The Haunted House

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Circuit Bending Challenge

Today I took part in the Circuit Bending Challenge run by The idea of the challenge is to go out and buy a toy, bend it, document it, and present it all in 1 day. I haven't done a circuit bend for about 6 months now. I originally did a load of circuit bending to create sounds for my latest album, Distant Horizon, out next month. Because of the time elapsed since my last bend, I was really looking forward to today.

Here are some links to my previous bends:

  1. Unleashing Satan From The Machine
  2. Furby part 1 and part 2
  3. Circuit Bent Childrens Telephone
  4. Speak and Spell
  5. Talking Kids Computer
  6. Yamaha PSS-80

I left the house about 10am to go into Belper to visit a charity shop and get my circuit bending victim. Unfortunately when I got into town none of the charity shops were open. To cap it all off it started pissing it down with rain whilst I walked back. DOH!!

Never mind. I looked in the cupboard under the stairs and found some old toys from earlier on in the year that I hadn't bent yet and found this kids plastic guitar. It seemed ideal :-)

After removing what seemed like 1000 screws I finally got inside the toy and started probing with some wires. I found 3 bends that sounded pretty cool, but that was about it.

I attached 1 switch that acts as a high pass filter. Another push button switch that works as a glitch. and I attached 2 screws that are body contact points. This drastically effects the pitch of the toy when touched. Even more so if your hands are sweaty.

I wanted to fit a head phones jack to the instrument so I could wire it up to the mixer, but after rummaging around my tool box I couldn't find any jack outputs. I could have sworn I had some. Not to worry, it was a good excuse to use my Zoom H4 recorder instead.

Well there you go, my entry in the challenge. The toy sounds quite cool when you play around with the body contact points and switches. It is a shame I couldn't find many more decent bends on this device. I spent a couple of hours searching, but nothing that didn't result in the machine locking up. Here is an MP3 of the recording I made. It's only 1.5 minutes long, but gives a good impression of the newly added controls.


Thursday, October 25, 2007

New Haunted House Records Logo

Mr Huckle has kindly been working on a new Haunted House Records logo for us. After a couple of iterations, this is what we are going with.


Amanda's Home Made Baileys

After starting off a batch of sloe gin the other day Amanda decided she wanted to make her own Baileys style creamy liquors. After work today she started it off. The ingredients are:

1x 75cl bottle of Irish whisky
600ml double cream
1.5 tins of evaporated milk
2 tins of condensed milk
2 teaspoons of ground instant coffee granules
250g block of milk chocolate

1. Melt chocolate in a double boiler.

2. Add the melted chocolate to a bowl with a little whisky in. Stir it together to make a chocolaty paste.

3. Add the 1.5 tins of evaporated milk and stir in.

4. Add in the 2 tins of condensed milk and stir.

5. Add all 600ml of double cream and stir again. Then add in the coffee granules. These might clump up a bit, but don't worry about that yet.

6. Pour in the rest of the Irish whisky. Then stir the thing vigorously in til all the coffee has dissolved.

7. Using a ladle move the mixture into some bottles. This recipe makes enough baileys for 3 x 75cl bottles. There was enough left to fill up a little tub. We'll be having this at the weekend :-)

Apparently for best results you should leave this in the fridge for 2 weeks to a month before drinking, but it tastes fine to drink straight away. I had a little earlier, and I'm not joking, it tastes much nicer than shop bought baileys. Don't believe me? Try it. It's so simple to make.


Mechanical gets Editors Pick on Smother.NET

My debut album, Mechanical, has been awarded an editors pick award in a review on Woohoo :-) Here is the review:

Influenced by Nine Inch Nails and Boards of Canada, Creature actually does a fantastic job of merging both into their own sound. Dark ambient pieces dominate “Mechanical” with its driving rhythms circulating the atmospheric synth pads and computerized effects. Haunting melodies drive home the nail with tweaked out stabs and filthy cinematic vibes blended underneath the rest of the mix. Downtempo warm beats bring you to your feet in an instant.


Sunday, October 21, 2007

Sloe Gin

As I mentioned in my previous post, we picked 3lb of sloe berries for making sloe gin. Once we had got back from Newcastle and been to the super market I started preparing the berries.

For this recipe we bought 2 bottles of gin, a 1.5litre bottle and a 75cl bottle. We also needed a bag of sugar. The quanties we prepared for where 2.25litres of gin, too 3lb of berries and 1.5lb of sugar.

The berries needed to be washed first. Then you need to prick them with a fork. You can't really just bash them up as you will get all the berry stones in the gin. Pricking the berries took ages, but once they had been done I put them in the demi jon.

Then I added the sugar. I was a bit worried that the quantities were wrong at first as it looked like far to many berries and sugar, but Amanda had a search on the internet and found lots of sloe gin recipes. The recipes varied quite a lot, but it looks like the mixture we put together was roughly in the middle of all the others.

Once the sugar has been put in we added the gin and put the bottle stopper in and gave it a good shake.

We now need to leave it for 3 or 4 months in a dark place giving it a shake twice a day. I'm looking forward to it being ready, sloe gin is nice. Amanda is also going to make some baileys. She bought all the ingredients earlier, but not enough cream, so we will make that later in the week.


Walk up Simonside Hill in Northumberland

This weekend we went up to Amandas Mums house as we were taking her out for a meal as a birthday pressent. Also Amanda's Aunt Sandra had said to us a while ago that she would like to go on a walk with us.

I left work at 4pm on friday and got the train home. I quickly make dinner when I got in then we set off on the drive up to Newcastle. After a bit of bad traffic we got up there about 9.30pm. After arriving we pretty much straight away headed off down to the pub with Anne (My Mother in Law) and her boyfriend Barry.

On Saturday we set off on the walk about 10am with Sandra. By 11am, after a false start going to the wrong carpark, we set off on the walk. The total distance was 5.5 miles. The walk was mostly flat except for the bit where you climb up Simonside Hill.

Walking up this hill was quite tough as it goes up in elevation very quickly over a short period of time. The view from the top was really good though. It's a pity it wasn't a blue sky as you would beable to see even further. Getting to the top of the hill was a good excuse for lunch.

The whole walk too around 4 hours. It was meant to take 3 hours, but we wasn't in anyrush. Afterwards we drove to Rothbury for a coffee and some cake.

After we got back to the house we went out to take the dog for a walk. Whilst on the walk Anne showed us where you could pick some sloe berries. Anne and Barry have been making sloe gin for years, so we though we would give it a go. We picked about 3lb of berries to bring home. Anne also gave us a demi jon for us to make the gin.

In the evening we went out to a Chinese Resturant in Morpeth called the Mulan for Annes birthday. Amanda's sister, Angela also came along with her husband John. Also her brother Steve came along. The meal was very good, lots of wine and food. Probably one of the better chinese meals I have had before. Although it is quite pricey, so wouldn't want to go there too often.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

New Creature review in Regen Magazine

I had another encouraging review for my album Mechanical today in ReGen magazine. You can read it in it's entirety here. Out of all the reviews I have had for the album, they have all been very positive. Lets hope they like the new one :-)


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

On my MP3 Player

I have had some quite good albums on my mp3 player over the past week. First up is Underworld's new album, Oblivion with Bells. Underworld are true electronica pioneers and this album is no exception with lots of interesting sounds and tunes. The tracks are:

1: CROCODILE: The lead single is a very song-like affair featuring some gorgeous synths to accompany Hyde's 80's style lyrics, but it falls short of previous singles due to it's lack of power.

2: BEAUTIFUL BURNOUT: This could well be the definitive Underworld track! Subtly upbeat with layers of synth, driving basslines, soft mellow lyrics and powerful melodies, best track on the album.

3: HOLDING THE MOTH: A simplistic track with an abundance of swirling ambient textures, reminiscent of "Little Speaker", lovely but not exactly outstanding.

4: TO HEAL: The second best piece of music from the Sunshine soundtrack. To Heal is a beautiful ambient track in the style of Brian Eno's "Ascent" featuring a gorgeous swelling melody.

5: RING ROAD: Similar to "Bruce Lee", sounds a bit like The Streets with some cute little backing melodies. It's a good song but not one of the best.

6: GLAM BUCKET: An interesting lo-tempo electronic piece featuring fathoms of intertwining melodies swirling and swelling into a large scale finale.

7: BOY BOY BOY: Another song-like piece featuring Larry Mullen from U2 on drums. This is a good song with an awesome beat but similarly to Crocodile it's not quite got that powerful edge.

8: CUDDLE BUNNY: A short track made out of one ambient pad and a few bassy explosions in random moments.

9: FAXED INVITATION: A very mellow electro track featuring some typical Hyde lyrics but nothing of any real merit.

