I found Tom via this Forbes piece about the band. The knock on Linux has always been that it’s tough for music and video work, but I hear/read that less-and-less often. As Tom points out a few times, Linux has come a long way. I also related to his comments about tweaking and changing distributions. Like Tom, I’ve discovered it’s not a great use of my time. Once I find something that works for me, I stick with with until EOL.
- Who are you, and what do you do?
My name is Tom Ray and I’m the singer for the band Lorenzo’s Music, an art rock band from Madison, Wisconsin. We release all of our music under a Creative Commons license, so it’s free to use for video or to remix or build upon.
We also just recently launched a new podcast on the website called the Lorenzo’s Music Podcast, a show where we talk with other musicians and creators from around the world to learn about what they do and why they do it.
Why do you use Linux?
I got interested in Linux back when Ubuntu first came out. Sort of. I started testing it out during the Breezy Badger release back in 2005.
I used to use a bunch of proprietary software for artwork and I heard about this operating system that had all of this open source software built into it and I was curious. So I tried it out. I dual-booted for several years and realized that I was using my Windows partition less and less. Then one day I was updating to a new version and accidentally did a full install. I wiped my Widows partition completely. So I just decided, ‘okay, I’m just going to use Linux now!’
But really, at that point, I was finding programs that did mostly what I wanted on Linux. My main problem, though, was that video and audio creation programs were all still pretty buggy early on. But over the years that has changed. A lot!
So this year, to prove that it could be done, my band created our current release Rom-Comm Mixtape, using only open source tools and software from beginning to end. That includes recording, mixing, mastering, artwork, videos…everything. And we were pretty happy with the process. As I said, it’s really changed over the years with what you can do.
What distribution do you run on your main desktop/laptop?
I currently run the latest version of Ubuntu Studio, 18.10 Cosmic Cuttlefish. Over the years I’ve tried a lot of other distros: Fedora, Arch, Debian, Mint. I even used to dabble with the Eeepc back when that was a thing. I used to trick out the way the distros looked and all of that stuff, too. But after a while, I found that I was spending so much time setting it up for what I wanted it to do, or what I needed, that I was wasting a lot of time.
So I just chose a distro that had all of that stuff set up for me, which was Ubuntu Studio. It had the programs I needed already built-in. And JACK and the low-latency kernel were already set up, so I could just start creating.
Plus, with the live distro, I was able to set up USB sticks for each of the guys in the band. That way we could create stuff on our own time and they wouldn’t have to learn how to set things up. I could just show them the programs we use and they boot it up.
We share the Ardour song files (the multi-tracking software that we use) in a GitHub repository. We upload the changes we make there and then all of us can pull the latest version from GitHub.
What desktop environment do you use and why do you use it?
Whatever comes with the latest version of Ubuntu Studio. Xfce, I think? Like I said, I don’t really mess around with the set-up that much anymore! Haha!
EDITOR’S NOTE: Yup!. It’s Xfce.
What one piece of Linux software do you depend upon? Why is it so important?
Ardour. After the process of working on the recent mixtape, it’s really just become what we use to create and record. I also use it for editing the podcasts.
Oh, and I guess the one hidden gem is Audacity, for audio noise removal. I record a lot of the podcast in public places and the noise removal feature in Audacity is still one of the best-hidden secrets to anyone that is recording a podcast. I hear about people recording shows under a blanket or in a closet to reduce noise. I’ve found the noise removal in Audacity is the perfect alternative to all of that.
What kind of hardware do you run this setup on?
I got a laptop from System76 last year, the Lemur version they released. I don’t even think it’s available anymore so I can’t remember everything it has on it. It’s fine. I got the one that was the cheapest. It had enough memory for me to run stuff, which was all I was interested in. I can add stuff if I need to, but never really do.
Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?
I can share a screenshot but it’s pretty dull. I just use the default set up. Haha!
I would just like to add that I actually reached out to the Ubuntu Studio team to see if I could talk to one of them on the Lorenzo’s Music Podcast. So in the next few weeks, I’ll be doing an interview with the team lead for the Ubuntu Studio project, Erich Eickmeyer.
EDITOR’S NOTE: It’s up!
Interview conducted December 4, 2018