RAP: Outside of audio production work, what else are you doing?
Jay: I've got the opportunity to do some software work for Eventide. I'm doing a bunch of writing and a couple of books. My wife writes computer books, and we've written three of them together. I wrote the manual for the Orban DSE-7000 and some manuals for people as weird as Mackie Designs. They're nuts, but they saw some of what I'd written for Orban and they said, "He's nuts, too," and they needed a free-lancer to fill in. I think a lot of my stuff ended up in the 1202 manual and in some of their promotional material. If you go to the Eventide Home Page, you can grab the manual I wrote for the new Ultra Harmonizer. They put the whole thing up on the Web page. I did the stuff that wasn't straight enough for Mackie, stuff that I'd been dying to do, including a couple of approaches that Mackie had rejected as being not really serious enough for an equipment manual. It's all down to earth technology, and all about trying to tell somebody a good way to run a piece of equipment. But at the same time, there's no reason you can't write a high-tech manual that sounds like a human being, that sounds like you enjoy working with the stuff.
RAP: Where does most of your revenue come from? Is it from the writing or production?
Jay: Producing commercials, most of it broadcast promos. I don't know why, but in this present economy for the past couple of years, the only people who are really spending money trying to do interesting advertising are the car dealers and the broadcasters. On the local level there are a lot of fairly decent TV campaigns for radio stations. I don't know if you're enough into promotion that you've heard of a company called Custom Productions. Among other things, they created a very famous TV spot for a radio station called Open Radio where a guy opens up a radio and starts pulling out the things he doesn't like and starts putting in the things he does like. I do the sound for some of their original spots and all of their syndicated spots. So those are my tracks, my mixes, and we're promoting radio stations pretty much all around the country.
RAP: So television audio for radio station campaigns is one large area for you.
Jay: A large area. The other that I do is a lot of radio spots for TV stations, for the network broadcasters and also for a lot of local stations around the country. I do radio for WGN in Chicago, for KTTV in LA, for WPIX in New York, for Channel 4 in Miami, and of course, for the Group W outlet up here in Boston, WBZ.
RAP: You wrote about ninety programs for Eventide's new DSP4000 Ultra Harmonizer. I was able to check some of them out at a recent NAB show and was blown away. I can write some basic programs on a number of effects boxes, but the programs you wrote aren't just simple little reverb programs or delay programs. There are some incredibly unique programs on the DSP4000. Is it as easy to program the DSP4000 as it is to program any effects box?
Jay: I'd say it's easier. I had poked around on the H3000 and got into the programming on that, and that box is sort of a horror show to program. You've got to keep a mental picture of all these different generators and processors and then, one by one, wire them up. Then I got the 4000. I saw it at a show and it looked like it would do some neat things for me. So, I bought it. I opened up the manual and, lo and behold, it comes with a high level programming language built in. You can sit at your PC, or my MAC, and actually write a program that says things like, "Take a filter. Give the filter this curve." And you describe the curve in terms of poles and things like that. You just describe this stuff in text. "At a certain turnover frequency, take the signal coming in the input jack, send it to this filter, take the low frequencies from this filter, invert them, and send them to this pitch shifter. Put a knob on the front panel. Take the knob, multiply it by minus one, look at the incoming level, combine that with the knob, and use it to modulate the pitch." You're just describing all this in text. Then you download it to the Ultra Harmonizer then press a button and listen to it. This is a very high level language. If you can work Basic, if you understand Basic, then it's real easy to start programming.
RAP: Describe one of your favorite programs you wrote for the DSP4000.
Jay: I have a patch called "Public Address" which actually generates the realistic feedback of a high school auditorium or a press conference or anything like that. It picks out a frequency, which you can choose, but when it accumulates enough frequency in the input, it starts to grow and you get the whistle. It sounds exactly like feedback, and when you stop talking, it slowly decays, just like feedback. To make it complete, I put in a "Tap Mike" button on it. You hit a button on the front panel of the Ultra Harmonizer, and you get that characteristic sound of somebody thumping along on an old dynamic mike in a big auditorium.
RAP: When did you start getting serious about writing effect programs?
Jay: The first one that I started playing with was a de-esser. I needed a de-esser one day, and there was no de-esser around. It was about a year and a half ago. I said, "Hey, there's a compressor. I wonder what happens if I stick a filter into the side chain. Whoa, it's a de-esser!" The knowledge of how to process the audio is just stuff that anybody good in this business picks up from reading the magazines and reading the text and reading the equipment manuals. I probably learned more about processing from reading every manual I could get my hands on than anything I could have learned in a school. Orban's manuals, especially. No matter how dry and stiff they are, you're still going to learn something about the circuit, and the more you know about what that box is trying to do, the more you can make it do tricks.
RAP: Would you say it's more important today to read the manuals than it was ten or twenty years ago?
Jay: No, I don't think I would. The technology keeps on exploding, but ten or twenty years ago there was still plenty to learn. When the first Orban stereo simulator came out, there was a section of the manual that explained how it worked. Once I knew how it worked, then I was able to use it as a special effect in mono, or I could do other things to it. Take the first Eventide Harmonizer, the model 910 back in 1976 or 1977. You opened up the manual, and Richard Factor had written an elegant description of how time compression works--how you change the pitch of something in real time. I bought a mike preamp and put it in this weekend. I was looking through the manual. The manual is a gem, an absolute gem, and I learned some stuff about avoiding ground loops.
RAP: ISDN is getting a lot of talk these days. What are your thoughts on this technology?
Jay: It's the latest, greatest thing. It is wonderful. But it's going to be obsolete in three or four years because somebody will invent something better. Certainly the technology that we're using, the MPEG Layer II and III, even the AptX and the Dolby Fax, those are going to be supplanted within a couple years by better technologies.
RAP: What is the best quality available now over ISDN lines?
Jay: It depends on the bandwidth. If you've got infinite bandwidth, the best quality is 16-bit linear. Nobody's got that. If you've got three ISDN lines, six individual channels, if you're willing to really pay for it, the best quality is probably the 3D2 system which uses AptX compression. The 3D2 is not so much a box as a network. They buy the phone lines. They charge you an outrageous amount per hour to use those phone lines and a monthly rental on the box, and at the end of the year, they own the box. But it's very good quality. With a little bit of tweaking, the quality approaches 16-bit linear, full bandwidth, 20-20K.