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Behind the Curtain with Crew Called Self

Out now is a new album from Crew Called Self called Modular on the Sea. In today’s post, Jim Petty goes into the details of how this album came together.

Modular on the Sea is comprised of instrumental, modular synth interpretations of sea shanties. This album started as a joke. I have been working as a sound designer for Broadway shows aboard cruise ships. I bring my portable modular rack, the carbon fiber travel case by Erica Synths, with me so I can jam during downtime. Due to COVID restrictions, we were having to quarantine for 10 days aboard the ship before beginning rehearsals so… lots of downtime. I was drinking alone in my cabin, noodling around, and chatting with my buddy Steven, whom you know from Lechuga Caliente, and we started joking about me being a drunken sailor and singing shanties. I decided to make a version of The Drunken Sailor with the modular. I had so much fun doing it I that kept going with the others.

Making sounds at sea. Photo by Jim Petty

Sea shanties are very simple tunes that are easy to sing along with whilst doing repetitive, hard labor on a ship to pass the time. So they are pretty easy to program which was a great exercise. In this case I’m using the Metron/Voltera combo from WMD for all trigger/gate and CV sequencing. It’s rather tedious to translate sheet music to modular but I got the hang of it pretty quickly with this set up and enjoyed the process.

I found that modulating the unique voices in my rack turned these simple melodies into something really quite interesting. For the lead I’m using the Dixie 2+ VCO by Intellijel which has multiple waveform outs. I send that into Rabid Elephant’s fantastic dual LPG module, Natural Gate, which has this nice plucky sound with variable decay. From there I go  to Tip Top Audio’s Forbidden Planet VCF with a high resonance, often to the point of self resonance. Modulating the cutoff filter with Pamela’s New Workout made for some really interesting, random, resonant swirls. The filter also has multiple inputs so I’d often patch the square wave out of Dixie, with subtle pulse-width modulation, into one channel of Natural Gate and into the band pass of the filter, and the Sub out into the other channel into the high pass, with a longer decay. This allows me to accent certain notes with a lower octave. All that goes into Make Noise’s glorious Mimeophon module for panned stereo delay and reverb. 

The modulated bass sounds come from the Tonestar 8104, which is a replica of an ARP 2600 with a Roland Juno/Jupiter style filter in Eurorack format. There’s internal LFO modulation, with ADSR envelope, of both cutoff filter and PWM of the square wave. I also love this module for leads that really sing quite beautifully. In those instances the Basimus Iteritas Alter, by Noise Engineering, takes over bass line duties when it would otherwise be doing various percussion voices.

Another standout module in this rack is the SYO.5 by Michigan Synth Works. This is a single channel replica of a Pearl Syncussion which was an incredible drum synthesizer from the 70’s. I like to use it for warbled percussion fills.

Travel mode. Photo by Jim Petty

I gotta have drums of course and the Quad Drum Voice by VPME fills this role in my rack along with a 2hp Hats module and WMD’s metallic percussion synth module, Crucible.
Everything gets mixed with the awesome character mixer, Vortices, by Steady State Fate. This is such a powerful stereo/mono mixer with an incredibly small footprint that’s perfect for a travel case. 

Sometimes you just have to work within your limitations and in this case I didn’t really have the ability to make chords. So, If the score required a chord I did my best to add additional notes with 2hp Pluck and/or BIA. I am planning to address this by swapping something out to install a second Voltera and Acid Rain’s Chainsaw, a supersaw VCO that outputs triads. It will make for far more tedious programming but I think it will pay off.

While I was working on this album my friend, and incredibly talented artist, Frank Lawson posted this illustration he did of a ghost pirate. It immediately resonated with what I was doing so I reached out to him with a concept for the album cover and he absolutely nailed it.
I had such a great time making these tracks and was really pleased with the results I was able to get from this 6u, 104hp travel case. I am currently back out to sea and working on a second volume of shanties and folk songs. I hope you find as much enjoyment listening to these songs, and hopefully singing along, as I had in creating them.

