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Guess Who's a Mess, my third album. 10 tracks, instant downloads.

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There wasn’t a lot of exciting software at the NAMM music trade show this year and it made me wonder: why are recording software manufacturers being so slow to add Internet collaboration features?

Anyone will tell you that we’re in an Internet indie music golden age but popular recording tools barely recognize the Internet exists for anything more than patch updates. Cloud services have come to the most mainstream services (email, calendar, music, photos, contacts) but recording software has barely made a move in that direction.

There are so many ways the Internet could improve software like Pro Tools, Reaper, Reason, Logic and Ableton Live — easy collaboration, cloud backups, portability (easily access your audio data on your iPad & iPhone), revision tracking, quick in-software purchasing of samples/plugins/devices, preset sharing and hands-on lessons to name a few off the top of my head.

And it makes business sense for the companies. By making the Internet an integrated part of the recording software companies could get their customers into a subscription model instead of this weird yearly upgrade cycle and they’d be free to roll out & market new features any time, distribution and copy protection would be easier, companies could gather metrics on performance to improve the software & stamp out bugs, you could demo and sell features, samples, presets, plugins and lessons to your customers, sell iPad/iPhone/Android apps to work with your cloud data, etc, etc.

I feel Ableton Live and Reason are uniquely positioned for success in this area. They’re largely MIDI, sample and loop based so they’d use less bandwidth to sync. Plus their interfaces are already very modular — selling new devices and features and packs wouldn’t require much redesign.

My suspicion right now is that Ableton (who haven’t released a major new version of Live since January 2009) is working on a full rewrite and I’ll be surprised if it doesn’t include a lot more Internet. But whoever it is, someone’s going to make a move and then all the other players will have to play catch up.

Posted on - February 16, 2012 [at] 8:10 pm by Brad
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One of the issues with finishing this record (that I have figured out in retrospect) has been that my understanding of rhythm and “tightness” changed when I was nearly done. Tracks were in the bag and then I suddenly started noticing some songs didn’t “groove” or “bang” the way I perhaps wanted them to.

Before this I’ve mostly thought about my contributions in music as chords & riffs, melody and words. The groove was just something that happened — or sometimes mysteriously didn’t happen and I’d have no idea why.

But what to do? I can’t re-record the album every time I learn something new or get better at something. I know that doesn’t end well for me (or anyone who wants to hear my record in the next ten years).

So I took some time and I’ve gone back and re-addressed things, trying to avoid re-recording everything or changing them too much (people already like a lot of these demos! some have already been licensed!). Here’s an example of one I’m working on right now:

Excerpt of the original “Feel Free Plastic Surgery!” instrumental

Excerpt of the new version

It’s been confusing to diagnose and treat this without starting over. In this one I ditched the South American drum loop that I wrote the song on top of and replaced it with a more straight ahead rock pattern I tapped in. Then re-recorded the bass to fit better.

I’m still working on it (I’m concerned the snare on the 4 is late sometimes), but the new one is more fun to me, dancier and rockier. It’s such a small change and I feel dumb that it’s taken me forever to understand and figure out. But… maybe it’s a good thing? I don’t know, we’ll see.

Posted on - February 7, 2012 [at] 2:49 pm by Brad
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I happened across Bobby Owsinski’s blog when he replied to my review of one of his books. Lately he’s been posting links to a lot of isolated parts of songs with his comments on them, which is really interesting if you’re a recording nerd. Here are a few of my favorites:

And here are links to the categories themselves:

I hope he keeps it up. Also: I find the amount of reverb on older vocal recordings to be crazy!

Posted on - June 13, 2010 [at] 5:46 pm by Brad
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zoomh4n I bought a Zoom H4N field recorder a few months ago. I wanted to broaden the sounds I use in my recordings and do some experimental stuff. I don’t have a huge field recording passion – I’m not very interested in recording a storm or a train. But I do like recordings of people behaving naturally. It’s been fun, the quality is great and listening back to most recordings I feel like I’m in the room again. Which for a lot of situations is more interesting to me than taking a photograph as far as capturing a memory.

