Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Nowhere To Run Music Video!

You're gonna die, I'm gonna kill you, if you don't check out my new music video!

Stegosaurus Rex - Nowhere To Run
Video by Johnny Darko

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Wonderland Syndrome

If you haven't seen my work in my newest project The Wonderland Syndrome, go and check it out at http://www.myspace.com/thewonderlandsyndrome

I began collaborating with Johnny Darko about a month ago, working on various little bits of music coupled with his vocals, spanning all sorts of different genres, mashing together different pieces of material I've put together through the years.

There's even a different take of Nowhere To Run!

So head over to http://www.myspace.com/thewonderlandsyndrome and check out my music!

(More info coming soon on yet another project of mine!)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

New Electro Track Cellulose!

In anticipation for the limited release (to 10 copies) Stegosaurus Rex - Undeniable cassette, I've been working on some new tracks for Side B (electro).

Side A will be a collection of previously unreleased New Wave music (including Undeniable), while Side B will be a collection of previously unreleased electro and dance stuff.

Hopefully, it'll be out soon in a few months, but to keep you all occupied in the meantime, I've put up the new track Cellulose on the stegrex profile for your listening pleasure.

If you want to check out some more electro, Gyroscopes is still available at http://www.myspace.com/maxwellchen

Feel free to add them to your profiles!

--Stegosaurus Rex

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Contest! Win A Limited Release Steg Rex Cassette!

Here's a contest for all you artists out there. Draw me a dinosaur, and I'll give you a limited release (10 copies!) Stegosaurus Rex cassette!

I need someone to do some cool artwork featuring a dinosaur (more specifically, a stegosaurus) for printing onto a run of hats/T-shirts that I will be doing.

Make some cool stegosaurus artwork (preferably a silhouette, single-color, and simple!) and send it to steg.rex@gmail.com at the best resolution you can manage, and the winner will receive a copy of my next release!
(It'll be a cassette collection, limited to 10, of previously unheard music + Undeniable)


1. Enter as many pieces of art as you want to increase your chances of winning, but add only one piece of art per email. Email to steg.rex@gmail.com
2. Artwork should be at the largest resolution possible, because this will end up being printed!
3. Single color, silhouette-ish, simple. Outlines are fine!
4. Deadline for submission is November 14th, 2008.

Monday, October 27, 2008


I've been pretty busy recently, but that's no excuse for the lack of music...

So here.

Gyroscopes. Dance your fool head off.


Thursday, September 11, 2008

New Music


I haven't posted in a while.

That's because I've been pretty busy, working on this and that, losing sleep, forgetting to eat meals...

It's because I've been working late into the night, brewing some new stuff like a mad scientist.

But just to give you guys an update and to let you know I didn't go Heath Ledger on you, it looks like Undeniable along with some other post-punk/New Wave tracks are going to be released sometime later this year.

I've also been working on a new project, collabing with someone else, forming a band...

Damn, I've already said too much! Stay tuned as I unveil some new stuff in the coming weeks!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Small Show! (SF Public Access Television)

I'll be playing my first show for San Francisco public access television on Thursday, August 7th! Stay tuned for more details as they roll in!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

New MySpace URL

I've just switched the Stegosaurus Rex MySpace URL to http://www.myspace.com/stegrex
Check out my music! There might be a small show coming up in a few weeks. More details later! :)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Desolate Pool

I love 80s music. I was born in 1985, but the radio station that my dad listened to played a lot of 80s music. Depeche Mode, Berlin, Joy Division, The Cars were just some of the very awesome bands that I heard growing up.

I've decided recently to examine some of the methods used in the 80s to make CD audio. Those engineers were precision surgeons, making sure everything fit in well, taking advantage of the CD format's excellent dynamic range.

As a musician who grew up in the 80s and admires 80s mixing and mastering, I had to make some of that kind of music on my own (New Wave, New Romantic, Synthpop, etc).

I began cranking the creative brain for ideas, adding generous amounts of reverb to snares, dubbing vocals, and chaining together delay units.

80s music is beautiful. It is also oftentimes depressing, when the artist wants to make it so.

This next release (single? EP?) that is scheduled for release in October is focused on that New Wave sound, incorporating guitars, fat reverb on drums, sad synths, and utterly depressing lyrics.

I've got 4 tracks done so far with track number 4, Desolate Pool now in the lineup; I'm still aiming for 2 more. Prepare for retro goodness, to be released soon!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Back To Work!

