All Talk, Some Action
Problems of talking to the famous — and your chance to change the magazine.
It's both a relief and a disappointment to find that, as E&MM Editor, I don't interview as many musicians, composers and producers as I once did. The disappointing bit comes from the fact that talking to the famous can be extremely rewarding, not to mention great fun. On several occasions, I've realised personal ambitions to meet people I've hugely admired — so every time I despatch a freelance writer or a member of E&MM's staff to an interview, I usually hear a little voice that says: 'why don't you go?'.
But to be frank, I'm quite relieved that I don't have to go through the whole business of interviewing as frequently as I used to. Because right from the moment you pick up the phone and call the relevant management office, simply arranging to be in the same place at the same time as Joe Rockstar can be a harrowing experience. And when you actually get to the rendezvous point, the problems really start.
Ask Paul Tingen, the man responsible for this month's article on producer Steve Nye. Most people are familiar with at least some of the records Nye has been involved with, even though his production techniques are nothing like as obtrusive as those of Messrs Horn, Hine and company. Unhappily for Tingen, the producer proved to be just as quiet in conversation, and although our correspondent did eventually coax some words of wisdom from Nye (see page 74), it was something of an uphill struggle.
E&MM staffer Tim Goodyer had problems of a different nature talking to Bronski Beat and Roger Eno, both featured in this month's issue.
The week he went down to the Bronskis' London studio was the week their single — 'Hit That Perfect Beat' — went Top Five in Britain, so it came as no surprise that only one of the band, Larry Steinbachek, actually turned up, and that even he was an hour late. Once he arrived, though, Steinbachek showed himself to be as loquacious as any pop hero our man Goodyer has talked to, so the printed interview (it starts on page 18) bubbles with enthusiasm and informed comment.
Also enthusiastic is Roger Eno (feature on page 85), whom TG met up with just before Christmas. Normally, such conversations take place in the Big Smoke, but Brian's lesser-known brother agreed to meet us at the family home in a tiny Suffolk village — and that was where the problems started. After an hour or so's desperate motoring around the East Anglian countryside, we asked a local who pointed us in the direction of 'the big house where that odd composer fellow lives'. Very quaint.
No such worries for Annabel Scott, the writer responsible for this month's exclusive interview with Jan Hammer. Scott still hasn't met the world's most imitated lead synthesiser player, but a transatlantic phone line was all that was needed to produce the fascinating, in-depth story that begins on page 48. We think you'll agree it was worth running up a big phone bill for.
Much less troublesome than any of the above was the process of compiling this year's E&MM Readership Survey, which begins on page 39. For the uninitiated, the Survey is where the people who put together the magazine every month let go of the reins, and let you, the long-suffering reader, have a say as to where we should be heading over the next 12 months.
The response to last year's questionnaire proved invaluable, which is why many elements of it have been incorporated in this year's version. But a lot has changed during 1985, so it's as important as ever that you let your opinions be known. It'll cost you no more than the price of a postage stamp, and as usual, you stand a chance of winning a free year's subscription to E&MM if you send your reply page in early.
Before you get scribbling, confirmation that we do listen to readers comes in the form of two new arrivals on this month's feature list.
The first of these is Patchwork (page 82), the readers' synth-sound section. This has been re-instated by popular demand, and expanded to include not only details of patches programmed and submitted by readers, but also reviews of manufacturers' own library tapes, disks and chips — of both synthesised and sampled sounds.
Also new is a section called In Brief, encompassing short appraisals of new musical equipment which, for whatever reason, doesn't suit the Simon Trask Pay-Me-By-The-Word style of instrument reviewing. Two of this month's three In Brief products are there because they've already been reviewed in detail under a different guise; the Casio CZ3000 and Roland Alpha Juno 2 are, after all, little more than usefully repackaged versions of existing instruments.
More improvements will probably ensue as the replies to our Survey are analysed during the coming months, but in the meantime, we're off to Frankfurt for the world's most important musical instrument fair (see Preview, page 10). Doubtless it'll be pretty cold outside (I nearly froze to death last year), but the temperature inside the exhibition halls will be warmer than ever, as competition among the leading hi-tech manufacturers hots up.
Watch this space for a report on the new machines that'll make headlines in '86 — and, we hope, improve your music-making into the bargain.
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