Friday, 11 November 2011

Digital Destruction And The Days Of Doom And Gloom.

I went down to Hull, and North cave in September to interview Tom Blyth. Benson surprised me with the task and it turned out to be a last minute affair. I first heard I was doing the interview 2 weeks before deadline. Apparently and for whatever reason there was a shortage of content for issue 4 and Blyth already had a stack of great photos ready to go. Blyth being the perfectionist that he is, still wanted to get more and felt slightly under pressure to not only perform but perform well. His willingness to do well did nothing but fuel the fire of my anxiety to produce a good interview. I tried to prepare as well as possible by watching all Tom's old sections online and read a few interviews with him. I went to see Newrick at Empire Drive and asked about Tom and what I should ask him. I spoke to The Roops, I spoke to Carmine, I spoke to everyone I could think of and all I ever got back was 'ask him about Sophie Howard'.

But Sophie Howard rides fixed Gear not BMX so I would refuse to cover the topic in a BMX mag. Having only ever spoken to Tom twice and for a combined length of time amounting to less than 5 minutes I had to battle to get a string of coherent questions together and force my way through to a logical interview lineage in far too short a time. I did however finally get something together in my leather bound and punk for 12 year old girls-notebook.
I travelled to Hull with GBH, as always he strictly adhered to the speed limit and turned the engine off at every traffic light.

I had picked out my Darkthrone Transylvanian Hunger T-shirt to travel in but decided last minute to change into my S+M one instead through a mixture of nerves and anxiety. When we arrived at Tom's house he answered the door in exactly the same Darkthrone T-shirt I had chosen, I'm so glad I'd changed it, how fucking stupid would that have looked if we'd both worn the same one. At least the story broke the ice. After two minutes of sitting round the kitchen table with Tom my nervousness disappeared. Tom was a sound, opinionated and talkative man and as such the interview would go down well. After a spot of riding in high winds, an awesome dinner cooked by Tom's brother Adam and a couple of beers we started the Dictaphone and it was on. We talked for 4 and a half hours, the beers were flowing and a lot of what was said was dynamite. After another windy session at a skatepark the following day we left Hull and although at this point I had just over a week to transcribe a 4 and a half hour interview and make something cohesive and concise from it I felt it was totally achievable.

Rob Cairns had lent me a Zoom H2 audio recorder with which I recorded the interview. He stole it from college and uses it as an additional mic when filming scenes with many points of audio. I've used the Zoom a good few times before and it has always served me well. I had to buy a bigger SD memory card for it as I had maxed out the puny 256mb card that was supplied. This purchase is where things got kind of lame.

When I got in from work the following day I was ready to get down to some hefty transcribing. I sat on my bed, plugged head phones into the Zoom H2 and began listening to the first of the 6 or so files we had recorded. I was messing with my laptop getting it started up. Through the headphones he files seemed fine I could hear the beginnings of our conversation and all the vocal levels were good. I was now ready to connect the Zoom to the laptop so I stopped the audio file I was listening to and all seemed well. I hunted around in my desk drawer for the USB cable. When I looked back at the zoom's digital display I saw a weird flashing progress bar. Shit, I thought, that's not good, I wonder what it's doing. The Zoom froze up and wouldn't do anything. I was beginning to get a little concerned. After a couple of minutes the digital display went dark and a question appeared 'Would You Like to Format?' No, for fuck sake of course I don't want to format.

I was fucking shitting it at this stage. I didn't want to pull out the card in case I scrambled it, I didn't think to turn the Zoom off, I was sweating and shitting it. The Zoom still wasn't even connected to my laptop, what the fuck was happening? I'm officially an idiot when it comes to electronics, I'm much better with mechanics. I was in a state of panic. I chose the 'No' option to the question of format yes or no under extreme panic. Another stalled progress bar and then the prompt of 'no card' on the Zoom.
NO CARD, what the fuck. It'll be alright, I thought. I'll turn it off and turn it back on and it'll be fine. Prickles of perspiration were stinging my brow. I turned it off and back on. Nothing, the Zoom booted up and just read No Card. Fuck, I literally screamed 'fuck' and my heart rate went through the roof. My chest was pounding my vision went fuzzy I stomped around the house shouting 'fuck' as loud as possible. I tried a few times to get some data up but there was nothing. Unexplainable nothing.

I got Cairnsy on the phone, I guess from my voice he could tell that I was freaking out. He was still fairly chilled and at this point he asked me a few obvious questions and then asked me over to his house to see if he could sort it. I jumped on my BMX and was at his house in about 30 seconds. He tried the card in the Zoom and got nothing, Still NO CARD response, he tried it in his camera and that couldn't see it either. I was totally devastated. Tom Blyth was taking this interview so seriously and it looked like I'd totally fucked it up with absolutely no time to re-do it.

