Fostex X-77 Multitrack Recorder


In the spring of 1999 my band, Entrophy, was getting better. We were learning how to tune up, our songs were simple, but fast and driving. We determined that it was time that we should get a recording done. We did not know or understand how the process worked, and at the time we did not have a mentor to guide us. I started with the phone book, looking for a studio on the South Shore we could use. Many of the studio guys, they were always guys, knew from the start exactly what our deal was maybe more so than we did ourselves. I am sure they fielded several calls just like mine a few times a day. When we talked, I pictured them as old school classic rock or hair metal types who had better things to do with their time than deal with a tedium of teenagers who could barely play or sing wanting to record a punk album. Some of them sounded like they were in the middle of a Rolling Stone interview when they spoke. I could also tell that more than a few of them did not want us in their studios where we could possibly break the equipment or do other damage. A few quoted me astronomical prices that I suspected was being pulled from thin air with the purpose of deterring me from inquiring further. The proprietors of other studios were far more helpful and gave me an overview about things I did not yet understand. Yes, the recording is a big part of things, but there is also mix, and mastering which would also cost money. I could not say exactly what our plans were for the recording, if we were going to do a run of CDs from a manufacturer, or would we treat these as demos and burn them to CDR or cassette tape? It mattered for how we recorded I was told. One person laughed at me when I said we were thinking of doing a seven inch.

“Kid, no one has a record player anymore. Save your money.”

At the time it seemed like they were all making things way more complicated than they needed to be. It did not matter however because the price of recording even just a single song was still well outside of our budget.

This is where the DYI ethic of all the punk rock bands we listened to kicked in. If we did not have the money for a studio, then we would figure out how to get a good recording ourselves. We read articles and books on home recording. Heard stories about musicians recording famous vocal tracks in their apartment bathrooms and we thought we could do it. Our friend Jack, who I would often hire to do sound at our shows, had the equipment to record us, including a set of drum microphones. We could do this, we thought. Working at the restaurant, Nathan and I put our meager cash reserves together to purchase a used Fostex X-77 Multitrack Recorder for one hundred dollars from the want ads. It was all the money I had at the time. However, we figured we were already ahead of a lot of the bands from the 50’s and 60’s who had far less to work with than we did.

One warm spring afternoon, Nate, Dave, Brian, Jack, and I got together at the Attleboro practice space, otherwise known as the basement at Dave’s parents’ house. I recorded the experience down into my journal two days after, on little sleep. Most of the following is based upon that entry.

When the van was unloaded, I went to the nearby Guitar Center with Brian to buy tape for the multitracker, while the rest of the guys did the set up in the basement. The radio played today’s hottest jams as we drove, “Can I get a woop, woop..”

When we got back to the house the amps and drums we wrapped in carpets with duct tape, and wires ran out of everything into adapters and the X-77 Fostex tape deck. We did not think we would get far that evening, however with a bit of quick refresher and one take we went for the playback. The music came out of the PA like gospel to my naïve ears, and we were all uplifted. The recording came back at us better than we have ever heard ourselves, which until that point, were playbacks from camcorders and boom boxes with cassette tapes recording our every move from across the room.

“This is our ticket out of here!” Nate said to me with a high five. We worked the rest of the night riding the high of low-fi DIY.

As we pushed toward 8, the time when we had to turn off our amps per house rules, it became clear we could not sleep at Dave’s that night for reasons I do not recall. Also, Jack needed to get home to Marshfield. So with the exception of Brian we all got into the van and drove into the night. Nate and I could not go home. We were already skipping the Friday night crowd at the restaurant. Even if we got in late and tried to leave early there would still be conflict. Mom and Dad would fight with us about at least one of us going into the restaurant to work the Saturday morning breakfast rush. We were going to leave them high and dry. We were selfish to disappear on them like this, but we were both feeling trapped by the situation at that point and needed get this done. It was the time before cell phones so if we stayed away from landlines that they had numbers for, there was a certain plausible deniability we could use.

There was a red full moon that night as we rode down the highway with the hits of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s blaring on the radio until we changed it over to the alternative station until the Braintree split when the signal started to fall out. I kept hearing Nate in my head over and over “This is it. This is our ticket out of here.”

