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  • Keep in mind when reading Mike's and my pyro threads that we originally started attempting pyro without any knowledge of pro techniques at all.

    For example, all pro pyro uses binary mixes, where the reactant and the oxidizer are kept separate until the flash pot is loaded. Usually, the reactant is some sort of magnesium powder, and the oxidizer is strontium nitrate. These two chemicals are relatively stable and safe until they are mixed.

    But we didn't know any of this when we first started. Mike came along a little later so he became a master of pyro without so many embarassing mistakes.

    Case in point: I first started by using gunpowder. Now, gunpowder comes in two forms, smokeless and black. Black powder was the original, used in muskets, with the two endearing side effects of totally obscuring the battle with smoke after a dozen shots or so, and its propensity to explode spontaneously as it aged, much like nitro. Not to mention corroding gun barrels. As soon as smokeless powder was invented, black powder was largely abandoned.

    Smokeless powder is sold over the counter, no questions asked at any reloading store. It's the current state of the art for ammo, but doesn't make a very good bomb because it has to be tightly contained to explode. If you've ever broken a dud firecracker in half and lit it, only to get sparkle with no pop, you know what I mean. Fortunately, the homicidal idiot who rigged all those rural postboxes recently used smokeless powder.

    Black powder, by contrast, is kept in a safe in the back of the gun store, for use only by musket owners. Even then, you will only be allowed to buy a pound, and will be questioned to the third degree. These days, if you look even slightly foreign and are not well-known to the gunshop owner, I imagine you will receive a visit from the FBI instead of a can of black powder. Even a tiny pinch of black powder lit in an ashtray will make a loud "BANG!"
    It's really quite dangerous.

    When we started, we purchased smokeless powder and knew nothing of black powder nor pro pyro. We were quite unhappy with the sparkly display because we wanted the initial pop. Thinking of wadding in a shotgun shell, we tried stuffing paper towels into the breech of our cannons to create a report (bang).

    We got the report all right, but didn't consider that paper towels are flammable.

    The first night we tried the paper towel wadding, we were shooting 'em off like the 4th of July. On "Blue Collar Man," we popped some off as the band came in. Suddenly, our drummer started spanking the kick drum in a bizarre spastic manner that made us all look back at him in surprise. One of the paper towels had come down in flames, and draped itself over the kick drum beater. He was trying to stomp it out. Luckily, someone took a picture of this and I still have a copy somewhere.

    The next show, we changed to flame-retardent ASBESTOS wadding made by the Estes model rocket company. We discovered that flame-retardant doesn't actually mean it won't catch on fire, only that it will go out shortly after it catches fire.

    Shortly after that, we discovered black powder and had no need for wadding anymore. We also discovered the concepts of "overpressure" and "shrapnel," but that's another story.

    Terry D.

    Telling Stories releases 2nd CD, see our WEBSITE! Please check out my GROUPIE STORY and Tales from the Road.


    • Here's something that happened to me this afternoon.

      We have our annual school prize days tomorrow and day after, where we give students from each batch awards if they top any subject. It's a big event, one item being a choir song.

      We decided to pick "Immortality" from the show Saturday Night Fever because we'd just done this show in school under a month back (and I was lead role!!!!). So myself and some others practiced this song for about a week and today was the first "tech" rehearsal, as they like to call it. Basically the pro sound guys brought their equipment into the auditorium, a few fm mics, new speakers, and two stage monitors.
      So there we were, the choir.

      I along with three others, had an FM mic and the rest were to sing into commonly placed mics. The senior school, a few teachers, and the administration (principal, a few others, and a b*tch called Brendish) were in the hall. Brendish as usual was bossing us around and creating a hassle for us, and especially for me, by talking absolute crap every 2 seconds. You see, most of the administration have this misconception that they are sound techs.

      So we assembled on the front centre stage, some standing on the stairs and some on the stage to have 3 levels. Brendish felt that this looked shabby and pointed out to a point with a monitor right in front and said "Why don't you assemble there, it will look much neater."

