Tuesday, 28 January 2014


What the heck is a murmuration? No it's not a heart condition, it's what they call the effect when thousands of birds flock and fly together forming intricate patterns as they move in synchronicity. Most commonly in the UK it will be starlings. You can often see then doing this at dusk near the seaside or in the countryside just before settle down to roost for the night. Quite breathtaking to watch.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Cool films

I have a few favourite films. I like films that have an element of nostalgia, especially if set in another era. Slow burning and moody and ones that champion the under-dog or have a good human condition message to offer. Here are a few that you might like to check out if you like those types of film too. Feel free to add comments with more films of this genre.


The Straight Story

Station Agent

The Fastest Indian

Shawshank Redemption

One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest

Whale Rider

Little Big Man

Sunday, 19 January 2014

The Vault - Hard Rock Cafe London

Just had a few days in London and went to visit The Vault. It's below the Hard Rock Cafe's Rock shop near Hyde Park corner and called the vault because it used to be a bank. Now they have a small museum of rock memorabilia. You can see it for free. It's only small but well packed with goodies - mostly guitars owned by iconic rock stars. Bowie, Bo Diddley, Jeff Beck, Curt Cobain, Duane Allman, Keith Richards and to top it all (for me) Jimi Hendrix's custom made, left-handed, Gibson Flying V. Now that was a special occasion for me because it was the one he played at the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970. I was there! Sadly he died a couple of weeks later. I think it was his last public gig. So if you're down in London, be sure to visit The Vault and check out those goodies for yourself.

Friday, 10 January 2014

Jimi Hendrix Voodoo Chile like you've never heard before

Now Jimi Hendrix was one cool dude - one of my favourite guitarists and rock personalities. While looking for guitar lessons on Youtube I found this which is so cool too. I'm sure Jimi would have approved and loved this too. Enjoy

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Happy New Year - germanium Fuzz Face

Happy New Year folks. What cool things do I have to tell you today? Well it's not the new year - in my book nothing changes overnight which always makes the whole new year thing seem pointless and an anti-climax. But I have some cool projects on the go. I bought a great book all about guitar pedals listing the best 101 pedals ever. I couldn't put it down! I decided I had to have a go at making one or two and have picked the Arbiter Fuzz Face as my first one. It's a very simple circuit and a classic pedal from the 60s and 70s. This is one that Jimi Hendrix made famous. You can buy a modern version of it made by Jim Dunlop. But if you want to be cool, you have to have the germanium transistor version of it rather than the modern silicon ones. Experts claim they have a more warmer, less brittle sound. There are many so-called "boutique" pedal makers out there but they tend to be expensive.

The hard part is sourcing the two AC128 germanium transistors because they don't make them any more. Again experts say you need ones with a high gain (called the hfe). So you might find some on Ebay but they might not have the 70-120 hfe the so-called experts insist you need. Well I found some AC128s among my bits and pieces but when tested, had a low gain of about 35-40. But I figured there was  no harm in bread-boarding the circuit with them just to see how they sounded. Bloody amazing! I managed to get some equivalent transistors with higher gains and swapped mine out. I checked the output of the pedal on my oscilloscope and my ears and I can tell you - I couldn't see or hear any difference. So the moral is - don't just listen to what the experts say. Have a go anyway, you might just be surprised. When I get it finished I'll post something on Youtube for you to check out.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

ttv - through the viewfinder photography

Something else cool I discovered a few years ago. TTV - it stands for through the viewfinder. Basically you need an old box camera with a big viewfinder. You know, the ones you might remember your mum having when you were a kid (only if you're over 50!) Well you take the photograph of the view in the viewfinder using a digital camera. You need to make a light proof box to hold the old camera in (to stop reflections) and to hold the digi camera in place. You will need to experiment a bit to get results. Vary the distance between digi camera and viewfinder and set it to macro focus. Swicth off the auto flash too. The result is a photo that looks really old due to the poor quality of the viewfinder lens and all the dust and crap that's in there (yeah don't clean the viewfinder unless you have OCD and really must. The best effects include all the crud. Maybe try setting the camera to black and white or sepia too). There's plenty of information out there if you just search for it. Here's some of mine and a link to some more.

My TTV photos on Flickr

Sunday, 15 December 2013

more cool stuff from smojo

One of my other pastimes and passions is messing about with electronics. Moving on from building cigar box guitars, I started making small amplifiers to go with them. That sparked off my interest in other electronic goodies. I got into something called circuit bending where you take an electronic toy, like a child's alphabet toy and you mess about with the electronics to make the sounds different - the simplest being speeding up or slowing down the speech or music. It's a lot of fun and you can get some surprisingly interesting sounds that can be looped or put through effects pedals. I've done a few recordings using some of them and posted them on Soundcloud. Here's the link if you want to have a listen. "You remembered zero" was done using a circuit bent Speak 'n Read. "Electro Metro" and "While Giants Sleep" were done on a bent childs drivers toy.

My soundcloud music

And here's a bit of video of the circuit bent driver toy

circuit bent driver toy