Wednesday, 27 January 2010

E&MM Emerson

Next is an extract from the feature on Keithy-boy. Its not an interview, he sort of just wrote the whole article about himself which is pretty cool

The First Live Moog 
I couIdn't wait to see one of these instruments and found that Mike Vickers, who used to be with Manfred Mann, had one of the first Moog modular systems in his flat in London

I went round to see it and asked him if I could use it for one of my performances with the orchestra. He told me that it wasn't really meant to be moved around, that it was really for studio rather than live performance. Anyway, he was willing to have a go, so what happened was that he hid behind the instrument while I played it live, jumping up occasionally to make the necessary patch changes. It amazed everybody because of all the new sounds that were coming out. They said "What the hell is that?" I can't remember the name of the actual Moog system I first used, but it had no sequencer on it, although there were some oscillators, envelope generators and a lot of other stuff. I tried changing the patches but the whole thing looked to me like a telephone switchboard. I finally sorted it out but it took a long time

So I became the first person to use a synthesiser on stage and obviously wanted to get hold of a Moog instrument for myself. I wrote to Bob Moog asking for all the specs. He told me there was no 'live' model, but he had produced a new version which had a preset box, which might make live performance easier. All this stuff arrived over from America and I had it in my flat and didn't even know how to start to get the thing working! (There was no instruction manual.) In desperation I called up Mike Vickers who had it at his place for three days and finally got it going

The preset cards gave me a fair variety of sounds to work with. You couldn't alter the oscillators except with the jacks. There were very few things that were actually able to be preset. Presetting was mainly for the 3 oscillators that I first had, so that you could get 5ths or any other interval you wanted. Also the filter. Any changes like from sine to square you still had to do by changing the jack around. It was quite small really, just with 3 oscillators, a filter bank, a set of envelope generators, a set of attenuators and that was about it really. The first problem was getting it to the hall and keeping it in tune. There was absolutely no way of tuning it except by ear. Consequently you had to do this all evening

Later, I designed a system where you could switch off the audio out and put in a frequency counter, so that I'd be playing the organ with my right hand, I'd have the audio switch out, I'd play an A, and if I got a read-up of 440, I'd know I'd be in tune. But it was all a very risky business. Most of the time I had a limited patching arrangement where I just needed to make a few alterations. The preset box did help a lot. This instrument that Bob Moog sent me was not generally available it was just that he was very interested to see how I got on with it. I did meet Bob when I went to America and he stood there in the wings and was absolutely blown away - he couldn't believe the way the instrument was being used. He was very keen from then on to work closely together and often came up with suggestions for improving this or that function

The Moog system was expanded considerably and I had a sequencer and another row of oscillators - it got so big, I couldn't even reach up to it and tune the damn thing any longer I think Bob now has the full system that I used sitting in his factory as a piece of history - I haven't seen it for the last three years. If I looked at it now I'd probably be back to square one again in using it

I used to use the sequencer basically just for the gimmick value it offered on 'Brain Salad Surgery'. I'd written this music about computerisation with very heavy lyrics, and the idea was that the instrument sort of took over in the end - it worked well on stage. The sequencer would be programmed to go through this change of notes and speed up until it blew up. It was very good visually - dry ice and all that

Talking about the move from Moog to Korg, it was really to do with Bob leaving the organisation. I felt I'd lost that contact which had been so important between Bob and myself. I thought that Norlin music tended to ignore the professional musician and catered more for the general keyboard buying public who wanted cheap gimmicky instruments. But the MiniMoog has been one of the most successful mass produced instruments

The move to Korg
So my relationship with Moog dwindled off when Bob left and while working on an album in Nassau in the Bahamas, my engineers (who often showed me new gear) brought in a piece of Korg equipment, the PS 3100 polyphonic synth. It seemed to offer the programming facilities that I wanted, but when I recorded with it, it turned out to be very thin in quality. Anyway, they gave it to me so I had it stuck on the side and I tinkled around with it, but if I wanted a big fat sound, I'd still go back to the Moog stuff far more reliable from a tuning aspect than thase early Moogs I used. I've got the 3300 and the 3100 polyphonics. I also use the Sigma, Lambda, and the Vocoder - I get an amazing harmonica sound that's very bluesy on this one. I just use the built-in keyboard and my voice. In fact with this new instrument that Korg are building far me now,I wanted the vocoder built into. it. They looked at me in amazement and said "Are you serious". I think they sort of lost interest in the vocoder, and maybe they're not all that proud of it, but I think it's unique as a saoloing instrument. I've got the Mono/Poly, the Poly 6, the 3200, and the BX-3 organ. I've just received the digital delay and they've given me a sequencer as well but I haven't tried these out yet. I think the sequencer's an old analogue one that they've stopped producing

MP3 of the track Face to Face from Nighthawks by Keith Emerson:

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