      I said "Umm, excuse me ma'am"
      "Not now Nigel"
      "But ma'am"
      "But we can't sing there"
      "Oh shut up! You always have to cause a hassle, always have to think you're the smart one"
      "Sorry ma'am"

      We assembled at the point and she told me to stand bang above the monitor.
      "Why are you smiling now, Nigel"
      "Ma'am we can't sing here"
      "Oh be quiet, you always have to make a nuisance. What is so wrong with singing here"

      And so I hit the power switch on the mic, faced it right at the monitor at my feet, looked back at her, and flicked the "on/mute" switch to the "on" position.


      She covered her ears and launched back as if to avoid an air-raid. Everyone in the hall covered their ears and bent for cover. The principal too almost fell over backwards. I'm pretty used to this by now so it doesn't bother me. I stood still, watching the fun.

      "Err, ahem, yes, err, maybe it's better if you go back to your original places."


      I don't get the logic, they know I know my way around sound, and they know they don't know jack, and yet they try to push their weight. If only they'd listen to what I have to say instead of making me teach them the hard way every time.

      Oh what the hell, the look on her face was priceless

      Come to think of it, I think they'll be broadcasting the ceremony live on our website on Wednesday at around 140 GMT. Wait for the song, I'm the main singer.

      Check out my music at http://nigeld.freewebspace.com

      On Toronto vs. the UK

      rosskoss: Well there you go then. I can't see how one can choose something else over that? Lotsa music, slutty chicks, nice weather, no SARS...

      Six String Stuntman Steve: No SARS? Hear Hear!!! This might be the better place to go afterall!!


      • I don't know how many of you are familiar with techno shows, but most of the small independent shows that I've been to have pretty awful sound (here in T.O. anyway). This is a result of DJ culture gone mad, where DJ's actually begin to think that they are god's gift to music and sound, and start throwing parties, usualy doing the sound themselves (happy face EQ anyone?).

        Last year, some DJ friends of mine were throwing a party, and knowing the space (an art gallery) to be used was notoriously bad sounding (imagine a massive reverb chamber), my friend (Greg) asked me to provide FOH. This was going to be a big show (8 live acts plus DJ's), so I wanted to make a good impression both on the promoters and the artists. I went to space a week before hand and measured the physical space, and the RT60 (over 6 seconds). After careful calculations, I knew roughly what room modes were going to be a real problem, and how much absorption we'd need to tighten the reverb to under 2 seconds. Greg proceeded to purchase 90 square meters of heavy material. The day of the party, I arrived at 9AM to help with the space setup. The heavy material was hung around two sides of the room about 6 feet from the wall (bass trapping and mid/high absorption!), and then painted black. The remaining walls (which were white) were covered in black plastic (Toronto techno people like it dark). After setting up the mains E.Q. with my calculated modes taken care of, and a little tweaking, we had the room sounding tight, with an RT60 at about 1.8 seconds. Let me tell you, I was damned impressed and proud of myself, and so were the promoters and acts (who were just coming in for set-up and soundcheck). We finally finished up around 9:30 (doors open at ten) and had a quick meal before cranking up the system. The first two acts were smooth as butter, and the crowd was absolutely hyped (which is pretty unsual for a Toronto techno crowd). Suddenly, I see the absorbtive material coming down across the room. Leaving the FOH to a trusted fellow engineer and live act for the night, I worked my way through the crowd to see what was going on, thinkinig the crowd was getting rowdy and pulling down the material for more dance space. By the time I reached the other side of the room, half the material was down, and the sound was noticibly changing. Looking around, I see what was happening. Now, I have to interject and mention that Greg (one of the promoters) is usually a calm, very friendly guy, which makes what I see next all the more unbelievable. I see Greg wielding an x-acto knife with this crazed look in his eyes, and he's busy hacking at the rope ties holding up the material. After he hacked down some more material, I see him charge the wall, scattering frightened partiers, and begin tearing off the black plastic revealing the white walls beneath. After my shock subsided, I approached Greg to find out what was happening. In a frenzy, between pulling sheets of plastic off the walls, I managed to get "cops", "fire hazard", "shut down", and "five minutes" out of him. Understanding the gist, I begin helping him undo the almost 12 hours of work we put into making the space into something that sounded decent. All in all, it was over in about 10 minutes, and we were back to the crappy sounding boomy reverberant room we had started with. The show went pretty well after that. I had to adjust FOH e.q. again, but there wasn't much I could do about the swamp of reverb. Most people who were there that I spoke to felt that the party had had the best sound that a techno party in Toronto had ever had, and certainly the best sound this particular space had ever had. Unfortunately, it was only for a few hours. I always have to chuckle though when I think back to the crazed look on Greg's face as he frantically hacked down hours of work with an x-acto knife, sending partiers fleeing, and turning this very dark space into a bright white one all in a matter of minutes...


