St Rotfest and the Death Monastic

For better or ill, this is probably the most enduring of my music.

I wrote The Death Monastic (hereafter TDM) in one Reason 3.5 project as part of a proto-RPM Challenge called Auld Lang Sine. It was started and finished in early 2005. It’s admittedly a simulation of cross-fades between different tracks a la DJ set, but composed in one go, with some tracks that might have held their own as entire singles and others that were perhaps a little too bland to carry their own weight. It runs a little fast to my ears now and because I did my own mixing and mastering–big air quotes around that word; I just shelved anything off under 30 Hz and tried to tame the treble a bit after running it through a 3:1 compressor–it doesn’t have the substantial sound of its contemporaries, much less the sonic wall of modern neuro.

A friend of mine drew the cover art for $50. For whatever reason, he drew it at the wrong aspect ratio–it looked more appropriate for a cassette tape–so it had to be “crunched” to fit the perfect square of a CD. It was only distributed online, so who cares?–but at the time, CD was still the dominant distribution format, so that’s where my mind was.

Conceptually, TDM was all about the end of the world. The tracks all follow a specific arc not unlike the stages of grief, but the concepts and titles are a bit out of order in hindsight; there’s more anger between the middle and penultimate acts than there was any sort of bargaining or acceptance. The apex of the arc–Matron (remix)–is a sort of “coming home,” that decision to accept that the world is indeed ending, that we’re returning to our collective mother. Carbon remains as the heavens fall and Earth is torn asunder; Rapture, the start of a new world bereft of hope.

Matron and Fuck Reality both appear as remixes in the track listing, but I did not work with any of the source material directly so it was generous to call these remixes. Covers, maybe? Conceptually, Fuck Reality was extra-simple, with that synth line hammering a minor second and tri-tone with all the dissonance and anger I could muster, but very civilized as a “remix;” the original was my first dabbling in Buzz, and I found some nasty distortion machines that were so much rougher than anything I had tracked before…but I digress. Carbon was an actual remix, an unreleased track written in Reason and modified for import into the tail end of TDM.

Though I’ve always been forthcoming about it when asked, I must confess the turntablism in No Better Reason isn’t my work. It’s very careful work with recorded scratches and ReCycle to arrange it; I was flattered that a few folks thought I did it myself. Would that I were such a badass. If ever I scratch, and I don’t have the requisite equipment, I’ll at least learn how to do my own work with TerminatorX or something next time.

In the info file accompanying The Death Monastic, I promised (oops) a subsequent release called St Rotfest and The Lazarus Experience. Obviously, we’re still waiting. And there’s an overwhelming sense of obligation surrounding that idea for me; that even if not one shit was given about my music, I still have to deliver. I’m simultaneously humbled and bewildered that thirteen years on, people still ask me about TDM from time to time, and as I’ve grown considerably as a person since I wrote it, I think Lazarus could take some interesting new forms.

If I composed and delivered it today, and I kept it in the vague frame of “bass music” or, to borrow a colloquialism kicked around since the IRC days, “beatshit,” I do anticipate it would sound vastly different than TDM. I’d like to think it would sound more complete, more hopeful, less bitter–it would be, after all, a story of resurrection and redemption–but it would probably also not be a hasty cross-fade of insubstantial tracks intended to simulate an end-of-the-world DJ set; rather, it would be a collection of tracks, an album proper.

It will be done when it’s done, but I think it’s time to get started.

$ uname -a

I’m still cleaning up around here. Excuse the mess. I don’t mean for there to be so many extraneous “pages” when I’m mostly just aiming to create a blog roll.

I recently installed Ubuntu 18.04 on both my desktop and my laptop. My capsule review is “it’s very good” but some additional detail may be warranted:

I don’t miss Unity as much as I thought I would.

I’ve dabbled in a lot of distros over the past 13 or 14 years, and Ubuntu has had the most staying power. I eventually accepted Unity after becoming familiar with Gnome 2, and never quite enjoyed Mate, so when Ubuntu chose to abandon Unity in favor of Gnome 3, I was skeptical. It looks like Ubuntu’s Gnome deployment is sufficiently well-refined, however.

Most things “just work,” more or less as I expected.

