Elliot Jay Stocks is a designer, speaker, and author. He is the Creative Director of Adobe Typekit, the founder of typography magazine 8 Faces, one half of Viewport Industries, and an electronic musician.

Studio diary: part 1

Posted on 02 December 2008 31 comments

Article illustration for Studio diary: part 1

I’m excited, because tomorrow is the first day of the recording sessions for my new album.

What? I hear you cry in confusion. You’re a designer – not a musician! Well, for those of you who don’t follow my ramblings on Twitter, I’m taking (most of) December and January off, not doing any client work, hanging up my designer’s overalls, and donning my musician’s cap. Of course, whether or not I create anything decent remains to be seen, but you’ll be seeing – well, hearing – the results on this site in early 2009. That’s why I thought it’d be cool to do a little ‘studio diary’ thing to document the process.

The funny thing about music…

… is that whenever I’ve done it in the past, no-one’s ever really heard it. Well, no-one beyond my immediate family and close friends, anyway. I released an album in 2001, recorded two albums of soundtracks for a friend’s two short films over the following few years, and released another ‘proper’ album in 2006. But, as I said, they’ve been heard by very few people. Now, as I’ve built up something of a readership with this blog and my career in the design world, I fully intend to exploit that for all it’s worth and relish the chance to damage your eardrums! :)

So here’s the plan

I have virtually no idea what I’m going to record over the coming weeks. I have a couple of thoughts, and there are two or three old tracks that I intend to re-work, but other than that, almost everything will be written in the studio as I record. It’s going to be exciting, and it’s going to be daunting, because for the first time ever I have people who are actually waiting to hear what I come up with!

The plan is to lay down the foundation for around ten tracks, and then get about five of them finished off in January, ready to release as an EP in February or March. Then later in the year I’ll have another intensive recording session and put out a second EP containing the other five (or so) tracks.

The studio

Last Friday, I got my grubby little mitts on a brand new MacBook Pro and 24" LED Cinema Display. They are – as you might imagine – the sex. Then, over the weekend, I got all of my recording equipment and instruments out of storage and gathered everything together, ready to hook it all up as a new ‘studio’. Today has been spent finishing that set-up and photographing the end result, so for all you Mac and / or audio geeks out there, here are some shots:

Article illustration for Studio diary: part 1

Article illustration for Studio diary: part 1

Article illustration for Studio diary: part 1

Article illustration for Studio diary: part 1

You can view the full set on Flickr.

What now?

With day #1 spent finalising the studio and testing the various components (I really must remember to stop hot-wiring the FireWire audio interface!), I think I’m ready to go. The updates to this studio diary won’t have a regular schedule, but I’ll be posting about my progress here, taking snapshots of the recording process, and maybe even uploading some work-in-progress songs for you to listen to.

If you fancy coming along for the ride and keeping me motivated while I fester away in my little audio dungeon all by myself, please leave some love in the comments! :D

(Oh, and by the way: for the more inquisitive among you who have found my old, embarrassing music (it’s not hard – it’s on iTunes), rest assured: I won’t be singing on these new songs!)


  1. Marc


    02 December 2008 @ 10:36PM #

    Good luck! Look forward to hearing the final tracks and also following the progress you make.

    One of the perks of being self-employed, heh!

  2. Tilman


    02 December 2008 @ 10:38PM #

    Haven’t heard anything from you yet. Surely would like to.
    So, to put it in one word:


  3. Dan Mall

    Dan Mall

    02 December 2008 @ 10:39PM #

    I’m much more interested in these “designer overalls” you speak of. Where would one get such a thing?

  4. Elliot Jay Stocks

    Elliot Jay Stocks

    02 December 2008 @ 10:42PM #

    @ Marc & Tilman: Thanks! :)

    @ Dan Mall: It’s an exclusive club, man. ;p

  5. pab


    02 December 2008 @ 10:45PM #

    Love that set up, so nice and clean, I just got out of the studio not long ago, always a good time, i cant wait t hear what you come up with, will you be posting it on sourhaze?

    looking forward to some music

  6. matyyy


    02 December 2008 @ 10:47PM #

    Very nice “corner of creation” you have there!
    Looking forward to hear something from you. :)

  7. Clem


    02 December 2008 @ 10:53PM #

    Hey, nice rig, what’s the m-audio interface and the red box?
    i may as well ask what keyboard and mic you use too as I’m thinking about doing the same.

