less gear is not blasphemy...it's a pain in the butt

From Bad MoFo
Sent Sat, Mar 11th 1995, 22:51

Metlay speweth:

>My band has about twelve members now. About half of them have large rigs
>and the other half have very small rigs. The ones with large rigs generally
>do not use all their gear to its full potential; the ones with small rigs
>are more likely to. This is because the time one can devote to this stuff
>tops out at 24 hours a day minus sleep and potty time.

But let's face it - there's only SO much you can do w/ a TB-303.  EVERY
piece of gear has its limitations - even the wall full of System 100Ms that
Hans Zimmer owns must be a BITCH to reconfigure, or try to duplicate old
patches on.

For years my only synth was a DX7, so I know what it's like to become
intimately familiar w/ a piece of gear.  BUT, even using it to its full
potential, there were still vast holes in the soundscapes I was creating
(can you say "filter sweep"?  I thought you could).

So, I went out & got a 2600 and a Prophet 5.  Since then I've been buying
an ever increasing array of gear (mostly analogue).  WHY?  I find it to be
liberating to play back everything at the same time - it makes the
compositional process much more flexible.  God, I don't know HOW Wendy ever
had the patience to do SOB one note at a time.  I think that being able to
do polyphonic, multitimbral sequences has had a HUGE effect on the more
intelligent side of today's techno.  Laying down chords w/ a monophonic
synth onto a multitrack (the way everything used to be done) seems to force
you to think out all the music in your head first.  Well, I do this
sometimes on the bus when I've got ideas cooking, but I wouldn't want to do
it all the time.  And I know a lot of people who make music that can't do
this mental juggling.

Since a lot of my music is fairly complex, I need a lot of synths to get
enough notes of polyphony to record everything live to DAT.  Sorry, a 64
note polyphonic QuadraSynth ain't gonna cut it (more on that later).  Now
I've got enough polyphony that I can experiment w/ building composite
sounds on different synths, opening a new vista of sonic creativity.

As for using gear to its full potential, I think this is more of a problem
w/ digital boards than non-modular analogue.  Let's face it, the vast
majority of analogue synths have some variation of the MiniMoog
architecture, and once you've got the basics of that it's just a matter of
learning the little quirks.  The Xpander, Chroma and the 2600 are more
versatile, and will take me a while to master, but I was pushing my
Jupiters within weeks of getting them.

I think a lot of the argument against more gear is more a matter of
mastering the User Interface, not the Sound Architecture.  Thomas Dolby was
able to walk up to his Jupiter 8 after YEARS of neglect, and pick up right
where he left off.  WHY?  The JP8 has one of the best user interfaces of
any analogue board, that's why.  My TG77 is being SERIOUSLY neglected right
now, not because I don't understand FM, but because I don't have the time
to invest in yet another screwed up Yamaha UI.  I'm waiting to get Sound
Diver before I do more on it and my Chroma.

>As the Shaggs once
>sang, we all want what we aren't; I admire the guys who do so much with
>so little, and wish sometimes that I was more like them: John 0 Curtis
>with a rig consisting of nothing but Kawai K5's, Dan Barrett and the
>miracles he wrings from his lone Matrix-12, and especially, especially
>Joe McMahon, who has just released a CD of nearly an hour of fully
>orchestrated and arranged electronic music ranging from avantgarde to
>jazz, all done on one synthesizer/workstation, LIVE, with no overdubs.

Maybe it's just me, but I hear a certain sonic homogenity in tracks done on
JUST one piece of gear, a "flatness".  My observation is that each piece of
gear has its own characteristic "sound".  Sure, you can do external
processing to cover it up, but then you're using more gear.  I sold my
Prophets 5 & 600 JUST because their characteristic sound was too similiar
to my Xpander & JP6.  I went out & got a TG77 & CS80 w/ the proceeds, 2
VERY different sounding beasts...I like not having to work my ass off to
get a full & rich mix - I went thru too much of that in my DX7 days...

>Even those with very large rigs seem more inspired when they go into
>our sessions with stripped down setups:

Yeah, I reeled off several good ambient tracks in short order when I
limited myself to a JP6, a JP8, and a Space Echo.  I think the biggest
inspiration was forcing myself to work in a different way than what I was
accustomed.  I'm sure I would find similiar inspiration if I were
confronted w/ a different way of working w/ a LARGE selection of gear
(maybe drop me into Vince Clarke's studio for a week or so?).  So, I don't
think that having less gear was the inspiration - it was the being forced
out of regular working habits.  I dropped my JP6/JP8 experiments when I got
tired of the limitations it was imposing.

>Focus and discipline. Some of us need it more than others to be successful.

Especially when you have a buttload of gear.  It's all to easy to play the
"let's audition 2000 patches to find JUST the right one for this track"
game.  Sometimes it's like going to the video rental store - confronted by
those thousands of choices kinda numbs out the mind.

Sure, I'm not getting as many non-DXish sounds out of my DX7 these days,
but, SO WHAT?  I can take the time I would have spent wrestling w/ it to
use it to its full potential to make music, or work on projects (more

Sometimes I feel guilty about having this room of gear that is often
underutilized, but I'm hoping to reopen Studio 808 to the public someday,
so that more people can have access to it.  Until then, the ends (the
music) will have to justify the means.

>I say to those of you with big rigs, who make good use of them and are
>happy doing so: good for you. I used to think like you. I owned, at my
>peak, something like twenty-five synthesizers and sound modules, not
>including effects processing and MIDI routing gear. Most of it is gone
>now. I'm not being snide or backhanded when I say I outgrew the need;
>it's something that I, personally, HAD to outgrow, because while it
>might be right for others, it wasn't right for me.

Well put Mike.  To each his own.  I'm not saying that drugs, er large
numbers of synthesizers are for everybody, but in my case they work.
Anybody know of a MemoryMoog+ at a good price? %-}


On the birth of YMO (from the YMO mailing list):

>Hosono was consult with Takahashi and Sakamoto in Hosono's house when
>recording for his solo album "Paraiso", Hosono was proposed about Yellow
>Magic Orchestra that play the Martin Denny's "Firecracker" by the German
>Techno like a Kraftwerk or Giorgio Moroder etc. And he decided on a target of
>over 4,000,000 sell in the whole world and he was writed on his note book
>about it. And they were eating some Rice Balls at the time.

This guy should work for Roland in their documentation department!