SYNTHPLEX 2019

We are proud to have had the opportunity to participate in the inaugural run of Synthplex in late March of 2019. It was billed as “All Things Synthesizer” and it really hit the mark! The Burbank Marriott skillfully dealt with a wide range of rock stars, modular folk, tech heads, curious onlookers, dweebs and nerds, vintage synth aficionados, collectors, builders, composers, manufacturers and otherwise very colorful people wearing mostly black.

Yes, the event was in Los Angeles, but the crowd was from all over. We chatted with like-minded folk from Brazil, Japan, Portugal, England, Canada and beyond. The attendees filled exhibit halls that were packed with a tasty blend of synth modules, controllers, stunning vintage synths, production software and tons more.

Synthplex founders, Michael Boddiker and Michael Learmouth, did a great job of designing and creating a fulfilling three-dimensional event, packed with much more than just the exhibits. Educational and technical seminars, Q&A sessions with industry legends, DIY synth building workshop, live synth concerts and the Pop Up Synth Museum where you could actually spend time tweaking the knobs of epic mono and polysynths.

EMEAPP Booth at SYNTHPLEX 2019: Ready to Roll!
Checking out the many excellent exhibits at the event.

We were honored to be visited by Keith Emerson’s long-term partner, Mari Kawaguchi, who brought us the vertical banner that Keith would use when making personal appearances. We set it up right next to our banner of his legendary Moog synthesizer, it looked great!

Drew Raison, Mari Kawaguchi, and Vince Pupillo Jr.

But the most exciting part for us was showcasing the Godfather of synths, the Moog Model A Minimoog prototype. Next in line were the Model B, C and the Model D, which finally went into production and became the go-to lead performance synthesizer. Last in line was an enigma of the Minimoog family, what is ultimately a Minimoog with 20 presets. This quintet of tone raised quite a few eyebrows to say the least.

Mark Doty at the EMEAPP Booth
Question & Answer Session

We hope to participate in Synthplex 2020 and hope to see you there!

Highlights of “The Keith Emerson Experience”

On Saturday, March 9, 2019, EMEAPP held a VIP event commemorating the reunification of Keith Emerson’s iconic stage gear – a major milestone for EMEAPP – and a gathering that brought together a community of people that surrounded Keith Emerson’s life and work.

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The first presentation of the event, as depicted in the video just below, featured EMEAPP’s Associate Director and resident synthesizer programmer Vince Pupillo Jr., who opened the formal festivities by performing a tribute on Keith’s Moog Modular, expertly demonstrating each of the famous presets with short quotations of famous Emerson keyboard lines:

In keeping with the legacy of Keith Emerson’s work, the guests entering the Performance Hall Atrium were greeted by . . .

This event also served as a fitting send-off for some of Keith’s Gear that will soon be on exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC for a sixth month long show called “PLAY IT LOUD INSTRUMENTS OF ROCK & ROLL,” which opens April 8th, 2019. Be sure to attend this exhibit if you would like to see this gear in person, along with many other fantastic rock ‘n roll exhibits!

The Gear

The EMEAPP gear presented included:

  • Keith’s iconic Moog Modular Synthesizer, arguably the most famous and musically influential synthesizer in the world, now a deeply treasured part of the EMEAPP Collection.
  • Keith’s Hammond Goff C-3 organ – the organ known as the “Tarkus Organ”.
  • Keith’s Twin Goff Custom Leslie Cabinets.
  • One of the L-100 Hammond organs Keith used in his famous onstage antics, complete with knife stabs wounds to the keyboard, as used for example at the “ELP Live at Montreux 1997 Concert”, among others. Displayed along with this organ were two of Keith’s ELP-Logo enscribed knives, which he used on the Black Moon Tour.
  • Keith’s Bag End Stage Monitoring System and his Stage Mixer Rack filled with synths and effects.
  • Keith’s Korg Triton Extreme (serial #1!) sampling keyboard workstation.
  • An Alesis QS8.1 Sampling Synthesizer, with samples of Keith’s original instruments, including samples from his Yamaha GX-1, his Moog Modular, and his Hammond C-3.
  • Keith’s GEM ProMega 3, a board that utilizes both samples and physical modeling to produce highly realistic sounds.
  • Our rare Yamaha GX-1 synthesizer, one of the first analog polyphonic synthesizers ever produced, of the same production series used by Keith Emerson.
  • A collection of Keith’s Stage wardrobe and his wardrobe flight case.
  • Also utilized at the event was a Hammond B-3 from the EMEAPP Collection, used during the cocktail hour by various guests. This Hammond B-3 was the last one ever shipped by the Hammond organ company in 1975!
  • Vintage amps used: Leslie 147, Fender silver-faced Twin Reverb & Ampeg B-18N.
  • Vintage Slingerland 80N Jazz Kit
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Also displayed at the event were:

  • A photo gallery of rarely and never before seen photos by Keith Emerson photographer Mary Ann Burns.
  • A slideshow of photos documenting Keith Emerson’s entire career.
  • A video image slideshow that was to be utilized by Keith for the LCD display on his restored Moog Modular.
  • A mounted wall gallery of Keith’s discography.
  • The Moog Showcase: A comprehensive exhibit of the Moog Synthesizers in the EMEAPP Collection, including a full array of historically important Minimoog prototypes & early production models; prototypes of the Micromoog, Equalizer (Liberation), and SL-8 synthesizers; several Moog Modular systems; various Moog effects; and virtually all of the other synthesizers produced by Moog Music Inc, including the Micromoog, Multimoog, Polymoog, Prodigy, Satellite, etc.
  • A sampling of EMEAPP’s vast collection, including keyboards, effects, guitar pedals and amplifiers, including gear utilized by Jimi Hendrix, the Who, Steve Howe, Frank Zappa, Pink Floyd, and many others.
  • The Emerson Hammond L-100 Organ, Photos of the L-100 in use, and the Welcoming Banner

Attendees experiencing the Gear:

  • Brian Kehew and Gene Stopp reuniting with the Moog Modular.

Preparations

The Keith Emerson Experience took many months of planning – and not just the usual event planning sort of arrangements (invitations, travel & lodging, etc) – but much meticulous equipment restoration work and testing, musical practice and rehearsals, etc. The following images show some of this preparatory work:

  • Painting the Performance Hall

The People

Invited guests at the Keith Emerson Experience numbered well over one hundred – far too many to list here. Many signed the Event Door:

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Some of the attendees most closely related to Keith’s life and work included Keith Emerson’s son, Aaron, and his spouse Jo and sons Ethan and Zach; Keith’s fiancé Mari Kawaguchi; Moog Foundation President Michelle Moog-Koussa and other representatives of the Foundation; Keith Emerson Photographer Mary Ann Burns; Keith’s former organ tech, Al Goff; One of Keith’s synthesis coaches at Moog Music, Dr. Tom Rhea; and the restorationists of Keith’s Moog Modular, Brian Kehew and Gene Stopp.

Special images of some of the guests:

  • The Emerson Family and Mari Kawaguchi

The Presentations

As seen in the video posted above, EMEAPP’s Associate Director and resident synthesizer programmer Vince Pupillo Jr. opened the formal festivities by performing a tribute on Keith’s Moog Modular, expertly demonstrating each of the famous presets with short quotations of famous Emerson keyboard lines.

EMEAPP’s Founder and President Vince Pupillo Sr. then introduced and honored the Emerson Family. Vince presented the EMEAPP Legends Award to Keith’s son and keyboardist Aaron Emerson, a posthumous award recognizing the achievements of his father, which Aaron received with visible emotion.

Vince Sr. then introduced Keith Emerson’s fiance Mari Kawaguchi, and then Moog Foundation President Michelle Moog-Koussa. Mari both spoke movingly about Keith’s life and work, and Michelle spoke passionately about the amazing and intertwined legacy of Keith’s and her father’s work.