My computer is back up and running, thanks to my friend Thanh!

I've decided to schedule "Undeniable" to be released as a digital single, which will be released on fall 2008. Check out my MySpace to listen to the track!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Post Number 13, Unlucky Days

My computer died last weekend, and so I can't work on any new music. It sucks, because I've been on a roll with No Eyed Bird, writing tons and tons of material.

4 computer deaths have happened in the past 6 years:
Summer 2003: eMachines Windows ME desktop system
Spring 2004: Toshiba Windows XP laptop system
Spring/Summer 2007: Self-built Windows XP desktop system
Summer 2008: Compaq Windows Vista desktop system

In each of these cases, it was a hardware problem (not software like virus) that took place. Right now, my friend Thanh is working on the compy. Hope it turns out OK so I can get back to work audio engineering work!

At the moment, I'm taking the extra free time I have to build even more content on No Eyed Bird. Check out the ezine at http://www.noeyedbird.com/

Here is a 3-part editorial in which I wrote about electro-house:
Electro-House (Part 1) UEFA Euro 2008: Consolation Prize To The Germans
Electro-House (Part 2) History
Electro-House (Part 3) Two New Artists

Alrighty, have a nice Fourth of July, and lets hope my computer gets fixed!

Monday, June 16, 2008

I Am Now A Music Blog Writer

I have been working a 9-5 job ever since the end of May. Making money is nice, but it's not easy, considering how repetitive it can be. A 40+ workweek can drain the life out of the most energetic spazz-tastic caffeineheads.

For the first two weeks, work dragged on pretty long throughout the day. It got boring really quickly.

However, this weekend, I became a writer for the music blog No Eyed Bird.

I pretty much got flung into working on reviews with little lead-in. I set up my profile for the site, my new reviewer's email (max(at)noeyedbird.com), and then hit the ground running. My first review on the blog is of Luthea Salom - Sunbeams Surrounded By Winter. Click to check it out!

I'm also trying to contribute to Dusted Magazine. I emailed them and hopefully by the end of the week I'll get something back, so I can start writing for them, too.


Saturday, June 14, 2008

Saratoga, And Yet Another Review Of The Dino Soars

Now that it's summer, I've been languishing in the heat, staying indoors to avoid the scorching sun.

Now that I call Saratoga, CA my home, it's been different dealing with the dry heat as opposed to the breezy mildness of Berkeley. Not bad, just different.

It's been about two months since The Dino Soars was released, and since then, I've been taking care of my own personal business, not having time to worry about the music stuff.

Today was a little different.

The sun set red, with all the wildfires happening in the area. The sky was muddied with the haziness of dark beige smoke.

The picture in the sky almost made it seem as if the world was ending. Sitting in a car, whisking by the scenery, it made me feel peaceful and yet paradoxically, restless. Distracted by the moment of beauty, by the ugly, overbearing tan of the sky framing that bright red jewel of a sun, I was able to slough off that burden of routine and make me think once more of the music.

How was my album doing?

A quick search revealed the following:

"On The Dino Soars, Stegosaurus Rex presents an interesting collection of homemade electronica. Unlike most bedroom computer-made albums, The Dino Soars jumps across styles, touching on hip-hop and house beats, downbeat trip-hop, electro-pop, and even a bit of experimental, droney electronica. (more >>)

Where the album really shines is with the more beat-oriented tracks. Opening song "East Bay Kickback" starts the album off strong with a great sample and a solid drum beat, making it the kind of song you would hear in your head while drinking a beer outside on a warm Oakland evening. Another standout track is "Six Sixteen." A great sample and solid hip-hop beat drive this track as it steadily moves through the opening string loop to a chopped-up vocal chorus and back again to the string loop as it is filtered out.

The album also features some great uptempo tracks. On tracks like "Polar" and "Fleeting Disco Do," Stegosaurus creates great disco-style house. Catchy samples that he cuts and rearranges as the song progresses, solid bass lines, and some good 'ol techno beats make these tracks dancefloor-worthy.

Where this album doesn't work as well is in the less beat-oriented and vocal tracks. These tracks especially lack in production value. The sounds are thin and dull compared to the earlier mentioned songs and have a hard time fitting in with the rest of the album sonically. A little more cohesiveness throughout the album and a step up in production level could put Stegosaurus Rex on the same level as a lot of the stuff on Ninja Tune Records." (-Glenn Jackson, NASCENT)

Of course, I had to open up a cool beer afterwards to refresh myself, in an instance of life-imitating-art-imitating-life. East Bay Kickback indeed.

