BillyRadd Music

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Paul Revere - One Special Man

1938 - 2014

In Memoriam - One Special Man

As a teenager and fan of Paul and his Raiders in the 60s, I was in an impromptu garage band that played for about a year at local parties for our friends in basements and garages, and outside at backyard bar-b-ques. We loved to cover The Raiders songs because the kids all loved to dance to them as much as we loved to play them.
In college, Where the Action Is was a popular TV show that most of the residence of my dormitory at Kent State U would watch every afternoon (after classes, of course) in the downstairs lounge. Paul's slapstick comedy routines were of special interest to all of us and laughter would often roll through the halls. I know that watching his fun way of looking at life, and his great, infectious music affected my life and the lives of my friends in many ways. I still have most of his early albums and play them occasionally when I want to lift my spirit.
Then, many years later in 1992, as a freelance film maker, I had a chance and work with Paul on a music video project through a meeting set up by a mutual friend of Ron Foos. I traveled to Reno with an assistant and worked closely with Paul, his wonderful wife Sydney, and Barbara Bogart on a video for Syd and Barb to promote their recording of Two Little Girls from Little Rock.
It was dreamlike for me for the first few days working with Paul at variuos locations in Reno in creating the video because I was in such awe of his wide-ranging creative talent and just plain blown away with the opportunity to work with one of my rock and roll heros. But, as many others have said about him, Paul seemed so easy to get to know and treated me like an old friend from the beginning of our relationship. During my 40+ year career making films I never had a more loving and generous "client".

About halfway through the project I confessed to Paul that I was a really big fan of his, had always enjoyed the Raiders music, and never missed one of their many TV appearances when I was in high school and college. A few minutes later he ceremoniously presented me with the above autographed VHS copy of a film about him and the band. Wow! Of course, I still have this tape, a great memento of us working together.
A few years later, I had the opportunity to go to a Raider's concert with my wife and youngest daughter in Spokane. I had called Paul's home a few days before and spoken to Sydney mentioning I was going to be at his concert. She generously gave me his cell phone number. During my cell call to him, while he was in route to our town, he suggested that he would love to see me and that I might want to wait in the autograph line after the performance so we could talk. We did wait and when it was our turn in line, Paul greeted me very warmly, spoke with us for a few minutes, made a special issue of introducing me, my wife and daughter to each of the Raiders, and gave me a big, big hug while telling me how glad he was to see me.
I'll especially never forget that moment. He was one special man and I'm sorry he's gone.

Friday, October 3, 2014

An Anthropic Argument

The Anthropic Argument is the cosmological principle that theories about the multiverse are constrained by a requirement to allow human existence. In this piece, I'm using my two Korg synths to set a spacey but decidedly humanistic rhythm bed.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Marching to Saturn

This cut contains sounds I made on my Moog synth, sampled audio loops and sounds recorded by NASA of the solar wind impinging on the atmosphere of saturn's polar regions (like our Earth's aurora borealis) and radio frequencies emanating from Saturn's rings as the space probe Cassini moved over them. The evidence suggests that each tone is produced by the impact of a meteoroid on the icy chunks that make up the rings.

Friday, August 22, 2014


Complete what is broken
Don’t change what is whole
Repeat the unspoken
Climb out of your hole
-Billy Radd

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Let the Dancing Begin

Sometimes I just go with the flow and do what I think about with not too much prep. This album was created using my theory of life being an experiment in finding out what works. Not over-thinking and just getting into the groove of the moment seemed more important with this collection of electronic musings. Best listened to with headphones, I hope to build on my quest in helping to forward world peace and human understanding through etherial groves and effects. And, to have some fun. The world need more of that, too.
I used a Moog Sub Phatty, Animoog App, Yamaha Tenori-On (TNR-I) App, Korg Monotron, Stylophone, Soundtrack Pro, and Logic Pro 9.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The String Section

