Total Harmonic Distortion! Turnaround.

THD Master Tape

When I was around the age of 18, a friend – Andy Walker – and myself started a garage band called THD (for Total Harmonic Distortion). We never got beyond the garage, nor did we ever expand beyond 2 people, but we did create some music.

At the time, funds were extremely limited, so we made do with what we could scrape together. We were into metal/rock, with some other eclectic elements. I recently came across a TDK ADC90 cassette tape proclaiming itself, “Overdub April ’82 T.H.D. master tape”.

I spent a little time rescuing one of the more reasonable tracks using a cheap USB cassette tape converter. I pulled the track into Audacity, and found that the vocals were on the left channel, everything else on the right. Given this, I took the opportunity to brighten the vocals using some tracking tricks, then remixed the whole thing. “Turnaround” probably falls into the “eclectic” range. 🙂

The original track was recorded using the following gear:

  • Casio VL-Tone keyboard. This was a cheap calculator/keyboard introduced by Casio in the early 80’s. It was monophonic, but I modified it so that the “sequence” mode (you could press a button to step through a recorded sequenc of notes) could be triggered by an external pulse.
  • Tape echo box. Andy picked this up from a music shop in Manchester. It was a standard tape echo box, and we fed the VL-Tone into it. The echo was approximately in sync with the tempo of the sequenced VL-Tone, leading to a polyphonic effect.
  • Drum machine (Clef Master Rhythm). I built this from a kit, and used it to trigger the VL-Tone in sync with the drums.
  • Cheap Les Paul copy guitar (by Kay, I think). This was my first guitar, and I used this for the background chording.
  • Second Les Paul copy guiter (Andy’s). This was detuned an octave, and used for the “bass”.
  • Cheap microphone. Again, Andy had picked this up in Manchester. It wasn’t a very good mic, but better than what we’d used before (which was one of the little plastic mics you used to get with cassette recorders).
  • We used a couple of cassette decks for overdubs. I think we used an Akai and a Toshiba. Lots of generation noise!

In terms of who did what, Andy was on vox and “bass” guitar. I programmed the VL-Tone and drum machine, and played rhythm guitar. It’s a sort of psychedelic little track, very repetitive, and containing lyrics written by angsty 18 year olds. The rendition here is quite noisy due to an evil Panasonic cassette deck I once owned, which would inject noise spikes onto each tape it played.

I haven’t heard from Andy in over 20 years, last known living in Barnsley, South Yorks.

Anyway, here it is, “Turnaround, by THD”:

Posted by Steve Wetherill

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.