Jim Petty (aka Crew Called Self)


A Beginner’s Guide to the Audio Industry – Interview

If you follow my Facebook, you’ll know that about twice a year I head over to Fordham University and assist the audio program students build and tune a theatrical sound system, then demonstrate how to execute “quiet time” with the sound designer. I always look forward to those calls.

Last week, Ian Donach, one of the students from the program, reached out to me saying he was referred to me by the head of audio program, Chris Hart, and now that his post-graduate work at PRG is done, he asked if he could ask me some questions. After answering the questions, I thought maybe there’d be some interesting information for those who are just starting out in the audio industry, and he graciously permitted me to publish it.

IAN: First and foremost, I’m curious how you got your start in the business?

KRIS: From a professional stand point, my first full-time audio gig was at Electric Lady Studios, NYC. That was in 2005 and I’ve been full-time ever since. I had my own studio already for the 7 or so years leading up to that. In between was attending the Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences, AZ.
IAN: If you had to pick the most important thing you’ve learned on your journey what would it be?

KRIS: It’s a slooooow burn. I have this philosophy: drips become puddles become streams. So, being experienced in as many facets of the audio genre as possible helps towards longevity.
IAN: A lot of people mention that in the entertainment industry one should be prepared to live an unordinary lifestyle where things like ‘weekends’ and ‘early nights’ are a thing of the past. However, has your work ever greatly interfered with your life (i.e. missing important life milestones whether they be your own or the milestones of others, rigorous work impacting your personal health, etc.)?

KRIS: I have missed all those things. Theatre work will destroy any kind of social life (including missing the kids’ events). You have to remember, in theatre, we’re working when everyone is not. That’s how you explain an 8 show work week. In the studio, you’re often smack in the middle of a project that someone has already paid for. You stick it out. I’ve tried to strike a balance with my family, and give them “backstage” trips, which helps them understand why I didn’t do something.
IAN: As I am someone who is just getting started in the industry, what are the most important things you’d recommend ‘being’ in this industry? What should someone be or aspire to become (i.e. personality traits, work habits, etc.)?
KRIS: Have lunch with the crew. Go to bars after work for at least one pint. You never know if the guy you just had a beer with the last week won’t call you first, because you’re front and center without selling to them. Networking. Go to the parties. Be 15 minutes early to every gig. Have a proper tool bag to go. Look the part. Added…Respect the crew hierarchy; unless something is about to go literally, catastrophically wrong, your safest bet is to trust your upper-ranking team members.

IAN: What has been your greatest obstacle (whether it be an exceptionally complex and intricate gig or a long term goal)?
KRIS: People. Haha. Relationships that go sour often will impact your client base. One poor relationship I had cost me work with the whole company. So, the biggest obstacle is navigating social interactions in a delicate and sensitive way.

IAN: What has been the most rewarding moment of your career thus far?

KRIS: I don’t know that there’s been just one. Building a keyboard summing system for the Grammy and Emmy winning Jesus Christ Superstar Live in one. Another was flying to Ibiza to shoot a music video that ended up with a lot of awards and exposure.
IAN: Thanks so much for taking the time out to answer my questions. I greatly appreciate it!


You can follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram: @haloaskew

Interview – Jamie Robb Gibson (Aversion Theory)

Aversion Theory

So tell us your story. Where did you grow up? What made you decide to become an artist?

I grew up in Pennsylvania. I was born in Wilkes Barre, PA.  At the age of five I moved to Hershey and I’ve lived here ever since and I love it. It’s a small town but it’s where I call home.

I guess at an early age I decided that I wanted to become a musician, because I loved music so much. There were so many times that I would come home from school, go to my room and put on an album and then I would air guitar, air drum and lip sync in front of the mirror, and basically pretend that I was performing for a crowd.

How did you come up with that name? What was your inspiration behind it?

The name Aversion Theory is taken from my old band Suture Seven’s first album, it was entitled Aversion, and I intended to call the project Aversion, but I did some research and found out that there was another band that already had that name.  I really liked the name but I had to come up with something to go with it, so I threw around a lot of names to go with it and finally came up with Theory thus Aversion Theory was born in April 2014.

Do you ever make mistakes during performances? How do you handle that?

