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Big Ass Superstar: Mind The Gap

Big Ass Superstar: Mind The Gap.

Ten years in the making, this 2011 compilation of cover songs performed by Halifax recording artist Big Ass Superstar (Scott Simpson) is finally available. Thirteen tracks including songs originally by Ween, Cub, Nick Cave and Diesel Boy.

1. Ocean Man
2. Ticket To Spain
3. Your Bed
4. Buenas Tardes Amigo
5. Sorry Charlie
6. New York City
7. Captain Fantasy
8. Touch My Tooter
9. Ladybugs Picnic
10. Puffy Cloud
11. Mononucleosis
12. Titty Twister
13. The Ship Song

Cover photography by Eddie Clarke (hedgiecc on Flickr). Front cover typography by Thomas Seto (@tomseto on Twitter).

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How To Get It:

- Easiest way to get the whole record is on MP3 via BitTorrent. First, you need a BitTorrent client.
- Then, download the torrent file: Torrent file at BTJunkie.org
- You can send the link to the torrent file to people you think would be interested in the record!

- To sample some of the tunes, check out my page at onlinemusicnetwork.ca ... when that web site is up.
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Music videos:



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Track-by-track notes:

1. Ocean Man
Originally performed by Ween on the 1997 album The Mollusk. You may recognize it from the end credits of The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie and in a 2003 commercial for the Honda Civic. I recorded this song at least a couple of times, most recently in 2010. My move to Reaper let me work in more synth parts. I like the way the background vocals come together. The song really needs a mandolin part, but I don't have (or play) a mandolin, so I subbed in a single-string guitar line. Through headphones, the song sounds just right to me. Through speakers, it feels like it should be about 5% faster. I can't explain that. I heard a pre-release version of the original Ween song that was slower than the album version, and it nearly hypnotized me.

2. Ticket To Spain
Originally by Cub from the 1995 album Come Out, Come Out. Nothing much to say about this, other than it's a rocking quickie. If I were playing a live gig, this'd be my opener.

3. Your Bed
Another Cub tune from Come Out, Come Out. I did this one two or three times and ended up with this version. Other mixes had more background vocals, but my wife said she didn't like them. I guess I agreed. I took one more swipe at it with less precision and more groove on the vocals, and here's what resulted.

4. Buenas Tardes Amigo
"The Mexican song" from Ween's 1994 album Chocolate and Cheese. This one went through at least two complete iterations. I tackled it again when I moved to Reaper, re-recording every track from scratch. I went for feel over pitch with the vocals, so please excuse the lack of pitch. This is a long one, amigos, but I think the results are stellar.

5. Sorry Charlie
I worked on this Ween track from 1991's The Pod many times over. The drums were tracked at least five years ago, and, frankly, every version has sounded pretty much the same. My wife hates this song. I'm not really sure why I re-did it so many times, since it's really a simple song.

6. New York City
Yet another track from Cub's Come Out, Come Out, but undoubtedly more famous from a cover by They Might Be Giants. This one's done with the lyrics and in the key performed by Cub. Check out my music video for this track. Now, I re-recorded New York City probably half a dozen times. I could never quite get the vocals to sit right, or the bass was out of whack, or the guitar didn't have any ass to it. I decided to go over it from scratch one more time shortly before release time, and that's the one you hear. I ended up trying something I hadn't done in years: instead of going through the PodXT or PodFarm plug-ins for my guitar tone, I set up my old Fender X-15 practice amp and cranked it to 10. I set a SM57 off-axis about an inch off the grill cloth, and an Apex condenser across the room. I played loud and recorded two takes, hard left and hard right. I also did one pass with an acoustic guitar, with a condenser at the 12th fret. Bass went through Kontakt and the drum kit was changed to a classic rock setup. Synth patches were changed to a grimy Hammond for the outro and a Nintendo-ish 8-bitter for the first chorus. All in all, a drastic set of changes from what I had in the first five or six versions, and it all finally played well together. I think this one has the pep and bounce that I was hoping for all along. 'Bout frickin' time, because three years of retakes were getting to me.

7. Captain Fantasy
This version of a weird Ween track from The Pod dates back to the early 2000s, when I was doing pretty much everything through a Zoom multi-effects stomp box. I was going for loud and obnoxious, and I think I achieved it here. Yes, I know the lyrics are wrong. Captain Fantasy is one of the first tracks where I let myself really let loose and rock the hell out on the mic. I'm pretty self-conscious when it comes to recording vocals, but I can yell when I relax enough.