From right to left:
- Kala Solid Swamp Ash California Ubass
- Fender Acoustic Electric Dreadnaught Guitar
- Cigar Box Electric Guitar built by Milton Cable
- 4-string Kodacaster Duo Humbucker Canjo*
- Gibson SG Special Bass
- Fender Telecaster Custom Guitar
- 4 string Utah License Plate Electric Guitar*
- '64 Fender DuoSonic Guitar
- 3-string Kodacaster 4 Electric Canjo *

In Front:
- Kala Concert Ukulele

*instrument built by me

Friday, July 4, 2014

Electric Kalimba Upgrade

Beefed Up Electric Padron Kalimba

Last year I gave my wife, Anita Gayle, a birthday present of a cigarbox kalimba that I made from a Padron cigar box. Originally the kalimba was equipped with a piezo disc pickup and volume control so that it could be amplified through a combo speaker/amp. It worked just OK since the tone from the kalimba was kind of muffled, produced a slight hum, and needed to be boosted with an additional preamp, an attempted fix that really was not that satisfactory. Since piezo pickups work by picking up vibrations, they will also pickup any vibration that might be made through incidental handling and movement, not just the musical sound of the instrument it is attached to. So, piezos are a bit touchy and also prone to feedback when used at higher amplified volumes.

After a few weeks of thinking about it, I thought, since the tines that produce the vibration are likely made of ferrous metal (steel), why couldn't I replace the piezo pup with a humbucker which would likely increase the volume able to be produced and get rid of the hum. 

I consulted with my goto humbucker supplier, Elmar Zeilhofer in Vienna, Austria. He thought my idea might work but told me that another client had tried to amplify his kalimba with one of Elmar's Flatpup Humbuckers and was not satisfied with it because it sounded too "thumpy". But, I reasoned, "thumpy" would be a great way to describe the tone that naturally emanates from a kalimba when it is not amplified or when played acoustically without any amplification. "Thumpy" makes a kilimba sound like a kalimba.

I measured Anita Gayle's Kalimba so I could order the right size flatpups, determined that the the metal tines were, indeed, made of ferrous metal (able to be picked up by a humbucker pickup) with the never-fail magnet test.

So, I ordered two of Elmar's 6-string Flatpup Humbuckers, installed them on the Pedron Cigarbox Kalimba, wired it up and, jeez, what a difference in the sound. The replacement of the piezo pickup really makes a big improvement in the strength of the signal to the amplifier AND reproduces a wider range of tone, too. Anita plays it a lot more, too.

Worth all the effort and expense. An electric kalimba cranked up to 11 with just a touch a reverb is a "bootiful thang".

Friday, June 27, 2014

Let the Dancing Begin

Dancing is a universal, ancient, modern, expressive, powerful, diverse diversion. So, by all means, Let the Dancing Begin!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Background Incursion

There exists an "overworld" of electronic noise that most humans don't perceive evolving at an astounding rate beyond the bounds of our contemporary experience. Like ripples in a stream, it defies moral judgement but lives as much as any intelligence.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Virtual Prison

You can't even see the bars on your windows and doors, but they're there.

It's oh so easy to get in but very difficult to get out. Click here, agree to this, sign up for "free" access. So now, it's a life sentence with no chance of parole. They've got us by the short hairs and they ain't letting go. Maybe, just maybe you can buy your way out but only time will tell. After all, it's money that they're after, right? In the beginning, privacy was all you had, but you gave it all away. 

Now, they own you.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

TNR-e by Yamaha

At the recent Asheville Electro-Music Festival, Anita Gayle and I had the pleasure of talking for a few minutes with Mark Mosher, an extra ordinary electronic musician and performer based in Boulder, Colorado who was in attendance to show off his considerable talents as an entertaining virtuoso. He took the time to show us one of the electronic state-of-the-art pieces of hardware that he uses in his show, the Yahama Tenori-on, a really cool device designed by Japanese artist Toshio Iwai and Yu Nishibori of the Music and Human Interface Group at the Yahama Center for Advanced Sound Technology.

