Category Archives: Random Ness Monster

using tools the “wrong” way

Sound designer Ian Palmer has posted some fascinating samples on his blog–he took the sonic “fingerprint” of one sound and then used it as a noise-reduction key for a completely different sound. A great technique and in his case it yielded some cool results!

Needless to say, this is not exactly using the noise reduction software for its intended purpose. But that’s a great approach to creative design.

Check it out here.


Projects update: March 2010

Here’s the news in Toxic Bag-land right about now.

I’ve just finished sound design and final mixing for the new Getting To Know video, a 20-minute cartoon about French painter Edgar Degas. My brother Tim Griffin provided the voice of Degas. The DVDs should hit the virtual shelves in a few weeks.

There are currently two theatre projects on the Toxic Bag calendar. The first is Hobo Junction’s new musical “The Regulars.” Chicago multi-instrumentalist and composer Mike Przygoda is working with me on arrangements for all the songs. Composers Josh Zagoren and Dan Krall send us fantastic demos, and we embellish them with all sorts of rock-musical awesomeness. “The Regulars” opens May 7 at the Apollo Theater in Chicago. Our stage manager, Amy, is blogging about the pre-production process as well…and of course visit the Hobo Junction Facebook page for video updates from Josh!

The other show is Sophie Treadwell’s “Machinal” at Moraine Valley Community College. It opens the last week of April, and we haven’t had our first production meeting yet so I’m not sure what form the sound design will take. However, I have been listening to a lot of George Antheil while reading the script, and I think I may move in that direction. We’ll see…

Meanwhile, Mr. Blood is down in his lair building new Toxic Bag products, and I hope to have some sort of definite announcement about that –and some other things– very soon.

You Never Give Me Your Money

EMI has decided to sell off Abbey Road Studios, possibly the most famous of their assets. The studio is, of course, well-known as the place where the lion’s share of The Beatles’ albums were recorded (some sessions were done at other London studios such as Olympic for various reasons). But the legacy of Abbey Road studios goes back to the 1930s and includes recordings by the London Symphony Orchestra, Glenn Miller, Cliff Richard and The Shadows, Pink Floyd and Radiohead, among many others.

There is no way to know what the new owners –whoever they may be- will do with the EMI studios building once it has changed hands. The two most likely options are 1) it will continue to be a functioning studio business, and b) it will become a museum of 20th century recording arts, focusing primarily on the Beatles. (Whether, in either case, the new owners also have the rights to the name “Abbey Road Studios” is another matter entirely.) Other options that involve removing the existing studio structures are possible but too awful to consider.

As big a Beatles fan as I am, I’d prefer that Abbey Road not become a museum. And if it does…I hope it’s not so Beatle-centric. The history of EMI studios at Abbey Road is deeper and richer than just one band, even if that band is the biggest pop band in history.

Plus, the idea of walking into Studio 2 and seeing a permanent “Beatle” exhibit, with wax dummies holding Rickenbacker guitars, and Vox amps strewn about—as if the lads are about to roll tape on “Ticket To Ride”…I find that monumentally depressing.

On the other hand, if there’s a George Martin action figure or a Geoff Emerick Control Room playset in the gift shop, I’ll be there in a heartbeat.

(this entry was also posted over on the DWLB blog)

As the year winds down…

Happy Thanksgiving! Me? I’m thankful that I’m not in tech with this flu.

Thoughts, based on recent events in Toxic Bag Land. Names have been changed or excluded to protect…well, me, really.

• Being sick during tech week sucks.

• A no-budget film shoot can be great fun, wrap early and yield fantastic results if the director is prepared and the actors have rehearsed and come in knowing their lines.

• When a director doesn’t listen to his/her designers, it can lead to a really hellish tech week, or an entire scene backed against a wall at the last minute, or an actor getting injured. You hire the specialists for a reason, folks.

