Thomas Dolby, Chris Heaton, Dave Stewart
A new regular feature giving details of three music personalities. This month: Thomas Dolby, Chris Heaton and Dave Stewart.
"I'm more of an inventor, I enjoy original systems of working. I don't regard myself as a player, it makes no difference if I program something or play it. I've never been interested in personal bravado as a keyboard player. Keyboards cover the abstract in my music. If I'm imitating, I'd rather get a player in to play the real instrument."
Roland JP-4; Micromoog (filter range extension mod); Solina string synth; PPG 340/380 wave computer.
"The Roland I like because I think assignment of oscillators is important, and you have control over that, as opposed to the Prophet syndrome where you can make it unison and that's about it. The Solina's got a sound of its own and'll cut through anything. The Micro's quick to set up, and I like the pitchbend ribbon more than a wheel — take your finger off and it'll bounce right back.
"Other makers might look at the control on the Micro called 'Filter Modulation By Oscillator' which basically puts the filter into overdrive, a useful effect especially on noise and ring modulation effects, almost like a feedback control. I tend to use studio effects and recording techniques to push my keyboards further. An edit facility is handy: I slightly miss one on the JP-4."
Uses the PPG: "about 20 times the parameters of an analogue synth".
Live (most recently with Lene Lovich): Teac Portastudio as mixer and for tape fx; output to amp and speaker set-up. Studio: DI: some amps.
Simmons SDS-V module + suitcase/seven pads; Boss DR-55 for "basic patterns".
Liked John Kongos' Tapestry studio which was "geared to my needs". Marcus 'big' studio/Tim Hunt (tape op). Townhouse/Nick Launay. Battery studio "sounding good".
Teac Portastudio; Revox stereo; "I steer clear of being too careful with demos now — I use the Teac to write".
"All the greatest music throughout the centuries has appealed to listeners on many levels and is rewarding to people with prior musical knowledge, and to those with no knowledge at all. I work at that in all my music."
Yamaha CS80; grand piano (prefer Bosendorfer or Yamaha); Rhodes Stage 73; Minimoog; Casiotone 202.
"The Yamaha for the keyboard touch controls, it's the only polyphonic with that. The Mini is an alternative to the CS80's multiple triggering, and is better as a soloing instrument. The Rhodes is good as a 'gelling' instrument when recording, and the Casio has those high, digital sounds and is good for orchestrating.
"It'd be good if other makers could look at the question of touch sensitivity. I don't see the point in having an eight-voice polyphonic, which they make in the hope that people are going to use all their fingers, when there's no real way of introducing expression. For example, if you use the new Jupiter-8, there's a button that automatically adds vibrato. I find that totally unresponsive and, for me anyway, totally useless. And of course you've got to take one hand off! Any instrument can only be judged by what musicians can express through it, and I think the majority of synths on the market don't live up to that judgement for me."
Live: MM 8/2 mixer; Quad 405 power amp "but don't drive it too high"; two cabs each with Gauss 12in. driver; two Piezo horns. Studio: Mainly DI, although "I'm beginning to tire of that and may use some rock amps soon".
On Rhodes, uses a "range of pedals", ending up with Oberheim ring modulator.
Boss DR-55 for home practice.
Utopia/Andy Jackson (now left Utopia to freelance).
Two Pioneer cassette decks recorded back and forth via mixer, "but the quality's not too good".
"I do everything, I'm not just a keyboard player — but I see the keyboards' role as not being subservient to anything else. I've never subscribed to the theory of keyboards being a kind of 'decoration'... I try to use them as the driving force for the whole music."
Prophet-5 rev 2 (second LFO mod); Minimoog; Rhodes Stage 73.
"The Prophet I like for the Poly Mod section, which makes it more versatile than the OB-X, and the programming facilities which are good for quick changes; I like its sound. The Mini's reliable, very in-tune, great for fat bass-lines, the best basic synth. The Rhodes is pretty weedy in some ways, but I have a personal sound on it — it's incredibly delicate, and it's nice to go to an instrument with some touch sensitivity.
"I'd like to see manufacturers make multiple envelopes available, without a lot of patching. I think a fault of the Prophet and the Mini is that they only have one envelope each for the filter and the volume — it'd be nice to have more than one for subtler sounds. I think the envelope shaping is one of the most important things in synthesis... they can add oscillators till they're blue in the face, but they should work on the other side of it. I think, overall, the Fairlight-type instrument will become more available and cheaper."
Live: Synths — RSD 12/2 mixer; Roland Space Echo; Amcron amp; two Mega full range cabs. Rhodes — H/H amp; WEM 4x12 cab. Studio: All through Roland Chorus/ Echo; stereo output to DL
MXR Distortion on half of Prophet split; Electric Mistress flanger; plus "secret, revolutionary" feedback effect.
Simmons SDS-V module + suitcase/four pads; Claptrap.
Teac Portastudio; plus stereo bouncing between Akai reel-to-reel and cassette, adding mic input each bounce. Teac mainly for adding vocals to resulting stereo tracks.
Feature by Tony Bacon
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