blue t-shirt: music

Oh, where to begin.

blue t-shirt was an alias I adopted to represent my electronic music. It later became the keystone of my online identity.

Forensic evidence suggests the blue t-shirt thing started around 2000. An online buddy introduced me to a pirated version of a program known as FruityLoops. At the time, the software was version 2, and it was pretty primitive, but a great playground for learning the basics of how sound works. You couldn't really make a complete piece of music, but you could play with all the elements that are involved in such a thing.

Version 3 followed soon after, and its added functionality could not have arrived at a better time. It was an major leap ahead in the sorts of things you could accomplish. FL 2 was a glass of orange juice: part of a complete breakfast. FL 3 was one of those yummy Instant Breakfast shakes. It wasn't quite the real deal, but it was delicious, and it did the trick.

I made a few tracks, and then I made a few more tracks. I burned a few CDs for friends, and then I burned a few CDs for non-friends. I threw up a website and sent some promo packs to local radio, and I was astounded to be warmly received by the radio station at the University of Manitoba. It was a real trip to watch my humble disc of demos climb to #2 on their charts. Sending my tunes to UMFM was one of the best decisions I ever made. I wound up meeting some folks with similar spirits associated with the Sfeericle label, and before long, I had an hour-long show of my own on the station, pumpin' out my favorite flavour of generic indie rock.

On that note, it's worth mentioning that I've never had any particular affinity to electronic music. I've always been intensely creative and especially musical, but I grew up living in apartments, so any notably noisy means of expression were unavailable at home. As a result, the best opportunities for me to flex my musical muscles were under headphones. Working electronically also allows a single untrained person, blessed with sufficent time and patience, to accomplish the sorts of things that would otherwise require a full band's worth of musical ability. Wouldn't you know, in my isolated teens, I had nothing but time and patience. Perfect fit.

I think the fact that I was not a big listener of electronic music gave my tunes an unique slant. The stuff I made didn't readily fit into any one genre, though it was closer to downtempo and IDM than house, trance, or drum and bass. My big influences starting out were things like Radiohead and Björk - bands and artists that used electronic tools in service of something greater. My own tunes didn't feature vocals; I didn't have the hardware, nor the confidence, but I've done a few remixes of vocal works. (By the time The Eardrums formed in 2007, I'd figured out a little better how to use my own voice effectively.)

My first few albums were more or less entirely local affairs. The earliest stuff was charming in a naive kind of way, but it doesn't really stand up. I think my second album, though, is my best. It's aptly titled the fruits of solitude which really sums up the intensely personal process of making this music. At this point, my tunes were catchy and my productions were clear and uncluttered. Around the year 2003 I discovered netlabels, which turned out to be the perfect place for my tunes. I released blue t-shirt hopes things will be fine via the British Hippocamp netlabel. By this album, I was trying perhaps a little too hard to avoid repeating myself or take the easy way out, and the productions suffered as a result. I buried the tunes under blankets of reverb and distortion, and crudely mixed the recordings on some janky consumer gear. It's really too bad. That material deserved better. A couple years later, I worked with the Canadian netlabel Nishi to put out SOLO/0705, a record with 31 tracks, one recorded each day of July, 2005.

FruityLoops is now up to version 11, though they doffed the silly name for the sake of respectability. It's now called FL Studio. I still use it. After years of stealing each new release, the guilt finally became too much as I started to write this article, so I own it now. Moreso than any other piece of software I've used, Fruity Loops was the perfect platform to support me as I self-actualized.