Yet another Friday the 13th conquered.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Behind Steg Rex: Finances

I want to thank two of my friends, JC Miguel and Diane Velasco. They saved my worthless skin.

Before I go on, let me explain to you: money is tight these days. (No shit, Sherlock!)

As you no doubt know, the American economy is in a recession. Bernanke, chairman of the Fed has made a bunch of unprecedented moves in the history of the institution in order to avert the economic situation from overwhelming the civil society.

Jobs have been hard to find, people are less willing to spend money, and selling music has been very tough.

It didn't help me at all, because I had no money to finance Steg Rex (equipment, general capital, promoting, marketing...)

I graduated from Cal in December, just when people were realizing that the job market was cooling down, and things became pricier. Being unemployed and burnt out from writing massive amounts of papers, I had a lot of time and energy to work on Stegosaurus Rex. During those few bleak months, I was employed part-time as a contractor for Ask.com, which brought in just enough money to cover rent, and a small bit of food. At the end of every month, I had very little money to spend or save. Trying to promote Steg Rex was stressful because I had no capital, no room for error. If I didn't judiciously budget every dollar I spent on Steg Rex, that would mean I lost that dollar, and that meant that I would probably have to make a meal more meager.

I applied to full-time jobs left and right, often sending my resume to 10 sources a week. Less than 5 contacts actually got back to me in those past 6 months.

I was losing hope, because I definitely wanted to eat better, and I wanted some more money to spend on Steg Rex.

Come late April, an opportunity fell into my lap unexpectedly. My friend Diane Velasco sent me an email one day about Yahoo; they were hiring some contractors who could work full-time.

I jumped right on it immediately. This could be the big break in the job market that I had been looking for all those 5 months!

Diane's boyfriend and my good buddy JC went through the interview process and got hired. I was pretty happy for him, and I was ready to join, too.

The interview process for me was riddled with hiccups. Someone lost my emails, someone else misspelled my email address, there were lapses in communication...

In short, I had no clue if I would be hired.

Last week, I got an email telling me to meet at Sunnyvale to take care of business on Tuesday, May 27th.

My heart skipped a beat. Could I have finally made it?


The past two days working at Yahoo have been tiring. Training is tedious and the coffee doesn't hold as well as I would like it to.

But it has been fucking worth it. I'll now make enough to cover more than just rent and food.

I can go ahead and further fund Stegosaurus Rex. Let's hope that I can take both my career and my music as far as I can go.

Once again, thank you, JC. Thank you, Diane.

--Steg Rex

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Steg Rex RSS Feed

The Stegosaurus Rex RSS feed is now up. Just pop this little link into you favorite newsreader:

Steg Rex RSS Feed


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Sea Breeze

I just finished cutting a new disco-house track called Sea Breeze. The last time I made any disco or house was around early June of 2007.

It's been almost a year, but I still got it!

When I first began formulating the concept behind the Stegosaurus Rex project in 2005/2006, it had been roughly 2-3 years since I last made any music. I began making music around 2001 in high school, and due to the limitations of what musical equipment I had (basically, nothing) I made only trance music. Trance (the cheesiest kind) was still kind of big amongst some crowds in school, and that's all I made. It was easy, because everything revolved around 140 bpm, everything was in a major scale, and finding trance synth sounds was an easy job.

I worked under the moniker of MiXCHure in those days, and I produced the cheesiest pop trance.

However, in the back of my head, I always wanted to make disco/house music, which I began listening to around the age of 9 or 10 with an old mono channel Magnavox radio. I would keep the radio by my pillow and listen to old disco jams on Saturday nights while I drifted off to sleep.

It bugged me; why couldn't I make any house? Nothing sounded funky. Every attempt at house music ended up sounding like crappy trance.

I stopped the MiXCHure project in the summer of 2003 as I prepared to go to college. My computer died, taking with it all my source files for my music, and along with it, my desire for making music. The first two years of college were times of restlessness for me, because I had no outlet.

In 2005, I began making music again, under no moniker, because I did not intend on making a new musical project. At this point, I had studied some jazz and blues theory and understood a little bit better about the scales and chords that are related to disco and house.

I was, of course, pretty rusty, and I had with me a demo version of Fruity Loops, which did not allow me to save any of my source files. All my music in those few years sounded extremely amateur and simple, yet the main structure for house tracks became embedded in my mind.