        • This isn't directly music related, nor is it stupid. But it's kinda funny, read on and see for yourself.

          As is mentioned in an earlier post, students in our school are divided into four groups called "houses". About a week or two ago I was told that the inter-house elocution for senior school boys was to be held. Myself and a buddy called Jeevan were selected to represent our house for the second division (grades 11 and 12 combined). "Jeeves" and I've been buddies for over 8 years. The two of us were not exactly keen, seeing that exams were just around the corner. The rules said that the piece could be either a poem or prose, no real restrictions on the pieces. Now neither of us could be bothered with sitting and learning 4 minutes worth of passage so it was my bright idea to take song lyrics and say they were poems!

          Now to find a song that gets me over 3 and a half minutes of elocution is a bit of a challenge. You'd be surprised how lyrics of three minute songs fit into 30 seconds. I looked through my RUSH and Dream Theater, looking for something insightful, philosophical, etc. I finally chose a 20 minute epic called "A Change of Seasons" by DT, said the lyricist...errr...I mean the poet was Michael Stephen Portnoy (Mike Pornoy-drums)to make it sound all poet like, and sent it in for approval.

          Jeeves did something really amazing. He picked up a rap piece by Ice Cube called "My Dead Homies". After a lot of editing, we sent his piece in under the alais of "Up Early Morning" by Oshea Jackson (Ice Cube's real name).

          Yesterday was the elocution. Jeeves went nuts (as he often does), went up and delivered his piece with a perfect "street homie" accent, interjected with "DAMN!"s and "SHEEAAT"s, and ended it with a shocking raising of the right hand fist and shouting "Power To The Black People". And he's Indian!!

          I went up last of all, delivered my piece and sat back down, expecting the principal (who was one of the judges) to expel good ol' Jeevan.

          Here are the results.
          I won second place for individual elocutor of my division, (the first place is always set for the principal's fav, the headboy). So as it stands I'm the second best male elocutor in school.

          Our house came first overall.

          And after that people from all over were coming to me shocked saying "WOW! Micheal Stephen Portnoy, I've never heard of him, wow his piece was excellent, wow, that was so deep, touching, etc."

          Hell, who's complainin? Next time I have to elocute I'll probably do "Scarred" by Johnathan Petrucci
          Check out my music at http://nigeld.freewebspace.com

          On Toronto vs. the UK

          rosskoss: Well there you go then. I can't see how one can choose something else over that? Lotsa music, slutty chicks, nice weather, no SARS...

          Six String Stuntman Steve: No SARS? Hear Hear!!! This might be the better place to go afterall!!


          • In the early summer of 2000, i joined a band, much to my disgust. We were called "Future Shock" and it consisted of me, two brothers, a friend of theirs on guitar and vox and a female singer friend of ours. Now the thing is, I really wasn't that keen because of my musical preferences. What was more was that these two brothers were REALLY AWFUL musicians. Their father had long been a friend of my dad, they'd been in bands together for many years. Their father encouraged their music every step of the way. Bought them expensive equipment practically before they could play, got them contacts, shows, the works. The elder brother was Mitch (bassist), an average beginner musician who was an ok guy. The younger was (and still is) a jackass with an attitude problem who took advantage of the midi equipped keyboard his pop bought him. You see, they refused to have drummer. They'd rather download midis to fill in, and so he decided what the hec, there's no point learning the keys parts, he could just mime. At the time this was highly against my musical ethics. But what the hec, i needed some temporary action before I got down to studyin for my board exams.

            We were to have only one show while I was in the band, a party organized by the senior students of their school. Basically a chance for a few bands to go up, play a bunch of bull**************** nu-metal and shout a lot of profanities. I figured we should atleast do some Ozzy Osbourne or Metallica to keep up with the others, but no, we were to do a totally pop oriented show. Again against my musical ethics at the time.