• Dragging in “volunteer” voice talent to save money on hiring a pro, and then spending hours beating that volunteer up doing take after take does not actually save you any money, nor does it often result in a product you can be proud of.

• If you’re going to not pay attention when I show you how to set up the gear, don’t just immediately look at me blankly and ask what my “backup plan” is when you hook it up wrong and fry the computer on opening night. My “backup plan” was for you to not destroy the rig, dumbass.

• Sound designers and costume designers really need to work together where microphones are going to be involved. This applies to theater and to film. The collaboration worked out pretty well on one production this year, not so well on another.

• You can’t ADR live theater. See above point.

• Collaborating over the internet can work really well, but there’s nothing like sitting in a room with another human being and just cranking stuff out. Horace and Jasper of the experimental band Phil Who Just Adores Backgammon got most of an album done over a long weekend last month (I told you I’d changed the names).

• At some point, a project will be less about how good your stuff sounds, and more about how quickly you can crank out something that sounds good. Which is a great reason to learn those computer shortcuts and make sure your studio is set up in an efficient and ergonomic way.

Fall Update

1. Do the Necronomicon

I’ve just wrapped up doing sound design for Evil Dead: The Musical at Moraine Valley Community College. Thanks to Tommy, Mark, Amanda, Lee, Glenn and the rest of the team at MVCC; the show was a blast. For those of you keeping track at home, condoms have better sound transmission than latex surgical gloves, so if you’re trying to protect your wireless mics from gallons of fake blood, Trojan Man to the rescue!

2. Projects the First

The past few weeks we also worked on sound design for Sidenote Pictures’ romantic comedy Darren & Abbey, directed by Michael Noens, as well as continuing to do ADR work and sound design consulting for Sigsaly Entertainment’s Green Hornet web series.

3. Projects the Second

We’re almost finished mixing the second Michael Brownlee short, “He’s a Wonderful Shot.” It should be up on our YouTube channel very soon.

Thoughts on a slow Friday

• I’m reading William Whittington’s excellent book “Sound Design and Science Fiction” and plan to re-watch as many of the films he covers as I can while I’m reading the book. So, I re-watched George Lucas’ THX-1138 the other night. Walter Murch’s “sound montage” work is absolutely stunning, but I had a distressing thought. The DVD I have is a “Director’s Cut” version, where Lucas went back and inserted modern CGI effects sequences to replace the original 1970s effects shots. Did Murch go back in and re-mix the audio, or replace sound effects with new, re-designed ones? I really hope not. I don’t see Murch being as obsessed with “fixing” his early work as Lucas is. Perhaps the groundbreaking sound design survives intact.

Next up, the first three Star Wars films. I still have the pre-Special Edition versions on VHS…I may watch those instead of the “Greedo Shoots First” cuts.

• When do the guys on Supernatural take the time to give every local sheriff and hot-townie-of-the-week their celphone numbers? Every episode, they have one conversation with a local, and after the first commercial break that person has them on speed-dial.

• Yes, I did just admit to watching Supernatural.

• Sometimes, radio stations make some pretty silly decisions when it comes to music.

We’re not going to GenCon

Toxic Bag has exhibited at the GenCon gaming fair in the past, and we’ve had a fine time. And it does break—or at the very least bend to an uncomfortable degree—our hearts that we won’t be at this year’s convention. We will miss, among other things, a dear friend’s wedding (congrats, Chain Mail Girl!) and the opportunity to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Bag Witch Project movie (those of you who don’t know what that is…stay tuned; there will be a series of posts about it soon) with the people who made it what it was.

Why aren’t we going? What is it that’s so important that it would pull us away? Well, without letting too many cats out of too many bags, we have a slew of new products in the works and have to stay around Chicago making them right before releasing them onto an unsuspecting public. So…GenCon 2010 may well be in the, um, cards. As it were.

I have said too much.