I began to seriously pursue a music project again in late 2005, early 2006. I dubbed this project Stegosaurus Rex, and I began focusing on hip-hop and electro-house. Most people understood the hip-hop part. Most people didn't understand electro-house at all. To them, this was just "porn music" and they got a kick out of seeing what I could produce.

My experimentation with house music, however, was not limited to seeing this wonderful stuff as just "porn music" because I grew up loving the disco music aesthetic. I loved the thick, lush, layered sounds of classic disco. I loved the stripped and chopped-up elements of electro-house, as heard in the work of Daft Punk. I also loved it because it was just funky, plain and simple.

2006-2007 was a year of great strides with the house music, as I began sampling as well as learning how to program my own custom patches in different software synthesizers. I could control the texture of a dance track, making it hard and glitchy, or smooth and mellow.

I had conquered house music.

By this time, I had begun recording live instruments such as guitar and drums, and quickly moved off to producing experimental rock and more hip-hop because I was no longer limited to just synthesizers.

In the past few months, sitting down to make house has been hard, because something that started off funky would end up as hip-hop or rock, because I was compelled to slow down the tempo and then add samples or add guitar.

I decided to sit down and really stick to making a house track this weekend, because I wanted to see if I still had those disco-making skills.

I started out with some nice chords and string pads, and a nice funky bass. I layered the 909 over it all, for a great little beat.

Next, I fired up REAPER and stuck in some subtle, muted guitar arpeggios.

A little reverb here, a dash of delay there.

Voila! A deep-house track! Something a bit different from the other types of house music I had done before. It sounded so sublime, so subtle, so sexy, I had to call it Sea Breeze.

I guess I did the roots of Steg Rex proud. If only young little Max Chen in high school, making his trance music could hear what he would be doing in just a few years' time.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

I Love Multiband Compression

Ashi sent me an email this week, letting me know that he might need a track to be mastered. I don't do as much mastering as I do mix engineering, but I do like to tweak a final render here and there.

He sent an mp3 through the email for me to kind of look at.

Whoever mixed the track was incompetent as hell.

Usually when I work with a final render, the tracks are mixed fairly well. Everything that needs to be compressed, is, and everything that needs frequency balancing is EQed to sweet goodness.

Not this track.

It seems like a lot of producers these days love the muddy bass. They're under the impression that bass fills clubs. OK, so it does, but not muddy sub-100 Hz, 3-second release bass. That kind just sounds like sludge. This track that Ashi sent me sounded so fucking muddy, that I could barely make out anything about 200 Hz. Time to get to work.

For those of you who don't know anything about mastering, let me tell you about the multiband compressor. It is the greatest tool on earth. There are a lot of different multiband compressors out there, but they generally all do the same thing. They separate the audio signal into three different frequency bands (low, mid, high) that you can compress independently of each other. A de-esser is sort of similar to a multiband compressor in that it isolates the highs and then compresses those frequencies while leaving the rest of the music alone. What happens is a nice natural rounding off of harsh hissing sounds.

When you have a multiband compressor, you can isolate any problem frequencies in the audio signal, and squash it out. In this case, the bass was too muddy, the levels for the bass was way off the charts, and on top of it, had a nasty long bass release that bled into the track, causing it to sound dull with no punchiness. Instead of sounding like "boom, boom-cha," it sounded more like "thuuuuuuuuuuuuuuud thuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuud!" The snare, the instruments, the high hats, everything was obscured by this problem bass.

So how did I fix this one?

I first cut out the low end. Usually, this is not too necessary and it's good to get rid of the most offensive bass rumbling. Everything below 100 Hz, I just cut out. That fixed half of the bass release problem. With one knob turn, I could actually tell rhythm that the bass drum was playing.

Next, I separated the 3 bands. The muddiest bass sits around 0 Hz to about 300-500 Hz. I set it to about 300. At this point, the 0 Hz to 300 Hz frequencies were isolated, so I compressed it. I compressed the shit out of it. I put in -20 dB as the threshold, set the ratio to about 5:1, and tweaked attack and release. I basically wanted the bass drum to sound like "biff biff biff" instead of "bleeeeeh bleeeeeh bleehhhhh." I wanted some definition in that sound.

A few knob tweaks at the low end just did the trick. The bass was nice and tight, and everything worked out well. I tweaked the mids and highs just a tiny bit since those frequencies were OK, but damn! That bass annoyed the hell out of me.

Some more compression here, a bit of brickwall there, and I had something that became 10 times more listenable than the original file.

