A Bear Peering Round A Rock is my record label. It's the name and logo I put on tapes (and one day CDs) that I record and produce in my home studio. It's not a record company, and it's not a commercial venture. The whole thing lives in Hobby Space.

That means that while I welcome other filkers to use my studio, I don't charge them. Quite apart from the fact that working on a filk project in my studio is just about the most fun I can imagine, I'm also delighted to be able to give the opportunity to my filking friends to bring out albums of their music. And it's great to have a houseful of creative, friendly musicians all working together on a project.

Here's a page about the studio itself (equipment list, etc).


And since you're bound to ask...

The name A Bear Peering Round A Rock came about when my father-in-law and I were seeing if it was easy to pull the wallpaper off the walls in the living room of the flat Sara and I used to live in. It was. And the first few curvy tearings of wallpaper left behind a profile on the wall that to my fever'd imagination represented a teddy bear peering round a rock. And so I penciled the image onto the plaster, pulled off the rest of the wallpaper, and then subsequently papered over it, leaving it for the archaeologists to find.

When I first set up my home studio equipment, it was against that very wall, and thus did my "studio" acquire the moniker.

'Course, now we live somewhere else...


THE ALBUMS SO FAR

Artist Title Catalogue no.
Dan Bennett Lavender Wine ABPRAR 001T
FanTom Voices ABPRAR 002T
Zander Nyrond Wassaliens And Other Unexpected Noises ABPRAR 003T

These albums are available from the artists. Currently there are no commercial distributors, but that may change soon. For now, though, we self-publish our albums.

This is not to say that we don't take our copyright and royalty responsibilities very seriously - we do. This includes declaring our products to the MCPS to ensure that we (and the duplication company) are properly covered to use the material we've chosen.


THE PROCESS

Here are some short comments on the main things that need to be done when producing a tape. Of course, some of these things can happen in a different order to that listed below.

Note also that one day I'll be using hard-disk recording, and my product will be in CD format, so a lot of this will change at some point in the future.

Recording
When it's time for a recording weekend, Sara takes the children away to her mum's place, and the house fills with filkers. Some are there because the artist wants their performances on the tape; others are there in a supporting role (cooking, etc), without which we'd, well, we'd be hungry, I suppose.

As my studio lives in the smallest bedroom, there's not a lot of room in there to use it as much more than a control room during sessions, so the bulk of acoustic recording takes place in our main bedroom, which is just alongside. Careful management of microphones and headphones is needed; and most people are now used to my cries of "Why isn't this working?!", followed by a spot of furkling which usually solves the problem.

Mix-down
Once the acoustic performances are on 8-track tape, it's time to mix each song down to a stereo take. This often involves mixing audio channels from the tape with audio from the synthesizers, which are under the MIDI control of the sequencer running on the computer; which is in its own right under the synchronisation control of the 8-track tape, which is how it all works.

I mix down to the minidisc recorder, taking time to get the EQ and levels right on the mixing desk, setting up the effects (reverb, etc), and practicing the final mix several times to make any dynamic changes to levels, muting, etc. For example, if somebody coughed, I can usually silence it, but it takes practice. (One day, I'll be doing this all with hard-disk audio, where it becomes a lot easier to control things exactly as required. One day.)

Mastering
Once I've mixed all the songs down to the minidisc, the first thing I do is to "top and tail" them, which means that I use the minidisc's accurately controllable "split" feature to chop off any noisy bits that come at the beginning and ends of songs. That way, the audio is silent until a few milliseconds before the song starts.

Then I move the tracks around the minidisc into the playlist order (you try doing that on a cassette tape!); and then I switch on "auto-space" on the minidisc player, which puts in three seconds of silence between tracks. When I hit "play", the songs will then be heard in the correct order, with three seconds silence between each.

However, before mastering, there's a little more work to do. Although each song is mixed down as well as possible, it's likely that the songs will all be at different loudnesses. So I listen carefully to the whole set of songs, noting any changes in volume, EQ, etc, that I need to make in order to even out the loudnesses and audio character of all the songs. Having documented those tweaks, I'm then ready to run the minidisc - via tweaks on the desk - to the DAT recorder. Et voilà! - a master DAT. I then do a digital copy to a fresh minidisc.

Duplication
I don't have the equipment, time or patience to run off 100 copies of a tape, so I send the master minidisc to Stewart Orr in Norfolk. He's very filker-friendly, having been the duplicator of choice for GK for a while. A week or so later, he sends me a box with lots of copies of the tape.

Cover artwork
Usually, the artist has done his own cover artwork (see each album's page for actual details). I scan it in and incorporate it into a TIFF file which will end up being printed on the colour side of the inlay card. I add other artwork elements, the song list and timings, copyright legend, the catalogue number and the Peering Bear logo. This image is then ready for printing. I use PhotoShop for this work.

Liner notes
The liner notes will be printed in black and white on the other side of the inlay card. Therefore, this is just a word processor file (in ClarisWorks or PageStream), which I save as a Postscript file. The real challenge here is fitting it all into the limited space available on the card!

Printing
To get the inlay cards printed, I go to the Xerox Document Centre that's on-site at Hewlett-Packard's office in Bracknell. They're used to me there...

They use one printer for the colour side and another for the black and white side. I arrange things so that two inlay cards are printed on each sheet of A4 card. This halves the printing costs.

Cassette labels
I print the cassette labels using my Mac and my DeskJet printer. I use the appropriate Avery stationery. It's slow, but the results are nice, because I can use colour.

Putting it all together
This bit is boring and exciting at the same time. There's a lot of guillotining for the inlay cards; and then each tape has to have its record-tabs knocked out, its labels stuck on it, its inlay card scored, folded and inserted, and the tape put in its case. One tends to go crazy after about 40 of these! But is it worth it or is it worth it?


Back to my home page...

Dan can be emailed...

dan@peeringbear.altrion.org

Last updated: 15th July 1999