To offset the fact that we won’t be at the ‘con, we’re offering the same Convention pricing we’d offer at the Toxic Bag Booth. Through the month of August, if you buy any Toxic Bag products from us at, you can get 30% off the cost of your order (this does not include shipping costs). Just enter coupon code GENCON when you’re checking out and the SKYNET computer system will do the rest…just like it’s been doing all along as it edges closer and closer to taking control of the entire world.

I have said too much.

Halloween In July


This afternoon as I was doing my various runnings-around, I saw plastic jack-o-lanterns in the front window of a Walgreen’s.

Come on, seriously? It’s July. Granted it’s the last day of July but please. This is getting silly.

Why he’s called Blood.

It’s a simple story actually.

We were on a film set, Mr. Baldwin and I, acting as sound recordists. This is a film set we’ve told stories of before. You know this film set. This is a film set you know. The director was named Steve. Mr. Baldwin was also named Steve (still is, actually). Any time someone on set would holler “hey, Steve!” both their heads would turn and we’d go through the “no, not you, the other Steve” dance yet again.

Clearly this was going to be an impediment to progress, or at least become highly annoying over the course of the shoot. Chris Petkus, our Line Producer/Assistant Director/future collaborator, proposed an elegant solution: Steve the Director (as the higher ranking Steve in the room) would remain “Steve,” and Steve the Sound Guy would be renamed “Steve Blood,” and the name “Blood” would be used when referring to Steve the Sound Guy rather than Steve the Director. Problem solved…and of course the name stuck. He is now called “Blood” on just about every show we work on.

(I don’t really have a nickname. Chris tried to call me “Guts” so we could be “Blood and Guts” but it didn’t really stick. Good thing really.)

Blood directs

Blood directs

I told you that story so I could tell you this one.

I asked Blood if he would like to contribute to this, the Toxic Bag Productions blog. He is, after all, 50% of the company. “Can I not have my very own blog,” he asked? Sure, says I. I’m the giving sort.

So it is with great [something something something] that I present Blood Work, the new blog from Steve “Blood” Baldwin.

May Great Cthulhu have mercy on your souls.


Updates and Downdates

  • Our current theatre sound design project is Shakespeare’s “As You Like It,” at Moraine Valley Community College. I’m working on adapting the songs in the show to work as 1950s/60s pop tunes. Elvis, Donovan, the Supremes. I’m having lots of fun trying to mimic the orchestration and production styles of the era. And of course, trying to sing like the Jordanaires…
  • Tim Bradstreet has worked on Hellblazer, the Punisher, a series of sourcebook covers for Vampire: The Gathering, among many other things…and also created the cover art for my 2006 album, Rough Cut Love. If you’re a comics or graphic arts enthusiast, check out Tim’s new series of podcasts.
  • As I ease back into performing music, I’ll be doing a short set with Tim Hort and Tamara Vendetta in Madison, WI at the Art Fair on the Square, Saturday, July 11 at 2 pm.
  • Jared Newman at Technologizer posted a link to a Hollywood Reporter article: the 1979 arcade game Asteroids is going to be made into a movie.

    “Universal has won a four-studio bidding war to pick up the film rights to the classic Atari video game “Asteroids.” …As opposed to today’s games, there is no story line or fancy world-building mythology, so the studio would be creating a plot from scratch. Universal, however, is used to that development process, as it’s in the middle of doing just that for several of the Hasbro board game properties it is translating to the big screen, such as ‘Battleship’ and ‘Candyland.'”

    I’m not sure what disturbs me more about this, the idea of turning a completely plotless video game into a movie or the fact that four studios in Hollywood were bidding on the rights to do it.

  • We’re now done with shooting for the second Michael Brownlee short. Fortunately the weather was cool enough that it never got really nasty hot on set (the actors may disagree with me on that one). Props to Kevin, Steve and Phil for outstanding performances. Dave and Blood got some great noir looks on tape, and we’ll continue editing after the holiday. Happy Fourth everyone!
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