So remember mix and mastering engies: recording and mixing well is important! If you record and mix well, you don't have to mess around with this kind of fix at the end of the road. But if you have to fix stuff up, EQs, compressors, and the amazing multiband compressor are your best friends.

OK, done with this post. Time to work on more music.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

All Music Guide Review of The Dino Soars

Here's a review from All Music Guide:

"The double-album-length debut by the Bay Area's Stegosaurus Rex is a sprawling wander through the last quarter-century of electronic pop music. Singer-songwriter-keyboardist Max Chen doesn't pledge allegiance to any particular subgenre, so these 18 songs skip merrily between Caribou-style indie pop ("Green"), mellow downtempo instrumentals (the soulful, slinky "East Bay Kickback"), hyper dancefloor fillers ("Polar"), hip-hop ("Sleep All Day"), experimental atmospheric soundscapes ("Blindness"), standard-issue electro-pop ("Frozen Promises") and any other idea that comes to mind. In lesser hands, this would come off as merely unfocused, and it's certainly true that many A&R representatives would have demanded this lengthy CD be broken up into several different EPs, perhaps under different project names for ease of niche marketing. But even aside from the bravery of refusing to limit himself to one particular musical persona, Chen reveals himself to be a talented producer and a fairly solid songwriter with a particular knack for cool, mellow grooves and low-key, jazz-tinged melodies. The Dino Soars is perhaps best heard in bits and pieces (or on shuffle play), but it's a fun listen that promises better still to come." (-Stewart Mason, allmusic)


Thursday, April 17, 2008

Engineering Ashi's Tracks (Sorta Technical)

This past week, I've been getting back to work, putting in a couple of hours each day, mixing and mastering. For those of you who don't know what it's like being a studio engineer, even a broke one like me, I'll give you a rundown.

When the vocals were first recorded, Ashi wanted to hear his takes on some parts just to make sure everything was good. The first thing I had to do was to make a template of plugins that brought out his voice and was close to what the finished product would sound like.

Future audio engineers, PAY ATTENTION!

First I added some compression to the voice in order to make sure that he could be clearly heard through the mix. For that, I set the compression threshold to about 10 dB under the peaks. I set the ratio to about 3:1 or 4:1. For those of you who don't speak audio, I set compression in order to make sure the voice volume sounds "smoother" instead of "spikier."

Next step was the EQ. When you first record using a new mic, you have to sort of feel around the EQ with it to find the sweet spot. Every mic can sound good, but of course, it can sound terrible too, if you don't know what you're doing. I know how to make my mic sound good, and I was able to bring Ashi's voice from out of the mix. It's usually good to cut everything out from under 200 Hz (cut out the unnecessary bass) and then add a little bit from 1 KHz to 5 KHz to make that voice enunciate properly. For the uninitiated, the EQ is used because the raw audio from the mic can oftentimes be harsh or muffled, and by tweaking a bit of EQ, you can make the voice sound a lot better (and noticeable) in comparison to the rest of the music.

Some people forget a de-esser. I never forget, because I have ssssenssssitive earssssss. Some people when saying words with lots of "s" sounds in them, are very "sibiliant." Their "s" sounds cut through everything, and it hurts my ears to hear something so high-pitched so loud. This is the same when we're talking about recording voices. Some people tend to be more sibilant than others. Ashi, however, wasn't too sibilant so it was easy to deal with. I always add a de-esser to the chain after the EQ. What this does is that it makes the "s" sounds a lot less harsh. It squashes them so your ears don't hurt (but won't make the signal muffled or kill the enunciation as if you tried to do this with EQ).

The last thing I do is put in some reverb. For Ashi, only one track required this. Usually for hip-hop, I like to leave the voice bone-dry with no reverb at all. However, for other types of music, engineers like to add in varying levels of reverb to different instruments. Remember that 80s Genesis sound that all the rock bands had? That big boomy snare and toms? The echoey voices? That's all reverb, and a bit for vocals for a lot of genres of music will sweeten up the sound just a little bit.

OK. So much for the effects that are required to produce a good sound for vocals.

The next step happened after Ashi went home and I got to play with all the audio like some sick doctor. Audio levels.

