What was your favourite instrument of 1984?
"1984 was the year of the Simmons SDS7 for me. There was a lot of scrabbling in February and March before it came out, this bus queue of drummers lined up outside Simmons. Everyone was twisting Simmons' arm to try to get hold of it first, the Thompson Twins were in there, everyone trying to get hold of one of the things.
"I didn't actually get to use it in the UK with King Crimson last year, but it went down well on our tours of Japan and America. I had some of the pads racked up, seven of them racked vertically behind me like gongs. That was good for soloing, and good visually, too."
What made the 7 better than previous Simmons efforts for you?
"They were playable, is the boring answer, they've sorted out the playing surfaces. The good answer is just the sheer capacity and range of sound, 99 kits with 18 parameters. I only used eight kits on the tour, which left me another 81 to play with! Maybe it's got too much storage, I can't believe that anyone would use that much in one evening's work."
So have Simmons got it about right now?
"I suppose it could be more indestructible. And there have been questions about power supply when you take it around the world. They're obviously looking into that because there was the letter from Dave Simmons in One Two Testing about the criticism. But it's infinitely better than the 5 was — I was one of the unfortunate wretches who've been asked to road-test a lot of the Simmons equipment, and the early days of the 5 were even more murderous. You were never quite sure at 7.30 whether or not you'd be able to play that night."
What would you like to see developed in 1985?
"Well I'm in another group, piano and drums, with Patrick Moraz, and we do suffer with the quality of pianos you see around. Even as we speak, Patrick is in Boston trying to arrange with Ray Kurzweil to get one of his machines. I've only heard cassettes, but I understand it's terrific, allegedly you can't tell it apart from a Bosendorfer. That could really liberate the pianist. Of course, when the sounds are right a real piano is marvellous, but good sounding ones are few and far between. Hopefully, Patrick will have got a Kurzweil in his Christmas stocking."
"In a way, it'll be a matter of the musicians having to keep up with the scientists — they're turning out ideas so fast. Musicians don't always get the opportunity to use things to the fullest before the next one hits the market. Already drummers, for example, have got so much potential for what they can do — this new Simmons 'sound camera' sampling idea, say — and in a way that's a nightmare, they may have liked the world better when it was simpler. Fewer possibilities, and less responsibility then.
"My problems are a long way from asking R&D departments to come up with new equipment. I'm trying to keep up with and use expressively the huge amount of equipment that's already available. There's only so many hours in the day. Musicians have to have time to settle. The surface gloss of the music is so much more interesting now, but it's: 'What sound does it make? Record the sound, never mind what notes go on it'."
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