Vince Sr. then also presented Brian Kehew with the EMEAPP’s Preservation Award for his decades-long efforts at saving the hardware of electronic music, work that has played an important role in the development of the EMEAPP Collection. Brian Kehew and Gene Stopp then also received the EMEAPP Restoration Award from Vince for their extensive joint work a decade ago restoring the Emerson Moog Modular – work that Keith Emerson himself greatly appreciated.

Vince Sr. then introduced Tom Lamb, former Marketing Director of Moog Music Inc., who described Keith Emerson’s early interactions with the Moog Company, interactions that included instruction on synthesis techniques by Dr. Tom Rhea, who was in attendance at the event, as was Jim Scott, who had prepared the original shipment of Keith’s Moog to him from R.A. Moog Inc.

EMEAPP’s Research Director and Webmaster Ben Luce then gave a presentation describing EMEAPP’s nonprofit structure and mission, and emphatically invited attendees to become ambassadors for EMEAPP, to assist the organization’s ability to sustain itself and fulfill its mission over the long term.

Emerson Hammond Organ Technician Al Goff then wrapped up the presentations by regaling the audience with stories about his and his father’s first encounter with Keith’s L-100 organ antics – which to the delight of the audience he revealed had initially caught them quite off guard after they had delivered an L-100 to Keith for the first time for his use one evening!

Images of the presentations:

  • Vince Pupillo Jr. demonstrates the Moog Modular in a tribute to Keith

The Performers

Throughout the evening a number of performers wowed the audience with demonstrations of Keith’s instruments and other instruments at EMEAPP. These performers included:

  • During the opening reception organist Joe Patano entertained the crowd with his expert Hammond organ stylings on the Hammond B-3. Joe was then joined by keyboardist George Mandrin on Korg Triton Extreme (piano voicing), and the two furiously traded jazz licks to the delight of the audience.
  • This was followed by Ben Luce playing ELP compositions “Trilogy”, “Jeremy Bender”, “Benny the Bouncer”, and “The Sheriff” using Keith’s GEM ProMega 3 (for piano sounds) and Alesis QS8.1 (for synthesizer voices).
  • Wally DeBacker then performed the beginning of ELP’s “Karn Evil 9” with Rachel, and sang “Lucky Man,” backed by the “EMEAPP Band,” consisting of EMEAPPer’s Mike Pasella on guitar, Doug Salvas on guitar, Ben Luce on the Moog Modular and backing vocals, Tim Warneck on backing vocals, Vince Pupillo Jr. on drums, and Drew Raison on bass.
  • Keyboardist Rachel Flowers, among her other performances at the event rocked the crowd with an amazing solo rendition of “Tarkus”on the Emerson C-3 and the Moog Modular, with Vince Pupillo Jr. assisting Rachel with programming changes. Rachel also played excerpts of “Pirates” on the GX-1 and played many of the other keyboards at EMEAPP throughout the event, wowing the attendees till the wee hours of the morning. Keith Emerson’s son Aaron Emerson and EMEAPPer Ben Luce performed ELP’s version of “Fanfare for a Common Man,” with Aaron on the Yamaha GX-1 and Ben on the Alesis QS8.1, and Wally DeBacker accompanying on drums.
  • Keith Emerson’s grandson Ethan Emerson then played two of his grandfather’s piano pieces – “Close to Home” and “Ballad for a Common Man” – on Keith’s GEM ProMega 3, demonstrating uniquivocally that he is following steadily along in his grandfather’s footsteps.
  • The after party saw bartender Eric Sirianni mount the drums, and along with (Quiet Riot) bass player Chuck Wright laid down the rhythm while keyboardists Joe Patano, George Mandrin, Mike Pasella, Ben Luce, and Eddie Jobson (a recent Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame inductee!) all joined in the jam.

Images of the performances:

  • Joe Patano warms up the room with his Hammond organ stylings

The Festivities

Throughout the event the attendees enjoyed a cocktail party atmosphere with Gourmet Butler style hors d’oeuvre with Eric and Jill Siriani tending the bar filled with cheer.

A look at some of the fun:

Response From Emerson Family

Feedback

“Hi Vince,
First let me thank you for the amazing week-end at EMEAPP.  Seeing the collection you have saved to date is truly mind blowing.  Seeing friends …whom I haven’t seen in over 40 years, all together in one place was truly special. I am pleased to know you, Vince Jr., Drew, and the rest of the EMEAPP team as the champions carrying forward vital work to preserve the history of EM.  I will be honored to be an “Ambassador” for EMEAPP.”

-Greg Hockman

“Dear Vince,
Wow just wow. Thank you very much for such an amazing event.  It was perfect. I am so honored to have been included as a guest. There are not enough superlatives to say how wonderful and well presented the event was.  The museum was amazing and nostalgic. I hope to visit again.”


-George Mandrin

“Dear Vince,
I just wanted to convey my heartfelt appreciation to the three of you and your staff, not only for your gracious hospitality, but also for conceiving and bringing EMEAPP and the Keith Emerson Experience to fruition. It was sheer joy to see so many historically significant instruments and so much gear all under one roof. The music was extraordinary, the camaraderie was outstanding, and the food and drink were superb, but your generosity was most remarkable of all. I can’t thank you enough for what was absolutely one the most enjoyable gatherings I’ve ever been part of.”

-Geary Yelton


“Hello Vince,
Wow another one of your many unbelievable accomplishments!! It is so rewarding when the dream, becomes a goal and then reality!! Hats off to the master chef, Vince Jr. and all the sous chefs at EMEAPP!!”

-God bless, Roger Rumble


“Dear Vince,
You really did yourself proud this weekend.  Pam and I had a great time, and from an attendee point of view, everything was perfect.  (I know how hard it is to plan and execute this kind of event. You’re probably exhausted, but you all ought to take a deep bow.)

It was great to finally meet all of you and see your breathtaking collection. Rachel was incredible.  (Great idea to have her there!) But what made the greatest impression on me was the sincere appreciation and gratitude you earned from the Emerson family and the Moog folks.  In a very short period of time, you’ve transformed your collection into a significant historical and educational asset for the music community.” 
-Alan Lenhoff


“Dear Vince,
Thank you for your incredible hospitality at EMEAPP this weekend. I would like to help out in any way I can, bringing my skills and years of experience as an editor, writer, and content creator to the table.”

-Stephen Fortner

“Dear Vince,
Thank you for inviting Juliana and me to this fun and special night.  I know that building inside and out, but last night gave me a new appreciation for it and how really great it will be as we work our way through the upcoming phases.  I talked to some folks who were truly blown away by the facility as it exists…all I could think of is how they’ll react as it continues to transition into your total vision.  Another thing that impressed me last night…you and I work on building projects together, I appreciate your enthusiasm for what we’re doing…but last night I saw it in a much bigger way.  This thing that is your interest and passion is the passion for a large group of people, and for some it is their entire life.  The experience I had last night really energizes my understanding of what we’re creating…and that makes what I’m doing so much more significant and enjoyable.  Now I fully understand your enthusiasm for the facility and for EMEAPP.  Thanks again for the invitation, it was a very special event to be a part of.”

-Rich Kapusta (EMEAPP Architect)

Rhodes Piano Bass

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHarold Rhodes originally created his “Army Air Corps” electric piano to provide music and physical therapy to recovering WWII soldiers. Unable to source enough acoustic pianos, he created his own portable instrument that became the Rhodes electric piano that we all know and love. Ray Manzarek of The Doors was a popular user, his Piano Bass was always propped up on top of his Gibson G-101 or Vox Continental combo organ.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Piano Bass was basically the lower 32 keys of the Rhodes electric piano. A physical hammer would strike a thin metal tine causing it to vibrate, the tone bar above it helped give it more fullness and resonance. A transducer would pick up the vibration in the same way a guitar pickup would hear string vibrations.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe tone bars on earlier units were thick, square bars that created a ‘thud’-type dynamic. Later ones used the more standard Fender Rhodes type tines that were flat and bent into a curved unit.

The Rhodes Piano Bass has become quite the collectible that sells well into the thousands. We have quite a few units here at EMEAPP, including a rare Extended Range 54 key piano bass in silver sparkle.

