Divine Rock’n’Roll

Back in early 2012, I was bassist for Alex Cappelli’s “The Collectables” and we launched his new version of the band at Noise Bar, Brunswick. We were supported by two bands but, of those, the one that stood out was The Divine Fluxus, an all girl three piece playing a flavour of rock I describe as Anne Wilson of Heart singing for Rush in Metallica’s studio. We were, all three bands, relatively new to the road in our line ups at the time, but TDF impressed me because they had a sound at once recognisable in known forms, but… different, unknown, edgy and a little dangerous.

We supported them at Revolver Upstairs in Chapel St for their CD launch, a month or so later, the thorns among roses, with the other support, The Anoushka, opening the show. The Collectables were the token blokes in a sandwich of bitchkrieging rock that shook the room, the night and expectations of what loud, electric music could be. All three bands blew the doors off that night and I was hooked on The Divine Fluxus, a welded-on fan.

I always knew women could rock as hard as any of the guys. Siouxsie Sioux, Joan Jett, Anne and Nancy Wilson, to name a few ladies of loudness that had rocked my stereo over the years, but there are many many more. However, until TDF, I hadn’t shared a stage with any. I’d rocked with women in bands, but none with the power Ary, Victoria and Sasha delivered.

So circumstance unfolded, The Collectables “went south”, my health took a dive and it was 2 years before I got along to a gig to see The Divine Fluxus again. Flash forward to The Brunswick Hotel, 2 weeks ago. It’s one of the last gigs with the band’s new drummer, Yahna Pal. It was everything I remembered, growling, rootsy hard rock with Victoria channeling an intriguing hybrid of Anne Wilson and Geddy Lee vocals. It reaffirmed this band’s stunning difference in a Melbourne scene overloaded with tattooed blokes doing AC DC licks like they were Iron Maiden. They rock out in a consistent style but without any of the songs sounding “samey”. The ripped the Brunswick a new one.

Then last night, sharing the bill at The Elsternwick Hotel with Dear Stalker and Saint Henry, The Divine Fluxus took to the stage with the first, and arguably most passionate, drummer, Sasha Campbell. We’d been told on Facebook there was going to be a surprise, that was it, the original and best trio was back in their best mix! With Sasha back on the beats, they ripped rock’n’roll a new one, a big one, and local live music is all the better for it! This is the original purpose of rock, this is it’s new purpose, the beginninng, the end, the alpha and the omega, Ragnarock, as the Vikings might have put it.

The “Wick’s” sound system is a little underpowered, the sound guy was OK, but struggled to get loud enough monitoring on stage. How the girls responded to this could be a lesson to some international stars, let alone local acts. They dug deep and rocked the fuck out. It was like watching a trio of acrobats run up to the precipice, flat out, and stop, teetering on the edge, no net to save them if they fell, over and over again, and every time, the crowd cheers! The music was edgy, dangerous, passionate and thrusting. They might have set fire to the stage if the performance were any hotter.

Being male is no mortgage on knowing how to rock. There are no gender divides on the hard rock stage anymore as these talented young women prove, night after night. Gender is no longer an indicator of balls in music, to paraphrase Patti Smith, The Divine Fluxus are a canon and they NEVER run out of balls. Get your ears around their tunes and get along to a gig. You’re not a real rocker if you don’t.

The Divine Fluxus on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thedivinefluxusmusic

The Divine Fluxux on Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/the-divine-fluxus

St Kilda Rd _IS_ Bicycle Friendly, You Idiots!

Here is yet another reason I no longer support Bicycle Network Victoria and the Amy Gillet Foundation. These organisations have lobbied for, and are celebrating the announcement of, the Copenhagenisation of St Kilda Rd. Amongst the tweets and posts of “triumph”, the line that St Kilda Rd is to be made “bicycle friendly.”

Look, you dickheads, it already is! This is one of the BEST strips of bicycle lane I have ever ridden and I ride it frequently, at all times of the day. I ride this stretch sometimes at 4:30am, on my way to start the early shift at work, sometimes in the middle of the day, starting the afternoon shift, or leaving the morning shift, and sometimes after 7:00pm. It’s a great stretch of cycling!

Riders are hidden behind parked cars and invisible to any driver turning left

Riders are hidden behind parked cars and invisible to any driver turning left

If this stretch of road is Copenhagenised, the bike lane will be placed between the parked cars and the footpath. To the non-cyclist this may seem reasonable, but it’s not. There are many many left turns off St Kilda Rd and the current bicycle lane makes you visible to motorists. If you’re riding straight ahead, they can see you and (mostly, like 99.99%) will not turn on top of you. If you’re hidden behind the parked cars, and cars are parked there 24 hours a day (except for peak times under the proposal, but that leaves 20 other hours when you’re hidden), motorists won’t see you and will turn left without regard for you because, to them, you’re not there.

Then there’s dooring. Most drivers actually look behind when opening a car door. The rare few who do manage to “door” a cyclist are usually inexperienced drivers or the sort of person who thinks they own the road, not just a car. With the bike lane on the passenger side of cars, expect dooring to rise. Sure, there’ll be no cement trucks on that side to crush the cyclist, but many many cyclists will suffer lost time crashes because, even if passengers did look before opening a door, they can’t use the mirror, because it’s adjusted for the driver. Bang! Another cyclist gets ribs broken on the passenger door of an SUV.

The final problem with bicycle lanes on the passenger side of parked cars is “thronging.” This is where people stand beside the car while they decide as a group which cafe they want to eat at. People do that on the passenger side of the car and they stand close to the car. In short, the bike lane will stop being a transport lane and start being a social venue. It already happens a little when two drivers from 2 cars are parked near each other, they stand in the bike lane and chat, right next to all the traffic. These knobs will rarely get out of the way, even if you shout a loud warning at them. Now imagine a whole family climbing out of mum’s SUV, milling around in the Copenhagen lane. They won’t get out of the way, they believe they’re on the footpath. (I was told on St Kilda’s Fitzroy St “Copenhell” to get off the footpath a few years back. I never ride the “Copenhell” anymore.)

In a car mad country, where the majority think driving is a right and cycling a hobby, not transport, Copenhagenism won’t work. It works in Copenhagen because they never had a petrolhead culture. Their town planners could see cars were going to be a problem if there were too many, unlike here, where every new road to alleviate congestion only causes more congestion. In Copenhagen, they have “strict liability” which is where the motorist has to prove they were not in the wrong if they hit a cyclist or pedestrian. That’s why Copenhagenism works there.

Here in Australia? The police will automatically blame a cyclist for a crash, even if they have independent witnesses that the motorists broke the law. I know this, in the 90s I had to get police to show cause why a drunk driver wasn’t breath tested and charged for running down a cyclist who was a Bicycle Tasmania member. I’ve had police try to charge me with running a red when it went amber as I reached the other side. I’ve had police demand to see my drivers licence when stopping me on my bicycle. Will police prosecute a motorist who fails to give way when turning left into the path of a hidden cyclist on a “Copenhell”? Of course they won’t, even though that’s what the law says, you must give way to a cyclist riding straight ahead when turning left across their path.

The great thing about Melbourne is that, so far, it’s not really all that Copenhagenised. If Port Melbourne proceed with making St Kilda Rd a “Copenhell”, my commute will grow by 20 to 30 minutes because I will have to, for my own safety, stop and give way at every single left junction, regardless of green lights or green paint.

This is my safest, most direct route to work, and they plan to ruin it. Remember my 5am start? I currently get up a little before 4am to allow a little contingency in the 40 to 50 minutes. I’ll hve to get up before 3:30am to safely ride that way if this proceeds. I may as well go via Hawthorn Rd, Dandenong Rd, William St and the Capital City Trail, 5km longer than the direct route and nowhere near as well lit.

Pedalling Efficiently

Wait? What?!! Pedalling in the music section?! It’s OK, I’m talking effects pedals. I’ve been refining the pedal board back into the pedal case so as to free up the current pedal board tray for keyboard and iPad duty.

You have no idea how tricky it was fitting this jigsaw puzzle together in a workable way! Works a treat, though.

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From top left to bottom right: Jamman AC adapter, patch box, Behringer US600 Harmoniser, Behringer TU300 tuner/mute, Digitech Jamman Stereo Looper, Behringer DC9 compressor and Korg AX-5 multieffects.

The looper has a built-in drum machine, so that’s output on red, the bass output from the harmoniser goes to the right input on the looper, which output goes to the bass amp mix, and the guitar goes to the tuner, goes to the compressor, goes to the harmoniser, the clean out of which goes to the AX-5, which goes to the guitar amp. Perfect for a rocking/bluesy one man band.

One Law For Them…

On my ride to work today, I say this wonderful example of police double standards. While high and mighty about how cyclists are scofflaws and thoughtless, their own consideration of the safety of cyclists is clearly falling short. I tender this video from my ride…

The lane the police were stopped in is a bicycle lane. The parking lane on the left is empty, they could have dropped a wheel further into that parking lane and still had a safety buffer for talking to the driver. Because of the lack of space they left, I had to try to squeeze into the motoring lane in late morning traffic. Fortunately I didn’t have too much traffic bearing down on me.

It’s bad enough when taxi drivers do this, but police, who should know better, are just throwing their weight around when they put their safety ahead of other members of the public and don’t leave enough lane for me to safely pass.

As The Four Skins sing in the video, “ONE LAW FOR THEM AND ANOTHER ONE FOR US!”

A Bucket of Keyboard Win

iPadMicrokeySetupI’m turning my iPad win into a winning keyboard rig. The apps used for fat synth tones include NLog, Arturia Mini and Garageband, to name just a few.

The USB hub and PSU are to power the Microkey37 which, despite being sold as iPad compatible, isn’t in current draw terms. My aging Korg Poly800I is being retired to hang on the wall. It won’t hold its patches unless the external power is connected at all times and is too old for Sysex loading.

I plan to figure out a way to non destructively hang it on the wall like a picture, and I can get an app from Korg called Poly 6 to replace it.

Throw A Sound Grenade – Street Art That Isn’t Grafitti

soundgrenadeIn this age of cheap electronics, it’s possible to buy on eBay an MP3 player for less than $3, an external speaker for it for less than $4 and a microSD card to put media on it for less than $8. I know, I just bought 4 of each as a test bed for a radical street art idea.

Buy 4 spray cans in colours analogous to CMYK and you’ll spend this much money and many more hours visible in a public place, at risk of being arrested, to do street art with a colourful message. Buy the gadgets I mention above and you can work on your artistic statement in the privacy of your own home then, with little more than duct tape and carefully chosen locations, you could place tiny “radio stations” hidden above public spaces where people congregate.

Even those not actively listening will get your message, subliminally. You’re not “damaging” private property, unlike grafitti, and the message will silence itself when the batteries run out. Many of your little audio caches will still be recoverable, reloadable and rechargeable after they’ve done their job for a few hours in a crowded railway station, at a bus stop or in a car park.

This is artistic guerrilla warfare. Keep your statements simple, direct and short, people will not be choosing to hear this, anymore than they choose to see a grafitti piece. Make it entertaining, even be funny, use music like a sedative to help make the audience more receptive. This is advertising mind control democratised! It is also art! It is street art, it is psychological art.

Have your say!

The View From a Lowrider Front Rack

Dr Manhattan On St Kilda Rd
The start of my commute home. There would be more, but the camera doesn’t work according to how the manual says it should. (Stupid camera! Haven’t ruled out the SD card, though.)

I’m On My Way Back

OK, it was wind assisted, but I’m back above 20km/h for my average speed. My muscles hate me for even the small amounts of riding I’ve been doing, but I’m getting stronger. Slowly.

View Larger Map

Flying With a Bike

A baggage handler’s advice on packing a bicycle for air travel…
Flying With Your Bike

Flying with your bike can be a nerve-wracking experience, particularly if the bike is new and/or you’ve spent a lot of money on it. Will the bike make it to your destination in one piece? And what’s the best option for keeping your bike safe – soft case, hardshell or cardboard box? CyclingTips editor Matt de Neef spoke to an aircraft loading supervisor with more than 10 years experience to find out how best to pack your bike when flying and, just as importantly, how to reduce the risks of your bike getting damaged.

Drum Trigger Pulses Need a Kick

Now the mesh skins are fitted to the hybrid kit, the trigger pulse level is significantly less than it was with the “noisy” batter skins. This means the hardest I can whack any drum falls around a velocity of 48 or so in the MIDI signals the controller module sends out. I could fix this with a velocity expander software in the Mac being used as a USB to MIDI router, but I’m contemplating replacing that with a USB-MIDI adapter box to simplify the setup.

So, an easier way to pump up the volume is to amplify the trigger pulses themselves. A dirty 80s analogue solution! :-) So, I spent a few hours designing a simple audio amplifier, to be replicated by 10, to amplify each trigger signal. Then I looked on eBay, and I found an amp module where 10 of them cost a quarter of my circuit design. So, it’s hardly worth having electronic skills as a hobby, these days :-)

The Commute Is Back!

OK, I made it into work, and I’m not even wrecked by it. OK, there was a mighty headwind, but I left early and just made a sensible pace. Here is a selfie of me before I turned off the lights and swiped in…
me

Headlight Mounted & Wired

The headlight is wired and working. First run, tomorrow, with my first bicycle commute since I finished up and went on leave for my colo-rectal surgery last December. The laser tail light, which illuminates a red line either side of the back wheel, is on a temporary mount until a better way to mount it at the rear of the rack can be found. Mounting it on the seatpost sees the red lines obscured by the panniers.

And, while I mention the seatpost, the slipping problem is fixed. One of the seatposts I bought, and thought was too large was the right diameter, actually fits, but the seat clamp at the top of the seat tube was a little crushed in from the frame’s previous owner using too small a seatpost. A little leverage between the lugs, a bit off a knock with a mallet, et voila! It’s a perfect fit!

I’m Actually Riding Again!

IMG_6441
Training for Vietnam 2015 began today with a gentle jaunt from home to Black Rock, via Hampton Rd and Beach Rd. With a short stop for scones and Dutch pancakes at the Sandringham Farmers Market, the trip was a nice round 20km, and I could have probably done it again.

1080p HD Becomes Waterproof and Affordable

Looking for a sneaky bike cam that maybe looks like a spare headlight? Don’t want to spend an excruciatingly painful fortune on a GoPro rig? Want it waterproof to snorkelling depths? Want something cheap enough that you could fit two, one facing forwards, one backwards, to catch the intent or inattention of a motorist and the crash they cause?
Then THIS!!! This is the inevitable march of progress and the perfect bike cam. I predict two of these in every cyclists’ future, and a pair is HALF the cost of a single GoPro. Funny, that cyclist’s spare headlight is facing 45° off straight ahead and they’ve got one on the rear??? That’s their new bike evidence gathering camera rig. You better behave around that one, he’s a militant litigant! :-)
HDcam

And Finally, The Bike Is Finished. Meet Dr Manhattan.

The bike is working! Well, sort of. I’m still having trouble getting the front derailleur to change up. No problems with the downshift, though, that’s almost too good. Still, with a week until the plumbing is out of my arm, I have a ridable bike.

Sad news, though, the centre-pull brakes were just 3mm too short in their reach. Probably what you get buying something from the 27″ era to use on a 700c bike. Not a waste, though, because they look like they’ll work a treat on the single, Rosie, which has shit brakes. Also, some minor parts were missing, the cable hanger hooks for the cross-cable, so I wouldn’t have been able to finish the build.

So, I had to put the v-brakes back on, but spent a little time setting them up properly and they’re not so bad. And I’ve settled on a final, an appropriate name, “Dr Manhattan”, for the big blue guy in Watchmen. Essentially, it’s a blue, large framed bike with a big dick on it ;-)

Bring on the training for Vietnam!
DrManhattan

Leaning Towards Smaller and Cheaper

Maybe 1000w isn’t worth the extra $600 for a pair of LD Dave 12 systems over the 700w of the LD Dave 10 pair.
LD Dave 10 G3
700w to 1000w its significantly less than 3dB and the Dave 10 still has an impressive continuous SPL of 119dB and peak of 126dB, and that’s for 1 subby and 2 satellites, I plan to run twice that. So, 122dB continuous, then.

One-Off “Vinyls” and DIY T-Shirts

I love thinkgeek.com, such a consumerist den of iniquity, yet so much fun nerd stuff that any creative can value add! Take the gramophone kit, shown to the right. It will actually record, too!

So, how do you value-add that to justify its silly “consumery” nothingness? Record your live shows, then play them back into this gadget… ONCE! Record one “vinyl” copy of your live show from the video or audio recording of your latest gig and sell it on eBay as a one-off original that nobody else will own.

For more normal merchandise ideas for fans, there’s DIY t-shirts you can print with this gunk and sunlight. Warning, you do have to do laundry, but that beats cleaning up after screen printing.

Mr Reid Becomes Lord Vader In Stormtrooper White

metro whitened
The revival of my classic 90s Shogun MetroAT is almost complete. I just need to get a Hyperglide 7 speed chain pin (bloody Shimano make them so you can’t reuse chain pins) to rejoin the chain, fitting of the recently acquired centre-pull brakes, replace the old v-brake spigots with short M8 allen head screws for tidiness, fit the racks, dynamo and headlight and, finally, tweak everything to perfect adjustment.

One little oversight (and resultant stroke of luck!) was measuring the size of the frame. As it turns out, it’s 22 inches (56cm) from BB centre to top tube centre, which is just about the perfect touring frame for me, being exactly a 6 footer. (183cm) One should always measure a frame before embarking on a build-up, so I quite got lucky. A little small wouldn’t have been a problem, I rode an 18″ MTB for 20 years, but one size larger might have been as uncomfortable as Mr Reid, the parts donor bike.

The bike’s specifications are…

Frame: 22″ Shogun MetroAT, externally butted, 4130 aero grade chomoly
Fork: Tange Touring fork, chromoly, 1″ threaded steerer with 2x dropout threads and mid-fork thread each side for rack and mudguards
Wheels: OEM 700c 36 spoke Alex rims and Quando hubs, ex 2013 Reid City 1, fitted with 35mm touring tyres
Groupset: Shimano Tourney 7×3 derailleur, ex Reid City 1, with after market 2013 Tourney 7×3 STI integrated shifters
Brakes: Currently Tektro V-brakes, but soon to be replaced with second hand, vintage Weinmann centre-pulls (more compatible with STI than V-brakes, easier to adjust and better self-centering than any other kind of caliper brake)
Handlebar: Zoom 25mm ergo drop
Stem: scrounged junkbox 1″ mountainbike quill stem (ugly but theft resistant ;-) )
Rear rack: hard rubbish find diecast heavy duty
Front rack: Vavert low-rider style
Mudguards: Toba (extremely light weight)

I have to say, the quality of parts, even the aluminium frame, that was my Reid City 1, while cheap and cheerful, were amazingly high quality for a $300 bike. If you need a cheap, city commuter, the Reid City 1 is the BEST value for money out there. A little heavy by modern standards at 15kg, but that includes rack and guards so, if you commute with a backpack or messenger bag, in a low rainfall town, take the rack and guards off to get down around 14kg.

The ONLY reason I chose to “upgrade” to a chomoly frame was because this bike is destined to see serious touring miles, as well as the daily commute. When your target travel distance is 80 to 120km a day, aluminium, I feel, anyway, is a harsher ride. I also had a little trouble getting quite the right position on the Reid, which can happen with a $3000 bike, never mind a $300 one. It was a longer frame than the MetroAT and stretched my reach, while adjusting the variable stem up only fixed this a little once the drop bars were fitted.

Even though I’m a 6 footer, I’d choose Reid’s medium size City 1, having it over, so think about reach and sizing when buying any bike. That said the City 1 is an exceptional bicycle for somebody on a budget. In car terms, as good value for money as a Hyundai i30 compared to a BMW 1 series.

This Is How Easy It Is To Steal Bikes

Don’t be the path of least resistance. Use two kinds of lock, a cable and a U-lock.
ryobi0ne
$99 will net you one of these, and another $99 will get you the battery and charger. Nick two bicycles and sell them at pub prices, and you’ve covered your costs, including a pair of white overalls. If you have a preference for U-locks or prefer a cable lock, you’re out of luck, neither will protect your precious bike against a well equipped bike thief.

Or will they? Lets face it, even if a thief pulls up next to a pile of bikes, wearing white overalls, looking for all the world like a council worker cutting away “illegally parked” bicycles, they’re not going to waste time on bikes locked with a cable and a u-lock. They’ll take twice as long to cut from the signpost or fence they’re chained to and time is the thief’s enemy.

Don’t be the path of least resistance, use two, different kinds of lock. It won’t guarantee you against bicycle theft, but it will reduce your odds of losing your precious machine. Also, if your workplace provides indoor parking, or allows you to bring it into the office, use it. Don’t chain up outside unless you have no other option.

Secrets of The Hand Debut Album Concept

As I slowly work my way back to health, creating and performing, I plan to work under the name “Secrets of the Hand.” I just like the flow of the name and, this morning, while playing Solitaire on my iPhone, I hit upon an album title, “Poisoned by Nines.”

The game I was playing dealt up all four nines but hid all the eights under the staircase. The game was poisoned by the nines so, needless to say, I lost the game. The name is a win, though, very happy with that as an album title.