So here’s a montage of some of the recordings I’ve done with it since I got it:

Field Recording I [5.4 MB]

  • [0:00] Justin (my drummer) has a giant, giant empty room in his basement. This is me trying out the reverb in it.
  • [0:05] At a Barn practice I made some jokes about Bryan Adams and then wound up singing Summer of ’69.
  • [0:25] And then “Run To You” but I couldn’t remember any of the lyrics really.
  • [0:39] Then, after being exposed to a bunch of ska recently, I suggested the worst combination in the world might be a ska version of Bryan Adams’ Everything I Do, I Do It For You. [1:03] And then we improv it.
  • [1:28] Total Breakdown in Brad Sucks practice. Next time I’m gonna feed the computer output (vocals and synth) into the H4N. I think that’ll sound better.
  • [1:55] Rehearsal of I Think You’re Alright for a performance a few weeks ago.
  • [2:31] As a favor I did sound for a bluegrass show by Yonder Hill. They needed eight microphones but they were very good. This is them doing “Beefsteaks When I’m Hungry, Whiskey When I’m Dry”. There is a banjo solo.
  • [2:54] My guitarist Ben and his wife performed an intimate Valentine’s dinner-music show. This is them covering Here Comes the Sun by The Beatles. On this one I fed the monitor output into one of the H4N inputs so the vocals sound a lot clearer.
  • [3:28] At Brad Sucks practice: Ben randomly plays an Irish jig riff, Justin says “dance, leprechaun, dance”, and I yell “WHERE’S ME GOLD” in my evil leprechaun voice and then the delay from the microphone makes us all giggle.

It’s a sweet little device. Main complaint is I wish it powered up quicker.

Posted on - March 30, 2010 [at] 6:37 pm by Brad
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So I failed again with the monthly demo. My excuse: it’s been a stupid crazy busy month and I’m addressing the problem, since I can’t seem to keep up anymore. It’s not an awful problem to have but it’s uncool.

Anyway, I need to make myself pay for my failure, so here’s two humiliatingly incomplete things you can listen to.

#1: Every now and then people ask me to make intro music for their shows or whatever. Then their shows get cancelled or do not air. Amber MacArthur asked me to do one last year and the show was immediately disintegrated. Here’s the thing I wrote for her:

Intro Music for the Damned [1.6 MB]

#2: Ben and I have been working on the two-person Brad Sucks live show for a while but are bringing a drummer in now. To help him out with practicing on his own we recorded the live set in my office. Direct-in, one take and at very low volume. Here are some embarrassing clips from that:

Crappy Live Clips [4 MB]

Neither are mixed worth a whatever, etc, etc, etc.

Posted on - August 24, 2009 [at] 9:40 pm by Brad
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image Reaper 3 came out a little while ago and I’ve mentioned that I’m experimenting with switching to it from Cubase. So far I can’t imagine going back to Cubase. Some of the things I like:

  • It’s fast and small. While the 4.4MB installer file size is great, it’s the responsiveness and quick loading time that are truly awesome. Cubase feels bloated and slow after using Reaper, as do most DAWs.
  • Powerful. The amount of features in it are ridiculous. You may have to hunt for the options, but 99% of the time it’s there.
  • I haven’t had it crash on me yet.
  • It’s fully customizable. I feel like I can trick it out as much as I want. From themes to keyboard shortcuts to actions, you can make it your own.
  • Frequent useful updates. Unlike Cubase’s usual “launch buggy, gradually patch those bugs and save any useful new features for the next version you have to pay for” you actually get an amazing amount of updates and improvements.
  • An active community and approachable developers. Reasonable or good ideas get implemented quickly, developers are responsive in the forums, lots of people were helpful when I was flailing around in “I’m used to Cubase!” land.
  • It plays nice with dual monitors. HOORAY.
  • Quick search of VST plugins.
  • I don’t feel locked in. Project files are in plain text, you can export your stuff easily. You can move your preferences around easily.