Written by Drew Raison, photography by EMEAPP

Smoke On The Water

A Tale of Our Vintage Helios Sidecar:  This box of knobs has seen some epic action. These Helios mic pre/eq modules were used to create the legendary Led Zeppelin song “Stairway To Heaven”.  That’s a great story in and of itself, but there’s lots more.

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Vintage Helios modules from the Rolling Stones Mobile unit

The Rolling Stones began building a mobile recording truck in 1967. It allowed them to record in unique locations like stately manors, remote mansions and on location at concert halls. They called it the Rolling Stones Mobile Studio.

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Mick Jagger checking out the Rolling Stones Mobile truck

These channel modules are microphone preamplifiers and equalizers, they were pulled from the original Helios mixing board that was installed on this truck. The Stones used it to record songs like “Brown Sugar”, “Wild Horses” and “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking”. Ultimately, they recorded the albums Sticky Fingers and Exile On Main Street with this Helios console.

Led Zeppelin also had great success with the Rolling Stones Mobile truck with the albums Led Zeppelin III, IV and Houses of the Holy.Immigrant Song”, “Gallows Pole”, “Black Dog”, “When The Levee Breaks”, “Rock and Roll” and “Misty Mountain Hop” were all recorded through these modules from the Helios desk.

“We all came down to Montreux, /on the Lake Geneva shore line / to make records with a mobile / we didn’t have much time / Frank Zappa and The Mothers were at the best place around / When some stupid with a flare gun / burned the place to the ground”

In 1971, Deep Purple set up shop in an empty hotel in the outskirts of Montreux, Switzerland after being evicted from their planned location due to a fire. This story comes to life in their legendary rock song, “Smoke On the Water”. The lyrics describe that Deep Purple was embarking on a recording project. They even refer to the “Rolling truck stones thing just outside”.

As advancing technologies became available, The Stones decided to upgrade the mobile unit to add more channels and tracks. In 1972, these original mic preamp/eq modules were pulled from the desk and replaced with more flexible ones.

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Helios sidecar at EMEAPP

Our sidecar consists of 8 channels from the original 20 input Helios console that was installed in the Rolling Stones Mobile truck. They were racked up in a Boutique rack, complete with switched +48v phantom power and phase invert per channel, plus variable volume pots for the direct outputs.

These channels have been there and back, helping to produce some of the best and most important music created in that era. This rack is currently in use in our portable recording rig and will end up on our roster of great stuff available for use in our forthcoming recording studio.

Written by Drew Raison, photography by EMEAPP

Microtonal Mathematics by Motorola

Isn’t this thing (pictured below) awesome looking? Part home organ, part accordion, part microtonal super-genius. In early 2018, we relocated our super-rare Motorola Scalatron from the keyboard exhibit hall into our workshop for a quick tweak in advance of our upcoming microtonal summit. 

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Tim Warneck, our synth tech, tested the four internal power supplies to see if they were doing their jobs properly. Once confirmed, we connected the external speaker, fired her up and the fun began.

Enter George Secor, discoverer of the ‘miracle temperament’ and developer of the Scalatron.  George rolled into EMEAPP with a hoard of unique accordions and an eagerness to feast upon our Scalatron.  We came to discover that ours is unique version, in that it has a top-mounted jackfield in place of the standard synth-like face board. It is also one of the very few (3, actually) that has a multicolored accordion-like 240 button generalized keyboard instead of a home organ-style dual manual keyboard.

Over the next few days, George answered a myriad of questions as we delved deep into this unique machine. He explained to us how microtonal scales work and how mathematical ratios can apply.  He also treated the EMEAPP crew to a private concert on the ‘Moschino free-bass’ accordion, as well as on our vintage Rocky Mount Calliope and Hohner Electronium accordion monosynth. But, the highlight was seeing George perform a few numbers on our unique Scalatron, just as he did decades back when he first got involved in the instrument’s development.

We are so appreciative of people like George, the visionaries and innovators who make our musical worlds a more verdant and expressive place to create.

