A Roland SP404 mk2 connected to a small Tascam recorder sitting on a table

Behind the Bonk: How I made my Bonkwave track for volume 2

If you aren’t familiar there is an awesome compilation of music from artists all across the Fediverse where the artists submit tracks that either are or are not Bonkwave. This came about from discussion on Mastodon about genre policing and the ridiculousness that can occur in discussions of micro genres that are five levels under larger genres of music. Instead of getting caught up in the details the artists on the compilation all get to have fun with creating a song that they consider to be Bonkwave or not. The best part is that no one really knows if any of the songs are or are not Bonkwave. It is an individual choice of the artist who creates the music.

The compilations are released under the title Not What I Call Bonk Wave. There have been two volumes so far (volume 2 is two discs!) that you can find on Bandcamp here: https://bonkknobrecords.bandcamp.com/

Each of these compilations are managed and put together by Yoni Den. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to submit a track and have it included. It is on Disc A of volume 2. Check it out:

What you hear there was all made on my Roland SP404 mk2. There wasn’t any other hardware used outside of my Tascam recorder which was only used to record the track. I used a set of samples taken from the Game Boy LSDJ Noise and Glitch Sessions sample pack on Bedroom Producers Blog.

Making the track was a lot of fun and I almost wasn’t able to get it submitted in time. I saw the call out by Yoni Den for submissions to volume 2 and I had remembered seeing the call for tracks to be submitted to the first volume, but I missed on getting something together for that one. I really didn’t want to miss out on this round and I was determined to make the time to get a track done and submitted.

But, as a parent, life had another idea. Things got busy as it does with school drop offs and pickups and activities and on top of that work got busy too. Time did that thing where it just keeps going without any concern for deadlines or feelings. Because of this I found myself on the last day before the deadline to submit without anything started.

Later that evening I sat down with my SP404 to see what I could do. I had previously thought of a way to make the track would be to start with a blank project and only use samples that are currently found on the SD card in the device. I would take whatever is there and find things to use and just see what happens. This is what lead me to the LSDJ samples and finding a few pieces from the sample pack to use. I used a variety of samples with kicks, snares, arps, and more.

Once I had my samples imported into the project I started working out patterns in the TR-REC mode for pattern recording. If you aren’t familiar with it, this lets one create patterns using a step sequencer type of workflow rather than live recording all of the sample playback. This mode helps me since I’m not the strongest finger drummer and I like it a lot to create patterns by building up the parts. Adding in kicks and snares and all of the other samples by creating various rhythms one by one often guides me in a way that I might not go if I were trying to play the whole thing.

As I made these patterns I tried not to get too caught up in what I was doing and as soon as I had something I liked I moved onto the next one. This was how I did things on my latest release where I made all of the tracks in one day and not only was it a lot of fun, but it gave me some results I really like. Copying patterns over I would add in new bits to create additional parts and after a bit I had some fun stuff. I got it in my head that I would make an uptempo kind of dance thing and as I was going I thought it would be fun to have a section in the middle or so that went in an experimental route that loses the beat before coming back into a groove.

Once I had some patterns and a rough idea of how I would arrange them I started thinking about effects to apply. The SP404 mk2 has a bunch of effects that are super fun. I settled on using the DJ Looper, a delay, and some other MFX that really mangle sounds for the experimental section. Again, I was trying to not get caught up in details and once I did something, if it sounded fun I went with it. Playing with the filter I figured out how I wanted to start the track and got ready to record. The only part that I rehearsed a couple of times was the beginning with filtering the first pattern. Outside of that I didn’t really know exactly where I would go with the track. I didn’t have a lot of time since this was all being done the night before the deadline and I wouldn’t have any other time to work on it.

Overall this process of importing samples, creating patterns, deciding on effects, and practicing the first part took about 30 minutes. I had my Tascam recorder hooked up and ready to go, so I hit record and performed the track. I did one take and called it good. In one part near the end I didn’t exactly get a transition as I wanted, but I was still very happy with the results. I also liked the idea of having the imperfection as in the end that is a unique character of the song and the moment in time in which I made it.

After the recording was done I needed to get the file off my recorder and submitted to Yoni Den via WeTransfer. I grabbed my work laptop as the was the computer I had available and realized it only has USB-C ports and I need type A for the cable my recorder uses. The only computer I could use was the one in the room where my daughter was currently asleep. So, I very carefully snuck into that room and got the recorder connected. I had to fiddle around in the dark to find the USB ports on the back of my iMac to switch out a cable that didn’t work at first. Eventually I got the file off the recorder and uploaded to my Google Drive and was back out to my living room without waking my daughter up.

Back on my work laptop I downloaded the file so that I could send it to Yoni Den via WeTransfer and I was done. Hooray! It felt great to get the track completed and submitted. There were a few times in the days leading up to the deadline where I thought that I wouldn’t have time and would skip this one to try again in the future. Even on the final night I almost didn’t get my SP404 out before my daughter went to bed, but I knew I would be really bummed if I didn’t submit something and I would be really unhappy with myself for giving up. I am so glad I pushed through the bumps and still got something done and submitted. Considering all of the fun conversations and connections I have had since the compilation has come out I am even ore glad that I got it done.

If you haven’t taken the time to listen yet I would highly suggest checking out the compilation. Both Disc A and Disc B are jam packed with great songs from some really awesome artists. And if you have any questions or want to know more, let me know!


2 responses to “Behind the Bonk: How I made my Bonkwave track for volume 2”

  1. @blog Really enjoyed this blog post!

  2. Thanks for a look into your process. Life getting in the way is real!

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