            Now you see, it was around this time that I had gotten into Kirk Hammet's style of semi shredding and I had developed compulsive shredding disorder. No matter which song, there had to be a triplet run, or a tap, or a speed pick or anything. At practices everyone would stop playing and stare at me with their jaws dropped thinking "****************!! how'd he do that??" Take note, we're talking "nu-metal is the best guitar work i've heard" people here.

            About three days before the show, disaster struck. There had been slight internal bleeding in my right ear for a while and finally I was admitted to the emergency room one night with some wierd ear infection. As a consequence of shoving some absorbtion thingy in my ear, I was to be deaf in that ear for the next week.

            Damn! At practice, my little 2 watt amp was on my right hand side and at the show, my bloomin monitor was also on the right hand side, I couldn't hear jack!! Now I'd discovered that if i touched my jaw to the body of my guitar, the notes would sound in my head so that's what I planned to do, bend my head over the whole time and try to hear what I was playing.

            I looked pretty stupid like that, and the audience looked at me real funny because I was standing there, waiting to start, with my jaw on the body. We kicked of with Lenny Kravitz "Are you gonna go my way". Solo: speeeeeedddd pick. Other songs in that short set were Spin Doctors' "Two princes" shred shred shre, Blur "Song 2" tap tap tap, No Doubt "Just a Girl" whammy whammy whammy.

            It was quite funny, people didn't know what to think. Oh and to add to the fun, Brenton was violently sliding his hand up and down across the keyboard (even during the slow piano bits).

            Funny enough, I got a lot of mixed reactions after the show. A bunch nu-metalists came up to me to ask about the jaw. Sadly I couldn't hear most of 'em.

            Oh and I grew out of the compulsive shredding disorder. I'm doing it myself, without therapy and I'm almost free of the problem although I do have relapses now and then.

            Check out my music at http://nigeld.freewebspace.com

            On Toronto vs. the UK

            rosskoss: Well there you go then. I can't see how one can choose something else over that? Lotsa music, slutty chicks, nice weather, no SARS...

            Six String Stuntman Steve: No SARS? Hear Hear!!! This might be the better place to go afterall!!


            • >So I take my best aim, and - AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!

              Dude, it may sound girly, but there are times when it's ok to sit. Moving vehicles definitely qualify. :-)

              Yeah, that might be the less frustrating way to do things, but what fun would that be. This way you get the satisfaction of making them look like idiots. :-)

              Well, I've been to one world fair, a picnic, and a rodeo, and that's the stupidest thing I ever heard come over a set of earphones.


              • Before my days as a pyro / monitor mix guy for the country band (TUB) I mentioned in my last post, I was running FOH for my friend Rob's (lead guitarist) band "Prisoner". Prisoner was a cover band and did a great job on the popular rock of the day (around 1983).

                Anyways, we got hired to do a college party at an apartment complex in this college town after final exams were over. Payment was free beer and whatever was collected by the hostess who I will call "J" (a very sexy woman in her late 20's who also happened to be the apartment manager). We set up in the early evening and the gig started at 9pm. Rob had accumulate quite a bit of PA and he wanted to use it all for the show. Of particular interest were these "Earthquake" cabinets that he purchased from someone (maybe Mr.Knobs?) who got them from a movie theather. Of course, they were used in the late 70's for the movie "Earthquake" to produce the rumbling in the theather. Anyways, I hated these !#*?%$ cabinets because they were HUGE and HEAVY. However, when the were at the bottom of the PA stack they looked (and sounded) pretty impressive. I can't for the life om me remember what the rest of the PA was, but I think it was a triamped system with the eartquake cabinets, 2-15's, 4-12's, and 2 horns on each side all powered by (4) CS-800's and (2) CS-400's.