I think every artist has made a mistake while performing; if not then that’s quite odd. I was the vocalist for Suture Seven, and a few times there were some mishaps like forgetting the lyrics during a song or dropping the microphone. And being the drummer of Death Machine there were some mishaps while drumming dropping your stick having to grab for another one or breaking a stick and having to grab for another one or just losing the beat a little bit. The bottom line is that you have to keep going; you can’t stop. I was told you have to just work through it keep performing and you know everything should fall back into place eventually or hopefully.

Do you tour? Anything interesting happen on tour that you think our readers would enjoy hearing about?

I have never toured extensively. I’ve played a lot of shows with both Suture Seven and Death Machine, but they were usually just traveling to the show and traveling back and nothing really out of the ordinary; just your average rock and roll experiences. I have as yet not played any live shows as Aversion Theory, but I hope to rectify that in the near future.

Where do you usually gather songwriting inspiration? What is your usual songwriting process?

I usually get my inspiration for my songs when I’m out and about walking my dogs, or just taking a walk. I get ideas in my head as I’m out there, it’s peaceful and quiet and I usually get a melody in my head and then add the lyrics and vocals to it. But the important thing is when I get home I record it right away, because a lot of times, more than once, I’ve had ideas in my head that I thought were great, but when I got home I didn’t do anything right away and then later on they had disappeared right out of my head. As far as how I go about my songwriting, I work on the music first. I do the drums, the guitar, the bass, the synth, and any sounds. I work on that and get that done first then I go back and I write the lyrics and add the vocals, so I usually work my vocals around the music and I know a lot of people do it the other way but I feel more comfortable doing it this way.

If you could perform anywhere and with any artists (Dead or Alive) where and who would it be with? Why?

That is a really tough question. There are so many artists that have been around that I would love to perform with. My favorite band of all time is Cheap Trick and I got to meet them once. They’re great guys and I would love nothing more than to perform with them. But I would also love to perform with Nine Inch Nails. I believe they are one of the greatest bands of all time. And it would have to be at Wembley Stadium because I would like to play a super big venue.

When was the first time that you can remember feeling the impulse to become a musician?

Like I said earlier, I basically had the impulse to become a musician at an early age. I love the music and listening to so many different albums and different styles of music. I think it was my destiny to become a musician.

What moment/person/piece/etc. served as the catalyst for your starting down the path of a practicing musician?

There’s so many answers to that question! I think just listening to so many different albums. I remember my one friend putting on a John Cougar album, and it was the song “I need a lover that won’t drive me crazy” and I thought to myself, “man, this is what I want to do. I want to do what he’s doing!”


You can check out Aversion Theory‘s music on Spotify, Bandcamp, iTunes, Amazon + 200 other digital music outlets courtesy of Halo Askew Entertainment.  For more info,

2018 – The Year of Buzz

We're thankful for all the organizations that help us spread the word this year

Reflecting back on 2018, there’s so much to be thankful for; so many people to be thankful for.  But to understand 2018, I really have to give credit where it’s due.  A few years ago, before I made Halo Askew a “legit” business, I adopted a couple philosophies from someone who’s made himself accessible to ask advice from:

1.   D.T.O. – Do The Opposite (but be smart about it).
2.  Always have something else to sell.
3.  Find someone who is more successful than yourself and ask them what they need.
4.  Always say yes.

Martin Atkins (PiL, Nine Inch Nails, Pigface)

Granted, I probably apply these ideas slightly outside of his normal context, but I don’t think he’d disagree that my application isn’t off base.  My personal music preferences usually lie in the Industrial category, but most of the buzz I have comes from Euro-Pop love songs.  Also, I don’t use social media for calls-to-action or to perpetuate a “persona”; I use it for everyday life (which drives my manager absolutely bonkers).  I never invested in a lot of merch (I stopped printing CD’s and now provide USB bracelets).  My highest selling product: Me!  My “something else” is providing audio technician and engineering services for large format events and productions (I’m a proud member of IATSE – the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees).  And then for the last three years, I teamed up with Kim Cameron (who definitely fits under #3) and no matter what music-related service she needs, I say yes.   I consider DJing to be my “weakest link,” but when Kim offers me a stage, I say yes.  When she asks for a conventional Ragga track, I say yes.  When the shop foreman at Sound Associates asks if I can build a keyboard summing solution or a theatrical reading audio reinforcement system, I say yes. (It never fails that I find out it’s a high-profile gig after-the-fact).