8. Touch My Tooter
Same vintage as Fantasy, this cover of a Ween song from Pure Guava is also of the same quality and performance style. I didn't have a bass guitar at the time, so I jacked a 1980s Casio keyboard into the recorder and played bass on that. Loud and obnoxious and full of fuzz. For the comparatively small effort that was put into the fine-tuning of it, I think it holds up well to the more recent high-effort stuff.

9. Ladybugs Picnic
Probably the last time I used analog tape. At the time, I was living with a young woman who had no job or ambition, and spent the day downloading tracks from Napster. Yeah, that tells you how old this recording is. Napster. She downloaded a bunch of Sesame Street songs, and I though Ladybugs Picnic would be a fun cover tune. So, I hashed out the chords and laid down some music on the digital four-track. I still had my Tascam Portastudio four-track in working order, and wanted that vari-speed vocal sound I'd used on my Serotonin record. I dumped the instrumental to a track, did a few takes of vocals on the remaining tracks at low-speed, then dumped the vocals back at regular speed into the computer. That gave it the chipmunk sound you hear here. The engineering on this track is not supreme, but if you listen closely, you may hear someone playing the jug. Actually an empty pop bottle, but it's in there somewhere.

10. Puffy Cloud
This song (originally by Ween) explains itself. It's from around the same era as Ladybugs Picnic. I'm not particularly proud of this time in my life, but it was what it was. I'm better now.

11. Mononucleosis
Easily the least-conceived song on the record. I'd met a woman, and shortly after we got involved, she came down with mono. She was stuck at home, sick as a dog. I hastily recorded this cover of an old Ween tune to cheer her up. Engineering and performance-wise, it's a disaster. I think you can hear the TV on in the background, and the guitar has interference on it. Anyway, I married her.

12. Titty Twister
This is the oddball out of the group, for sure. "My pants are falling down." How appropriate for that time of my life. That woman who downloaded all the stuff from Napster -- well, she found this punk track by a band called Diesel Boy. It was fun and rude, so I took a crack at slowing it down into an acoustic number. I rather like it. The speech-synthesis segment is courtesy of an Internet service from AT&T labs that's still out there online. The sound effects at the end are actually me, my belt, and my pants are falling down.

13. The Ship Song
The last song on the record is my favorite in terms of arrangement, engineering and performance. I've long wanted to record this Nick Cave song from The Good Son, but it's based around the piano, which I don't play. I tracked down a source for the sheet music and converted that to MIDI. The rest, I arranged myself. Based on my wife's analysis of my terrible singing, I tried some new singing 'technique', and, wow, it carries. Sure, it's not perfect. Far from it. If I hadn't been determined to actually finish this record, I'd go back and re-record the vocals one more time. But, all in all, I feel good about this being an accumulation of all I've learned how to do in the past ten years of recording.

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Which songs didn't make the cut?

I had a few songs left in the can that weren't up to par for release. Among them, songs by Ween (The Blarney Stone, She Wanted To Leave), Cub (Everything's Geometry, Magic 8 Ball), Matthew Sweet (Sick of Myself, Where You Get Love, Thought I Knew You), Lou Reed (Perfect Day), and Mika (Big Girl).


Equipment notes:

During the decade in which these songs were recorded, my setup changed several times over. Heck, I moved twice, in two provinces. Here's some of the gear that went into this album, from oldest to newest. Here's a look at the state of the studio in 2008.

Interface:
- Sound Blaster Live! Platinum
- M-Audio Audiophile 2496
- Focusrite Saffire LE

Monitors:
- Altec Lansing 2.1 powered computer speakers
- KRK Rokit 5 powered studio monitors

Instruments:
- Samick strat-style electric guitar, dark purple, circa 1992
- Acoustic guitars: my 'crappy' guitar (Eterna? inherited from sister), my 'good' guitar (Fender), and 'beater' guitar (bought from coworker's boyfriend)
- Casio MT-210 keyboard, circa 1985
- Squire P-Bass, used
- Fender fat strat, cool mint green, from Steve's on Queen St

- Casio CK-541 keyboard with MIDI
- shakers, jug

Microphones:
- Dixon dynamic from pawn shop
- Shure SM57
- Shure Beta 58a
- Apex435 large-diaphragm condenser

Software:
- Cool Edit 2000 with four-track plug-in
- Adobe Audition 1.5
- Fruity Loops
- Reaper
- Plug-ins including drums and automatic tuning, plus Line 6 Pod Farm

Outboard:
- ZOOM 505 multieffects pedal
- Line6 PodXT
- Fender X-15 practice amp

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So, what's next?

I think it's about time I did something other than covers, so my next record, tentatively titled "DSM", will have original material. In fact, it may ALL be original material. And this time, I hope it won't take a decade to finish.

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