Monthly Archives: July 2012

Credit cards as musical instruments

If you’ve ever held a credit card or a ruler against a counter, with a bit overhanging the edge and turned it into a musical instrument, you’ll have an idea of what this is all about.

The project above project was a promotion for local Austrian banks, but it’s also a great demonstration of what you could do if you wanted to make some DIY instruments out of bank cards.

Vienna-based composer Dr. Richard Eigner describes the project::

Mario Wienerroither, Gernot Ottowitz (Audiobakery) and me have been approached by Young & Rubicam with a very intriguing idea: build instruments out of cash cards and write a musical piece with the freshly assembled sonic devices for their client »Erste Bank & Sparkasse«. Challenge accepted! You can see the result above. The video was shot by our dear friends from Jenside. This page features my very own cash card instruments designs.

Here are a few of the instruments that the team created and played in this video:

  1. Musicbox Cash Cards
  2. Cash Card Duochord
  3. Cash Card Kalimba
  4. Cash Card Laserbass
  5. Cash Card Monochord
  6. Cash Card Ratchet Snare
  7. Cash Card Ratchet Shaker

Star Wars theme played on washing machine

What have I been missing all this time? I guess that modern appliances can play music. Check out “The Imperial March” from Star Wars, played on a washing machine.

From the video:

If you leave your husband home alone…. sooner or later he will need to figure out how to use a washing machine. Probably he will play The Imperial March (Darth Vader’s Theme) from Star Wars. May the Force be with all home alone left husbands.

Before they were rock stars

Everyone needs to start somewhere. Here are some of the interesting crappy jobs some music stars had before they were ever famous:

Jon Bon Jovi:  Jon used to make Christmas decorations. Eventually, he got a job as a janitor at his cousin’s recording studio, where he ended up recording his first song between busy times, “R2-D2 We Wish You a Merry Christmas

Lady Gaga:  Lady Gaga lived in New York City before she was famous, and worked as a waitress.  The joint she worked in made her wear high heels, but I assume that she didn’t have to wear a meat dress.

Ozzy Osbourne:  Before Black Sabbath, Ozzy had a number of jobs – he was a plumber’s assistant, worked in a morgue, at a slaughter house, tested car horns, and “robbed small businesses”. He killed cows at the slaughterhouse, now he’s a vegetarian.

Mick Jagger:  Before he formed a band with Keith Richards, Mick ran errands at a mental hospital.

Keith Richards:  I guess at one point Keith must have actually been young, and when he was, her worked as a tennis ball boy at a private club.

Kurt Cobain:  Before he became the king of grunge music, he was cleaning up grunge as a janitor in Aberdeen, Washington. Krist Novoselic gave some insight: “Here was a man who would never clean his kitchen or take out the garbage, or do those kind of chores, but Kurt Cobain was not a lazy person. Basically he cleaned toilets – that’s how he paid for that demo.”

Queen Latifah:  Latifah Worked for Burger King before she because a Hip Hop singer. “I worked at Burger King when I was 15, I made burgers, I made drinks. And I had to clean the bathrooms – I must have been crazy for cleaning that for minimum wage.”  She ended up getting fired from the job after losing her temper at work.

Gene Simmons:  Before Gene was the front man of KISS, when he was 13 he was delivering newspapers in Jackson Heights, Queens at the age of 13. He made $37.50 per week for his first route, and $28 a week for his second.  “I picked up a second route since I could put those papers in the same shopping cart. I had discovered you could make almost twice the money without putting in twice the time.  If someone likes you, they’ll buy what you’re selling, whether or not they need it.”  Always the businessman.

Garth Brooks:  When Garth was recording his first album in the 1980s, he paid his bills selling boots at a Nashville mall.  “My wife and I worked at a boot place up north here in Nashville in Rivergate Mall.  I wrote the album in between selling boots.

Jack White:  When Jack was working himself up to being a rock star, he worked as an apprentice at an upholstery shop in his hometown of Detroit.  He then started up his own one-man business called Third Man Upholstery. His slogan was “Your furniture’s not dead.”

Sting:  Sting worked as a bus conductor and construction laborer before becoming a teacher, but while he was starting to pursue his music career, he had what he called a “soul-destroying day job” as a tax officer with the Inland Revenue in Manchester, England.

Kelly Clarkson: Way before being the original American Idol, Kelly traveled from bar to bar in the Fort Worth, Texas, area, selling Red Bull. She also worked as a cocktail waitress, Six Flags performer, vacuum cleaner saleswoman and telemarketer.

Elvis Presley:  After he graduated from high school, Elvis drove a delivery truck for Crown Electric Company in Memphis.  While he was driving the truck, he had dreams of being an electrician, and was taking night courses towards this when he was “discovered”.

Gwen Stefani:  Gwen worked at a Dairy Queen in her hometown of Orange County, Calif. during high school.  While she was working there, her brother Eric formed a band called No Doubt with fellow Dairy Queen workers. Gwen ended up signing with the Dairy Queen band.

Madonna:  Madonna worked behind the counter at a Dunkin’ Donuts in Times Square while working towards developing a dancing career.  She got fired for squirting jelly on a customer.

Brandon Flowers:  Brandon Flowers of the Killers paid the bills by carrying bags for casino patron at the Gold Coast Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

Macy Gray, Pink, Faith Hill and Shania Twain:  All of these girls worked for the golden arches before moving on to fame & fortune.  Macy Gray also appeared in a 2005 television commercial for the fast-food giant, saying, “The action, the fun, the people, the sense of accomplishment … it truly was my first big break!