I kept staring out the window at the moon, and I felt like it was looking back at me, the white of it bleating, borrowing into the back of my mind.

Jack showed us to his father’s store front in Rockland and gave me his key. We drove him home, which required us to drive by our house in Marshfield. It was late, but I could see that my parents had left the light on in the kitchen in case we came home that night. In my angst, I flipped off the structure as we sped past blasting the Rock of Boston on the radio.

We settled into our chairs around midnight at the Kingston Bickford’s. The usual cast of characters passed into and out of the restaurant while we were there. They were mostly intoxicated South Shore teenagers and a cop standing by the door looking bored. He was usually there after 10pm to deal with unruly youth and the drunks who emptied out from the bars when they closed. Around 1am after killing time, drinking coffee, and eating fries we debated if we were going to get another round of refills, but then a girl threw up next to our booth which made the decision for us. We departed the restaurant and instead of going back to Rockland to sleep we followed the main road to the Plymouth waterfront where they keep the Mayflower and the rock. We got out to walk around, when suddenly a skinhead we all knew called out from his car stopped beside us.

“What the fuck is Entrophy doing in Plymouth?”

It was a random encounter that reinforced the awesome feeling of being part of scene. That we have a connection in wherever we ended up based upon this commonality. We talked for a bit before he drove off. We walked through the park by the river, visited the Gris Mill and stood by the Eddy Stone, which was a tribute the first blacksmith in Plymouth, who I have been told we descended from directly on my mother’s side.

When we got back to the car Nate and Dave ran across the street to the temple that was built around Plymouth Rock. I started to feel nauseated from drinking too much coffee on no sleep and so I sat in the Van and threw up out of the open window. My nerves were getting shaky as I realized that the boys had both jumped the railing down to the rock. I scanned for the cops while I sat there in the quiet, but Plymouth was empty that night, as the still streets were bathed in sodium which were posed against the conflicting hues of a brilliant sharp white moon.

I listened to the radio, to the noise of the Rock of Boston and the forced grunts of a hard rock band featuring the vocals of Scott Weiland. I played with the volume, trying to make it sound better until I turned it off as I saw car approaching that looked like it could be a cop. I turned off the car and headlights as Nate and Dave climbed up from the rock with 12 dollars of sand covered change. The car passed us and to my relief it was only a taxi.

We stopped off at 7-11 to buy caffeine pills and cigarettes.

We rolled onto Rockland, sneaking through the night into Jack’s building where we were not supposed to be. We only slept for two hours on the floor. The building kept making strange noises that caused me to jump awake because I thought we had been discovered. This kept going on until I got up and stood before the window staring at the dark blue landscape before me, the orange street lights, and the moon shining down into me. I was going numb in my wrists, and I felt each of my heart beats as I sat there in the silence.

Eventually the day started to creep out across the sky, and I drove us back to South Attleboro. Dave sat shotgun as we headed into the morning and fading darkness.

“Don’t you, forget about me!” sang the radio as we drove towards the fading remains of the moon.

We finished recording our demo later that morning. When we were done, I had Nate drop me off directly to the restaurant on the way home. I walked in exhausted and disheveled. I got straight to work without saying anything. In return my mom did not say anything either, which made me feel much worse about things. At the end of the night, I was drunk with exhaustion, and nearly fell over when I went to throw the kitchen trash into the dumpster. I knew it was going to be even worse when I woke up at five the next morning for the Sunday bunch.

We released the recording DIY and called it X77. I believe we made handmade cassette copies on a boombox, and the cover was a xerox folded and taped into a paper case that surrounded it. The demo was probably not great especially since we did not mix or master it. We had no idea what we were doing, and there was only so much fidelity you could get from a home tracker. At the time we were absolutely thrilled with the results and the adventure of getting it done. There is a confirmation basis you can get when listening to your own music, especially if you don’t have any experience. It becomes your baby, and it is hard to see fault in it. It has been a while since I heard the tape, I am not sure if anyone still has it. Needless to say, it was not our ticket out of the restaurant, or the South Shore, but it was dreams like this that kept me going back then. I had to believe that my life had wild possibility for my future. If I was as realistic about things as I am now, I may have laid down and let myself die right there. But none of us were, so we all carried on.

Share this post