Did you know that I’ve been recording music under the Robby Suavé moniker for 20 years now? Whether that’s good or not, I don’t know, but it’s true. It’s been a while since I’ve thought very deeply about my humble musical beginnings (or even middles), let alone written about them. But yes, it’s been 20 years, so let’s get into it. I’ll break this into parts so that you’re more likely to read all this stuff. Today, I’ll cover the first 3 years of me: 2001-2003.
I kind of wish I knew the exact date when “Robby Suavé” became a thing. It was late spring/early summer of 2001, but I don’t think I can narrow it down anymore than that. The name was bestowed upon me by someone who exited my periphery about as quickly as they entered it. Thankfully, I don’t think about that person in regards to where my stage name came from. Otherwise, it would be sad. I will say that there definitely was a period of time, probably in 2002, when I considered changing it. Between having already registered robbysuave.com (domains were expensive back then), being attached to the name, and not being able to think of a better one, I stuck with it.
The name was given to me after I exhibited my poor flirtation skills. My music didn’t have anything to do with it. But I immediately decided to use that name for the music I produced on my own. At the time, I had a band called Blind Hate. It was on its last legs for a number of reasons, and I had been making mostly electronic-type songs that weren’t intended to be played by a band. So there was a short period of time when I worked on music whether it would be a Blind Hate song or a Robby Suavé song.
That was an interesting time. In Blind Hate, even though I was responsible for the bulk of the original music by a 3-piece band, I tried to be in the background. I was the least popular member of the group in high school by far, so there was this cool dichotomy between who served as the face(s) of the band and who was in the background designing logos, creating and maintaining the website, etc. On the Robby Suavé side, I was 100% solo, so I was responsible for everything. I felt like I therefore had to have some kind of machismo about me, for some reason. Hopefully it was and is obvious that that attitude is very much of a tongue-in-cheek nature. Anyway, no longer could I be the third wheel, although to this day I still remain somewhat behind-the-scenes in a sense.
Before I went full-in on recording to PC, I was pretty hardcore into MTV Music Generator for a while. It was a PlayStation “game” that allowed you to make music. I remember renting it once or twice and eventually buying it. Wow. It’s been so long since I thought about this period of time. All things considered, the songs I made using MTV Music Generator were pretty cool. Some of the songs would be completely instrumental, but sometimes I would take the time to record them to a cassette tape, transfer them to my computer, and put vocals on top of those tracks. Going even further with it, I recall teaching Derek, who played in Blind Hate, how to play a song or two on real guitar. That was awesome. “Hobbies” was a standout, which I unfortunately can’t find any recordings of.
Here’s an instrumental version of a song called “Call Me,” made in MTV Music Generator, complete with incidental AIM sounds in the background.
When I did do any kind of production on PC, my setup was pretty laughable. In my defense, it’s leagues better than Blind Hate’s most common method of recording: a single, cheap, microphone dangling from the middle of the room into a karaoke machine. All things considered, those recordings didn’t sound too bad, but I digress…back to my non-MTV Music Generator music. I’m pretty sure for recording guitar, I just stuck an adapter on the end of the guitar cable to get it into the microphone port of the back of the tower. Then I would apply effects to that dry signal in Sonic Foundry Acid. Even worse, I remember doing the same thing but running a cable from a small guitar amp into the PC microphone port. Even WORSE, I did that for years! I only fried 2 sound cards doing that.
For drums and synths and things, I don’t think I even tried using anything other than Fruity Loops (now called FL Studio). In 2021, not too much has changed on that front. I still love FL Studio’s suite of soft synths, and putting together drum tracks is a snap.
- Red Jackson Strat copy I named Charlene (Full Metal Jacket fans know what’s up)
- 15W Ibanez bass amp
- Packard Bell desktop boom mic
- DigiTech Grunge effects pedal
- Packard Bell PC – estimated specs: 200MhZ, 8MB RAM, 2GB hard drive
My memory told me that I began work on robbysuave.com later on, but after some digging, apparently I had a decent site built early on in my “career.” Here’s a screenshot of robbysuave.com as it existed in 2001(?). This is a cool moment in time, looking at this screenshot. I think all these songs except for “One Big Lie” were MTV Music Generator songs. And “One Big Lie” was originally going to be a Robby Suavé song, but the guys in Blind Hate liked it enough to want to play it, so it became a Blind Hate song.
Once the band faded away even more, I started getting more serious about my solo music. In the early days, a lot of my “songs” were more like audio experiments. They tended to be shorter, a lot of times instrumental, and contain heaps of various random bits of audio. When I begun implementing real guitar and vocals, a fire lit under me.
So 2002-2005 was a wild time in my life. I’m trying to put all the pieces together of what I was doing musically. I found dozens of short songs I mostly made probably in 2002. Back then, like lots of other people, I hung out on message boards which sadly barely exist anymore. I remember I got a bit of traction on a thread I started where I asked people to give me ideas for 1 minute long (the soft limit for files created in Windows Sound Recorder) songs. I would quickly record them a song and post it. It was awesome. Maybe I’ll save those for another day because there are just so many. Okay, here’s one…
My best guess is that it was Christmas 2002 that I got a DigiTech RP-200, an awesome guitar effects processor with drum patterns. That made it a lot easier and more fun to record the aforementioned minute-long songs. I would load up a drum pattern, listen for a bit, and then come up with a little guitar and vocal arrangement.
My first somewhat real album was called Campfire Tales, “released” in 2003(?). It began the phase of my career when I would record a bunch of songs over the course of a year or two and put the best songs onto an “album.” There’s some good sense in that, but it meant the sound quality and overall production ranged from poop to less than average. It featured such hits as “Pickle Juice,” “Tally,” and “Crash Helmet.” One of my favorites that I don’t think I considered part of Campfire Tales was a song called “All Awesome,” which I’ve re-recorded a few times over the years. Don’t be surprised if you don’t hear that in the future.
I want to clarify something about Campfire Tales. I’m not sure if I put this on the record before. Pretty much anything I recorded before 2007 sounds REALLY bad. Like, I was recording guitar and vocal parts as low bitrate mp3s and using those as stems. Same goes for the drum and synth parts. I was rendering those out at 128kbps, I’m pretty sure. Why? I don’t know. I still have MOST of those low quality stems, but yeah, they’re so bad that I couldn’t in good conscience properly release them on Spotify or whatever. They’re worse than demo quality.
Anyway, here’s “Pickle Juice” from Campfire Tales.
Sometime soon I’ll post another few years of stuff. It’s taking me quite a bit of time to track down these audio and image files. That’s why I’m splitting it up. This is fun.