Elvis Costello:  While Elvis was struggling to break into the music scene, he had a day job at Elizabeth Arden, where he worked as a data entry clerk.  He ended up writing a song about his experience there: “I’m Not Angry”.  In it, he refers to the cosmetics company as the “vanity factory.”

James Brown: James Brown was the hardest working man before he was even in show business.  He grew up in the depression, and worked a number of odd jobs to scrape together money: shining shoes, washing cars, picking cotton and racking pool balls in local bars.

Johnny Cash: Johnny Cash one wrote a song called “I Never Picked Cotton.”  This couldn’t be farther from the truth, as he and his parents worked the cotton fields in northeast Arkansas during the Depression.

Snoop Dogg: Other than being a self-confessed drug dealer, Snoop worked at a grocery store in his native Long Beach, Calif, bagging groceries.

Rod Stewart: Rod’s early dreams were to become a pro soccer player, but he abandoned that career when he was semi-pro, moving to digging graves at London’s Highgate Graveyard for a short period of time before moving on to music.

Joe Strummer:  Before he joined the Clash, Joe was also a grave digger.  He held the job while playing with the Vultures, one of his earliest bands.  Joe also spent some time working as a carpet salesman – arguably one of the less punk rock jobs around.

Tony Iommi: Before being a heavy metal superstar in Black Sabbath, Tommy actually worked with heavy metal – the other kind.  He was a sheet metal factory worker in Birmingham, England.  On the very last day before he was to leave his job forever & go full-time as a musician, the Black Sabbath guitarist lost parts of two fingers in an accident at the factory.

David Lee Roth: A long time before Van Halen, Diamond Dave was a hospital orderly.  After his solo career, the medical field beckoned – in 2004, he started training to become a paramedic.

Jonathan Davis: Korn frontman studied mortuary sciences, and then found work as a funeral home embalmer in Shafter, California. He liked dead people so much that his next job was being an assistant in the Kern County Coroner’s Department.   “My dad and mom both thought I was a problem child or someone that wanted to cut up dead bodies.  I’ve seen the dark side of life. Other people don’t see it first hand — they read about it or see pictures, but when you see it staring you right in the face, it’s an eye-opener.

Chubby Checker: As a teenager, Chubby, aka Ernest Evans, plucked feathers off dead chickens at the Fresh Farm Poultry Market in Philadelphia.  His boss actually gave him the nickname “Chubby”, and let him sing songs to the customers over the PA.

Dave Gahan: Frontman of Depeche Mode, Dave went through a number of other jobs — soft drink vendor, grocery store clerk, gas station attendant and construction worker. He was turned down after applying to be a pipe fitter with a gas company, so he went back to art school, which eventually led him to start a band.

Diddy: AkaP. Diddy, aka Sean Combs was working at El Torito, a Mexican restaurant where he had a pretty crappy job: cleaning the bathrooms. He still defends that job, saying “It was a job! But I was the best bathroom cleaner that ever was.”  I’m sure he was.

Cyndi Lauper: Before being an 80’s icon, Cyndi paid the bills by cleaning out the cages at a dog kennel. Something makes me think that this wasn’t the inspiration for “Girls just wanna have fun”.

Blondie: Aka Deborah Harry, she has been a secretary at the BBC Radio New York office, a waitress, a dancer, and a Playboy Bunny.

The greatest synth performance in the history of rock

Epic, face-melting, ripping. I’m sure if I consulted my thesaurus I could find a few more adjectives to describe this amazing performance by the Edgar Winter Group, playing their classic track Frankenstein, live in 1973.

Edgar delivers like crazy with some crazy synth noodling, a sax solo, a drum solo tradeoff with the drummer, another snakey synth solo, and then tops it off with world-ending explosions.

Trust me, this is worth the full 9 minutes to watch, and if you know of a better, more face-melting synth performance, please post it in the comments!

9-9-09 (An Oral History of Drum Machines)

This is a short documentary celebrating the 25 year anniversary of the Roland TR909, complete with mouth noises, narrated by Robbie Ryan. He talks about the classics: the CR78, TR808, TB303 (albeit not a drum machine), TR909, and LinnDrum.

For anyone who isn’t familiar with these drum machines, it’s remarkable how much the sound of each of these classics actually influenced the music itself, and helped create complete genres of music. Enjoy.

Making engine sounds pleasant

Sound Design Lab LLC and the Takeshi Toi Laboratory at Chuo University in Japan have been working on a project to make engine sounds more pleasant to listen to. The idea is that engine sounds are usually perceived to be noise pollution, however the researchers have discovered that engine sounds are quite similar to stringed instruments.

Some people are concerned that the noiselessness of electric cars can make them dangerous, especially to pedestrians. The team is investigating sounds that they can use that will sound enough like an engine to give people cues on how fast the car is going, and from what direction, but at the same time sound nice.

Mad Max DJ vehicle

After 27 years, George Miller is working on a new sequel to Mad Max – Mad Max: Fury Road. It appears as though Tom Hardy is taking over the role of Mad Max, and Charlize Theron will also be in the movie. OK, so I don’t care so much about all of that, but check out a leaked photo of one of the vehicles:

Now if that ain’t the best DJ vehicle on earth, I don’t know what is.

It is not possible to place speakers in a home without getting reflections that distort the sound. But somehow, if you pay enough money then you can’t hear the distortions. It’s too bad that paying too much for stereo doesn’t have the same effect as taking way too much aspirin.

— Bill Hawkins

1 2 3 14  Scroll to top