When you mix a bunch of audio track together, you have to gingerly adjust the levels on everything to make sure it sounds right. "Damn, I can't hear the voice, the guitar is too loud! The drums are too loud, but the bass isn't there!" Getting the levels right is pretty frustrating, because there isn't a right way of doing things. There is no magical formula for getting everything correct. It's all trial and error, and engineers get a feel for a rough settings after spendings tons of time in front of the audio, tweaking this and that. I've done a lot of audio mixing in the past, and I'm pretty anal about getting every single channel level just right, so I can usually get a rough sense of what everything needs just by looking at the meters. For Ashi's tracks, once I get a rough idea of what I need, I set all the levels relative to each other. This is no easy task, because some songs can have 10-20 tracks or even more. Getting them to balance each other out can be super frustrating.

Today, I started work with all the rough levels finished. I needed to tweak them to make sure they're all consistent and everything sounds good. I listened to some hip-hop and some club stuff to get my ears warmed up for the right sound. Then I just dove into Ashi's tracks and tweaked the hell out of everything! I probably spent at least half an hour just getting every track's levels correct.

Next step was effects. A flanger on this part here, some more reverb there, etc. This is usually not so tedious because you can be sort of creative and you get to mess with the audio in weird ways.

Once all the effects were set, guess what time it was? Back to fine-tuning levels! When you use an effect, it changes the sonic character of everything and you have to readjust the levels to make sure there are no problems, that no channel overpowers something else.

Getting closer!

Next step was rendering everything out and sending them to Ashi. It's always important to make sure that the client knows what direction you're taking, and whether or not he or she likes the direction. In the case with Ashi, he definitely liked what he heard, but of course made some artistic suggestions for some changes which I readily accepted.

I finally rendered them one last time and checked the meters to make sure they all sound the same in loudness with each other.

OK, a little note here on some history of audio.

As you probably know, CD audio is amazing. At 44.1 KHz, 16-bit, audio can sound reaaaaally good, reproducing very well the human ability to hear a range of frequencies from 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz. That 16-bit audio allows for a large dynamic range, from silent to whisper-soft to devastatingly loud.

Sony and Philips knew what they were doing when they developed the medium in the early 80s.

What people might not know is that audio engineers can do a lot to a 44.1 KHz, 16-bit track to make it sound louder. Because a digital CD is limited to 16 bits of dynamic range, there is a limit to how loud you can get a signal. What engineers like to do to make a signal louder is to compress the signal, clip it, brick-wall limit it, etc. Basically, it is possible to take shortcuts to make the audio louder, by staying within those 16 bits of dynamic range.

The problem with this is that too much compression or limiting can really make the sound dull. Clipping just makes the sound harsh. But hey, it makes the signal loud.

When CDs first came out, tracks came out with an average loudness of -15 dBfs to -17 dBfs. As the years wore on, they got louder and louder and a lot of pop tracks today come out to be -10 dBfs to -5 dBfs. I personally don't like to master my own Steg Rex material to be more than roughly -15 dBfs. However, I knew I couldn't do that with Ashi's material, so I tried to do the best I could to preserve some sort of dynamic range. I ended up mastering his stuff to around -11 dBfs or so. With his type of music, this made sense, because his stuff is really poppy.

I really hope that one day, engineers all over the world can come back down and maybe master to around -15 dBfs or so again, because it just sounds good. For those of you who listen to music, you are in control of the volume knob. Use it. If it isn't loud enough for you, just crank it. It makes the audio quality of a CD really annoying if it's mastered too loud. Why would any artist want people to turn DOWN their music? It also sucks for the mastering engineer because people actually request for music to be mastered louder because of "convention."

OK, enough of my rant on loud mastering, back to what I was working on.

When I was done with the 5 tracks, it was already night, so I burned a CD of the day's renders and brought it to my car. I usually listen to tracks through 3 or 4 audio sources to make sure everything sounds consistent. I know that my headphones tend to accentuate the vocal frequencies, while my desktop speakers hit the bass pretty hard (and muddy too, yechhh). The speakers in my car are in general pretty balanced, in between those two extremes.

So I walked out to my car.

Turned it to ACC.

Waited for the stupid seat belt warning beep to shut up.

Cracked open my beer in the back seat.

Cranked the stereo.



Did everything sound alright?



Finally fucking finished!

OK, shut up, time to back the files up.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

April 8, 2008 is HERE!

Buy it from Amazon.com:

OK, so it's April 8, 2008, the release date of my very first album The Dino Soars. I've been wanting to release an album ever since middle school, but it has finally happened.

The 10 years' worth of expectations and predictions about the day has made today sort of...anticlimactic to be honest. I was expecting all sorts of crazy parties and such, but none of that has happened.