A few weeks after we wrapped up this summit, we happened upon an ultra-rare Motorola Scalatron Frequency Generator specifically designed to calibrate the keyboard on eBay. We figured that the Scalatron itself is so rare, we couldn’t pass up on this equally rare peripheral. Here is what the seller had to say:

 

“Here is a very interesting unit.  The Motorola Scalatron was an electronic keyboard instrument that could be calibrated to play microtonal music in live performance.  Apparently, only 20 of them were ever made. Some of them had a couple of normal looking keyboard manuals and some had “chiclet” keyboards with patterns of keys.  There was a separate company, Motorola Scalatron, Inc. That made them in the 1980s.

The keyboard could be calibrated to play virtually any scale system.  For instance, one sytem that was used had 31 tones to the octave. It came with what looked like a regular Motorola television monitor that was used to program the desired frequencies.  It displayed a split screen with what looked like Stroboconn type wheels which would be adjusted until they matched. One of the monitors was apparently on eBay sometime in the past according to some discussion forums I found and they mentioned that it must have had some kind of frequency generator to feed it.  I believe this unit is probably what would have done that.

This unit powers up and it does produce audible tones.  There is an on/off switch and indicator light on the lower left. There is a knob to select notes from the regular chromatic scale and another that changes the octave that is sounded.  The 3rd big knob on the left side says P/M Range below it and Pulse above. The pointer can be moved to 1, +2 or +4. There’s a small switch in the middle that can be thrown to either Variable or Chromatic.  There are 10 pushbuttons along the top and you can push any number of them at the same time and they will stay down until you push them again and they come back up. There’s a jack labeled Microphone in the lower left corner.

Probably the only one of these you will see this week!”

Couldn’t have said it better. Rare stuff indeed!!!

Written by Drew Raison, photography by EMEAPP

R2D2? Space Heater? Digital Reverb?

This odd space heater-sized box is actually a digital reverb and quite a rare one at that. EMT (Elektro-Mess-Technik) was a turntable manufacturer in Germany, but they also had a keen eye for the development of artificial reverberation. Their Model 140 plate reverb changed the trajectory of music mixing back in the late 1950s. The 140 has remained a standard for analog studio reverb to this day, we even have one going into our recording studio. Over time, technology advanced and brought the flexibility of digital to the table.

Originally released in 1976 (and again recently, as a digital plugin), the EMT 250 broke new ground with its stunning depth and flexibility. To this day, it is considered by many to be one of the world’s best sounding digital reverbs, we certainly agree.

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A reverb like this is beneficial in the creating of space ‘around’ a sound, it can add textural early reflections that broaden the soundstage and depth of a mix. This EMT 250 will be a perfect compliment to our even older EMT 140 stereo plate reverb.

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The 250 is surprisingly well though out of and offers features that were innovative, it could even be configured as a multi-effect unit. It even has two sets of inputs and four discreet outputs. In addition to straight-ahead reverb, it has chorus, phase and delay effects. These units have become quite rare, as EMT only made 250 before releasing the 251 in 1979

Our EMT 250 digital reverb came from Mountain Studios in Montreux, Switzerland. Over the years, our unit provided stunning and shimmering reverb on dozens of critically acclaimed albums from bands like Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Yes, The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Iggy Pop, AC/DC and a heap of records by the band Queen, who owned the studio for much of its life.

Written by Drew Raison, photography by EMEAPP

A Crusty, Old, Awesome Tape Echo

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA big part of the inventive sound of the band YES, was their use of echo and delay on vocals and guitar. As the guitarist for the band, Steve Howe brought fresh sounds and a unique playing style. Singer, John Anderson, did the same with his upper-range, etherial vocal style.

Why is this particular rusty tape echo unit of importance to EMEAPP? Because it helped make musical history, both on stage and in the studio. It is a vintage Maestro EM-1 Groupmaster analog tape delay that has been ridden hard by years of touring with YES.

Many people ask us how we authenticate historically significant artifacts. Sometimes it can be quite difficult, as we search through the interwebs machine looking for an ancient photo of a performer on stage or in the studio with the item in question.

