My First Music Demo, 1988

By | October 26, 2010

These are my very first 4-track recordings. I made them in the spring of 1988, then dubbed and distributed a bunch of demo cassettes under the name M. Scott.

marshal, cira 87-88'

Me, sometime around 1987-88

Eden in the Rain01-Eden-in-the-Rain.mp3

The Rush of My Heart

You Deny


Equipment used:
Roland Jupiter-6
: all the “analog” sounding stuff. Strings and bass, though these were often layered or accentuated with samples from the FZ-1. I still have this synth, but it needs a little work.
Casio FZ-1
: Drums plus all the “digital” sounding stuff. A few of the samples were my own, but I did use some library disks and steal a couple of things. This was the first *affordable* 16bit sampler, and it was quite cool.
Alesis MMT-8
: I LOVED THIS SEQUENCER. Until the buttons became completely unusable, then I kinda hated it. I don’t know how many times I popped it open to clean the contacts. Kinda wish I still had it.
Electrovoice N/D 457 microphone : vocals and a few samples. Sounded great for a few years, but didn’t last.

These were recorded at the end of my first year at Mt. Hood Community College. I’d graduated from High School the previous spring, and worked all that summer to purchase a sampling keyboard. There were not many on the market in 1987, and they were not cheap. I had a decent summer job (driving a forklift while I wore a hardhat on which I’d stamped the lyric “Frankly Mr. Shankly.”) I did not have a drum machine, but had recently picked up a sequencer. At some point in there I also acquired a broken heart.

I was a music student (voice) at MHCC, which at the time was highly regarded as a Jazz school even though it’s just a community college. I played some piano and sax in high school, but once I saw the level the other instrumental students were playing at I figured voice was my best bet. Compared to those jazz cats I was just messing around. I played a bit part in a spring theater production, and that’s how I gained access to the reel-to-reel 4-track. In exchange for a the use of an amplifier I owned, the theater department let me “borrow” a Tascam 34 – (an open reel, 1/4″ 15ips machine) they had been using for sound effect cues. I put “borrow” in quotes because it was understood that I would not move the machine – I would move my (quite heavy) keyboards and sequencer up to the little, darkened control booth located above the last, highest row of the schools new theater.

Now, the music department had a “nice” studio, with a dedicated control room based around a Tascam 388 (1/4″ 7.5ips 8-track with a built in mixer), the first 8-track “Portastudio.” They also had several pieces of outboard gear, a Tascam 32 (1/4″ 15ips 2-track) and some nice AKG 414 mics. I would have LOVED to have 8 tracks to work with, and a 414 for vocals… But it was my first year, and the department was predominantly jazz. I was making music inspired by what I was hearing in Portland’s under-age dance clubs. There was little to no chance of doing my project there. At the time I had no idea that the 34, running at twice the speed and with twice the track width, was a much better sounding machine. The preamps in the M-208 mixer up in the theater booth were also superior to the those built-in to the 388. So technically I think things worked out better. I had no one to help me figure stuff out, but I had good gear and no one watching over my shoulder.

Once I had my tracks all recorded I convinced the music department’s tech guru to come and check out what I’d been doing. I think he was surprised. He pulled some strings to bring the 34 down from the booth and into the music department studio so I could do a more proper mixdown. We used the mixer on the 338, added a little reverb (Yamaha REV-7) to my double-tracked vocals and mixed it down to the 1/4″ 2-track. From that I dubbed a few cassettes, which I selectively handed out to people I thought seemed cool. I think Iran Johnson still has one.

The mp3s on this page were digitally transfered from a cassette tape around 2000. Nothing fancy equipment wise, and I probably added too much compression and noise reduction at the time. But I think the character still comes out.

4 Tracks.
Sync tone on track 4 until the last passes.
1st pass: Bass and a couple small things on track 3.
2nd pass: Sequencer sync’ed to track 4, Drums, remaining sounds and track 3 bounced to tracks 1 & 2.
Remaining passes: vocals on 3 & 4.
At least that’s how I remember it.

3 thoughts on “My First Music Demo, 1988

  1. Donna Pizzi

    Marshal, Great photo by your Dad. Cool cut, and “Rush of My Heart” is definitely cool… Bring it back!

  2. Dave

    I stumbled upon your blog by searching for older 80s gear on Google. Those are some nice demos! What sample libraries did you use for the drums, particularly the snares in those tracks? It’s difficult to discover/buy 80s sample libraries these days. I love them!

  3. marshalserna Post author

    Glad you liked them! The drum samples were mostly shared to me by the salespeople at Apple Music (Portland, OR) between 1988 and 1991. There were just a few samplers available back then, and just a handful of owners in town. Adjusted for inflation, the Casio FZ would cost over $4000 now ($2200 in 1987.) The music store let those who did drop the cash on a sampler come in and essentially pirate whatever sounds they wanted. So… I’m not sure of the original source. Some were banks I re-saved onto my own disks, others may have been sampled in store. I sold the FZ in the mid 90’s and unfortunately did not retain a recording of the individual samples. I’ve always loved the sounds, though by the early 90’s they had become quite out of style.

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