Ok.  I’ll be honest.  I felt I needed that intro because of how many times, THIS YEAR ALONE, I’ve had to defend my business decisions to people who really thought I’m doing things “wrong” and I kinda realized that maybe I had done a piss poor job at connecting the dots in a more obvious way.  Here we go.  Hope that helps. 

Highlights of 2018

It sounds a little ridiculous, but I had some amazeballs gigs this year.

I headed up and mixed a theatrical reading of an upcoming jukebox musical by Britney Spears.  I was hired by David Weiser (Weisersound) to assist in providing keyboard support for Universal/NBC‘s Emmy Award Winning, Grammy Nominated “Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert.”  The super-sexy, super-swank, Cirque du Soleil-owned venue, Heart Ibiza, plastered my name (literally) all over Ibiza Town, Spain, and hosted Kim Cameron, myself, and Rocky On Percussion on their dope stage as special guests of the Ibiza Burlesque Festival.  Oh, and I was the Audio Assistant for Gettin’ The Band Back Together on Broadway.

Three tracks I produced this year (and their music videos) were given recognition by the Global Music Awards, the Latitude Film Awards, the European Independent Film Awards, and the Orlando Film Festival, while around sixteen international, independent film associations, including the Forwardian Film Society, honored Scumbag by Mars Roberge; a film that included my track with Elaine Benavides, Liquid Bluez.  There’s nothing that makes an eyeball bulge a little more than seeing your show supported by Pete fucking Tong‘s International Music Summit (sit in on a Skype call with Deadmau5 and his and Calvin Harris‘s manager: check).  Then there was that cool interview with Italy’s leading Lifestyle publication, Livein Style Magazine.

Against all odds, and with the help of my newly hired (and fellow CRAS grad) assistant, Lauren Neidenberg, I was able to DJ and perform at the Amsterdam Dance Event, Netherlands, hosted by Kashmir Lounge DJ Cafe.  At that show, I debuted Drive With Me (To The Edge of Space), an eccentric track, with eccentric remixes, with two of the women that I’ve worked with since we were in diapers, Wendi Hughes and Elaine Benavides, which went on to rank #25 in the Top 100 Progressive House charts at Beatport.  

The biggest music distributor in China, TenCent, picked up a couple, super weird Ambient tracks and placed them at five Chinese record labels, a major theme park placed a track in one of their halloween themed attractions, and I’m ending 2018 with a newly signed band, Ten Cent Toys, hired for another Universal/NBC live in concert production, and producing music for an upcoming animated children’s feature film (there’s rumor of voice over action on this one).  

And now, is that stupid call-to-action that I hate so much:

Does following a guy who works in professional entertainment AND talks about his step-kids, science experiments, and awesome lamb-chop recipes sound like something you’d be ok with?  

Follow my personal Facebook: @haloaskew.  

Do you like Industrial, House, Ambient, and Euro-Pop songs?

Please follow me on Spotify: Kris “Halo” Pierce or, if you’re feeling adventurous, check out my playlist, Halo Askew Entertainment, for a few hundred hours of music that I’m proud to a part of.

That’s A Wrap! – October

I’m back home in New Jersey after a whirlwind of appearances, parties, screenings, gigs, and general shenanigans abroad and domestic.  For me, it was successful on multiple fronts and I’m looking forward to exploring some of the new partnerships and friendships that were forged through-out.

Guitars Over Guns

Guitars Over Guns

Starting in Miami, I visited Citrus Grove Middle School with Kim Cameron and participated in a talk about how sometimes you have to be able to write a song without your normal instruments handy.  I got them stomping, and clapping, and shouting “YEAH!” on the eight beat, pumping out a kick and snare from Ableton, a quick bass line, and we were off making a song on the fly.  Afterwards, I was able to share some keyboard mentorship with four kids, with a focus on scales and finger placement.