Instead, I had a shot of booze with my housemate before I went to bed.

When I learned how to play piano and guitar in middle school, I really wanted to be a rock star. I wanted to be cool and famous. I wanted to be rich. However, my skills were never very good, and I had no idea how to record any of this stuff and make it sound good. To me, making and recording music was like working magic; I would probably never figure out how to do it myself, so better let someone else do it for me.

In high school, I finally learned about programs like FruityLoops that could let me put together all sorts of musical patterns. I could never get a band together, so I started to make trance music, all throughout high school (under the moniker of MiXCHure).

I had a band with two of my classmates in senior year of high school, and we practiced a couple of times, and came up with a couple of songs. I think we were pretty good and we did end up recording stuff into a single tape track by a karaoke mic. Unfortunately, when we left for college and split up, we never had a chance to practice together again. (Still hoping we will, though.)

In college, I was a lazy bum that first year. I didn't go to class, I was very unmotivated to go study, and since my computer burned out during the summer, I was pretty depressed about my music and decided not to do any new material.

I certainly wish that I had, because making music might have kept me out of trouble with the school. But that's another story for another time.

When I got kicked out of the dorms and began living in apartments, I began to work on the music again, going back to FruityLoops. My friends Kelly Toledano and Quy Duc Doan encouraged me to keep working, because they liked my old stuff (what they saw in it, I don't know since they were pretty awful). Daft Punk was still popular in those years (2004-2006) and all I wanted to do was house music (I explained that it was "porn music" for those who didn't really know the genre).

I was pretty rusty with my composition skills, and I really didn't want to sample anything. All I wanted to use were synths, but I realized that I was limiting myself to the types of sound generation that were available to me.

The summer and fall of 2006 was when everything began to piece together into something coherent. I used samples, synths, live instruments in ways that I never used before. The tracks that came out sounded pretty fresh, and it was so much fun to put all sorts of stuff together. I branched out from house into different types of electro, into some ambient, into a sizeable chunk of West Coast hip-hop, as well as some indie rock. I was cranking out a track a week.

I'll never forget the day I mastered the track Penumbra, in mid-late 2007. I felt like I had achieved the pinnacle of what music recording and production was about. I had successfully recorded in a squeaky-clean guitar signal, paired with recordings of my drumset. I put everything together with some synths and it sounded oh-so-good! Tweaking EQ/levels and mastering it was a joy because I got to blast that baby on my nice speakers.

In November, I released the digital-single Nowhere To Run, but it was a small release, and really not very notable.

It wasn't until mid-January when I began finally talking to Unfun Records about releasing an honest-to-God album release, printed, and distributed. I worked with Kelly on a hip-hop track (Sleep All Day) and Quy was a real pal, producing the artwork on the album.

The Dino Soars.

I love dinosaurs. I have a dinosaur mug. I have a plastic glow-in-the-dark Stegosaurus on my table. I watch Jurassic Park when I get drunk. That's why I'm Stegosaurus Rex.

With this first release, the dino sure soars. It's a leap of faith for an animal that is so heavy, but it's a leap of faith that I have to take. I hope that The Dino Soars will survive through the test of time, just as the dinosoars have, in the minds of the young and the imaginative, the dreamers and the workers, between art and science.

I hope you enjoy my album as much as I did in producing it.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Cutting Tracks

The past few days were pretty rough, but I did get to cut a whole bunch of tracks with Kelly Toledano (working along with me in the project Model Minority) and Ashi Toledano (Kelly's brother).

A shitload of tracks.

Kelly and Ashi Toledano came up to Berkeley from SoCal (Palmdale) early Thursday morning around 5 or 6 AM. I had been drinking from Wednesday night all the way up until then, so I had to crash for a little bit before we got to work.

I woke up Thursday at around 10 AM or so, and we decided to cut all of Ashi's tracks. I think Ashi might not have had much studio experience, but he was a real trooper. We set up all his tracks and he was ready to go! I can tell he practiced like crazy, since he cut most of the tracks in one take.

5 tracks: 4 hours.

After that, we decided to take a break and we cut maybe 2 or Kelly's tracks. The work went a bit slower since we just ate lunch and we were pretty tired.

2 tracks: 2 hours.

We decide to go with our friend David to SF to meet up with another buddy Anthony. We just ended up drinking a bit at Gordon Biersch and playing some pool at Anthony's place. Eventually, we got back home around 3, ready for some sleep and the next day.

0 tracks: 8 hours.

