Uses This

A collection of nerdy interviews asking people from all walks of life what they use to get the job done.

A picture of Laura Ballance

Laura Ballance

Bassist (Superchunk), record label manager

Posted in artist, musician, windows

Who are you, and what do you do?

I am Laura Ballance. I run a record label called Merge Records and play bass in a band called Superchunk. I also dabble in the visual arts and cooking and preserving food.

What hardware do you use?

For Merge I do most of my work on a Dell desktop computer with two screens. One is 18" and the other is 24". I do a fair amount of work on spreadsheets where I have to look at Quickbooks and Excel at the same time so I need both screens going. I use a totally mundane mouse that I have set up to work left-handed, because I am one of those. At home and when I travel I use a Toshiba mini netbook. It weighs about 3 pounds and is great for email. Sometimes it gets a little slow when I try to watch video on it, but that's probably my fault for letting it get clogged up.

I also have an HTC Sensation smart phone. I try not to be on it too much though. I do not appreciate how connected everyone feels like they have to be these days.

To rock I use a '79 Fender Precision Bass, a 2x15" Ampeg cabinet and an Acoustic 370 head. This head is insanely loud and I never turn it past 2 or it would seriously damage the area. The cabinet is really old, probably from the 1970's and looks terrible. It has taken a serious beating from 20 odd years of touring, but it's really well built. The joints are dovetail joints and they have really held up. It used to have Altec speakers in there that were probably original, but after re-coning them about 8 times I bought some Electro-Voice speakers and put them in there. They rule. If I have to fly I use a rented 2x15 Ampeg if I can get it and an Orange Terror Bass head. This thing is light (weighs about 5% of what the Acoustic head weighs) and sounds great. I use a Boss TU-2 Chromatic pedal tuner. My secret weapon is a custom Crowther Audio Hotcake. I got one after touring with the 3d's (it was 1994 maybe) and hearing their bass player Denise use one. It is distorted without being too high endy.

For drawing I just got some Palomino Blackwing and Blackwing 602 pencils. They feel awesome.

For working with clay I got some retired dental tools from my dentist and a cheap rolling pin from the Asian market. I love that she was willing to give me those tools instead of throwing them in the trash. I had to promise I would not use them on my teeth.

For taking photos I have been using a Panasonic DMC-FX01 for ages. At this point, my phone has resolution just as high but it's not as good in low light. For the last year or so I have been experimenting with the Lomo Diana F+. It uses 120 film, and it turns out I am kind of a disaster with remembering I can't let light in or else. I have a wide angle and and a fish-eye lens which I really enjoy.

And what software?

Mostly I write emails all day and do some accounting related projects. I use multi-user Quickbooks Enterprise Solutions 10, Excel, and Firefox. I use the Gmail web interface for all my email. It's the best. I love it. Most of the time. I tweet, but I am not a dedicated tweeter.

What would be your dream setup?

Oh boy. Well, with the computer stuff I think I am satisfied. In my dreams I would spend my days making things with my hands and would never have to use a computer again, but that's not going to happen.

I wish I could have the bass I have now, but that it would somehow magically weigh about 5 pounds less than it does. Maybe some wood bees could handle that for me. Oh, and I wish the Acoustic 370 and my personal, improved Ampeg cabinet could also experience some weight loss and conveniently shrink to pocket size for air travel.

I have an old LC-A camera and wish there were other lenses I could put on it. Also, I wish I had a flash for it. I think it would be a good idea for me to use 35mm film so that I am not waving film around in the air and making an exposure mess.