Legendary punk/indie rock The Dead Milkmen recently released their first new album in 16 years "The King In Yellow." We learned the group's creative mainman Rodney Anonymous used FL Studio for songwriting and it's VSTs (Sytrus, Harmless, DirectWave) in the entire creation of the album. We caught up with Rodney to find out more.
The Dead Milkmen are Back
Tell us about your animation, music and yourself?
When I was a teenager, back in the 70's (when music was made exclusively with sticks and animal hides) there was plenty of music which I loved floating about, but absolutely none of it was ever played on the radio. I spent my Dickensian youth being forced to listen to Styx and Wings. You could not have paid any of the Rock stations in our area to play The Ramones or The Clash, so - apart from our record collections - my friend (and Dead Milkmen guitarist) Joe and I had nothing to listen to. Rather than surrender to the idea that music made for people like us would be forever marginalized, we decided to form a band and fight back. Also, we were very, very bored at the time. We were lucky enough to meet two other fellows, Dave & Dean, who were just as bored as we were.
How did you come to use FL Studio & what were your first impressions?
I'll try to make this story as short as possible, which is something of a miracle for me: A few years back I switched over to a PC with a 64 bit operating system and DAW I was using just couldn't cut it on that platform. Also, since the Milken had just reunited and I knew I'd be doing some song writing and playing live gigs I needed a DAW that with a just the right feel to its workflow and that would allow me access to some cool VSTs.
I monkeyed around with a few other DAWs (which will remain nameless). They were OK (a few were less-than-OK), but they just didn't have, for lack of a better word, personality. Then I spotted a post on Synthtopia.com about FL Studio and I said to myself "Sweet! These are the folks who used to make Fruity Loops". I loved Fruity Loops, back in the day - I still consider Fruity Loops the most addictive substance I've ever been exposed to. Also, I learned that Deadmau5 uses FL Studio; I figured "Good enough for Deadmau5, good enough for me."
So I downloaded the free version - this was either version 7 or 8, and I've gradually upgraded to the Producer Edition (XXL Bundle) - and started to play around with it, and it just felt right. That's the best - only - way that I can describe the experience. I like to pick my instruments, work on each section of a song, and then string the bits together. I work out my chord progressions first - using keyboard sounds; then I toss a simple beat under that; work on the bass; and keep going until either I'm happy, the sun come up, or the cops drop by: whichever happens first. FL Studio just fits the way I write.
And then there's the VSTs. The first time I fired up Sytrus I was blown away. It was like having my old DX11 back (last seen in Austin TX, in 2008), but now it was chewing human pituitary gland! Instead of 4 operates, I now had six...and an XY modulator to boot! Then I opened up DirectWave and saw that library I could download from and I was like a kid in a very load candy shop.
Tea Time with the Dead Milkmen
The Dead Milkmen Circa 1983
On our new CD, The King in Yellow, that lovely flute sound on "Melora Says", the horns on "Can't Relax", and the cello on "Cold Hard Ground" are all courtesy of DirectWave. While I'm at it, the main riff on "She's Affected" is from FL Slayer's distorted tremolo guitar combined a distortion pedal from Hardcore, as is one of the guitars on "Solvents (For Home and Industry)". The growling synth on "Caitlin Childs" is PoiZone's Rave Noise patch resampled through DirectWave (It has a certain VNV Nation quality). One of the synths on "Passport to Depravity" is the Organ Transplant patch from Harmless (as are the bells on "Quality of Death"). The other synth patch on that song is from a synth I built in the version of Synthmaker for FL Studio. I call it the LC 5000, after "Elsie" - the cow on our logo.
Lately, I've really been into Harmor. I like to stay up late on Friday nights with a couple of glasses of wine and experiment with it. The other day, Dean, our drummer, sent me a demo of song he was working on (everybody in the Dead Milkmen writes music and lyrics) and I put a keyboard part on it using a couple of Harmor patches. He loved the sounds (I didn't ask how he felt about my playing)
Dead Milkmen, early days - The Secret of Life
Tell us about your production environment & toys?
I try to keep things pretty simple. I used to collect keyboards; I owned a Vox Continental and a bunch of strange synths, but I have the bizarre and expensive habit of hurling my keyboards off the stage and into the audience, so I stick with controllers and VSTs these days.
Another reason why I love VSTs keep my setup simple: I have my desktop and my laptop; an M-Audio Keystudio 49i, which I use as my main controller. An LPK25, which is perfect for distracting Katy the cat who shares my home studio space with me. I just got an iPhone and am downloading FL Studio mobile to it as I type this. I keep a Washburn guitar around, despite the fact that I'm a terrible guitar player. I'm also rather proud of my hurdy gurdy and Copeland penny whistle. Oh, and there's a Yamaha SH-10 over in the corner. It was a gift from Joe. I painted it black to match my wardrobe.
Do you have any links you would like to share?
Here's our website
Here is a recent video of an entire show we played in Athens, GA. I don't want to spoil the ending, but Vanessa Hay from Pylon joined us on stage:
The Dead Milkmen & Guests
Here are the rules for hanging out with Faderhead. Your life might depend on them one day: