Back in 2016 I was playing around in the studio, noodling on synths with rhythmic support from my Boss DR-110 “Dr. Rhythm”, a very simple drum machine from 1980. After about 5 minutes of riffing on a simple little syncopated 4/4 pattern I had programmed, I had to hit “STOP” when I realized my beat was almost exactly the same as Fade to Grey by Visage. This inevitable moment, when you realize the riff you’ve been working on is actually something from someone else’s song, is something that happens periodically in every songwriter/producer’s life. When it happens to me, I usually just try to remain cool and start over from a clean slate, or delete the stuff that sounds like the other song and keep exploring.
But in this case I started thinking about that lovely, ghostly melancholy of Fade to Grey, and instead of erasing my work, I decided to trudge onward and see if I could make an instrumental version of the song that would sound great as part of my modern techno set. Within a few hours I had largely recreated the original tune, without vocals, but it took just a few more days of sporadic work before it took on the Steve Coen fairy dust. Continue reading →
Keyboard Setup Based on Vintage RMI 300B “Electra-Piano”
Remember me saying that Tom, the guy who sold me the Pax tape echo chamber is pretty cool? Well … periodically he texts me links to good local deals on second-hand gear. He seems to know exactly what kind of equipment I’m interested in, and he has a real nose for good deals. I have added him to my contact list as “Tommy Tape Echo”.
A little over a month ago, he tipped me off to this really cool vintage keyboard from RMI (“Rocky Mount Instruments”). I picked it up from a guy in Oakville that day for a couple hundred bucks. Then, a few weeks later, when I finally got together with my experimental jam band, I put together a setup that looked like this (click the image to enlarge):
Korg MS-20 (Kit), Arturia Microbrute, Mackie 402 Mixer, EHX Small Clone Phase Shifter, Boss RE-20 Space Echo Pedal. All supported by the monstrous RMI 300B "Electra Piano"
As promised, here’s the hard-to-find manual for Yamaha’s last Vector synth.
Yamaha sent it to me as 4 separate PDFs (Service Manual, MIDI Implementation, Parts List, Expanded big PCB pages), plus a monster-sized TIFF of the schematic. They didn’t want anything for it, and they didn’t ask any questions. I assembled the files into a single PDF, then used the the web-based Compress PDF to reduce the file size (to 6.5 MB, down from about 12 MB).
My recent acquisitions are a Roland Juno-106 and a Korg Poly-800II, both in excellent condition. Instant gratification. Not too shabby.
But sometimes a synth requires more nurturing. Sometimes crazy people like us even document their restorations for the world to see.
A Moog Opus 3 that was deserving of a better life.
Check out this picture-laden blog entry chronicling the resurrection of a Moog Opus 3. I find these types of blogs inspirational – they make me want to start documenting the stuff I do too.
I’ve done restoration work on a Yamaha CS40M, a Roland Jupiter-6, a couple of Roland Juno-106 keyboards, and a Korg DW-6000. Making a damaged or deteriorating instrument playable again is simply one of the most gratifying things a musician can do.