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Frankfurt Mix

Philip Oakey

Human League

Article from One Two Testing, February 1985

What was your favourite instrument of 1984?

"Everyone'll be saying the DX7, I suppose? That was the only new instrument we got this year, apart from very standard things like pianos and so on. The Kurzweil probably would have been worth investigating — everyone talks about that a lot. I've never seen nor heard one but everyone goes on about how good they are.

"But I suppose more than anything else it would be the DX7. It sounds all right. But it's a real problem that I don't know anyone who knows how to program it, and you have to put up with the sounds that they've got in them. It also points out just how bad a JP8 was — we still use ours occasionally but it was a very convenient instrument that did nothing well. Bells, maybe. But there's never been a synth yet that doesn't do bells well. I've got a ten-year-old korg that's really good for bells. Bit of ring modulation and you've got it, really.

"We've got more or less a new policy which is to get things down and then funny about with them afterwards, rather than spend two-and-a-half years getting sounds which are probably quite irrelevant once they're mixed with the track and have a few effects on them. The DX does seem to have convincing versions of the instruments it's supposed to be doing. But we've yet to find a good synth bass — about the time that 'Relax' came out we realised that we were way behind.

"I've been doing some things at the 24-track here at home with Ian (Burden) and the stuff is beginning to sound like records now, partly because we invested in a Quantec room simulator, which is a brilliant device. We'd only used a Great British Spring before that. It's made all the difference in the world. So that's a possible for Instrument Of '84 — if it was an instrument, I'd say definitely. It has a freeze facility where you can lock things in it and they go on forever. We used it on the last B-side, an 'ahhh' that moves about in the background that the girls just put in once. It's a very simple device to use, there are six or seven rooms, you put on a bit of top or bottom, and you've got it. Bill Price (engineer) told us about it — if Bill Price likes it, it's good.

"I wouldn't mind one of those Yamaha computers, the CX5, but everyone'll have one of those now, and I wanted to have it before everyone else. I bet the software's dodgy, though. And they do tend to have this feeling that everyone who uses these things can read music. I never understood music until I got an 808 and it split the bars up the way it does — very clear."

What would you like to see developed in 1985?

"A good synth, really. The important thing to remember is that sampling is getting out of hand. It's not very good and it's not very important. It might simply be that sampling as it is now doesn't have the range. I think it's quite interesting that Synclavier have the software to sample a sound, analyse it, and turn it into synth patches. So if you've got a trumpet, say, you can't artificially put top on a sample, whereas you can on a synthesised sound. I think sampling's a huge blind alley that everyone's rushing into. It's good for monophonic things, great for drums, for example, but I think it might well be a bit of a waste of time for anything else. The idea of an instrument that 'analyses' is much better. So I'd like to see a more user-friendly version of that, getting at 'analysed' patches. More synthesis and less sampling.

"Actually, what I'd like most is an instrument that would generate a great deal of money: you press a few keys on the top and lots and lots of money comes out of the bottom. About 100 million pounds. I heard that it took that much for Robert Maxwell to buy the Daily Mirror, and I thought it might be wise to get a hundred million together and buy it back off him and turn it into a newspaper. It's still not as bad as the Star, but it's pretty disturbing when you're a socialist and it was about the only socialist paper about."

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Dave Stewart

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Nick Beggs

Publisher: One Two Testing - IPC Magazines Ltd, Northern & Shell Ltd.

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One Two Testing - Feb 1985

Frankfurt Mix


Previous article in this issue:

> Dave Stewart

Next article in this issue:

> Nick Beggs

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