The next day, Kelly hit the tracks hard. We went from 11 AM to about 3 PM nonstop, and cut about 8 tracks in a row. We ended the day by having a nice drink. And as soon as we were done, the brothers decided to go and hang out in SF (and then leave for home immediately after).

8 tracks: 4 hours.

Total: 15 tracks: 10 hours (work) 36 hours (span).

I swear, people who have been practicing at home before they go to the studio to record is every audio engineer's wet dream, because there are no hassles, no silly retakes, no changing the lyrics here, forgetting the structure there.

So a note to all you musicians out there: practice before you go to the studio, and record tracks like that! Don't piss off your audio engineer/producer! Save some damn money!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Baby Let Me Write A Song

So now that I’ve gotten a whole bunch of stuff done with "The Dino Soars" (printing, promos, etc), I’ve gotten back to working on some new tracks.

Between all the hip-hop, electro, and metal that I’ve been doing (super-precise editing and sequencing), I haven’t had any time to just sit down and jam, that is, until last week. I began playing some drums because I haven’t worked on it in a long time.

Getting back to creative work after a long period of busy-work is pretty tough, because I usually have writer’s block for a little bit, and it feels pretty disconcerting because it feels like you no longer have control over the creative side of your brain. So far, I’ve always been able to get a spark of an idea before I really start panicking (knock on wood). Either that, or I pound out a small idea that I store for later.

So last week, I decided to record some of the drum stuff with an already existing bassline. I worked pretty slow, because it’s been a while since I’ve worked on my drumming skills. My sixteenths were a little sloppy and I was pissed that I hadn’t been practicing. However, I did manage to get a couple of really nice takes in a sea of pretty sloppy ones (just have to keep cranking them out until it’s right).

I let the track sit there for a few days so I could let my brain rest.

What words could I set to this thing? How long was this piece of shit going to take me?

It was a Saturday night and I was reading for a little while when it just hit me. I had some pre-existing lyrics: "baby let me write a song..."

Why don’t I just write a song about me writing a song? I tried to fight it because I knew that only some sappy shit could come out of it.

I didn’t care, I wanted to get a damn track out of the way.

I just gave myself up to the ideas that were firing up a storm in my head, and the melodies just rushed out from my brain. Certain words and phrases dripped from my consciousness so quickly that I began just listing them frantically on paper. Holy Moley, I knew I had to record this thing before I forgot it!

I fired up the coffee machine around 1 AM, tuned my damn guitar, and I prayed to God that my housemates wouldn’t wake up then and there and destroy me (because that’s what I would do if some fucking idiot began to record a track at that time).

That night, I spent about 6 hours just writing, recording, and singing. I worked like a madman, and burned through 2 pots of coffee to stay awake and a pot of tea to make sure my vocal cords were nice and loose.

Guess what? It was worth it.

When I mixed it all together at around 7 AM bleary eyed and hungry, I knew I had a hit in my hands, because such sappy pop music will not go unnoticed. I made one last render and I fell asleep knowing that some idiot out there would have to enjoy it, even if it is a stupid little ditty. If nothing else, I sure had fun producing it.

--Steg Rex

Stegosaurus Rex (An Intro)

Stegosaurus Rex is the moniker for me, Max Chen. I started this music project a few years ago in the summer of 2005 because I was bored and I really wanted to put together all my musical skills (I can play the piano, guitar, drums, and sing).

Fast forward roughly 3 years, 100 or so tracks later.

I just finished printing my first album "The Dino Soars" and I'll begin playing shows and doing all sorts of weird and crazy stuff with my music. I'm cutting about a track a week or faster these days, and I don't sleep very much. I've succumbed to MySpace, and learned how to tweak the intonation on a guitar, and record vocals, and do some light mastering, and play a live set, and schmooze with other musicians, and play while drunk and makehiphopandelectroandmetalandambientanddealwithirateneighbors

OK. So I've done a lot the past few years, and learned a lot about music and myself.

I've got an album coming out, finally! (It's been a dream of mine to release music since I was in middle school.)

I'm going to play some shows!

I'm going to collaborate with some awesome musicians!

And I still don't have a real job.

OK, so you want to hear my music.

^^^ That's my electro/hip-hop/indie-rock stuff. ^^^

^^^ That's my metal/rock stuff. ^^^

Go ahead and check those links out, and stay tuned for further postings. This is the beginning of the Stegosaurus Rex blog. Because I need to give you guys news. And I'm bored.