Here’s a shot of the Echoplex in question, sitting right behind Steve on stage with Yes back in the early 1970s. Is this proof that ours is the band’s original unit? Probably not, but it certainly indicates that he was using a Groupmaster back in the day.

Howe Groupmaster

Here’s the kind of proof that we appreciate, a snap of Steve with his arm on the actual delay, along with a certificate of authenticity.  Now, go put on “Fragile” and crank it up like you should. 🙂

STEVE HOW ECHOPLEX

Written by Drew Raison, photos by EMEAPP and Tom Cox

A Partial History of the String Machine

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe’ve been having some fun with ‘string machines’ here at EMEAPP. We recently received a pair of vintage Eminent organs that sparked a conversation about the origin of keyboards that focus on string ensemble-type sounds.

Our Eminent 310U Unique and its big sister, the Eminent 310T Theater were the leaders of the pack. They include a ‘Strings Ensemble’ section that spawned the creation of the ubiquitous stand-alone string keyboard. In addition to a believable string ensemble sound, these Eminent organs have a brilliant bucket-brigade chorus effect that has become a sonic flavor that most will recognize. In fact, the Eminent 310 Unique contained the first polyphonic string synthesizer on the market.

In 1972, Eminent organs brought the Unique to the public. It sold well to the home market, but they also spurred interest in the music production and studio world.  This unique string sound was noticed by composer/producer Jean-Michel Jarre, who used his 310s all over two of his critical releases, Oxygène and Équinoxe.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAUpon realizing the potential of a stand-alone string synth, Eminent repackaged the string portion of the 310U into a single four-octave unit. They released this unit under their “Solina” brand name, and called it the “String Ensemble“.

In 1974, American synth maker, ARP, licensed the Solina and rebranded it under their badge. We have a unit with ARP stickers right over the Solina logo!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Eminent string sound was innovative, as were the electronics behind it. Its sound has become embedded in our musical souls and has graced huge hits in the disco, rock, jazz and prog world.

Keep your eyes open for an upcoming article that covers the ‘string machine’ derivatives from brands like Freeman, Roland, Crumar, Elka and many, many more.

Written by Drew Raison, photography by EMEAPP

Jazz Chorus Grammy Trifecta

On a shelf in Amp City, we have a trio Roland Jazz Chorus JC 120 amps from Grammy winning artists. These musicians were quite different genre-wise, but they all loved the sound that the legendary JC 120.

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The unit on left was an amp that guitarist Steve Howe used with his bands Yes and Asia. This amp is part of a recent acquisition of performance-used gear that came in from Steve. (See our blog “A Crusty Old Tape Echo”). The center amp was owned and used by legendary blues artist, Bo Diddley. His tone typically had chorus and tremolo, both sound great on this amp.  Lastly, the purple Jazz Chorus with the grille cloth removed, was owned and used by Bernie Worrell, keyboardist for Parliament Funkadelic, Talking Heads and Bootsy Collins.

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The venerable Roland Jazz Chorus, or JC 120, has become a prime example of a clean, powerful and luscious guitar amplifier. First released in 1975, the JC 120 quickly rose into favor because of its reliability and reasonable cost, but also due to the stunning chorus effect built within. This ‘Dimensional Space Chorus’ effect was output in true stereo, giving a wide and open sound field. Throwing that magical chorus switch makes the amp sound six feet wide, it is quite an open and 3D sound.

P1130118Interestingly, the heavy metal community embraced the Jazz Chorus to provide their clean yet powerful tones. Since the JC 120 is solid state, it doesn’t overdrive the signal as a tube amplifier might. This makes it a great candidate for a crystalline, strong amplifier for on-stage use. James Hetfield from the band Metallica, is a Jazz Chorus user, as well as many others in the metal community.

Roland still manufactures the Jazz Chorus series, which shows its viability, especially after four decades of manufacture. If you get a chance, fire up one of these bad boys and take it for a spin, you’ll be impressed!

Written by Drew Raison, photography by EMEAPP