Susan G. Komen’s More Than Pink Walk

Kim and I were joined at Bayfront Park by Sean Gould on guitar and Kenneth Metzker on percussion.  The audio technician nerd in me was excited to perform through an audio reinforcement system that was bigger than the last Broadway show I worked on.  “Oliver the Octopus” from Kim’s book series, Seaper Powers, came up on stage for the last song and danced with us.  I think the biggest lesson I learned was to remember to pack shorts and swimming trunks when traveling to Miami Beach.  You’d think this would be a given.

Forwardian Film Festival

The next day, I headed over to Delaware Water Gap, Pennsylvania, to the Forwardian Film Festival where they were screening a movie that I have some music in called, Scumbag.  The film was given an Honorable Mention for best feature.




This was my second year attending the annual Amsterdam Dance Event and I was stoked to start off the week with a DJ set at Kashmir Lounge DJ Cafe.  The DJ booth was brand new and my set was it’s maiden voyage.  It was really satisfying to introduce my Insomnia House remix of Drive With Me (To The Edge of Space) and somewhat relieved to hear it settle nicely into a live DJ set.  Kim was supposed to sing over two tracks, but we ended up sacrificing the Extended Dub Mix of Share My Pillow to resolving mic issues.  Without skipping a beat mixing the set, we were able to get a working mic to her for Spin Me Ever After.

DJ Halo and Kim Cameron

The chill, laid-back coffeeshop vibe is a really appropriate environment for the type of house and leftfield tracks that tend to populate my DJ sets.  Even though I had prepped a setlist, I found myself veering off-script and just going with the flow for a little under an hour.  Which, let’s be honest, just isn’t enough time to really take the musical journey.  We walked away with an open invitation to return and I’m looking forward to having a “home” to go to whenever I  visit Amsterdam.


The rest of our time in Amsterdam was centered around the conference and business meetings.  I met with a distributing company that will work in conjunction with my primary distributor, Label-Worx, to enter the Chinese and Korean markets with boots-on-the-ground marketing support in those countries in addition to their major social media platforms.

Both of those markets are experiencing an exciting discovery and avid consumption of electronic music and I’m looking forward to exploring those areas of the world.  With this company comes a platform to finally get all the major digital online stores into one dashboard for maintenance and customization.  More specific details will come soon.

I also talked to Soundtrust about partnering with them to extend and help manage my royalty collection capabilities in Europe, which is a pretty large market for Halo Askew.  It really is a “looking at the global picture” time for me.


Emerging technologies panel

While I appreciate the International Music Summit, I find the panels at ADE to be more relevant and interesting.  While Pete Tong keeps a wall between speakers and audience in Ibiza, all the moderators and guest speakers are really approachable and friendly at this conference.  The only shame was it’d be Murphy’s Law that all the panels you wanted to see were happening at the same time.  The ex-CEO of Beatport loved Courtney’s enthusiasm and gifted her a swank ADE scarf and button.


Half the fun of Amsterdam and ADE is hanging with friends.  Courtney is my sister-from-another-mister whom I’ve known for forever and a half, and after seeing one of the final shows of Gettin’ The Band Back Together we hatched a plan for her to come on this adventure.  Pretty much everything I know about DJing comes from her.  Having her along was really the  proverbial icing on the cake.

Kris Courtney and Steve

It was kinda mind blowing how many people we ended up running into from our lives in New York and Florida.  Got to hang out with Sameer (there’s an epic Basement Jaxx in Central Park story with him to be told).  We also met up with long-time friend, Steve Graham, who was spinning at a comfortable sake bar.  Business aside, this was a great time to catch up and see a ton of friends I’ve made across the Atlantic; our fearless ambassador to Europe, Mike Lemaich, Carl from Wideboys, DJ Toka, DJ Max, Mila Falls, and Lilly Palmer.

I’ve been engaged with Label-Worx since I was managing No Filtr Ltd and so good to finally meet Connor and James, in person, after working with them for so many years through the interwebs.