  8. JPH


    02 December 2008 @ 11:16PM #

    Best of luck on the new project. As a fellow songwriter and musician, I can appreciate both the thrill of what you may produce, and the fear that what you produce won’t be what you envisioned. I know you’re using a ‘go with the flow’ approach and I hope that you’re satisfied with the final product after you’ve spent the next months invested in it.

    Can’t wait to hear what you dream up -

  9. jackgringo


    02 December 2008 @ 11:21PM #

    I’ll be keeping tabs on this, as a fellow web/music dude. Hope to see some pics of that lovely clean studio area covered in some blood, sweat, tears and coffee!

  10. Keith


    02 December 2008 @ 11:45PM #

    Awesome! Best of luck and have fun with it. Can’t wait to hear your work!

  11. Toby


    02 December 2008 @ 11:49PM #

    So your swapping CSS for MIDI!!!

    Funnily enough, I spend all my time in studios and now I quite like finding the time to make websites!

    Look forward to hearing the results

    P.S. There’s no Logic icon in that dock!!!!!!

  12. Steve Rydz

    Steve Rydz

    03 December 2008 @ 12:12AM #

    Good luck,

    I can only dream of having enough time to work on music, thanks to web design I hardly ever write or record any more.

    I’ll look forward to hearing the result, I’ve heard a little Sour Haze in the past and was impressed.

  13. Terris Kremer

    Terris Kremer

    03 December 2008 @ 12:45AM #

    Sweet! Pack some copies when you leave for Denver. I’ll buy one :) Oh and I’ll bet that Yamaha acoustic sings!

  14. Chris Coyier

    Chris Coyier

    03 December 2008 @ 12:58AM #

    Rock on with your socks on. =)

  15. Christoph


    03 December 2008 @ 01:03AM #

    This is something I want to do in the future, too. Maybe when I’m grown up ;-)
    Looking forward to your new music, like what I heard a couple of month ago on sourhaze!

  16. Christoph


    03 December 2008 @ 01:07AM #

    uups, wrong button, one question:
    Which software do you use to compose and mix your music?

  17. Ryan Dempsey

    Ryan Dempsey

    03 December 2008 @ 04:10AM #

    I’ll be following along for sure. I wish I had time away from my web development to record an album. I’m setting up a similar MacBook Pro based recording studio too. It’ll be interesting to see how you go with it.

  18. Jeff Schmidt

    Jeff Schmidt

    03 December 2008 @ 01:08PM #

    I was just saying “where are all the music/studio diary blogs?”

    Glad to hear you’re getting back into it.

    Above all – let loose and have fun!

  19. Paul Davis

    Paul Davis

    03 December 2008 @ 04:23PM #

    I’m more than happy to drum. ;) I can provide mics as well. =P

  20. Able Parris

    Able Parris

    04 December 2008 @ 03:50AM #

    I am quite jealous of your putting everything aside for a while to create an EP. Looking forward to hearing what you come up with!


  21. rama


    04 December 2008 @ 03:35PM #

    rock on mate!
    it’s great to have two months for relaxing.. away from all those clients and css :p

  22. Nick Brown

    Nick Brown

    05 December 2008 @ 02:20AM #

    Can’t wait to hear your stuff Elliot. I may be setting you on a pedestal here but all of my favorite musicians (people I consider to be really talented) are also artists in other mediums as well: sketching, painting, writing, etc. I think it’s interesting that some people have so much creativity in them that they barely have enough time to get it out in some form or another.

    I’m not a big Mac fan, but I like you studio setup. One question: will you leave the recording components set up after your design hiatus is over? Personally I wouldn’t be able to get anything done with all the fun toys pre-hooked up and ready to be played with, but that’s just me.

    Good Luck.

  23. Elliot Jay Stocks

    Elliot Jay Stocks

    05 December 2008 @ 01:59PM #

    Thanks for all your comments and support, guys! It’s great to know that you’re out there, waiting to hear what I do. That’s a big help for motivation (and also rather daunting)!

    And wow, I’m amazed that so many of you are also web designers by day and musicians by night (or vice versa)!