Some things I don’t like so much:

  • There are so many options that new (and/or less tech-savvy) users will likely feel overwhelmed hunting down the right checkboxes to get the behavior they expect. It’s awesome that it’s so customizable, but I’d love to see them pick some more universal up-front options and move a lot of the tweaks to a Firefox about:config style interface or just an .ini file.
  • A lot of the comping/audio behavior doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. The logic behind which items play and which don’t when they overlay each other on the same track still confuses me, so I try and avoid it. Comping generally works but lacks the precision of Cubase or Logic.
  • Unlike versions 1 and 2, Reaper 3 doesn’t have my song Making Me Nervous as the default project. :( :(

Anyway, it’s been good and I recommend trying it out. There’s an un-crippled evaluation version so you’ve got nothing to lose.

Posted on - June 9, 2009 [at] 7:38 pm by Brad
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Seventeen years ago today Nirvana’s Nevermind was released. I’m re-watching the Classic Albums Nevermind episode:

It’s real interesting and worth a watch if you’re a recording nerd or a music fan.

Personally I don’t think the production on Nevermind holds up as well over the years as In Utero, but that’s me.

Posted on - September 24, 2008 [at] 2:44 pm by Brad
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Everything around here’s breaking. The first channel on my Presonus Bluetube magically broke during the night. As you can see, the first channel input is pegged to the max even though there’s nothing plugged into channel 1:

Broken stuff 003

And for the past couple of months I’ve been aware the phantom power light on my Behringer Eurorack UB1204-PRO is always on regardless of the switch setting on the back:

Broken stuff 002

(It’s the red light beside the blue one. Spooky!)

I guess I’ll open up the BlueTube and see if there’s anything obviously wrong inside. Wait, first I’ll shake it.

Update: shaking did nothing. I opened it up and there was nothing broken looking. Poked around a bit and tugged on wires and things, powered it back on and now it works again. La-di-da.

Update 2: It broke again after a couple days of working fine. Presonus says $65 + shipping to repair. Blergh.

Posted on - May 9, 2008 [at] 2:04 pm by Brad
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I’m hoping someone can point me towards what to buy to solve this problem.

For the longest time I’ve been using a mixing board as gain control and a headphone switch for my monitors. Here’s the rough layout:


I’ve been aware using a mixing board for this small task is stupid (and a waste of desk space) for a while but I didn’t know what to replace it with. The board’s slowly dying now though so I need to figure out what to replace it with. Here’s what I’ve thought so far:

  • I could plug the Delta 66 sound card directly into the monitors, but then how do I switch to the headphones? I hate dicking around in software to change volume and settings every time I want to do something.
  • I thought a headphone amp like the Behringer HA400 might be what I was looking for but I’d have to feed my sound card output into one of those headphone inputs and that seems sorta gross. Also I don’t need the two extra outputs and would like a mute switch for the monitors.

Aaaand that’s about it. Digging through Behringer’s product list hasn’t helped much. Basically I need two 1/4″ or XLR inputs & outputs, two volume dials and a mute button in a wee little package.

Posted on - June 7, 2007 [at] 4:16 pm by Brad
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What Happened To Dynamic Range is an article that’s been making the rounds lately. Bob doesn’t give any examples of modern bands or recordings that he’s talking about so it’s hard to make much of his opinions. And it’s hard not to blow off the entire article after this statement:

The music available today isn’t musical at all.  It’s best described as anti-music.  It’s anti-music because the life is being squashed out of it through over compression during the tracking, mixing, and mastering stages.  It’s simply, non musical. It’s no wonder that consumers don’t want to pay for the CDs being produced today.

Beep beep cranky old man alert. The music you kids listen to isn’t music. There are certainly a lot of styles these days that leave me cold (such as the alterna boy-rock super compressed pitch-corrected and computer harmonised stuff), but I’m also heading into being a cranky old man myself.

I was going to pass this article by and not mention it at all except that I’ve been listening to a lot of albums from the 70s lately and almost across the board I wish they were mixed and mastered more aggressively. Led Zeppelin sounds kind of weak when it should be knocking my head off when it rocks out. I’m listening to Dancing Days here right now and want to run the whole thing through iZotope Ozone and crank it to the max. In particular, the re-master of Fun House kicks so much more ass than the original.

Posted on - March 28, 2006 [at] 4:21 pm by Brad
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