In the 90s, these were used like USB flash or jump drives are used today. They cost $100 US a pop and held 1 Gigabyte. The drives for them were $299-$399 US. I have never had enough hard drive space to hold my current work AND all my old work until now. Having it all together again is like a class reunion.
I’ve discovered some good old work, some deplorable old work, work that was taken in desperation and work that I wish I’d never taken. Among the dozen or so of these Jaz discs I found master stereo audio of the first album that Swim Herschel Swim did. I don’t know if these exist anywhere else. We only released that album publicly on cassette. The mastering job was never supervised and we recorded it on a shoestring in two main sessions, many of them first or only takes. We did some horn and vocal overdubs, a tiny bit of sweetening overdubs (we only had 16 tracks and a very limited budget) and then spent another few hours mixing it down. It’s that mix that these tracks represent.
I spent some time last week pulling these into Logic Express and playing with them to see if I could nurse more low end out of it and make the overall mix sound bigger than it did on the cassette master. I’m still playing, but I like the first results. It only took 18 years, but I have an app that for under $500 has more processing power than $25k worth of outboard gear in 1991. It’s strange to sit atop that much power after so many years of wishing we could have taken more time, had more money to really do a good job. It’s not just the discovered audio tracks that make me feel like this. The zine that I was the art director for from 1995-98 would be so much better given digital cameras and the kind of computing power and storage we have now. Looking at source files of our color covers and seeing gobs of unintentional noise is cool on one level and painful on another. The reality of that work is that we didn’t need to spend the kind of time to clean it up like one would need to today. The paper/ink combo we could afford meant that when the ink hit the paper, the spread of the ink would hide most of the crap in the source file.
Still, it was nice to discover all the work and have a place to stash it so I can at least open it from time to time and reminisce.
In many ways, playing with the audio tracks is a bit like George Lucas playing with versions of his movies. Having the opportunity to play around like this, I have a deeper sense of why he would want to go back and add things, clean it up, make it better. It’s a dumb comparison, because we didn’t create anything close to the cultural power of Star Wars. We were just a Mormon college band who had a devoted following for a few years.
I’m hoping to share my results in the near future, sometime after we return from the chillest chill vacation ever.