The Yamaha Tenori-on combines a MIDI controller, a tone gererator, a sampler and a stunning visual user interface to add visual delight to the music you can compose with it.
Iwai's intention in creating the Tenori-on is to create an electronic instrument of beauty. In his own words:
"In days gone by, a musical instrument had to have a beauty, of shape as well as of sound, and had to fit the player almost organically. [...] Modern electronic instruments don't have this inevitable relationship between the shape, the sound, and the player. What I have done is to try to bring back these [...] elements and build them in to a true musical instrument for the digital age."
As they say in Cajun country, "I'll tell you what . . .", this instrument is really something out of science fiction - but rather pricey, too, even used. So, the day after Mark showed it to us, I searched Yamaha's site and was pleased to find a much more affordable version being sold as an iPhone 5 App for only $20.

So, after some time spent updating my account data on the Apple App site, I downloaded my own copy of this amazing software application. I also immediately realized my total ignorance in operating the TNR-e and downloaded the 31 page Quick Guide from the Yahama site. Then, onward I plunged into the world of TNR-e and its two powerful effects systems and 253 new tones that capture the essence of dub step, progressive house/EDM, electro and other types of electronic music, all in the palm of your hand.

The only thing this device can't do is wash my car, but I believe that Yamaha is working on that for the next update release.

Truly a maze zing!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Empathetic Attack

Please, give a listen to my just released album, Empathetic Attack.

Empathetic Attack is a collection of electro-musical tunes that attempts to reach people in a visceral, direct way. To me, each musical expression has an individual texture and, while using tones, rhythms, and iconic, simple melodies, I try to create a fusion of synthesizer, familiar sampled noises, and other electric and acoustic instruments to build distinctive auditory montages. My aim is to evoke mirth, wonder and a subtle appreciation of intention and symbiosis into a groove.

This playlist contains 9 tracks, total time: 55.59

Monday, May 12, 2014

Kodakaster Duo Pup

The 6th canjo build is my latest attempt to find the best use for some old film cans that my wife and I have been moving from residence to residence since my college days in Hollywood so many years ago.
The tailpiece, the metal etched box anchoring the strings to the can on the lower left, was really made for a mandolin. The metal bolt next to it serves as a bridge for the electric guitar strings and transfers tone vibrations of the strummed strings to the can. It sounds pretty good un-amplified, but the two copper-colored Flatpup pickups really "light it up".
The metal hex bolt serves as a nut on the zebrawood neck at the headstock.The chrome-plated C.B. Gitty closed tuning machines are quite well made and relatively easy to install.

I happily just put the final touches on my new 4-string canjo build. I call it the Kodakaster Duo Pup since it's made from an old Kodak bulk film can. The copper colored rectangles on the face are called Flatpup Humbuckers which make this canjo really loud and rich sounding (without any hum like some electric guitar pickups). They are handmade in Vienna, Austria by a young man named Elmar Zeilhofer and are quite an improvement in amplifying my canjos with cheaper piezo pickups.

I think one of the most interesting aspects in the looks of this canjo is the patina of etched finger prints from 50 plus years of handling that adorn the outside edge of the front of the instrument.

The Kodacaster Duo Pup also sports a Telecaster-style selector switch to play each pickup by itself or both together with tone and volume controls to boot.

I play it with a metal, glass or ceramic slide on my left ring finger while strumming or picking with my right hand. Plugging it into an effects stomp box produces some diverse and really massive sounds.

But mostly, building these contraptions gives me a great appreciation of real luthiers and their art.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Nob Nob

Had another great Asheville experience this morning, this time at Moogfest's Modular Marketplace where I picked up a little wonder you may have heard of called a brandnewnoise voice recorder. It consists of a small (3″W x 3.5″L x 2″H), pretty, hand-made wooden box housing a digital audio recorder. It is so simple any idiot can operate it, which is right up my alley. Push and hold the red button and it records up to 30 seconds of audio from its built-in mic. Release the red button to stop recording, then push the black button and it plays back your recording. Turn the black nob to and fro to change the pitch during playback.

