|Keyboard Choir - The Electrical Unity Blogs Pt. 6
||[Jun. 6th, 2009|09:27 am]
In this installment, Keyboard Choir reveal the equipment they each use to create their symphonic electronica, and talk about the live experience. You can download their 'Electrical Unity EP' free at last.fm. The debut album 'Mizen Head To Gascanane Sound' is out now. |
Seb: For today's post, I thought it'd be cool for us to all geek out and spill the beans on how it is that we get those patented cosmic tones (picture courtesy of NASA - go to apod.nasa.gov/apod and get a cosmically profound picture of space every day). It's like the best homepage ever.
I use mainly a shit younger cousin of the legendary Yamaha DX7 - the DX21. Which any keyboard snob would sneer at for only being a 4 and not 6 Operator FM synth. Whatever the hell that means. Most gigs I only ever use the one sound, Gentle Pipes, but by the time I'm done with it it sounds anything but gentle. It gets fed through a chain of old pedals that half work. Thanks to Nobby, for fixing me up a pedal board and repeatedly bailing me out of trouble when the house of cards come tumbling down...
I guess what inspired me to play in bands so much was the fact that I'm a massive show off. When I was starting out in music it was all about the Brit Pop. I basically wanted to be Brett Anderson and Jarvis Cocker. What a knob. In fairness, I was only 15, I couldn't sing for shit, not a note, so I was forced to play keyboard. Blagged a synth from my music teacher (thanks to Mr Barton!) and started playing. I remember the first time I tried putting the shitty old 80s synth through a boss overdrive and thinking, "that sounds terrible". The gap between that thought and me ending up playing as I do, is a bit of a mystery. But I love it, playing hard and fast through distortion, wah wah and delay, it's amazing. It's weird, when I think about it, there weren't really any keyboard players who I came across at a young age who were particularly inspiring. Certainly not in terms of their performances anyway. The only one who springs to mind is the guy from Marilyn Manson's band, who I saw at Reading 2001. He was amazing. Big up Madonna Wayne Gacy, he had his keyboard on a massive spring:
Most of the musicians who inspired me were either singers or guitarists. Matt Bellamy has done some great stuff. Love or hate Muse's Radiohead-meets-Queen histrionics, my teenage brain was fried by Origin of Symmetry. I find them pretty naff these days. Bellamy's use of guitar-embedded Kaoss Pads is pretty awesome. Which brings me nicely to the other part of my live arsenal...
Aside from the keyboard rig, I also have a Boss SP 303 Dr Sample fed through a Kaoss Pad, from which I trigger a lot of the vocal samples and general weird atmospheric bits and pieces. Ady triggers vox samples from his laptop also, but they tend to be ones that need to be particularly edited into some sort of sensible timing. The Kaoss Pad is totally amazing. I was awestruck by Jonny Greenwood's use of it on Everything In It's Right Place by Radiohead, and it's no surprise I've ended up with one in my clutches.
Guy: I play two synths live - a Korg DW8000 and a Yamaha CS2x.
The DW makes some fat bass and lead noises - it's a hybrid synth with digital oscillators going through juicy analogue filters. It's gone mad recenty and only produces odd wibbling noises, which is good in one way, but not really very usable for playing actual notes.
The CS2x is a late 90's 'Dance Synth' which means it should proabably be full of cheesy and unusable sounds, but actually sounds great. The CS is also the source of the klaxon sample that Seb loves so much.
This is me, probably pissing Seb off somehow - possibly with a klaxon, possibly not....
James: Every time we play Electrical Unity live. It's the track that has undergone the most severe re-organisation from my point of view since Freddie left last year. At the point when this was recorded, I still wasn't 100% happy with what I was doing in the end section but there are flashes of it shining through. Recorded with an MS2000, we now use twin MicroKorgs to fill out the pulsing delay through the end section and add to the arpeggiators already running. When Woody stopped playing live so much we lost a lot of potential for a lot of noise- he was something of a genius with it, but since then our sound has become more clinical and at the same time more organic- with Alex and myself taking on more of the noisy bits, as showcased here.
If only I looked this amazing whilst playing a Micro Korg:
So for the beginning of this track I'm using the previously mentioned 'arctic voices' patch on my Triton. It appears several times through the album but hasn't been used much on the new material. It's strange to think that when we joined the band, me and Guy were pretty much beginners at Keyboard playing. I'd had the odd Piano lesson when I was younger, but I was pretty much rubbish. Now, I'm still no Chopin, but being in this group for nigh-on five years has really improved my abilities by many times, and whereas before it was Ady and Seb writing most of the tunes, now all of us have a strong input. Part of this improvement has been my acquisition of the MicroKorg. I learnt more in the first year with that thing than I had in three with the Triton. It's a very common synth for good reason- it's usable and cheap. For the end section I play a pad patch on the Triton (usually 'pleasestaycalm') whilst making some beautiful noise on the micro. It can be a really amazing live experience, when it descends into machine noise, there is still structure. It's random structure, but it's still there- it sounds like millions of moving parts talking to each other to achieve a simple movement.
Ady: Live, everybody feeds into a little Mackie mixer that sits on my rig. It seems everyone always wants to be louder. I sometimes wonder if things would sounds better if we had a proper sound person doing the mixing, but because everyone changes their sounds between, and during songs, any sound engineer who wasn't very familiar with us wouldn't stand a chance of knowing what's going on. That channel that had a delicate pad suddenly has a distorted bass line...
I've included a picture of my macbook running Ableton live, on the off chance the buggers send us free shit. Thanks!
Apart from that, my rig is a macbook, a novation sl controller keyboard, and a motu audio interface. The mac runs ableton live which I use for triggering beats and samples. On most songs I'm also playing a plugin synth. The GForce impOSCar (a recreation of the OSCar, an obscure, yet brilliant, early 80's british synth) seems to get a lot of use, along with a few others (Ohmforce Symptohm, Ableton Operator+Analogue, Camel Audio Alchemy).
Here's one I found on google image search earlier:
One of the biggest thrills we've had in the live arena was being invited to play at Brian Eno's 60th birthday party. It was a bit intimidating to play for someone who's blatantly had such a massive impact on the band's collective approach to making music. We often struggle to agree on things. Eno is not one of those things. The whole thing must have actually happened, cos I took this picture....
Alex: On stage I divide my time between my beloved microkorg, and a N364 Korg workstation. It seems to be all about the Korgs in Keyboard Choir! On the microkorg I use almost exclusively original, programmed-up sounds, taking advantage off its much-celebrated ability to sound different in the hands of every player. Too much fun, overall. I put the N364 through two pedals - I've already mentioned the Watson DEQ2 (cheers Freddie!), and the second is the Boss DM-3 analog delay pedal, which is a superbly dubby instrument. Props to John Brainlove, love you, love the pedal! The workstation tends to get used if I actually want to simulate more 'classic' instruments, such as the electric piano or organ. Though with the Watson on you really can't tell! The strange sound I use on 'Transine', that James very kindly compared to Eno, is the N364 with its volume at the lowest possible point before no sound emerges at all, running through the distortion pedal, which creates a weirdly fragile effect. The microkorg plays multiple roles: as an atmospheric noise generator, punchy synth, or phat bass.
Phat bass, analog delay... I love dub.. respect to dub hero King Tubby:
Download 'Electrical Unity (Live)' free from last.fm.