10: GOOD MORNING COCKERIL: A NICE piano and voice piece which once again lacks any kind of significance in the context of the album. Could have easily been replaced with some of their Underworld live work like "Play Pig" or "Back In The Fears".

11: BEST MAGMU EVER: A great finale piece and a terrific 9 minute relaxing electronic number to round off a good album.

The second album I have really enjoyed this week is Robert Henkes Layering Buddha. Robert Henke, if you don't recognise the name is the guy behind Monolake, and a chief consultant and audio expert at Ableton Software. This album consists of high resolution recording from the FM3 buddha machine. This is a small plastic machine that contains a series of lo-fi hypnotic loops designed for monks.

Robert has sampled these loops using a high quality ADC and then done lots of zooming and processing to show all the hidden sounds you wouldn't normally hear. The sounds quality is exceptional and creates a very surreal ambient album. It might be a little too odd for most peoples tastes, but I recommend it.


Tweaking Vista for Music Production

For the last 6 months I have been running Microsoft's new Vista operating system on my laptop. After going in with very low expectations, I was pleasantly surprised with it. It didn't take long for hardware companies and software vendors to get their arses in gear and get updates and drivers available for the kit I use.
Vista out of the box isn't perfect though and requires a little tweaking to get the most out of it for music production. Peter Kirn at has written a few posts on these tweaks. They are:
  1. How to Kill Windows Vista Bottlenecks: Pt. I, Aero and Display Issues.
  2. How to Kill Windows Vista Bottlenecks: Pt. II, Stop the Disk Churning.


Final ZiBiR Artwork

Here are the final case renderings from our manufacturers design software for ZiBiR's Life Begins. Look quite good me thinks :-)


Sunday, October 14, 2007

First look at new Creature album cover.

Here is the first look at the new album cover for my new album Distant Horizon. The landscape image was shot in Derbyshire but to get the interlaced effect Neil re shot the photo from a computer monitor using a very high resolution macro lens. The cd verson will look really good. The image stretches from the front cover to the back cd cover, but the interlaced effect fades out across the cover to show the full high resolution landscape.

This gives the impression, for example, that you are looking at the image though a TV set which then fades through to real life. This is a reoccurring theme throughout the album with the re sampled and filtered electronic sounds combined with natural strings and pianos. Baring a few small tweaks and the rest of the CD case panels being formatted this is the image we will go with. It has a nice other worldly / industrial feel to it.


Thursday, October 11, 2007

Circuit Bending Challenge 2007

'Nuff Said!! I will certainly be taking part and documenting the process along the way. To quote Create Digital

The premise is simple:
1. Wait until October 28th with growing anticipation.
2. Bicycle, walk, or swim to your nearest secondhand store.
3. Locate and purchase a cheap electronic noisemaking device.
4. Take it home and bend that thang!
5. Document the process and end result,
then upload it to the internet in some fashion- Youtube, Flickr, etc, all with
the tag “circuitchallenge.” (and createdigitalmusic, of course)
6. The Circuit Master and myself will gather the results and feature them here and at

The winner will receive, um, a token prize of low value, to
be decided later. Something though. And we’ll publish your picture on the
internet for the universe to see.
Of course, it’s not about winning, oh no.

It’s about getting off your keister and bending some circuits!
Never bent a circuit before but always wanted to? Now’s your chance!


Ableton Live 7 Announced

Those innovative people over at Ableton have announced their latest upgrade of their flagship audio tool Live. Live 7 features a ton of new features and improvements over their current version. They have also designed a load of new synths for the package.

I won't retype all the information here though, as Peter Kirn over at has already done that. So click this link to read all about it. The whole package looks amazing, I just wish I had some of these features whilst finishing my current album, ho hum. There are also lots of videos and sound examples over at the Ableton Live product page.

It is due to be released Q4 of this year. So I will probably wait a couple of months for the dust to settle before upgrading. This tool has been the system I use when putting tracks together and it is so easy to use that you can just get on with being creative instead of wrestling with a UI. I wish other software developers would take a leaf out of their book.


Creature Update...

I've been fairly quite with my own musical exploits (Creature) recently, except for the odd review I have posted. I have not lost interest. I have been busy most of the year working on the next Creature album, and I am pleased to say that as of 11.30am today, I have officially finished it by rendering out the final 24bit wave files. How exciting :-) As a little carrot dangling exercise, below there is a screen shot of my sequencer containing one of the final tracks after mixdown.

