Rod Argent, Andrew Clark, Michael MacNeil
"I tend to be more of a player than someone who likes to get involved in technology. It's wonderful what you can do, but they're only tools. I'm always impatient to start playing rather than getting hung up on technical things. I'm finding writing for the theatre interesting ('Masquerade'), and I'll be doing a solo album soon."
Fender Rhodes Suitcases 73; Prophet-5 Rev 3.1; Roland RS-202 string machine.
"I find the Prophet the best basic, high-quality, polyphonic synth in terms of what you can get from it, and for transportation it's very light. I find it less coloured than the OBX, and it's really the Prophet or the OBX. I more or less tossed a coin: I like the OBX's meatier sound, but the Prophet I find truer. I didn't like the factory presets much, but it's marvellous once you start committing your own sounds to the memory. The Rhodes is a standard. Sometimes I use a Yamaha electric grand live, I tend to use my shop's facilities for bits and pieces.
"A few years ago, at the onset of the Prophet, synths reached a sort of plateau where it was good for the working musician. Now there are other things going on, like the computers, I mean to get into that more heavily. So synth technology is progressing fast, it's just a question of coming to terms with it all."
Has used on sessions — no favourites.
"I try to use as little as possible — last time a couple of Roland Cubes for personal monitoring, all fed into the desk."
Boss Chorus, mainly on Rhodes.
Roland CR-78. Has used Linn/Simmons combination on 'Masquerade' demos, and on an (unfinished) track with Colin Blunstone.
Morgan/Martin Webster. A "marvellous engineer" who worked on Argent/Thompson/Hiseman's 'Ghosts' LP.
Ampex 1100 8-track on 1in ("a big old one"); RSD desk; EMT echo plate "lodged in the basement".
"People tend to use me when they're trying to make unusual, 'organic' uses of synths combined with commercial propositions — Toyah, for example. I seem to get asked for manic Chinese violins — I like stretching. I think a lot of pop musicians take themselves too seriously, which is one reason I don't do that sort of thing any more."
Minimoog; Yamaha CS80; PPG Wave 360A computer.
"The Mini is from about 1967 and works wonderfully, great for funny noises. I've still got the CS80, which has gone out of fashion a bit lately, it's a horribly expressive thing. The Wave — which is the first one, without the analogue filter on the end, all digital — I bought from singer/song-writer Phierry Matsioszek. It was a prototype, number 44 in fact. It's a most startling machine: the design is awful, but it sounds fantastic, it gives me sounds I'd never even imagined.
"Most synths rely too much on smoothness. Beauty comes from imperfections, the ugly bits and wobbly parts, not absolute perfection. There's no tension in synths, no string vibrating in the air. Makers should take a risk and design something that has that in mind — my Wave does, with its 64-segment wave. As you move along, they've messed up the sound source so that it's still electronic, but in a way that you can't get from other synths."
Uses a "beaten-up old analogue sequencer" occasionally, feeding the Minimoog.
"An expensive hobby for the studio player, but, I suppose, necessary for onstage."
"Luckily enough, someone paid for me to use a Linn on two whole albums, and on stuff for TV. It's not a drummer, but a very good drum machine."
"There are some places I look forward to going to: Good Earth, for example, all you want to do is play. I used to like Abbey Road and Hayden Bendall, and Steve Allen is good for my TV things."
Fostex A8 8-track "very good value". Gelf 12/4/8 mixer, plus graphic eq and echo.
"I'm a musician, not particularly a keyboard player; I don't think anyone thinks of me as 'a good keyboard player'. I'm more someone who creates music. We're not a synthesiser band. Keyboards give us unique sounds, and then I base what I play around that — so if I get a horn sound, I try to play what a horn would play."
Roland JP4; Oberheim OBXa; Korg 770.
"The Korg's second oscillator gets you some really weird sounds. It sounds cheap unless you play it through good equipment — it's good in the studio. I'm pleased with the JP4's stereo ensemble facility, but there's not enough memories. I'm going to try to get Roland to split the eight memories into four groups, giving 32: you soon run out on stage with just eight. The arpeggio's good, using trick timings with echo. The OBXa I got very recently — it really sticks out when you record it, piercing without needing volume. The first one I got kept wiping memories, a real worrier because all I kept getting was white noise and people thought I was doing it deliberately!"
"There are that many new things coming out it's difficult to know what to get, something'll almost come out next week with more things and greater reliability. I like the idea of the Fairlight, but there must be some way without paying £32,000."
"The Oberheim polyphonic could be interesting, but I haven't used sequencers so far."
"I just got the Roland PA150 amp/mixer, and I feed it into my two Yamaha bins."
Roland 501 chorus/echo. "Nothing else — straight or echo, which I use a lot."
"We use a cheap Electro-Harmonix quite a lot — it's got a whole mood of its own. We've got Doctor Rhythms and a new Roland, the 8000. Programmable are best — presets get boring."
Rockfield/Hugh Jones, Steve Hillage.
"We use a Portastudio, often with a couple of mics in rehearsal and then overdubbed later."
Feature by Tony Bacon
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