That last feature is the entertaining part.

I don't completely understand why, but at the ripe age of 67, it makes me smile and even break out laughing to hear my own voice, or anyone else's, for that matter, sound higher or lower than its normal pitch saying just about anything.

The best part is that the inventor, a really nice guy named Richard Upchurch from Brooklyn, NY, was manning his own table at the Modular Marketplace. He was very fun to talk to, is enthusiastic about his products (yes, there are other models - see his site for further details), and he was even nice enough to autograph my purchase on the back.

Powered by two AAA batteries (he even includes two with each recorder) the "Nob Nob", which was the name printed on the carton it was packaged in, requires no training manual and is well worth its $50 price tag in giggles alone. In the first hour after we got it back to our Jeep, Anita Gayle and I had recorded and played back at various speeds, many infantile phrases like, "Hi, how are you", "Must be time for lunch", and my personal fav, "I'm from Ohio", which for some obscure reason kept us in stitches for many minutes more than we should admit to.

Anyhow, Richard's little voice recorder would make a great gift for the friend who has everything because nobody really "needs" one.

Or do they? Yes, they do. Trust me.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Citrus Synthphony

I'm having a really great time exploring the Moog Sub Phatty I got a few weeks ago. So, I put my ears on, cranked up the Logic Pro software, and laid down some tracks. I like the synth as a complimentary sound to more traditional sounds like electric guitar, 4-string canjo, and shuffle drum rhythms.

So, here's the result of my latest efforts. At the most I may eventually find an audience, and at the least, I can't hear the dog barking next door when wearing ear phones. I have even thought of recording a sound sample of some of the loud barking and incorporating it into my next piece. At the very least then, all that canine cacophony would result in a positive outcome for me. Maybe.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Moog's Sub Phatty - Modulate Me, Man

Ok. Another weak moment (or strong decision, depending on how I use this new musical tool) because our comfy Asheville home is now emanating some very strange sonic vibrations at varying frequencies at all hours. Looking at it in its most favorable light, this new turn of events is particularly fortuitous for Anita and me since summer is fast approaching, the windows will be open, and the new electronic sounds will likely drown out the loud, constantly barking dog of our clueless neighbors next door. Turning adversity into advantage is what I'm all about, or at least I am today.

The Moog Sub Phatty is an amazing combination of retro technology and digital control on three progressively deep levels. Luckily, it comes with pretty extensive operating instructions so I have at least a fair chance to make the most of this tone monster. The console itself has 31 control knobs and some cool indicator LED lights in its bank and patch preset panel, a two octave velocity sensitive keyboard, and a tone wheel and an expression wheel.

But, the shift mode gets you even deeper into The Sub Phatty's programming capacity by adding more functions to its console's existing dials and buttons allowing you to change hidden parameters. Plus, Moog supplies (from their online site) free downloadable software the replicates the Sub Phatty's front control panel which shows yet more of the Shift Mode functions, plus "load and preset" options.

It's interesting how life sometimes revolves in circles (or spirals through time, if you will) since I find myself playing with synthesizers again. Back in 1974 when Anita and I worked for Salt Lake City's PBS affiliate TV station, KUED, we rented a prototype synthesizer similar to this beautiful, more sophisticated modern-day Moog to create sound effects for our documentaries. Now, here we are 43 years later trying to figure out analog oscillators, low pass filters, sound envelopes, pulse wave modulation and the rest all over again.

It's still as much fun now as it was back then, only more expensive.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Well, I'll be a MoogerFooger

Here are the latest additions to Anita Gayle's Musical Kit of Treasures. One reason Asheville is so cool is that it's the home to the Moog Synthesizer Factory, right off the freeway through downtown and way too easy to get to. Pictured are three MoogerFoogers - Ring Modulator, 12-stage Filter and Midi-MuRF sitting right next to Anita's beautiful Kevin Spears model Hugh Tracy Electric Kalimba, which Anita daisy-chains through the MoogerFoogers and out through a combo amp.

