Simon Collins and his new DDRUM kit!
Matt Dorsey recently did an artist endorsement deal with Spector basses. He's loving his new 5 string that he's taking out on tour with Sound of Contact. I have a bunch of friends who use Spector. Billy Sherwood, formerly producer and member of the band Yes, not only has one of Chris Squire's Rickenbacker basses but a massive collection of cool Spectors... and of course we'll be sampling them as well for Sonic Reality!
The empire strikes bass! Matt Dorsey with his Spector in front of a Miami Industrial Imperial Walker Looking Thing.
We did our first band photo shoot this past week of the SOC live line up. We have another one or two scheduled this coming week. I'm working on coordinating lots of photos and hopefully video as well of our performance at the Marillion Weekend. It has to at least be documented! What a way to start! We're so excited. It's sounding powerful in rehearsals. Wes is known for being a "big" guitar player in terms of covering a lot of sonic territory and converting multiple guitar parts off of albums into a cohesive single guitarist's live performance. He's had to do that a lot with Porcupine Tree and Fish. I'm also what Wes calls a "big keyboard player", meaning that it's not just ambient sounds in the background but rather a more prominent character element in the music. There are a lot of dynamics from ambient to full on aggressive, almost guitar-like, keys. Plus a little pretentious prog thrown in for good measure... ie. Mellotrons and analog synth leads! Haha. The Tony Banks/Richard Wright/Rick Wakeman/Keith Emerson side! Muahahahahaha. Keyboards shall rule once again!!!!!!! (woops sorry I got a little too excited there for a second).
Me surrounded by keys (where I like to be)
One thing I did yesterday which was a wise move I think is consolidate my rig down from 3 keyboards to 2. Just to have a more portable keyboard set up for these initial opening act gigs. At least in terms of what I bring WITH me. If we can rent another keyboard wherever I am that's cool and if not then I can make it work with just the two now without sacrificing much if anything. Normally if we were headlining I'd have 2 Nord Stages, 1 Nord Wave, 1 Yamaha Motif XF and maybe one additional smaller keyboard controller connected to my MacBook Air running SampleTank with Sonic Reality sounds. Depending on the tour or venue a vintage Hammond B3 organ or Wurlitzer 200 electric piano or CP70 electric grand piano would be quite welcome. I just don't want to make enemies with any roadies! ;)
One thing that's great about ALL of the keyboards I mentioned above is that they have something called "Flash Ram" which means that a keyboard player can load in samples (in my case I own a sampling company and have a LOT of samples I like to use) and the cool thing about "flash" is that it STAYS in memory even when you turn it off and back on again. This is GREAT for live because if the power goes out or anything happens you're back up and running FAST!!!!! No wait time to load up the samples.
So long bottom 88 weighted keyboard. Gonna miss you! Hope I can rent you some time.
Years ago I had a funny experience that made me LOVE flash ram so much. I was playing with an artist named Kevin Gilbert and we were doing a promotional gig at Tower Records on Sunset Blvd in LA (now sadly gone). Rosanna Arquette, who starred in Kevin's Toy Matinee video "Ballad of Jenny Ledge" was there in the audience and I met her for the first time. (She's also the "Rosanna" Toto was talking about by the way... little rock trivia for you! Plus she lent Kevin the Rael jacket we used when we played The Lamb. Peter Gabriel gave one of the Rael jackets to her when he went out with her so it was the real thing... more parenthesis trivia). Anyway we started playing in the middle of the store when the power went out. I don't think they had enough juice to supply a rock band or something. It came back on quickly but I had to reload all of my samples into the Kurzweil K2000 I was using and had to miss an entire song. Then it happened again! I was scrambling to get all my sounds together in my set up when I looked up only to see Rosanna laughing! Not sure anyone else really noticed but she knew exactly what was going on. Kind of embarrassing... but also bizarre and funny too. Made for a good LA Squidstory. Haha. After that though I used to carry around a heavy UPS (uninterruptible power supply) until FLASH ram became more popular. Now do you understand why I like it so much?
So both the Nords and the Yamaha Motif XF have flash ram and that means I can load my own custom samples into them and it's like they were built-in to the machine. Great for live. Technically I have more room to do larger sounds and more sounds on the computer which I usually have with me as well. But, I like to make my set up very hands on because I'm spontaneous and like to do things a little differently each night and adapt to what I'm hearing. If I need to get more aggressive I'll reach for the "overdrive" knob. If I want to get more ambient I'll tap a delay in and increase the reverb. I control it all with knobs and pedals in real time. I'm a very "interactive" keyboard player. In this case since I wrote the parts I'm playing I know where it's appropriate to stay true to the original and where it's good to embellish.
Go Wes young man! John Wesley and Chip Walters at another EPIC sushi session
Wes brought his friend Chip along to hang, help out and be just a positive force of good things beyond expectation. He did so many cool things to help this past week that Simon and I actually stopped the press to add him in the thank yous on the album. Here we are at yet another post rehearsal sushifest. If they let me order foggeetttaboutit. I know how to order. There's an art to it! JUST the right amount of food. It can be expensive but I go for the quality dishes that are worth it. Overpaying for an average meal sucks. But if it's toro tuna sashimi like this pic above? You're living large. Enjoy it!
Sound of Contact live band rehearsing while Simon rests his voice
Getting back to the band. It's sounding fantastic! Wes is such a cool guitar player. He really dials in some great sounds and plays tasteful well thought out parts. Matt Dorsey is nailing it on the bass and backing vocals. He's actually doing some that I would normally do so I can concentrate a bit more on the sounds and parts of the live reproduction. I'm 3rd backing vocalist in the band and Wes would be 4th even though he's incredible on vocals and 2nd to Steven Wilson when they perform in Porcupine Tree. The only reason he's 4th is because he's got enough on his plate learning and coming up with his guitar parts on an album he didn't play on. He also doesn't know the rather complex lyrics as well as Matt and I do since we co-wrote the songs with Simon on the record and both sang back up on the album as well. There's one song toward the end of the set where Simon, Matt and I sing harmonies almost the whole way through and it sounds so cool!
Simon and Jonathan are sounding great on drums. Originally Simon was going to sing and drum for practically the entire set and we did that in rehearsals for a few days. I was amazed at how well he was able to play complex drum parts and sing! He can really pull that off and it's very cool too... reminds me of his dad Phil back in the early Genesis days singing into that gooseneck mic hanging down above his kit. But, since Simon liked Schang's playing so much he gave him more drumming to do so he could come out front more and engage the audience singing lead. Good to have options though! Simon still plays the two instrumentals we're doing in the set.
Alright that's me catching you up on things. I thought I'd be able to blog everyday but it's so crazy busy that I'll have to just fit it in when I can. Got some cool new developments in the works and we ARE starting to shoot video of the rehearsals as well so we'll share some clips soon of that. Working on band t-shirts and a marillion other things... :)