Covering Kraftwerk: the process (part 1)

As my Twitter followers know, I’ve concocted a harebrained scheme to record an EP of Kraftwerk covers, using solely the Pocket Operator calculator-esque synthesizers from Teenage Engineering. This project was inspired by my love of Kraftwerk and my assumption that Teenage Engineering was directly influenced by Kraftwerk (especially the song “Pocket Calculator”) in creating the Pocket Operators.

I’m taking a, let’s say, judiciously-paced approach to this project. Partly because I don’t have a lot of free time at the moment, and partly because I need to let this thing fully gestate in my brain. Also because I’m still learning how the Pocket Operators work. They’re ingeniously designed, but not exactly intuitive. (Then again, I don’t find any electronic devices besides computers intuitive. Let’s not even get started on fax machines.)

I’ve identified the four Kraftwerk songs I want to cover:

  1. Ruckzuck (1970)
  2. The Man-Machine (1978)
  3. Pocket Calculator (1981)
  4. Tour de France, Étape 1 (2003)

My first baby steps into the project were in the form of some brief tinkering with the Pocket Operators themselves to lay down the basic foundation of “Ruckzuck”, which I did from memory. (It was easy to do this one from memory; after all, I watched a lot of Newton’s Apple as a kid.) I commemorated this with a brief video posted to Instagram:

A video posted by Scott Anderson (@room34) on

This past weekend I took my second step, which went a bit further. I have decided that part of what is challenging to me with playing these Kraftwerk songs (as simple as they are) on the Pocket Operators is that I don’t have any written music to work from. So I’m introducing a second step in the process, but one that will not at all make its way into the final product. I’m creating versions of the songs entirely with software instruments in Logic Pro X, just so I have my own transcriptions (really, adaptations, because I’m not trying to get it perfect) to work from when I program the Operators.

Here we have the beginnings of my rough Logic Pro X interpretation of “The Man-Machine.”

I am excited about this project! Just hoping I can find some time in the near future to keep pushing it forward.

What will the end results be? I’m not sure. While I’ve dabbled with recording covers before, I’ve never taken them through to completion and released them into the world. I’m not even sure how I want to go about that. But so far it’s still a long way off.

New Room 34 CD coming soon…

The time has come once again for me to engage in the extreme narcissism of producing a compilation album. I’ve recorded a crap-ton of music this year (even outpacing 2008, my most prolific year to date). Most of it I’m pretty proud of. Some, not so much. But this CD is just the good stuff. 13 tracks, 10 recorded in 2011 and 3 recorded in 2010. All remixed and remastered, with a kick in the pants in the form of boosted bass. So if you like your music with more low end than I’m accustomed to giving, this CD should suit you fine.

I’m putting the finishing touches on the masters this week, and am hoping to have the CD ready for production next week. In the meantime, here’s the cover art…

Update: So, yeah… this is available now. You can get it on iTunes or Amazon MP3 or, if you prefer physical media, direct from Kunaki. No free downloads yet. TBD on that.

Reason enough (for me) to install Windows (and Google Chrome)

Sure, I own a real NES. Two, in fact. I also own a GBA Micro, Nintendo DS, and a Wii, with emulated versions of all of my favorite NES classics. And then, of course, there’s emulation.

But as a web developer, I just have to geek out on this: the very idea of a working NES emulator running entirely in JavaScript… wow. I’ve known about JSNES for a few months, but I hadn’t had the time and/or inclination to fire it up in Google Chrome (still Windows-only), the only browser so far that has a JavaScript interpreter efficient enough to run it at a decent frame rate.

The last time I tried running it was on the iPhone. Yes… it did run… at about 1.5 FPS. And, of course, there’s no way to access the controls. But in Chrome… it’s actually playable. A smidge slower than the real thing (which would be at 60 FPS), but as you can see, I got it up to 46 FPS. Not bad. Especially considering that I was running Windows 7 with Parallels Desktop on the Mac. Nice!


Space… the final frontier

It’s true, I’ve always preferred Star Trek to Star Wars. But most of the Star Trek movies have… well… kinda sucked. Wrath of Khan is badass and First Contact is the Picardian equivalent. But other than those two… I could probably take or leave the rest.

That said, I am now officially stoked for the new J.J. Abrams version. It looks wicked awesome. You can see trailers on the official site and, if you’re impatient to see the new trailer (coming to the site tomorrow but screened this weekend in theaters preceding the new Bond film), someone surreptitiously recorded it and it’s now posted on YouTube (found on BuzzFeed).