    Another thing that surprised me was that a fair few of you seem to be familiar with my work under the pseudonym Sourhaze. Well, this will be a Sourhaze release too. (Just in case you’re wondering, I avoid using my own name because most releases also feature a few guest musicians, and therefore Sourhaze is – in essence – a ‘band’ rather than just me.)

    @ Clem: The M-Audio interface is a FireWire 410, the red box is a Boss VF-1 effects processor (mainly for guitar), the keyboard is an Alesis Micron (it’s a synth and a MIDI controller), and the mic is an Audio Technica one (not sure about the model).

    @ Toby & Christoph: I use Ableton Live for absolutely everything.

    @ Terris Kremer: I’m still not sure if it’ll be a physical or digital release (more on that in a forthcoming blog post) but if I do physical ones and it’s in time for Denver, I’ll be sure to bring some along!

    @ Nick Brown: Thanks foe saying that! :) And that’s a good question. I’m not sure if I’ll leave everything set up once the recording session is over. I think probably will, since I’d ideally like to get back into doing writing / recording on a semi-regular basis throughout the year, instead of having to set aside one particular session with yearly intervals!

  24. Terris Kremer

    Terris Kremer

    07 December 2008 @ 06:11AM #

    Re: Digital vs. Physical release – This is kind of an interesting topic as more and more artists begin to deliver their music digitally – and I definitely see the benefits, for sure. But my own problem is that I’m kind of a sucker for packaging; part of the experience of buying a new album is thumbing through the fold while listening for the first time. This is probably the reason for my obsession with Criterion DVD’s, bookshelves, and why I’m a professional designer and only an amateur musician :)

    Well, I’d like to propose a compromise: an accompanying digital booklet? What do you say?

  25. Elliot Jay Stocks

    Elliot Jay Stocks

    07 December 2008 @ 07:14PM #

    @ Terris Kremer: I’m really glad you brought that up because it really is a topic I feel strongly about and one I’d like to discuss at length in a separate blog post. I’m totally with you in terms of the packaging: I love it not only because I’m a designer (CD packaging has got to be one of my favourite things to design!) but also because, like you, I love pouring over it when listening to an album, especially during the first listen. Unfortunately, though, even a packaging geek like me has come to realise that physical formats aren’t always a financially viable option when self-financing an album!

    One of the options I’m considering is selling the digital format for a very very low price and then pumping the proceeds from that into making a physical release. What do you think? I guess if there’s enough interest to make it financially viable, I’d be happy to do it.

    Either way, there will be an accompanying booklet, even if it just ends up being a PDF. :)

  26. Alex Rogahn

    Alex Rogahn

    08 December 2008 @ 01:55AM #

    Love your new setup, I want it :P may I ask what genre of music your planning on doing? :)

  27. Terris Kremer

    Terris Kremer

    08 December 2008 @ 09:24AM #

    Re: digital release: I think that’s a great idea and I’m most definitely on board for buying a digital release and a physical. Packaging or not, actually. I’m excited to see and hear the results for sure.

  28. pab


    09 December 2008 @ 02:52AM #

    A lot of indie labels are now releasing vinyls with a key to high quality mp3, which I think is a great idea cuz you can get the actual vinyl with all the huge booklet and artwork or cd is you prefer and the mp3 files for your ipod or mp3player

    But that still doesnt help. one of the biggest issue with releasing music today besides label screwing bands over left and right … is the simple fact that people will downlaod your record for free and there’s no stopping them unfortunately.

    Just 2 years ago my band released a record on a big indie label and the day the cd was sent to the press, that same night it was on every torrent imaginable . that was 2 months before the actual record hit the store.

    oh and and people who say I download to check it out and see if i like it before I buy are the worst.

    ps sourhaze vinyl would be sweet

  29. Levi Figueira

    Levi Figueira

    10 December 2008 @ 02:03AM #

    I have a Firewire 1814 and I’ve been wondering: is hot-wiring reallllyyyy that bad?? :( I haven’t hot-wired that much, but I’ve been wondering… It’s kind of annoying :/

  30. Terrs Kremer

    Terrs Kremer

    14 December 2008 @ 12:48PM #

    All this talk about music and design has inspired me. I just hooked up my dusty little m-audio firewire box. It’s not quite the setup you’ve got but great for just guitar and vocals.

    Hope everything is going well.

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