I sat in Cairnsy's house shaking, I rang Hman but he was on the set of Tracy Beaker working for the BBC, he whispered that he was with a dude who kicked ass with recovery software and he'd speak to him. I rang Newrick and he said he knew an audio expert and we could go see him. I rode in pitch blackness from Bensham to Heaton on my BMX in what felt like 7 minutes, an impossible feat in normal circumstances. I don't remember the ride other than feeling like the town was closing in on me, bridges were bending, shadows were stretched and demonic.

Newrick took me straight across the road to the audio expert, I felt like we were barging in on him and demanding results. Weird to meet someone and instantly ask them for a favour. The audio expert had guitars and drum machines all over the house. He had the same Zoom that I was using and he tried the card in his, but the result was the same still 'no card'. I thanked him and apologised for barging in a thousand times and we despondently walked back to Newrick's.

At Newrick's we tried the card on everything he had with an SD slot, Nothing. I rang Rupert but he was getting drunk in The Tanners and wasn't available for a while. I rang Tom Bright and he met us on Warwick Street with a card reader and some helpful advice "Don't delete or format anything". Back at Newrick's the card reader was of no use. Newrick had recovery software but no computer could see the card to open it. It was as if the SD card was just a useless piece of blue plastic. I may as well have saved the interview on a piece of warm buttered brown bread toast.

I rode back home considerably slower and mentally exhausted. What the hell was I going to do? When I got back home I realised I was going to have to do the interview again on SKYPE. Having never used SKYPE I downloaded it and tested it with a video call to Rob Cairns, I spoke to rob for a few minutes while he was sleepy and laying in bed, I let him know how stressed I was and off loading my troubles on him made me feel marginally better. I also Emailed, Banners and Tom Blyth letting them know that I'd fucked up and unless HMAN could help me out, there was a good chance we'd have to re-do. This wasn't easy to say, I hardly know these dudes and I felt like a right retard.

When I got off the Video call, I began writing a load of nonsense on my computer. It was 11.30 and I was knackered, I wrote until 3AM and I felt it was the worst load of shit I'd ever put down. The following morning reading it through with a fresh head I loved it with a little tweaking it ended up being the introduction for Blyth's Interview. But what good is an intro with no content. Could I just try and remember everything he had said. NO.

I went to work on the Thursday half asleep, I was agitated and couldn't concentrate, a huge sense of foreboding was baring down on me. HMAN arrived with all kinds of Tech support in the afternoon but it was all to no avail. It was done, the card was fucked, it was no longer a card it was just a piece of blue plastic and it was a gigantic thorn in my side.

When digital technology goes wrong very often there's nothing anyone can do. I was at the mercy of a hunk of plastic, and for some reason I was still blaming myself. As I've gathered, Blyth is not really one for phones and I struggle with text messages and the like. I could sense he wasn't happy with the re do on SKYPE but what could I do? Roll over and die? Fuck it man, soldier on, it's my way, grinding repetition and endlessly re doing is how I get things done. I convinced Blyth it would be alright on SKYPE but I hadn't quite convinced myself.

I had to wait an eternity to do the interview. It wasn't until the Sunday Morning where I could do it. Not wanting to trust digital I tried to get an analogue tape recorder but couldn't and had to settle for two Dictaphones (thanks Cairnsy). Tom was doing his end of the interview on a video phone and the connection was mega sketchy, the audio and video was constantly out of sync, the connection must have cut out completely 20 times and sometimes it would disappear for 5 minutes at a time and always when Tom was getting going and saying something awesome. But shit, that's just life.

I was now bricking it. It was 14.30 on Sunday afternoon and I had to transcribe 2 and a half hours of audio and produce a good quality interview by 18.00 Wednesday and I had work at the bike shop in between. Shit was fucked up. Suffice to say I didn't sleep much that week.

This story has gone on some and I don't know why I even wrote it, it just felt like the right thing to do. I suppose what I really want to say is thanks to all the people that tried to help me out when technology went awry. So thanks, to Cairnsy, Newrick, Newrick's audio mate, Tom Bright, Rupert and Hman. And sorry to Tom Blyth for making you sit through that bullshit SKYPE connection for 3 hours plus.

Tom Blyth has a section in the new FBM video Thousand Yard Stare. Check it.

FBM "Thousand Yard Stare" -Defgrip Preview from FBM BMX on Vimeo.

1 comment:

  1. Sour Story......

    last winter while on route to souters with my camera what had inside it's structure a 8bg sd card i decided to stop and take a photo....... it took whith no problem! camera goes back into the pocket

    i get to souters, go to check my photo and the card reads EMPTY......... in one foul swoop i lost over 2500 photo's

    The digital curse!

    I did'nt have any of the photo's backed up which made it even worse.....

    digital alzheimers

    memory melt down..........

    i learnt from my mistake an now back up every photo at every chance!