Orbital at Pardisio

I’d have to say, seeing Orbital live at Paradiso was a real highlight.  Standing room only.  Really nostalgic to hear tracks like Halcyon; a real throwback to my twenties when I was discovering something other than industrial with all the feels.

What would be more appropriate for an electronic music conference?  Why, all the gear porn!

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Orlando Film Festival

On Sunday, Oct 21, I headed to Orlando to attend the Orlando Film Festival, where our animated music video for Scattered was screened with 350 film presentations and nominated for Best Music Video.  It was fun to see it on the big screen and hear the track translate well in a movie theater setting.


I can’t say enough how much I enjoy working, performing, and globe trotting with Kim.  She gives me the space to explore and experiment both in the studio and on stage.  She lets me fuck up and learn.  Here’s to many more!

Well, that’s it for October!


Confirmed October Bookings: A Charity Event, A Music Festival, 2 Film Festivals, and Guitars Over Guns.

October 12

Guitars Over Guns featured speaker

Citrus Grove Middle School, Miami

I’ll be giving a talk about what I do (DJ and producer stuff) and demonstrate the conception of a musical idea.  I think.  For more info: Guitars Over Guns

October 13

Komen More Than Pink: After Walk Celebration

Bayfront Park – 10AM

 (301 Biscayne Boulevard, Miami, FL 33132)

Bayfront Park

Kim Cameron and I will be taking the stage with Kenneth Metzker to perform a featured set at the After Walk Celebration at 10AM. For more info: Komen More Than Pink

October 14

Forwardian Film Festival

The Museum of Delaware Water Gap – 1PM-7PM

(24 Main St, Delaware Water Gap, PA 18327)

scumbag poster

I’ll be joining my long time collaborator, Elaine Benavides, at the screening of Scumbag.  Elaine has four tracks featured in the film, one of which is with me (Haunted Echo – Liquid Bluez).  There’ll be a Q&A after the screening.  Screenings are 1p – 7p with an awards ceremony afterwards.  For more info: Scumbag Screens at Forwardian Film Festival

October 17

Amsterdam Dance Event

Kashmir Lounge DJ Cafe – 16:00-17:00

(Jan Pieter Heijestraat 85/87, 1053 GM Amsterdam, Netherlands)

drive with me ADE 400x400

This will be more of a “DJ Set” than performance.  ALTHOUGH —- I’ll be debuting my new track, Drive With Me (To The Edge of Space) featuring Wendi Hughes and Elaine Benavides, and I’m really stoked to have a special guest appearance by Kim Cameron.  For more info: DJ Halo Live In Amsterdam

October 22, 23

Orlando Film Festival

Cobb Plaza Cinema Cafe – 3PM Screening

(155 S Orange Ave, Orlando, Florida)


The animated music video that Kim and I did for “Scattered” is an Official Selection of the Orlando Film Festival and will have 2 screenings – 10/19 (I’ll be in Amsterdam, unfortunately) and 10/22.  Kim and I will be present at the latter and will be participating in a Q&A afterwards.  Later that night is the nomination party and the awards gala is 10/23.  For more info: Orlando Film Festival


November dates on the way!

Drive With Me Is Available For Pre-Order

Swing by Beatport and check out a clip of my new track, Drive With Me.  You can pre-order the single while you’re at it HERE

Kris ‘Halo’ Pierce skillfully blurs reality with this Coldwave-meets-Ambient Breaks track, blending his signature melancholic vocals with haunting, ever-evolving melodies. Drive With Me (To The Edge of Space) is an escapist anthem. Twenty-one years after two high school friends set up a studio in the garage, the symbiotic, outside-the-box, song-crafting between Kris Pierce and Wendi Hughes, remains strong. The etherial, stream-of-consciousness vocalizations by Elaine Benavides twist expertly around the cut time beats and frantic breaks, taking on a life of their own as a living, breathing lullaby.

The supporting remixes, produced by Halo as well, are deep dives into House and Drum n Bass territory and are wildly diverse. Whereas the original mix is more living room electronica, Halo’s Insomnia House and Everything Breakz remixes are DJ set friendly.