Beautiful Rubbish – Jose Gonzalez and his new distorted album

Jose Gonzalez

The new album “Vestiges and Claws” from Jose Gonzalez –

See: just grab the mic and press record!

Recording Artists spend a lot of time and effort trying to capture nice clean audio and that’s normally a pretty sensible investment. Whole decades have been dedicated to the elimination of distortion and other noisy intrusions and no doubt many careers. Some of my favourite albums are testament to this, towering examples of the technical prowess and massive expense invested in them.

Dunno about you, but there is a problem with these kind of records. It’s the same feeling I get when watching some virtuoso 5-year-old crash effortlessly through a Bill Bruford drum solo. I just wanna chuck my sticks out of the window and cry. The same can effect the recording artist but in this album, we have a great example of why we have the option to shake off the burden of technical quality and perform – however, wherever, and with whatever kit we might be able to cobble together.

OK, so I suspect there was a team of highly trained Engineers making sure there was plenty of lo-fi atmosphere in these productions, Jose must have earned a pile from that TV advert after all. The argument stands though – don’t fret about bit rates, jitter, or signal to noise ratios too much. The beauty and freedom we all now enjoy in the digital world has democratised art but technical snobbery can still hold us back. You could make this album on an old 4 track Portastudio and a pair of SM58s.

Of course, you’ll still benefit from a little help from your local (or virtual) production studio, but in the meantime: go forth and record!

Caveat: Once you have gone forth and to your horror, realised that your recordings actually sound really nice and clean even with your non-professional kit, you might need to dirty them up. I recommend a free plug-in from Softube in that case:

Softube’s Free “Saturation Knob”

Listening notes: Taking track one “With The Ink of a Ghost” 2 Things stand out for me:

  1. Distortion of the saturation kind very prominent especially in the lower frequencies. Yummy. The lows in any composition carry much of the emotion and here, they are enhanced beautifully with the addition of harmonic fuzziness
  2. Carefully crafted but simple reverb. It’s a combination of very open and diffused space with a lovely delayed reflection that blooms softly in the spaces in between vocal phrases. A reminder that reverb combined with controlled delay (or echo) is fab. Reckon you’ll need a convolution reverb to create these levels of “naturalness” though.


Blog Rock? Smallfishrecordings prepares to move ponds.


To be honest – running a tiddly little music production studio and then blogging about it seems a bit at odds with itself. I feel a little like Gollum when it comes to smallfishrecordings; this personal enterprise is very precious and I fear it might just turn to dust, or salt, or something equally messy if exposed to the bright lights of the real world. And then blow away. Ordinarily, I just keep it between trusted friends, brave clients and the few musos I haven’t offended yet.

And yet, there might now be justification to poke the world and talk about this project because it’s about to enter an interesting chapter in its as-yet closed book existence. You see, I’m going to dismantle it, both physically and metaphorically, and move it 400 miles North from Southern England to the bottom right hand corner of Scotland. Not this week, but just as soon as we’ve sold up.

Blog Map1The thing is, once up in Scotland, I’ll be within shouting distance of the lively music scene up there. If you’re not already in it, let me tell you – it’s pretty brawsome! (I’m practicing). It seems that hand-in-hand with what we all now know is a vibrant and progressive political environment, there goes a truly creative generation of folk who I suspect, offer a glimpse of what we could all be if only we weren’t all so focused on our credit cards and endless consumption of bits of tat. They even set aside public funding to support the arts. What are they thinking of? I’m sure there must be a banker somewhere up there needing a top-up?

Maybe some new doors for the project will open and I might need to start taking this venture a wee bit (still practicing) seriously. This, apparently, requires a blog. I’m not even sure what a blog is, but if I can master parallel compression, I can get a bearing on blogging too no doubt. I don’t and probably won’t have a smart phone so apparently that’s me out of the blogging race already. Great! I have a terrible fear of competition anyways.

In case you’ve got this far but still don’t know what smallfishrecordings is, a quick summary:

  • The world’s least profitable music venture but most attractive tax loophole. Probably.
  • The last resort for any musician too afraid, or modest, or tight, to go “big-time-studio”
  • A great place to have even the noisiest recordings turned into a useful sound
  • A man hiding behind an email address who really wants to join your band
  • But is probably nowhere near good enough, even on the shaky eggs
  • But who has learned to play the Mixing Desk pretty darn well

All this adds up to a simple and homespun music production service that is a little bit scared of its own shadow and would eschew any idea of becoming industrialised. Because then it wouldn’t be smallfish anymore.

Onto the spurious justification for the blog then. Main thing is: perhaps, I’ll not only be able to work with more nice people, but be able to work with more nice people Like, actually WITH them, you know, like in the same room! A squishy and suitably absorptive sofa and lava lamp might have to join the party but we’ll find room. To explain the significance of this small detail, you need to appreciate that I’ve been doing this all alone for years and with only my farts for company.

It’s ok and for a while it’s been nice, but having very occasionally actually met my musical patrons in the flesh, I want more. Apart from anything else, to explore many potential mix processing alternatives in real-time would be a great time-saver. Working remotely requires rendering many options and then pinging them back and forth until we hit the sweet spot. Part of me also yearns to be the nerd in the room explaining what this, or that compressor might do, or the relative merits of 15 ips tape speed over 30.

TapeProbably seems odd to most people – the idea of actually inviting people to look over your shoulder while you work – but not me. “Bring it on” I say. So part of the plan is to expand the current space in its as-yet undiscovered new home so that it can take on a social dimension. I wonder how that might work out? How many neighbours will assume a new drug dealer has moved in when the great unwashed of East Lothian trudge in and out of our new home in the wee small hours?

There are so many unknowns, not least whether smallfish will even be welcome “coming over here, taking all our virtually unpaid anti-social hour non-jobs”. Perhaps these blogs might help even if only to serve as a warning of the impending invasion? Dunno – let’s see shall we. I’m guessing that I’ve probably broken all kinds of blog rules so I’ll leave it here for now but I hope that with enough interaction from a tiny but eager community, I can get “Smallfishrecordings Scotland” off to a great start. Mebbe I can get a glimpse of what folk would actually like from theĀ  New Techie Muso Nerd On The Block? I’ll explore this next….

Jonny Smallfish