All that is left to do now is get the final tracks mastered. This involves compressing and limiting the dynamic range of the tracks to bring the loudness upto that of commercial cd's. Mr Newlove has kindly agreed to help out with this, as he is a properly trained audio expert :-) Also I am due to work with Neil soon on the photography for the album cover and jacket for the CD version. As soon as I have a copy of the cover I will post it here. I have quite a few ideas for the cover and Neils keen photographic skills should help us get the best result :-)

The name of the new album is 'Distant Horizon' and it is quite different to my last album. It is a lot darker and aggressive, but still contains my trademark cinematic edge :-) I have also
done a lot more circuit bending which features a lot more this time.

I have put some work in progress tracks up on the Haunted House Records site. To listen to them, go to the site and look in the music player on the right hand side of the web page. The tracks are called Flutter and Helter Skelter. I think they help set the tone of the full album, but I warn you they are quite weird. More details soon.

Oh and to the people that have asked if Creature will be playing live. At the moment this isn't easy to do, so will not happen for the moment. In the future though, who knows what will happen. Is that vague enough ;-)


ZiBiR gone to the distributors

Well the ZiBiR album 'Life Begins' has finally gone of to the distributors and will be available from most decent online download stores soon. This includes iTunes, Napster, eMusic, Groupie Tunes and As the album becomes available in each of the stores, i'll post updates. If you're interested you can listen to previews of each track on the Haunted House Records page.

I'll also update back when the album is available for listening on Last.FM.


Sunday, October 07, 2007

Win Hill in Castleton

As is customary at the moment, we went out for another walk yesterday with Neil and Caroline. This time we went back to Castleton, where Me and Amanda went for our wedding anniversary.

Last time we walked up Mam Tor, but this time we decided to do another hill. Win Hill in fact. We got to Neil and Carolines house for 8am, and after a fleeting visit to Tesco we drove to Castleton.

By about 9.30 we were all kitted up and set off on the walk. Thankfully the weather was really good today. It has been very cold and wet the past week, so we was lucky today.

The walk took us through a lot of fields to start with and then onto the base of the hill. Getting up Win hill was very steep and quite tiring, but the view was worth it when we reached the top. The walk we was following from the AA book takes you up the hill and then straight back down again.

We didn't really like the sound of this. Instead we walked along the ridge at the top of the hill for a couple of miles and then back down further on. After a while we reached a village called Hope, where we rejoined the route from the book.

The whole walk was just over 10 miles according to the gps unit. Not bad :-) We certainly felt knackered afterwards. Once we had got back to the car and got changed we went to a cafe for some much deserved cake and coffee as we were all starving.

All in all the walk took us just over 5.5 hours to complete. Once back in Belper Me and Amanda went to the shop to get stuff for dinner, and a few beers. Once I had made dinner we just flaked out in front of the TV.

We watched a DVD that Amanda rented from a new online video club. It was a documentary called 'An Inconvenient Truth', which was by the previous US president candidate Al Gore. It is all about the impact on humans on the environment. It was quite interesting.

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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

A Blast From The Past Part 2

A few weeks ago I wrote about a little blast from the past with a game I worked on at Argonaut Software called Croc, on the Color Gameboy. But today I found another blast from the past that goes back even further than the year 2000. Back when I where a lad, and at school, I worked with my friend Chris Rundell on a game called Dark Mission for the Amiga. We were lucky enough to get a publishing deal and I remember going down to Bath to visit Future Publishing where I was interviewed about the game, which was called Dark Mission. This interview and game preview was printed in the March 1994 edition of Amiga Power.

I still have a copy of the magazine as Amanda managed to find a collector in Florida who sold her a copy of the magazine before we got married as I had lost my old copy. But it was quite cool to find this website which has every page of the scanned. You can view a full page version of the interview here, or click on the image below.

The game was an isometric action adventure. You play a marine sent to a remote colony to rescue it's inhabitants and rid the planet of the evil Vetoquel scum. Yes yes, I know. It sounds like James Camerons' Aliens, so sue me :-)

You used the left mouse button to click on the map and the hero would walk to that spot. The right mouse button fired your weapons which shot at the position pointed to by the mouse. The game was quite gory, the aliens exploded in a nice big pussy blood splatter. Nice :-)

To the left of the screen was a pop out menu containing icons for different actions the character could do, like, examine, talk etc. Just like the classic Verb, Noun structure of old adventure games.

In another twist of irony, on the next page to this preview was a preview of a game called Heimdal 2, by Core Design. The irony being that I went to work for Core Design after finishing Croc at Argonaut :-)

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