                Since all of the people in the complex were students, they were all at the party enjoying themselves and we did not have to worry about someone in the complex calling the cops. There were probably 80 people there at the beginning of the first set. I started with the PA at a moderate level as not to disturb the neighboring apartment complex about 1/2 mile across a field. The first set went off without a hitch and we started playing a CD during the break. A few minutes into the break a police officer comes to the board and asks me who is "in charge". I directed the cop to "J" and he told her that they received a complaint and "to try to keep it down" and then he left.
                After the break, the second set started and everyone was "feeling" no pain and the crowd grew to about 150 people. To compensate for the extra bodies, I increased the volume a bit. "J" came over and asked me to turn it up more. Who was I to argue... I cranked it up a bit more. Thirty minutes into the set the cops come again... This time there are two of them. Once again they talk to "J" and they tell her that this is her final warning. She comes over to me and asks me to turn it down. No problem I say. As soon as the cops leave, she tells me to crank it back up and I comply. I fully expected the police to come back in short order, but they do not. Finally, we reach the end of the second set and I once again start a CD for the break. Amazing...no cops. Rob comes over and I bring him up to speed on what's happening and say's do what ever "J" wants.

                The break ends and the third set starts with "Crazy Train" (got to get that digital delay just right for this one). By now we have about 200+ people dancing, drinking, and throughly enjoying themselves.... especially "J" who comes over and tells me to crank it up more. Who am I to object? I can feel the bass and kick drum penetrate my whole body and I notice the DDT clipping lights blinking on the subs amp. No doubt about it... the cops will return. I am paranoid and keep looking around. Believe it or not, it took about thirty minutes for them to arrive (it must have been a busy night). This time (the same two cops) came to me and told me to cut the volume down immediately which I do... (Heck I thought they were going to shut us down!) "J" comes over and starts to apologize and the cops respond by writing her a $200 disturbing the peace ticket (there goes our payment for the evening I think to myself). They say in no uncertain term that they will write her another ticket AND arrest her if they have to come back. Meanwhile, there are about 200 drunk, pissed college students watching this closely. "J" promises that the PA will remain at a low volume and that band will quit in about a half hour. The cops decide to let the band continue (I assume so that wouldn't have to call out the riot squad) and they leave.

                Now I had no intention of increasing the volume, but about 10 minutes after the cops left, "J" came over and cranked up the mains herself, even higher than before. Man, I was shaking in my shoes as I am sure "J" is going to be arrested. All of the amps clipping lights are blinking. The band plays for another 20 minutes as I look around for the cops. The crowd was even larger now, so I did not see the cops as they came up behind me. They told me to shut down the PA NOW. Rob see the scene unfolding before him and quickly ends the song and gives a "goodnight". I kill the PA (man my ears were ringing and I was a good 30 yards away from the stage). "J" is nowhere to be seen (big suprise, huh?) The cops are trying to decide if they are going to arrest me... or write me a ticket... or both. I am trying to talk my way out of this mess and "J" is nowhere to be seen. If there had not been a major automobile accident a block away at that instant, I am sure someone (me) would have gotten in serious trouble.

                I started thanking God for saving my ass as we started packing up the equipment and loading the equipment in the PA trailer as the party continued. BTW, I hate packing up equipment after a gig! However, do don't want to leave you PA stuff out when you have large number of intoxicated people stumbling around....



                • Originally posted by grimaila
                  stage). "J" is nowhere to be seen (big suprise, huh?)

                  LOL!! Reminds me of my music teacher tommy. Tells us to do this that and the other, and whn **************** hits the fan "No, I told the boys NOT to do that, but they decided not to listen to me." Bastard.

                  Check out my music at http://nigeld.freewebspace.com

                  On Toronto vs. the UK

                  rosskoss: Well there you go then. I can't see how one can choose something else over that? Lotsa music, slutty chicks, nice weather, no SARS...

                  Six String Stuntman Steve: No SARS? Hear Hear!!! This might be the better place to go afterall!!


                  • Originally posted by Ranger Karlos on the Vets Forum:

                    We had just started the first chorus of "Uno Mas Cervesa", a song of deperation taken from The Texas Tornadoes.

                    Two young women approach the band (just the two of us) and stand 3 feet away doing the finger-across-the-throat "stop playing" motion. We tried to ignore them, but they would not be denied.

                    We stop mid-song.

                    They approach us and hem and haw...THEY WANT TO MAKE A REQUEST, BUT HAVE NOTHING IN MIND!

                    I'm perturbed so I announce to the bar, "These young ladies have stopped the song in order to make a request. Perhaps they'd like to share with everyone" and I shove my mic in ones' face. She gets embarrassed but hangs in there.

                    "Uh, do you know any, like, uh, Lynyrd Skynyrd"?

