Wednesday, February 22, 2012

My Keyboards Through The Ages

Episode 3: Keyboards

When I was in Junior High School, I was in a band called The Shrugs with three friends.  There was already a drummer, guitarist, and bass player so I became the keyboard player.  We recorded a whole mess of four-track cassette albums and when practicing we also played a lot of covers by The Police, R.E.M., Beatles etc.  I saved up my newspaper route earnings for a long time to buy the latest and greatest affordable synthesizer, the Korg Poly 800.  I bought it at Daddy's Junky Music Store in Salem, New Hampshire for, I'm pretty sure, a whopping $600.  I remember being in the back glassed-in keyboard room and the salesman showing me how it could sound like Jump.

I played that keyboard forever.  We even still used it as a midi controller in the Aloha Steamtrain, however many millions of years later that was.  Midi was one of my necessities when I bought it, also I needed a bendy bar, a lot of sounds, and the ability to store new sounds.  Viola!  Poly 800, or as we called it almost from the beginning, The Cheesemaster.

When the Cheesemaster finally kicked the bucket, I bought a Yamaha (DJX?).  I had learned of the greatness of this keyboard while recording with the Steamtrain at Slaughter House Studios.  "That's the best cheap synth you can get." I was told.  Ken still uses this keyboard now for shows by the Fawns since I used it for so many of the sounds on the albums.  The display is broken, only half of it appears so you can't really tell what number you're set at, but it still plays those goofy noises.

When I started working with Mark Mulcahy on the rock-opera-thing "The Rosenbach Company", we borrowed a real nice large keyboard that I was able to request at our performances.  However, when we picked up and started do the show again a year later, it turned out I would need my own good keyboard.  The first one I bought was an EMU something or other.  I got it because it had most of the sounds we needed and it had a good mellotron patch.  After a couple of shows, it became clear that this keyboard just wasn't cutting it.  The piano sounds especially were lacking.  I decided I really needed to invest and I tried out about a million different keyboards that I could kind of afford.  I settled finally on a Casio full size.  For a lot of people Casio suggests a cheapish keyboard but this one is actually quite good.  Especially the pianos.  Unfortunately it lacks two basic simple things. Its only output is a stereo headphone out which carries with it some hiss.  Also, it has no Midi for some reason.  Oh right, and it's also really heavy and enormous so gigging is tough.

Still this is the keyboard I play most often at home.  It's all over Henning Goes To The Movies.  I dig it.

I also have an old Arp Axxe synth.  I use it strictly for recording, I don't think I ever brought it to a show.  It's pretty awesome.  I got it from a guy who was about to throw it away at the Amherst Dump. It's a classic old analog synthesizer and it's mine.

Those are my main keyboards.  I also grew up learning piano on a busted up old thing we got for free from a church or something.  Eventually my parents got a nicer upright Yamaha piano that I played daily.  There were a few other little cheapo synths in my life. They were the tiny Casios that you can find on Ebay now for 20 bucks or less.

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