Saturday, 21 January 2023

Oily Garden

Here are some oil paintings I did of the Memetune garden last year:



Thursday, 19 January 2023

Japanese Drum Talk

I just got myself the BEST Christmas present! Its a Yamaha YD9000RA in Hot Red laquer, and is the first kit they called the Recording Custom series, dating from 1982/83. Now let me tell you what I know about the history of the Yamaha drum range

Yamaha's first kits were made in 1967, and for around 10 years they competed with a lot of the cheaper and mid-ranged drums, mainly selling in the Eastern market



Around 1975 they upped their game and started to recruit top named drummers, who would help to propel Yamaha drums into a new and much more important status - to become world leaders in drum manufacturing



They introduced the flagship 9000 Series, which had a new extended lug design mounted on their clever air-sealed shell that incorporated true Japanese-style craftsmanship and attention to detail, matching Yamaha's general policy of trying to create top-quality instruments, just like their pianos, guitars, wind instruments and synthesisers



They figured that they would use birch wood to make their drum shells from, just like in their other acoustic instruments, but they weren't quite ready yet to call their drum kits market-leading. There is a mixture of information about the early 9000 series, and I can't determine if they were all actually 100% birch wood, or when they used the long-lug design or the double small lugs, similar to Gretsch kits. And some were made in Taiwan too, although still to Yamaha's high specification. The brochures of this period are a bit scant on detail and the online tracking of the 9000 range is quite unreliable. Here are examples from some period catalogues:



But everything changed in 1982 because Yamaha consolidated their flagship model, now made exclusively in Japan, into the world famous Recording Custom range (Referred to as "RA" for Recording Artist). They introduced 100% birch shells of 6 plys, a 30 degree bearing edge, dark wood laquer internal finishing (including the bearing edges), and a superb "piano" laquer to the outside of the shells (as opposed to a wrapped finish like all other kits of the time) in a large range of colours. They also increased the size range to include 8" and 10" and 15" toms, all of which were non-power depths. These kits were the zenith of Yamaha's work in developing their kits, and for a very short 2 year period they ruled the world in terms of making the best-sounding drum kit 'system'. The Recording Customs were used by nearly every top drummer of the era, and became the most recorded drum kit in history



Then in 1984 they introduced power toms, thicker shells and 45 degree bearing edges, and some say the drums lost a bit of their magical tone and purity. All those recordings made on the 9000RA drums during the early 80s set Yamaha up for having the very best reputation, and I am sure their later kits were very good and introduced lots of extra features, but to me the purest and most desirable kits possibly of all time were those first generation RA 9000s. Other contenders for the ultimate drum kits of all time are possibly 1950s Gretsch 3-ply mahoganys, Sonor Phonics from the 1970s and 80s, and some of the Ludwig kits of the 60s. But what determies a classic drum kit? Well it has to have 2 things going for it - perfection of sound and finish, and endorsement from famous drummers and recordings. The Gretsch has the Blue Note Jazz recordings, the Ludwig has the 60s and 70s rock artists, but for sure the Yamaha dominated the recordings and players of the 1980s - there is no doublt that the 9000 RAs were the best kits of their time



So here I proudly present my newly aquired Yamaha 9000RA 7-piece kit from 1982/83 in Hot Red laquer



Saturday, 14 January 2023

2021/2022 - What I've Been Doing

These last couple of years have been the usual busy mixture of music making, collaborating, synth-building and video making around Memetune Central



The aftermath of the random pandemic (randemic?) saw a few changes to my working patterns, but I still managed to complete 2 UK tours (in 2021 Oblong supported Blancmange on half their UK shows, and 2022 Oblong then me and Steven Mallinder did support slots)



A ton of collaborative albums were made at Memetune, and the usual slew of solo (Benge) albums, one of which I am very proud of (The Dreamer), as it saw my first Cassette release, after a long time only doing digital albums



I managed to build several incredible modular systems into new cabinets, with the help of Chris The Carpenter, one of which, the Buchla 200, was a life long dream come true, after I decided way back in the early 1990s that this was the best looking synthesiser EVER made - and now I have made it a reality for Metetune to posess such a beast



I also finally got the Synergy and Kaypro digital synthesis system going (thanks Dani!) as well as adding quite a few mega-synths to the studio line up (Rhodes Chroma, Roland Jupiter 6, Jupiter 4, System 100, MC4, JD800)



And I got into my drumming again, mainly as a result of playing live with Oblong. Its one of my true loves of life, and was my first intrument, so I've made a new years resolution to practice more my chops. And I couldn't resist buying myself a little xmas pressie - a completely beautiful Yamaha Recording Custom YD9000 kit from 1982 (I'll post more about this later)



Another major achievement was setting up my Video Lab workspace in the studio, where in 2022 something very important (to me) happened - the making of the Memetune Programme TV Series One - six episodes of vintage synth indulgence written, performed, presented, filmed, edited and produced all on my tod



I also started doing my instagramming in earnest (one reason its been a bit less busy on this blog), so head over there if you and follow me if you don't already for an almost daily account of the goings on 'in and around the electronic studio' (instagram.com/memetunestudio)



Here are the albums that were MADE AT MENETUNE by me and my collaborators - so proud of all of them, but especially the ongoing projects with my friends and heroes (by the way, there is one enormous album that we did recently here, but it cannot be announced yet!)

BLLANCMANGE (with Neil Arthur) - Commercial Break


CAMPBELL MALLINDER AND BENGE - Clinker


FADER (with Neil Arthur) - Quartz


STEPHEN MALLINDER - Tick Tick Tick


BLANCMANGE - Private View


OBLONG - Sing Along With Oblong


And here are my solo albums released since 2021


And finally, it is with much pride and honour, that I hereby announce we now have an official Meme-Mobile

Spirals and Orbits

Here is my latest album, all made upon a very vintage 1960s Buchla 100 and 1960s WEM Copycat





Thursday, 12 January 2023

Televisual Presentations

I made a TV series!

This took an epic amount of time and effort (actually 6 months) - but I loved doing it and look forward to doing series two!

Friday, 11 March 2022

Visually Audioing

Dreamy

New and long-time-coming Benge album - its been nearly a year since my last release - not like me at all - but here it is at last - and also available on cassette - my first physical release since 2008's Twenty Systems!



Turbo Thistle

I never knew that there was a Scottish supercar, made in the late 1970s. But there was! Thanks Neil for pointing out the awesome Argyle GT, made in the small fishing port of Lochgilphead in 1976