                    Good thing I'm non-violent. "You mean, like, Freebird? I got a free bird". Being influenced by this forum, I slowly raise my middle finger and say "This ones' free, the next one will cost you". All of this over the P.A. My partners' jaw is scuffing his shoes.

                    Then I launch back into "Uno Mas Cervesa".

                    All night I keep thinking of Phil Hartman on SNL doing Sinatra. "Contempt for your audience, that's what ruined Dennis Day".

                    I gotta watch it.

                    Check out my music at http://nigeld.freewebspace.com

                    On Toronto vs. the UK

                    rosskoss: Well there you go then. I can't see how one can choose something else over that? Lotsa music, slutty chicks, nice weather, no SARS...

                    Six String Stuntman Steve: No SARS? Hear Hear!!! This might be the better place to go afterall!!


                    • I was doing a live sound gig for a popular latin percussion player (now deceased).

                      After the gig, I was hold a pair of speaker ends (1/4") in my hands at the foot of the stage. It was a bit rainy. I told a tech to turn to amps and power off (including the generators). He didn't.

                      I went to jump up on the stage and with one of the cables, made contact a metal bar running across the stage.

                      Sparks were flying! Electricity was running through me. A friend managed to push me away. I was jolted.

                      This was funny afterwards!!



                      • Here's a Homer Simpson I pulled 2 days ago.

                        I just bought a Korg D1600, an SM57 and an AT3034 mic to use for home recording. I have been playing for 30+ yrs but finally made the move to record my originals. I am new to all the "engineer" stuff, and am at times, overwhelmed by all the knobs and buttons.

                        With that said, I decided to record my 1st tune on my new equipment. I have a quiet little song called "A Simple Song" that is just acoustic and 2 tracks of vocals. I recorded it sunday morning in about 2 hours but was not at all happy with the vocal sound I was getting from my AT3035. It sounded like I was in a tunnel. I couldn't understand why it sounded so nice on my voice in the store but not in my bedroom.

                        After HOURS of trying to eq, and add compression I got the vocal a little more out front. I brought my wife in to hear my first try. After listening she said "The guitar sounds nice but the vocals sound really weird". Well I thought, I'll just have to explain pro recording to my obviously clueless wife. As we were talking technical stuff she kept looking at the AT mic. I asked her if she liked my new mic. She said it didnt much matter to her, but why did they put the microphone name on the back of the mic?

                        It was then that I realized I had done both vocal tracks singing into the wrong side of the mic and most of the sounds on the tracks were what had bounced off the wall behind the mic.

                        "Ignorance is bliss and momma sez Im a pretty happy guy"


                        • bump...


                          • Originally posted by tankgod
                            Here's a Homer Simpson I pulled 2 days ago.


                            It was then that I realized I had done both vocal tracks singing into the wrong side of the mic and most of the sounds on the tracks were what had bounced off the wall behind the mic.


                            A buddy of mine was doing one of his first big mixes as a second engineer at a prominent studio...

                            anyway, have you ever noticed that when you put the windscreen on a 414 you can't really tell which way is front?

                            The head engineer was fighting the gain, eq'ing his ass off, and swearing up and down until my poor friend had to meekly explain what he had done...



                            • I did the same thing in my home project studio a couple of weeks ago. I was working with a local singer/songwriter and we were just wanting to lay a scratch vocal. We had used an AKGC3000 for her before and she was really happy with the way it sounded. As we proceeded, she sounded like she was in a tunnel...just awful. I went to check the pickup and the pad switches on the back of the mic and found they were in the front!!! Homer Simpson strikes again....I had the damn thing facing backwards. I took the mic out of the mount, reconnected the mic cable, fiddled with the pad and pickup switches and put it back in. Everything was fine and the singer didn't notice I had flipped it around. The old "slight of hand" trick allowed me to keep my dignity at least till the next stupid gaff I couldn't cover so cleanly!!



                              • Been there - done that! Easy to do when lots of things are distracting. Especially on mics that are brought in by "guest" engineers that are unfamiliar.
                                Former product development engineer: Genz Benz, a KMC Music/FMIC/JAM Industries Company, continuing factory level product support and service for Genz Benz

                                Currently product development engineer: Mesa Boogie