We already used it for Anita to lay down a music track for one of her short recipe videos about making a  yummy, nutritious whole grain hot cereal on her cooking blog. Nice!

Since we got home with this Moog trio, there have been some etherial and sometimes rather strange vibes emanating from our home.

But living in Asheville, no one really notices.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Canjo Upgrade

I decided to replace the disc piezo pickup on the inside of my Kodakaster 3 Canjo with a Flatpup4 U hand-made by Elmar Zeilhofer in Vienna, Austria, and specifically designed for the bridge position. This is my third flatpup from Elmar and each one is a vast improvement over a piezo electric pickup with warmer tones, more punch, and, since piezo pickups work by picking up vibrations (sound waves), no annoying handling sounds from touching the metal surface of the old film cans I use to make canjos as they are played.

The Flatpup 4 (meaning flat pick up) is that copper-colored rectangle glued to the top of my canjo. Most conventional humbuckers are much thicker and require a hole cut into the instrument's surface to mount under the strings, while Elmar's flatpups are only 4mm thick and are easy to attach using glue, or a few small screws if you purchase one in a frame. Humbuckers are a type of electric guitar pickup that use two copper coils to cancel out the electrical interference commonly picked up by single coil pickups, Being magnetic, they capture mechanical vibrations of steel strings through the magnetic field produced by the humbucker, and convert them to electrical signals that are then amplified or recorded.
The Flatpup4 U design is a new configuration of Elmar's flatpups that, while more difficult for him to make, take advantage of its position near the bridge on the face of the canjo. If you want an explanation of the physics behind why this happens, please contact Elmar. He builds them and I merely use them because they sound so great on my canjos.

For more about Elmar and his flatpups, go to his page on Cigar Box Nation at:

Thursday, February 27, 2014


She’s only made from tonewood, copper, plastic, metal and varnish,

highly machined and carved by skilled craft workers, 

with hidden electronics in nooks and crannies,

but fit together like a fine sports car.

Could it be that these material came together to form

something more alive than some people I’ve met?

Yes, I know that’s not a nice thing to say but Ashe, my little bass,

sings in a low mellow voice, has curves in all the right places, 

is built like a brick you-know-what, and was sent to me through the mail 

in a cardboard box about a year ago already strung and swaddled in bubble wrap.

Between the times we meet to work out together, she waits patiently, 

standing in the wings like a diminutive ballet dancer awaiting her cue.

On my honor, if I ever take advantage of Ashe, fail to respect her,

or abuse our alliance, I will give her away to someone who can 

appreciate her beauty, charm, elegance and faithfulness more than me.

But, that would be the end of a beautiful relationship.

Billy Radd

Friday, February 7, 2014

Why I Practice

My Bass Station

My small music room/studio is a real kick in the patootie for someone like me who can’t get enough bass, rock n’ roll and music in general.

I feel there is so little time and so much to learn so wish I’d taken the music lessons on the accordion that my parents offered when I was 12. Accordions always reminded me of Lawrence Welk and were not considered cool by my generation. But, I can’t effect the past, only the present.

Making films and videos made my living, but The Beatles, especially Paul McCartney were my heros. If I could live long enough to be able to play bass AND sing like Sir Paul, I’d be eternally happy. So, I continue to practice to make progress with scales, arpeggios, riffs and licks.

My first electric bass guitar (I’ve owned 6) was a nice little German Framus that my parents bought me in 1964 for my 16th birthday along with an iconic  B12N  Ampeg combo amplifier (not pictured here) which I still use after 50 years. Working as a full-time film maker took me away from practicing bass very much for 40 years but I always thought that someday I'd start playing again and get good at it. This is that someday.

