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Thomas Dolby

Thomas Dolby

Article from One Two Testing, February 1985

So what went on in '84?

"I guess the explosion at the bottom end of the synthesiser market has been really quite a breakthrough, making a lot of facilities available for semi-pro musicians which previously were only available to the elite.

"For a start people are beginning to hook up with home computers — the Yamaha system and the various bits of software written for the BBC and Commodore. Obviously MIDI has made all that possible.

Have you experimented much with those developments?

"Well, from my own point of view I haven't explored many of the new instruments because I don't think there's anything that's superseded the facilities I already have — the Fairlight and the PPG Wave Term. Admittedly I did pay a lot of money for them at the time knowing that if they were not obsolete they'd at least seem wildly expensive within a year or two."

But you did get in early. Have you found that those instruments have grown with you in the last year?

"Oh yes, certainly. I've had my Fairlight for over 18 months and it's amazing how it's kept up considering that it's been around for four or five years. It's only just lately that it's come into vogue. I think a lot of the reason for that is people experimenting with the facilities producing material that's too avante garde and doesn't catch on. But eventually public taste catches up... the whole New York club thing did a lot to popularise the Fairlight through the concept of cheating the time scale by scratching — spinning one record into another.

"That effect was something the Fairlight had been able to do for some time though nobody had really thought of it that way."

Do you think sampling will he picked up and popularised in the same way that cheaper, analogue polyphonics were produced?

"I think that's possible. The difficulty with these instruments at the moment is they're still only available to the kind of musician who could have picked anything in the world.

"The reason I mentioned New York is that there, the innovative people depend on musicians off the street — labels like Sugar Hill or Tommy Boy or whatever will literally get people off a street corner and give them the technology to mess around with. Over here the only people using Fairlights in a big way are the Trevor Horns, Gabriels, Dolbys... all those cut off, isolated old farts."

So the Fairlight and Wave have exhibited continued excellence during '84, but what about new purchases?

"If I had to pick one on a purely personal level my favourite would be the eight foot Steinway I've had to build my bed on because there was no other way of fitting it in the flat. I had a Futon mattress cut to size to fit on top of the piano... convenient for waking up in the middle of the night with a bright idea. In a way the piano remains the most individual of all instruments. It's been nice for me, and cleared my head I suppose, to get back to the piano a little bit and find the public's view of my music is not constrained by the fact that I originally made my name as a synthesist."

And what about '85?

"What I do see is quite a lot of wastage of computer power and memory. When you buy a sampling machine, which takes up an awful lot of memory and processing power, you use perhaps a quarter of it. It seems crazy to me that someone should have three or four different machines that probably contain a lot of the same processors. Given that the Fairlight, AMS and Lexicon digital reverb all do basically the same thing in a slightly different way, I'd like to see maybe a mixing desk in a studio that has an amount of computer memory that can be used for echo effects, sampling or whatever. Maybe not in '85, but soon after."

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Akai MG1212

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The Shape of Tech To Come

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:

> Akai MG1212

Next article in this issue:

> The Shape of Tech To Come

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