking points. Both Martin and Gabriel were pretty much sold on the idea of doing dark and aggressive electronic music, and I seemed to have a concern about sounding too clichéd. The argument resolved itself when I realized that for the first time I had a potential musical collaborator who was ready, willing, and able to really work on something. Also, it was starting to feel like I was avoiding the inevitable, and that this seemed to be the most logical and feasible path to take. I wasn’t about to sit down any time soon and learn to sing like an angel, or play more than a few chords on the guitar, so what the hell. At one point when I was humming and hawing and trying to justify my lack of musical output, Kevin Ogilvie said quite matter-of-factly “Time’s a-wastin’.” I was a little star-struck at the time, and grudgingly took it as a subconscious mandate – at least for a few years.

A second issue was that I hated the sound of my own voice. Any pretence of being a singer had fallen away long ago, and the only reason I ended up doing it was because I felt slightly more confident than my band mates.

The self-loathing of my own voice comes across in all the songs on the CD. I did anything I could do to obscure the vocals in the songs and make them sound as unlike myself as possible, either by soaking them in effects or simply by burying them in the mix.

The first track we worked on together was “State”. The song is extremely simple and clunky, partially an intentional choice, but also because Gabriel and I were sort of figuring out how a collaborative process worked. Plus, we were still using the QX-21 at this time.

Worth noting, this was the only track that we used a real guitar on. I can’t recall how it happened, but for some reason I started banging the head of my microphone onto the neck of the guitar at the beginning of every second bar. It created a sort of gong/drone sound that fit in quite well. It also contributed to creating a horrible soup of a mix.

I distinctly recall the lyrics being triggered from walking to my soon-to-be-ex-job on Robson Street, a shopping area predominately for tourists in downtown Vancouver. As was typical at the time, I was experiencing a semi-inexplicable helpless sense of rage, in this case when I saw a billboard for “the United Colors of Benetton”. The picture was of skinny and pouty models of different nationalities, posing together in harmony. This seemed sort of disingenuous in contrast to the skinnier and more justifiably pouty overseas sweatshop workers making the clothes. I took the have/have not theme and continued to go with it. It wasn’t so much railing about the injustice of a clothes company as it was a reaction to feeling like a tiny helpless piece of meat stuck in a huge convoluted machine.

The ► first version was minus the bass line, and had a different set of vocals.

Gabriel and Martin made some vocal revisions, or more to the point, they really disliked some of my lines. I withered quickly and gave in, but not without some sort of tragicomic resentment. Once someone gave me a cigarette and a beer all was well.

The vocals were the first and last for quite some time that had any shouting on them, as Gabriel received some noise complaints, which in retrospect is ridiculous. Still, I was advised to sing more quietly, whisper, or get the vocals done in as few takes as possible. I recall being pretty pissed off that I was being discouraged from doing angry industrial vocals when I’d sort of been talked into doing them in the first place. I’m sure another factor that turned my volume knob down was that I felt like a fucking idiot sitting in the walk-in closet in Gabriel’s apartment, trying to sound mean. Still the precedent was set, so “Anvil”, Zone”, “Guilt”, “Citizen”, “Progress”, and “Plague” (except one word in the chorus) were all whispered or sung somewhat quietly (and really self-consciously) so as not to offend the sensitive ears of the neighbors. Vocals generally got done as quickly as possible, just to get them out of the way. Had a real producer been around, or perhaps had we been in a different environment, the vocals might have turned out far better – or worse. Who knows?