The picture above of my bass practice kit consists of (counter clockwise from the left) a diminutive solid body California model  Kala Ubass that I’ve had for a year and a half, my old Casio Tone Bank CT-650 keyboard sitting on top of an old directors from my film making career, my new Gibson SG Special bass, the very cool DigiTech RP1000 Integrated Effects Switching System, and in the center, my Fender Rumble 15 Combo practice amp which is plenty loud enough for practicing in my little room.

It is true that I can only play one bass at a time, but having two offers a variety of tones AND, more importantly, a comparative basis for polishing up fingering skills since the two basses have very different neck lengths (neck scales), and thus different sized fret spacings.

On the 50th anniversary of The Beatles first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show I consider this room and my daily presence in it as a direct and continuing reverberation of that seminal event in my artistic life, and indeed, the first time I can remember wanting to play and create music, specifically the bass guitar, or any other creative pursuit.

The Fab Four’s appearance on the pop scene in the early ‘60s facilitated an artistic renaissance that, for my generation and those afterward, caused a realization that art was freedom in the most personal sense. And, that the whole world was our canvas.

I am now practicing bass every day for one to two hours and even at my “seasoned” age of 66 years, I am slowly but consistently getting better at it. So now, when I hear the phrase, “You can never go back”, I think, “Wrong, wrong, wrong!” Reinventing yourself at any age is limited only by one’s own negativity and, given enough time, anything can be achieved through dedicated practice and step-by-step discipline.

That’s exactly how the Beatles got to be showcased on The Ed Sullivan 50 years ago and why the surviving members, Paul and Ringo, are still actively performing today.

Practice is how I learned cooking, filmmaking, being a parent, Tae Kwon Do, and now, playing bass.

Practice is The Only Way!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Bass-ic Obsession


I thought I'd take some pics of my new Gibson SG Special Bass before it gets "road worn". It really is a sweet thang!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Gibson SG Special Bass

The Newest Member of the Billy Radd Family

Jan. 10th, 2014
I checked one of these today at a local guitar shop and was quite impressed. The price point seems just right, especially when compared to the other short-scale basses available on the market. I have short fingers, and am only 5'8" and this bass really fits my frame. The satin finish is not real fancy but looks great and feels nice to the touch. It is as light as many hollow and semi-hollow body basses I have played, but seems very solidly built. Plus, the hardware is quite adequate with beefy Grover machines and two Gibson humbuckers. 

Jan. 13th, 2014
I have been looking for the perfect short scale bass for a few months now and I think I have found it. To tell the truth, there aren't many out there that have a classic style, are well-balanced, made with quality materials that are reasonably priced AND made in the USA. I'm going to buy a Cherry Satin model today, plug it into my '63 Ampeg Portaflex Combo and let 'er rip. We'll see if short scale SG measures up to my expectations. I will be changing the round wound strings it comes with to flat wounds but the rest of the package seems very utilitarian and high quality. Finally, a Gibson I can afford. 
Jan. 16th, 2014
Just received my own Gibson SG Special Bass from Musicians Friend today and have been happily playing it for the last couple of hours. So far, I am very impressed with it's ease of playing and classic design. I usually use flat wound strings on my basses instead of the supplied round wounds but I think in this case I will just go with the strings that came on it for a while. The bass was set up well and darned near in tune right our of the box. I ordered it online on Monday morning and received it Thursday morning with free shipping from Musicians Friend.
I particularly like the 2 different humbucker pickups which give you quite a range of tones with each one having it's own volume control along with the master tone knob controlling both. And, I really like the satin (matte) finish on my Cherry version, as well. Plus, the CG Special Bass 2014, while being so much lighter than a standard sized electric bass, is still sturdily built with a solid, one piece mahogany body, Gibson's glued-on short scale mahogany neck, Grover tuning machines, and 3-way adjustable bridge. Mine also came with a nice, plush-lined hard shell Gibson case. 


In short, I still wouldn't call it very fancy, but it is attractive and seems to be a good solid value. I'm looking forward to many years of playing this affordable tone monster from Gibson. BTW, did I mention that it's made in good ole Nashville, USA?