Some things don’t quite work 100%, but here are some remedies. (I’ll split these into separate, more detailed posts later.)

  • If you want to install Caffeine (yes, please), don’t install it by repository; it doesn’t work. Install the package chrome-gnome-shell, add the browser extension for Gnome Shell Extensions via your browser’s addons site, then browse to the Gnome Shell Extensions page and add it there.
  • If you use Discord, use the snap installer, or plan to do some ugly work-arounds to fix the libfreetype issue (mangled fonts). I recommend the snap installer; just open a terminal and type snap install discord, provide your password (privilege escalation to install), and done.
  • When you’re using Discord, whether by snap or deb package, you’ll find that the tray icon is missing. I don’t yet know what the problem is, but you can disable the tray icon from Discord’s Linux settings for the time being. (If you don’t, you run the risk of opening multiple instances of Discord, which is probably more annoying than truly problematic, but I digress.)
  • Ubuntu’s desktop installer lacks the robust partitioning options afforded the server installer (or the alternate installer in years past). Because I have a pair of mechanical hard drives that I want to run striped (RAID 0), I either have to do some ugly stuff in the desktop installer to “make it work” (no) or run the server installer. After doing the server install, I discovered that the network interfaces are managed differently than before, and turning control over to NetworkManager (i.e., after installing the ubuntu-desktop metapackage) meant changing Netplan configuration. This will definitely need to be handled in a separate post, but the short version is you replace the yaml file in /etc/netplan with a simple one giving control to NetworkManager. The official Netplan site has the three lines you need to put into such a file (scroll down).
  • The package libav-tools has been obsoleted by ffmpeg, which is fine and dandy for most folks’ needs, but if you run Bitwig (as I do), you’ll need to resolve the dependency Bitwig has on this package. I know this isn’t the savviest answer, but I grabbed libav-tools for Ubuntu 17.10 and installed it manually; et voila.

Gaming with an AMD GPU is smooth af.

I have been using Nvidia cards until recently on my Linux builds, so this was relatively new territory for me. Without installing a proprietary driver, I was able to get excellent framerates out of my Steam library. I had a lot of driver updates, downloads, reboots, &c with Windows; not here. I’ll happily concede that Windows gaming performance reigns supreme, but I have yet to experience in Windows the degree of stability and multitasking robustness witnessed on a long-term support release of any mainline distro; I can game, serve, and virtualize without incident here, and it all works very well.

If you’re willing to sign up for it, you can get kernel live patching from Canonical.

You can have up to three computers receive kernel live patches for free. (More than three incurs a cost.) What does that mean? Even fewer reboots! When a vulnerability is discovered, kernel patches can be applied at runtime and keep your system up without running exposed. lives on. That’s OK.

Wayland is the hot new thing but it’s not quite ready for prime-time, IMO. I’m sure Ubuntu 18.04 will be the last version to rock by default, and it comes with five years of support, so will probably be around until 2023 or later. That might disappoint some, but I discovered some serious problems with Wayland and VirtualBox before, and I’m happy to stick with until that gets weeded out.

In brief, this is my favorite Ubuntu release since 10.04.

I can’t help but gush about how solid the new LTS is. But, to be fair, it’ll need a few months of real-world testing to prove that it’s solid. I think some people are having a rougher time with it than I am, and just as well, YMMV; for my needs, it’s going to be a good couple years ahead.


# reboot now

I’m on the other side of my thirties now and it’s time to get real.

I deleted my Facebook–not judging if you dance with the Zuck but I cannot recommend it, myself–and I’ve reclaimed a bit of sanity and time. My kids are getting older, and I’m becoming more patient with my pursuits. I’m making a decent living doing something I enjoy, but I’m now looking downrange for the means to financial freedom and where my interests and aptitudes intersect, and I’m seeing tremendous potential for prosperity.

Short of counting chickens before they hatch, I’ll just proclaim that the time is right for a revival of creative interests and pursuits, and I look forward to sharing this exciting era with you.

Because I’m sworn off the traditional social media platforms, I can be found pretty handily on Discord (Ironpug#7008); I’m quite fond of it as a means of staying in contact, so feel free to hit me up there.